(A Couple of Forgotten Things About the New TV)
I forgot to mention a couple of shows that eat up some good quality time during the week.
The combination of Barry Sonnenfeld and Bryan Fuller is a pretty safe bet. Both guys have been behind some of the better short-lived tv shows over the past decade or so -- Fuller with the amazing "The Amazing Screw-On Head" pilot, the wonderful (sorry) "Wonderfalls" and the, uh, very likable "Dead Like Me" (excellent first season, so-so second after he split ways with the show); Sonnenfeld with the live action "The Tick" (a lot better than you'd think) and the too batshit crazy for 1998 tv "Maximum Bob", not to mention his work with the Coen Brothers. "Pushing Daisies", like all the other shows I mentioned is firmly rooted in it's own world. A world where morgues are painted candy striped, pie shops can be built in the shape of a pie, cars can run on dandelions and a guy can bring back the dead with mere physical contact. Lee Pace, our protagonist with the Lazarus touch, wouldn't be my first choice for a lead in tv or movies (I always thought he was a bit bland in Wonderfalls), but his weird aw-shucks charminess works in this environment. The larger story in these first few episodes is his desire to keep the childhood sweetheart that he brought back to life happy despite the fact that he knows someone else had to die for her to stay alive. Pace handles the cheerfulness and the wears the guilt well when it's forced upon him. The co-stars are all well cast in their roles too -- I don't know if I'd like this show nearly as much without Chi McBride.
How I Met Your Mother
I've said it before, I don't believe in "guilty pleasures". If I enjoy something then it probably has some merit, some redeeming value somewhere -- therefore I don't feel there should be any guilt involved. I have enough guilt stemming from other aspects in my life, that feeling need not seep into my entertainment. Anyway, HIMYM is one of the last good muti-camera sitcoms out there (shot on a stage, audience laughter sprinkled throughout). When it first appeared it was declared nothing more than something to fill in the vacancy left in some folks hearts when "Friends" went off the air. Oh, but this is a much much better show than "Friends" ever was and has enough contagious chemistry between the actors to rival even that show. Now in its 3rd season HIMYM is still one of the more reliable and better written comedies on free tv. While the writers this season still haven't figured out what exactly to do with Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) besides having him be the sleazy quotable catch phrase machine, but over the past two years they've created an impressive continuity that is rewarding and packs the shows with in-jokes and gives each season an actual story arc. I suppose I'd watch anything that had both Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel in it (which was the excuse at the beginning) but even the main guy (Josh Radnor), who I used to hate for getting in the way of the other actors, is ok in my book these days.
The Sarah Silverman Show
This is another show, like "30 Rock", that is suffering from the greatness of its first season. It has still sprinkled in some jaw dropping laughs here and there throughout the first few episodes this season but some of that magic is missing. Where an episode would suddenly break off from it's own world for a couple minutes to indulge in an animated song about a cough syrup high, turn an accidental poop into a bad music video, or break into a heavily stylized kung-fu fight with a homeless Zach Galifianakis. The abortion episode a couple weeks ago was pretty great now that I think about it. And, of course, the only reason I have these minor disappointments say these things because you have to compare it to the previous episodes.
Speaking of "30 Rock", I still don't know what's going on here. These haven't been bad episodes, but the show's definitely lost it's way a bit. I think a lot of people are ready for the whole "fat Jenna" story to go away. Did anyone think this was going be a multiple episode story line? How many more jokes do they think they can squeeze out of this -- it's gotten downright painful. I have this theory that NBC swooped in during the off season and said, "Our data shows that people only want to see five characters during an episode (also we don't want to pay all these other bit actors so much) so keep Pete, Frank, Toofer -- you know, Liz's humorous relationship with her writers -- let's axe that whole angle." Whatever the reason, this season's wobbling along when it should be taking it's Best Comedy Emmy and rocking socks off to pick up some viewers. I wouldn't blame someone right now if they tuned in to see what the fuss was about and say, meh.