The Worthy Few

We’re far enough into the TV season that the hard decisions have been made, and what has landed on my must-record list is pretty much final … until the replacement series pop up, like Scrubs, and 3 Lbs (Stanley Tucci as a House-like neurosurgeon? Gotta check it out at least), and The Black Donnellys (which isn’t taking over ER’s timeslot after all, but NBC isn’t faring well enough to have doubts it will surface somewhere).

Some of the decisions were easy. House gets an automatic pass, of course. Intelligence is not only an intricate, intelligent, and enjoyable show, it’s a relief to finally have a Canadian series near the top of my must-watch list. Ugly Betty is kitschy, clever, heartwarming, and silly all at the same time.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip‘s ratings break my heart, because this was a no-brainer for me, too. Aaron Sorkin returns to television, and I don’t love it as wholeheartedly as The Sorkin Years West Wing, or even Sports Night, but that’s like saying I don’t love chocolate bars as much as chocolate cake or chocolate ice cream.

On the other side of easy was Kidnapped, which I discarded early – not because of any feelings I had about the show, but the ratings foretold its future before I’d watched any. Brothers and Sisters annoyed more than interested me. Friday Night Lights is a fine show that bored me to tears.

Some shows were easy to dismiss but with a tinge of regret. If I was never home to watch a show, and it languished on my PVR for too long, I was ruthless in deciding that it would have to go. Part of the problem is definitely the serial nature of a lot of this season’s crop. I gave up on Six Degrees, The Nine, and Heroes because I couldn’t make the commitment. Heroes, well, there’s still hope. NBC is having a marathon of the first three episodes on Sunday, so I can still catch up. But that ongoing commitment! It might end up my next Lost, which I’m struggling to catch up with on DVD (I’m on disc six of season one – it’s not going well).

Some shows are still on PVR probation. The second episode of 30 Rock didn’t appeal to me or make me laugh as much as the pilot. Alec Baldwin is hilarious, and I like Tina Fey and Jane Krakowski, but I’m starting to find Tracy Morgan more irritating than funny. It’ll probably end up an “I’ll watch when I’m home” show if the next episode doesn’t grab me.

And some shows I’ve said a sad farewell to. One of my previous favourites, My Name is Earl, I haven’t caught at all this season. I blame it on scheduling. I’ve been watching its timeslot competitor, Ugly Betty, in real time, but I’ve been recording The Office and could easily set the timer for a half hour earlier. Earl feels expendable because there’s no ongoing storyline, no real character progression, and it now seems to me like the perfect show to catch when everything’s in reruns.

Other former favourite Grey’s Anatomy didn’t make the PVR cut this year, though it has no timeslot competition for me, so if I’m home, I have it on … in the background. How far the mighty have fallen on my TV list. It’s more soapy than serial, so I can dip in and out when I’m in the mood and not feel like I’ve missed anything the show won’t hammer me over the head with anyway. Lately, I haven’t been dipping in as much because I don’t particularly like being hammered over the head or covered in soap.

So with the glut of promising-sounding new series this season, only a few actually made it onto the regular record list. Right now, my PVR is home to House, Intelligence, Studio 60, Ugly Betty, The Office, and is considering evicting 30 Rock but hasn’t yet. Given that at least a few of those I tend to watch in real time, the list is much more manageable than I would have guessed at the beginning of the season. It’s good to be ruthless.

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