odds and ends: new fall tv season, roadwork

The new fall TV season is here and… yeah, whatever. I’ve fallen out of watching television in a big bad way in the last few years. My favorites are either criminally underwatched (Parks and Recreation) or getting a little long in the tooth (How I Met Your Mother, PLEASE let this be the last season). Most of the new offerings from the networks aren’t filling me with excitement, but I’ve sampled a couple.

Partners (CBS): A lousy show with gags that feel like they were pulled from a 1995 Joke Book. Still… despite its’ lousiness, I think the show will be a success. Quality has never been a requirement for a CBS sitcom and Partners is a very familiar riff on stuff that’s been done a thousand times before. I won’t watch it again, but I expect it will have a decent run.

The Mindy Project (FOX): As weird as it sounds, I was looking forward to Mindy Kaling’s solo series this year for a simple reason: Kaling, for her last three years on The Office, has insisted on writing that show’s holiday episodes. I find that fact very telling; the type of TV she enjoys creating would likely be the type of show I’d be interested in watching. I know it’s a silly reason to give The Mindy Project a shot… but there it is.

The pilot of The Mindy Project was WAAAAAY too busy for me. Just… stuff going on left, right and center. The main character is revealed in a flashback, she’s in jail, she goes on a date, she does surgery, she has office banter… it’s a ridiculous amount of stuff to cram into one episode. I think the show has some potential and the scenes where the actors are given a moment to breathe show promise. I’m going to keep watching.

Ben and Kate (FOX): What The Mindy Project got wrong, Ben and Kate got right. The show paces itself and feels lived-in. The titular relationship between a wayward older brother and a responsible younger sister has a quality about it that makes the viewer feel like there’s backstory here to be explored. The concept isn’t so overwrought that it takes 22 minutes to explain. I could see good things from this show and I’m interested in continuing to watch.

It’s sort of ironic however: though I genuinely think Ben and Kate is the best of these new sitcoms… I also think it stands the least chance of being a success. It doesn’t have a great timeslot to support it, it doesn’t have the “WOW” factor that The Mindy Project has. I hope I’m wrong and that it gets a chance to do some episodes; I’d watch them.

I haven’t sampled many dramas this season but I have the first two episodes of NBC’s Revolution saved on my laptop- maybe I can get to them this weekend.

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Finally finished It this week and the book… man, I’ve changed a lot since I read that book as a 7th grader. What once seemed well thought-out and majestic now just feels awkward and strange. The best parts about the book on this revisit were Stephen King’s world building. As a kid, I never appreciated how fully realized the town of Derry was. King bends over backwards to give the place a history and a presence many fictional towns do not possess. I was impressed by that.

Also on the King front, I’ve been listening to Roadwork, one of his earlier novels written under the nom de plume Richard Bachman.

It’s a sour little novel about a guy whose world is turned upside down when the laws of eminent domain lead an interstate to being built through both his home and his place of work. As a character piece Roadwork is a decent thing – Bart Dawes’ slow descent into madness/victimization of circumstance is rolled out in a way where the reader remains sympathetic with him, all the way to the end. King/Bachaman does some artful things where the reasons for Dawes “insanity” aren’t always spelled out, but can be deduced through context.

It doesn’t change my feelings about the book, however. You spend half your time genuinely wishing Bart would just go to a fucking therapist and get over it… and the other half of the novel, you’re dealing with ridiculous things like King’s use of an underground mafia character named Sal Magliori. The Magliori sections of the book are just so tone deaf and silly it’s hard to get past them. I can’t recommend the book but I guess it’s an interesting stop-gap on King’s early years. It’s a little on the nose that at one point Dawes describes himself (I’m paraphrasing here) as a character in a bad writer’s book. At this point in King’s career… Dawes is exactly that.

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