Why It’s Worth A Watch Wednesday – Battle of the Network Funnies

This week, Amber West and I review a few of the more established comedies on NBC and CBS in a Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday: Battle of the Network Funnies.

Who will win:  Monday nights on CBS with How I Met Your Mother and Two and Half Men or Thursday nights on NBC with Parks and Recreation and Community?

We begin with the popular sitcom, How I Met Your Mother.  Commonly abbreviated to HIMYM, the series follows the main character Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) as he narrates to his children in the year 2030 the story of how he met their mother.  Well, Josh doesn’t narrate, Bob Saget does. 

Although we’re seven seasons in, we still haven’t met the mother of Ted’s children; but we have grown to love his best friends:  Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), Marshall Erikson (Jason Segel), and Lily Aldrin Erickson (Alyson Hannigan). 

HIMYM has a true ensemble cast as each character plays just as important a role as Ted.  But why do we really love this show? 

There are the character quirks including: Barney’s womanizing ways with his “hot/crazy” scale, or his “Bro Code” justifications, or even his insisting everyone “suit up” before they go out on the town; Robin’s extensive misuse of the word ‘literally’; and Ted’s constant romantic gestures as he looks for love, including stealing a blue French horn for Robin during their courtship.

There are the enduring moments like when Ted finds out his parents are divorced; or when Marshall struggles with the decision to take a position as a corporate lawyer instead of working for an environmental cause; or when Barney sets out on a mission to learn the true identity of his father (once he discovers Bob Barker is indeed not his biological dad).

There is the comedy: Robin’s teenage Canadian pop-band flashbacks; Marshall and Barney’s on-going Slap game (Marshall earned five free slaps, and he saves them for when Barney least expects it); and the group’s hilarious interventions for one another.

But, most importantly, we love the realistic friendships between all of the characters.  We’re watching as these friends experience life together; as they celebrate Lily and Marshall’s pregnancy; as they mourn the loss of Marshall’s father; and as they bounce back from multiple broken romantic relationships.

It’s reasons like these that I award How I Met Your Mother with a MacTV rating.  As far as sitcoms go, it ranks among the best available on TV today.  Can the show survive many more seasons?  Probably not.  But will we tune in until Ted meets the mother of his children.  Absolutely. 

Oh, and before we move on, HIMYM hosts guest stars galore: Regis Philbin, Katie Holmes, Wayne Brady, Enrique Iglesias, Sarah Chalke, Britney Spears, Rachel Bilson, Jennifer Morrison, Kyle MacLachlan, John Lithgow, Kal Penn, and Martin Short just to name a few.

How I Met Your Mother is “Legen…wait for it…dary.”

A half hour later on CBS, another sitcom veteran airs on millions of television sets across the globe with Two and a Half Men.  Definitely not as enduring as HIMYM, Two and a Half Men promises comedy a bit more raunchy than anything else on TV (Archer wins most raunchy).

For the first eight seasons, Men starred Charlie Sheen as Charlie Harper, the wealthy and drunken songwriter who opens his Malibu beach house to his recently divorced brother (Alan Harper played by Jon Cryer) and nephew (Jake Harper played by Angus T. Jones). 

The series follows Charlie’s sexual escapades, Alan’s incessant need to mooch off of his brother, and Jake’s hilarious adventures through childhood and the teenage years.   But, despite the title, Two and a Half Men wouldn’t be the same without the women: Alan’s ex-wife Judith (Marin Hinkle); Charlie’s foul-mouthed housekeeper Berta (Conchata Ferrell); the Charlie obsessed next door neighbor Rose (Melanie Lynskey); and the Harper matriarch, Evelyn (Holland Taylor). 

Speaking of women, the Harper brothers have dated a few familiar females over the years including Courtney Thorne-Smith, Judy Greer, and Jenny McCarthy.  Ironically, the most fruitful male/female relationship on the show is between Charlie and his therapist (played by Jane Lynch). 

We didn’t watch Men religiously until we caught the show in syndication.  For many Saturdays in a row, we sat and caught up with the Harpers, laughter guaranteed in each episode.  But, sadly, a few real life mishaps forced the show’s creator to kill off the character of Charlie and replace him with a fresh face: Ashton Kutcher. 

Season nine begins at Charlie’s funeral – and BRAVO Chuck Lorre and other Men writers.  The funeral scene was absolutely brilliant.  Many past guest stars return and ex-girlfriends applaud Charlie’s death (in a respectful, yet Charlie Harper deserved way).  The best of the half hour was undoubtedly the return of Rose and her eulogy, or was it a confession? 

After the funeral, Alan reluctantly prepares to move out of the house he can no longer afford without his brother’s money.  Suddenly, there is a wet, sad man standing on his patio.  Alan opens the door, literally and figuratively, when he meets Walden Schmidt (Kutcher) after an attempted suicide in the ocean. 

It just so happens that Walden is rich like Charlie, and agrees to buy the beach house.  Before we know it, he hires Berta to stay on as his housekeeper and he also invites Alan to move in for as long as necessary. 

Same story, new characters.

Some like the change, some don’t.  But, the new direction was enough to bring Men back to our DVR and we haven’t removed the future recording setting just yet.  For that, I award Two and a Half Men the JFTV rating.  The series isn’t great for us, but we keep digging our hand right back down into that greasy bag of chips.  Heck, before we know it, we’ll probably suffer chest pains much like Charlie’s character on multiple occasions. 

So, what do you think?  Do you watch HIMYM or Two and a Half Men?  Which network airs the best comedies: CBS or NBC? How much longer can the series last before Ted meets his future wife?  Do you like the addition of Ashton Kutcher on Men?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and check out her review of NBC’s Thursday night laughs, Parks and Recreation and Community

Come back next week when Amber and I review AMC’s Mad Men and The Walking Dead.

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future. 

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech

Tele-Tuesday #6 – Only on Cable…and Netflix!

 

Over the years, HBO has reigned supreme with some of the best series and mini-series available on television.  Who hasn’t watched, or at least heard buzz about, Oz (1997-2003), Sex and the City (1998-2004, plus two motion pictures in 2008 & 2010), The Sopranos (1999-2007), Six Feet Under (2001-2005), Band of Brothers (2001), and Deadwood (2004-2006)?

HBO’s programs have launched powerful and everlasting characters such as Carrie Bradshaw, Tony Soprano, and Al Swearengen.  These successful shows have also helped popular actors land hot new roles such as Christopher Meloni in Law & Order: SVU, Timothy Olyphant in Justified, and Michael Imperioli in Detroit 187.

In 2008, HBO aired its own take on the ever-growing, ever-popular supernatural drama, True Blood.

True Blood – Based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, True Blood focuses on the lives of the supernatural and the regular people in fictional Bon Temps, LA.

The series follows the love story between Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and Vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), and all of the consequences of such a love.  The show oozes sexuality with characters like Vampire Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard), and Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten), and holds nothing back with the sultry sex scenes.  True Blood isn’t for the faint of heart; the show doesn’t hide behind the sensors, ensuring blood and gore in most of the episodes.

Season 1 followed the upturned lives of Bon Temps while a serial killer murdered many, including Sookie’s beloved grandmother.  The audience also meets the local folk of Bon Temps, who tend to be just a bit odd: Sookie’s confidant, and boss, Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) shape shifts into a friendly dog; Sookie’s brother, Jason, becomes addicted to V (drinking vamp blood), and is the main suspect in the murders around town; and Sookie’s best friend, Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley), while human, is all sorts of a mess.

Season 2 introduced a maenad, who manipulates Sookie’s closest friends hoping to gain control of the small town, and sacrifices many along the way.  Season 2 also builds more in the storyline for Vampire Eric, including his maker’s demise.  The second season also follows Jason as he learns to battle vamps at the Fellowship of the Sun church, and introduces the vampire queen of Louisiana: Sophie-Anne (Evan Rachel Cook).

Season 3 added the werewolf, more specifically Alcide (Joe Manganiello), another of Sookie’s protectors.  What a lucky girl! First Shape-Shifter Sam, then Vampire Bill, and Vampire Eric, now Werewolf Alcide: four hot men protecting little ol’ Sookie.  We also meet the evil vampire king of Mississippi: Russell Edgington.  Oh yea, and Sookie is revealed as a fairy, in addition to her telepathic abilities.  What will happen in Season 4?

 

Showtime joined the party launching successful programming of its own in 2000 with Queer as Folk (2000-2005), and has held its own in the series & miniseries world since with The L Word (2004-2009), Weeds (2005-present), Dexter (2006-present), The Tudors (2007-2010), Californication (2007-present), and new hits such as Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara, and Shameless.

Let’s start with two of the best 30-minute dramadies on television: Weeds and Californication.

Weeds – Over the past six seasons, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) has done what she needed to do in order to provide for her young sons (Silas, played by Hunter Parish; and Shane, played by Alexander Gould) after her husband, Judah (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), passes away suddenly – she sells weed.

The surprise visit of Judah’s brother, Andy (Justin Kirk), rocks Nancy’s world even more and her life spirals even further out of control.  Despite her shenanigans, Nancy truly tries to be the best mother possible to her boys.  However, Nancy has the tendency to screw things up and fall for the wrong men along the way:  Conrad, her weed-growing partner; Peter, her second husband/FBI agent; and Esteban Reyes, her third husband/Mexican drug cartel crime lord.

In Season 5, Nancy’s life is saved by the birth of her third son, Stevie Reyes; but, the lives of her family will never be the same.  So, what does the Botwin family do?  They flee, assume false identities, and return to the world of selling hash only to come face to face with Esteban, who has been diligently searching for his son, and his goons in the season finale.  Season 7 returns June 27th – what crazy antics are in store for Nancy, Andy, Silas, Shane, and Stevie?

Californication – Hank Moody (David Duchovny) has never met a drug or a woman that he doesn’t love.  Pair that with his recurring writer’s block, and Hank’s life is a disaster just waiting to happen.

The show starts after Hank, and his baby’s momma, Karen (Natascha McElhone) move with their daughter, Becca (Madeleine Martin) from New York to Los Angeles.  Joining the Moody clan, is Hanks’ agent/BFF, Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler), and his wife, Marcy (Pamela Adlon), a waxing professional to the stars.

Hank’s successful novel was adapted into a screenplay much to his dismay, and feeling down-n-out, he picks up a hot Mia (Madeline Zima) in a local LA bookstore and beds her.  That is, after all, what Hank Moody does – he beds beautiful women with his alluring charm.  During sex, Mia punches Hank; not long after “the punch”, Hank discovers that Mia is the 16 year old daughter of Karen’s new fiancé. And, there you have the setting for all five seasons thus far.

Californication is pure brilliance, but raunchy.  In Season 2, Hank is hired to write the biography of a rock star – just want Hank needs, an invitation to party like a rock star! In Season 3, Hank is hired as a college professor – that’s definitely a disaster waiting to happen! One of my favorite laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-face, scenes aired in Season 4 with the entire cast of characters sitting around Stu’s (Stephen Tobolowsky) dinner table.  Another unforgettable scene was early in Season 1…let’s just say it involved Hank and Charlie in bed, with a “shooter”.  Watch with caution….but be prepared to laugh and cry!

Dexter – Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) = member of the Miami Police Department by day (specializing in blood spatter), and vigilante/serial killer by night.  Dexter only murders other killers; that’s ok, right?

Dexter’s ties to his family (foster-sister, Debra; wife, Rita; stepchildren, Astor and Cody; and son, Harrison) force him to doubt his secret life, but he continues to kill, wrap the bodies tightly, and dispose of them at sea from his boat, “Slice of Life”.   Each season, Dexter faces a nemesis: “The Ice Truck Killer” (S1); “The Bay Harbor Butcher” (S2) — Oh wait, that’s Dexter! – so, let’s say his rival in Season 2 is Sergeant James Doakes; “The Skinner” (S3); “Trinity Killer” played by the fabulous John Lithgow (S4); and the “Santa Muerte Killer” (S5).

What demon will Dexter battle next? And what horrific murderer will Dexter permanently remove from Miami?  Will anyone catch Dexter?  Rumor mills report that Season 6 will be air sometime in 2011…

What’s your favorite movie-channel series of all time? Least favorite?  Which is better: HBO of old, or Showtime of new? Who’s your favorite HBO/Showtime series character?  Least favorite? I’d love to hear from you!

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