Saturday, March 27, 2010

V is for Viewing

Once upon a time, this was a pop culture blog. Oh, how the times have changed! Now the only popping I seem to be doing has something to do with a weasel, and, luckily for those of you who still care, the only culture to which I have any exposure at all comes from the small screen. With nursing and bottle feeding and staying upright for hours on end with E, I've been watching even more television than usual, though I wouldn't have thought that possible. So, I've decided to cast my cares away for the day and return to my roots with a good, old-fashioned television assessment.

First, let me state again, for the record, I am most PUT OUT by the fact that many network shows have gone on an inexplicable (and ill timed) hiatus for most of February and March. i'm forced to watch not-so-good standbys like Lost (the Jacob vs. the man in black storyline is TEDIOUS!), Gray's Anatomy (I can't quit you!), and Survivor (Heroes vs. Villains season is really put all the crazies in one place season, so that's a plus). But that's not enough, and this has forced me to go further afield in my viewing choices and yielded some surprisingly good shows I might otherwise have missed. However, I am still miffed. MIFFED, I tell you!

For example, a little program named Mercy has been steadily producing new episodes, and I've fallen in love. It's set in New Jersey (accents and all) and follows an Iraq war vet nurse and her nursing compadres, her heavy drinking Irish-American family, her ex-husband/childhood sweetheart, and the doctor vet who followed her home. There's a bit of stunt casting (Dawson himself is a cocky doctor) but the dialogue seems real, particularly in her interactions with her family, AND, just last week, Mary Stuart Masterson appeared for a guest arc and so any time Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful makes an appearance, you know it's a good thing!

I just watched the first episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, and I think anyone who has kids in the US school system should find and watch this program immediately. The premise is simple: using what he learned from revamping British school eating habits, Oliver has gone to Huntington, WV, the most unhealthy city in the country, and is trying mightily to change it. He has been allowed a test run in the local elementary school, complete with resistant lunch ladies, a hapless principal, and a community that thinks he's bonkers. He is also opening a free cooking school for locals and teaming up with a local pastor to visit homes with particular needs. Oliver is refreshingly uncensored and clearly sincerely concerned about people, which makes for an endearing viewing experience.

I've also watched the current crop of genealogical programs, PBS's Faces of America and NBC's Who Do You Think You Are. Both have a similar premise: trace the genealogical backgrounds of celebrities and film the results, but the programs approach this premise in different ways. WDYTYA focuses on one person per episode and follows that person as he or she goes across the country following his or her own roots. FoA is hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and he sits down with each of his "guests" and shows them the genealogical discoveries he and his team have made through documents and bits of film. He visits the places and then returns back and reports in thematic episodes dealing with topics like immigration or genes. I like the first model better, but the second show has better stars. Both make family historical research seem easy-peasy, but I suppose that's a good fiction to maintain for a neophyte audience.

Supposedly, new programming returns in April, so let's quickly note those to which I am looking forward: Glee (yay! a Madonna episode is coming!), Bones (still going strong), Fringe (getting better all the time), and Friday Night Lights (very curious to see where it goes next). Quality, people. That's all I ask!

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