TV Time!

Futurama (Seasons 1-4)

Futurama's got a lot to love. Great characters, intelligent humor, and stellar animation make it a can't miss. What's more, the writing's good enough that you actually know and care about the characters. If a show like Family Guy or South Park tried to do sincere drama, heartstring-pulling moments, or romantic sub-plots, the result would probably be derivitive and unwatchable. Futurama, however, is able to do all of those things to great effect. And unlike, say, Drawn Together, this show takes its high-concept premise and actually does something with it, going where no comedy has gone before. The voice cast is also great, featuring some of the best VO artists in the business. It's a real shame that Fox is replacing most of them for the new season.


The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Season 1)

Okay, this one's a bit of a guilty pleasure. It's an anime with a really out-there plot that's too complicated to explain here. Although some of the sci-fi concepts are interesting, most of it is too over-the-top and contrived to be taken seriously, although it allows for some humorous situations. Interesting characters and some good gags make it worth while, but be warned that it's not going to be for everyone. The animation ranges from fairly good to just plain lazy, and the art style will probably put off many people with its large eyes and low level of detail.



Another anime, this is one that I can recommend to a lot more people. It's a thriller about a doctor who saves a young boy's life, only to find out many years later that the boy has become a psychopathic murderer and criminal master-mind. Although the first episode is rather slow, the series picks up the pace after that and never lets go, with twists, turns, varied locations, and interesting characters. Although some of the developments and conspiracies revealed later on are kind of silly or don't make much sense, and the ending is a bit of a cheat, it's worth it just for the ride. Animation is good when it needs to be, but the series is usually more low-key, and with less of the whizz-bang fantasy action of alot of other anime.


Pushing Daisies

The facts were these: Ned is a Pie-Maker who can bring the dead back to life for a short period of time by touching them. If he touches them again, they go back to being dead. It's with this power that the Pie-Maker solves all sorts of zany and creatively gruesome murders.

Here's a show that was just too damn clever for its own good. It took a lofty concept and plopped it into a world where every sight, sound, and line of dialog is in some way humorous or ironic. The writing is so full of puns, gags, references, weirdness, and aliteration that it becomes a sort of poetry, but it's hard to shake the realization that people would never talk this way in reality.

The show is filled with oddness and novelty, like a garish greeting card, albeit one that may bring a smile to your face. Oddity and absurdity rule the day in the colorful, off-kilter world of the Pie-Maker and his friends. The show does have a fun and light sense of whimsy and humor that one can't help to grin and laugh and have a good time.

Unfortunately, in the end, I feel that all the weirdness for weirdness' sake was what sank it, as it began to wear thin near the end. The romance between Ned and Charlotte started off looking like they could put a new spin on the same old tired love story formula, but as the series went on it became appearent that they had no idea where to go with it. As fun and colorful as the show is, it gets old after extended exposure. Perhaps it could have benefitted from more grounding in reality, but that's not what this show was going for. It never really seems to find the right balance between dark comedy and live-action cartoon, leaving it to flounder somewhere in the middle where it dries out in the sun.

The show was outrageously cut short by cancellation after only a couple short seasons, joining the canon of unjustly canned shows alongside the likes of Freakazoid, Firefly, and Arrested Development. It did get a few extra episodes after its axing in which to attempt to tie up some - but ultimately not all - of the loose ends. To be honest, I feel it's probably a good thing that it ended when it did, although it would have been nice to have more answers to some of the bigger over-arching mysteries. So, R.I.P., Pushing Daisies.


Venture Bros. (Seasons 1-3)

This is one of the best shows to air on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late-night block. Usually that wouldn't be saying much, but in this case, saying such a thing is almost underselling this show. It's actually intelligent and entertaining enough to stand on its own merits.

Although it sometimes features the overt sexual humor or over-the-top violence to be expected from the usual Adult Swim fare, the comedy relies more on characters and situations for its jokes. To this end, the show features a slew of recurring characters for them to work off of, most of them genuinely funny and interesting. The main concept of the show plays off of the pulp sci-fi and adventure cartoons and comics of the '60s and 70s, and its handled remarkably well. Everything from Johnny Quest to Scooby-Doo to the Fantastic Four is satirized with a sort of energetic nostalgia, but also with scathing analysis of the antiquated values, unintentional subtexts, and bad science often contained in those pulpy pages of the past.

The series does admitably start off shaky, but hits its stide around the half-way point of the first season, in an episode that sees the main characters battling "ghost pirates" that turn out to not actually be just regular pirates. The show peaked for the second season and then went downhill somewhat for the third. Although still very watchable with occasional moments of greatness, the satire of the third season is less sharp, and the show began to rely more on crassness and audacity. It is with the third season that the show begins to delve deeper into the pasts of the characters and the world they inhabit, but these histories and origins rarely prove to be as interesting or engaging as the characters themselves. The third season also turns up the complexity, trying to juggle too many characters and subplots, which ultimately slows the pacing of the humor as disparate elements fight for screen time.

I haven't seen an awful lot of Season 4 or later, but I can't imagine the show ever reaching that same level of quality that it held in the second season. Season two will always be remembered fondly by me, however, with its clone-slugs, galactic observers, double dates, and David Bowie.