The fall premieres are well underway, and as we proceed through week two of Brand-New Episodes of all our old favorites as well as a few new offerings that have made their way into our DVR ... let's review.
Family Guy (raunchy and off-color (is that redundant?) animated comedy) -- Why watch it? It's funny. Funny! Repeatedly laugh-out-loud-long-enough-to-require-pausing-the-show-to-catch-one's-breath funny. Not for children, or my parents. Or for a lot of people. But funny. Enough inside jokes to keep a viewer feeling like one of the special few (million), but not enough to alienate anyone who's missed hunks of prior seasons. Final words: Adam West as himself.
The Simpsons (seriously?) -- Why watch it? 20 seasons of animated prime-time comedy. And while not every episode is gold, most of them are at least silver or iron pyrite, anyway. The celebrity appearances are some of my favorite parts. There's good reason why this show has won 25 Emmys and is the first animated show to win a Peabody.
Mad Men (so-period-it's-painful drama about 1960s Madison Avenue ad men (and the "girls" in their lives)) -- Why watch it? It's brilliant. Brillant acting, brilliant writing, brilliant staging/costumes/cinematography. Gorgeous. Uncomfortable at first (just about the only African-Americans on the show are the elevator operator and the cleaning lady, and the "girls" are treated like stupid children by the men, a good deal of the time), this show makes me think about how much life has changed since then. It's also deeply engaging emotionally and intellectually. I actually care what happens to these people. There are very good reasons this show keeps winning a jillion awards. It's altogether excellent.
Castle (police procedural wherein a bestselling mystery writer is following around a smart-and-sexy homicide detective upon whom he's basing his next novel.) -- Why watch it? Nathan Fillion. I could leave it at just those two words. But, honestly, the show is cute, clever, fun. Nathan and co-star Stana Katic have great chemistry and the quirky circumstances surrounding the murders in this procedural are less CSI-esque contrived than I'd feared. Very glad this mid-season replacement has been picked up. (And ... hee ... outtakes!)
How I Met Your Mother (ensemble comedy about mostly-single thirty-something professionals in NYC) -- Why watch it? Neil Patrick Harris. (and well, Jason Segel) This comedy has had its ups and downs and some shows fall rather flat, but when they've got it down, it's funny. And doesn't love some Barney Stinson?
The Big Bang Theory (ensemble compedy about very single twenty-something professional uber-nerds in Pasadena) -- Why watch it? Well, this nerd-girl loves the Spock, Flash and gaming references. I think Johnny Galecki is an adorably dorky straight man. And well, anything character Sheldon says is pretty much deadpan hysterical. This show is good for multiple LOLs per ep, and also the sort of little jokes and catch phrases that pop up in conversation around the house. Even my kids have started singing "Soft Kitty" and they've never seen the show.
Heroes (OK, everybody knows what Heroes is about) -- Why watch it? Well, frankly, I'm just rather hoping it becomes even half as interesting and cool as it was the first season. I'm still waiting. Oh, and Zachary Quinto is yummy.
NCIS (procedural spin-off of Jag set in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service HQ in DC) -- Why watch it? Although I never really watched Jag, I immediately latched onto NCIS. The cast has great chemistry and timing; the Navy connection is a sweet spot for me with my quasi-Navy-brat upbringing); Mark Harmon; and just the right mix of long plot arcs, satisfying solved-in-one-episode crimes, serious cases, silly cases ... this show's watchable, if not uber-cool.
NCIS:LA (spin-off of the spin-off) -- Why watch it? The crossover let's-introduce-our-potential-spinoff ep last season was decent. Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J work well together. And I'm always willing to give a spin-off a chance. We'll see if it sticks on the DVR schedule past season one.
The Good Wife (lawyer show surrounding the mortified and newly-back-in-the-workforce wife of a sex-scandaled and imprisoned politician) -- Why watch it? Juliana Margulies and Chris Noth. Pre-air reviews were good enough to give this new show a try. The pilot was good, and I'm hoping this cast grows into its own as the season continues.
Criminal Minds (FBI serial-killer profilers procedural) -- Why watch it? For chills and thrills and shivers up your spine. I don't do horror. Ever. But, this show can occasionally come close. The cast is terrific and the killers sufficiently creepy/weird/terrifying to keep me huddled under and afghan even in the summer months, watching this. Always save enough time to watch a sit-com between this and bedtime, if you want to sleep. Each episode offers a life-lesson I use to keep myself safe from serial killers: don't leave windows unlocked, don't ride the subway, don't stop for a flat tire in the country, don't breathe air ... you know, useful stuff.
Glee (high school musical, except, you know ... funny and sarcastic) -- Why watch it? If you're a big dork like I am and enjoy quirky, you'll likely enjoy Glee. Throw in a healthy love of musicals, showtunes, high-school-underdog-makes-good/wins-the-cute-boy/girl and you're in love. The singing is quality, too. Again, hoping this lasts through and past its first season. (there are better audio quality videos out there, like this one, but this one has vid, too)
The Office (office-based sitcom, but you know ... with talent and humor) -- Why watch it? It's funny. And smart. With pretty (but also not so pretty) people. Everyone who's ever worked in an office has known some version of most of these characters. The humor is quick, sometimes uncomfortable, but really very mostly on.
Haven't watched our recording of FlashForward yet, but we're hoping for good things. Otherwise, Thursday is not so much a must-see night of broadcasting for us. I gave up on Survivor a couple of seasons ago, and while Community has surface appeal (Joe does teach at a community college, after all), we're going to see if it lasts past its first season before investing any time in it.
Ugly Betty (comedy/soap opera about a really kinds pretty "ugly" girl with a big heart in the cut-throat world of a fashion magazine) -- Why watch it? Well, this is my guilty-please show. It's not earth-shattering; the soap opera plot twists are bizarre. But the so-bad-they're-awesome bad guys (read: Vanessa Williams and Michael Urie) are awfully fun to watch. It's been moved to the Friday-night-timeslot-of-death, so I don't expect another season after this one. It's been sliding since season two, anyway.
Numb3rs (FBI procedural wherein a prominent mathematician and his colleagues help solve crimes, using ... dun-dun-dunnnn ... numbers) -- Why watch it? If you're married to a mathematician, like I am, watch this show to find neat and simple ways to under stand mid-level math concepts through the use of nifty metaphors and animated sequences. (And I love me some Rob Morrow, big-time)
Dollhouse (Whedon (!!!) sci-fi drama wherein personalities are imprinted on relatively clean-slated brains so that "dolls" may be rented out to wealthy clients for specific purposes) -- Why watch it? To keep it on the air! To drive up Whedon's numbers so it lasts as long as possible! Seriously, it's good. Well acted with enough drama and/or action in most episodes. Offbeat with a lot of potential for future stories and seasons to stay fresh and clever. And this season? Jamie Bamber and Summer Glau! (if you missed season one, there's a pretty decent recap available)