Dare I say a new golden age in television? I realize that is a bold statement, but hear me out. Never have there been so many shows to choose from and of such great variety. Just a few years ago, TV was in a sorry state; bloated with reality TV and lacking in good scripted shows. But now, thanks to HBO, Hulu, Netflix, On Demand cable content, and the web we have more good TV than we can even watch. But that’s the great part, I don’t have to watch it now. I have the entire universe of TV just waiting for me. I’ve never been more addicted to TV than I am right now, and I’d like to just take a moment to highlight a few shows (old and new) that I am loving.
Bates Motel is an original series on A&E. When A&E first showed up on cable in the 80s, it was advertised as the home for…guess what…Arts and Entertainment. We were supposed to see concerts, ballet, opera, and, as I recall, Barbara Streisand (she was the face of the A&E promo pic on my first cable guide). It’s been a lot of things, but that was never one of them. Well, whatever they are, they’re definitely the home of my favorite new show. It the origin story of Norman Bates…you know, the unlikely killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which was based on the novel of the same name. It’s both homage and inventive. The Bates house and motel are identical to those in the movie, but it’s set in contemporary times with an imaginative prequel plot.
It’s a genius setup, and here’s why. You KNOW how the story ends. Norman Bates is going to dress up like his pickled, dead mother and murder Janet Leigh, but it’s not easy to see how that’s going to happen…at least early on. Freddie Highmore is perfect (remember him from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?). He’s a natural impression of Anthony Perkins as a 17-year-old, but he has his own delicate take on the Bates character. He’s a good kid who loves his emotionally, manipulative (and hot) mother. He couldn’t seem more innocent, but of course we know otherwise. We’re teased along with increasingly disturbing mental breaks, incestuous overtones, and failed romances. The pieces slowly fall into place for the makings of a psychopathic killer.
My only concern is, how far can they take this? Will we get the story all the way up to the point at which the movie takes over? That’s a lot of seasons. But it HAS to end that way. It has to end when Janet Leigh walks into the Bates Motel front office and signs in under a false identity….the end. I just hope they can pull it off!
This is a new NBC show…yes NBC still makes television shows. Hannibal is another dark origin story of a psychopathic killer. Maybe this says something about me. It’s based on the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. It focuses on the relationship between a borderline mentally ill FBI special investigator and his friend/colleague/psychiatrist, Hannibal Lecter. This has much the same appeal as Bate Motel. We know who Lecter is, but no one else knows. He’s an immaculately dressed, gourmet, uber-sophisticated, brilliant psychiatrist. It’s very unsettling how delicious his food looks given the fact that it may or may not be human flesh.
The investigator, Will Graham, is an empath to a pathological degree. He solves murders by imagining himself as the killer, and each time he does it he becomes a little more unhinged. The crime scenes are intensely graphic, and I’m amazed the censors allow it on network television. His story is interesting, but his crime solving is formulaic, and also, it really pushes at the limits of my imagination to expect me to believe that such horrific serial murder cases could surface every week. But the most interesting part of the show is Hannibal, played by Danish actor Mads Dittmann Mikkelsen. Mikklesen’s performance is so compelling. He’s immensely charming as Hannibal. He’s both terrifying and irresistible. Every scene he’s in is just really good TV.
Under The Dome
I really like Stephen King, but rarely does his work get translated well to film. But The Stand made a damn good miniseries, so I thought I’d give Under The Dome a try. Hooked. Lots of good characters. A mysterious dome. Good writing. Good acting. Good psychopath. (Sensing a theme here with me and the crazies). I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil it.
OK…this is the embarrassing part. I watch a slew of ABC Family shows.
Honestly, I’m getting a little tired of PLL, because how long can these girls go on getting harassed? Why can’t the grownups put an end to it? Why? Because then there’d be no show! And despite it’s sub-par writing, and acting, I’m hooked. There are so many problems with this show. My #1 objection is the romanticization of a teacher/student relationship. The parents know about it and they tolerate it. She’s like 16 and his like 25! How is this ok content for ABC Family? As my daughter says, I know it’s wrong and illegal, but he’s hot! Arrg! But I just can’t stop watching it!
Twisted. This is brand new. This is about a boy who supposedly murdered his aunt with a jump rope, spent five years in juvy, and then returned to his home town, and into complicated relationships with his two childhood friends…both beautiful girls. He’s openly rejected by most of the community, but just as they start warming up to him there’s another murder, and they’re all sure that he did it…except for the two girls and a nerd who’s secretly in love with one of them. It’s up to these kids to prove Danny’s innocence…basis of the show.
It’s appeal is not all that different than PLL…it’s a mystery where kids think they know best…like Harry Potter. It plays out like all the ABC Family shows do, but it has something different…a kid who murdered his aunt with a freakin jump rope. Is he a psychopath? Did he really do it? He says he had his reasons…what were they? Is he protecting somebody? Was he protecting himself? YES! Hooked!
The Fosters. Heart-warming, two-big-hearted-lesbian-moms-multi-racial family, broken foster girl finding redemption and forbidden romance. No brainer.
The Cosby Show
I grew up on this show. I’m the same age as Temppest (two p’s) Bledsoe. This show will never stop being funny. It’s all on Hulu, and I intend to watch every episode. I can’t wait to see Raven Simone become a star again. Claire Huxtable – Hot. Cliff…Bill Cosby at his absolute best. Kids..hilarious. Had a HUGE crush on Lisa Bonet Lot’s of good jazz and great guest appearances. Love Placido Domingo romancing the shit out of Claire.
All Creatures Great And Small
Many of you will not remember this charming BBC show from the seventies. All Creatures Great and Small is based on an autobiographical account of life as a country vet in the 30s/40s. Excellent characters. Heart-warming stories. And best part of the whole show, the actors actually treat the animals. They deliver calves. They stick their arms straight up cow butts. They’re always lifting horses’ legs to examine their feet. Brilliant. They must be consulting with a real vet with real animal troubles or some such. It is definitely, mostly real.
Put down that book, ignore your, kids, don’t do the dishes, pour a drink, and WATCH TV!!!