Sunday night is the best night on cable television. I’m not sure why this is, I suppose it is because the networks are brining heat like Funniest Home Videos? Sometimes all this Sunday action piles onto each other. You’ve got HBO’s line up, Mad Men for a few months a year, Sunday night football. I spend a decent amount of time each week watching shows that I either miss or don’t have access to on Sunday (3 cheers for the internet). With a little hole in HBO’s action, Showtime has stepped up to the plate with its signature “guy” show, and given it some new complimentary pieces for this season. To support Californication, they’ve got Matt LeBlanc in a comedy called Episodes and William H. Macy in a series called Shameless that I’m not exactly sure how to describe. How the night lines up…
Californication is the ultimate guilty pleasure. I’m sure I said something similar when the show came back last season, but that is always where you have to start with this series. Hank Moody, the show’s misguided lothario, is perpetually stuck in limbo between being good to his family and falling victim to his numerous vices. It is his plight. At first Californication seems like a show that only guys would love. The language is crude, the main character is a non-apologetic, hetero male fantasy, and there is a renewing spring of fresh face actresses who seem to have an aversion to wearing shirts. There are redeeming qualities, though. The show’s research indicates that women are just as fascinated by Hank Moody as men, and the dialog (while occasionally a bit in love with itself ala a Clooney movie) is always razor-sharp. Californication is television in its purist form. Twenty-five minutes where you really don’t have to think.
The odd part about the other two shows is one is a comedy about a television show being adapted from a fictional British series, and the other is an actual adaptation of a British series. The comedy, Episodes, I thought was a pretty amusing half hour. Matt LeBlanc, who is the only real recognizable name, doesn’t look like he’s going to have much of a role until next week, but I liked the two main characters who are a husband and wife TV writing duo. They get wooed to the United States to reproduce their hit show, and the expected begins to happen. They are fish out of water, there are the usual shots at Hollywood, but at least for one week it managed to be fresh enough for me. Maybe it was the British accents. I’ll be interested to see how “Joey” does in this one. I’ve heard some reviewers who have seen more than the 1st episode claim he’s quite funny. We’ll see.
The other new show is a drama called Shameless. Hard to know what to make of it after one week. It centers around a family living in the West Side of Chicago. They live the “Shameless” existence which at times is either compelling, tragic, or implausible. The patriarch, played by William H. Macy, spent his screen time in the pilot either drinking, drunk, or passed out. The story focused mainly on his six children who fend for themselves through a variety of honest and dishonest labor and schemes. The first episode, for me, was just bogged down by way too many characters. Along with the family, there are a half-dozen other lesser characters, and I can’t imagine they’ll all be able to play an integral role. I guess they just wanted to put everything on the table at first, and hopefully down the line the storylines become more focused. I’m going to keep giving it chances. It’s nothing like anything I’ve seen on TV.
So, I think mixed reviews for Showtime’s big Sunday night push. Californication is still right there where it was. And, the new shows have some promise, but I don’t know there is a guaranteed hit there. At least not yet.