TV makes up for lack-luster summer movies

Compared to last year, this summer's movies were like the water in Tempe Town Lake. Last year, it was full, bountiful, the dam holding it all in. This year, Hollywood forgot to spray water on the rubber, and all the good ideas burst out and dried up, save for the few gems left in the puddle of what was once an attractive, robust water feature.

It wasn’t all bad though, it was just the summer of the small screen, not the big one. The summer where the couch was the place to be, not an overly air conditioned theater. From the World Cup, to network television and cable, what the silver screen lacked, the flat screen made up for.

Try to name off the summer movies that were memorable, or even what you saw. “Toy Story 3” and “Inception.” That’s it.  Unless you ventured to the indie theater to check out some quality cinema with the local AARP chapter, that is.

Television picked up the slack and then some. During a season that’s notoriously void of quality television, there were more entertaining shows than you could shake a stick at. From the return of “Mad Men,” to the series premiers of “Royal Pains” and “Justified”, having 15 minutes of commercials in the middle instead of before was the way to go.

AMC, in an attempt to attain the television equivalent streak of perfection that Pixar enjoys, furthered its chances with “Rubicon,” a conspiracy thriller that deviates from the dramatic character studies of “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”

USA was where all the thoughtless fun was to be had, with the return of “Royal Pains,” “Burn Notice,” “Psych,” and “White Collar.” The formula of good–looking people doing exciting things with a twist and a pinch of intelligence filled the void at the 3D obsessed megaplexes.

Reality television didn’t let down either, with shows that actually have a point such as “Project Runway” and “Top Chef” on Bravo having standout seasons. Then there was everyone’s favorite pointless reality program “Jersey Shore” on MTV doing more of what it does best, which I hear is entertain people.

Also on Bravo was “Work of Art,” the new series produced by the woman behind Carrie Bradshaw herself, which was as ridiculous as it was fantastic. Then, of course, there was the return of “Pawn Stars” on The History Channel, giving you all the appeal of antiques with none of the people that make you feel dumb.

However, as is inevitable, not everything was a hit. NBC gave us the crapshoot of “Last Comic Standing,” where you could watch no–name comics tell other no–name comics if they were funny or not, which was the biggest (and most hilarious) joke of the show. TNT swung and missed on “Memphis Beat,” which gave us an unintentionally comical look into how the most stereotypical citizens of Memphis enforce the law.

Then there was premium cable, which technically qualifies as television, even though the best shows aren’t on basic TV, they’re on HBO. “Entourage” returned to see Vince tailspin into substance abuse after a life changing experience, while “Hung” further explored what it’s like to be a gigolo in a slumped economy. “True Blood” also returned, if soap operas with literal bloodsucking is your thing.

Don’t feel bad if you stayed on the La-Z-Boy instead of getting out this summer. Blame it on Hollywood executives and their unquenchable thirst for sequels, and M. Night Shyamalan disasters. Their peers over in the television department proved they make less money but better products and gave dozens of reasons to keep on dishing out the dough to the cable companies.

Reach the reporter at pmelbour@asu.edu


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