- Antiques Roadshow
- Below Deck and Below Deck Mediterranean
- Jacques Pepin: Cooking With Claudine
- Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home
- Just Shoot Me
- South Park
- Sports Night
- The Third Watch
- The Two Fat Ladies
- Will and Grace
Antiques Roadshow — We knew when Frazier did an episode this season centered around Antiques Roadshow that this old favorite has hit the big time. Across the country viewers are playing the Antiques Roadshow drinking game (“He said veneer! Drink again!”) — that is, when they can find the show. Maybe it’s a peculiarity of New York’s public television stations, but nothing is ever on consistently in a predictable timeslot. Consequently, we occasionally see the Roadshow when it happens to show up in its regular time slot, when the station isn’t doing fundraising. It’s a pity.
Below Deck and Below Deck Mediterranean and Below Deck Sailing Yacht — Reality shows focused on human interactions suck. I’ve never watched The Bachelor, Real Housewives of <wherever>, and their ilk, and I never will. One could argue that the Below Deck franchises are the same–hot yacht crew getting along, or not, for six weeks on a luxury superyacht. Plus charter guest drama. But at least these series throw in some nautical mishaps unrelated to who’s sleeping with whom. After the recurring “stars” through several seasons, though I am pretty done with the social drama. Instead, what I enjoy are the locations and the boating details. When Below Deck Mediterranean moved to Golfe-Juan near Nice for a season or two I was glued to it–Captain Sandy kept taking the boat to places I visited by sailboat in 2019. “I know that marina!” “They can’t find the grocery store? I can tell them where it is!” During pandemic quarantine, there’s nothing better than vicariously revisiting vacation spots. As for Sailing Yacht, the sailing drama is limited to the occasional “heeling causes disaster in the galley” and “mainsail jammed in the track.” Sure, these are real things that go wrong on a sailboat. But they’re simplified for the audience. There’s no technical detail about how to they freed the main, and the heeling is illustrated by the chef lunging to save her pot roast and charter guests giggling as they stand sideways. Nonetheless, I keep watching for the scenery. Really. The landscape around them, not the cute bodies on board.
Enterprise – Okay, so after a decade or so of advancing the Start Trek universe, we’re going back to square one. Got it. But does the quality of the acting have to regress, too?
Friends — I resisted. For years. Then they slipped it into the late-night sitcom line-up on channel 11. (I long ago lost my tolerance for news at 11 p.m. and switched over to mind-numbing comedy before bed.) Since so much of my resistance had to do with the overhype when the show started, catching up now doesn’t seem all that bad. In a few months I was completely informed about Ross and Rachel, Monica’s self-esteem, Joey’s innocent womanizing, Chandler’s sharp tongue, and Phoebe’s inherent Phoebeness. And I’ll admit the chemistry works. It’s easy to become involved in these people’s completely artificial lives. What the hell, it’s a bedtime story, afterall.
Jacques Pepin: Cooking With Claudine — Jacques is one of today’s most entertaining TV chefs (remember, we don’t watch Emeril). His technique is accessible, his ingredients down to earth, his daughter Claudine an idiot. Seriously, for the child of a chef, she displays remarkably poor cooking skills. We only hope that she’s dumbing it down to show us that anyone can handle fine French cooking.
Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home — The delightful thing about this show, aside from the great food (if you were at this year’s New Year’s Day Recovery Party, you had the seafood bread) is the way Jacques looks after Julia. Julia is, after all, getting along in years. Nobody’s going to try to keep her out a kitchen, but her buddy “Jack” seems to wish he could keep her away from the sharp knives and hot stove. He can’t, of course. But while he chops and sautes, she chatters away. While she dices and grills, he watches her carefully. Kind of like he has to do with Claudine.
Just Shoot Me — I’m a sucker for clever dialog, even when it’s on a run-of-the-mill sitcom. Just Shoot Me doesn’t offer anything new or groundbreaking, but the banter among its ensemble cast always makes me chuckle.
South Park – It’s very hard to identify what about this show makes it compelling. But we keep returning to the cartoon gore, the vicious Kenny slaying, the parents from another planet . . .
Sports Night — The shortest half-hour on television. Talk about snappy dialog! That’s all this show is, and it’s non-stop. The TV production setting is hardly new, but Sports Night makes more use of the behind the scenes than Murphy Brown or Mary Tyler Moore. The characters, who are usually moving while they talk a la ER, wander among cameras and sets and control booths full of activity. And you’ve got to have some sympathy for characters who have an end-of-day meeting at 1 a.m.
Survivor Seasons 2 and 3 – Now that the novelty has worn off, can it sustain the interest? I didn’t had trouble getting involved in season 2’s “characters,” and season 3 seems to be ready to keep up. But with each new location the environment has become harsher. What’s left after Africa? The space station? Seems like that’s been done . . .
The Third Watch – I found myself watching this show about the late shift firefighters and police in New York City for the first time in late October. What caught my eye as I surfed was a dateline at the start of a scene “September 10th.” Was this current? Were they really tackling September 11th? (I remember someone saying soon after the attacks, “It will be interesting to see the Law and Order episode . . .”) The season opener took the characters up to the moment of the attack on the 11th. It was cathartic, and I’ll certainly be watching parts two and three. As I watched the fire truck head downtown at the end of the episode I ghoulishly wondered “how can they do this without killing some characters?” Then I recalled that my firefighter friend said that firehouses north of 116th street had no losses on the 11th as they didn’t get there in time. Fortunate for the producers that their fictional fire house is way up town.
The Two Fat Ladies — This British cooking series is one of the most bizzarre events on television. The volume of duck fat, butter, and bacon used in the feasts prepared by these two portly chefs would clog the arteries of the leanest red-wine sipping French village. The recent death of one of the two ladies sadly illustrates the effect of their proposed diet. But for quirky entertainment value, the ladies are tops. Tooling around the English countryside on a motorcycle and side car, they visit stately manors and hunting lodges, tour private vegetable gardens and shoot quail for dinner. We understand the show has a big following in the UK. It’s a little scarry to contemplate why.
Will and Grace — It should be “Jack and Lisa,” since these two “best friend” characters usually carry the show. No two queens have ever gotten along better!