Monday, January 21, 2008

Life Without Writers: What Am I Watching? - American Idol Season 7

As the WGA strike rolls on, good television looks to be few and far between.

I spoke with Eva Longoria last week and it appears that Desperate Housewives has seen its last episode of the season with its post-tornado episode. Friday Night Lights is chugging along and Gossip Girl seems to still have some episodes up its sleeve, but beyond that, with the conclusion of The Amazing Race this past week, there is not a whole lot of new TV going on for me to watch.

Thankfully, we have American Idol Season 7 to take us through this dark period of television.

Dun na na na na na na naaaaah, waaaah ahhh!!!!

Unless you've been living in a cave, American Idol (and its redesigned website) premiered on Tuesday, January 15 and Wednesday, January 16. While Season 7's debut episode drew 3 million fewer viewers than last season, Idol's ratings are so far beyond that of most network programs that I don't think it's that significant. Additionally, another year brings a whole new group of people who have since adopted TiVos/DVRs (I didn't watch the premiere live), are watching via Slingbox, or just finally gotten cable so they might be watching something else. I don't think it's any cause for panic by any means and the first two episodes were really great as well.

This season, Randy, Paula, and Simon have been a bit nicer so far compared to previous seasons. While the ridiculousness of the outrageous auditions continues, we're not having as much of our time wasted with them. However, at least through the first two cities, I don't think we've seen talent that really gets me excited like Katharine McPhee, Kelly Clarkson, Baylie Brown, Carrie Underwood, Ruben Studdard, and Blake Lewis managed to do in their first auditions in previous Idol season.

Some of my early favorites are:
Kristy Lee Cook - A country-sounding crooner from Oregon

Chris Watson - A soulful, dreadlock wearing R&B type that looks like Lennox Lewis' smaller cousin

Kady Malloy

Kady Malloy - So far, she's Season 7's hottie, does voice impersonations and is one of Simon's early favorites as well

She think she look like Carrie. Me think she don't sound as good.

Something that I've noticed so far this season is just how bright the show is. The audition areas seem brighter and the colors seem to "pop" a little bit more. Ryan seemed a little under the weather in Dallas, but the two hour shows flew by and I think they made for great introductions for the season.

Instead of choosing an overwhelming amount of abrasive auditioners for Simon to shoot down, some of the funny auditions were actually really good! From The Stalker Song, to We're Brothers Forever, to No Sex Allowed, there were all kinds of keepers just from the first two episodes that I don't think anyone is going to forget by the time the Season 7 finale rolls around.


It's a kinder, gentler Idol so far this season, but I hope that we get to see some more real talent this week as the auditions shift to San Diego. Hollywood is still missing some real rockers and could use some more hotties, along with a military guy (a la Phil Stacey or Josh Gracin), to make the top 24 after Hollywood Week.

So far, so good. American Idol auditions hit San Diego tomorrow and hopefully, it'll show a little more talent in this leg, even if it's at the expense of some really good laughs we got from the "bad" auditions.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Friday Night Lights is REALLY the Best Show You're Not Watching

People have been saying for a while that NBC's Friday Night Lights is the best show on television that no one is watching. As a stubborn TV watcher that feels like I know what I like, I dismissed these comments. I was thinking that if the show was that good, I would have seen it by now.

TIME OUT! Watch the show!
After getting caught up on Season 2 of the critically acclaimed, but low in the ratings episodic football drama, I can admit that I was wrong. Friday Night Lights is without question one of the top dramas on television with acting, storylines, and characters that make it one of the most worthwhile shows in one of the least desirable timeslots in primetime (appropriately, Friday night).

Kyle Chandler of CBS' Early Edition fame (or not) plays Eric Taylor, coach of the Dillion Panthers, a Texas high school football team that is the center of the small town's attention. Like any football team, there are a variety of personalities that have to come together on gameday, but what makes Lights so great is that none of the personalities are so different that they aren't believable. While I wouldn't say that I necessarily relate to the characters, I do recognize and care about the storylines for each of them, which is saying a lot in a crowded space of popular episodic dramas. After watching a few episodes of Lights, you'll never see a character and have to ask, "Wait, what's going on with this guy again?" Why? Because not only will you remember, you'll care.

Instead of the awkward acting and over the top caricatures that makes a show like Gossip Girl a ton of fun, Friday Night Lights has one of the best young ensemble casts that I've seen on television today. From team superstar running back Gaius Charles (Smash Williams)...

To the show's do-gooding Christian hottie Minka Kelly (Lyla Garrity)

All of the young actors, many of whom aren't even close to being household names, feel like they were perfectly cast into the roles they play. The acting is spot-on, never overacted, and as an audience you get completely immersed into the world of Dillon Panther football.

One of the best parts about having Friday Night Lights be an episodic television show instead of a feature film is that the show gets to have so many dimensions to the team and the season. Instead of a rapid fall and rise to win it all every week, there are episodes of triumph and defeat that leave you coming back for more. While the town is focused on the Dillon football team, the show does a great job in showing that football isn't everything in the lives of these good-looking high schoolers. The characters have real lives and real personalities beyond the limited scenes of football action that summarize the week's preparation and match up. The show never has a "Disney movie" feel to it because the characters and storylines are so deep that you can't help but feel like this is a show everyone needs to watch. Perhaps most importantly, the show has DEPTH. It is a show for anyone in your family with storylines that can matter to anyone in any age group.

Never sappy, never stupid, Friday Night Lights very well could be the best episodic drama on television that you're not watching. 30 Rock turned it around with viewers by finally having the audience to match its critical acclaim and Lights deserves the same.

MSN said of the series, "And make no mistake about it: the first season of “Friday Night Lights” was about as perfect as any debut season can possibly be."

Here are some of the media outlets who have written about Friday Night Lights:

NY Times: "You Can Find 'Friday Night Lights' on Monday, Tuesday... Even Friday Night"

Metacritic: Scores a 78 for Friday Night Lights

MSN: Plot Twist will ruin 'Friday Night Lights'