I was devastated when Nip/Tuck ended. I've written before about how much I loved that show, in all its craptastical, over-the-top, depraved, awful glory. It was so bad, so utterly awful and unbelievable, and at the same time so believably well-acted, that you just couldn't help but love it. (Well, some people apparently hated it.... but what do they know?)
One of the best things about Nip/Tuck was the utter lack of predictability. Just when you thought you knew where the show's soap-opera among its characters was heading, the bad-boy son announces that his life's dream is to become a mime... and then he starts a robbery career... as a mime (yes, he literally "mimes" the robberies)! (For a more thorough discussion, see this blog post.)
And the medical dramas were so completely over-the-top, you'd think they would never happen in real life, although the show's creator claimed that all the plastic surgeries depicted were "based in fact." For example, there was the woman who wanted to have her nipples removed so she could be "just like Barbie," because she wants to continue her perfect sexless relationship with the perfect plastic-surgery enhanced human replica of Ken (choke on that for a moment...), and then in the end she has sex with Dr. Sean, thereby "setting Ken free" to hook up with a perfect plastic-surgery enhanced human replica of G.I. Joe. Oh, it was glorious in its ridiculous awfulness. (For a more thorough discussion, see this blog post.)
I like other shows. "House, M.D.," is a good one if you enjoy excellent snide comments and sarcasm along with your over-the-top medical drama, but the plots, and even the medical dramas, are predictable. (At least once a month: "Maybe it's lupus." My husband has started saying this every time one of our kids complains about any sort of pain).
"Glee" is good if you like singing and dancing and high-school romance interrupted by the pure evil and hilarious one-liners provided by Sue Sylvester. It's good - I watch it and I like it - but it's no Nip/Tuck.
I like "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" -- it's not bad for a half-hour comedy show. It aims for unpredictability and the good sort of ridiculousness that makes a show entertaining, and sometimes it hits the mark. Other times, though, it crosses the line to stupid and unbelievable in a not-entertaining sort of way. It isn't reliably hilarious.
When I need good background television (like while I clean house or sort mail and pay bills), I watch crime dramas, like the various incarnations of Law and Order and CSI, NCIS, or Criminal Minds. The plots are predictable - bad guys do horrible awful things and persistent, hyper-intelligent cops catch them - so you can miss chunks of it and not really miss anything important. It is that predictability that makes them less than stellar shows, though, no matter how well-acted they are or how much you like the characters. Most of the half-hour comedies on the networks have that same flaw, too, no matter how good the dialogue is sometimes. Two and a Half Men, Everybody Loves Raymond, and King of Queens pop to mind as examples of generally mildly entertaining, sometimes really funny shows. They also make good background TV.
I didn't like "Pscyh" at first, but it sort of grows on you. It has fun with the criminal-catcher genre, sort of mocking all the cliches and predictable plots and amazing puzzle-solving abilities of the lead characters in those shows. Still, though, it's not "must see TV."
I've always loved "The Simpsons" for its irreverent, make-fun-of-everyone sense of humor. But sometimes I'm just not in the mood for a cartoon.
And of course I love me a good football or basketball or hockey game, but sometimes you want something with a plot, not just a sports contest.
So what have I found to scratch that "irreverent, unpredictable television" itch?
My new favorite show is "Raising Hope." It comes on after Glee on Tuesday nights, and it is fantastically funny and unpredictable.
The premise of the show, for those of you who haven't seen it, is that a twenty-something fellow named Jimmy, who still lives with his parents and works at his dad's lawn and pool service company, has a one-night stand with a woman who turns out to be a wanted serial killer. Jimmy's family turns her in, and she ends up getting put to death in the electric chair. The one-night stand, however, resulted in a baby, born in prison before the mother is electrocuted. Jimmy, as the father, is given the child to raise, and he names her "Hope." The show is hilariously unpredictable and irreverent, but still manages to project good family values like loyalty, responsibility, and love. It is well-written, with great and sometimes downright unbelievable dialogue, delivered deadpan and made believable by the excellent actors. Cloris Leachman is priceless in the role of Maw Maw, Jimmy's grandmother who also lives in the home.
If you haven't seen this show, you must go watch it. You can watch prior episodes at www.fox.com/raisinghope. Trust me, you've just got to see it. It will make you laugh out loud. I promise.
I can't wait for Tuesday!