Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace
From a few years ago, me mugging with the bronze buffalo sculpture at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

TV Present and Past: My Must-Record Shows New This Season

Let's talk TV.

I don't anticipate the start of the fall TV season with the same eagerness I used to, primarily because several cable networks are now producing some very good shows airing during the summer. USA's “Suits” and TNT's “Rizzoli and Isles” spring to mind.

The gang from "Suits."
 Don't get me wrong, I look forward to the return of some shows, like “Revenge” – a soap-opera-ish serial even a guy can get into – and “The Mentalist,” but generally, I enjoy summer TV almost as much as fall's offerings, in the case of “Suits,” more.

The gang from "Revenge."
There are two new shows for this season that I have added to my must-record list: NBC's “Blacklist” and ABC's “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Spader as Reddington.
On “Blacklist,” James Spader plays a former government agent gone bad Raymond “Red” Reddington, who surrenders to the Feds to help catch a terrorist. The catch is, he will only participate through rookie agent Liz Keen. It's sort of a homage to “Silence of the Lambs.”

I find Spader fun to watch regardless of his role. He is one of those natural actors who make it look so easy. Every line he delivers is rich and multi-layered. I know that sounds like so much claptrap, but I believe he is one of the better actors on TV today. Megan Boone plays Keen. Her character has a relationship with Spader's that is sort of a father-daughter one, that is if the daughter hated her father. It's somewhat complicated.

Megan Boone.
 I've enjoyed the eight or so episodes that I've seen this year -- I still have one or two stacked up on my recorder. “Blacklist” airs at 10 p.m. Eastern on NBC.

The gang from "Buffy."
If you are at least a semi-regular reader of this blog, you may already know that I am a huge fan of Joss Whedan. He was the creative spark behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “Firefly.” He also wrote and directed the first “Avengers” movie, and is filling the same roles in “Avengers 2.”

The gang from "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” picks up after the original “Avengers” movie. To have a full grasp of what's going on in the TV series, you need to see the movie. I suspect, though, that even without the plot background the movie provides, one can enjoy the TV series.

Clark as Coulson.
Clark Gregg reprises his role of Phil Coulson from the movie to lead a squad of agents and brainiacs in defeating the bad guys. They have a super plane that whisks them from adventure to adventure. The six-person team is loaded with diverse personalities and talents. 

Chloe Bennet.
Like Whedon's previous shows, “A of S” is loaded with drama and humor. I'd watch even if the women weren't stunningly attractive – I am a guy after all. Ming-Na Wen, playing agent and pilot of the plane Melinda May, and Chloe Bennet, playing bad-girl-turned-good Skye, are simply fun to watch.

“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” airs at 8 p.m. Eastern, Tuesdays on ABC.

A show that I continue to record and watch only because I can is “Hawaii Five-0” on CBS. Its only relationship to the original series starring Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett is that some of the characters have the same names, and it takes place in Hawaii. 

Jack Lord and James MacArthur as the original Steve and Dano.
True: The original series wouldn't pass muster as entertainment today, but the current series is more of a cartoon than the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” that is part of the Marvel Comics franchise. Any law enforcement agency could probably put away the bad guys if it could behave as these guys do. In no way constrained by rules and regulations, they trample suspects rights at every turn. It isn't just an elite law-enforcement agency; it is a rogue department permitted to do whatever needs doing to put someone behind bars, or in the ground.

Moreover, there always must be a story arc involving some member of the group that has nothing to do with the agency's crook-catching. This season it seems the personal subplot has Kona – played by Grace Park – on the lamb with her boyfriend, who also happens to have ties to the Hawaiian mob. It's just silly.

OK, I know, I know, it's TV, which is why I still record it. But I have probably five or six episodes stacked up on my recorder because it is absolutely the last thing I watch when I have a choice.

Mike Rowe.
Oh, and here is one more: “How Booze Built America.” I guess this show actually debuted last year on the Discovery Channel. I just found reruns of it on the Military Channel. It's a three-episode series about the part that booze played in the founding and history of the U.S. It stars “Dirty Jobs” star Mike Rowe. If you can find it, it's well worth the total three hours you will spend watching.

Karl Urban.
Oh, and still one more: “Almost Human” premieres tonight and Monday night on Fox. Produced by J.J. Abrams (“Fringe,” “Lost,” “Revolution” and the two most recent “Star Trek” movies), it stars Karl Urban, who played Dr. McCoy in the Abrams' Star Trek entries. I am really looking forward to this series!

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