Not to confuse any Australians, but technically it is the summer TV season in America right now, despite it being winter in the southern hemisphere. And since pretty much everything on our TV screens right now is terrible, Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell excluded, I’ve decided to compile a list of shows either premiering or returning in the summer season that are actually worth your time. Since I just assume everyone downloads TV to some degree in this country, I’m just going by the US premiere dates because we probably won’t get any of these seasons/shows for another decade.
No need for the long preamble to this one as with the last, other than to say that this will likely be a feature I’ll periodically return to over time. But here’s an immediate, and hopefully shorter round-up of another batch of shows.
Childrens Hospital – Beginning as a webseries, Childrens Hospital later became a series for Adult Swim, in which a fantastic cast (including Ken Marino, Lake Bell, Erinn Hayes, Megan Mullally, Henry Winkler, Rob Huebel, Nick Offerman…I could go on) led by creator Rob Corddry playing a clown doctor (except in the show’s universe, clowns are a race) in Childrens Hospital, named for founder Arthur Childrens, where they only treat child patients. Yes, exactly. The show is just one massive riff on medical dramas all the way from Mash to ER to Grey’s Anatomy and beyond – the latter particularly, as it nails the ridiculousness of the relationships and voice over in that show. If a character is dating one person in one episode, they’ll be with someone totally different the next. After 3 seasons shot in the Scrubs hospital, the show will move to a new location next year. But each of its 10 minute episodes are bursting at the seams with jokes. One of the best creations is Mullally’s character, who is typically fantastic playing a doctor with basically every ailment under the sun including MS (a funny riff on an ER character). The show has done what any good show does and created its own extremely weird universe, one of the best features of which comes in the ‘Newsreaders’ episodes, where it’s revealed that the show is within another show, and all the actors playing the Childrens Hospital characters are even more bizarre, and eventually get their own spinoffs. It sounds ridiculous on paper, but it’s painfully funny at almost all times. You can watch much of the show on Youtube because of the length of the episodes. Here is the first:
(Childrens Hospital airs on The Comedy Channel in the adult swim block.)
Don’t Trust The B—- In Apartment 23 – Terrible title aside, this show has become one of the better new comedies of this season alongside New Girl and Suburgatory. Arriving with surprisingly few growing pains, it has actually been funny right out of the gate, thanks mostly to the comic creation that is Chloe, played by Krysten Ritter (who you may know from Breaking Bad or as the roommate in Romantic Comedy Film #235). Created by Nahnatchka Kahn (a queer woman of colour! RUNNING A TV SHOW! 2012, PEOPLE!!!) who formerly wrote for American Dad!, the show’s often insane, off-the-wall humour hearkens back to that Seth McFarlane show, but only in the best ways. June (Dreama Walker) moves to New York and seeks to move in with Chloe – who is best friends with James van der Beek playing himself, which is way better than it sounds – who usually just cons innocent, aspirational girls into giving her lots of rent money and then does something horrible to get rid of them. She’s a sociopathic character, yes, but you soon come to love her because she’s such a non-stereotypical female character. She’s wild, sexually ambiguous, and basically does whatever the fuck she wants without worrying about the consequences. For a TV-viewing audience currently being assaulted with the faux-edgy blandness of Modern Family and Glee, Chloe is a breath of fresh air. The show has its problems – in its abbreviated, 7 episode season, it’s yet to have a chance to properly develop some of its supporting characters. JVDB doesn’t always work away from the other two main characters, and June is sometimes a little too nicey-nice and moralistic, but there are enough hilarious moments and great lines in each episode to get you by.
(As far as I know, Apt. 23 doesn’t air here yet. And if the trailer doesn’t wow you, give the show a go anyway. It’s worth it.)
Veep – Probably the best new comedy of the season, this series created by Armando Iannucci (best known for The Thick of It and the Oscar-nominated In The Loop) stars the fab Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a put-upon Vice President of the United States. With a crack team in her office including the hilarious Matt Walsh, Tony Hale and Anna Chlumsky, this political satire gets down to the nitty-gritty of Washington politics – i.e the kinds of people, the length of time it takes to get anything done, etc. It doesn’t seem like a great thing to base a show around, except that all of these issues are sandwiched in between some of the best zingers and one-liners you’ll hear on TV. The entire cast is essential to the ensemble, and the interplay is wonderful. JLD is particularly excellent as Selina Meyer, who has accepted the Veep position after losing her primary (a hat was part of why). For any lover of acid wit and satire, this show is absolutely fantastic and, like In The Loop, very subtly but hugely depressing in its futility.
(Veep will, at some point, air on Showcase on Foxtel).
Unless you’re an obsessive who lets television run their life and destroy their friendships like me, chances are you don’t have that much time to read and research television. You probably just watch whatever shows are on free-to-air here (so, onerous reality TV, The Big Bang Theory repeats and Border Security). The thing with free-to-air TV in Australia is that it sucks. Most channels don’t seem to understand the value of diverse and interesting programming – particularly Channel 10, whose continued slide is reminiscent of the fall of NBC in America. And instead of using their digital channels to diversify, they just play repeats of The Love Boat for some unknown reason.
So what the Australian public ends up with is ratings nights with two episodes of the same show, with a brilliant show buried in the the 10pm or 11pm hour like an Italian prime minister’s mistress. Alternatively, a free-to-air channel picks up the rights to a show and never even bothers to air it, or airs two episodes and then vanishes it away to a tower somewhere in Rupert Murdoch’s castle made of children’s bones. There’s an incredible lack of respect for the viewer’s time or intelligence.