The Big (and Small) Broadcast Networks have all trotted out their summer fare, and it is a dreary progression of reality shows. I shouldn’t knock reality shows; plenty of people like them, and you can’t argue with chaqu’un a son gout, as they say. After all, I don’t like Ingmar Bergman films, but plenty of smart people do. All I can say is that there’s just something within me that resists both reality shows and Ingmar Bergman films. Perhaps it’s because I belong to that class of people everybody looks down on: the middlebrow.
This summer the fun is on cable.
Last summer I caught the final two episodes of Kyle XY (ABC Family), and found it entertaining. I tuned in again this summer and discovered that my initial favorable impression was not due to a fluke. The show doesn’t have an earth-shatteringly high-concept premise, but the cast and the characters they play are appealing, and the on-going story arc reveals just enough to keep you interested without making it seem like TPTB (The Powers That Be) are merely churning events with no final destination in mind. The characters so far have all maintained their logical consistency, and this has been one of the very few shows about teenaged characters that doesn’t make me gag. As for it’s premise, normally I despise shows that hinge on secret government experiments and conspiracies, or shows with characters that have discombobulatingly special skills, but this one is well-grounded in normalcy. The usual tension between “good” and “evil” plays out without resorting to caricatures, or without nodding and winking to the audience.
I’ve also been have fun over at USA, watching Burn Notice. It’s nowhere near as sharply characterized as an Elmore Leonard novel, but it comes closer than anything since Maximum Bob. (I’m not counting the short-lived series, Karen Cisco, which I thought was sadly miscast, except for the magnificent Robert Forster. Alas, his role was underwritten and functioned simply to feed the exposition to the lead character. This show was a nice try but gets no cigar from me.) I hope that Burn Notice, unlike USA’s other shows (Monk, Psych, Dead Zone), improves itself as it progresses, and doesn’t fall into the same pale repetition of its winning formula that the rest of USA’s slate has.