Sunday, January 30, 2011

The New Showtime Sunday: A Brief Assessment

Ever since Mad Men ended, my Sunday viewing has been sparse and disappointing, to say the least. Sparse because the only viable option is Desperate Housewives, and disappointing because, well, I don't think that bears an explanation. Naturally, I was more than a little excited to check out not one but two new Sunday shows from Showtime, a network with a track record of producing TV that is both great (i.e. Weeds) and... not-so-great (i.e. Californication).

True to its name, Showtime's newest (attempted) dramedy seems hell-bent on blowing up the appall-o-meter with its diversely messed up characters. Unfortunately, in spite of the semi-interesting premise, I don't think Shameless is a show I will keep watching for very much longer. There's nothing horribly wrong with it, but there's nothing truly special about it either. The show happens to suffer from a mediocre lead actress, but the biggest gripe I have is the huge discord between the gravity of the issues presented and the humorous attitude with which they are treated. Call me stodgy, but poverty and perpetually drunk single fathers-of-six are not that funny, no matter how many horny Joan Cusacks you throw into the mix. And then there's the other thing... Let's just say that in spite of the mixed signals emitted by this show, Shameless does give its audience one very clear, very frequent message: dudes sure be gaga over damaged chicks.

I much prefer Episodes, the new comedy about a grounded (and regular-looking!) husband-and-wife screenwriting/producing team who agree to bring their beloved and successful British sitcom to America, then are subsequently forced to stand by and watch the myriad ways in which the Hollywood treatment fails to deliver on its promises. The show also ushers in Matt LeBlanc's first regular TV gig since Friends (let's just pretend the abysmal Joey never happened), this time playing a hilariously dramatized version of himself, à la Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Pair a narcissistic LeBlanc with two judgmental Brits and toss them all into a Hollywood studio setting, and you've got yourself some mighty hijinks, my friend. All in all, Episodes is a pretty bloody funny show and home to the single most refreshingly "equalized" romantic partnership I can remember seeing depicted on a sitcom. (A friend jokingly referred to the female half as a "bit of a ball buster," but she's not. She's not!)