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Cable Television Rundown: The Midterm Report, Through The Lens Of The 2009 Minnesota Twins

There have been two things since I took a month or so off of taking CPA exams that have taken over my life in the way that those pesky exams did this summer -- baseball, and television. I was lucky enough to have attended what is occasionally being described as "the greatest regular season baseball game at the Metrodome of all time" when the Minnesota Twins beat the Detroit Tigers to win the AL Central Division. I was very happy. Very, very happy. So happy when it happened that the things that happened in the rest of the game were kind of a blur. (For example -- did you know the Twins could have won earlier if Alexei Casilla didn't make a horrible baserunning error to score the winning run? Totally blocked that part out of my memory.) It was like that all season for the Twins -- lots of really happy memories that were mixed in with some mind-numbingly terrible moments. And thus, my new grading scale for television, for this month -- comparing the current status of the shows I'm watching on DVR to the moments of the 2009 season for the Minnesota Twins.

"Twins Win Game 163 And Everybody Lives Happily Ever After"
So rare is a game in which the outcome creates such unbelievable, strong feeling of joy, so much so that there's an inevitable letdown the next day, that you realize that you'll probably never witness something as amazing as what you saw last night. That's kind of what the new season of Mad Men is demonstrating to us this year. This show is firing on all cylinders right now, so much so that every episode is so full of well-written dialogue, dark cinematography, and forward plot momentum. Last night's episode was particularly bone-rattling in terms of plot movement. Frankly, this season of Mad Men (which I very incorrectly predicted would drag way back last October) has been so good that I feel the same wave of pure joy when I watch an episode as I did when Carlos Gomez slid across home plate in Game 163, and the same emptiness when I realize that it's all over when it ends. A rare show indeed, and perhaps only matched in this decade by The Wire. It's so great that Sesame Street has done their own take of it.

"Justin Morneau Hits A Grand Slam After Walking Joe Mauer To Load The Bases Against The Milwaukee Brewers"
You gotta love when you're in the 8th inning of a tie game, Joe Mauer gets walked to load the bases, and up comes Justin Morneau to the plate. You can just feel that he's gonna make those Brewer bastards pay for walking Baby Jesus. And when he does, you feel a great sense of excitement and joy -- not on par with the rareness of the beauty of a walkoff win, but a great sense of happiness nonetheless. That, friends, is how I feel about the trifecta of bikers, awkward family gatherings, and neuroticism of Sons of Anarchy, Modern Family, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. SoA just keeps getting darker and more tense as the series goes on, with this season bringin' the white knuckle action to a head many-a-time. But what really makes it tick this season is the tenuous relationships between characters, and the need for peace versus the desire to kick the crap out of the white supremacists who tried to blow up your Irish biker friend. Modern Family meanwhile brings the witty, subtle humor of ArrDev, takes it down a couple notches, and whips up the awkwardness. It's dizzyingly funny and the most fun new sitcom half-hour of the year. Awkward dad Phil is already one of my favorite characters on television. And what can I say about Curb Your Enthusiasm? Larry David has the talent of making situations like locking a woman in a wheelchair in a closet hilarious. A half hour of solid laughs, tight plotting, and this season's Seinfeld reunion make me as happy as the time that Justin Morneau made the Brewers pay for disrespecting Kitty Kat Katcher Joe Meowwwr.

"Twins Beat The Cubs At Wrigley Field"
There is nothing particularly significant about a win at Wrigley Field for the Twins on a warm summer day. But, winning on a warm summer day with a brew, like the way the Twins crushed the Cubs on a Friday afternoon that I was lucky to attend in early June of this year is quite a bit like watching The Office this year. I recognize that the combo of wacky characters and occasionally cringe-worthy romance but mostly solid laughs isn't the most groundbreaking sitcom on television now, but I'm not going to turn down the opportunity to watch a new episode. Glee, similarly, seems to me light on plot I really care much about but very heavy on fun (i.e. hilarious and entertaining song breaks) and style (i.e. Ryan Murphy-style directing but funnier, lighter situations than his other series, Nip/Tuck). And, for you trendy Tweeters out there, you are probably reading nonstop #GLEE-related hash tags. It's okay, everybody, to like this show -- it's fun, fun, fun. It's currently the TV equivalent to me of Jason Kubel adding an insurance home run to a big lead. Finally, we have FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia which, like The Office isn't necessarily groundbreaking (its pathos humor owes much to Curb) but brings the laughs consistently. This season's second episode "The Gang Hits The Road" is an instant classic (see below)

"Joe Nathan Continues As The Twins Closer And I Try To Ignore His Struggles Out Of Loyalty"
Now, I really love Joe Nathan. He's brought the Minnesota Twins many great moments and helped save many victories for the Twins over his five years with the club. He's clutch. Buuuut.....lately, cracks have become apparent in his game. His fastball might not have the same velocity as it once had. And, you just feel a little more nervous nowadays when he comes into a game than you might have two years ago. (Case in point -- his unfortunate meltdown against the Yankees in game two of the ALDS this year vs. the Yankees.) That, friends, is how I'm feeling about the new season of 30 Rock. Okay, we're only one episode into the new season, but the season premiere was less than hilarious. Are the hilarious-but-slightly-thin characters starting to wear down? Is the formula for wacky laughs starting to get tired? I'm not quite sure. Either way...I'm not feeling it too much. Dexter is also starting to reach that point, in which our protagonist is spinning his wheels somewhat. This is a series that needs to have an end date set soon, because there are a lot of interesting plot points that have yet to be gotten to. Kind of like if the Twins somehow put something magic back in Joe Nathan's arm and allow him to get back to where he once was.

"For Some Reason The Twins Acquire Orlando Cabrera, Who Does Well In Key Spots But Is Mostly Frustrating To Watch"
Finally, we have our category of TV shows that remind me of the Twins signing of shortstop Orlando Cabrera. On paper, this is a good signing. A lot of pundits think he's just the kind of "hard-nosed" player the Twins need to get over the top, with real "grit", and "heart". Then you look at his on-base percentage, his diminishing defensive skills, and his somewhat salty attitude. Sure, he'll deliver a few good moments, but all in all, it's not quite what will help you. Nip/Tuck is currently much like Orlando Cabrera. I still get excited to watch it, like, "Oh yes, Nip/Tuck is a delightful combination of twisted humor and serious drama regarding the human condition." Then they do stupid stuff like have playboy doctor Christian Troy masturbate in his ex-wife's lawyer's office on his command. Or, have Matt decide to become a Mime Bandit. (Seriously.) Yes, there occasional flashes of brilliance, but you have to sit through a lot of garbage to get to them. FlashForward, ABC's new answer to Lost is like that too, albeit with more potential. The moments of brilliance are a lot like Orlando's go-ahead home run in Game 163 -- dizzyingly wonderful -- but its moments of incompetence are outrageously bad (although Chris is starting to convince me that those moments, namely the mostly terrible dialogue, is entertaining on a holy-crap-this-is-ridiculous level). I'm holding out hope that this could become a Wrigley Field-type show, especially with professional TV guy Marc Guggenheim leaving the show to the hands of David Goyer (he of The Dark Knight). Maybe that move will mean more cool stuff and less embarrassing dialogue and acting.

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  1. Blogger DoktorPeace | 6:31 AM |  

    I watched 5 minutes of Glee tonight, wanting to dislike it after hating some "Single Ladies" football team dance number I'd seen. Those 5 minutes didn't give me a Yankees level of hate, but a boring boy/girl convo in the bleachers and a stupid game of pepper between 2 sissy-throwing protagonists definitely justify a Red Sox rating.

  2. Blogger qualler | 8:06 AM |  

    I'd give some of the sections of the series with Jane Lynch a try before deciding you officially hate the show. Without her, I'd probably put her in the Orlando Cabrera section of shows (although I do also still really like the songs). The underlying sadness of all the characters (except for Jane Lynch, who's pretty much just hilariously evil) gives the show just enough depth, as well.

  3. Blogger qualler | 10:19 AM |  

    I should add this season of "Gossip Girl" in the Wrigley Field category. Totally inconsequential, and to be honest I don't pay that close of attention to it, but holy cripes everyone on that show got SUPER HOT!

  4. Blogger Papa Thor | 11:48 AM |  

    We watched Modern Family and laughed at some of the bits, I thought the "awkward" dad was gayer than the gay dads. I hope I don't show any signs of "awkwardness".

  5. Blogger chris | 1:00 PM |  

    I gotta catch up on Modern Family and Glee. Your rating system actually makes complete sense to me and I largely agree, even though I know nothing about the Twins.

    Can I once again express how much better Parks & Rec is this season? Nic Offerman is a genius.

    Also, I am proud to admit that I am now a Trauma addict. It's like Final Destination meets the bad eps of Rescue Me!!!! Srrs, it's this year's Harper's Island.

  6. Blogger qualler | 1:12 PM |  

    Haha yeah I know I've read that Parks & Rec is improved and have seen enough of Community to get some laffs out of it, but a combination of having my slate too full with shows I wanna watch already and the slight duplication of styles of humor offered in the two leaves me too TV-exhausted to watch them.

    Weirdly enough, apparently Joe Nathan had bone chips removed from his throwing elbow yesterday, which partially explains why he was so craptastic at the end of the season. Do potential plot twists in 30 Rock and Dexter do the same trick as a surgery to an elbow? Let's hope so!

    And, last night's Nip/Tuck was (extremely slightly) weighted more toward the good than the boring/stupid, so that's some progress. Meanwhile I hear FlashForward ain't getting any better in future eps...let's hope it turns around.

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