A&E's Hoarders, Food Net's Good Eats among best TV shows you're not watching...yet
I know all the cool TV critics are finding hip new ways to note the greatness of Mad Men and Glee, while masses of couch potatoes are handing major ratings to less, um, challenging fare such as NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Dancing with the Stars and Sunday Night Football.
But these days, I find myself drawn to a new class of TV show. They don't have the viewership of CBS' predictable police dramas or the cachet of AMC's Emmy magnet, but they offer a wealth of entertainment if you're willing to try something that isn't cool or popular.
They're the Best Shows You're Not Watching … yet.Hoarders | 10 p.m. Mondays, A&E
Imagine your college dorm room at the height of your "pigpen" phase. Now multiply that clutter by 1,000 and add a psychological disorder that makes you unable to throw any of it away. That's the heartbreaking truth behind A&E's unwavering look at people whose compulsion to amass great piles of junk in their homes has ended marriages, split children from parents and nearly gotten people evicted from their homes. The show films professional cleaners trying to help people in crisis — impatient landlords are ready to evict, spouses and grown kids are ready to leave — and even then, every participant has trouble letting go. Watching a woman choose to hold on to rotting vegetables, as her daughter walks out of her life over the clutter, leaves an indelible, spellbinding image. Click here for the site
Good Eats | 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, Food Network
It's not just that host Alton Brown is a deliciously geeky food nerd who loves explaining the scientific principles behind the food he cooks. It's that his show, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, blends Monty Python levels of absurdist humor — mostly conveyed in skits with hilariously low production values — with recipes that look delicious. A recent live 10th anniversary episode, featuring Brown clowning with Queer Eye alum Ted Allen, was, if you excuse the analogy, frosting on a mouth-watering cake.
Sons of Anarchy 10 p.m. Tuesdays, FXIt beat Jay Leno and ABC's sinking drama the forgotten in key viewers Tuesday. But I still feel like the only critic who has noticed how good this drama about an outlaw biker gang, with stars Ron Perlman, right, and Katy Sagal, is getting. First, Adam Arkin comes on board as a cucumber-cool white supremacist bent on driving the Sons of Anarchy out of its home base of Charming, Calif. (Students, pay attention; How do you make a murderous motorcycle gang sympathetic? Make the bad guys new-school Nazis). Then the Nazis sexually assault Sagal's nail-tough club matriarch Gemma Morrow and provoke the club into getting arrested while attacking a church meeting. Now the club has to team with a black prison gang to survive. It's like the Hells Angels meets Mad Men.
Everybody Loves Raymond reruns 2 p.m. weekdays on TBS, 7 p.m. weekdays on WTTA-Ch. 38The Office and 30 Rock are cool, but every time I watch Ray Romano & Co. stumble through another family crisis, I wonder how network TV lost the ability to make a relatable, sidesplitting, old-school television sitcom. The situations are stuff all of us at a certain age know well: Husband accidentally records over wedding video; husband makes mess in bathroom; mother-in-law gets insulted when wife takes over Thanksgiving. But the actors and writers so completely inhabit this cast of oddball characters, it's like hanging with the most entertainingly dysfunctional neighbors you can imagine.