Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Current Favorite TV Shows, Part II

Mythbusters (2003 - Present)
"High explosives and electricity, WOOO!"

This is probably the best show ever aired on the Discovery Channel. The series pits a cast of special effects experts against various myths to determine whether they can confirm the myth, deem it plausible, or bust it. Their methodology is simple; attempt to recreate the myth or, if the myth can't be recreated under the claimed circumstances, recreate the effect of the myth. This often involves high explosives, rockets, or high caliber guns.

I've watched this show since the first episode when Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman were the only hosts. They usually did only a couple myths a week, with nearly all of them being based on urban legends. Although the show was good, in the early seasons they tended to spend too much time on details and conflicts between Adam and Jamie (the two have very different personalities). Later seasons included three additional mythbusters (usually Tory Belleci, Kari Byron, and Grant Imahara) and expanded the types of myths to include historical claims, common expressions, viral videos, and movie scenes. Watching the Mythbusters is now father-daughter bonding time since all three of my girls love the show.

During the first couple seasons I was convinced that the show would run out of myths to cover. Clearly I was wrong since the more recent seasons pack more myths per episode than ever before. And although the program has steadily increased in budget and popularity, the series' science content has actually gone up over time. The hosts have gradually improved their application of the scientific method and significant technical or physical explanations now accompany many of the myths.

The Simpsons (1989 - Present)
Homer: "Wanna bite of my doughnut?"
Lisa: "No, thanks. Do you have any fruit?"
Homer: "This has purple stuff inside. Purple is a fruit."

The Simpsons doesn't really need any introduction. America's favorite dysfunctional family has been on TV for years, and I've been watching them ever since their first episode. The show's writers are always well-versed in current pop culture in order to lampoon it, although this sometimes emphasize the fact that the Simpsons themselves have never aged in the show's 20+ years.

Unfortunately, I missed most episodes between 2005 and 2008 due to a drastic change in my schedule (I had finished school and had started working) and because the show had become increasingly political. I have no problems with a show that uses political humor as long as it's fair about it. The Simpsons had made fun of both ends of the political spectrum up until Bush's second term, at which point the series veered left and I lost interest. Thanks to The Simpsons Movie and a 2008 episode that finally went back to the tradition of mocking both political parties, I started watching the show again.

Although I continue to enjoy the series, I have to admit that the writers' attempts to keep the show current have become distracting. This is most obvious when we're reminded of events like Homer and Marge's courtship. Although flashbacks have clearly depicted the two as having dated in high school in the '70s, recent seasons that flashback to their high school years seem to be set closer to the late '80s.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 - Present)
Commander Cody: "Looks like General Skywalker's already engaged the enemy."
Obi-Wan: "That's nothing out of the ordinary, especially since I gave him a direct order not to."

Although its theatrically released feature received mixed reviews, the series itself has become very popular with Star Wars fans. The Clone Wars details events that occurred between Star Wars: Episode II and Star Wars: Episode III, with much of the focus being on the adventures of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Anakin's apprentice, Ahsoka Tano. Additionally, several clones are given personalities and receive special attention.

One of the strengths of the series is its variety. Episodes cover large-scale battles, Jedi duels, political debates, bounty hunters, etc. The most recent episodes have even covered the nature of Anakin's role as "the Chosen One" and what the prophecy might mean (at least it's clearer in The Clone Wars than it ever was in any of the films). This is another show that my daughters love to watch with me.

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