Spring/Summer TV Diary

It’s no secret that I love TV, and in the past I have written entries in the fall about what TV I’m planning on watching that season. I always intend to write something else when mid-season replacements start rolling in and then also in the summer when the cable channels kick their original programming in to high gear. For some reason I never have, but that changes now. The new shows on this list ran in the spring and have either already finished their run for the season (or series) or will be ending in a couple more episodes. That means you have the summer to seek them out and catch up before next season I guess. The rest are all returning shows that tend to air in the summer,  thus escaping my previous recaps of what I’m watching.

Orphan Black

Orphan Black is one of the new series being produced by BBC America. It is not a BBC import, but instead a show specifically produced for the American audience of BBC America. The show stars Tatiana Maslany as woman named Sarah who accidentally discovers that she is one of at least 8 clones after watching a woman who looks like her jump in front of train and then assuming her identity to steal her money. The story is full of great intrigue and great characters. At this point I’m about the last person in the world to actually say it but Tatiana Maslany deserves all the Emmys for her portrayal of the different clone characters in this show. She does an incredible job of making them each believable as individuals. I often forget that the same actress is playing them all. I’m really enjoying this show.

The Nerdist

Speaking of BBC America shows, The Nerdist follows Orphan Black on Saturday nights. It is a television outgrowth of The Nerdist podcast, which I have written about before. It features Chris Hardwick, Matt Mira, and Jonah Ray from the podcast plus 2 guests every week. Each show generally consists of some conversation with the guests, a game played with the guests, some sketch comedy features with Matt and Jonah, and a short stand-up comedy set at the end of each episode. It’s an enjoyable enough show. I have found that who the guest stars are and how well they interact with everyone present really determines how much I like a particular episode, but for the most part it’s enjoyable fun.

Top of the Lake

Top of the Lake was a limited series engagement that aired in the U.S. on The Sundance Channel. It was written by Jane Campion and was filmed and originally aired in New Zealand. It stars Elizabeth Moss of Mad Men fame as a detective returning to the town where she grew up to visit her dying mother and getting caught up in the case of a pregnant 12 year old who it is suspected was raped and who then goes missing. I very much enjoyed it though it is kind of slow and atmospheric so if you’re looking for a hugely plot driven murder mystery you should probably look elsewhere. It’s only 7 hours though, so if you’re looking for something with a limited run I would highly suggest it.

Rectify

Speaking of slow television, it doesn’t get much slower than Rectify, which is The Sundance Channel’s first foray into their own original programming. The show revolves around Daniel who was just released from prison after 19 years. He was convicted of killing his high school girlfriend, but recent DNA evidence causes the conviction to be overturned leading to his release. He however has not been exonerated of the crime and the threat of a retrial is constantly hanging over his head. This is in addition to the convictions of the small town community in Georgia where he lives. There is some suggestion that they will delve further into who killed Hanna (it may still be Daniel we don’t really know), but mostly the show is about what it’s like to try and reenter life after being locked up for 19 years and the world has gone on without you.  The show just finished its 6 episode first season and has been renewed for a 10 episode second season.

The Americans

The Americans takes place in the 1980s during the Cold War. It centers around Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings who seem like your normal suburban parents to a teenage daughter and preteen son. In reality they are spies for the KGB in a fake marriage (though the kids are real). At the beginning of the series an FBI agent specifically working on fighting the Soviets moves in across the street from them and befriends them. The show is full of intrigue and does a great job of building tension into situations where we already know the outcome because historically the touchstones of the stories on the show have already happened. The writers have also written the characters and stories so well that I forget that in reality I shouldn’t be cheering for the Jennings to win. I should in fact be rooting for the actual Americans.

Hannibal

Based on the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, Hannibal explores the relationship between FBI criminal profiler Will Graham and Hannibal Lector. The show is extremely gory and full of images of things done to the human body that you can’t unsee, so use your best judgment as to whether or not it is a show you would want to watch. The show is fine. It’s nothing I’m over the moon about. I’ll watch the rest of the episodes NBC has on tap, but if it doesn’t get renewed for a second season I won’t be heartbroken.

Veep

Veep is a half hour comedy on HBO starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Vice President. It’s kind of a political satire that relies on a lot of humor based on people winding up in awkward situations. I haven’t enjoyed the second season as much as I did the first, which I found to be funnier. Mostly I like it though because it’s filmed in Baltimore and it’s fun to pick out locations.

Newsroom

As I have mentioned on this blog before I have a love hate relationship with Aaron Sorkin. Newsroom unfortunately sets him firmly on the hate side of that line, but I can’t stop watching anyway. Hey, you’re talking to someone who watched Studio 60 all the way to its horrible end. Jeff Daniels plays Will McAvoy, a supposedly Republican television reporter on the fictional cable news show News Night. Despite his supposed political leanings he still serves as a major mouth piece for Aaron Sorkin’s liberal leanings as Will McAvoy apparently hates what the Republican party has become and criticizes them constantly. Sorkin has never done well at writing women, but the way the women on this show are made to be complete idiots (though trust me that’s not how he thinks he is writing them) drives me insane. Also the show is based on real news events approximately 1.5-2 years behind present day, which actually makes the whole show seem less dramatic and kind of silly. I really wish he had created a fictional universe as he did with The West Wing. Honestly it’s worth hate watching this show just to enjoy the Twitter jokes about which news stories Newsroom will catch up to in a couple years and also the hilarious @HBONewsroom Twitter account that creates fake plot lines for the show.

Melissa and Joey

Melissa and Joey is kind of a goofy sitcom on ABC Family starring Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence. Melissa Joan Hart plays Mel Burke, a local city council woman and former party girl, who winds up raising her teenage niece and nephew after their parents get sent to prison for running a Ponzi scheme. Joey Lawrence plays Joe Longo, a man who once worked for their father and lost all his money and credibility in their scheme. Now he works as a nanny taking care of the teenagers. Obviously it has a little bit of a Who’s the Boss feel to it. It feels like a real throwback to 80s sitcoms and seems like something that would have been on TGIF back in the day. That’s probably why I like it. It feels like a little bit of nostalgia. It isn’t entirely unfunny though or I wouldn’t watch it. I just saw yesterday that it got picked up for a full third season (whatever that means on ABC Family) and also renewed for a fourth season, so it will be sticking around for awhile.

Breaking Bad

I tried Breaking Bad when it first came on, but I couldn’t get into it. My husband continued to watch for a little while and then he too stopped watching. I however actually wound up coming back to it and he didn’t. I kept seeing everyone talk about how amazing this show was, so I finally watched it streaming and caught up to last summer’s live episodes. Honestly, this show still really isn’t for me, but you can’t say I didn’t give it a try. I’m not sure what it is. I can’t really put my finger on why I can’t get into this show like everyone else. It’s not like I don’t watch other dark shows or shows with anti-heroes as the main characters, so I don’t think that’s the problem. Whatever it is, I’ll watch the final 8 episodes this summer and will be happy to be done with it. I don’t begrudge anyone else their opinion about the greatness of this show, it for some reason is just not for me.

White Collar

Ah White Collar, home to my TV boyfriend Matt Bomer. I mean really do you need any other incentive to watch? Ok, aside from getting to stare at Matt Bomer for an hour each week White Collar does what USA shows do best. Matt Bomer stars as Neal Caffrey an art thief and forger who instead of going to prison for his crimes is sentenced to working with the FBI’s white collar division while wearing an anklet that keeps him limited in where he can go. He works alongside of the man who finally managed to capture him, Peter Burke. The show is a lot about their relationship. There is always a case of the week as well as overarching stories that go on over the course of a season or longer. I was sorry that they wrote out the character Sarah, Neal’s on-again/off-again girlfriend, played by Hilarie Burton at the end of this last season. I always enjoyed the dynamic between Sarah and Neal. Though the show’s creator said in an interview that their story was done, I’m hoping maybe since Hilarie Burton’s pilot didn’t get picked up there’s a chance for her to recur if only as a guest star at some point. Most likely Neal will just get another love interest. I just realized that for some reason this show isn’t actually coming back this summer like it normally does. It appears USA is holding it for the fall, so boo to that.

Burn Notice

I’m actually rather over Burn Notice at this point and am glad that they’ve announced the upcoming season will be its last. The show follows the adventures of Michael, a former spy from the CIA who got burned and has spent the past however many seasons trying to find out why he was kicked out and who burned him along with the help of his girlfriend Fiona, his ex-Navy Seal friend Sam, and his mom Madeleine. The last few seasons have also added in Jesse, who is another spy who Michael accidentally gets burned during his own search for justice or whatever it is exactly that he’s looking for. There’s always a client of the week who can’t seek help from legal authorities for some reason who turns to this group to solve whatever problem they have going on. Each episode is usually bookended with information about the longer ongoing plot of the season related to Michael being burned, which has gotten increasingly convoluted and ridiculous. This show was a lot of fun in the beginning, but has definitely run a few seasons past its prime.

Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs is another USA show revolving around spies in the CIA, particularly new spy Annie, her partner Auggie, and handler Joan. That’s pretty much it. There are spy stories of the week coupled with other season long ongoing plots. It’s basically good, mindless summer entertainment. This show has actually gotten better in my opinion as it has started focusing more on the ongoing plotlines rather than more case of the week stories. Also it wrote out Annie’s sister who was just a drag on the show as they had to shoehorn her into storylines.

Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness is the most recent in the stable of USA summer shows that I watch. It revolves around psychologist Dani, who is hired on by fictional football team the New York Hawks to help deal with issues of some its players, particularly their star player Terrence King. It sticks to the USA formula with Dani having a case of the week often not related to the Hawks players in which she helps some sports figure overcome whatever psychological issue seems to be screwing up their performance. In addition there are season long plot lines. The show also stars Mark Blucas (who was also on Buffy) as Dani’s love interest. I only mention this specifically because I just recently found out that he used to play basketball for my alma mater Wake Forest, which blew my mind. Granted he was there before my time, but still I had no idea. I feel like I should have found this information out before now.

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