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Itís not the TV series; itís where you look.

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2005-01-24


Late last year here at Dangerous Universe, I talked about two of the best television shows on TV right now Ė ABCís Lost and UPNís Veronica Mars. However, these two shows arenít the only good episodic series currently being aired on TV. There are a few other options for people wanting to watch good television.

First up Sunday nights is FOXís Arrested Development, covered extensively in a previous column. Simply put, Arrested Development is the finest comedy on television right now, with few, if any, other shows having anywhere near the quality of the writing.

Monday nights are a sort of ďdead zoneĒ of television for me. Thereís no episodic series on that night which I watch.

If Monday nights donít have much on, Tuesday nights are jam-packed with shows. First up is UPNís Veronica Mars. In Veronica Mars, the character of the same name (Kristen Bell of Spartan) is a high school student by day while helping out at her fatherís detective agency by night. However, the show is anything but that simple. (Also covered extensively in a previous column.)

Also on at the same as Veronica Mars is NBCís Scrubs. Scrubs, currently in its fourth season, follows John ďJ.D.Ē Dorian (Zack Braff Garden State) as he faces the rigors of medical training. This comedy breaks virtually every ďruleĒ of the standard sitcom. Thereís only one camera to catch the action whereas virtually every other sitcom on television over the last 50 years follows the standard three-camera format. (Making Scrubs look more like a movie than a TV show.) But lately, Iíve been getting the feeling that Scrubs is about to sputter out. Some of the episodes have started to become more ďgoofyĒ and predictable than before. Still, the first three seasons of the show were great and the current season is still pretty darn good.

Foxís new drama House also airs Tuesday nights up against both Veronica Mars and Scrubs. (Canít some television exec space these shows out Ė please!?) House follows Dr. Gregory House; a crippled world-weary doctor who hates patients, but genuinely likes solving their medical mysteries. As he puts it, ďWhat do you want; a doctor who holds your hand while your die or one who ignores you while you get better?Ē

House informs his team of three specialist doctors that he didnít pick them because they were necessarily the best doctors, but because they had other skills. Like one doctorís "sweet" street skills (thank you Napoleon Dynamite) or the looks of another, which can be used to other ends.

My only concern for the show is that the character of House will mellow out as the series progresses Ė turning from crudgy old doctor to a somewhat fatherly figure.

Wednesday nights is when Lost airs on ABC. I think itís the mark of how good the show is that after an episode has aired I canít wait to see whatís going to happen next week. (Lost was covered extensively in a previous column.)

I also watch the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica airing Fridays at 9:00 P.M. on the Sci Fi Channel. The show started airing over in Great Britain back in November and has finally made its way to our shores nearly three months later.

The revamped Battlestar Galactica might be one of the best science fiction shows to ever grace the airwaves. Itís much better than Stargate SG-1 or the fan favorite Farscape that I could never get into. It had everything that most sci-fi shows lack, most notably being based in reality. Yes, the future might have space ships and robots but in Battlestar Galactica thereís cancer and alcoholism too.

In the series version of Battlestar Galactica, we follow the ship of the same name as it protects the last vestige of humanity as they try to escape the robotic Cylons bent on human destruction. For the most part, the episodes of Battlestar Galactica have been good on the whole and unpredictable with many of the story plotlines paralleling our current situation with wars and terrorists.

Saturday nights is when British import MI-5 airs. I find the series enjoyable; it's an interesting mix of the "gee-wiz" spygames of James Bond mixed with the real world of espionage. Although some of the characters in the series might have miniature cameras and know how to deliver one deadly kick to the head, they also have to navigate the tricky shoals of politics as they try to balance doing the right thing with keeping their careers afloat.

In my opinion, MI-5 is really an update of the older, and far superior Brit spy show, The Sandbaggers. The Sandbaggers aired on U.K. television in the late 1970's/early 1980's and is available for the rest of us on DVD. Trust me when I say that these old episodes of The Sandbaggers hold their own against any modern television series Ė HBO series included.

(In a related side note, the original title of MI-5 in the U.K. is Spooks. However, this title was changed because in America the term "Spooks" has racial overtones.)

Thatís about all I watch when it comes to episodic television. Sure, thereís MythBusters and American Hot Rod on Discovery Channel or Long Way Round on Bravo, but these are more akin to documentaries or the recent spate of reality shows than episodic series.

Every year when the networks list their upcoming new series I pray that thereíll be something decent to watch. As you can see there are decent enough shows on television. You just have to know where to look.

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