The Week In TV: Enjoy Hulu While It Lasts
• As if to taunt my very desires, Hulu announced last week that it's launching Hulu Plus, a paid version of the site that will allow users to access the growing catalogue of series as well as full seasons of current shows instead of just the "trailing five" episodes of each. (For those who love to pay for things but don't want to miss commercials, take heart: Hulu Plus will still show you ads.) I say they're taunting me because just last week I decided to start writing about older series you could watch on Hulu as an alternative to bland summer programming, a plan that's now going to develop some inevitable kinks. The subscription plan is still invite-only for now, though the company will also be issuing random invites to Twitter followers and Facebook fans. Hulu Plus will run you $10 a month and work with newer iPhones, the iPad, the PS3, certain Samsung Blu-ray players, and eventually the Xbox 360 and your eyelids.
As for the free shows? Well, I say we take advantage of them while we can. This week, I'm going old-school with Barney Miller, the critically loved cop dramedy that ran on ABC from 1975-1982. The series is regularly heralded as one of the more realistic portrayal of cops on TV. The first two seasons are available on Hulu, so give it a spin:
• It looks like Steve Carell is more determined to leave The Office than we first thought. When he mentioned in an interview a few months ago that his contract expired after the series' upcoming seventh season, it just seemed like a basic bargaining tactic. But he confirmed this week on two separate occasions that he feels it's time to leave the show and for Michael Scott to move on. (Ricky Gervais agreed.) I think -- I hope -- this will mean the show is on its way out. Its sixth season was its most bitter and poisonous yet, with nothing to show for its longevity but disappointed fans. It's time to close up shop at Dunder Mifflin.
• There's a trailer out for the new season of Jersey Shore, in which the gang goes to Miami and proceeds to make the same basic mistakes with regards to personal and sexual hygiene. As much as you will hate the show -- and you will hate it -- you're probably also going to watch it, or at least catch some clips of it online the next day when no one's looking. Embrace your secret bronze shame:
• Louis C.K.'s new series, Louie, premiered on FX last Tuesday, and it's fantastic. The pilot was good, but the second episode was full-on great. The show uses clips of Louis C.K.'s stand-up as a springboard to what are basically short films based on his life and comedy. He seems to have finally found the right forum for his personality, and the segments are an engaging mix of dark humor, physical comedy, and the genuine wonderings of a 42-year-old father dealing with divorce and child-rearing. It's the least conventional comedy I've seen in a long time, and it's hilarious.
• Larry King is leaving his long-running CNN talk show this year, ending years of speculation that he died seven years ago and has since been played by a series of skilled puppeteers. Given the network's ratings problems in recent years, it's no surprise King is pulling out of the game. And just in case you're tempted to think of King as a skilled presenter and not just an empty shirt reading questions off an increasingly blurry teleprompter, The Live Feed has put together a list of some of King's classically painful moments. There are many favorites to choose from -- the moment when he addresses Ringo Starr as "George" is particularly gruesome -- but my favorite is when Jerry Seinfeld rips into him for being unprepared. Take a look:
• Speaking of endings: Party Down was canceled this week. You probably do not watch Party Down, because it's on Starz and you never consciously think to yourself to find that channel on the dial, but the small band of people who did watch the show loved it, as did many critics. However, the ratings for the comedy were too anemic even for cable, and with other cast members already having moved on (Jane Lynch, Adam Scott), it was really just a matter of time. Creator Rob Thomas now has another show to add to his list of critically adored but little-seen series, after Veronica Mars. If you don't have Starz, rent the series right away. Trust me.
• Apropos of nothing, but still awesome: A list of every Troy McClure film mentioned on The Simpsons. Personal favorite: The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel, followed closely by Dial M for Murderousness. Check it out.
• Friday's episode of Friday Night Lights was another solid entry in the show's fourth season. I loved seeing Larry Gilliard, Jr. of The Wire show up as a reformed ex-con, though we were cruelly denied a reunion scene between him and Michael B. Jordan, meaning we never got to see D'Angelo and Wallace share some face time. (If Gilliard had asked "Where's the boy?" when talking to the coach, I would have passed out.) I know every series exists in its own universe, but come on, fellas: Golden opportunity missed. However, it was still a good episode that showed just how solid Eric and Tami's marriage is, and one that injected some needed good vibes into a season defined by the Lions' struggle to become a legit team. Hell, there are only four more episodes this season, so I'm starting to think that some kind of epic battle between the Lions and the Panthers will be sidelined for a more emotional look at East Dillon High in general. Then again, I'm just speculating. I should also remind you that I don't have DirecTV and am therefore seeing these episodes for the first time, so anyone discussing events that haven't aired on NBC yet will meet with a swift but just punishment, probably involving my dog.
• Looking forward to this week, the listings are typically grim, aside from the bright spots of Louie, Futurama, Friday Night Lights, and The First 48 (a real-life Homicide: Life on the Streets). There is, of course, Entourage on Sunday night, but you're not that desperate, right? ... Right?