Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I love online TV

On Hulu:

Lie to Me: Based on the research of Paul Ekman, this show is about a deception expert whose consulting firm helps solve crimes by looking at microexpressions and other facial indications that people are lying. The main character is cranky and otherwise entertaining. The show just finished its first season.

Burn Notice: Nice cinematography and some MacGyver elements that are especially entertaining. This is about a spy who's been "burned" and takes odd jobs while trying to figure out how to get his real job back. His odd jobs are the kind that require spy skillz, so there's a lot of action and fun. Also, good music. The third season started a few weeks ago.

Southland: I've only watched a couple of these; it's pretty graphic, but graphic for broadcast TV, not graphic for cable. It's about a bunch of L.A. cops who are not particularly likable. Kind of painful to watch. In its first season.

Royal Pains: A new USA show about an ER doctor who gets fired from his New York hospital and becomes a concierge doctor in the Hamptons. It's mildly funny and pleasant. Sometimes I think the medical conditions he's spouting are made up. Campbell Scott plays the wealthy, reclusive German guy in whose guest house he lives, and that's entertaining.

The Philanthropist: There's only one episode of this so far, and I'm intrigued. A billionaire starts getting personally involved in philanthropy, personally delivering supplies and such, which makes for adventure and escapades. I can't think of anything quite like this show; it's a curious mix of your typical action/adventure show and realistic people in need.

Kingdom: A British show about a small-town lawyer whose brother has recently disappeared and is presumed dead. Funny, quirky characters and a pleasant and slower than usual pace.

On ABC's website:

Castle: This is about a famous mystery writer who starts hanging out with a homicide detective for research purposes. It's funny and interesting. Second season starts in September.

The Unusuals: Yet another cop show, this one in New York. (Surprise!) But it's kind of the seedy underbelly of New York. I like the cops on this show, although they're pleasantly quirky.

Lost: Jon and I watched the first season of Lost on DVD soon after it came out but then couldn't bring ourselves to get into it again--too much of a commitment! Until now. I discovered that ABC had every single season, every episode available online. So that's been my life the last couple of months, especially while Jon and Zed were gone. I'm pleased that the show continues to be interesting and complex, but I think it was easier to watch it quickly than it would have been to watch it when the episodes were actually airing. I'm looking forward to the last season. (Jon, by the way, chose not to start watching this again with me, but I think I might tell him the whole story and make him watch the last season with me.)

And if you're really bored, here's my run-down on the TV-watching sites I've been using. (And I mean really bored; I think about this way too much.)

I really like Hulu, which has Fox, NBC, USA and a bunch of other stuff, including a pretty varied collection of movies. You can watch all of NBC's shows on nbc.com, too, but I like the clean look of Hulu and the fact that it's silent until you actually start watching something (unlike ABC's site, which starts obnoxious ads as soon as you open it). You have to watch 15-30 second commercials (ABC occasionally slips a 60-second break in) a few times during each show, but the video quality is excellent. For some reason, Hulu's commercials are quieter than the show, while ABC's are louder, just like we're used to from real television. Hulu streams everything without stopping (though you can pause it), while on ABC, you have to click to continue after each commercial, which is sometimes annoying but also sometimes convenient if you have to go do something during the commercial (like pretend to fulfill your role as mother). ABC also requires you to download their own video playing software, but it hasn't given me any trouble yet, except that it doesn't work on my favorite browser Google Chrome. I have to use Firefox.

I guess I've mostly been sticking to NBC and ABC shows, and I'm not sure why. It seems like CBS is all reality TV and CSI variations, and since I watch a lot of these shows by myself, I haven't been brave enough to try any of the interesting-looking Fox shows. They look too freaky.

The best things about online TV are that it's free (no cable or satellite bills!) and you can watch whenever you want to. Most shows appear on the website the day after it airs on television, and that's fine with me. I suppose if I worked in an office where people congregated around the water cooler to talk about last night's episode of whatever, I might be annoyed, but as it is, I'm pretty happy with online TV.

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