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Giving Thanks This TV Season: I May As Well Spell It Out
November 23, 2011  | By David Bianculli

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time for gratitude, for reflection --and for watching TV, from the Turkey Day football games to the Sunday night dramas. Just to stoke the fires of appreciation, I've made a list of six reasons to be grateful, media-wise, for our recent bounty of tasty treats. Put them all together, they spell T-H-A-N-K-S.

And please, take time this weekend to spell out your own reasons for TV joy, using whatever word you like as a launching point. Well, any G-rated word, anyway. This is a family holiday, after all.


T is for TiVo. I'm running two TiVos simultaneously, each one capable of recording two shows at the same time, and right now they're both running at more than 90 percent capacity. Quite literally, I can't see the good stuff fast enough. It's not a complaint I ever had, say, back in the 1970s -- and if not for my battery of DVRs, I don't know how I'd cope.


H is for Homeland. This Showtime series starring Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin has, indeed, fulfilled its early promise to emerge as the best new series of the fall season. It's a series so good, I give it the highest compliment --and stop everything else I'm doing to watch it. Danes would steal this series outright from almost any other actor, but Lewis matches her stroke for stroke and stride for stride. Phenomenal acting. Phenomenal writing. Phenomenal television.

A is for AMC. Yes, I know, I've been severely disappointed by the network's latest offering, Hell on Wheels -- which makes sense in retrospect, since it came from Endemol, the production company much more known for tacky reality competition shows. But the other series presented by AMC comprise a quality lineup to rival that of Pixar. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. Rubicon. The Walking Dead. The Killing. In a mere four years, that's one hell of a run. So, thanks.


N is for Neil Patrick Harris. This year alone, in addition to his scene-stealing role as Barney Stinson on CBS's How I Met Your Mother, Harris has sung the lead in a Lincoln Center performance of Company, made cinematic cameos in The Muppets and the latest Harold & Kumar romp, and hosted the most recent Tony Awards. He's also talked about reviving the TV variety show, a task I think he'd be perfectly suited to attack, even without wearing any of Barney's suits. But I have even bigger hopes for Harris in the future -- hopes I'll reveal shortly. Maybe even to him.


K is for Kalinda. The CBS drama series The Good Wife, even with its irritating Sunday night time slot, continues to amaze me with the bench strength of its ensemble cast. Yes, Julianna Margulies is the star and pivot point of the show, but there are so many supporting characters I'd gladly follow into spinoffs of their own: Alan Cummings' devious but lovable Eli Gold, Matt Czuchry's shrewd survivalist Cary Agos, and Josh Charles' flawed but charismatic Will Gardner. None of those men, though, is quite so compelling or exciting as Kalinda Sharma, played with unpredictable volatility and steaming sexual energy by Archie Panjabi. The second Margulies stops her series, Panjabi should start hers.

S is for Sirius/XM Radio. I know, it's not even television. But just one channel on this satellite radio service -- Deep Tracks -- makes me happy enough to give genuine thanks. Especially on Thanksgiving, when the holiday offerings include multiple daily plays of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant, a special two-hour concert by Paul McCartney, and a food-related edition of my favorite radio show of all time, Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour.

T is for the many things I Tivo'd,
H is for the Homeland shows I love,
A is for the bold AMC dramas,
N is for old NPH (above).
K is for the siren called Kalinda,
S is for my Sirius time with Bob,

Put them all together, they spell THANKS --
And I'm thankful that TV is still my job.




Tom Brinkmoeller said:

A comment on the parade best bet: Fewer reasons to mute the sound this year. Past years' parades resembled "Hollywood Palace Unleashed," in which endless Grade B acts took up way too much time with performances that few but their agents cared about. The quality of the performers was pretty much the same this year, but the performances were shorter and the number of these "musical intervals" seemed to decrease to the almost-bearable level. I am old enough to remember when the Thanksgiving parade telecast simply was coverage of the parade. Pandora's turkey was sliced open when agents found they could book their clients on the program and the focus turned fuzzy. This year someone who cared about the audience seems to have prevailed.

[Pandora's Turkey? Thanks for the very welcome laugh, Tom. - DB]

Comment posted on November 24, 2011 1:39 PM

Sarah said:

My internet was broken for the past week and a half but I am still thankful and came up with a word-Friends

F-Is for Family sitcoms. Modern Family, The Middle and Reed Between the Lines.
R-Is for Revenge the surpise guilty soap that is fun to watch. I was not expecting to like this show but can't stop watching.
I-Is for Idris Elba and all the good British actors on TV from Hugh Laurie as House to Matt Smith as The Doctor.
E-Is for ENTERTAINMENT! of course
N-Is for NCIS and NCIS L.A -Tues night is my favorite and although I didn't start watching NCIS till the third season it just proof to me that good shows should get a real chance.
D-Like you, is for my DVR, and all the work it does to keep my TV viewing on track
I think I am finally putting a dent into the space I have used.
S-Is for Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, my favorite light night talkers. It would be difficult to live in this crazy political world without them.

[Love the poem, and the sentiments. And you're absolutely right --a TV world without Colbert and Stewart would be poorer indeed. - DB]

Comment posted on November 30, 2011 1:56 PM
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