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Television > Idiot Boxing

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10 shows that he has to see

Southland: Best show on TV?
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More from Jim McFarlin

TV rise and fall (10/6/2010)
Keri Russell gets to laugh all day, David Cross kills, and adieu Tony Curtis, 'Lone Star'

Courts and sparks (9/22/2010)
And the ugly battle for TV timeslots and American faces

Countdown to fall (9/8/2010)
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Published 3/24/2010

I get asked the question at least twice a week. Once someone learns I'm the guy who's written that "Idiot" column (the idiot who's written that guy's column?) for Metro Times since 2005, they want to know, "So, what do you watch on TV?"

TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly blare headlines like, "10 Shows You Should Be Watching Now!" That's crap. This is America. Watch what you want. But if you're curious to know what the idiot is watching, here's his must-see list.

Southland, 10 p.m. Tuesdays, TNT: Best ... freaking ... cop ... show ... ever! Well, since NYPD Blue or The Shield. While those shows tried to establish uniqueness through nudity and violence, respectively, Southland rises on the complex mix of tedium and tension for the LAPD on patrol. The crackling in-cruiser interaction between jaded veteran John Cooper (John Cudlitz) and rich-boy rookie Ben Sherman (Benjamin McKenzie, The O.C.) propels the drama, and Regina King is stoic and heroic as Det. Lydia Adams. Some cast members may be insufferable, but that's to be expected. They're cops. 

Hoarders, 10 p.m. Mondays, A&E: For anyone whose basement is cluttered, this show will make you feel better about it. Compulsive hoarders open up their homes — even if they can't walk through them — then agree to professional counseling and housecleaning. I can't stop thinking about the New Orleans woman whose lost cats were found mashed flat beneath her "treasures." TLC has launched a rival series, Hoarders: Buried Alive, but accept no substitutes: The original is the most luridly fascinating.

The Good Wife, 10 p.m. Wednesdays, CBS (Channel 62 in Detroit): Great premise, ripped from the headlines -— what happens to the family of politicians after their extramarital boinking is exposed? — is elevated by a superb cast, led by Julianna Margulies as the wife, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski and, in essentially a cameo role, Chris Noth, from Mr. Big to Mr. Bad. 

Burn Notice, 10 p.m. Thursdays, USA: Sexiest show on television. Jeffrey Donovan is wonderful as dashing, wisecracking ex-spy Michael Westen; Bruce Campbell is creating a sidekick for the ages in Sam Axe; and Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne? There's just something about a waifish woman with long legs and a missile launcher. Robert Wisdom (The Wire) joins the cast as the new thorn in Westen's side when new episodes return in June.

Men of a Certain Age, 10 p.m. Mondays, TNT (first season ended Feb. 22): Never thought I could accept deadpan comic Ray Romano as a serious actor, but he wisely surrounded himself with two excellent actors, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula, to get inside the head and heart of every middle-age man, exposing secrets we'd rather not reveal. Funny, poignant, outstanding show.

Any Law & Order episode, various days and times, NBC and virtually every cable channel: The current Law & Order cast is the weakest in the show's 20-year history (thank God for Jack McCoy!), so what a blessing to have the entire sweep of the series, as well as SVU and Criminal Intent, available seemingly every hour of the day. SVU's Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni are growing long in the tooth but their original episodes remain compelling. The impending departures of Vincent D'Onofrio (this may explain his Brooklyn's Finest cameo), Kathryn Erbe and Eric Bogosian from Criminal Intent leaves Jeff Goldblum to save the franchise as the ninth season premieres on USA at 10 p.m. Tuesday. Say goodbye, CI.

Project Runway, 10 p.m. Thursdays, Lifetime: My wife pulls me into it! Tim Gunn makes me slightly queasy and Heidi Klum appears to read the same script every week, but without fail I'll be doing something while she's watching religiously, then look up and say, "Gracious, that woman's design is horrid. ..."

Breaking Bad, 10 p.m. Sundays, American Movie Classics: Bryan Cranston has won two consecutive Best Actor Emmys as terminally ill chemistry teacher-turned-meth druglord Walter White, and he's deserved them both. His transformation within the series has been nothing short of transcendent. Season 3 began Sunday; see if you agree. 

Mad Men, encore airings at midnight Sundays, American Movie Classics: I worked five years at an ad agency, but even if I hadn't this remarkable '60s period drama would resonate with its screw-consumers boardroom strategizing, rich character interplay and seamless scripts. Jon Hamm as enigmatic adman Don Draper is the star, but nobody on TV fills out a dress like Christina Hendricks.

The Andy Griffith Show, various times, TV Land: You can have Modern Family and Two and a Half Men; when it comes to classic family sitcoms, I go old school. Even though he won five Emmys as Barney Fife, the late Don Knotts never received his full due as an incomparable physical comedian. Griffith was a country-fried pillar, the supporting cast iconic (rock on, pink Floyd!) and Ron Howard was so cute at that age. Black-and-white episodes only, please.

Jim McFarlin is a media critic for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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