TV Talk: The Barren Summer TV Landscape

I won't be watching most of these networks for a few months.

The end of the TV season is almost here. There’s a two-hour finale of Grey’s Anatomy tonight (that I hardly care about, but I watch because my wife does… even though she hardly cares now too), and the two-hour finale of Lost next week (which I am very excited about, as this has been the best season of the show since the first. Perhaps better even). Then that’s it, it’ll be time for broadcast television to go into hibernation mode.

Even though I’m an admittedly voracious consumer of television, I like the slow summer TV schedule (particularly since I’m also a voracious consumer of movies… and apparently not that much of a consumer of sunlight). It’s a great palette cleanser that allows me to get excited about shows again come fall. More than that, in recent years I’ve been able to use the three months of summer to catch up on shows on DVD that I would have otherwise missed. Last summer, we watched all five season of Six Feet Under, the first seasons of Dexter and Friday Night Lights, the first three seasons of The Wire, and re-watched the first season of Big Love, meaning that we probably ended up seeing better quality television from June-August than we did from September-May.

With that in mind, I figured I’d lay out my summer viewing plans here, and ask for any input any of you might have regarding how I might best use the months ahead (you know, besides silly stuff like getting outside to enjoy nature or whatever).

First off, we’ll have to finish up a couple of DVD sets we’re watching now before we get going on anything else. We have a few episodes of Planet Earth and about half a season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia left. Generally, we like to have one 1-hour show and one half-hour show on the go at once (we watch the half-hour shows upstairs while eating dinner. Don’t judge us). When we finish It’s Always Sunny, I have a decision to make: do we re-watch season four of Scrubs, which we already have on DVD, or do we go get the first season of Flight of the Conchords, which we’ve never seen? FOTC won’t be back for season two until the fall, so I’m thinking it might be best to put it off until closer to that date. Either way, I expect to have both watched during the summer.

Last summer was a big HBO summer for us, and while it’s tempting to duplicate that by, say, finally checking out that Sopranos show I’ve heard so much about, I think we’ll go a different direction this summer. We have all six seasons of 24 on DVD, but have only watched the first three (the last three were bought for us as gifts by people who wanted to keep watching the series after having borrowed the first three seasons). So I think it’s time to catch up on that. The benefit will be that this will give us the opportunity to watch 24 as it airs for the first time ever, an experience I’m quite curious to have. I know the whole-story-in-one day nature of the show makes it seem like it’s ideal for DVD, but I have a theory that its constant cliffhanger nature actually makes it better suited for the commercial and episodic break nature of weekly viewing. Plus, it’s tough to avoid spoilers on the net.

The downside of its ultra-intense nature is that I find 24 watching to be somewhat exhausting, so I’m not sure we could all three seasons back-to-back-to-back (particularly since I’ve not heard great things about seasons 4 and 6). So we may need to break it up with other sets. The Blue Planet seems like the most obvious choice, since we’ve been enjoying Planet Earth, so that will probably come between seasons 4 and 5.

The big potential conflict is the first season of Mad Men, which CTV will begin airing in June. I’m really psyched to get a chance to watch it, as I had no idea of it, or its network’s (AMC) existence when it started airing last summer. However, season two is set to air on AMC (which it turns out I get) in July, so CTV won’t be done with the first season by the time the first season starts. Given that this will most likely be the only internet buzzworthy show I’ll be watching all summer (since there’s no HBO series this summer due to the strike), I’ll need to have been caught up by then. So my tentative plan is to check it out on CTV, and if I like it, buy the set when it comes out on July 1st and rush to get it watched before the beginning of season two. So whatever set we’re watching then will have to be put on hold.

Along with Mad Men, I’ll also be checking out Swingtown as it airs, and hopefully the mini-series Generation: Kill (as long as Movie Central picks it up). I’m curious to see how Swingtown will play on network TV given that it was designed for premium cable, and I’m not convinced it will work. I think I’ll also check out The Mole, even though I never watched earlier incarnations of it.

Back to the DVD front, another option to split up seasons of 24 is the first season of Gilmore Girls, which I bought for Kim for Christmas (neither of us have watched the show). The problem with that show is that it seems too long for a quick summer engagement. But, we may as well find out if that’s a commitment we want to undertake, especially since it’s just sitting there on the shelf.

If we have time for any other series that we’ve never seen, it’ll be a toss-up between The Sopranos or Battlestar Gallatica, which are probably the two most significant critically-acclaimed shows I’ve never seen an episode of. If you had to choose between the two, which would you go with?

That said, we may want to rewatch one of our sets instead. This season’s Lost has me tempted to relive the earlier seasons, and maybe see if I can appreciate the previously disappointing seasons two and three. Plus, I’d like to rewatch Big Love season two before it comes back in September.

For now, the priorities are Mad Men and 24. How bout you all? Any big summer TV viewing plans? Or are you just not this anal retentive to plan what you’re going to watch on TV months in advance? Wait, don’t answer that last one.

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