Making the Best of Summer TV

In the doldrums of summer, people are expected to be out and about, having fun, going on vacation, etc., not sitting around watching TV like they do the rest of the year. Then there are people like me where summer doesn’t mean much, except that all my television shows are on hiatus, meaning when I come home from work, there’s not much for me to watch. Over the years, I’ve managed to use my summers as a time to catch up on shows I didn’t get a chance to watch during the regular season or marathon the hell out of old shows (i.e. Friends, Alias). But that’s not to say that the summer doesn’t provide some quality shows – you just have to have premium cable/satellite or a very good internet connection for the majority of them. So here are some of the shows I’ve been watching that help make the summer a little more bearable.

1.) SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE

For 8 years, SYTYCD has been my summer staple (except for, obviously, the ill-conceived fall season of the show). I know no matter what, SYTYCD will always be there, despite the results show being cut this season for some ridiculous dating shows. The talent gets better and better every year, and the show is always entertaining. Also, Cat Deeley FTW! 🙂

2.) SUITS

I have always been one to scoff at the idea of another cop/law/medical drama – I mean how many shows can there be with the same procedural element. This is, of course, before I discovered what the USA Network had to offer. The first of many USA Network shows to appear on this list is Suits. Currently in its second season, Suits stars Gabriel Macht as big-time lawyer Harvey Specter, who hires a talented young associate with a photographic memory named Mike Ross, played by Patrick J. Adams. The catch? Mike isn’t actually a lawyer; in fact, he’s not even a college graduate. The dynamic between the two leads is fantastically fun and though the show does have a little of a case-of-the-week style, the show keeps everything light and interesting. Bonus: Harvey and Mike are often making movie references and spewing quotes like it is every day talk (and if you know me, you know I love me some pop culture references). The show also stars Gina Torres, Meghan Markle, Sarah Rafferty, and Rick Hoffman.

3.) WHITE COLLAR

Another wonderful dynamic leads this show about a former con artist, who in order to avoid spending jail time, is forced to work for the FBI. The ever charming Matt Bomer plays Neal Caffrey, the former con man, while Tim DeKay plays his FBI handler Peter Burke. Now in its 4th season, White Collar sets up the weekly cases, while also playing up the season (or half-season) arcs, which keeps it from turning into a typical procedural. It also helps that there’s a healthy dose of wit and humour amongst the cast to keep things light and not so serious. Also starring Tiffani Thiessen, Willie Garson, Marsha Thomason, and Sharif Atkins.

4.) COVERT AFFAIRS

Consider this my summer solution to filling the Nikita void (though technically, Affairs debuted a couple months before Nikita in 2010). Covert Affairs follows a young CIA agent, Annie Walker (played by Piper Perabo) as she navigates the spy world. Action, humour, romance, intrigue – what more could you want? Covert Affairs also stars Christopher Gorham, Peter Gallagher, Kari Matchett, and Anne Dudek.

5.) TRUE BLOOD

While the regular season has The Vampire Diaries, summer is all about the vampires, faeries, werewolves, shape-shifters, witches, and for good measure, regular humans of Bon Temps. True Blood takes TVD and turns it up 10 times crazy notches. Just good fun.

6.) THE NEWSROOM

Only in its first season, The Newsroom is Aaron Sorkin’s solution to the problem of mindless summer reality TV. Some people love the show, some people hate it. Personally, I think the show works better when it really focuses in on the aspects of making a news broadcast. When they start delving into the typical TV drama stuff (i.e. romantic relationships), it suddenly sheds a not so flattering light on its characters, namely its female ones. But when it’s good, it’s really good. The Newsroom stars Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, TV anchor of the fictional News Night. He co-stars alongside Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr., Alison Pill, Dev Patel, Thomas Sadoski, Olivia Munn, and Sam Waterston.

7.) BIG BROTHER

Yes, I just followed up The Newsroom with a mindless reality TV show. To be fair, it’s the biggest guilty pleasure there is in the summertime (except for the ill-advised season that aired during the Writers’ Strike of 2007-2008). Watching a group of strangers live together for 3 months, going stir crazy, and do ridiculous things – it is bad, but oh-so-good TV all at once. And we’re lucky when we get really great characters come into the house and make things interesting, which in turn makes them the most memorable – and yes, I’m talking Chilltown, Dr. Will & Mike Boogie, two of the best players ever.

7 shows + various other shows/movies that I have backlogged, means I’ve got more than enough things to fill my summertime hours as I await the return of my regular shows. What’s everybody’s go-to shows for the summer? Let me know in the comments!

Knowing TV/Movie Shooting Locations: Hindering the Watching Experience?

For the past few years, I’ve become intrigued by finding out where TV shows and movies get filmed. In the past I just thought it was cool when I heard a movie was shooting somewhere in Ontario, didn’t really give it much thought beyond that. I’m guessing it’s safe to say that my interest piqued when I went to Los Angeles 2 years ago. It was my first time back to L.A. in about 5 years, so it was a different feeling being there at 21 than 16. Anyways, when I went I started doing research as to where some things were filmed. I really just ended up looking at where The O.C. used to be filmed.

Now I really started getting interested in where things were being filmed, especially in the Toronto area. Things really went to another level once I found out last year that Nikita was being filmed (mostly) in Toronto. I went into uber-fan mode: “OMG! They are filming in Toronto! I have to go there more often than I do! I could meet Maggie Q or Shane West!” I just thought it was the coolest thing EVER (kind of still is).

I went back to L.A. last December and decided to be my pop culture geek self and went on a tour of the Warner Brothers lot. Best $45 I spent. Being able to see the sets of these shows I love, it was a little unreal. I got to see Central Perk. I stood on the set of Chuck. It was so cool seeing the stages and even just the “regular town” sets.

There is a point in prefacing my blog with these stories, as I so often do. In the past year of watching television, it occurred to me that while it was cool finding out/knowing where some things were filmed, it took me out of watching the show. My suspension of disbelief was temporarily lifted when I knew exactly where something was filmed.

I remember when Nikita filmed for a day in my hometown of Cambridge. They posted in the local newspaper that the bridge in the downtown area was going to be shut down for the day for filming, and when I read it, I freaked knowing that I literally could go see Maggie Q. I made my attempts at trying to find and meet her, but luck was not on my side that day. When the episode (1×18, “Into the Dark”) aired, I got excited watching it but quickly realized I shouldn’t have been. The scenes that were filmed in Cambridge were meant to be a substitute for London, England, so as soon as they said they were in London, I’m like thinking “They’re in Cambridge!” Took me right out of it. Not to mention, as the scenes played out, I’d go “That’s City Hall! There’s the bridge! And the church near the bridge, etc.”

Back in October, after a concert, my friend and I had to go pick up her brother and drive him back with us. As we pulled onto the street where he lived, we saw all these crew trucks and I’m thinking “Are they filming something here? What are they filming? Is it Nikita?!” Short answer: Yes, it was ‘Nikita’ and apparently they’ve been there all week according to my friend’s brother (he didn’t even have the decency to tell us ahead of time.) I managed to catch a glimpse of Maggie Q when we passed by but couldn’t actually meet her. Again, the episode (2×08, “London Calling”) airs, and I’m like “Hey! I know where they filmed that!”, followed by “Damn it! I’m not supposed to know!” Didn’t help matters that in one of the scenes you can still see an Ontario license plate on one of the cars, when they’re supposedly in London (and there I go being one of those annoying people noticing goofs).

Most recently, I saw promo pictures for the upcoming episode (2×11, “Pale Fire”) and soon realized that they had come back to Cambridge to film part of the episode. Unfortunately, I was away on vacation at the time, or else you bet I would’ve known about it and went to find a way to meet Shane West and Devon Sawa. This is how bad it’s getting: I can tell from a picture where they’re filming, and the background was blurry because the focus of the pic was Shane and Devon.

Obviously my interest in knowing where ‘Nikita’ is being filmed is starting to hinder my TV watching experience. And it’s not just ‘Nikita’ that this happens. I’ve watched episodes of ‘Covert Affairs’ and ‘Suits’ where some shots, I’m like “That’s [insert street/place] in Toronto!” because I know those shows are shot in Toronto. Watching the second episode of ‘Hart of Dixie’, they introduced the Rammer Jammer, the local bar/hangout. The Rammer Jammer is also known as Merlotte’s from ‘True Blood’. How do I know that (besides from watching True Blood)? The tour guide pointed it out when I went on the WB Studio tour. From that point on, I’ve been watching ‘Hart of Dixie’ calling the Rammer Jammer, Merlotte’s, and wondering where on the WB lot they’re filming.

But the funny thing is I watch ‘Chuck’ and I don’t even think about the fact that I stood on the set. Same thing with watching ‘Friends’ re-runs – I don’t think about the fact that I saw Central Perk and sat on the couch.

Which leads me to wonder, at what point does knowing a shooting location affect how you watch TV? Is it different knowing that something is a set that was built specifically for that TV show, as opposed to something that’s a part of the world? Because clearly my issues of disbelief arise seeing the streets of Toronto + Cambridge being used as the streets of New York, Washington, London, etc. Also, how do people in LA and NY deal with this? Although I guess, when something is meant to be LA and it is shot in LA, it shouldn’t be such a problem.

Lesson from all this? Maybe I should be less obsessive about ‘Nikita’ and just in general, watch less TV….That’s most likely not going to happen.