Best and Worst of Last Week’s TV: 8/4/13-8/10/13 (late)

Not included because it made me sad

Late.  Really sorry about that.

Good
Falling Skies: Season 3, Episode 10

Sort of how the show makes you feel

Where: TNT
When: Sundays at 10:oo PM
Why:
It is kind of hard for me to talk about Falling Skies in a positive way and not make it sound like the most over-written, heavy handed, empty gestured show that is on TV at the moment.  In many ways it can kind of feel like that, but in the same instance it is impossible for this to not be a guilty pleasure of sorts.  When the rest of the networks are busy trying to have reality TV and make me notice how sexy and good looking their forgettable spies are, Falling Skies is there to remind me that it is totally cool if we just want to hang out and pretend that aliens invaded Earth for a while.  It reassures me that it would probably really suck and I am kind of lucky that I don’t have to put up with that.

This is the last episode of the season, and as such it makes a passing attempt to conclude some of the conflicts that it started, but if I am going to be honest this entire season seemed more like a show that openly renewed for a fourth season when they had only written enough content for the third.  The best part of the most recent episodes was when Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) had flashbacks of before the world ended and two of his three children looked passingly the same and the youngest, Matt (Maxim Knight), clearly was about four years older in the “flashbacks” then he was in the intro to the episode.  If I am going to be honest nothing happened this season besides a child being born with a terrible excuse for why it was suddenly seven years old—and no explanation at all for why it had Jesus like powers.

Bad
Pawn Stars: Season 7, Episode 18

This isn't even Top Gear

Where: History Channel
When: Thursdays at 9:00 PM
Why:
I have, honestly, spent the last couple of months trying to explain to friends why I think that this show is a good “get” for the History Channel. It is hard to make 1920’s fly fishing equipment interesting for any length of time outside of five minutes, and that is allowing for someone who is attempting to sell it for a price that is double its worth while two over weight men try not to laugh in his face.  Instead we are given the acting talent that would fit in with an episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo while each one of the employees at the show tries to out character act each other, also that character appears to have the emotional range of the blob from The Blob.  At this point I am only happen when they call in an expert because those people normally seem like the ones that are least interested in reading off of a script and more about promoting both the business they run and how much they know about antique arms and armor.

There was a small story arch that occurred between a couple of episodes, with Rick picking up a car from one of his heroes (Steve McQueen) and then being forced to sell it.  It was kind of interesting as I watched both of those episodes back to back, even though I am pretty sure they were originally aired a week apart, and in one of them there was the forced acting that I hated when the “Old Man” (Richard Harrison 1st) kept acting like he cared either way if his son kept or sold the car.  The highlight, and pretty much best thing that has happened on the show in years, occurred when they went to the auction to sell the car and both Rick and Corey (the son) sort of ended up losing their minds at some of the amazing classic cars just kicking around—no acting, just awkward interactions with people who sweat too much and fidget a ton when they haven’t delivered the same line ten times in a row to a camera.

Good
Impractical Jokers: Season 2, Episode 17

Granted, that is my answer when anyone tries to hug me

Where: TruTV
When: Thursdays at 10:00PM
Why:
The concept is a hidden camera show with four people who are, in reality, friends trying to get one of the other guys to do the most insane and embarrassing thing in public.  Basically Candid Camera, but instead of trying to have random people react poorly to having a tank drive over their car they are trying to get their friend to ask a stranger if he would hug him in forgiveness for eating four pounds of pork while staring at his face.  It is basically like someone had given a bunch of college guys money to continue goofing on each other in lieu of never becoming functioning members of the tax base.  It is great that the cast really does know each other so well, as the pranks are starting to become kind of deeply personal and uncomfortable for the “jokers” to do, randomly involving close family members, which just makes it that much more amazing to watch.

Truth be told I only ever started watching the show because one of the actors (Brian Quinn) is on a podcast that I really like and kept going on about how the comedy troupe he was part of had gotten their own TV show.  I didn’t even know that he did standup comedy, let alone that anyone thought he was funny enough to be allowed near a camera; I am glad that I started watching though as the show is quickly becoming about revenge from pranks that were pulled on episodes years ago and they are nothing if not well thought out and amazing.  They are the kind of thing that you would only be able to really know to do to someone if you spent vast amounts of free time hanging out with them.

Bad
Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 9

Oh! You have never done this before! Yeah, you are totally in charge

Where: USA
When:  Thursdays at 9:00 PM
Why:
Mike Weston (Jeffery Donovan) used to be a spy until there was a burn notice on him and he was black listed.  It is hard to hate a show that starts with a line that manages to resonate with fans stronger than almost anything that was said in any of the Star Wars movies, yet after seven years of continuously being on the air Burn Notice has managed to make those words feel more like someone being introduced to the Price is Right than Darth Vader relieving the parentage that would rock a generation to the core.  While writing this I kind of came to terms with the fact that, if, the viewers had a child when this show started airing that child would be more concerned with how badly they were going to be bullied in high school then they would clearly remember their first day in school ever again.

I would love to enjoy this show as much as I did even two years ago, but it less trying to show me what happens to James Bond when he retires and more trying to show me what he does when he wants to drag all of his normal life friends into his insane spy life; thanks, I am pretty sure that the Borne movies have that pretty well wrapped up.  The group is forcefully introduced to a new player Ben (David Meunier) who from the onset is described as this “being his first live field assignment”.  I don’t know about the rest of the world, but if someone asks me to castrate a dog I am probably going to freak out and do it poorly and wrong.  Sure, I am aware of the basics of how that works but I don’t really know that I would trust me with the moment to moment operational supervision of blood in that situation.

Best:
Top Gear: Season 20, Episode 6

I guess... Spoiler?

Where: BBC
When: Sundays at 20:00 GMT
Why:
Regardless of what people think I pretty much write this article every week, it just never gets done on time or gets half done before work starts to get busy leading up to the weekend/I start drinking a ton at night. All of those lost articles, that I still have somewhere, contain mention of this season of Top Gear.  It wasn’t just a pretty good run of episodes, it was one of the best that I have seen.  Most series they straddle the line between being a hardcore automotive show and irrelevant show about blowing stuff up and making things that work so poorly it is a wonder that man ever climbed down from the trees with their hands attached.  Years ago it seemed that you would either get all adventure/invention or all “look at the new voxel beetle airfoil!” with very little overlap.  This season mixed the two in a manner that feels like people who have achieved the mastery of their art, and I sort of hate them for that.

There really wasn’t anything that special about this episode, for most of it.  There was even this heartwarming part at the end where the three guys Richard (Hammond), Jeremy (Clarkson), and James (May) went around England showing off all the things that the country makes and why it is still and industrial powerhouse.  It was hockey and probably the kind of thing that if I lived in that country I would have either loved twice as much or hated thirty times as much.  There were some funny parts in the section/skit, but in truth the best came from Richard.  When they were driving to the meet-up where everyone who makes someone in Britain was to gather and show up the product, he turned the corner to the street and all expression left it, “There are quite a bit more than I thought” was all he said.  It was an honest moment, and it was hysterical.  It pretty much said everything that needed to be said in that one moment.

Worst:
Paranormal Witness: Season 3, Episode 9

BTW, they admit this part never happened

Where: SYFY
When: Wednesdays at 10:00 PM
Why:
I watch this show because it is about all of the “Scary” that my wife can handle in her day to day; which is to say not at all.  Normally watching this show consists of my wife listening to people talk about how they saw three weird things happen in their house, assumed it was a ghost, then allowed a producer and special effects artist change their –once probably easily explained—story and turn it into 23 minutes of lies with commercials bookending it.  This episode was literally about a family that was held captive inside their own comfortable house by, maybe, rabid dogs for the latter part of one night.  They later tried to claim they were werewolves.

At the very least most of the episodes of the show involve people who seem like they might have been legitimately scared by some of the things that were happening around them, I was kind of hoping for the death of every single person in this episode.  The events that transpired took place over the course of a single night and was resolved by the family going to bed.  There was seriously a member of the family that slept through the entire thing, if that can be said about an event it really can’t have been that major or impactful. That isn’t a crisis that is a child who is having abandonment issues.  Sure, the creatures prevented the father from getting to his car to drive away and… I don’t know, get milk or something at midnight.  If they are going to start doing shows on mild inconveniences I am sure they could do a season on me not wanting to stand up and get myself another beer, it is kind of just as intimidating.

Best and Worst of Last Week’s TV: 7/7/13 – 7/13/13

Free Runner Vs. Trial Bike. Thanks Top Gear

For some reason not that many shows decided to return last week.  I don’t know if we are in a weird summer period in which people are afraid to put things on TV because they think that the horrible shut ins that watch will care that it is nice outside?  Do people watch TV live anymore?  Someone had to remind me the other day that mine still got channels and did things besides hook up to my computer.

Good
Warehouse 13: Season 4, Episode 20

Don't judge them. They have... stun guns?

Where: SYFY
When: Mondays at 10:00 PM
Why:
I have spoken of this show before, and if I am honest this wasn’t the half season that I wanted.  If I am going to speak freely about the series I don’t even know what the hell anyone involved was thinking when about 90% of it happened.  I know for a fact that the timing basically implies that it only ever came back to push DVD sales; something that was released the day after the season concluded.  There was this interesting story arch that seemed developing this time ‘round, with a chunk of the cast of Buffy, but at several times devolved quickly into “I don’t know, magic” which while a viable excuse for the series still seems super lazy when the cast just shrugs and goes with it.

The last half of this season, or if we are being honest “mini-season”, involved the crew at the artifact hunting emporium getting caught up in the middle of a bunch of immortals and the petty feuds.  This, of course, all managed to tie back to the older versions of other Warehouses and deep secrets that no one disclosed for… I am going to say plot reasons alone.  For a show about mystical items being able to do whatever for any reason with minimal explanation they do seem to have an entire host of reasons that it is acceptable to use them some times but not others.  If memory severs me correctly at one point I believe that they even hunted artifacts with other artifacts. Pretty much the only reason they get away with it is because after four season they have managed to convince me this is a live action comic book, and I am ok with this leave of stupidity for some awesome reason.

Bad
Pawn Stars: Season 7, Episode 12

Beard = Expert

Where: History Channel
When: Thursdays at 9:00 PM
Why:
It is really hard to hate the concept of the show.  People bring in the most random things that they can find—possibly from a culvert or neighbors potter’s field— and try and get money from them, basically confirming my long held suspicion that all pawn shops are half junkyard and half of the worst department store ever. The good part of the show is when you get people talking about something that they know about, explaining why it is either worth money or not, and then watching the person get disappointed.  I throw that last part in there because the moment that anyone on the show finds out that what they have is worth a good amount of money they instantly become more entitled than a teenager that suddenly became a reality TV star.

Pawn Stars is wonderful background noise, at best.  It is the best kind of disposable media; when it is done well you walk away feeling like you learned about how much a four hundred year old shovel is worth when it has no historical value and how people used to dig holes before we invented child labor and the third world.  The problem becomes that the programmers think that they can have plot lines so the viewers start to know the people behind the counter through a series of zany events.  That would be great if they either really happened or the people there could act at any point beyond a level of a middle school drama class.  The recent episode was flush with examples of this, mainly of trying to get Chum-lee to be less lazy by sending him on several fools’ errands.   All this taught me was that I guess I can buy dry ice at a custard place, and that I hate old people when they think they are being funny.

Best:
Top Gear: Season 20, Episode 2

It does not end well for the limo

Where: BBC
When: Sunday at 20:00 GMT 
Why:
Top Gear is a show about people who have a deep and caring understanding for how cars work, lasting ideals on what empowers some to rise to the top over others, and the all-important notion of value.  All of those things are true in much the same way that the Today Show is a hard hitting news organization that covers topics that really matter and can polarize the world.  Sort of like a variety show based around automobiles and dry British humor. Several series ago they raced to the North Pole between a car and a dog sled, because no one had done it before and they thought it would be fun.  At one point they wanted to see if they could make a space shuttle out of a terrible car, simply to make space travel cheap and cost effective.  It should also be noted that most of these projects end up failing in much the same way that Chris Brown fails to understand women’s rights.

This episode, aside from the standard vehicle reviews, contained a competition to see what nation had the best taxi in the world.  Entries ranged from buses to limos to the standard New York City yellow cabs and somehow became less about the best time around the track and more and more about how close they could make the event into a destruction derby without having to change their insurance paperwork.  The show is basically what happens when you give teenage boys free reign to pretty much do whatever they want, they crash copious amounts of cars into it.  I have to say that after all of the years that the show has been on the air there really isn’t much out there that does this better, and it ends up being the highlight of my week pretty much every time it is on.

Worst:
Shipping Wars: Season 4, Episode 9

So... Where the women at?

Where: A&E
When: Tuesday at 9:00 PM
Why:
Some days I am pretty convinced that my wife hates me, and because she is married to me she knows that the formal ways of showing her disdain—such as poisoning or clown attack—are simply too good or ineffective.  I am pretty sure that is why we watch Shipping Wars now.  It is the story of how people took every single human beings least favorite task, moving something from one place on the planet and placing it at another, and made a living off of it.  Sure, they are more the stories about shipping oddities like statues of horses with working genitals than some guys house, it is still a show about people who decided that they wanted to make the least enjoyable task man has ever known their career.

Honestly I don’t know if this show is actively trying to get me to want to hire people to move my crap by making it look worse on a weekly basis, or if they are trying to make me understand that everyone that I would hire to do it is just such a failure at life that I should probably just suck it up and keep buying beer and pizza for my friends.  The “highlights” of this week involved a cake traveling up the east coast and cat caskets.  The only interesting thing about the cake delivery was the fact that the guy doing it basically seemed to go out of his way to do anything other than drive the thing he was being paid hundreds of dollars to drop off.  The cat casket thing was fun because it basically started and ended with everyone being as insane and creepy as you would expect when the words “cat casket” are used.