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TV Vs. Film: Ten Shows Worth Skipping The Multiplex For

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist May 26, 2011 at 9:58AM

The Playlist's brief flirtation with television continues... Yesterday, we dipped our toe into the murky waters of the debate around whether the quality of television has now surpassed that of contemporary film (conclusion: it's a silly question), and now, as the TV season wraps up this week, we're examining the evidence, the shows that keep The Playlist team going on weekends when movie theaters are bereft of anything that doesn't insult our intelligence.
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3. "Louie"
There are some people who love Louis C.K. so much that they'll cachinnate if they overhear him ordering room service; but even they had no idea how absolutely brilliant his show would be. After a failed attempt at heading a crass sitcom, C.K. returned to the tube with an unprecedented deal -- the comedian would have complete control and no network influence, plus he would be allowed to write, direct, edit, and act in a half-hour program for FX. Something like this should lead to a vain disaster, but it doesn't. Personal but relatable, self-deprecating yet always humorous, "Louie" follows the titular character after a nasty divorce and his subsequent rediscovery of life at age 40. Very generally, it follows the "Seinfeld" template -- he's a comedian, and padding the show's vignettes is intimate stand-up footage. But the comedian is going at this more like a filmmaker, with each half feeling like a complete short. Scenes are often blocked in one take, various scenarios tend to go a completely different route than expected, and the tone is always being experimented with, usually arriving at a variation of "uncomfortable." Subjects range from Louie being bullied by a high school jock (who he then follows home in a long, no-dialogue sequence set to manic jazz) to his fifth-grade self dealing with Catholicism and the confusion of faith. Season 1 whizzes by like nothing but will also leave a solid impression with its form and poignancy -- thankfully the director understands that you can be funny and have substance at the same time. Season 2 starts in a few weeks, and we can’t wait.
Must-See Episode: Hard to pick, but “God” is perhaps the best example of the way C.K. expertly blends big, important themes (in this case, as you might imagine, god and religion) with dick jokes. Plus it has a great performance from the always-wonderful Tom Noonan.


2. "Terriers"
Judging by the ratings, which never topped a million viewers after the pilot, you didn't watch "Terriers," a private-eye show on FX from "The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan and "Ocean's Eleven" scribe Ted Griffin. And in a way, we don't blame you. The title and marketing were baffling, the biggest star was schlubby sitcom veteran Donal Logue, and the premise -- an ex-cop and recovering alcoholic with ex-wife problems works as an unlicensed private detective in Ocean Beach, California, with a former burglar -- couldn't have been more generic if it tried. Unfortunately for you, "Terriers" was simply fantastic, and it's now been canceled. The show, which co-starred "True Blood"'s Michael Raymond-James, Laura Allen, Kimberly Quinn and Rockmond Dunbar, started modestly, but soon rolled out a corruption-tinged plot of massive depth and complexity, one that the best neo-noirs would be proud of. It had consistently unpredictable one-off storylines (the one that guest-starred Olivia Williams is a particular favorite), possibly the best theme tune ever, and a hugely impressive line-up of directors, including Craig Brewer ("Hustle & Flow"), John Dahl ("The Last Seduction"), Clark Johnson ("The Wire") and even Rian Johnson ("Brick"). But more importantly, it expertly juggled a mix of tones, and it did what the best TV does: took its flawed, rough-around-the-edges heroes, made you fall in love with them, and then put them through the ringer with a series of truly wrenching plot twists. Its 13 episodes were positively stuffed with heartbreak. It may have been sadly canceled (and, right now, it’s not even scheduled for a DVD release), but it also means that it joins the likes of "Freaks and Geeks" and "Firefly" as untouched one season-wonders.
Must-See Episode: "Asunder," an atypical episode which sees the heroes holed up in a hotel at which the ex-wife of Hank (Logue) is about to get married, a wedding that eventually has rip-your-heart-out-of-your-chest consequences for his partner Britt (Raymond-James).

This article is related to: Feature, TV Networks, Comedy Central


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