Commentary: TV To Be Thankful For

by | November 24, 2009 at 9:30 AM | 42-Inch Television

Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

With the entire country in turmoil over—take your pick—health care, the economy, two ongoing wars and Sarah Palin-mania, Thanksgiving couldn’t come at a better time. Of course this is the holiday that’s ostensibly on the calendar to provide respite from the constant din of complaining that plagues America; a chance to remember to be thankful for all the good things in life, both big and small.

Considering Americans spend more time watching TV than ever before, though, you might want to file the following list under the heading of “big.” After all, since such a large part of my life (and, statistically speaking, yours) is spent in front of the television on a daily basis, there has to be some good that comes out of all that idle watching, right? Without further adieu, I’m thankful for…

…the ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Faux-‘Seinfeld’ Finale

Full disclosure: I’ve found Jerry Seinfeld to be so painfully unfunny since ‘Seinfeld’ shuffled off the air in a blaze of disappointment, that it has caused me to reconsider whether the seminal series was actually funny in the first place. (To this day, his appearance during the season two premiere of ‘30 Rock’ was one of the worst moments in the series to date.)

Further disclosure: As much as I appreciate Larry David, the last few seasons of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ felt repetitive of not only earlier ‘Curb’ episodes, but also ‘Seinfeld’ as well.

Based on that, you wouldn’t think the ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ finale would rank as one of my favorite moments of the year, but the episode was so winning and laugh-out-loud funny that none of my preconceived notions mattered.

The success of the ‘Curb’ season finale—beyond being a perfect bow to the series should David decide to call it quits—was watching Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George interact during the show-within-a-show which more than made up for any shortcomings of the much-maligned ‘Seinfeld’ send-off. It took eleven years, but I’m thankful Larry David and company finally got things right. Of course, that the finale aired on cable should tell you all you need to know about the state of network television in 2009, but that’s a story for another day.

…the NBC Thursday night comedies

NBC is a long way from the days when ‘Seinfeld,’ ‘Friends’ and ‘ER’ led the network to ratings domination on Thursday nights. Every time you don’t think the fourth place network could sink any lower, it does: ‘The Jay Leno Show’ has been a ratings debacle; new dramas like ‘Trauma’ and ‘Mercy’ haven’t performed; ‘The Tonight Show’ is failing; ‘Saturday Night Live’ is a creative mess; and so on down the line.

This is a network in turmoil.

Except, that is, on Thursday nights between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. What used to be home for Must See TV is once again a destination for those who want to see some seriously funny comedies. Week in and week out, selecting the best of the bunch between ‘Community,’ ‘Parks and Recreation,’ ‘The Office’ and ‘30 Rock’ is akin to Sophie’s Choice.

If only NBC could take the level of quality these comedies bring to the table and build a network around them, they could be on to something. There is not another block of programming on network television that can equal the pure joy I get from watching these four shows. And I’m thankful NBC hasn’t canceled any of them yet.

…the comedy stylings of Eva Longoria-Parker

Watching ‘Desperate Housewives’ stopped being “cool” four years ago. But, you know what? I don’t care! Unlike some other shows (cough, ‘Grey’s’), ‘Desperate Housewives’ hasn’t become obligation viewing for me. It’s still as funny, sleazy and silly as it was during the halcyon days of season one.

And one of the main reasons the show still holds my interest is because Eva Longoria-Parker might be the funniest actress on television. Through the years, her timing has gotten so precise that I almost wish there was an Emmy category for “Most Improved.” While it’s true that Longoria-Parker has the added benefit of getting the best lines every week, they wouldn’t be half as funny without her impeccable performance. I’m thankful for Eva Longoria-Parker, but I’d be even more thankful if she started getting the credit she deserves.

…the music selections on ‘Gossip Girl’

The funniest complaint from indie music lovers is that their favorite artists have somehow sold out if they appear on ‘Gossip Girl.’ As if having your song on a show that draws in roughly two million people per week can be considered selling out. Regardless of that snobbery, the music selections on ‘Gossip Girl’ during season three have been particularly great. Famed music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas (late of ‘The O.C.,’ still providing the coffee shop lullabies you hear on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’) keeps her choices trendy but not to the point of suffocation. This season’s soundtrack has featured songs from Passion Pit, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and even Lady Gaga. Of the latter artist (perhaps you’ve heard of her?), could there have been a better music cue to underscore the ramifications of the infamous threesome than “Bad Romance?”

Because of Patsavas and ‘Gossip Girl,’ I’ve got a bunch of new songs on my iPod. I’m thankful there is at least one place to go (besides satellite radio) to hear new music. ‘Gossip Girl’ has replaced terrestrial radio when it comes to breaking bands.

Three More Inches

If I were going to complain about something Adam Lambert did while performing at the American Music Awards, it would probably center on his singing. Ouch.

Not sure what’s more strange: that James Franco is appearing on ‘General Hospital’ or that he seems so comfortable while doing so.

And finally… lest you think nothing is on this week in the face of Thanksgiving, tonight brings the 2009 finale of ABC’s ‘V,’ which apparently—spoiler alert!—ends on a cliffhanger. Here’s looking forward to the marriage of ‘Lost’ and ‘V’ on Tuesdays in 2010. Now, if only Elizabeth Mitchell could appear on both shows simultaneously…