Amazingly I have been watching TV for quite some time (shocking, I know), and I have to say that I have never been quite as impressed with the medium as I have been of late. Basic cable has finally matured into a venue for excellent programming, and as such poses a bit of a dilemma. Why, you ask? Well, mainly because there are so many worthwhile shows to watch that determining which ones will be 'appointment TV' is becoming more and more difficult, especially since many of the best shows are on opposite one another. So, what are my appointment TV picks for basic cable?
For those not in the know, Burn Notice is basically an updated version of The Equalizer. An ex-spy named Michael Westin (Jeffrey Donovan) is stuck in Miami, his home town, when he is shut out of the intelligence community. His only allies are Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), a gun-running mistress of mayhem who dated Michael during a job in Ireland; Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), a former Navy Seal with ties to the FBI; and his dear old mum, Maddy Westin (Sharon Gless). Together they are trying to get Michael's reputation restored, learn who burned him and why, and helping folks all along the way. The show is well written, exciting, and brilliantly executed by everyone from the actors to the production staff. Some trademarks of the show include Michael's constant expository voiceover, where he explains the ins and outs of spycraft; character descriptions that appear when characters outside the main recurring cast are introduced (ex. Gilroy: Freelance
Psychopath); Sam Axe's fun-loving demeanor (ex. his target shooting trick where he shoots patterns that look like Martini glasses); Fiona's constant admonitions that Michael could solve problems more quickly with properly applied violence (ex. "In my experience, if something seems to good to be true, it's best to shoot it just in case."). Find out more at http://www.usanetwork.com/series/burnnotice/.
Fans of Battlestar Galactica rejoice, for the evolution of the toaster from domestic appliance to frakking world killer is here! Seriously, though, this is a brilliant show with a huge number of encapsulated, yet interconnected, lives and stories, and an ever-expanding view of life in this futuristic society. Those who did not care as much for the direction of BSG after the first two seasons (like me, for instance) will still enjoy the universe that Ronald Moore is spinning out for us. Learn more at http://www.syfy.com/caprica/
You really gotta love this ensemble cast, and Kyra Sedgewick's brilliant performance as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson-Howard just put the cherry on top. Every aspect of this show is tight, from writing to direction to performances, and the quality of the show is something that I doubt even HBO could match. The average episode deals with the Major Crime unit run by Deputy-Chief Johnson investigating a crime while Brenda deals with a cornucopia of personal issues (moving, sick pet, arguing with fiancee/husband Fritz Howard, etc), and culminates in Brenda trying to outwit the criminal to force a confession. If you have not been watching this one, you can check out episodes on http://www.tnt.tv/series/closer/.
While I don't necessarily consider this 'appointment TV', I have found myself tuning in to this one as often as not (it initially benefited from being on after The Closer which is a far superior show). That being said, I would highly recommend this show for anyone looking to fill the void left by the departure of The Shield. The cast may need a bit of an overhaul, though, as the only character and actor with any interesting bits is Dylan McDermott as Carter Shaw. still there is a lot of potential there.
In Plain Sight
I have been eagerly awaiting the return of In Plain Sight since the dramatic season finale last May. This show follows the exploits of US Marshalls Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack)as she and her partner, Marshall Mann (Frederick Weller) as they try to keep witnesses stashed away in Albuquerque, NM, safe from those who would do them harm. Add a dysfunctional alcoholic mother named Jinx (Leslie Ann Warren), an irresponsible sister (Nichole Hiltz), and a sexy fiance (Christian de la Fuente) to a high-stress job, and it is a recipe for disaster. Fold in some crazy co-workers, high maintenance witnesses, hostile FBI agents, and a hot and cold relationship with the local detectives, and you have a recipe for success. The show will be coming back strong with new episodes on 3/31, but you can find out more about the backstory at http://www.usanetwork.com/series/inplainsight/index.html
Another TNT hit, Leverage is a series about a group of criminals led by a former investigator, whose sole mission in life is to balance the scales for the little guy. Part A-Team and part Robin Hood, the Leverage team is made up of a Hacker named Hardison (Aldis Hodge), a Hitter named Elliot Spencer (Christian Kane), a Grifter named Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), a Thief named Parker (Beth Riesgraf), and the Mastermind, Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton). Witty and urbane, the show is wonderfully quotable and quirky, with a heart and soul that makes you really root for the 'bad guys'. As Parker says during "The Bank Shot Job' "Sometimes bad guys are the only good guys you get." You can find out more on http://www.tnt.tv/series/leverage/.
What makes this show different from Leverage? Well, it is another show about a criminal doing good, but in this case, Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) is working with FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) to thwart villains and protect the little guy. A great supporting cast of fun characters, a good stable of writers, and great acting make White Collar a show to watch. Charming, sexy, and witty, though it has a fun heart, this a lot more serious a show than Leverage. Learn more at http://www.usanetwork.com/series/whitecollar/index.html.
Now these are just a few of the shows that I really enjoy on Basic Cable. Look for more on the Regular Network lineup next week , and an article on pay cable the week after. Those looking for some other interesting shows should check out Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Men of a Certain Age, and Archer for an entertaining time.