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 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
Cast of "Homeland" at Emmy awards 370
(photo credit: 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 YES.
That said, here are some of my HOT topics for 2012.
For 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.
When it 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 funny bone.
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 and endearing.
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 entertain.
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.
So 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 universes.
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 thing becomes.
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.