Okay, not as exciting as "Mondays Are Huge", but Wednesdays just got better starting this week with the returns of Leverage and Tosh.0. Tosh.0 isn't exactly reinventing the wheel, and I prefer Web Soup, but Daniel Tosh is funny and engaging plus the show delves a little deeper into the clips they show, and thus it's worth your thirty minutes.
Leverage, on the other hand, has grown into one of my favorite shows, and it's great to see it back on. This is the second half of Season 2, so we're only getting 6 episodes before the wait for Season 3. Still, six episodes of Leverage is six hours of love and warmth, so I'll take it.
The basic premise of the show: Timothy Hutton plays Nathan Ford, a former insurance fraud investigator whose job it was to track down thieves, con artists, etc. He put together a team of expert thieves to play Robin Hood and go after bad guys and help good people. It's a basic premise, and the BBC series "Hu$tle" did the same thing very well (worth tracking down, by the way). With the longer American seasons, we get a lot more character development, and the characters and the humor are where Leverage departs from the shadow of Hu$tle and becomes its own show.
The characters: Nate Ford is the Mastermind, the guy who runs the cons and changes plans on the fly when things go badly. Season one was about him being full of anger at his former employers, who refused to pay for an experimental treatment for his dying son. This sent him spiraling into alcoholism, something he has (seemingly) kicked for season two. He has a former relationship with...
The Grifter: Sophie (aka, many other identities), played by Gina Bellman of "Coupling" (and other things which I haven't seen). She's the heart/mom of the team, currently semi-written out because she got all impregnated and stuff. Then there's
The Hacker: Aldis Hodge as Harrison, the tech nerd of the group. He's the guy who creates the cover identities for the cons, and one of the great Easter Eggs for fans is for them to try and figure out where the names come from, and how they're linked to the episode.
The Hitter: Christian Kane as Elliot, the "heavy" of the group. Has gotten a lot more backstory than some of the others, but he's a great character. The fight scenes on this show have been well crafted, and he executes them well.
The Thief: Beth Riesgraf as Parker, the world's best (and most dysfunctional) cat burglar. Socially retarded and unbearably adorable.
Also in these episodes is Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine) as Sophie's temporary replacement. She's not only hot, but also helps newcomers get acquainted with the dynamics of the regular team.
I really don't want to get too into the show here, as seeing the relationships and characters evolve over the course of the season is part of the charm of the series. The extra bonus is that writer/co-creator John Rogers breaks down every episode on his excellent blog, Kung Fu Monkey (kfmonkey.blogspot.com), as well as answer questions from fans. As a future television writer, being able to look inside the process is incredibly interesting, plus Rogers is a great storyteller. Anyway, I'll give you all a week to watch, catch up with some previous episodes, and then I'll be reviewing episodes on a regular basis starting next week.
Scrubs and Better Off Ted have been on ABC a LOT over the holidays; I assume ABC is trying to get all the episodes aired before LOST comes back next month. I like that I'm getting to watch these episodes, I just worry about either show being able to find an audience with such a truncated airing schedule. Both shows have potential, and work well paired with each other. It'd be a shame for either one of them to be canceled at this point.
Scrubs has been making a difficult transition from "Classic Scrubs" to "Scrubs: Med School", partially because some of the older characters have been eating up a little too much screen time. Don't get me wrong, I like the older characters, but it makes it hard to find a way to resonate with these new characters if JD keeps popping in. They've done a good job of finding new stories to tell with the new med students, and Turk and Cox have been great in their new role as teachers/mentors at Sacred Heart. JD was the heart of the show for eight years, but that role has to pass to Lucy for the viewers to be able to make the connection with her that they'll need to in order to build the audience. The jokes are still solid though, and the stories are still as strong as they ever were. There's definitely enough there to warrant another season.
Better Off Ted, meanwhile, really has their game plan in place, and executes it strongly every episode (I can't say"every week", because it's been on four times this week). It's a very well done workplace comedy that's been infused with a major dose of the quirky, and it balances out well. It's another show that would benefit from a steady time slot, as it's the kind of show that grows on you the more you watch it. The only concern is that there's not much room to grow with the concept, so if they ever run out of stories to tell, it'll go downhill fast. As of now though, I can see it easily going another two seasons so long as the ratings are there.
Finally, I need to roll back to Sunday and the Simpsons 20th Anniversary special. In 3-D. On Ice! The episode wasn't that great, unfortunately, although Anne Hathaway is a good guest star for them, and I wouldn't mind her as a semi-regular on the cast. Still, not the strongest thing to roll out there before a 60 minute documentary about how great you are.
So this documentary. First off, I'm not a fan of Morgan Spurlock, and so the more he was in it, the more annoyed I got. I don't know how much money they paid him, but they got robbed. They sat down with Simpons voice actors, future and current writers and producers, Matt Groening, even Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mike Judge, and Seth Macfarlane, yet only gave us brief snippets from them. Instead, we waste time by having Spurlock go globetrotting to give us fairly uninteresting pieces on Simpsons merchandise collectors, a trip to the "real Springfield" in Oregon, and a minor squabble about Groundskeeper Willie's hometown. Give me 30 minutes of Groening in a room with Parker, Stone, Judge, and Macfarlane, and I'm sold. It was a documentary that tried to everything and accomplished nothing (except reminding us that Morgan Spurlock is still alive and collecting air miles). The best bits would barely have filled a half hour slot, so they'd better not be holding a lot of good deleted footage for a DVD release.
The return of Thursday Comedy Night is tonight, so set those DVR's, or whatever it is you people use to watch television on.