Johnny Says This: Notes From the Couch Part One

Spring is a busy time in the entertainment world. There is a great deal of new music being released while new television shows are abundant, series are ending for the year while others are beginning. If one has time to read there are numerous books released or about to be while the summer movie season seems to start earlier each year.

So here we go with some ” Observations From the Couch.”

This Sunday The Walking Dead ends up Season Three in what we expect to be a climatic battle between Rick and his crew and those following the evil Governor. Season Three has been solid, ratings have been through the roof, but I am hoping that Season Four will find the group moving on from the prison as this storyline is about tapped out.

On April 7th Mad Men returns replacing the Zombies on AMC with those sixties advertising executives who drink and smoke in the office all day. I am not sure which group is more dangerous. At the end of last season Don Draper appeared to be about to jump off the marital bandwagon. While we never see previews of a new season we are told to expect this year to play out in 1968, we have already seen Roger taking Acid last year, one wonders how much the ” sixties” will invade the lives of the characters this year. One thing we do know, the show can always be counted on to be one of the best on any network.

This Sunday Game of Thrones returns on HBO. This is a fantastic series. Filmed in Iceland and Croatia the show is a cinematographic wonder. Based on the behemoth books of George R R Martin ( is Double R a fantasy novel thing, like Tolkien) the series, now in year three, has begat a seemingly endless cast, one with enough subplots to require diagrams and note-cards. In the end it is all about The Iron Throne and who retains it. The show is violent and full of sex, too much sex actually, but the excellence of the story covers it. The success of the series is a testament to the fact that geek culture becomes popular culture. In our house we do make an accommodation to the thick and confusing plot. We do not watch the show week by week, we watch in four or five episode weekends. For those of us who have not read the books it is the only way to keep all the characters straight. The effort is well worth it though, all the success the show has met with is well deserved.

The Mindy Project on Fox continues it’s strong first season this spring. Starring Mindy Kaling from The Office the main character is a young woman who is a partner in an obstetrics practice with a handsome young man. The staff at the practice at times makes the show The Office in the hospital. That is not a bad thing. The show is funny, sarcastic, and sweet all the same time. Despite a slow start in the ratings it has been renewed, if you have not tried it you should.

NBC had high hopes for 1600 Penn which, with a cast featuring Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman, certainly had the pedigree for success. Placed on the formerly high flying Thursday night lineup the show has floundered to low ratings. Most have the show being cancelled this spring. Maybe this is an example of my odd sense of humor but I have watched this show and been a fan. Silly it is, realistic of a President’s family life it is not, but for me the show has been shortchanged. Here is hoping NBC gives it another try next fall.

About the only good thing that has happened for NBC this year has been the debut of the end of the world as we know it series Revolution. Created by JJ Abrams of Lost fame the show rarely misses, it is very well done. The networks inexplicable choice to remove the show for four months this past winter was, to me, a dangerous one. Trusting that the audience will find a show again, especially in it’s first year, is risky. For a network like NBC with few, if any, bonafide hits it was positively foolish. By all accounts however the return episode last Monday did garner strong ratings, this is a good sign for the faithfulness of the show’s fans. Another strong show you should be watching if you are not yet.

On The History Channel this Easter Sunday will wrap up it’s five part miniseries The Bible. This series has been stellar, earning the network ratings that have consistently beat the major networks. One wonders why a series dramatizing Bible stories that we all know and have known for our lifetimes would strike such a chord in the culture but this series has. It points out that, establishment elites scorn or not, there is a hunger and huge audience for both religeous and family friendly programming. The History Channel deserves great credit for both the fine production of and the commitment to airing this program.

The Voice might well be the hottest show on television these days. It’s  return on Monday could not come soon enough. At times the network has been finishing sixth and seventh in the ratings on a given night. For a major broadcast network this is an unbelievable level of failure. Fortunately The Voice shows no sign of losing it’s popularity. Consistently bettering the ratings of the fading American Idol The Voice is buoyed by it’s format, and especially by it’s exceptionally likeable hosts. On this go round judges C Lo Green and Christina Aguilera will not be with us. As both are recording and or touring to support their new albums they have been replaced by, two of our one named stars, Usher and Shakira. The commercials NBC had been running over the last month featuring the four judges driving down the road in a truck fighting over the radio station until they ended up on the shmaltzy ” Total Eclipse of the Heart” did a good job of preparing the audience for the change. The show appears not to have missed a beat. With Adam Levine and Blake Shelton anchoring the show it looks like it will continue to be a ratings beast. We watch all the singing shows in our house as my wife and daughter love them. By my judgement Shakira is much more likable than Aguilera while Usher might just be a bit too smug. My wife says one of the fun things about C Lo was seeing both what he was wearing and what kind of animal he had each week. One does not get the sense that Usher will possess the ability or desire to laugh at himself in the same way. We hope C Lo returns next fall.

A final note about some of the shows that have been reviewed recently. While we cannot say enough good things about The Bible our family left Vikings midway through the second episode. We might well have not given it enough of a chance but it seemed pretty apparent where the plot was going and Game of Thrones does it much better.  The Americans on FX has thus far been brilliant, one of the best shows on television, while the much ballyhooed Kevin Bacon Fox series The Following was dumped off our watch list after two episodes. The show has been renewed, some folks are still watching, but not us. Those  characters and that subject matter was no place I wanted to visit each week.

Next week we will have Part 2 where we will talk about Spring music, books, and movies.