Sometimes it’s not easy to come up with ideas for this column (e.g. last month’s Modern TV Theme Hall of Fame) but I’ve got a lot I want to hit on and decided not to discriminate this week. The fall season is well underway, late-summer shows have recently come to an end and a lot of events need to be addressed. In totally bitching list form, I’m knocking out six of television’s top storylines from the last few weeks in one column. Cop out? Maybe, but I promise not to mention Ohio or malfunctioning voting machines, which should be a nice diversion today.
“Mad Men” goes away; people forced to watch HBO again: Season two of “Mad Men” ended last week, which means The New York Times Magazine will have to find a new show to tell yuppie d-bags to watch. As the self-appointed mouthpiece of yuppie d-bags everywhere, I’d like to request that they get on this quickly, because “Lost” doesn’t start for another couple months and we’re going to need something other than “30 Rock” and edited reruns of “The Wire” on BET to hold us over. But back to “Mad Men.” The finale was good (not great), but really, all this season did was set the show up for next year when the realities of the ’60s hit “Sterling Cooper,” or whatever it’s going to be called after the merger. Why does AMC have to pretend it’s HBO and keep us waiting nine months for new episodes? I already miss Joan.
“South Park” ‘s fixation on bad movies continues: How should I put this? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON, TREY STONE AND MATT PARKER? GET IT TOGETHER, BOYS. “South Park” has always been hit or miss, but the occasional hit is essential to this dynamic, and unfortunately we haven’t seen anything resembling one this fall. A two-part “Cloverfield” spoof about Peruvian flute bands and over-sized guinea pigs wearing Halloween costumes? Really? I’m not dumb enough to bury this show or its creators, but something needs to change. All I’m looking for is one episode that’s half as good as last season’s “Major Boobage” episode. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.
The slow death of “Entourage:” Speaking of burying shows, the one show I did bury in the 22+ months I’ve been writing this column is “Entourage.” It started out with a few promising episodes. The shows were consistently fun, which is the only thing “Entourage” has ever done well, and Vince’s career situation was vaguely intriguing. At least until two weeks ago, when Dom and Bob Ryan — the murderers responsible for slaughtering season three — returned for an episode that ended with a dude dying from a heart attack (not fun). I stand by my original proclamation: This show is dead.
The quick death of “King of the Hill:” In other dead show news, “King of the Hill” was finally canceled last week. You’re probably thinking, “Wasn’t that show axed in 1998?” Actually, it managed to last 13 seasons, which is really damn impressive. I can’t say I was ever a big fan — the show’s a little off-putting, and I could never tell if it was supposed to be for the type of people the show was about or for blue-staters to point and laugh — but, unlike “American Dad,” which was extended for another season, it’s not bad or killing America.
Tina Fey’s non-Palin return to television: Just as the novelty of Tina Fey’s almost-weekly Sarah Palin impression on “Saturday Night Live” has started to wear off, and with her character’s presence on the show likely coming to an end, NBC brought back Fey’s “30 Rock” for its third season. And somehow, this network is in fourth place. Unbelievable. This was about as smart as opening “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” a comedy aimed at teens and 20-somethings, on Halloween night. (To be fair, “30 Rock” posted good numbers this week, but it still made little sense to wait over a month to start capitalizing on this.) Poor scheduling aside, the opener was in stride with the superb second season, and the show has pretty clearly supplanted “The Office” as network television’s best comedy. Plus, John Hamm is rumored to be joining the show temporarily as Liz Lemon’s love interest, which is almost too much.
“Simpsons Treehouse of Horror LXXXIV” Impressions: Even for a post-2000 “Treehouse of Horror,” Sunday’s annual “Simpsons” Halloween episode was weak. The “Mad Men” intro with Homer as Don Draper was pretty awesome, but the other 20 minutes were just bland. I watched it a half hour ago and can’t recall a single half-decent joke from the episode. Regardless of how inconsistent “The Simpsons” has become, the “Treehouse” episodes have always been above average, and this should never change. I’ve got a Solo cup half-filled with change and the complete first season of “Alf” on DVD waiting for whoever kidnaps Conan O’Brien and makes him hammer out 10 shorts for “Treehouse of Horror XX.” Make it happen, people.
Maybe the season has had more cons than pros, but it’s only early November, and things change quickly in this industry. “Lost” is coming back, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is about to start shooting its seventh season — possibly with Woody Allen — and “Saturday Night Live” is attempting to forge ahead with only two female cast members. Say what you want about the TV industry, but it’s definitely not stagnant.
Passman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org