Channel Surfing with C.T.

It’s official: Three episodes in, SWINGTOWN is officially my favorite show of the summer. And really, what’s not to love? Don’t be fooled by the implication that this is a smutfest. Instead, SWINGTOWN is an examination of evolving — and devolving — friendships, and it’s hard to decide what’s more unexpected: the show’s unexpected but undeniable charm, or its ability to examine changing social and sexual mores in a non-judgemental light. I have to think that if this series wound up anywhere but on CBS, it would have wound up trading sentiment for sleaziness, and that would have been a real shame. From the beginning, my favorite character has been Miriam Shor’s Janet, who represents the old guard being forced to face that nothing stays the same… no matter how hard we might wish it would. (Best moment last night: Janet stoically declaring “I am going to eat a pot brownie!” before shoving the tampered-with treat into her mouth.) She is a portrait of heartbreak and a study in conflict, and the perfect frenemy to Lara Parrilla’s luminous Trina. Best of all, the changing times aren’t only viewed through the eyes of adults. We’re treated to teen boys who find their friendship being tested by the girl next door, and high schooler/budding feminist Laurie’s crush on a teacher. In the dead zone of summer television, populated by increasingly lame and mean-spirited reality shows (HOPKINS and SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE aside), SWINGTOWN is breathing new life into Thursday nights.

I’ve only seen the first 15 minutes of the debut episode, but HOPKINS seems determined to prove that reality TV needn’t be the black sheep of programming. The stakes are life and death, and the players in this game are people, not the caricatures who populate THE HILLS or THE REAL WORLD. Given that it is populated by doctors, it’s appropriate to dub this appointment television.

If all reality competitions were as full of energy, honesty and life as SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, there’d be a lot more worth watching. This week’s episode featured several truly stunning performances, my personal favorite of which was Mark and Chelsea’s emotional hip-hop number to the tune Bleeding Love. (If you missed it, youtube it… trust me!) I hate the fact that the snarky, nasty, pointless critiques of AMERICAN IDOL put that show at the top of the ratings heap while the honest, helpful, constructive criticisms of SYTYCD’s judges make this show a hit by summer standards, but keep it from being anything near the blockbuster IDOL is. Sometimes, America, you make me hate you. I’m just sayin’.

I’m not sure exactly how I feel about NBC’s BABY BORROWERS. I will say that if it prevents even one teen from having a baby they’re not ready for, perhaps it’s all worth while. And the people I really want to talk to are the parents who agreed to hand their offspring over to these teens! Last night, I met a couple with a seven-month-old child and asked if they would ever consider taking part in such a program. In the entire history of vocalization the word “No!” has never been uttered more emphatically.

File this under “don’t judge me”, but you know those kinda mean-spirited reality shows I’ve been dissing of late? My household watched WIPEOUT and I SURVIVED A JAPANESE GAME SHOW last night and, okay, I’ll admit it, we laughed our way through both. Especially WIPEOUT, largely due to the hysterical interviewing techniques and reaction shots of Jill Wagner. The biggest problem with WIPEOUT is the fact that so many contestants were thrown at us in the pilot that we walked away unable to name — let alone identify with — a single one.

Am I alone in feeling as if the second season of ARMY WIVES isn’t living up to the potential of its freshman episodes? Maybe it’s because Roxanne, always my favorite, has been sort of sidelined and neutered. I will say that I still love Pamela, who has really become the heart of the show. And is it just me, or did Kim Delaney’s Claudia Joy lose a daughter but gain a whole lotta lip in that explosion? Hello, botox!

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  • I dunno, I’m having a hard time accepting Molly Parker as a mother of a teenager. But overall, it is pretty entertaining. And my love for “Melrose Place” (and thus Grant Show) guarantees a season pass on my DVR.

  • Chitown Mimi

    I have to agree with you T.A. about Army Wives. I just feel like they are going very slow, but that it will eventually pick up momentum. I still love the show, and love what they are doing with the Claudia Joy plotline, but also feel like the other characters need a lift. Something that will give the show a spark.

  • Kristen

    I’ve actually bawled at the end of every episode of Army Wives this season. Granted, last week was because of the song but still…