Sunday, March 28, 2010

TV: The Best of the Bad and the Best of the Best

(The cast of "Parenthood" -- photo courtesy of Imagine/NBC-Universal)

When it comes to television – my taste are somewhat weird – which you’ll soon find out when I reveal some of my likes and dislikes. Although I don’t fit the channel’s demographic – which is basically female – I will admit to watching and enjoying the Lifetime cable channel (and it’s sister channel – the Lifetime Movie Network). The clue to watching either of these channels’ original programming is to never place high expectations on quality. The writing is going to be weak and the acting is sometimes just a hair above that of a community theater group – but occasionally Lifetime will really surprise you. On one hand – you have the funny and charming series “Drop Dead Diva” about a beautiful model who dies and comes back to life in a big girl’s body and then you have “Army Wives” – which is one of Lifetime’s most successful original series and one of my favorite all-time bad TV shows.

One of the first things that you notice about “Army Wives” is how damn cheesy the production values are on the show. I have seen better set design for a junior high school play than I have on this prime-time cable drama. The “Army Wives” sets look like they were hammered together with drywall and filmed in filmed in Sgt. Bilko’s auto garage. I mean, you would be hard press to distinguish a difference in the look of what’s suppose to be a hospital room to what is suppose to be an office of one of the Army officers on this show – this show is never going to win any awards for set design – but that’s part of what makes this show good bad TV.

Then we have the actors who must put some kind of life into the lamest script writing in television today. Kim Delaney (who some might remember from “NYPD Blue”) is suppose to be the heart of the show – but it’s hard to get past her lips. It looks like Delaney got a one of those lip jobs from some Hollywood nip/tuck doctor after her NYPD Blue run and it definitely doesn’t look natural. Then we have Brian McNamara, who plays Delaney’s husband in “Army Wives”, and he tries to over compensate the lousy scripts with acting so phony and over the top that you have to laugh…because you can’t take him serious.

“Army Wives” is so bad…it’s actually fun to watch and that’s why that I’m looking forward to the premiere of Season four on 10 pm, Sunday, April 11th on Lifetime. (Be sure to check your local listings for cable channel.)

NBC has surprised me. The network that gave us Jay Leno in prime-time, only to replace him on one of those nights with “The Marriage Ref”, has given us a show that I think might be the best television show of 2010 – “Parenthood”.

“Parenthood” is based on a 1989 movie that Ron Howard produced and directed and it’s the second time that this movie has been made into a television series. (The first attempt at turning “Parenthood” into a TV series was in 1990 with Ed Begley Jr in the lead role, but it didn’t click with the viewing public and was cancelled after twelve episodes were aired).

“Parenthood” is about the Braverman family and all the things make a family a family. You’ve got the daughter and her two kids who has to move back in with Mom and Dad after her marriage and life goes south. Then you have the one son with the perfect family – that is until their youngest son is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Then you have the other daughter – who’s a successful lawyer, but still can’t quite get the “career and marriage thing together” and then there’s the youngest Braverman son who’s single and lives on a houseboat and just recently found out that he has a son from a previous relationship. You have enough story lines in this show if you just stuck with the Braverman children – but were soon going to find out that Mom and Dad has a few secrets about their marriage that they’re holding back from their children. Got you interested yet?

I’ll admit right off that I have never been a big Ron Howard fan. I know that he’s a talented director and everyone loves Ron Howard, but his movies have never been my cup of tea, but I have to give the man credit for his persistence in breathing life in this new version of “Parenthood” and trust me – it hasn’t been easy.

“Parenthood” was originally scheduled to premiere on NBC’s 2009 fall schedule – but one of the original cast members -- Maura Tierney (“E.R.”) – was diagnosed with breast cancer, so NBC rescheduled the show to begin as a mid-season replacement. Tierney announced that she would be leaving the show to allow for the scheduling of medical treatment and her part was later recast with Lauren Graham (“Gilmore Girls”) – who’s one the show’s shining stars (and it’s incredible how much her fictional daughter actually looks just like her in this show).

When it comes to good TV – you can’t get any better than “Parenthood” (Tuesday nights at 10pm on NBC).

Bad TV/Good TV …it’s all TV….Turn out the lights and enjoy it. Until we meet again – keep the grin above your chin and the TV remote nearby.

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