Surfing the English channels
A TV aficionado takes a post-Emmy look at a year’s worth of entertainment.
Cast of "Homeland" at Emmy awards Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Now that the Emmys for 2012 have been duly handed out, the coveted statuettes
are being proudly displayed on the award winners’ mantles, and I am slowly
getting over the extreme disappointment that the award ceremony was not
broadcast on HOT or YES (except YES OH), it’s time to take a look at the viewing
fare of the past year and acknowledge some of the TV shows that I have
especially enjoyed watching.
These are limited to what I get on HOT, so I
don’t have the chance to see or comment on such acclaimed programs as Modern
Family, The Good Wife, Boardwalk Empire and Homeland that are aired on
That said, here are some of my HOT topics for 2012.
starters, some of the repeats that are shown are so entertaining, that I don’t
mind seeing them again and again, such as the sitcoms Friends, Seinfeld, The
King of Queens, Fawlty Towers and Everybody Loves Raymond.
A newer sitcom
that is already being shown in repeats is Happy Endings. Its cast of six friends
is edgier and quirkier than the cast of Friends, and the dialogue and plot lines
are clever and very original. In one episode, in an overt nod to the show’s
precursor, one of the characters, who is blissfully doped up after going to the
dentist, gets into the limo with the gang (one of them is a limo driver) and
greets them as Ross, Rachel, Phoebe and fat Joey. Very cute.
comes to quirky characters, humor and superb writing, in addition to drama,
Bones gets my vote. Although we have not yet been treated to the latest season
of the series, repeats of this excellent show still warm my heart and tickle my
Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz are wonderful as a very
attractive team of a crime-solving forensic anthropologist and an FBI agent,
respectively, and the rest of the ensemble cast are nothing short of brilliant
In the realm of quirky and clever crime solvers, they
don’t come much quirkier than the obsessive-compulsive germaphobe Adrian Monk,
played to perfection by the award-winning Tony Shaloub. Back on the air in
repeats, the 2002-2009 series Monk has not lost its ability to amuse and
In that regard, the British mini-series Sherlock, set in
present-day London, is too ingenious for words.
Besides the cleverly
updated versions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, the
drama also features Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, who plays a key role. As a
digression, for me, any reference to that character always brings to mind the
1975 comedy film The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, in which
Gene Wilder played the title role. In the film, Mycroft is painfully resentful
of his brother’s renown, which he believes to be totally undeserved.
when two policemen come to his door asking to find Sherlock Holmes, he retorts,
“You mean sheer luck?” And speaking of sheer luck, it was by pure accident that
I came across one of the best wildlife programs I have ever seen. While channel
surfing, I chanced upon Madagascar on Channel 8, and it caught my attention. A
three-part British series narrated by David Attenborough, this exquisitely
filmed, wonderfully scripted program takes you right into the heart of
Madagascar, from its forbidding mountain peaks and parched desert valleys to its
teeming rain forests, and introduces you to the most fascinating flora and
fauna, some of which do not exist anywhere else in the world. With the exotic
sound effects of the natural surroundings, coupled with beautiful music and the
hushed but husky voice of the venerable Attenborough, this series is a wonder in
itself. And there’s not a human being in sight.
From the natural to the
paranormal, Fringe is another one of my favorites. Written by J.J. Abrams, who
brought us such shows as Lost and Alias, this science-fiction drama has you on
the edge of your set in every episode. Yet it warms your heart as you get to
know and love the main characters, all human – in both parallel
As for real-life paranormal phenomena, there is nothing more
compelling for me than the documentary series Ancient Aliens, which airs on the
History Channel. Episode after episode, the series promotes the Ancient
Astronaut Theory. As scientists comment and film footage from across the globe
shows intriguing evidence of unexplained patterns and structures, the series
attempts to prove that we have been visited by extraterrestrials in the distant
past – and perhaps are still being observed in the present. Using the texts and
drawings of ancient cultures worldwide, the premise is that the so-called gods
of antiquity were actually highly advanced beings from elsewhere in the universe
that came to Earth for reasons that have yet to be determined. The truth may
well be “out there.” Food for thought.
AND SPEAKING of food, I derive
great pleasure from watching cooking competitions, so programs like Top Chef,
Master Chef, 24-Hour Restaurant Battle, My Kitchen Rules, Restaurant in My
House, Cupcake Wars and The Great Food Truck Race are a sheer delight. I don’t
like watching cooking shows per se (too boring), but other food-related shows
that have a lot of zest are Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag, 5 Ingredient Fix
and Private Chefs of Beverly Hills.
I enjoy watching competitions
altogether, so there are other programs I tune in to where I get to see how
contestants pit their skills and strategies against each other in a concentrated
effort to win. These show range from Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model,
Design Star, The Arrangement and Work of Art to Celebrity Apprentice, Storage
Wars and I Own Britain’s Best Home.
Particularly enjoyable for me is The
X Factor, which just began its second season. On the show, this year’s judges
Simon Cowell, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato and LA Reid scour the US in search
of the world’s next singing superstar. Still at the audition stage, some of the
singing is simply superb, and it will be interesting to see who the ultimate
winner will be.
But the ultimate competition this year was the 20102
Summer Olympics in London, and I enjoyed every minute. I was still living in
Montreal when we hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics, and I have been hooked on the
drama and the excitement of the Olympic Games ever since. The coverage is
excellent, and the more you listen to the commentary and learn about the
competitors and the individual sports themselves, the more riveting the whole
On another plane, the Mezzo channel is a constant source
of high-level cultural entertainment. Be it opera, ballet, symphonies or jazz
concerts, all you have to do is check the listings and settle in for a
highfidelity musical interlude in your own living room. I recently had the
pleasure of viewing the ballet of two of my favorite pieces, Carmina Burana and
Scheherzade, and it was magical.
So there you have it – some of the TV
shows that have amused and delighted me this past year. Let’s see what HOT has
in store for the coming season.