The Best of the Idiot Box

Television has become not just the pastime of the bored, but also an inherent part of our everyday lives. It’s no secret I love watching television, the only difference is that earlier I watched and waited in anticipation for an episode every week, now, I watch online or download the newest episodes, without so much as watching an advertisement or changing the channel in between. It’s pure unadulterated continuous television watching experience!

I have been watching a number of shows since I was a kid, so I’m gonna list my favourite from then and now!

The Wonder Years
An adult Kevin Arnold reminisces on his teenage years spent growing up during the 60s. As he goes from adolescence to adulthood, he experiences, along with his best friend Paul and sometimes-girlfriend Winnie, the full range of trials and traumas that come in just about everyone’s life. This nostalgic and heartwarming series, where one boys journey, similar to  many others the same age, is one I remember from my childhood days.

Doogie Howser M.D.
Doogie is no ordinary teenager, he is a doctor. As smart as they come, he has been a doctor since the age of fourteen. But it’s not because you are highly intelligent that you don’t have the same feelings toward life. He is constantly torn between a life of teenage fun with his buddy Vinny, and a more serious and quiet life practicing medicine. I remember this show for one of the best endings in television, i.e. he maintains a diary entry  on his computer, and every night you see him come back to his desk and write the most philosophical yet true yet common things, that happen in daily life, but you never really give a second glance to. Following the life of a child genius makes this another great show. Ps. the main character  Neil Patrik Harris is now ever so popular as Barney from ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (another top fav in the list to follow).

F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Some may call it the longest running sitcom on TV – Why? Cause this particular show created history, its broadcasted in various countries, different languages and many an off shoot of the same concept can still be seen in television and cinema today. Six young people, on their own and struggling to survive in the real world, find the companionship, comfort and support they get from each other to be the perfect antidote to the pressures of life. We know them as Ross, Rachael, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler and Joey. The ten seasons of Friends are most likely on every desktop and DVD cabinet of this generation of viewers. Its hard to describe this series, as if you haven’t watched it, you’ve pretty much missed a slice of this generation’s best comedy. Everyone relates to some character, they find their quirks embedded in them, and its probably that way, the aptly titled sitcom is the longest re-run show till date.

How I Met Your Mother
The show is about 5 friends – Ted, Marshall, Lily, Barney and Robin. Ted and Marshal were college roomates, and Marshall has been dating Lily since college. Barney is Ted’s self proclaimed best friend (they first meet at a urinal -*trivia) and Robin, well, egged on by his best friend’s upcoming nuptials, (Lily & Marshall) Ted believes he finds the woman of his dreams in Robin, a Canadian in NY to land a job in a TV Network. The Narrator of the show is Ted and even though in the beginning you think he will end up with Robin, the whole concept of the show is Ted speaking to his two kids on the couch, about How he met their mother, which till date, the series isn’t even close to getting at. Barney is played by Neil Patrick Harris, mentioned above as the young Doogie Howser. And Lily, is Alyson Hannigan, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The Big Bang Theory
A recent addition to the television circuit, The Big Bang Theory began in 2007. It is the story of 5 people – focusing on three main characters – Leonard, Sheldon and Penny. Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper are both brilliant physicists working at Cal Tech in Pasadena, California. They are colleagues, best friends and roommates, although in all capacities their relationship is always tested primarily by Sheldon’s regimented and non-conventional ways. They are also friends with their Cal Tech colleagues, mechanical engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Rajesh Koothrappali. The foursome spend their time working on their individual work projects, playing video games, watching science fiction movies or reading comic books. As they are self-professed nerds, all have little or no luck with “popular” women. When Penny, a pretty woman and an aspiring actress originally from Omaha, moves into the apartment next to Leonard and Sheldon’s, Leonard has another aspiration in life, namely to get Penny to be his girlfriend. The show is firstly for those who are at least interested in technology and have a somewhat basic idea of physics and chemistry. But you might also be like me, who loves the jokes, Sheldon Cooper and Bazinga! While Sheldon is the most annoying roommate one could ever imagine, his quirks make him likable, acceptable and adorable! Bazinga is his way of telling people that he has played a practical joke on them, or that he is simply joking. (Otherwise he never does so). His roommate is the ever patient Leonard whose heart is set on his neighbour Penny (Kaley Cuoco – “8 Simple rules”). It’s a great show, with tons of laughs and Indians will love it cause of the presence of Raj Kuthrapalli, an Indian character played by Kunal Nayyar.

Cougar Town
Recently started show, though it will air on Indian television from this month. One season is over in the US and its a pretty funny show. The main character is Monica of Friends fame or Courtney Cox. She plays a recently divorced woman  who decides to find some excitement in her dating life. Cougar a is term we’ve all used at some point to describe older gals who get glammed up to troll for younger men. A woman of 40 years with a teenage son, divorced husband, hot across the road neighbour and a best friend (on the side house) neighbour, Jules (Cox) owns a real estate business and post divorce, decides to get back on the dating market. Her friendship with her neighbour and best friend Elle (Christa Miller) is hilarious, where one of the best quirk about Ellie is that if a conversation goes on too long without her name in it, she zaps out and doesn’t listen. Her son Travis, gives the cool underlying funny moments with ease and her ex-husband reminds you of “God, that was a mistake” kinda guy! Overall, a fun series to watch!

Two and a Half Men
A hedonistic jingle writer’s free-wheeling life comes to an abrupt halt when his brother and 10-year-old nephew move into his beach-front house. The Harper brothers Charlie and Alan are almost opposites but form a great team. They have little in common except their dislike for their mundane, maternally cold and domineering mother, Evelyn. Alan, a compulsively neat chiropractor and control-freak, is thrown out by his manipulative wife Judith who nevertheless gets him to pay for everything and do most jobs in the house. Charlie is a freelance jingle composer and irresistible Cassanova who lives in a luxurious beach-house and rarely gets up before noon. Charlie “temporarily” allows Alan and his son Jake, a food-obsessed, lazy school kid who shuttles between his parents, to move in with them after Alan’s separation/divorce. The sitcom revolves around their conflicting lifestyles, raising Jake (who has the efficient, caring dad while having a ball with his fun-loving sugar uncle who teaches him boyish things), and bantering with Evelyn and various other friends and family. Other fairly regular characters include Charlie’s cleaning lady Berta and his rich, self-confessed stalker neighbor Rose who often sneaks in to spy on Charlie.The show has its share of laughs, sarcastic moments and well once you start watching, you tend to continue.

Castle
I am a big fan of crime shows. This one is by far a little more interesting, and moves from crime, to fiction, to family. Started very recently – 2009, the show is about a best selling writer – Richard Castle, who is asked to help Detective Beckett on one of her cases (where the murder is similar to Castle’s books) and thanks to his friendship with the Mayor, he assigns him self to shadow Detective Kate Beckett in her cases for his new book, whose main character, Nikki Heat, is based on this detective. Castle is played by Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic plays Beckett. Castle’s daughter Alexis (an over achiever, straight and strong headed) and mother Martha Rodgers (a retired actress) give the series the homely feel and colour, and act as inspiration to Castle’s problems without even knowing it.

White Collar
The newest “crime-related” show on TV is luring viewers (read: female) by the plenty. The lead in the show Neil Caffrey (Matthew Bomer) is a suave ex-con turned FBI aide. This white collar (a non-violent crime, generally for personal gain and often involving money) criminal agrees to help the FBI catch other white collar criminals using his expertise as an art and securities thief, counterfeiter and racketeer. But you watch one or two episodes, and you’re hooked. Not just to the whole crime solving mystery but also to the exceptionally good looking, hat wearing, smooth talking Neil Caffrey. The guy who ends up catching Neil twice is the very intelligent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) who heads the White Collar Division. His wife is played by the beautiful Tiffani Thiessen. But one of the other very interesting characters is called Mozzie (Willie Garson) Caffrey’s aid and a quirky little man who has a little trouble with those he calls Suits (those in the bureau). This bald OCD character uses his intelligence, ingenuity and charm to help Neil in tricky situations. The show is addictive and one of the contemporary ones that you shouldn’t miss!

Grey’s Anatomy
A drama centered on the personal and professional lives of five surgical interns and their supervisors. It has been running for five years now and still going strong, its got the McDreamy, the McSteamy and pretty strong characters to back it up. One of the best quotes from Meredith Grey in the series is about surviving surgical internship… “The key to surviving a surgical internship is denial. We deny that we’re tired, we deny that we’re scared, we deny how badly we want to succeed. And most importantly, we deny that we’re in denial. We only see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe, and it works. We lie to ourselves so much that after a while the lies start to seem like the truth. We deny so much that we can’t recognize the truth right in front of our faces.” The characters are full of character and feeling and sense and everything that is in the best television.  The story lines are believable with sad parts, funny parts, intense moments, and refreshing insights…just everything a great show needs. There are enough surprises to keep you guessing, but enough stability to keep one coming back to watch the next episode. This is truly an absolutely wonderful show!

Crime Scene Investigation (CSI)
An elite team of police forensic evidence investigation experts work their cases in Las Vegas. With the amount of episodes this series has, and the offshoots of CSI Miami, CSI New York, this is a great crime solving through forensics show. While the first CSI (Las Vegas) focuses on old school methods of forensics (still pretty much better than anything real in our country!) CSI Miami goes into a whole new digital playing field of forensics. The show is simple, a crime is committed – a murder/homicide… and forensics are the key to unearthing the killer. It’s one episode, one story and sometimes that’s all you have time for. So its something I love.

Heroes
Creator Tim Kring, has a kick-ass imagination, and I for one love it. The series is about people who thought they were like everyone else… until they woke with incredible abilities. The writing and the interweaving plot and characters is compelling and interesting, nothing dumbed down, but nothing contrived either. The direction fits the concept perfectly, it grabs you as much as it should, without being distracting. The acting is most surprising in that it’s actually good. Masi Oka, who plays “Hiro Nakamura”, is quite possibly the best of the cast, and with the best ability – to freeze time, or time travel. The rest of the cast has impressive abilities as well. There are some pop culture references and nods to comic book lore which seem to give it a very cool hero/comic book hip feel that makes you trust the writers on this one. This is one show, you need to continuously watch, those who I know saw couple of episodes and came back later, well they are no longer interested in the show. Its something you need to be seeing from the start to finish without missing anything in between. The story moves fast, the characters keep interacting, powers or abilities are exchanged, history is revealed, the good and bad have thin lines of judgment and most of all, it travels in so many spaces of time, that continuity of the viewer and the cast is of utmost importance.

Couple of shows are now off air, one being the Gilmore Girls, my sister and I loved that show. Another few, 8 Simple Rules – for dating my teenage daughter, Charmed, Dharma & Greg, Lipstick Jungle (only lasted a season, but not bad!) Full House, Star Wars, Ugly Betty, That 70’s Show  and Practice are some I remember fondly.

Others that deserve a special mention, which I watch, but not so regularly now are – Boston Legal, Bones, Without a Trace, One Tree Hill, Scrubs. These did well, but somehow lost interest in them.

That’s whats so interesting about television… you start by sitting in front of the tv flipping through channels, get engrossed and sometimes before you know it, you’ve been sitting there for couple of hours. Right now top on the list of TV watchers is Reality TV. That post will come up soon!

Cola wars are out …

There is something about watching prime time television. Even if the programs are crappy (which they usually are, wonder why they call them prime-time !), you can still smile looking at the advertisements.

Some of my favorite ones are the Hutch ads. It’s a good thing that even after buying over Hutch, Vodafone has kept the tradition of simple and to the point advertising !

• “You and I in this beautiful world…”
• The Pug…
• Canada walle Chacha jee,amrica walli mausi, benaras walle mausa jee and so on.. ab rishton ko millon mein napna chod do..
• Chota Credit with a drop of ink goes a long way during exams…
• Help! The pug licking the stamp…

I think all the Hutch ads stand out as there is some serious application of creativity in each one of the series. The AirTel ads featuring Madhavan and Vidya Balan have come out really well too. The cola wars are a thing of the past. The best advertisements are in the telecom industry now.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the series of ads being done by Apna Aamir Khan… Samsung, Monaco, Tata Sky have nothing memorable. The Monaco Aamir Khan Adv … the ‘Dimag ki Batti Bhujadey’ concept is done to death. Personally I think they need to jallo a new batti. One would expect more from such brands and Aamir Khan.