It's Raining Shows
Sort of. This week's return of Lost (ABC), the premieres of In Treatment (HBO), Eli Stone (ABC), and Breaking Bad (AMC), as well as last Sunday's broadcast of the Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony almost made it seem like business as usual on the small screen. The writers' strike continues, but the Writers Guild of America gave a pass to the SAG because they've been such strong allies. And more premieres are in store, rolling out incrementally in February and March.
One of the most anticipated returns is Jericho (CBS), which premieres Feb. 12 at 9pm. What a strange journey it's been for this postapocalyptic drama. First canceled, then resurrected thanks to a massive fan drive, it returns to viewers eager to find out who will win the Jericho-New Bern battle. Missed the first season? Watch it online at www.cbs.com/primetime/jericho.
Other premieres and returns include:
The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS), Monday, Feb. 4, at 8:30pm. Back for its third season, Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is still getting used to life as a single mom.
Welcome to the Captain (CBS), Monday, Feb. 4, at 7:30pm. A young writer (played by Fran Kranz) moves into a historic Hollywood apartment building that houses kooky characters.
Lipstick Jungle (NBC), Thursday, Feb. 7, at 9pm. Based on the novel by Sex and the City scribe Candace Bushnell, Lipstick Jungle follows three high-powered women living in and working in New York. Does that sound suspiciously like SATC? No, the creators say. Instead of searching for their Mr. Big (the name of Carrie Bradshaw's commitment-averse love interest in SATC), the women in Lipstick (Kim Raver, Brooke Shields, Lindsay Price) are Big.
31 Days of Oscar (TCM), Feb. 1-March 2. The cable network continues its annual countdown to the Academy Awards presentation, featuring Oscar-winning films and actors. Check local listings.
The Whitest Kids U' Know (IFC) returns for a new season on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 10pm, this time on IFC (the sketch-comedy team first appeared on YouTube, then on cable netlet Fuse). Being on IFC should bring them some cred, right? Well, with skits titled "Sam's Nut," "Fart Diner," "Blue Whale Dick," and "Elephant Balls," you decide.
In the midst of these series returns and premieres is a small gem, Rick Cleveland's My Buddy Bill (Comedy Central), which airs Thursday, Feb. 7, at 11pm. My Buddy Bill falls under Comedy Central's original stand-up tent, but Cleveland's show is a welcome departure. A former writer for The West Wing and Six Feet Under, Cleveland is no comedian, but he does know how to tell a good story; the one he tells here is about his chance encounter and unexpected friendship with former President Bill Clinton.
Compared to the late, great monologist Spalding Gray (by whom Cleveland is obviously influenced) or comedian Kathy Griffin (who's made a career dishing on Hollywood royalty), Cleveland lacks stage presence. Gray needed nothing more than a table, a glass of water, a map, and a pointer for props. Griffin's appeal is in her bubbly, barbed delivery. Cleveland is not a performer, so his movements onstage appear stiffly choreographed. Still, there's something enormously appealing about Cleveland. His goal is to tell his story of a regular guy and his dog who made friends with another regular guy and his dog – only the second regular guy happens to be the onetime leader of the free world.
Perhaps out of respect for the Clintons, or fear – if Cleveland's experiences with Hillary and her steel backbone don't convince you she could be president of the United States, I don't know what will – Cleveland's monologue veers close to the edge but doesn't reveal anything about the Clintons that viewers couldn't have figured out on their own. Cleveland doesn't aim for the self-consciously high-minded (which Gray's critics often complained of), and he's not as hipsterish as Ira Glass (on Showtime's This American Life). My Buddy Bill is closer to Garrison Keillor (A Prairie Home Companion), without the tongue-in-cheek yuks and hayseed antics. Cleveland is as mild as warm milk. And maybe because everyone else out there is aiming for the tart or droll, this cup of milk is curiously refreshing.
Austin's Public Access Community Television seeks poets and spoken-word artists for their annual EXSE Spoken Word broadcast during National Poetry Month. Applications are due April 13. Go to www.pactaustin.org or call 478-8600 x10 for more information.
What are your "Reflections on Life in Central Texas"? Local PBS affiliate KLRU wants you to pick up your camera and capture them for their ongoing series Docubloggers. Submission deadline is Feb. 15. Go to www.docubloggers.org for more information.