The Week In TV: Industry Milestones and a Munsters Millstone
The weather's been gorgeous, another TV series got the ax, and I started doing fantasy hockey camp and Civil War re-creation to meet girls. This was the week in TV Land:
• Last week's 30 Rock was fantastic, easily ranking as one of the best episodes in ages and more fun than anything last season. The problem with last season was that it seemed to abandon the original conceit, which was to follow an aging single woman as she continued to bounce from one crappy relationship to another while never losing her sense of humor, sense of self, or ability to be damn funny in any situation. But last season was a hateful slog in which Liz Lemon felt like a resigned shell of who she used to be. Her original romance with Lloyd was a bittersweet example of how she was looking for love but unwilling to compromise her professional dreams, even for an amazing guy, but the decision to bring Lloyd back and turn him into a shameless and manipulative jerk retroactively tainted the whole thing.
Which is why Thursday's "When It Rains, It Pours" was so good: it was as if the previous season of self-flagellation never happened, and Liz could go on believing she had it all together even as things kept hilariously turning on her. Paul Giamatti was wonderful in a subtle guest role, Tracy absolutely killed with his bizarre life stories on Cash Cab, and Jack's ongoing video diary to his unborn son provided some of the best Baldwin outtakes since the first season's "Jack-Tor." It was one of the funniest installments for the series in ages.
• In other ways, it was a grim week all around: A variety of TV and film figures died in the past few days, including Tony Curtis and editor Sally Menke. Stephen J. Cannell, a writer and producer whose credits included The Rockford Files and The A-Team, died of complications linked to the melanoma he'd been fighting for a while. For viewers my age, he's probably known as the guy at the end of all those classic summer vacation reruns who throws his paper into the air after yanking it off the typewriter. (Which was also memorably parodied by Itchy and Scratchy.)
Cannell had at least one show on the air every year from 1974 to 1991, which is pretty much insane when you think about it. Of his many contributions, Wiseguy is the one that's probably had the most effect on current TV dramas, with its then-rare decision to focus on multi-episode arcs instead of an interchangeable cycle of weekly villains.
Also last week, comedian Greg Giraldo died after overdosing on prescription medication. He was rushed to the hospital the same day he was scheduled to perform at the New York Recovery Rally. Giraldo, who had a law degree from Harvard, had been a go-to guy for Comedy Central for years, appearing on a variety of panel shows and stand-up specials, as well as the occasionally grating roasts. Although he wasn't my favorite comedian, it's always sad to see someone go by giving into their worst desires, especially when they leave behind three young sons.
• David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest hazarded a few guesses about future tech -- the devices that parallel the iPhone 4's Facetime come to mind -- but one of my favorites was TV sets that automatically detected and eliminated commercials by virtue of their being louder than the shows in which they were embedded. The Senate, unable to find bipartisan support for anything else, unanimously passed a bill last week that will reduce the volume level on commercials and require TV stations and cable companies to keep ads at the same loudness level of the programming you're actually trying to watch. The House has already passed a similar piece of legislation, so once the differences are worked out, the bill should become a law. Sure, it's a little disconcerting that Congress can rally unanimous support for annoying commercials while finding room for argument about war and health care, but it really will be nice when a TV program throws to a break and the ensuing ad doesn't split your ear drums.
• ABC's My Generation has joined Fox's Lone Star on the 2010-11 junk heap. The series, about a group of Austinites who graduated high school in 2000 and their attempts to try and make something of their lives, has had its production halted. ABC hasn't yet decided what to do with its time slot.
• This week in Things No One Asked For: Bryan Fuller, the talented and seemingly not crazy creator of Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, and Wonderfalls, is writing a pilot for NBC that will be a modern-day remake of The Munsters. It's important to note that The Munsters was not, at all, a good television program, and its original two-season, 70-episode run did not get better despite years of syndication. Inexplicably, a modern remake titled The Munsters Today ran for three years starting in 1988, tying with Desert Storm as the most head-shaking event of the George H.W. Bush era. Still, despite two bad series associated with the brand, NBC wants to try a new version. Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello said it's being described as "Modern Family meets True Blood," though he weirdly finds this description charming instead of a cringe-inducing attempt to shove two pop hits into an awful hybrid that challenges one's belief in a just universe. Fingers crossed that the pilot doesn't get picked up and this all becomes a bad dream.
• Anderson Cooper is one of the few people at CNN who seems to have the first clue about journalism, politics, and the basic tenets of human decency. In the same week the network fired Rick Sanchez for
not being good at his job making claims that the media is run by a Jewish conspiracy, they've announced that Cooper will strike out on his own with a syndicated daytime talk show while also keeping his CNN series, Anderson Cooper 360. Cooper's series, set to debut in fall 2011, will let him tackle a broader range of topics than whatever the wingnut talking heads his producers book feel like talking about. Good for you, you blue-eyed charmer.
• This is maybe the coolest video the Internet's made in, well, days. These fan-made credits for AMC's upcoming The Walking Dead have been getting positive blurbs from all corners of the tubes, including from Lost producer Damon Lindelof, and it's easy to see why. They're pro-level, and so good it's going to be hard not to judge whatever AMC comes up with against this golden standard. Take a look and try not to let your jaw hit your desk:
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