Film and TV

The Week In TV: We Like To Watch

And we're back! It's been a slow couple weeks in TV Land, but with new and returning series on the move, it's time to get back to talking about what matters, like Jersey Shore and the gluttonous viewing habits of most Americans. Let's do this.

• Seriously: according to Nielsen, Americans watched an average of 34 hours of TV per person per week, more than ever before. The pithy New York Times lede hits the nail on the head by explaining that that's so much TV watching that there are currently six different cable series about pawnbrokers and auctioneers right now, and that they're all ranked as successes by their networks. If that number sounds high, it's probably because you're not thinking about channel surfing, bored viewing, and the fact that old white people watch a lot of Fox News. The most popular network, though? Once again, CBS took the title, though Fox won the 18-49 demo thanks to American Idol and Glee.

Another big show last year, and one we'll all have to answer for when the world ends next year: MTV's Jersey Shore, which despite the hopes and prayers of many has refused to exit the pop culture arena. The recent third-season premiere was MTV's highest-rated series broadcast of all time, bringing in a saddening 8.4 million viewers and a 4.2 rating in 18-49. Those are network-level numbers, which is insane. So there are apparently still plenty of teens and young adults with learning disabilities, questionable taste, or no passing interest in wondering why they're watching a show about millionaire New Jersey residents with book deals who pretend to be working-class plugs. America: land of the free, home of the questionably educated.

• Here's some weird news out of the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour (basically a week-long attempt for networks to convince people that their new shows will be worthwhile): AMC's Mad Men hasn't technically been renewed. Maybe. Although the network obviously plans on bringing the show back for a fifth season, there's no deal yet with producer Lionsgate Television or creator Matthew Weiner. This apparently happened a couple years ago, and the down-to-the-wire decision is again about who's getting paid what, but it's still weird to think that one of the most popular, successful, and skilled dramas on the air doesn't have a set return date. Speaking at a TCA panel for another AMC show, network president Charlie Collier would only say, "We're negotiating, don't know much more than that yet. Can't put a timetable on it." Season premieres have been in July or August since the show began in 2007, so it's possible the series will be back by late summer. Still, it'd be nice to get that in writing.

• Last week's How I Met Your Mother was a solid one. The episode wasn't without some flaws -- you can only return to the Robin Sparkles well so many times --but the running countdown led to a legitimately moving moment at the end. (Spoiler ahead, but you should know that.) One thing the series gets right is the type of changes and situations you face as you progress through your 20s and into your 30s; the episodes that have the best emotional impact aren't necessarily the ones dealing with the main romantic plot but with what it's like to wake up and find that you've become a reasonably responsible adult. Seeing Marshall lose his father right before he becomes a father himself is a sad moment grounded in a reality too many other people have faced. Jason Segel hit the notes just right, too, especially when he said, "I'm not ready for this." Well played, HIMYM.

• Speaking of sadness: The History Channel, which now has as little to do with history as The Learning Channel does with learning, has given a TV show to Larry the Cable Guy. Only in America With Larry the Cable Guy will see Mr. The Cable Guy wandering aimlessly around small towns and big cities sprinkled throughout the real America as he rides along on jobs and hobbies that "celebrate the American experience." It's basically a much dumber Dirty Jobs.

• The weird thing about people winning the lottery with Hurley's numbers isn't that it worked. It's that they've probably been doing this every week for years. The odds of it finally hitting -- even with just four of the numbers -- are head-spinning.

Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies is still in the works, despite the earlier departure of critic Elvis Mitchell. His replacement? Ignatiy Vishnevestky, who writes for the Chicago Reader and Mubi and who also programs films for Chicago outlets. He's also 24, which is either inspiring or supremely irritating, depending on your point of view. The show debuts Friday, January 21.

• The midseason debuts are upon us, with new shows and returning favorites hitting the air in the coming days and weeks. THR has compiled a helpful calendar for TV nerds to bookmark right here. I'll say it again: I'm so thankful that Parks and Recreation is back in a week and a half. Here's a glimpse at what's to come:

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Daniel Carlson
Contact: Daniel Carlson