What Shows should You be Watching?

Unlike our 3 Movies Not to be Missed article, I can’t pare the myriad number of different shows on the tube today to just 3. So, what we’ll be doing today on E-Nirv is dividing them up into categories of three shows each that you’d be well served to be watching today.

1. It starts and ends with “The Office” (Thursdays at 8:30pm, NBC). Developed from the British comedy hit by Ricky Gervais, an office is examined in detail in this comedy filmed like a documentary. Steve Carell, now a box office star as well, leads an incredibly talented comedic ensemble that improvises hilarity as much as they act it from their scripts. Truly the funniest comedy since “Seinfeld” and “Everybody Loves Raymond”.

2. “My Name is Earl” (Thursdays at 8pm, NBC)Earl in all his gloryWhat we have here is a petty criminal deciding to turn his life around after winning the lottery, getting hit by a car, losing the lottery ticket, then regaining it miraculously. I mean, who wouldn’t decide that kharma has rewarded him the money while demanding that he make amends with all those he’s wronged in his life? Jason Lee portrays the title character of another ensemble show of misfits, miscreants, and white trash as they all revolve around Earl and his desire to better himself.

3. “Monk” (Fridays at 9pm, USA). First and foremost, “Monk” is a comedy about a former detective with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). He has a phobia about everything. Heights, germs, open spaces, closed spaces, germs, silverware out of order, germs, germs, germs. However, Adrian Monk is the most observant genius the San Francisco Police Department has ever seen, and they hire him to help solve unsolvable murders. Tony Shalhoub, a three-time Emmy winner as Mr. Monk himself, brings the necessary slapstick, physical, and comedic timing needed to keep this from being just another detective show. Where Monk really succeeds, however, is combining the funny with the real pain that Monk suffers, as he deals with the death of his beloved wife, who died in a car bombing meant for him. A great scene has him in New York City, finding at last one of the men who planted the bomb in his car. The man is in an intensive care unit at the hospital suffering from injuries he received in his own accident. Monk walks up to the man, visibly and understandably angry:

[From iMDB]
[Monk is in the hospital room of one of the men involved in his wife’s death]
Warrick Tennyson: You were the husband?
Adrian Monk: I AM the husband.
Warrick Tennyson: Forgive me.
Adrian Monk: Forgive you? This is me turning off your morphine.
[He does, the man starts to suffer, visibly in pain]
Adrian Monk: And this is Trudy, the woman you killed, turning it back on.
[he does]

Great comedies have realism behind them. “The Office” and “Monk” have those qualities in spades.

1. “24” – Last year’s Emmy winner for Best Drama and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama series (Keifer Sutherland), each season of “24” is about one day in the life of Jack Bauer, a counterterrorism agent, and the seemingly insurmounatable odds he faces. True, you need to suspend some disbelief with the plot on occasion, but the writers have penned a show where no character is safe (even Jack himself), and the cliffhanger is the order of the day. In a society where terrorism is a real and viable threat everyday, “24” seems to use its fictional framework to give its take on just how hard a war on terror can be. Keifer Sutherland delivers the goods as a man who has had everything taken from him: wife killed by a traitor, daughter estranged, and now a whole country that has turned their back on him and allowed him to be imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese. Still he comes back for more, driven by a sense of patriotism and a need to never surrender.

2. “Lost”, (Wednesdays at 9pm, ABC) – The evolution of a series is a curious thing. “Lost” was an instant hit in its first season two years ago. The tale of plane crash survivors stranded on a mysterious island was compelling and thought-provoking at the same time. Its Emmy win in 2005 for Best Drama meant that the serialized drama was back in primetime. In its next two seasons, “Lost” has lost (pun-intended) some of its audience due to the fickle nature of television, but it’s core legion of fans still obsess over the hidden meaning of plot points and character intertwinings. This season had the show basically split into 2 mini-seasons, with the midway point in November and resuming in February. For those not familiar with the terms “the Others”, “Dharma Initiative”, and the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42, wholeheartedly suggest you rent the first two seasons on DVD and prepare to be captivated.

3. “Heroes” – (Mondays at 9pm, NBC). When I first heard that NBC was putting out a serial drama based on everyday people discovering they had super powers, I have to admit to being a bit skeptical as this came off sounding like an “X-Men” ripoff. Yet, since it was sci-fi/fantasy based, I of course tuned in. I was not disappointed. “Heroes” is as much a drama about characters and relationships as it is about super powers and plots to destroy the world. The writing is fast-paced and intriguing, the acting by the ensemble as solid as any other on TV today. It’s the best new show of the year and is currently enjoying “Lost” Season 1-type devotion.

Reality Shows

As much as I hate to admit it, reality TV is a mainstay on network programming. And while there is an inordinate amount of bad shows, here are several that are actually worth your time.

1. “The Amazing Race” (Sundays at 8pm, CBS). It’s simply a race around the world by teams of 2. Exotic locales, difficult challenges, horrendous travel schedules. But, at its core, “The Amazing Race” is an interesting character study into how two people get along under the best and worst of conditions, how those two people relate to others (on other teams and people they meet around the world), and just what people are willing to do to win.

2. “Wife Swap” (Mondays at 8pm, ABC). What sounds like a racy title is really a social experiment done well. Two wives from totally different backgrounds (e.g. a Southern Baptist Christian vs. an Atheist tattoo afficianado) swap lives and families for two weeks. Week 1 has each wife living by the rules in their new household and adjusting to a world turned upside down for them. In week 2, it’s their turn to introduce their own rules and see how their new families cope. In the end, everyone involved seems to learn more from the experience than they thought they would be able to teach others.

3. “The Dog Whisperer” (Various times, National Geographic network). Ok, this is a bit of a guilty pleasure of my wife’s and mine, but it’s a cool show none the less. Dog expert Cesar Milan visits the homes of dog owners, at their wit’s end over their uncontrollable, occasionally violent dogs. The title of the show is misleading, as what Milan really does is teach the owners how to manage their dogs. Good show if dog training interests you.

Shows you should TiVo/Anytime shows
1. “Mythbusters” (Various times, Discovery Channel). This show is a geek’s dream. Two geeks putting urban legends to scientific tests to see if they’re real (e.g. Can you survive gunfire by diving underwater? Does toast really always land butter side down? Can an icicle really put your eye out if it fell from the roof?) This show never disappoints regardless of whether the myth is true or not. The cool part of the show is even if the myth is busted, hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman will alter the conditions to make the end result possible. Therefore, even if a lighter left in a sun-heated car won’t explode, maybe 2,000 lighters in the back seat with an ignition mechanism will.

For more on “Mythbuster” coolness, check out E-Nirv correspondent wolfmank’s article.

2. “Man vs. Wild” (Various times, Discovery Channel). You take a former British soldier with only a knife and the clothes on his back and place him in the world’s most inhospitable conditions to see if he can get back to civilization. “Man vs. Wild” features as many cool facts about survival skills as it does compelling television to see how a person suffers when placed in a desert, a jungle, a mountaintop, or an deserted island.

3. “Battlestar Galactica” (Various times, Sci-Fi Channel) Until a month ago, I avoided this show like the plague. I mean, one of my favorite old shows redone. Cylons that look like humans, no flashy red eye??? Blaspemy! Well, Netflix gave me the chance to give Season one a try. This show is fantastic! Not only just a great sci-fi show with wonderful characters, but a great allegory into our own world today with fears of terrorism.

Do you have any shows you’d like to recommend to the folks here at E-Nirv? Please drop us a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

— Rob, Editor-in-Chief (The “Geeksinger”)