2008 On TV - Some Reviews and Stuff

01 February 2008

As you may have gathered by now, I adore, love and worship at the altar of TV. It wasn't always so. I was basically not allowed to watch TV on schoolnights, then in my late teens and early twenties I went through that awful "TV is dumb and I don't watch it" stage (also I was too poor to afford one for many of those years).

All that is behind me now. Rating season is about to begin in Australia, and with it a crop of new shows. Incidentally, I've never quite understood the concept of "ratings season", in terms of TV networks playing re-run crud over the summer. Surely it would make more sense to play the good stuff when people are off work and school, having more time to watch? The ratings are low because there's nothing good to watch, not the other way around. I digress...

Being at the forefront of investigative journalism and social commentary, I've been given an exclusive sneak peak at the first episodes of two of the shows starting on Australian TV this year - Back To You and Rules Of Engagement (okay, they were on a DVD which came free with Sunday's paper).

Back To You sounded promising. It's written and directed by Steve Levitan, creator of Just Shoot Me (one of my favourites). It stars Patricia Heaton, who was great in Everybody Loves Raymond, and Kelsey Grammar, star of Frasier (which I've never actually watched, as I heard a rumour that Grammar is a Bush supporter).

The show tells the story of a TV news anchorman (Grammar) who returns to the small-city TV station he left ten years before...and the co-host (Heaton) who remained in the job the whole time. There's some bad blood between them - not suprisingly, as it turns out (spoiler) that they have a daughter together, the result of a one-night stand ten years ago, whom the anchorman was unaware of for all these years. It was okay. It was fine, really. It may even develop into quite a funny show - but not a brilliant one. There's nothing innovative or especially clever about it. The pacing and tone will be familiar to Shoot Me fans - reinforcing the sense that this is nothing we haven't seen before.

Rules Of Engagement was even worse. Ostensibly the tale of a long-married couple, an about-to-be-married couple who live in the same apartment block, and their single semi-sleazy friend, the jokes were bland, the cliches were heavy, and just how many shows will toss David Spade into the cast to give the thing an "edge"? (Not withstanding Just Shoot Me - it was all right the first time). I won't be bothering with it again, and now you won't have to either.

American readers may be thinking to themselves "but these shows are a year old, and neither of them were much good". That's what we get on TV in Australia - the networks fill their schedules which shows which didn't do so well in the U.S., because they're cheap (and what with the writer's strike, it's only going to get worse). Or else we have SBS and the ABC showing British shows (The Vicar of Dibley, Skins) over a year after their original U.K. airing.

Of course, there's always home-grown local content to enjoy. And I hope you like reality TV, because reality TV is what you're getting. This year, we have... A Year With The Royals, The Biggest Loser, Saving Kids, So You Think You Can Dance Australia, It Takes Two, Dancing With The Stars, The Chopping Block...and, it hardly needs saying, Big Brother and Australian Idol.

At least DVDs are cheap these days.


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