We’re celebrating the Fall 2011 TV season by breaking down what you need to watch live, what you need to DVR, and what you should save for online viewing this year. We’ll also give you a heads-up on the shows you should be reading recaps for to stay in the know with your friends and relatives. We’ve attacked Monday and Tuesday already. Welcome to Hump Day!
WHAT TO WATCH LIVE:
Survivor: South Pacific 23 seasons into the run of Survivor, I still can’t get enough of the alliances, challenges, tribal councils, immunity idols, and of course, those damn video messages from home. The show’s remained fresh by not only changing up its format each year (this season, “Redemption Island” has returned, as have two retuning players from seasons past), but also by continuing to cast interesting personalities. This year, it’s hard not to root for John Cochran – a 24-year-old self-described nerd and all-around Survivor-scholar, whose pale white skin, fragile disposition, and Harvard-education isn’t winning him many friends on his tribe. The great thing about Survivor is that with the right moves, Cochran could win it all. That unpredictability – and use of “outwit, outlast, and outplay” strategy – is exactly what Survivor remains the best competition reality show on television (no matter what the Emmys say).
Modern Family Speaking of the Emmys, there’s a reason why Modern Family won almost every award in the comedy category: it’s damn funny. Excellently cast and beautifully written, it’s pretty impossible not to fall in love with this show. I can’t imagine a more perfect way to forget about the stress of your own insane family.
Happy Endings It hasn’t had the break-out success of Modern Family. But then again, Happy Endings was a mid-season replacement at the end of the last season. Did anyone really expect a show that ABC held for so long to be good? Well surprise surprise – there’s a happy ending here. Because the show is great, and back for a full-run this year! Following a group of six friends (Eliza Coupe, Zachary Knighton, Adam Pally, Casey Wilson, Elisha Cuthbert, and Damon Wayans Jr), Happy Endings isn’t necessarily charting new territory here. Dating, sex, friendship – we’ve seen it all before in countless sitcoms. Yet Happy Endings still feels fresh. Perhaps it’s its fast-paced, single-camera style? Or its phenomenal cast? Or the fact that no one was watching for so long, the show was able to get it’s footing without the scrutiny of the Fall season? Regardless – I’m just glad it’s back. Give it a chance. It’s a great companion to Modern Family.
American Horror Story Truth be told, I have no idea what to expect from American Horror Story. But the premise sounds intriguing. Ben and Vivien Harmon (played by Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton) move with their young daughter to an old house in LA. Clearly, the house is haunted in some way that, judging from the preview, causes a bunch of weird and terrifying shit to occur. Oh, and then Jessica Lange appears as a creppy neighbor. And if all that’s not enough to get you watching, then just remember this: all of this comes from the mind of creator Ryan Murphy. Yes, the same guy who created Glee – a show about the lives of singing and dancing teenagers – also created a horror show where a guy in a black latex suit has sex with the mom from Friday Night Lights in a mysterious red room. Sign me up!
WHAT TO DVR:
The X-Factor Admit it: you kind of miss Simon Cowell. His snarky grin. His cutting criticisms. His deep V-neck shirts. And you kind of miss Paula Adbul too. Her standing ovations. Her lame jokes. Her constant praise of the worst contestants. Together, Simon and Paula are a dynamic duo – the perfect kind of odd couple with the right kind of chemistry that you simply can’t look away from. And that, my friends, is the main reason to tune into The X-Factor. Simon and Paula, back together again on the judging panel.
Sure, there’s other judges on the panel you may be interested in. Record executive/producer L.A. Reid and Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger probably have their fans. There’s also going to be a lot of talented contestants. But looks at American Idol and The Voice and America’s Got Talent and the 9-million other singing reality shows there have been. They all end up with talented contestants, some way or the other. No, the judges are the reason you watch. And Simon and Paula, while not the best critics, are certainly entertaining to watch.
Of course, they’re doing much more than judging on The X-Factor. Each judge is assigned one of four categories (“Girls: Ages 12-30,” “Boys: Ages 12-30,” “Individuals over 30,” or “Groups”). Each judge then works with that group for the whole show – picking songs, arrangements, clothing, staging, etc. Whatever performer(s) win, their judge also “wins.” Think of it as The Voice but with the range of contestants from America’s Got Talent. Make sense?
So although you may be pooped with these reality singing competition shows, I’d give The X-Factor a chance, for Simon and Paula’s sake. But do yourself a favor: DVR it and skim through the commercials (and bad performances).
Work of Art I’ve long said that I’d watch anything on Bravo. Case in point: I still have a season pass for Most Eligible Dallas, even though I hate it. But for every Million Dollar Listing, there’s a Top Chef – quality entertainment that you don’t mind watching all-day on a Saturday.
Which brings us to Work of Art – Bravo’s search for the next great artist. The first season, which wrapped up last year, was one of the best competition shows I’ve seen in years. It did for the art world what Project Runway did for the fashion world and what Top Chef did for the food world: made it relatable. Everyday folks feel like they can talk about those subjects because these shows have found a way to take the elitism away. They took us behind the curtain. Season 2 promises more adventurous challenges, talented artists, and brilliant work. Record the 11pm showing for a nice weekend viewing.
Top Chef: Just Desserts The Top Chef spin-off is a sweet treat in a crowded night of reality competition shows.
WHAT TO WATCH ONLINE:
Up All Night Last week’s premiere had its high moments (the karaoke bar) and it’s low moments (that cleanse was completely moronic). But it’s enough to want to come back to Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, Mya Rudolph, and crew. Unfortunately, it’s a tough night, so I’d suggest catching up on the show online (unless you skip Survivor, in which case, watch live!).
Suburgatory 16-year-old Tessa Altman (Jane Levy) loves her life in New York City. Until her single-father (Jeremy Sisto) moves her to the suburbs to start over. There, Tessa enters the world of superficial teens and plastic surgery-loving moms. You know, suburgatory! Altman’s take on the ‘burbs is pretty hysterical. She comes off as a cross between Juno and Cady Heron from Mean Girls. It’s the kind of show you’d see on MTV – which is why I give ABC mad-props for airing it in the first place. Check it online to support it.
America’s Next Top Model It’s hard to believe it Tyra and gang have gone through 16 cycles searching for America’s Next Top Model. I mean, can you even named one woman on the show? Oh you can? ME TOO! Which is why you clearly plan on recording ANTM Cycle 17: All-Stars. All the crazies are back. which means you should be too.
WHAT TO READ ABOUT ONLINE THE NEXT DAY:
If you want to skip X-Factor, a good recap blog with video will probably do. Everything else is mandatory viewing in my eyes.
WHAT TO IGNORE:
Criminal Minds, CSI, Law & Order: SVU: all great shows to catch from time to time, but nowhere near the top of the list if you ask me. I’ve only made it through one episode of Harry’s Law, and even I wanted to sue NBC for exposing me to that crap. Revenge is a dish best served ignored. And not to be a H8R, but that show was awful.