The New TV Season

Vince Guaraldi’s maternal uncle Muzzy Marcellino whistled the theme to the Lassie show.

After careful consideration, here is the list of new shows I’m watching this fall TV season:

Not a very long list; in fact, nada. The fact is that, while there were shows that have interested me, I have developed a higher standard for actually committing to a new show. I’m very suspicious of dramatic serials because if the network decides to cancel it before it’s over, as ABC did with The Nine a few seasons back, it’s terribly frustrating.

I look at the ads for a program such as ABC’s Last Resort, about an apparently rogue military operation, and it stars Andre Braugher, who I LOVED in Homicide: Life on the Streets. Yet the new show looks as though it ought to be a miniseries. What can they do with this format by season 3? And I see it’s already “on hiatus,” or whatever they call it when they haven’t canceled a show outright.

I was hanging out with my friend Fred Hembeck about five years ago, and he has this theory that once you start watching a show, generally you watch it to the end. I suppose I’m inclined to agree with this, although I gave up on 24 after a season and one episode because I found it upsetting. I quit The Office after the Michael Scott character left, but that’s when it should have gone off anyway.

I don’t watch a lot of cop procedurals. Reality TV bores me; there a certain sameness to the way they drag out the “drama.” And most comedies I don’t find particularly funny.

My friend Dan HATES TV as a medium; I’m not entirely clear why. I do like it for some news and sports, e.g. Though, TV writer Ken Levine rants about the current state of television, and he’s not wrong.

Whereas Cheri of Idle Chatter LOVES TV. Her enthusiasm is nice; I used to love TV like that, years ago. I remember noting on her blog the name of the Leonard Nimoy character on Mission: Impossible (Paris), which was on 40 years ago, and I hadn’t seen it since.

I was reading a book about Vince Guaraldi, best known for the piano on the Charlie Brown/Peanuts TV specials, and it noted that his maternal uncle Muzzy Marcellino whistled the theme to the Lassie show; I knew that theme right away. This led to a discussion in my office about whistled themes, which of course meant the theme to the Andy Griffith Show, which I knew was written by Earle Hagan, the same guy who wrote the Dick van Dyke theme. But I also knew – and I suppose this is sad – that Hagan also WHISTLED the theme.

I do this test with my SEVEN CDs of TV theme songs, to see if I can name the shows without checking the list; the ones with words don’t count. If I watched the show, I’m pretty good, but if I never watched it, like Simon and Simon, not so hot.

Some folks watch shows because they like the look of a performer, such as Kat Dennings on 2 Broke Girls, even as they suggest that the show itself isn’t all that great. I probably haven’t done that since Sela Ward was on Sisters. If that were my criterion, I would have watched Desperate Housewives, but never saw 10 minutes of it.

But casts do matter. The last two new shows I decided to follow were Parenthood and The Good Wife. I think I was intrigued by the parallels between them. First, they initially aired at the exact same time (Tuesday, at 10 pm, on NBC and CBS, respectively.) Both starred the two anchor guys from a series called Sports Night, which I watched late last century, Peter Krause and Josh Charles. They both also feature actors from Gilmore Girls, Lauren Graham, and Matt Czuchry. And then there are Bonnie Bedilia and Christine Baranski, who I have liked over the years.

OK, those weren’t technically the last shows. The most recent program I added was Major Crimes from this summer, which is a direct spinoff of The Closer, thus also violating my own rule about cop procedurals. But it’s the same set as the previous show, with most of the same actors, rather like how The Andy Griffith Show became Mayberry RFD.

But I never fret about a show being pre-empted. Most shows run only 22 episodes, and some, less, so even if they rerun each one, that’s only 44 out of 52 weeks max. When you only watch TV on DVR and your wife both records Dancing with the Stars and figure skating, then doesn’t get around to watching them, pre-emptions are good things.
Re: Larry Hagman, who died last week: I watched exactly one episode of Dallas, THAT episode everyone watched. I figured out who shot J.R. halfway through, I was correct, and never had the need to watch the program again. Whereas I watched I Dream of Jeannie religiously. Hey, it had a character named Roger, played by Bill Daily.

Here is Mark Evanier’s Larry Hagman story, which is very nice. And a link to Hagman performing with his mother, Mary Martin.

I’m rather neutral on whether Angus T. Jones should have told people to stop watching ‘filthy’ Two and a Half Men. Never turned on the TV to watch it, but I’ve been uncomfortable letting my daughter see it when the syndicated program would happen to be on, during the 7 pm hour.

Why Is The ‘Normal Television Family’ Always White?