The New Fall Season

Even though I’ve gotten rid of my cable TV, and even though I don’t have a digital converter box for other-the-air broadcast TV, I’m still watching quite a bit of television. I just watch downloaded and streaming television on my ‘net connection.

Between Hulu, which handles ABC, NBC, Fox and their associated lesser channels, and which as near as I can tell pretty much just handles CBS, I’ve got most of what I need. The rest I can get by having “friends” (on the internet) record them and convert them to a downloadable form for me.

Here’s what I’ve got in my queue right now:

  • Fringe – Walter Bishop, the drug-taking, clinically insane, sweet old scientist, is as amusing as ever. Olivia Dunn, with her strangely-swallowed deep voice and hunched shoulders, is attractive enough but kinda boring, even as a paranormally-powered super agent. Still, this show is goopy fun.
  • Mad Men – I’m caught up and now watching Season 3. Damn, but that bastard Don Draper is one fascinating motherfucker. After the Drapers marriage troubles of last season, I’m looking forward to seeing how the merger of Sterling Cooper and PP&L causes friction.
  • The Office – Pam and Jim are expecting! I hope that now that they’re together, the tension doesn’t drain out of the show. But the writers and ensemble cast have kept things going for the last 5 seasons. I trust that Michael Scott and the rest will continue making me cringe and laugh (often at the same time).
  • Dollhouse – Rather than funny/scary like Buffy, or funny/action like Firefly (*sob* – I so miss that show), Dollhouse is funny/creepy. The programmable humans are blatant social commentary, wrapped up in a action-adventure format. Who among us isn’t just as programmed as the Dolls? Who’s really in charge?
  • Community – I watched the pilot of this, and I laughed a couple of times. Not sure how it will work over the course of a season, though – the premise seems thin. An ethically-challenged lawyer has to go back to get an actual law degree, and chooses a community college. He recruits a Spanish “study group” in order to sleep with a cute blonde girl and by the end of the pilot, everyone is being all warm and fuzzy in spite of having been used to get a date? I’ll queue this up if I’ve got nothing else to watch; maybe it’ll grow on me.

I’m also looking forward to the return of Better Off Ted, LOST Season 6 (the final one), How I Met Your Mother, and The Simpsons.

Did I leave anything out?

Just typing that out, I’m struck by how many of these shows (by which I mean all but Dollhouse) are essentially about a strong, ethically- or socially-challenged male character. That’s not to say that progressive feminist values aren’t apparent in at least some of them. For example, for all of the blatant sexism, racism and homophobia of the 1960s in Mad Men, check out Amanda Marcotte’s review of Mad Men Season 2 (needless to say, spoilers abound), told from a feminist perspective. The women on the show may be dismissed and treated by the male characters as less than human, but the ladies also exert a fair amount of social power in their own way. And watching the show made me realize just how little has changed in 40+ years; many of the same attitudes are on display, even in progressive Portland, OR. It’s made me much more aware of how I think and what I do and say to others.

And, of course, Dollhouse rests on the twin pillars of the acting talents and star power of Eliza Dushku and the writing and vision of Joss Whedon. Whedon comes by his feminist credentials honestly, having explored female empowerment in the context of a typically male-dominated genre (action-adventure and sci-fi) for his entire career.

Can you tell I like social commentary? So what am I missing out there? What recommendations for new shows do y’all have?