Mr. TV: Guilty As Charged

Finally, the end is near. I’m ecstatic that the summer TV season is almost officially over.  

While my favorite guilty pleasure, CBS’ Big Brother, is about to conclude (on Wednesday, Sept. 15 to be exact), just three weeks until the official start of the new TV season means there will be an abundance of new scripted programs to tune into. Plus, we will have new seasons of CBS’ Survivor and The Amazing Race as well as original episodes of returning scripted favorites like ABC’s Modern Family, CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, NBC’s The Office, Fox’s Glee and The Vampire Diaries on The CW.

As the clock ticks down to the Sept. 20 new season launch, I thought I would do a quick overview of the July and August TV landscape.

Last week, I was not shy berating those imbeciles from MTV’s Jersey Shore, who make the fame seekers on Big Brother look like nuclear physicists. This week I need to take a good look in the mirror and recognize that I must be in some kind of midlife crisis because I never miss an episode of Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami and Keeping Up With the Kardashians on E! and The Real Housewives of New Jersey on Bravo. Since the days of over-the-top serialized dramas like Dallas and Dynasty are long gone, I guess my connection to this dribble is the soapy antics.  

That whole fashion show brouhaha among Danielle, Teresa, Jacqueline and daughter Ashley on The Real Housewives, after all, was the best catfight I have seen since Krystle and Alexis mud wrestled with each other’s hair in hand on Dynasty. And Kourtney and Scott in Kardashian land are like Val and Gary on Knots Landing, only without any visible positive attributes.

If villainess housewife Danielle Staub does not return to the New Jersey edition of Housewives as rumored next season, I imagine she will end up headlining her own docudrama. I could just see her on the West Coast sipping a cocktail managing the careers of her two teenage daughters as she continues to thrust them into the limelight, or lounging at the Beverly Hilton recovering from her latest round of plastic surgery.

At the risk of being shunned by my peers, I can’t get enough of this trash (nor can you, based on the stellar ratings). A record 4.7 million viewers tuned into the season premiere of Keeping Up With the Kardashians on August 22, while 3.4 million, also a high, watched the season finale of The Real Housewives of New Jersey one night later. Yes, I am holding my head down in shame for being one of those viewers, but I do understand why these shows are successful. People like me, you see, can escape their boring existences for a glimpse into the lives of the rich and ridiculous.

While I could go on forever on this reality docu-trash, let’s shift to some of the original scripted programming options this summer. As much as I did appreciate the broadcast networks trying to populate the airwaves with some original scripted options, dramas like The Gates and Scoundrels on ABC and Persons Unknown on NBC, all watched like “C” level burn offs. ABC’s Rookie Blue, like CBS’ three-year-old Flashpoint (both Canadian productions), did get sampled, but was not a breakout hit. And NBC comedy 100 Questions, if you can refer to it that way, is a shoo-in for my next TV Turkeys column in November. This was another mundane summer on the broadcast networks.

Once again, the cable networks benefited from the quieter competitive background. On the top of my freshman list was TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles, which deftly combines crime and relationship. And USA had plenty to crow about care of dramas Burn Notice, Royal Pains, White Collar and the recently launched Covert Affairs.

I also applaud the home of classic movies, TCM. When I feel like a good meaty classic, I rely on the savvy guidance of the net’s hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz for commentary.

And when I feel like watching someone else’s train wreck of a life so mine doesn’t seem all that bad, there’s always Kim and the housewives.