Fantasy, Television

Tube Update

May 8, 2011

I’ve been following more shows lately than I’ve taken the time to blog about, so it’s time for another TV round-up:

Most consuming for me lately has been Mad Men.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been plowing through seasons three and four, both of which are rich enough to warrant full-season reviews.  But since there’s no real way to do that without spoiling major plot turns, I’ll limit myself to saying that it’s as addictive and thematically intriguing as ever, and I’ve been gobbling it right up.  Season three subtly reinvents the Sterling Cooper landscape, and ends with two particularly outstanding episodes, while season four — while not entirely rebooting — goes in an unexpectedly drastic new direction.  It’s an incredibly compelling mix of corporate, office, and social politics, mixed with touches of history and dark humor.  This show was promising in its early days, but it really starts to flourish in these seasons; for the unindoctrinated, a rewarding marathon awaits.

I usually don’t follow shows week-by-week — I tend to wait for the box sets and watch at my own pace.  But this year I have been following a couple of hour-longs in real time, starting with The Chicago Code, an engaging police chronicle starring Jennifer Beals and Jason Clarke as cops spearheading a secret war against political corruption in the city.  It’s a solid show, particularly impressive for how it jam-packs each episode with separate but connected threads.  On some level, it strikes me as little more than a modernized NYPD Blue — carrying on that show’s tradition of slightly-more-than-episodic police dramas.  That’s hardly a bad thing, but I hope it develops into something more than that.  While it hasn’t quite erased the sting of losing Terriers for me, it’s still Shawn Ryan, delivering an underdogs-against-the-system vibe that I really like.

More exciting has been Game of Thrones, the epic fantasy adapation of the best-selling George R.R. Martin series.  It was just a matter of time before HBO applied its lavish production standards to genre material, and so far this one’s  really working for me — a complex secondary world scenario with complicated politics and a frank and brutal sensibility.  The first two episodes were promising, and the third really starts to deliver with detailed, compelling world-building.  It’s uniformly well performed, with Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage standing out so far.  I suspect that fans who miss Rome will probably enjoy the scheming and power struggles and debauchery of Game of Thrones.  I’m growing increasingly hooked. (And it has a spectacular credit sequence…)

Aside from these shows, I’ve been casually keeping up with a handful of sitcoms:  30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, and Modern Family, all of which continue to deliver laughs.  (The Big Bang Theory is often as irritating as it is fun, but I’m kind of enjoying the new dynamic now that Penny, Bernadette, and Amy are getting more screentime.)

I’m sure there are other shows I should be watching — what have I been missing?

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