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The Light from the TV Shows: A Series of Random TV-Related Ramblings

It had to happen eventually: I don’t have a column.

Well, not really, anyway. I mean, normally, I’ve got an interview or a preview of a new series or a commentary on an existing TV series, and it’s enough to fill up an entire column, but not this time. Between all the writing, transcribing, and family matters going on over the past few weeks, I’ve had precious little time to watch TV these past few weeks, and what I have watched has tended to be in short spurts, which means that I’m way behind on just about all of my favorite shows. Mind you, that’s not to say that I don’t have anything to say. I’m just going to kind of run through some of the things I’ve been watching lately – some new, some old – and offer up my thoughts about them.

First up: the same show just about everyone else was talking about this morning:

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Seems like only yesterday that I walked up to Jimmy Fallon at the TCA Press Tour and asked him outright if he was scared shitless about starting his talk show. (His response: “Why, yes. Yes, I am.”) Now look at the guy: slow-jamming the news with the President of the United States. You know, I’d say “I don’t care what your politics are, that’s just awesome,” but I know Republicans better than that. I will, however, note that President Obama earned a little extra respect from me for taking the time to give a shout-out to Key & Peele. It wouldn’t surprise me if you forgot that I talked to them back in January, since the piece didn’t get so much as a single comment, but they’re a hilarious couple of guys, and they deserve all the success they’ve been getting with their Comedy Central Series. But I digress. Here’s that slow jam I mentioned, just in case you haven’t caught it yet:

Dancing with the Stars

If you’re a parent, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the addition of children to your life inevitably results in a number of changes to your lifestyle, but one of the most crucial is how it affects your TV viewing habits. It seems like it’d be easy to tell a little kid what they’re going to watch, but you’d be surprised. Battles are often fought in our living room over what I want to watch versus what my daughter calls “my shows,” a short list which includes a variety of programming that I have no interested in sitting through. As such, my wife and I regularly try to find shows that are at least somewhat of a middle ground for us all, thereby avoiding these arguments with a little lass who’s 1/4 my size, and in an effort to avoid watching “Dance Moms” at all cost, I finally asked a question I never thought would come out of my mouth: “Do you want to try ‘Dancing with the Stars’?”

Mind you, it still wouldn’t have come out of my mouth if we didn’t have Hulu Plus, because its regular timeslot(s) finds it up against several programs that I’d much rather watch instead, but since we can stream it whenever we want, we’ve taken advantage of that opportunity…and damned if it hasn’t been amazingly entertaining. I mean, I’m annoyed by the same things on “Dancing with the Stars” that I am on most reality shows, most notably the fact that it’s stretched out to an unnecessary length (particularly the results show, which could be done in 30 minutes without any problem), but it’s been hard to take my eyes off the screen during the actual dance routines. I’m led to understand that this is arguably the strongest group of celebrity contestants they’ve had on the show in quite some time, possibly ever, so I guess I picked the right season to take a chance. By the way, if Katherine Jenkins doesn’t take it all, I’ll be very, very surprised. What a cutie…

Total Blackout

Speaking of “Dancing with the Stars,” not only is Jaleel White pulling some serious street-cred from his fancy footwork on this season of the show, but he’s also got a new full-time gig to keep him occupied: hosting SyFy’s new game show, “Total Blackout.” As with about half of the programming on SyFy, it has absolutely nothing to do with SyFy (indeed, it would really fit in better on Chiller), but it’s still a highly entertaining concept, not to mention a simple one: put people in a dark room and have them compete against each other to perform various tasks that would be simple if only they could see. The first few episodes have the contestants reaching into aquarium tasks and being forced to identify objects that range from cockroaches to a pineapple just by touching them, figuring out what they’re eating or smelling, and other strange stuff. You’ll cringe on occasion, but mostly you’ll laugh and say, “I’m glad that’s not me!”

Fantasy Island

Say what? Yep, Shout Factory has finally secured the rights to continue releasing the full-season sets of this ’70s classic, and when Season 2 arrived at my house, I dug right in. Screw all that new programming: I’d much rather delve through this treasure trove of stars on their way up and down the ladder of success and more character actors than you can shake a stick at. Don’t believe me? Take a look…

Magic City

Fantasy? Magic? Get it…? Okay, so it’s a slightly imperfect segue. So sue me.

When I first saw the trailer for Starz’s “Magic City,” I was instantly captivated by the look of the series. Having not actually been in Miami Beach in 1961, I haven’t a clue how accurate the portrayal of the area and the era are, but the results sure are easy to watch. Three episodes into the proceedings, however, it’s hard to really know yet what to expect from the series, especially since the second episode fell into the unfortunate but often-repeated mistake of rehashing too much from the pilot. I will say, however, that the third episode was very strong and left me particularly excited about seeing where things will be going this week, so I’m certainly hopeful.

Danny Huston’s an effective bad-ass, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s better here than I’ve seen him in just about anything else, but I do wish they’d give Alex Rocco a storyline that doesn’t feel so damned schmaltzy. He’s made an impression every time he’s been on screen, but I’m invariably left thinking that, although Rocco was great, the storyline wasn’t. But, hey, we’re only three episodes in. There’s still plenty of time left to turn things around.

Logan’s Run

Time for another flashback, this one courtesy of Warner Home Video, who finally realized that there’s enough of an audience for this short-lived series adaptation of a ’70s classic to warrant releasing it on DVD. (It had previously only been available via download.) Although I have to admit that my first reaction upon watching Gregory Harrison’s performance as Logan was to think, “Gee, I really wish they’d release ‘Trapper John, M.D.’ on DVD,” it turns out that although “Logan’s Run” looks precisely as dated as you’d expect a sci-fi series of the ’70s to look, the stories themselves hold up surprisingly well. Mind you, it doesn’t exactly hurt that Heather Menzies is totally swoon-worthy. Also worth noting is Donald Moffat’s performance as the android Rem, which never fails to be thoughtful, amusing, and just generally entertaining.

The Finder

Look, I don’t know what the chances are that Fox is going to bring back this “Bones” spin-off for a second season, but let me just go on record as saying that it’s a lot of fun and absolutely worthy of renewal. I have this feeling that a lot of “Bones” fans took a pass of trying it out because the back-door pilot for “The Finder” – that would be the episode of “Bones” that they used to introduce the characters – but I’m here to tell you that the actual series is so much better. With each passing episode, Geoff Stults seems perpetually more at home in the role of Walter, the eccentric gentleman who’s obsessed with finding stuff, and the chemistry between Stults and Michael Clarke Duncan is fantastic. As I say, I have no clue if they’ll deign to bring it back for Season 2, but I sure hope they do.

  

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