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.
Elizabeth Mitchell as Erica Evans in V. Illustration by Brett Lamb/Torontoist.
MondayTo Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar was unsurprisingly (and not entirely undeservedly) scorned by critics for being a bastard stepchild of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert when it first came out; it’s tamer and more mainstream than Priscilla, to say the least. (Man, thinking back to a time when Priscilla was avant-garde is just so weird now, isn’t it?) But it’s not a bad little movie at all, despite being clumsy and mainstream and Hollywoodish: Patrick Swayze is a great lead and Wesley Snipes’s drag queen is consistently hilarious. Time improves some things. (BET, 8 p.m.)
Speaking of “things that were common in the ’90s but relatively rare now”: a rerun of an episode of classic Star Trek! Space is kind enough to air “The Cage” in its full-length version (which runs about seventyish minutes, ninety with commercials): you really don’t get a chance to see the full version often, and although by modern standards the effects are of course hokey, and by Trek standards the storytelling still finding its feet (they hadn’t formalized a lot of the canon at this point, to say the least), it’s still gripping television, and explains a lot about why Trek became, well, Trek. (9 p.m.)
TuesdayABC’s strategy for their new rendition of V (er, which is remaking the 1983 “aliens invade Earth while pretending to be friendly” TV epic, and not the recent movie about the guy in the mask blowing up future fascist London) is…interesting, in that they’ve decided to air four episodes of it right now in November and then, so far as we know, will air no more episodes until March. Like we said…interesting. In fairness, the “single-serving preview” strategy worked reasonably well for Glee, but Glee has an entirely new sort of revenue-generating model and V doesn’t. And also Glee is a much, much cheaper show than V. All of this having been said, the pilot for V is slambang fantastic, so give it a shot. But you have been warned. (CTV, 8 p.m.)
Nova is caught up in a series-within-a-series called “Becoming Human,” about proto-apes and early human life on Earth. It’s actually pretty fascinating; this week’s episode focuses on “Lucy,” the famous complete proto-human skeleton found by the Leakeys (among others) in 1973. However, Nova refuses to accede to Televisualist’s demands for idle speculation as to what Lucy’s favourite flavour of ice cream might have been were she to live today, so, you know, grain of salt. (PBS, 8 p.m.)
WednesdayIt is kind of creepy watching Pitchmen because Billy Mays plays such a prominent role in it, and with Mays’s death this summer the entire thing becomes sort of funereal. Which completely works against the tone of this docu-show, as it wants to be light, fluffy fare. Like, this week has Mays’s son directing his first commercial, and it should play as funny. But, you know, dead guy, so it’s not that funny. Awkward! (Discovery, 8 p.m.)
Bill Cosby receives the twelfth annual Mark Twain Prize for American humour; presumably he will do some standup. This is worth seeing, because even though Cosby is now a grumpy old fart he is actually still very, very sharp when it comes to his standup act. Alternatively, he might complain about how black people need to be more responsible, and that’s not quite as funny but it’s also worth watching in a sort of train-wreck way. (PBS, 8 p.m.)
ThursdayWe’re up to the “merge” in Survivor: Samoa. For those having trouble keeping track: one tribe is full of utter douchebags who are unfortunately pretty good at the challenge portion of the game, and the other tribe is filled with such a bunch of useless, pathetic schmendricks that Russell, this season’s likeable sociopath who was touted as the next awesome Survivor villain, is actually the guy that Survivor fans are all now rooting for because A) he is actually pretty clever and B) he backs up his lip with good challenge performance, gameplay, and work ethic. See, this is what CBS doesn’t get: Survivor villains aren’t guys like Russell. They’re guys like Coach from last season, who was the most useless bag of flesh ever invented and who never, ever shut up about how awesome he was. (Global, 8 p.m.)
Community is flopping in the ratings and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s just too dry a show for network TV? After all, The Office has gradually wackied up since its first couple of seasons, and 30 Rock is one of the funniest shows on the air but it’s also one of the silliest. Community’s generally restrained wit and affinity for wordplay over visual gags seems almost too urbane by comparison. (City, 8 p.m.)
FridayThis week’s contestant on “classic comics concept ruined by Smallville“: the bottle city of Kandor! Give it up for the bottle city of Kandor, ladies and gentlemen! All three million of you tiny Kryptonians must be very proud indeed. (SunTV, 8 p.m.)
The Simpsons rerun of the week: “Deep Space Homer,” which birthed the “I, for one, welcome our new ______ overlords” meme when Kent Brockman sees the supposedly giant ants. “The only danger is if they send us to that terrible Planet of the Apes. Wait a minute…Statue of Liberty…that was our planet! You maniacs, you blew it up. Damn you! Damn you all to hell!” (CFMT, 10:30 p.m.)
The WeekendThe Nature of Things‘s three-part special minseries on Charles Darwin concludes tonight. Spoiler: he figures it all out, but Republicans don’t like him a hundred years later! (CBC, 9 p.m. Sunday)
Secret Girlfriend is a new and frankly terrible comedy series with a gimmick: the entire thing is shot from a second-person perspective, making you the viewer the “star of the show.” (Much like how you were previously Time magazine’s Person of the Year. At some point, they should probably start paying you.) It’s a clever gimmick: unfortunately the comedy is just a series of dick-and-titty jokes not even worth repeating to your friends when you are drunk at a bar somewhere, which tells you something. (Comedy Network, 10:30 p.m. Sunday)