Biding time while waiting for my favorite TV programs
The latest trend as cable TV programs rise in popularity and quality is that their seasons are shortened to only a few episodes. For those of us used to 25 to 30 episode seasons, it’s disappointing that we’re seeing fewer episodes for originally programming on HBO, Showtime and on Netflix. So what do you do? Find alternatives
By Ray Hanania
What do you when you find yourself stuck in the boring period between popular programs like Shameless and Game of Thrones?
Game of Thrones on HBO, for example, only offers 10 episodes per season and they usually start in the Spring. Shameless on Showtime offers only 2 more, 12 episodes per season, and the season usually begins right after the New Year. Another favorite, Ray Donovan, also on Showtime, only offers 12 episodes each year, usually starting at the end of summer.
In a year made up of 52 weeks, that still leaves 18 weeks with nothing great to watch. Or, to put it more succinctly, in a year of only 365 evenings, that’s only 34 evenings of good TV shows and 331 evenings with nothing!
So what do you do, besides live a life fearing Cancer, worrying about whether you will be able to pay your income taxes on April 15, or wondering about the next time you might be lucky enough to have sex?
You find other programs that may not be as great but that grab your attention, nonetheless.
Here are a few of the placeholder shows I try to enjoy while waiting for my Big Three series choices — Game of Thrones, Shameless, Ray Donovan — to resume.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Curb Your Enthusiasm starring Larry David. I love Curb Your Enthusiasm. Unlike my Big Three series, which are all enthralled in violence, Curb Your Enthusiasm is hilarious. Larry David was the genius who came up with the Seinfeld series, yet for some reason Curb Your Enthusiasm is funnier than Seinfeld ever could be.
Seinfeld was broadcast on a mainstream network, NBC, and consisted of 22 to 25 episodes in the last seven years of its broadcast life. The first two years consisted of 5 episodes, as a pilot in 1989, and 12 episodes in the 1991 season.
Curb Your Enthusiasm offered only 10 episodes during each of its first 8 seasons that began in 2000 and ended in 2011, skipping 2003, 2006 and 2008. It only just revived this year, a draught in great humor for seven years. Yet Larry David continues to look as old as he was in the initial series run as he does now.
But nothing beats his humor, including the season premiere when he finds himself in trouble by proposing a TV show that mocks the Iranian Ayatollahs, only to have the Iranian Ayatollah put a Fatwa on his head.
I couldn’t stop laughing because nothing is funnier than a Fatwa from an Iranian Ayatollah.
(It’s annoying to have a Fatwa on your head. Fatwas are a lot like hummus, which if placed on your head, oozes down your forehead, ears and cowlicks!)
The Deuce is a look back at the seedy side of a seedy business, the rise of pornography. They don’t just jump into it but lay the groundwork with a detailed look at street prostitution in New York City, the influence and loss of influence of the Pimps, and the transformation from street solicitation to massage parlors and in-door brothels.
It stars one of my favorite actors, James Franco, who does something he’s done before. He actually plays two different characters in the series, in this case, twin brothers, Vincent and Frankie Martino, bar owner and troublemaker who find themselves favored by the local mob boss, played by Michael Rispoli.
Like Shameless and Game of Thrones, The Deuce offers a lot of sex, including by lead actress Maggie Gyllenhaal — sister of you know who — who plays an independent prostitute who ends up migrating to performing in, directing and producing porno films.
Between Franco’s amazing duel performances — having conversations that are smooth and sound normal with himself — all the mob and seedy New York City action, and the pornography, this is a great alternative. Although, The Deuce is on HBO which means it’s only going yo be about 12 episodes, too.
Kevin Can Wait
Kevin Can Wait started out as its own comedy sitcom starring comedian Kevin James, but ended up becoming a sequel to the Kevin James’ hit series King of Queens, one of my all time favorite TV comedies. In the first season, Kevin James plays a retired cop married to a funny beautiful wife, played by Erinn Hayes. But the first season never came close to even the worst moments on King of Queens, which ran nine seasons beginning in 1999 with 25 episodes a year.
If they had run that show every week with 52 episodes a year, it would have dominated all of the TV World. It’s that great.
But Kevin Can Wait seemed to stumble, although Hayes and James were funny. It just didn’t work. So James ended up killing off Hayes, replacing her with a new character played by Leah Remini, the beautiful and funny former co-star with James on King of Queens. The James-Remini pairing in King of Queens seemed to replicate the hilarity that Baby Boomers enjoyed in the one-season wonder that left a mark on the TV world, Jackie Gleason’s The Honeymooners.
Other shows you might want to check out include:
Mr. Robot starring Christian Slater and newcomer Rami Malek. It’s producd by Sam Esmail who this year married Shameless star Emma Rossum. It premiered on the USA Network.
Better Things can be a little boring but it captures the fascinating plots of shows that star Pamela Adlon performed in before including another one of my all time favorites, Californication, which starred David Duchovny. Adlon began her career in 1982 in Grease 2! It’s broadcast on the FX Network.
Portlandia, which I am not sure is returning for another season, was hilarious. It starred multi-character actors Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. They play multiple characters and are versatile actors in the series. Portlandia finished its seventh season last March, although it wasn’t until season six that I started watching. I might go back and binge watch the earlier versions, but it never picked up during its early start in 2011. It should have though. It’s broadcast on the Independent Film Channel (IFC), which might explain its slow exposure to mainstream audiences.
Also, check out Orange is the New Black on Netflix., which just completed its 5th season. The show focuses on the lives of female inmates in a low security prison. Very good acting by everyone involved and a great script and plot.
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Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
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His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.
Email Ray Hanania at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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