Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mmm, Television: Teacher, Mother, Secret Lover

As I skip middle age and settle comfortably in senility, I find that I don't get excited about new TV shows as I used to.

Years ago, I would get excited about the advent of new series like "NYPD Blue." Recently, however, I've tuned out all the hype about new programs. I haven't seen a full episode of "Heroes," "Grey's Anatomy" or "Ugly Betty." I have heard wonderful things about "Mad Men" but haven't been compelled to write about it.

I suppose part of the issue is that I'm a 35-year-old curmudgeon. I don't watch that much TV, and I already have a few shows I like, such as "The Office," "30 Rock," "South Park," and "The Daily Show."

I'm also skeptical about new shows because I've already been let down so many times by television. How many hyped new programs have I watched, only to be disappointed? I have lost count.

This fall, something weird has happened. I have not really gone out of my way to watch any of the new TV series, but I have seen three of them -- and I have liked them.

The first, "Torchwood," is on BBC America. I've already written about it. It's fun to watch a TV show that's set in a place you've been -- especially one you have a great affinity for, like Cardiff.

The second, "Chuck," premiered on NBC Monday night. It's something of a geek fairy tale, about a nerdy mensch who unwittingly inherits all of the government's secrets and has to become a secret agent. The plot holes are pretty big, but I'm willing to overlook them because the story is as good-natured as the main character. Plus, "Chuck" seems like fun. My only complaint was that the producers should have spent a bit more money on props: the government's supercomputer, seen in one of the earlier scenes, is controlled through a Mac like the one I had in my dorm room in 1990, and the explosives used in a later scene looked like a reject from a Road Runner-Coyote cartoon.

The third series, "Reaper," premiered last night on the CW. Kevin Smith, who directed "Slackers," is the executive producer. The show is about a Sam, an underachieving kid who discovers on his 21st birthday that his parents, before he was born, promised his soul to the devil. The devil needs Sam to help round up beings that have escaped from hell. I have always liked the dialogue in Kevin Smith projects, and "Reaper" didn't disappoint. The effortless apology between Sam and his best friend (named, I think, Sock) could have been between Randall and Dante in "Slackers":

Sam: "I'm an asshat."

Sock: "Yes, you are."

Sam: "So, we're cool?"

Sock: "Yeah."

I've got TiVo set to record more "Torchwood," "Chuck" and "Reaper." I still won't go out of my way to catch any new shows this season, but it's nice to know that there are some surprising, good programs on TV. It's nice to turn on the television and be delighted.

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