Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Movin' on up

TV and Sympathy readers, I have officially moved! Well, not me, technically - I still live in the same old apartment - but the TV and Sympathy website has a new home at

The new TV&S is more aesthetically pleasing, more organized, and has more room to grow (thanks to my amazing friend Josh -- you RULE!). Go visit the new site, wander around, and let me know what you think. All my old posts are over there, along with brand-spanking-new sorting and searching features like all the cool kids are using these days. In the future, I plan to add more recaps and reviews along with the blog posts and poor-quality MS Paint illustrations you've come to know (and love?).

So go check it out, and shoot me a suggestion about what you think I should recap or review next.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Aptly named, since it disappeared from my must-watch list

If you've checked out my calendar of shows, you might've noticed that I took the opportunity to watch the premiere of Vanished last week. You might also have noticed it no longer appears on the calendar. There's a reason for that. That reason is that Vanished isn't particularly good.

Watching Vanished is like being at a party where the hostess is trying too hard to make sure everyone's having fun. There are a whole bunch of activities planned, all kinds of food, a wide assortment of guests. But no one wants to participate in the activities, no one's hungry, and no one really wants to be there. Sure, everyone showed up, but they're just going through the motions of how they think they should behave in those circumstances. They're all sort of waiting for the night to be over, and not even in a particularly interesting way.

Vanished is that party. The crime seems planned, but none of the characters seems all that driven to investigate it. The chick's disappearance is rife with mystery, but no one's hungry to solve it. They're all too busy sleepwalking through their lives fulfilling expectations. "Oh, I should be doubting someone's motives now? Okay." or "Right, this is when I should be feeling tortured about my checkered past." Everyone's milling around a bit, waiting for the final payoff -- the pinata, the cake, the reappearance of the senator's missing wife.

Maybe some other viewers will stick around till the end of the party, but as for me, I'm heading out to see if there are any good frat parties at Hearst College or disorganized celebrations at Chili's.

Monday, August 28, 2006

There's no I in the Emmys

There is a me (and a my!) in the Emmy Awards, I suppose, but that doesn't mean that they're in any way representative of what I as a viewer feel merited recognition on Sunday. Category after category, the Emmy voters seemed to make bizarre and inappropriate selections.

Alan Alda? Hell to the no. Tony Shalhoub? Might be okay if he hadn't already won twice and weren't running against Steve Carell. At least we didn't see Stockard Channing picking up a trophy or I might be writing this post from the great beyond.

Alan Sepinwall, in his always excellent column, put it best when he applauded Conan for a solid performance (Conan and Jon Stewart are my personal favorite awards show hosts) but chastised the voters for their choices. By awarding so many actors from cancelled shows, the Emmys continue to prove that, despite all the updated nomination procedures, they're an anachronism that doesn't reflect the state of quality television today.

I'm not saying I know exactly what's worthwhile about television today. I haven't watched great shows like The Sopranos or Deadwood, and I know my tastes run towards the cult-ish more than the predictable or procedural. But I think when you fail to recognize so many quality performances and scripts from shows that are beloved by viewers or almost universally praised by critics, you're missing out on a big part of what's great about television.

Sure, the Emmys are an institution, a tradition. But part of being traditional means that what's new and cutting edge will get ignored. It also means that, sometimes, people will continue to take part in a tradition, just because they're expected to, even when it no longer has any meaning.

Okay, so they did get it right twice: The Office as outstanding comedy and Jeremy Piven as outstanding supporting actor in a comedy. (Even a broken watch is right twice a day.) Still, if you want to hear appropriate office-related squeeing and gleeing, head over to Jenna Fischer's MySpace page, where you can revel in the joy of being one of the few winners they got right.

Friday, August 25, 2006

As promised...

So, I honestly haven't been that excited about the Emmys this year. Don't get me wrong, I'll still be watching and blogging them, but I was fairly sorely disappointed by some of the absences from the nominee list, so I suppose I've been a bit soured on the whole business.

That said, I promised I'd let you all know who I'd be rooting for, so here are my brief thoughts on what I'd hope to see happen on Sunday:

Outstanding Drama Series
"Grey's Anatomy" (ABC)
"House" (FOX)
"The Sopranos" (HBO)
"24" (FOX)
"The West Wing" (NBC)

I am so torn between House and Grey's Anatomy here, but I think I have to give it to Grey's, for their outstanding cast and overall improvement this year. Sure, they're a soap, but they're bubbly and addictive.

Outstanding Comedy Series
"Arrested Development" (FOX)
"Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO)
"The Office" (NBC)
"Scrubs" (NBC)
"Two and a Half Men" (CBS)

The Dunder-Mifflinites had an amazing year as well. Though I'd like to give it to AD on their way out, I think The Office was really revitalized and astonishingly creative this past season.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Frances Conroy, "Six Feet Under" (HBO)
Geena Davis, "Commander In Chief" (ABC)
Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC)
Allison Janney, "The West Wing" (NBC)
Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer" (TNT)

Abstaining from selection based on fury and resentment at several notable ladies not being included. However, looking forward to seeing all their dresses.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Peter Krause, "Six Feet Under" (HBO)
Denis Leary, "Rescue Me" (FX)
Christopher Meloni, "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC)
Martin Sheen, "The West Wing" (CBS)
Kiefer Sutherland, "24" (FOX)

Comic timing and dramatic chops? I never knew Leary had them until I watched Rescue Me. He created such a great character for himself.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Stockard Channing, "Out of Practice" (CBS)
Jane Kaczmarek, "Malcolm in the Middle" (FOX)
Lisa Kudrow, "The Comeback" (HBO)
Debra Messing, "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (CBS)

Ditto my previous comments about the Dramatic Actress category. I think I should invite Lauren and Kristen to go get drunk with me and boycott these sham awards.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Steve Carell, "The Office" (NBC)
Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO)
Kevin James, "The King of Queens" (CBS)
Tony Shalhoub, "Monk" (USA)
Charlie Sheen, "Two and a Half Men" (CBS)

Steve. So painfully funny, so much improvement over those first slightly awkward episodes. He's really carved out his own take on things, and it's a pleasure to watch.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Candice Bergen, "Boston Legal" (ABC)
Blythe Danner, "Huff" (Showtime)
Sandra Oh, "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC)
Jean Smart, "24" (FOX)
Chandra Wilson, "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC)

So hard to choose between the two Seattle Grace docs. Since Sandra won a Golden Globe, I'll give this to Chandra.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Alan Alda, "The West Wing" (NBC)
Michael Imperioli, "The Sopranos" (HBO)
Gregory Itzin, "24" (FOX)
Oliver Platt, "Huff" (Showtime)
William Shatner, "Boston Legal" (ABC)

This is all you give me to work with? No Enrico? No Dohring? I don't think so.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Cheryl Hines, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO)
Megan Mullally, "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Elizabeth Perkins, "Weeds" (Showtime)
Jaime Pressly, "My Name Is Earl" (NBC)
Alfre Woodard, "Desperate Housewives" (ABC)

Jaime is a complete surprise and a white-trash delight in this role. Love her (if not her fashion line) and think she deserves success for her performance.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Will Arnett, "Arrested Development" (FOX)
Bryan Cranston, "Malcolm in the Middle" (FOX)
Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men" (CBS)
Sean Hayes, "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Jeremy Piven, "Entourage" (HBO)

Completely to my surprise, this is one of the harder categories for me to pick. I'd like to give one to Cranston for his consistently great work on Malcom, were it not for standouts Arnett and Piven, who I've loved for years. If pressed, I'd have to give it to Arnett, since Piven is one of my TV Boyfriends, which means he's already a winner.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pure character

With 'Top 25 Character' lists floating around the series of tubes known as the Internet, you just know I had to jump on the train with a list of my very own.

They're in no particular order, but you know V is near and dear to my heart, though I could just as easily have added Logan and Keith to the top of the list were I not keeping myself to a one-character-per-show limit.

1. Veronica Mars (VM) - Flinty, funny, fiercely loyal. Keen to protect herself and everyone she cares for, but not always able to.

2. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Battlestar Galactica) - Capable of handling everything but her own emotions.

3. Jim Halpert (The Office) - The most ordinary, or the most extraordinary guy, depending on how you look at it.

4. Zack Morris (Saved by the Bell) - BMOC. A legend to a generation.

5. Michael Wiseman - (Now and Again) - John Goodman's brain in Eric Close's body? Tell me that's not worth watching.

6. Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) - Responsibility weighed heavily on her, but she still knew how to have fun.

7. Pacey Witter (Dawson's Creek) - The only person that never suffered character assassination on DC. Sweet, funny, full of mischief.

8. Doug Ross (ER) - One of the original charming rogues. Breaking hearts as fast as he sews 'em up.

9. Cosmo Kramer (Seinfeld) - Weiry, wacky, wiry, watchable.

10. Greg House (House) - A rule-breaking bastard you can't help but root for.

11. G.O.B. (Arrested Development) - Devious, immature, magic on stage and screen.

12. Aeryn Sun (Farscape) - Hard on the outside, with a soft vulnerable filling for a certain IASA member.

13. Perry Cox (Scrubs) - Insults have never been so fun and fanciful.

14. Hoban "Wash" Washburne (Firefly) - Capable, whimsical, equal parts brave and scaredy-cat. Devoted to his woman and his work.

15. Ari Gold (Entourage) - I think I've said it all.

16. Javier Clemente Quintata (Felicity) - A brutally honest teddy bear.

17. Karen Walker (Will & Grace) - A brutally honest lush and flibbertigibbet.

18. Angela Chase (My So-Called Life) - The awkwardly beautiful girl we all grew up next door to.

19. Vicki the Robot (Small Wonder) - A freakishly strong, hyper-intelligent girl child robot? In no way is this a bad idea.

20. Ed Stevens (Ed) - Quirky and sweet. A perennial optimist with a flair for legal affairs.

21. Lorelai Gilmore (Gilmore Girls) - This pop-culture goddess may not be the best mother, but I bet Rory wouldn't trade her for any other.

22. Jack Bauer (24) - He's so busy kicking ass, he doesn't even bother to take names.

23. Sandy Cohen (The OC) - One of the few TV dads that isn't just a satellite of his children. (John Wesley Shipp, I'm talking to you.)

24. Samantha Jones (Sex and the City) - Vulgar, uninhibited, confident, glamorous, and daring. My favorite diva.

25. The Lone Gunmen (The X-Files) - Lovable nerds and conspiracy theorists, I can only think of them as a unit, like the Three Musketeers.

Several things are evident to me from this list: I like strong female characters (Buffy, Veronica, Aeryn) and brash male characters that I'd probably find insufferable in real life (G.O.B., Ari, Perry). I imagine what's entertaining to watch is not entertaining to live with.

I'm sure it's also evident how very young I am -- there are no classic characters on the list, as I really have had no exposure to them.

Frankly, though, I'm more curious what you think -- so have at it in the comments!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

When does it premiere? When does it air? Now you know.

I've never been satisfied with keeping track of fall premieres as well as ongoing series that I'd like to check out. Calendars tend to either show premiere dates only, or show only when a program will be showing regularly but not the date it premieres.

Unsatisfied with the current options, I created a Google Calendar that lists all the shows and premiere dates I'm interested in, in order to help solve this problem for myself. You can view it here or go subscribe to it by clicking the button:

Keep in mind that this extremely does not include all the shows that will be airing this fall. It only includes things that I personally am interested in. As has probably been clear if you're reading the site, that isn't the widest range of programs ever. You probably won't catch me tuning in to Law & Order: Criminal Intent, so it's not listed. For some shows (like Vanished or Friday Night Lights), I've included only the premiere if I just intend to check it out, but may not watch it on a regular basis.

The premiere schedule is back-dated to Monday's Prison Break episode, and continues to add new and returning shows of note until October 11th, the premiere of 30 Rock. Enjoy!

Even if you're not interested in keeping up to date with the calendar, you can still see what I plan to be watching this season. And, if I've missed a show you think I should add or check out, let me know. I'll be back with some more in-depth thoughts on the fall schedule soon.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Do yourself a favor

To my regular blog readers, it's probably pretty clear that I'm fond of a little show called Veronica Mars. I've been lucky enough to tempt numerous friends and family members to watch it, and they've all enjoyed it, from my grandmother right down to my most recent convert, a coworker buddy.

I bring this up because Season 2 of VM is released on DVD today. If my numerous posts haven't convinced you to give this show a try by now, perhaps this awesome promo, first aired at Comic-Con, will do the trick.

So do yourself a favor, and go buy the DVDs. You've got plenty of time to get caught up before the Season Three premiere on October 3rd.

Get me an IV of TV, stat!

After watching 9 episodes of Prison Break back to back on Saturday in an attempt to get caught up before last night's Season Two premiere, I've come to the conclusion that mainlining TV shows has both good and bad aspects.

The good part is that you keep the momentum of the show going. This is great particularly for fast-paced shows in which only a brief period elapses between episodes. When you watch episodes in big batches, you don't have to put in the extra emotional energy of waiting for things to be resolved week to week. They leave you on a cliffhanger? You get it resolved ten minutes later when you watch the following episode.

This can also be helpful for shows that have convoluted mysteries. It might be hard to maintain your interest (and keep plot points straight) from week to week, but when you watch them all in a batch, you'll have a better understanding of the flow of clues and investigations.

The downside, however, is that character development can suffer. When you take a day to watch episodes that are meant to occur over the space of a few months in a character's lives, it can be hard to understand their reasoning and reactions. Something that happened months ago to them was just a few hours ago to you. What's meant to be a gradual thaw between characters can seem like a microwaved plot if watched too quickly.

When I first got a friend hooked on Veronica Mars, we watched the entire half of the first season in one night -- from "Silence of the Lamb" to "Leave It To Beaver". While I happily re-watched the L-V romance unfold in hyperspeed, she found it a bit jarring to see Logan's intentions towards Veronica change over just a few hours. She didn't see their week-by-week progress towards becoming friends again -- she saw Veronica kissing someone who thought she was trash. After watching the episodes a few more times, however, she had a better sense of what the characters were meant to have gone through.

All in all, I think watching TV shows marathon style works if a show 1) is meant to occur in near-real time, like Lost or Prison Break or 2) if the characters don't change too much over the course of a season, like House. Which reminds me: I've got a DVD to go purchase...