A Field Guide to Summer TV: Wednesday

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday! (Apologies for the delay. My to-do list expanded, as it often does when moving house is involved.) But I’m here now, (and on Los Angeles time, no less) ready to get back in our Jurassic Park style safari vehicle. I can feel that water surface vibrating right now. Let’s find some T-Rexes.

If "Falling Skies" had more dinosaurs, I'd like it a lot more.

8 PM – Those Adorable Dinos That Kind of Remind You of Littlefoot

Melissa &  Joey (ABC Family)

Once again, ABC Family starts of the night early with a sitcom that is driven by 90s nostalgia. Melissa Joan Hart (Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch) hires Joey Lawrence (Blossom and that NBC/WB show about him and his brothers you used to watch because it was part of the after school lineup) to be a manny when she is given custody of her niece and nephew.

Melissa & Joey hasn’t gotten a lot of attention because there’s really not much going on with it. The laughs mostly come from “career women don’t really get it” (done more effectively on Parks and Recreation) and “men don’t entirely get kids” (done by every sitcom ever.) With the retro 90s Nickelodeon block returning to television, Stick Stickly and all, this kind of nostalgia has legs, but does it really deserve to have them?

8:30 PM

State of Georgia (ABC Family)

Speaking of nostalgia, I often have issues deciding if things are Raven or not. Now former Disney channel star Raven-Symoné is back to help me decide. Raven plays an aspiring actress from the South (who didn’t have a TV show when she was young) who moves to New York City with her nerdy best friend. ABC Family gets double bang for their buck here sitcom-wise, at least on paper. By blending That’s So Raven with The Big Bang Theory and setting it in a sanitized Sex and the City New York, you’ve got a pretty solid (if derivative) sitcom concept. The pilot shows some promise when Georgia is told she’s too big to play the seductress in Damn Yankees and she ends up Mae Westing the producer. I could complain about the weight issues being played for laughs but it’s a sitcom. Everything is played for laughs. And c’mon. You know you missed Raven-Symoné. Just a little.

9 PM – Bringin’ Those Awesome But Easily Fooled T. Rexes

Franklin & Bash

So pretend Scrubs made awkward, drunken love to Boston Legal, smoothing out its political complexity and darkness, resulting in two guys who are more attractive and more likable than Zach Braff. Also Malcolm McDowell. You would never want these lawyers defending you (much like you would never want to actually go to Scrubs‘ Sacred Heart Hospital), but their antics are fun and ridiculous in a lot of charming ways. Franklin & Bash gets into trouble when it tries to deny its frat boy/pot head tendencies in favor of Boston Legal style “legal drama,” which always seems a bit out of place when these lawyers never seem to open a book because they’re too busy holding client meetings in their hot tub.

Also can we please talk about how Breckin Meyer is sooo much shorter than Mark-Paul Gosselaar? It’s great commedia dell’arte casting. Some of the series’ writers really know how to play it up as well. The more girls Bash lands, the more great one liners Franklin gets in.

(TV Geek bonus points if you recognize company antagonist Dominic Karp as Reed Diamond of Dollhouse, Homicide: Life on the Street, and pretty much every crime drama ever. I believe in Laurence Dominic.)

vs.

Royal Pains (USA)

One of the many things that returning hit Royal Pains has going for it is how effortlessly it confronts its status as a narrative of privilege. Though Dr. Hank is surrounded by people of means, he somehow always ends up helping “the help” (gasp!) as well as his concierge patients. It also helps that the dynamic between brothers Hank and Evan is so hilariously off kilter much of the time. If you’re jonesing for a House that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Royal Pains is perfect for you.

10 PM – Raptor Time

Necessary Roughness (USA)

One of USA’s new hour-long dramas, Necessary Roughness is the story of a therapist, Dr. Dani, who kicks her cheating husband out of her house right as she’s hired by a pro football team to treat their troublesome wide receiver, the not so subtly named T.K. With her teenage daughter failing out of school and her son hiding his clubbing activities, can she really afford to deal with another overgrown child right now? She will. In fact, she’ll take on several celebrity clients. Newscasters, NASCAR drivers, even an OCD defensive lineman. This show is definitely more estrogen based than the rest of this slot’s offerings, but after all that goofing around, it might be time for some good old therapy straight talk. Because if you don’t choose this show, things get dark and tragically complicated.

vs.

Damages (101/Audience [originally FX])

Unassuming, adorable DirecTV opens up its poison spraying frills to reveal the heavy hitting psychological/legal thriller Damages. (And you thought I was going to let that Jurassic Park metaphor go.) Originally broadcast on FX, Damages was moved to the satellite network after a ratings-weak third season, and they’re looking to warm their new home with style. The cast of the show has always been phenomenal, but you can always trust Damages to pull an interesting new guest star out of its hat. (This season it’s John Goodman and Dylan Baker at their most intimidating.) As they chase after their season one glory, its hard not to root for this atmospheric show that doesn’t need to lean on period details or life or death obstacles to bring high octane drama. Just make sure you see the episodes in order. There may be lawyers but this ain’t case of the week.

It’s kind of hard to explain the plot concisely so let’s just say that Glenn Close teaches Rose Byrne how to be awesome. Then she gets too awesome for her own good.

vs.

Rescue Me (FX)

Yeah, FX is aiming to take out one of their own. (Though it shouldn’t be that hard to do since DirecTV subscribers are the only ones deciding the Battle Royale.) Rescue Me, or, as it will always be known to me, that show where standup comics proved they could act, is on its seventh and final season, closing the timeline with the tenth anniversary of 9/11. (Though the show was about so much more, when your leads are NY firefighters and their families it’s a bit hard to not talk about 9/11. Especially when the lead’s best friend died in the Towers and appears in visions without warning.) Rescue Me is an incredibly dark and brutal show, and the final season begins with Tommy (Denis Leary) at one of his lowest points. (This for a guy who’s raped and been raped a total of three times.)

Rescue Me is also not really the kind of thing you can jump into with no awareness of the backstory and character relationships. Suffice it to say that every relationship on Rescue Me is complicated and more than likely completely dysfunctional. But isn’t that why we watch television? To work through our own trauma or feel better because of someone else’s?

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