HBO put the "It's not TV. It's HBO." slogan into semi-retirement a couple of years ago. It had been around for nearly 13 years, and it was taken out of circulation (or occasionally shortened to just "It's HBO.") during a fallow creative period for the pay cable giant, when it was very hard to argue that the post-"Sopranos" version of HBO was really any different from any other channel.
But at HBO's early '00s creative peak, the slogan wasn't pretentious, but uncannily accurate. Shows like "The Sopranos," "The Wire" and "Deadwood" took stories and worlds that audiences knew to death and made them into something more - something grander in ambition, something richer in execution, something guaranteed to stick with you far longer than previous TV versions of that story had. "The Wire" was a cop show, and "Deadwood" a Western, but both were so much more.
The slogan's gone, but HBO has been mounting a comeback over the last year thanks to new blood like "Treme" and "Boardwalk Empire." Now comes "Game of Thrones" (it debuts Sunday night at 9), the expensive adaptation of George R.R. Martin's fantasy novel series "A Song of Ice and Fire," which is trying to do for the fantasy genre what the classic HBO dramas did for cops, cowboys and wiseguys.
And for the most part, it works - stunningly well.
A review of last night's "Parenthood" (the next-to-last episode of season 2) coming up just as soon as I accidentally go to a quinceanera...
I wasn't able to review Comedy Central's new "Sports Show with Norm Macdonald" in advance because the show is produced so close to airing in the interest of being timely (well, mostly timely, but we'll get to that). So I DVR'ed it last night, watched it this morning, and have a few thoughts on the debut coming up just as soon as I say "Charl Schwartzel" 17 times in a row...
On his new NBC sitcom "The Paul Reiser Show," which debuts Thursday night at 8:30, Reiser plays a character with whom he has much in common. Both men are named Paul Reiser. Both are rich and famous from starring in "Mad About You." Both are now past 50, with a wife, two kids and no need to ever work again - and are nevertheless eager to find something to pass the time.
In the case of Paul Reiser, the character, he mostly focuses on being a husband and a dad and hanging out with the fathers of his sons' classmates. In the case of Paul Reiser, the real person, he's decided to do his own version of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
If the show they were working on weren't so flat and lacking in laughter, I'd actually feel sorry for the people involved with ABC's "Happy Endings," which debuts Wednesday night at 9:30 and 10 p.m.
Every TV season has a trend - some theme or premise or casting idea that seems to drift from one pilot to the next until you start to wonder if every development executive is spying on every other development exec. This season's most prominent trend has been three-tiered comedies about groups of friends and/or relatives at different stages of a relationship. The specifics vary, but the basic idea remained in ABC's "Better With You," NBC's "Perfect Couples," FOX's "Traffic Light" and now "Happy Endings."
It's also been one of this season's least successful trends. NBC pulled "Perfect Couples" off the schedule several weeks early, and "Better with You" and "Traffic Light" both seem to be playing out the string.
So as one show after another with this fundamental premise has struggled, if not outright failed, the cast and crew responsible for "Happy Endings" have had to sit on the sidelines, realizing more with each passing week that they, like the other shows, seem to have miscalculated the zeitgeist. No one seems interested in this theme, and that's even with shows that have been better-executed and funnier than "Happy Endings." It's likely a dead show walking, and it hasn't even debuted yet.
A quick review of tonight's "United States of Tara" coming up just as soon as I lose to a Rush cover band...
I offered my review of the revamped-but-basically-the-same "Law & Order: LA" this morning, and I also discussed it with Fienberg - who was particularly put out by all the crying and/or mudered children in these two episodes - on today's podcast. Now it's your turn. For the five of you still watching, did all the cast tweaks make you more interested in the show going forward? Less? If you had leftover affection for Rubirosa from the final seasons of the mothership, did that affection survive the cross-country move?
What did everybody else think?
A review of tonight's "The Chicago Code" coming up just as soon as I'm 50 cents prettier...