TV Review - Guilty Pleasures 2013

Dean Norris (left) and Alexander Koch
in new hit series "Under the Dome"
Breaking Bad won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. It beat last year's winner Homeland and Netflix hopeful House of Cards. The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards was like a cap on the summer television season and the gateway to the start of the fall TV season. Looking back on the summer season, I realize that there weren't a lot that I saw, which I would like to see at next year's Emmys. I did watch quite a few programs but I did so mostly as guilty pleasures. They weren't great quality TV programming but they filled the time and entertained me.

Speaking of Breaking Bad, actor Dean Norris was doing double duty this summer. He's played Hank Schrader since episode 1 of Breaking Bad, but he's now taken the role of Big Jim Rennie from CBS' adaptation of Stephen King's Under the Dome, a sci-fi adventure that to me is not much different from ABC's Lost. Both Under the Dome and Lost share producer-director Jack Bender. The fact is both shows are about a group of people who are stuck in a confined area. Instead of a Pacific island, Under the Dome has a New England town cut off by an invisible and impenetrable force field. Almost every season of Lost were power plays for who was going to be the leader. Under the Dome, as the season finale showed, was selfsame. Instead of the new Jacob, Under the Dome had the new monarch. The season finale of Under the Dome was also very similar to the 2nd season finale of Lost, basically the whole thing ending in a bright white light that practically blinds everyone. One thing I appreciated was a scene in the finale that mirrored a scene in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) where Darth Vader attempts to seduce Luke Skywalker to the dark side. Big Jim acting as Darth Vader does the same thing with his son Junior Rennie, played by Alexander Koch. Big Jim and Junior, as well as Norris and Koch's performances, are by far the most interesting things about Under the Dome.

There were really no good performances in Hulu's East Los High. It was basically a teen soap opera, unique in its all Hispanic cast, but the the young, inexperienced actors and less than stellar writing sunk the show for me. A month later, Netflix released Orange is the New Black, a show with good writing and good performances, but, in my review of it I had cited that I didn't enjoy its brand of comedy and some things about the show smacked of homophobia. ABC Family whose summer sitcoms are very dreadful did have a drama called The Fosters, which centered on an interracial, lesbian couple that adopts a group of children. The series follows the family of five children, as the two most recently adopted adjust to life in the household. The show deals with important issues, but it got bogged down in teen romance that was rather vomit-inducing.

ABC Family claims to be a family network, but it's goal in these recent summers is to appeal to a teen demographic or a young adult one. I suppose it's trying to hone in on the corner carved out by the CW and MTV. Actually, one guilty pleasure that I've enjoyed is MTV's Teen Wolf. The first two seasons were very fun. The second season last year, I thought highly improved on the first. It made the villain a fellow teen and gave very personal motives that were easy to understand and ones with which one could relate. The focus of the show was also a whole lot better. The third season this summer turned me off because I felt like it lacked focus and was too all over the map. I like how the show openly objectifies the young men with plenty of beefcake shots, flexing and posing shirtless. It helps that the show's creator Jeff Davis is a gay man, but he and his writers were juggling too many villains and made them all strangers about whom we didn't care.

There were of course shows that were aimed at a more adult demographic, shows that I would classify as soap operas essentially. ABC's Mistresses did not garner enough appeal to keep me watching after the first episode. Neither did OWN's The Haves and Have Nots. Lifetime's Devious Maids seemed like Desperate Housewives meets The Help but all Latina edition. It seemed like a good time, but I couldn't keep with it. I was, however, pulled into VH1's Hit the Floor. It centered on an aspiring dancer who dreams of being a cheerleader for a Los Angeles NBA team. I thought the choreography was great and the drama campy and intriguing enough to hook me.

Steven Pasquale doing double duty
in NBC's "Do No Harm"
At the top of my guilty pleasures of summer 2013 would have to be Do No Harm. This was a TV series on NBC, which premiered on, Thursday, January 31. NBC cancelled the show after its second episode due to low ratings. The show already had 13 episodes in the can by the time the news hit. Instead of pretending like those episodes didn't exist, NBC decided to air the remaining 11 episodes starting on June 29, which was a Saturday. Given his performance on Rescue Me, I had already had a huge man-crush on Steven Pasquale and my opinion of the show was extremely more favorable than the majority of TV critics, so I decided to watch the remaining 11 episodes just to see where it would go. Yes, where it went was crazy and ridiculous, but I thought it was fun, particularly Pasquale's performance. He was playing a man with a dissociative identity. Basically, he was a man with split personalities in the same vein as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Pasquale was manic and fierce and sexy and smart, and that's really all I can ask of any guilty pleasure. The show also made great use of the city of Philadelphia. It also had great guest stars like James Cromwell who won an Emmy at the 65th awards for his role in American Horror Story: Asylum.

I'm a fan of sci-fi shows, but like with Teen Wolf, I was turned off to a lot of the supernatural fare offered up this summer. HBO's True Blood had me as a fan up until last season and this season was even worse. TNT's Falling Skies lost me as well. SYFY's Sinbad looked too corny for me to even give a chance, but SYFY did air the second season of Continuum this summer and that show is fantastic as far as I'm concerned. It's a thinking man's time travel series that's very smart, very well-acted and very well-produced.

The police procedural shows were severely lacking. Dexter was a necessary watch simply because I've invested seven years into the show. I had to see how it ended. I was bored with Graceland and I was not interested at all in The Killing. After focusing so much attention on Breaking Bad, I wasn't going to go near the so-called Breaking Bad, The Shield and The Sopranos clones like Ray Donovan and Low Winter Sun.

One show I loved this summer was Arrested Development. Netflix released the fourth season on Memorial Day weekend, the kick-off of the summer season. Web Therapy on Showtime, which is now in its third season, is also another great comedy that I enjoyed very much.


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