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culture

Televisualist: Short on Talent

Each week, Torontoist examines the upcoming TV listings and makes note of programs that are entertaining, informative, and of quality. Or, alternately, none of those. The result: Televisualist.

Jackie Rogers, Jr. wants you to know he's got talent. (If you don't get the reference, you are probably young and therefore worthy of scorn.)


Monday

So, last week, Charlie Sheen threw a tantrum on TMZ Live complaining that Two and a Half Men now sucks with Ashton Kutcher. Then, Sheen apologized to Kutcher on Twitter, basically explaining that although he still thinks the show is crap and they were wrong for firing him, he was wrong to say that Kutcher himself sucks. Sheen had no comment with respect to the fact that Men now often gets slightly better ratings than it did in the last few seasons of Sheen’s tenure (although nothing compared to its peak). Granted, he’s not wrong about the show being terrible: it is, in fact, an abyss where nothing good can survive (insert Ashton Kutcher joke here). Basically, the takeaway from this is: “Charlie Sheen is still a loudmouthed dick.” Also, Patton Oswalt is on the show this week and, using our abyss theory, we fear for him. (CTV-2, 9 p.m.)


Tuesday

It’s the Arizona and Michigan Republican primaries! The story here at present is whether Mitt “The Boy Nobody Liked but Who Had a Lot of Money” Romney will lose in Michigan, the state where he was born and where the Romney name used to mean something (until Mitt pissed it away, anyway). As late as last week, Rick Santorum was leading here and closing ground in Arizona as well, but most recent polls seem to indicate that Romney is recapturing his lead (although only tenuously). Still, the fact that this state has turned into a dogfight indicates that Romney’s unpopularity with the base is deep and lasting, and that his chances with independents are only getting worse as he runs desperately to the right. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy! (CNN, 8 p.m.)

The Godfather, Part II often gets overlooked, and unfairly, by people who place too great an emphasis on the original Godfather (namely, first-year film-school students, and the far too many people who have seen the first but not the second). In many ways, it’s better than the original, even without Marlon Brando’s iconic performance: it’s better paced, the plot points are darker and more intense, Al Pacino’s performance is miles ahead of what it was in the original, and the “prequel” portions of the story featuring Robert De Niro as the young Vito Corleone are fantastic. So, watch it. Also, pretend the third Godfather does not exist. It’s easier that way. (AMC, 8 p.m.)


Wednesday

The Agenda with Steve Paikin tonight focuses on “Toronto the Dysfunctional”—meaning our battle over transit. Timely debate on a relevant topic? That’s so Paikin. Incidentally, Televisualist is trying to spread “that’s so Paikin” as a catchphrase. Work with us here. (TVO, 8 p.m.)


Thursday

Rob! concludes its first season. It has been a fairly impressive hit, and it does at least try to be a show about Hispanics in a way that most shows simply are not. It is a shame, then, that this is a lousy, predictable, and boring sitcom starring Rob Schneider. (Global, 8:30 p.m.)

The latest of NBC’s boldly courageous pilots, Awake stars Jason Isaacs as a man in a car accident who then finds himself crossing between two different realities when he goes to sleep: one in which his wife survived the accident and his son died, and one in which the opposite is the case. Awake is an interesting test case for a new trend in TV pilots: increasingly, many new shows seem to be movies where the creators gave up on telling the story in two hours when they could more easily—for production rather than narrative reasons—tell it as an ongoing TV show. Awake is an excellent case in point. In it, Isaacs has to deal with the issue of which of his two realities is real and which is the dream, uses the information from the two realities to cross-solve mysteries (arguing that perhaps neither experience is a dream), and finds his mind starting to break down because he’s not getting any sleep—all story beats with finite lengths. In other words, these narratives can only go for so long before being solved, and Televisualist tends to take the position that—particularly in the case of Awake but also in many other recent shows—plot points should be resolved quickly rather than slowly. The best comparison is Life On Mars (the British version), which reached its conclusion in 16 episodes. The American version, which had a wildly different ending but also succeeded in its own way, concluded in 17 and had the same finite set of issues. Our point is basically this: not every television show that deals in the weird has to be Lost and go for six seasons. Some should end quickly so that they can achieve true greatness, and we think Awake‘s major issue is that it has not yet come to grips with that fact. (Global, 10 p.m.)

The Simpsons rerun of the week: “The Ned-liest Catch,” which set up an internet-voting thing where fans could determine if Ned Flanders and Edna Krabappel would continue to date as they had begun doing in this episode. Fans would eventually vote in favour of the pairing, because whatever. “Those two boys of yours weren’t delivered by the stork.” “Yes, they were. We deliberately chose a Doctor Stork so we could say it without lying.” (Fox, 11 p.m.)


Friday

Way Off Broadway is Bravo’s new reality series about amateur/community-theatre players who get recruited to perform in a performance of The Wizard of Oz at the Danforth Music Hall and have to spend 13 episodes practicing. It sounds less interesting than it is. This may not seem like an enthusiastic endorsement, but it is certainly a mild endorsement, which, given our lack of interest in television about the theatre at this point (Smash, after a promising pilot, is getting more annoying with every episode), is not bad. (8 p.m.)


The Weekend

In case more evidence was required that our private television industry has officially given up: Canada’s Got Talent, featuring Martin Short as head judge. Actually, this is sort of a canny gambit on the producers’ parts. We mean, it’s so bad and offers so much opportunity for mockery that all of the potential jokes cancel one another out in your head, forcing you to simply sit there agog, wondering how this happened and why you aren’t making an Ed Grimley joke of some kind. (City, 8 p.m. Sunday)

Breakout Kings returns for a second season, and while it’s nice to see an actual original scripted television series on A&E enjoy success, we wish it was something better than Breakout Kings. It’s a show that wants to be a caper-dramedy like White Collar or Leverage, but lacks interesting characters or a decent ongoing plot. Still, it’s better than Dog the Bounty Hunter. We understand this is damning with faint praise. (A&E, 10 p.m. Sunday)

GCB is Darren Star’s new series, which was originally titled Good Christian Bitches, then shifted to Good Christian Belles when people complained, before landing on its current acronym. The show is your standard evening soap, set in Dallas, and the twist is, shockingly, that all of the characters are ostensibly Christians, so the people who complained about the title will most likely end up complaining about the plot and dialogue as well. It has some great acting talent, though: Kristen Chenoweth, Annie Potts, and Leslie Bibb, for starters. Chenoweth is so great she made us temporarily forget that Glee is awful. (CTV, 10 p.m. Sunday)

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