This week’s Top Five wraps up a week of very enjoyable — and varied — viewing. What’s on top? A low-rated comedy that nevertheless has been growing on us so much this season that we don’t mind at all championing it, if only for one week.
1) It’s “Parks and Recreation”: We aren’t always fans of the NBC approach to comedy on Thursday nights — the “mockumentary” style of “Community,” “The Office” and “Parks and Rec.” Hey, we realize we’re being woefully idiosyncratic (maybe even old-fashioned) when we declare our distaste for made-up words like “mockumentary,” but so be it. We’ve never quite warmed up to “Community” and “The Office’s” best days (and seasons) are behind it at this point. But “Parks and Rec”? Maybe it’s Amy Poehler, or maybe it’s this show’s attractive, likable supporting cast, but whatever it is, we’ve noticed that “Parks and Rec” is a sitcom with a big, lovable heart.
2) Joan Rivers on “The Simpsons”: The venerable Fox comedy’s episode last Sunday should put to rest — at least temporarily — some of the grumbling from some parties that the long-running “Simpsons” ought to call it a day. We say, No way — especially after last Sunday’s show, in which guest-voicer Joan Rivers played Krusty the Clown’s agent and, in the process, daringly spoofed her own tragic history with Fox that led to her husband’s suicide in 1987. We’re even highlighting this episode with full awareness that we do not have the episode available yet, but we expect it to be posted this coming Monday, at which time we highly recommend you check it out. It was one for the ages.
3) A cop show like no other: This one’s been around since about 2005, and fans of “The First 48″ on A&E have long realized that no other cop show on TV can match this one for delivering the goods. These are police procedurals from the front lines of real life — as homicide squads from various cities (including Dallas, Birmingham, Ala., Memphis, Louisville, Ky., and others) deal with heinous crimes committed in the homeliest locations ever seen on television. Watching this show — which began another stellar season Thursday night — is like being taken for a ride at 3 a.m. in the backseat of an unmarked police cruiser. In fact, few, if any, shows on TV now or ever can match the documentary film-making seen every week on “The First 48.” We say: Watch this show once and you’ll never look at a scripted police procedural in quite the same way ever again.
4) TLC’s dear little princesses return: Yes, it was the start of another season for “Toddlers & Tiaras,” perhaps TV’s most controversial show (and that’s saying a lot!). And the season premiere didn’t disappoint with its attention-getting storyline about a family that idolizes premier female impersonator RuPaul to such an extent that they encourage their 6 year-old son to don girls’ clothing to compete in little-girl beauty pageants. Not that there’s anything wrong with it — or is there?
5) “Boardwalk Empire”: How on Earth will “Boardwalk Empire” top last Sunday’s episode? It won’t be easy because last week’s drama was over-the-top. We’re talking about the strange family life of Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), of course — which won’t mean much to you if you haven’t been following the HBO 1920s gangster series that winds up its second season this coming Sunday. What happened last week? Well, among many other things, Jimmy’s father (Dabney Coleman) attacked him with a spear when Jimmy was in the midst of strangling his mother (Gretchen Mol). Then Jimmy stabbed his father to death. And that wasn’t even the half of it.