A Cure for the Summer TV Blues

The summer TV schedule is always pretty dismal, plus we downgraded our selection of channels a few months ago, so we usually only turn the TV on long enough these days to confirm that there's nothing good on. We don't watch as much in the summer anyway, but when we do, it's nice to have options other than Wipeout and So You Think You Can Dance. As a result, we have been checking out DVDs of critically acclaimed shows we missed the first time around.

So far we have completed the final season of Arrested Development, and the lone season of Freaks and Geeks. We have loved watching both, but the realization that quality shows like these aren't allowed to make sustained runs in the current TV landscape is a little depressing (though still not nearly as depressing as the summer TV schedule).

Arrested Development

I remember hearing a lot about Arrested Development during its 2 1/2 year run. The song-and-dance from the critics and fans about how I owed it to myself to watch the show became almost tiresome (and by almost I mean very). But once I finally gave in and experienced the show for myself, I realized that I really did owe it to myself to watch it, only it had already been off the air for a couple of years. Thank heaven for DVDs.

While many famous shows have taken some time to really hit their stride (The Simpsons and Seinfeld come to mind), this one arrived fully formed from day one as a gift to smart viewers out there (apparently there aren't enough of those). When the ratings didn't come, the makers of Arrested Development stayed true to the heart of the show rather than watering it down in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. They also went down swinging with a lot of satirical jabs aimed at other shows that have resorted to cheap gimmicks to stay on the air.

It's difficult to sum up what makes this show so original and witty. Perhaps that's one of the reasons it didn't last. In any case, if you consider yourself a fan of intelligent television, you really owe it to yourself to check out this show. Don't you see? That's irony.

Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and Geeks follows siblings Lindsay and Sam Weir and their respective groups as they brave the travails of high school, circa 1980. The structure and themes of the show reminded me a lot of The Wonder Years, sans the adult narration. Since the series is set during a specific time period, there are lots of fun cultural references incorporated into the storylines, plus generous helpings of classic Van Halen, Styx, and other great bands featured on the soundtrack. It is also fun playing spot the future star when examining the show's credits.

In comparing my life to that of the main characters, I probably started out as Sam (John Francis Daley), greeting every life change like a deer in headlights. Then I'd say I morphed into rock-n-roll-loving Ken (Seth Rogen) as I came of age—content to hang out in the background, but popping up sporadically with a well-timed sarcastic remark. The always infallible "Which character are you?" Facebook quiz even confirmed this for me.

The show is so true to life at times that it can be painful. An episode where Sam and his friends struggle with a rule that everyone must shower after gym class unearthed repressed memories of my junior high gym teacher Coach Pierce and his quest, nay, obsession to enforce a similar shower mandate (not to mention his Bob Marley fetish).

For whatever insane reason, Freaks and Geeks never found a sizeable audience either. After we breezed through all 18 episodes in a week and a half, Kristen and I were left wanting more. Fortunately, the finale concludes in such a way that it does feel like a complete arc—even if there are some loose threads left hanging.

1 comment:

Ben said...

I too was a bit apprehensive about Arrested Development. Maybe I was tired of everyone telling me how awesome it was, or the fact that it was on FOX, or whatever the reason. Then we got season 1 as a Christmas gift, and the world as we knew it was changed forever. So maybe we need to try Freaks & Geeks. Oh and also, I am pretty sure I want to live the dream and make a difference, so maybe I should go join everyone in the P.E. department at Centerville Jr. High.