Every TV season, I hope that I’ll find something new to watch. Unfortunately, it rarely happens. I’m more of a get-into-a-show-way-after-everyone-else-has-discovered-it kind of girl. That’s what I did with How I Met Your Motherand Modern Family. Right now, I should probably try Parks and Recreation, which I’ve never seen because I didn’t have the good sense to jump on the bandwagon when it started.
But what have I been watching lately? Here’s a rundown on some highlights:
This is a new show that I do like. I’m not jumping out of my chair about it, but there is a lot to like about it. Connie Britton plays forty-ish veteran country music star Rayna Jaymes, whose most recent album isn’t living up to expectations. Meanwhile, Rayna, the married mother of two young daughters, is dealing with her husband’s campaign for mayor of Nashville, funded largely by Rayna’s rich and corrupt father and plagued by a potentially disastrous scandal. In the first episode, Rayna’s manager suggests that she go on tour with Juliette Barnes, a young, autotuned country crossover artist played by Hayden Panetierre. Rayna refuses. Juliette, who’s kind of like a more sexed-up, wild child Taylor Swift, seems like an obnoxious brat at first—especially when she both hires and hits on Rayna’s bandleader and ex-boyfriend, Deacon— but she becomes more three-dimensional as we learn more about her terrible childhood with a junkie mother.
Rayna is a pretty great character, feisty but down-to-earth. Juliette is an interesting foil to her who, despite her flaws, is becoming more sympathetic by the week. However, I could do without the tertiary storyline entirely. This involves Deacon’s niece, Scarlett, an aspiring songwriter involved in a love triangle. Most of the Scarlett scenes bore me. And while this show is entertaining, let’s call a spade a spade—it’s a primetime soap.
But one thing that really sets it apart is the original music. It’s produced by T-Bone Burnett, who has been involved in most of the best country music of the 21st century. (I’m not a huge country music fan, but I do like it.) In one recent episode, Rayna and Juliette perform an original duet onstage together, and it’s a showstopper. In another, Rayna and Deacon sing a lovely, intimate love song in a small club together. I’ll be buying the soundtrack once it’s released.
Oh, yeah—and did I mention that the show was created by Callie Khouri, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Thelma and Louise? Few people are better at writing female-driven entertainment, so there’s another reason to watch if you needed one.
The Mindy Project
I adore Mindy Kaling. I loved her on The Office and I loved her book, Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? I really had high hopes for her new show, but although I liked the pilot a lot, I’m pretty underwhelmed with where the show went from there. And it actually has nothing to do with Mindy’s character, who is awesome—it’s more that I can’t get interested in anyone else on the show.
I’ve enjoyed this show since I started watching (it’s another one I caught up with on DVD). I like the dark humor and, although it’s a violent show about a serial killer, I find some parts of it weirdly touching. In the first season, there’s a flashback to when Dexter’s a kid and his father realizes that his son is a sociopath. His father teaches him how to channel his violent impulses toward people who deserve them, and says, in one of the most moving sentences I’ve ever heard on TV, “Remember this forever: you are my son, you are not alone, and you are loved.” And as the show goes on, it’s been interesting to see how Dexter, who at first thought he was incapable of love, clearly is able to feel love for others.
Season 6 started off promising but then went waaaay downhill, with a much-too-obvious reveal in the middle of the season and Deb creepily developing romantic feelings for Dexter. But then it kind of redeemed itself with Deb discovering Dexter’s secret at the end of the season. As of this writing, Season 7 has two episodes left, and it’s been pretty good, if unfocused, so far. Aside from the Deb finding out thing, there’s also LaGuerta getting suspicious of Dexter, a Ukranian mobster (who becomes more interesting when we find out that Dexter killed the man he was secretly in a relationship with) trying to kill Dexter, Dexter beginning a relationship with a pretty blonde murderer named Hannah, Quinn being an idiot by getting involved with a stripper who works for the aforementioned Ukranian mob, and Batista deciding out of nowhere to buy a restaurant. So I’m not quite sure where the last couple of episodes are going, although I do think they’ll be doing more with the idea that, contrary to what he used to believe, Dexter doesn’t really need to kill and maybe isn’t a sociopath at all.
As uneven as this show can be, one consistently awesome thing about it is Deb. WHY THE HELL DOES JENNIFER CARPENTER NEVER GET EMMY NOMINATIONS?! Deb has always been the best character on the show, hands-down. She’s a great foil for Dexter—while he’s always hiding something, Deb is hilariously obvious, blurting out whatever’s on her mind and dropping f-bombs every two seconds. And even when she’s given a ridiculous storyline like (ick) falling in love with her brother, Jennifer Carpenter acts the hell out of the role. I really hope that when Dexter ends, she gets her own show so that she can get the recognition she deserves.
American Horror Story
This is a freaking weird show. I watched the first season in October, since I like watching scary things around Halloween. It’s incredibly campy, over-the-top, and derivative (I can see influences of Frankenstein, Rosemary’s Baby, The Sixth Sense, What Lies Beneath, Carrie, Fatal Attraction, The Shining, and about a zillion other horror movie tropes), but somehow I could not look away. The first season involved a married couple (Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott) and their teenage daughter (Taissa Farmiga, the much-younger sister of Vera Farmiga) moving into a haunted house following a stillbirth and an affair. As it turns out, a shitload of people have died in the house. Now their ghosts cause all kinds of trouble there, and Jessica Lange, chewing scenery as the next-door neighbor from hell, causes a lot of trouble of her own. Connie Britton is great, providing some realism to even the most over-the-top plotlines, and Taissa Farmiga is excellent as the moody teenager Violet.
The second season is still airing now. This is an anthology series, so each season is basically its own miniseries. Season 2 reused a lot of the same actors but with a completely new setting (a 1960s insane asylum) and different characters. Unfortunately, after two episodes I couldn’t get into season 2 at all, so I’m not watching it. But the first season is worth a watch for horror movie fans.
I’m still watching this season but am not quite as into it, honestly. I thought a lot of the best people went home before the live shows and my favorite who did make it to the live shows, Amanda Brown, just went home. I’m kind of indifferent about the four remaining singers, so at this point I’m just watching it for the coaches. Adam Levine, in particular, is cracking me up—his going off on a random tangent about how he hates The Roxy was pure gold.
Friday Night Lights
Man, between Nashville, American Horror Story, and this show, which I’m slowly working my way through on DVD, there is a lot of Connie Britton in my life right now. She is wonderful—although, does she ever play characters who aren’t warm and likeable?
Actually, Friday Night Lights was a show that was mostly about warm, likeable characters. Which is probably why, despite low ratings, this show managed to hang on for five years, two of which were spent on DirecTV. I’ve only seen Season 1 so far, but I’m looking forward to the rest of it. I feel like, contrary to recent trends in TV shows, it managed to pack a narrative punch while being quiet and subtle rather than over-the-top, and it’s refreshing to watch.
And speaking of shows that moved to DirecTV,
I’ve not yet seen Season 5, so don’t say anything about it in the comments! So far, this show seems to follow one awesome season with another kind of dull one. Season 1 was freaking amazing, but Season 2 couldn’t live up to the previous season. Season 3 didn’t reach Season 1 levels of brilliance, but was impressive enough to restore the show to glory. Sadly, Season 4, its first on DirecTV, just didn’t have an interesting enough season-long arc to hold my interest. But if the pattern keeps up, Season 5 should be much better. I guess I’ll find out soon.