I usually use the TV summer re-run season as an excuse just not to watch television for a few months (other than the news and some favorite old syndicated shows like Seinfeld)– but this summer, I’ve been watching shows that I passed up during the first-run, or didn’t even know about. Most of them have been entertaining– in that “I’ve got nothing else to watch that I haven’t already seen, so this’ll do” kind of way. But I don’t think I’ll be heading back to them for the upcoming new TV season.
But there have also been a couple of NEW shows that have debuted this summer that I caught the beginnings of just recently that I think will become new favorites that I’ll have to add to my “must watch” list.
PLAYMAKERS just debuted on ESPN this past Tuesday night. The network has begun in recent years, to air original dramatic programming based on (of course) sports. Now, I’m not a huge overall sports nut– but I love to watch football, and especially professional football. The game, with it’s high speed, powerful hits/impacts and strategies has always fascinated me. And I’ve long played with the idea of doing a comic based on professional football teams– but whenever I would talk to one of my friends about that idea, I’d usually get a blank stare, followed by a “…Ehhhh. Don’t think it would work” response. Usually, because it would be tedious and difficult to deal with showing the action of a football in comic book form. Well, PLAYMAKERS– at least this first episode– does what I would have in my oft-discussed, never realized comic. It focuses on the individuals who play the game of professional football– their hopes, desires, fears, lusts, addictions, and every other character foible that seems to get magnified when you’re under the microscope of being a professional football star. The games are merely a colorful backdrop for the human drama. The writing on the show is crisp and well done. The first episode focuses on a couple of players from the fictional “COUGERS” team–an aging running back recovering from a blown out knee who sees his starting spot lost to a younger, faster back acquired from another franchise; and a linebacker struggling with his anger at his father/high school coach who pushed his brother/team mate to the point of death, and the fact that that anger has made him a juggernaut on the field who specializes in demolishing the opposition. The episode deals with his anguish over crippling a player from another team. There are a few awkward, unbelievable moments in the show at times (such as the scene where the new, hot-shot running back for the COUGARS is pulled over for speeding on the way to the Big Game– is discovered possessing cocaine, and immediately released because he’s the COUGARS’ “playmaker”. I’ve seen far too many actual star athletes arrested for drug possession, NO MATTER HOW valuable they are to a team. Many have their charges swept under the rug– but they still get arrested)– but overall, it’s a show I’ll keep watching. Maybe I’ll even do that comic now.
NIP/TUCK follows the story of two Miami plastic surgeons. This is one of those shows that you go “Aha– why didn’t anyone think of this before…?”. In a society like ours, where youth and beauty are valued over almost any other “quality”, the bizarre quest of people to go under the knife to either attain or MAINTAIN that pinnacle is a fascinating and compelling spectacle. One of the surgeons is an uptight idealist, who wants to help people who really NEED corrective surgery with his gifts; while the other surgeon is more of the playboy type, whose main goals are to get rich and famous while creating as many beautiful women with HIS skills as he can (often sleeping with many of his patients). Mixed with the oddities of the personalities of their patients– this is a wild, fascinating show that often leaves me feeling very uncomfortable and voyeuristic. It’s as though the things that are happening weren’t MEANT for outside eyes to see, they’re so strange. And the show has some of the most realistic surgical scenes I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how they do it, but it looks as though they are operating on ACTUAL LIVE PEOPLE during the scenes. It’s amazing. And it’s on FX– which has a much more lax view of the use of our common “blue language”, shall we say– so it has a more natural feel to the dialogue without seeming forced.
In a sea of TV sitcoms and cop dramas, it’s good to see two new shows that revolve around something different. You can find good stories anywhere you look– and these two shows prove that.