October is always an exciting month for television fans. After months of repeats, broadcast and cable networks alike gift us with new show after new show – it’s like winning the lottery on Christmas morning.
The problem is, with all this new content at once, one has a hard time distinguishing between the awesome and the naw-some. To make matters worse, October is also when the new seasons of current shows premiere. As any “Lost” fan will tell you, a few great seasons do not mean the show will stay great forever.
To help out all the befuddled boob tubers out there, Artsweek presents its personal picks for the five best shows currently on the air.
Coming in at number five, we have “Back to You” on Fox. It’s a new sitcom about a blowhard anchorman returning to his Pittsburgh station after a 10-year stint in Los Angeles. A controversial choice, I’ll admit. As a traditional sitcom, this show represents everything wrong about television 20 years ago – laugh track and all. On the other hand, the creative talent makes up nothing less than the Super Friends of situational comedy: Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Fred Willard and James Burrows. Having honed its craft for years, this dream team endows the show with more spark and vitality in three episodes than most sitcoms have after three seasons. All Grammer has to do is breathe and it’s funny.
Number four is “House,” which is also on Fox. The magic of this show stems from its namesake, Dr. Gregory House. The writers turned a crippled, crotch rocket-riding, super-genius asshole into one of the most endearing and well-developed characters on TV. Oh, and Hugh Laurie could totally kick Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey’s McAss all the way to the McMiddle of next McWeek.
Next, we have “Flight of the Conchords” on HBO. “Conchords” fans know the difficulties of explaining the adventures of this Kiwi take on Tenacious D to outsiders. Is it a sitcom? A musical? A subtle political satire on people from New Zealand? To these questions, I say… it’s “Flight of the Conchords.” Spare some room during your “business time” on Fridays to catch the repeats of this past summer’s episodes.
At number two, we have “Weeds” on Showtime. The tagline says it all: Single mom Nancy Botwin resorts to selling marijuana to make ends meet. While this suburban satire occasionally threatens to drown in the sudsy melodrama of “Desperate Housewives” and “Nip/Tuck,” “Weeds” maintains its composure through Mary-Louise Parker’s pitch-perfect portrayal of the show’s protagonist. Her Botwin accepts the torture of a mammogram with the same quiet exasperation of a mother cleaning up her child’s scribbling on the wall. It somehow makes the more outrageous moments on the show easier to believe, as does the whip-smart dialogue.
And finally, at number one… “The Office,” on NBC. I was worried the show would be unable to maintain its momentum now that it runs for an hour. To my surprise, it’s better than ever.
So, whether your tastes run towards medical melodramas, suburban satires or anchorman antics, today’s hottest television has something to satiate your palate. It’s almost enough to make up for the distressing downhill spiral known as “Lost.” Almost.