News

TV Soothes the Savage Summer

8/09/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

People in the cable business have a
lot to think about these days. Possible common-
carrier regulation of broadband hangs
over operators. Retransmission-consent costs
are rising and Time Warner Cable’s Disney
deal expires at the end of the month.

New home construction is virtually dead. TV Everywhere
— is that going to mean more money for everyone, or just
more complication?

Somehow, though, my thoughts keep coming
back to TV this hot summer. As in, what’s on it
that I’m enjoying these days.

Fortunately, we get the occasional advance
screeners here to help us keep up when the DVR
starts to overflow. From them, I like:

Pillars of the Earth. This intentionally
epic miniseries from Starz follows a rather
predictable arc toward the raising of a cathedral.
But it immerses the viewer in 12thcentury
life, battles, beheadings, filth and all,
the way nothing has since Monty Python and
the Holy Grail
. Donald Sutherland’s brief appearance
adds another dimension, a reminder of his icy
performance in the movie of Ken Follett’s The Eye of the
Needle
back in 1981.


Rescue Me.
Much has been made of the show’s final two
seasons headed toward a conclusion around the 10th anniversary
of the 9/11 horror, but I’m intrigued by this season’s
religious tangent. Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) dreams about
hell, or maybe goes there, in the opening episode. Then he
heads toward (maybe hits) bottom on earth. Will he rebel
against God, the way he rebelled against the priests as a kid,
or seek redemption?

The Fabulous Beekman Boys. Amidst the violent cop shows
and other FX fare I favor (the Sons of Anarchy returning episode,
on Sept. 7, is pretty great, by the way), this Planet Green
reality series counts in my home as grownup co-viewing fare.
Best episode of the batch we’ve seen so far was the one where
the transplanted New Yorkers decide it’s time to “harvest”
the hog they’ve raised for food. Very ethically and emotionally
correct.


Luther.
I’ve only seen two of the six episodes,
but I’m hooked on this upcoming BBC
America series (set for sometime this fall). Idris
Elba, who played Stringer Bell in HBO’s The
Wire
, is a London cop on the edge (of a roof, often),
battling his dark side and matching wits
with an evil girl genius, an ex-soldier turned
cop killer and other menaces.


Rome.
OK, HBO isn’t making more of these,
but it is showing seasons one and two on demand.
The Wire is back from the past, too, and
is up to season four (the best season) after rejoining
the rotation around the time David Simon’s
Treme launched. Rome wasn’t built in a
day, but cramming as many episodes into one viewing period
is definitely the way to go.

We’re also plugged into AMC’s Mad Men, and have good
feelings toward Rubicon but haven’t fully warmed to that retro-
feeling spy drama yet. Same with the new crew on USA
Network’s recently wrapped Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
Jeff Goldblum was fine, ditto Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio,
but not sure about Saffron Burrows. FX’s Louie is on my guilty
pleasure list and Syfy’s Warehouse 13 is even cuter than ever
with Allison Scagliotti’s enhanced role.

What are you watching?