Monday, October 22, 2007

Late-Night TV Carnival

I'm a college freshman, which means that my sleep schedule is screwed beyond all hope of repair: I almost never wake up before noon or go to sleep before 3:30. Today, I woke up at around 3, and now it's 2 in the morning and I still have stuff to do, and my 12:00 class feels like something I'm going to have to wake up for. (My 10:00 lecture is out of the question.) Fortunately, I also have cable in my room, albeit strange cable, (no MTV, no Comedy Central, but I have IFC, ESPNU, and ESPN News), which means that when 1-2 in the morning rolls around, I need me some entertainment. Here's my guide to what's good at late night:

Law and Order: SVU

I'm a huge, huge fan of the original Law and Order, so I was hesitant to pick up SVU, but I'm very glad I did. Basically, the idea for the show was "Hey, you know what would make weekly outrageous, twist-filled murders even more interesting? If all of them involved depraved sexual behavior! Also, let's make everyone better-looking! And let's make the Jewish detective Jewisher and the black detective blacker!" And so it was that Richard Belzer and Ice-T joined us.

I love this show. Basically, its changes from the original were:

1. To add more depraved sex-based crimes, which I appreciate-I don't watch these shows to get a sense of the legal system, just like I don't watch Flavor Of Love for advice on picking up women. I watch them to see something utterly creepy and mind-bending. By the way, I'm pre-law.

2. To put more focus on the characters themselves, namely the lead detectives, Christopher Merloni and that other chick. The original gave us fleeting glances of its characters, but only Sam Waterston was all that interesting, and since his only true passion in life is his cases, going into his mostly non-existent personal life was kind of pointless. Truth be told, these detectives aren't particularly interesting, but Merloni and the woman are good enough actors to hold our interest, and the depth given to the show by seeing them as people with distinct personalities is a good thing. Also, when doesn't having a man and woman who aren't being set up for an obvious romance be partners work? The pioneered this with The Avengers 30 years ago, and it's the driving force behind Bones, my favorite cop show now.

3. To mostly cut out the trial portion of the show, which leaves more time for ridiculous sexual twists, which isn't all that bad. This decision was also influenced by the fact that the ADA on SVU is a blonde woman whose sole talent seems to be squinting, much like the Cavs having Larry Hughes be their point guard because their original point guard is Eric Snow.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, although I resent networks buying up the infinitely crappier Law and Order: CI and playing it 4 times more than they play SVU.

Futurama/Family Guy/Robot Chicken/Other Stuff on Adult Swim

Futurama: Great Show. Never gets old, even though I've seen all the episodes 5 times. 5 stars.

Family Guy: Has gone the way of Napoleon Dynamite and Dane Cook: The sheer irritation that comes from its idiot fans and its increasing self-awareness has made a great thing intolerable. 3 stars.

Robot Chicken: Family Guy's random streak taken to its natural conclusion. I actually love this show; it's great to see a show that doesn't take swipes at pop culture, but is written by geeks who know geek culture well enough to make jokes for its audience, rather than about it. Because of this, its Star Wars parody was the best I've ever seen. 4 stars.

Japanese Stuff: Thanks to sports, I never got into those serious Japanese shows. Thank god.

Bizarre, badly animated shows: I never got into these, partially because I feel it's just ridiculousness for ridiculousnesses' sake and partly because I don't have enough money for weed. 1 star.

The O'Reilly Factor:
I have no idea why this show is so enthralling. I'm not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination, but I love this show. First of all, on a college campus in California, you do get sick of liberals. (Two weeks ago, some fundamentalist Christians came to protest gay week here. 98% of students were proud of shouting down people who were so intolerant of other people's beliefs. That's ironical. By the way, my spell checker thinks that's a word. And 95% of the media does have a liberal slant, so the conservative viewpoint is actually refreshing. And say what you want about Big Bill, but he does believe in his message, and he's a smart guy. And yes, his off-the-charts arrogance and insecurity is enthralling to watch-what other respected members of the media would respond to a slam by pointing out that more people watch his show than theirs? Amazing.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The X-Files

Easily the best show on late-night. TNT bought reruns of this show, and they're brilliant. This show has gotten a reputation for being Lost before Lost, and it did have an overarching plot that dragged on way, way too long and ultimately made the show fade into obscurity, but those episodes were spaced between the procedural episodes, which is what TNT shows and are the most awesome thing ever. Let's do the procedural checklist:

Does the X-files have cool mysteries? Hell yes-the "X" type-stuff never fails to disappoint, from aliens to possessed dolls to government experiments gone wrong to time travel to body-switching to vampires. Are the characters interesting? Absolutely-Fox Mulder is one of my favorite characters in TV history; brilliant, obsessed, flawed, charismatic, everything. And Dana Scully is a perfect foil for him, although the one mystery the show never explains is why Scully continues not to believe. Their relationship, a great repore based on mutual respect, true personality conflicts, and just a little hint of sexual tension.

The acting is flawless; Duchovny has great timing and is proving that he can carry a show on his own over on Showtime, and Gillian Anderson just made The Onion's list of things that deserve second chances; she was great in this role. And the guest stars are a who's-who of people that were about to break out; Jack Black, Giovanni Ribisi, and the dad from Malcolm in the Middle have all been seen at 2 AM.

The writing is great as well, with great banter coming from the story editor, Tim Minear, who partnered on Firefly(the best show ever) with Joss Whedon, TV's Tarrantino, the master of the perfect 1-liner in a situation when you would never expect it. Great writing, great acting, great plots-sounds like just about a perfect show. And yes, I just revealed how much of a dork I am. I don't care. See you in the morning.


Ty Keenan said...

I am a big fan of your blog, but this is possibly my favorite post of yours. Last year I stayed up until 5 or 6 every night from February-April writing my thesis, and for some reason I couldn't write without watching TV. Some of my favorites:

Dawson's Creek: Don't laugh. It comes on TNT in the early morning and is somehow fascinating. You pick up on small things like the fact that Dawson has Schindler's List and Amistad posters in his room. Or maybe I just should have been sleeping.

X-Files: Can't argue with you on this one.

Saved by the Bell: TBS around 4am. I don't know if you're old enough to have had this show as a major part of your childhood, but the nostalgia factor is overpowering.

Futurama: Yes. I can't stand Family Guy now, but Futurama always holds up.

Mike and Mike: I only put them on when I really needed to focus. They're basically perfect background noise. I also started to pick up on the fact that the entire show is Greenberg teasing the next segment.

I've probably said too much.

Anonymous said...

my sleeping schedule sucks as well, so your late night posts are a welcome addition.

futurama is great

Amar said...

"I'm a huge, huge fan of the original Law and Order, so I was hesitant to pick up SVU, but I'm very glad I did."

What are you, my long lost brother??? I am also a ginormous fan of the original L&O and thought that SVU was a threat to the establishment. I picked up SVU over the summer and I think I now like it much better than even the original L&O (probably because Mariska Hargitay is hot as hell in a strange way and has a phenomenal - PHENOMENAL - body).

When are you gonna post about the Cavs at CA?