The Week In TV: New Cable Shows Worth Watching
• I'm a week behind on HBO's The Pacific. This is my own fault; between this show and others, sometimes things get put on the back burner. The good news is that HBO has at least, as of this writing, put the first episode on its site, though I'm not sure if more will follow. Still, if you can't catch one of the reruns throughout the week, or if you just want to kill time at the office, watching it online is a good option. The show's designed to be an aesthetic counterpart to Band of Brothers, right down to the typeface used at the top of the episode. It's too soon to tell if it's great, but it is pretty good, with potential to get better.
• The new thing I enjoyed most last week was the premiere of FX's Justified. Based on an Elmore Leonard character from a couple of the author's novels and a short story, the series is a modern Western starring Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, a U.S. Marshal reassigned from Florida to his home of eastern Kentucky after shooting a gun-runner over lunch. Being a late-night FX series, there's a bit too much stretching to find ways to work the word "shit" into dialogue -- "a shitstorm of shit" was probably the worst of these -- but it's still a solid action show with good characters and genuine promise. Casting Olyphant as a no-nonsense lawman is, admittedly, a smart way to leverage his work on Deadwood and try and boost some of that show's mojo, but Justified is its own beast. The ratings were solid for Tuesday's premiere, too, marking the second-biggest series premiere for FX since The Shield dropped in 2002. As with Pacific, though, it's still too early to tell if the show will have a lasting impact. But for now, I'm watching.
• The tag-hackers are at it again: A couple weeks ago, I noted that Conan O'Brien fans had flooded the Hulu page for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and added new tags for the show. Now the same thing is happening to NBC's excremental The Marriage Ref, as viewers turn to the Internet to unleash the full potential of their hatred. Check out the show's tags section and see for yourself. My favorites are "cultural dysentery" and "killing me inside."
• Speaking of Jay Leno: His Tonight Show is once again leading the late-night ratings, earning an average of 4.4 million viewers and a 1.2 rating in adults 18-49 last week. However, he's down from comparable dates last year, and what's more, his audience isn't returning the way NBC had hoped. Reports show that his audience's median age last week was 56, compared with 46 for Conan. And that 1.2 isn't much better than the 1.1 Conan was getting, either. In short, yes, Leno's winning the numbers game, but not with the decisive victory NBC needs to make his return look like a great idea. Conan hasn't announced anything about his future aside from his upcoming 30-city tour, but I think when he returns to TV in the fall (or later), NBC will realize they should've just put Leno out to pasture.
• Anybody else still watching How I Met Your Mother? I can't remember the last show I watched for this long without having any real reaction other than boredom. I know I'm still capable of laughter: the back-to-back blast of Community and Parks and Recreation is the happiest hour of the TV week. But every time I watch HIMYM, it's just 22 minutes of quiet smiling with one, or possibly two, bursts of short laughter. It's extremely pleasant and rarely funny. What happened? It used to be funny, or at least funnier. But the endless parade of guest stars (why do need J-Lo?) and suit references are getting played out. It's not even fun anymore. Just introduce Ted's future wife and get it over with already.
Finally, I'll leave you with the latest trailer for HBO's Treme, the new series from David Simon, creator of The Wire, which no kidding is the best television show ever made. It's set in New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina, boasts an impressive cast including some Wire vets, and is all but guaranteed to be the most interesting thing HBO airs all year: