New knee-slappers, distinct dramas and familiar faces

By Lisa Henderson
hendersonl@theridernews.com 

Chris Lilley impressively portrays immature twin teens Daniel and Nathan Sims as well as a number of other crazy characters (left). The beloved Maggie Smith plays Violet Crawley, the arrogant and controlling Countess of Grantham (right).

 

As we struggle to endure the winter season’s dreary weather, having consistent access to entertainment is a must. The new year brought with it brand new shows from numerous networks, some worth a watch and others less deserving. We’re also being treated to a few notable returners that drew in tons of fans and roped in hefty accolades during their debut seasons.

It’s important to keep laughing while we’re stuck indoors, and HBO has presented us with the perfect fix. Angry Boys, the third mockumentary-style show from Australian comedian Chris Lilley, debuted on Feb. 1 to thunderous positive response from a number of sources, including The New York Times. 

The show follows the lives of a few different adolescent boys, all connected in some way, and highlights their daily struggles. Lilley is obviously comfortable in his decision to play multiple quirky, ridiculous roles in all of his programs, and for good reason — he simply knows how to write hilarious (and immensely crude) plotlines and portray several personalities with ease.

As we continue to roll down the comedy track, we’re sure to stumble upon Showtime’s House of Lies, a cynical creation featuring a highly acclaimed all-star cast. Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), Ben Schwartz (The Other Guys), Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Josh Lawson (BoyTown) all star in roles unlike anything they’ve ever taken on. Cheadle is a ruthless, conscienceless business man and Bell is an extremely intelligent, independent woman.

All are management consultants who will do just about anything to score a business deal, even if it means sacrificing dignity (of which they seem to have very little). House of Lies also falls into the crude-humor category, and is worthwhile just because of the exceptional mesh of notable personalities.

Although it has yet to begin its regular run, the pilot for the highly-anticipated supernatural drama Touch premiered on Fox last week. It is the story of a struggling single father named Martin (Keifer Sutherland, 24) whose son Jake (David Mazouz) has inexplicable powers that may eventually rationalize the idea that everyone on the planet is somehow connected.

We’ll have to wait and see how the plot pans out as it is intense, complex and somewhat confusing. The series will run regularly starting March 19.

Among the most surprising of returning programs (surprising because it found immense success on PBS, of all networks) is Downton Abbey, a British period drama that has won five Primetime Emmy Awards. The debut season began immediately following the Titanic’s sinking and takes us through the lives of wealthy aristocrats and the people who work for them. Season two premiered in the U.S. on Jan. 8, and we find ourselves admidt the chaos of World War I. Brimming with drama, romance and action, this series has an astounding fanbase and a third season has already been confirmed.

And for all of you Harry Potter fans still mourning the end of an era, it may be a good idea to tune in as Maggie Smith, better known to us as “Professor McGonagall,” portrays a feisty, pompous old woman who refuses to take no for an answer.

Sadly, not all returning shows are laced with as much luster. CBS’s The Game, now in its fifth season, has seen a steady drop in ratings since its initial season on The CW in 2006. With a fairly strong fanbase and featuring stars from some of our favorite ’90s sitcoms such as Tia Mowry Hardrict (Sister, Sister), Brittany Daniel (Sweet Valley High) and Wendy Raquel Robinson (The Steve Harvey Show), you’d think The Game would have more staying power — and what American wouldn’t enjoy a sitcom based on NFL Football?

Unfortunately, plot lines have recently become too unbelievable and generally corny. Some things are better left in the past once they’ve reached the popularity peak.

2012 is still in its infancy, yet we have already been exposed to a myriad of exceptional programming, memorable plotlines and astounding talent. We can only hope that the rest of the year holds as much promise.

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