Tuesday, January 17, 2017

TV Guide's list of best shows set in different U.S. cities, and my brief thoughts

TV Guide has a slideshow that lays out its view of the best TV shows set in different American cities. For some of the non-coastal cities, there might have been just one show, making it not a difficult choice. I didn't realize, for example, that "One Day at a Time" was set in Indianapolis. And as cool as Albuquerque is, it's obvious that "Breaking Bad" is going to be the representative for that town.

I'm not going to go through all 38 selections, but I am going to comment on the ones for the cities I've lived in. At the outset, note that the criteria for TV Guide was "favorite TV show for each," not necessarily most iconic depiction.

Los Angeles

TV Guide picked "New Girl." Really? I'll admit, I've never watched it because of my prejudice against 30 minute shows, but L.A. has been the setting for a ton of shows, including:

* "24"
* "The A-Team"
* "Alias"
* "Angel"
* "Bosch"
* "CHiPs"
* "The Greatest American Hero"
* "MacGyver"
* "Moonlighting"
* "Remington Steele"
* "The Rockford Files"
* "The Shield"

and many others. I'm not saying those are all good shows, but I'd rather watch any of them than "New Girl." If you want verisimilitude, I'd go with "The Shield" or "Bosch." But of course, if it's just my favorite show set in L.A., well, that's obviously going to be "24."

San Francisco

Technically, I never lived in San Francisco, but rather across the Bay. TV Guide picked "Full House," another show that I've never watched. Again, the City is a popular locale for shows:

* "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr."
* "Charmed"
* "Midnight Caller"
* "Monk"
* "Party of Five"
* "The Streets of San Francisco"

I would've gone with "Charmed," which was another one of those shows that dipped its toes into serialized storytelling and was better for it.

Oklahoma City

TV Guide didn't include this, but there actually was a show set in OKC - "Saving Grace" with Holly Hunter. I never watched it, so can't comment on it.

San Diego

Poor San Diego - probably the best city to live in the continental U.S. (if you can afford it), but perpetually overshadowed by L.A. TV Guide picked "The Fosters," which I've never even heard of. I would've picked "Simon & Simon," which I think captured San Diego's laid back attitude, or maybe the Lorenzo Lamas guilty pleasure "Renegade." I've heard great things about "Terriers" and need to catch on that short-lived show, also set in San Diego.

Iowa City

There are some shows set in the state of Iowa, but none that caught TV Guide's attention, nor mine. As far as I know, none of them was set in Iowa City, which is kind of weird, since Iowa City is a really good stand-in for your average Midwestern Big Ten college town.


It's either "Grimm" or "Portlandia," and I only watch "Grimm" out of those two, so I'd concur in the pick. Of course, as silly as "Portlandia" makes us out to be, I still hope it's a more accurate depiction, or else I'm surrounded by creepy wesen....


I've never lived in Seattle, but I'd pick "The 4400" to represent the Emerald City. "Grey's Anatomy" (TV Guide's choice) is certainly understandable, but I loved X-Files-like aspect of "The 4400." Too bad it was canceled on a cliffhanger. It's a good thing that the show's producers licensed follow-up novels that provided some closure to the story.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

NBC's "The (New Celebrity) Apprentice": first thoughts

Okay, I will admit that I enjoyed watching "The Apprentice." It got tired after a few seasons, but the "Celebrity" version of it actually re-invigorated the format. That shouldn't surprising, because the show was never about business acumen as much as it was about host Donald Trump's pompous, irrational "decisions."

With Trump having left the series (or been fired) for the presidential campaign, NBC decided to recast the host role. In an instance of art and life swapping roles (sort of), the reality TV host went into politics, and the action star turned California governor went into reality TV. Yes, the Governator Arnold Schwarzeneggar took over the Trump role.

I tend to get overly optimistic about TV shows, and I had high hopes for the Governator. After all, there's 30+ years of great catch-phrases ("Hasta la vista, baby"; "I'll be back"; oh heck, here's a mash up of a whole bunch of them). Naturally, his exit line for fired contestants was exactly what you'd expect: "You're terminated!" (For some reason, only the first one got "hasta la vista, baby" as well.)

And yet, as a whole, the first four episodes (two per Monday evening) have felt a bit dull and flat compared to the Trump version. Why is that?

One reason, I think, is that Schwarzeneggar is trying to make somewhat reasoned choices about whom to fire. He's laid down some guidelines/principles that he sort of follows - take risks, don't hide in the background, stand up for what you believe. If this were a real business, that's what you'd want. As far as entertainment goes, though, not so much. Trump's show wasn't entertaining despite his randomness; it was entertaining because of that randomness. That plus how he was so awesome and these awesome people who were almost as awesome as he was would be evaluating the projects.

Another reason lies in the casting. As with "Survivor," casting makes a big difference, but it's not something that the producers can necessarily determine in advance whether the contestants will gel in an entertaining way. Here, though, the teams seem unbalanced; the men have won 3 of the 4 challenges, and the one that they lost was the only one that seemed like it could have gone either way. Perhaps it's because the women have too many reality TV celebrities (two "real housewives" and Snooki from "Jersey Shore"). Unlike the other celebrities, who because famous as athletes, singers, actors, etc., the reality stars became famous for being famous, so they don't bring any other strong skills to the table. I mean, they might happen to have some skills, but that's not why they were selected for the show.

So: it's not a terrible show, but it's not the self-parody that it used to be, which is too bad.