Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Television At Top Gear

Recently, I've spent a lot of time complaining about the ills of the newest season of television, suggesting, perhaps, that there was very little worth watching these cold winter nights. That could not be further from the truth, and while I still have to say that I cannot in good conscience recommend Heroes right now, there are some other shows that you should at least try and see if they're your kind of flavour as well.

How I Met Your Mother is a rare treat when it comes to Stateside comedies. In a show that proclaims from the outset to be about relationships, love, life and above all, friendships, all the cliches are avoided. No secret loves (even if there is a season long mutually obvious, but mutually avoidant one), no best friends sleeping with best friends girlfriends, and no "We were on a break" moments. It's hard not to see parts of yourself and your friends in the characters. They are realistically thought out, and deal with situations in a realistic manner... well, almost. This is a comedy after all. Sometimes things just get wacky! Worth watching for Barney alone, an ingenious idea for a character that feels so real, yet I hope doesn't actually exist in reality anywhere in the world!

House. What can I say about some of the best writing on television. Every episode follows an identical format. Patient arrives with unexplainable illness, team look at combination of symptoms and come up with the answer, treat, treatment fails and patient gets worse, team reassess symptoms, come up with new answer, treat, patient gets better for a while, then- OH NOES!!- patient crashes, almost dies, team stabilise patient, Dr. House remembers some random, inane fact from Act One, such as patient doesn't like hospital food, and suddenly the answer is obvious! Team treats patient, patient recovers, everyone goes home happy. What makes the show spectacular is that, despite this, every episode is griping TV, and the few that break the pattern are some of the best 45 minutes of drama you'll ever see. The patient and the treatment are not the important reason for the show, and only rarely for the team. Instead, it is the relationships, interactions and friendships that the extended cast of characters go through. Season four has added a new excitement, as House picks a new team, starting with a class of over thirty and eliminating it down week by week. Wilson still ranks as my favourite supporting character in any series.

Balancing karma has never been funnier than in My Name Is Earl. Jason Lee is almost unrecognisable as the title character, Earl, who, after winning $100,000 on a scratchcard and then getting hit by a car, realises he has to make up for all the bad things he's done in life to everyone. He creates a list, and, in a random order, begins to do good deeds related to the bad in order to cross them off. Some are easier done than others, and as the show continues, the list gets slowly added to, either because Earl remembered something new, or his emotions got the better of him for a moment. My Name Is Earl is kind of like Quantum Leap without the time-travel element. Both have to right wrongs, and both are controlled by God, fate, karma or whatever. I'm gonna leave that analogy there, because some people don't see the genius in connecting those two shows.

Top Gear is the reason I originally started this post. Claire and I watched episode five of season ten last night and both of us almost died of laughter and excitement! What other show could follow up a mind-blowing trek across the spine of Africa with a trek across London in rush-hour Monday morning traffic and have the London episode come out tops on the "Edge-Of-Seat" scale of television viewing?!? If you have yet to see it, the episode involves a race between James May in a four-wheel drive people carrier, the Mercedes GL, Richard Hammond on a bicycle (skin tight shorts and t-shirt included!), Jeremy Clarkson in a Cougar sport racing boat on the Thames, and finally... well, some say, when he was born, his heart was replaced with a miniature Formula One engine, and that because all he knows is speed, he has no concept of money or mobile phones. All we know is, he's called The Stig, and he took public transport. The race was from the extreme west of London, Knightsbridge, to the extreme east, at London City airport. It was riveting viewing, side-splitting all the way, and totally unpredictable in it's craziness. Favourite moment: The Stig stares blankly at his mobile phone, seemingly with no idea what this funny little noisy thing is for. The ring tune is the Coronation Street theme. But who won?!? You'll have to watch for yourself. The results are just too good to give away here!

So there's a selection of viewing material to watch while it's dark and wet outside on these long nights. Have I missed anything? Is there something I should be watching? I know there are lots of other good shows out there, but I only have so much free time. I need to blog too, you know!

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