October 5, 2013 by Devin
It is that time of the year. Kids are back in school, the leaves are falling, and television is interesting again.
So in that vein, I thought I could use this space to highlight what shows I am watching this fall (and what you should be watching).
The Legend of Korra
In the Western world, there is a tendency to view animation as a genre rather than a medium, and that is a shame. Just because something is animated (and on Nickelodeon) does not mean it is strictly kids’ fair, and for an ideal example look no further than The Legend of Korra and its precursor, Avatar: The Last Airbender.
These shows are about a fictional world comprised of four nations built around the four elements: water, earth, fire, and air. Within these nations are people who can manipulate these elements called “benders,” and there is one Avatar who can bend all the elements and is there to keep the world in balance.
These are shows that I would recommend to anyone based on the excellent characterization. Korra, the star of The Legend of Korra, is brash and flawed, but there is an underlying strength and compassion to her that keeps her sympathetic.* The rest of the ensemble provides varying flavors of personality, from the absurd to the deadly serious, but throughout it all the characters feel authentic.
And because of this excellent characterization, the show approaches something truly transcendental. In one season, The Legend of Korra dealt with deep emotional issues like parental neglect verging on abuse and the political implications of free speech without ever becoming overbearing or alienating. Without a doubt, these shows are some of my favorites ever, and I am excited to see where Korra goes in its second season.
If you can, definitely do not miss out on this fantastic series. It is an experience everyone should have.
The Legend of Korra Season 2 is available on Nickelodeon on Friday nights and Nick.com, and Avatar: The Last Airbender is available on Amazon Instant Video.
The Daily Show/The Colbert Report
I am lumping these two together because they cover similar ground (and really you should be watching both). In times of political turmoil, it is tempting to just throw up your hands and move to a remote island in the pacific where there are no politicians and no governments to shut down.
These shows make living in America a bit more bearable. They are like gentle reassurances that when we see politicians doing something completely ridiculous, Jon Stewart is there to comfortably tell us that yes, it is all quite ridiculous. Stewart manages to have such a mixture of optimism and criticism where he can declare that crazy people are causing the apocalypse and still believe the sun will come up tomorrow.
With Stephen Colbert free from The Daily Show, he has been flexing his creative freedoms, especially in the last year. I do not know if there is any political satire that has been as drastic or effective as the time he legally laundered money and walked his audience through the entire process. Such a ridiculous process both highlighted the absurdity of the situation while simultaneously educating the public, highlighting the problem and helping to do something about it.
Also, I feel like it would be improper to forget the interviews which are consistently excellent, especially on The Daily Show. Stewart manages to find what is interesting about every single one of his guests and draws out great stories. In particular, his interviews with Richard Dawkins, Robin Williams, and David Mitchell gave valuable edifying wisdom as well as humorous asides.
I know that a lot of people are scared for the future of our country, but I continue to remain hopeful as long as people like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are around.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Anyone who seriously knows me knows this was coming, but for those unaware of why they should watch this show, let me go into detail.
Strip away all the Marvel integration, and so far there is a decent show. It has a gorgeous set, some pretty exciting action, and a likeable main character (Agent Coulson played by the always charming Clark Gregg). It is not perfect, as the side characters, frankly, need work and it is still finding its footing in its own mythology.
But you know what it does have? Promise.
The show does not take long before it begins to hint that it has more to offer besides your normal procedural drama. While the show has some trappings of a show where attractive people do attractive things all the time, the characters are already beginning to show the beginnings of deeper plots that go interesting places. Whether or not they ever fully break out of their current roles (the hacker, the tough guy, the veteran, etc) is still up in the air, but given that a specialty of the people behind this show is doing just that, I would say that it is likely to happen.
The pedigree of the people behind this is certainly the main reason I am excited for it. Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon are the showrunners, and they both worked on Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, the latter being one of my favorite things the internet has ever produced and the former being a prime example of a show with a slow start and excellent finish. Plus, there is the cursory involvement of the ever-excellent Joss Whedon.
In fact, I trust the people behind this so much that going into these first couple episodes, I was not looking for an excellent show. I was looking for a solid show with room to grow because I trust they’ll deliver on that front, and I got what I was looking for.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is available on ABC on Tuesday nights and on Hulu.
Bonus – Bravest Warriors
So this show is actually a series of shorts available on YouTube, but it has an ongoing storyline and seasons so it still counts. Bravest Warriors was created by Pendleton Ward (of Adventure Time fame) but has been taken over by Breehn Burns. The end result is a show that has a similar feeling to Adventure Time but carves its own mythology and gags enough to make it distinct.
Bravest Warriors is about four warriors whose parents were sucked into the See-Through zone and thus must take on the duties of solving the galaxy’s problems. Like Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors takes place in a highly imaginative world that may be off-putting to people at first but soon becomes part of its main appeal. A lot of the humor comes from just how ridiculous it is, which may come off as stupid to people who do not see the cleverness. In fact, I would argue that this type of show works better in shorter format where it can go tons of different places without the need of filling out why these things are so entertaining.
But this is no cheap kids entertainment. Well, it works really well for kids, but the humor in the show comes from crafting stupid lines in unique and odd ways. If you do not crack up at “locally grown butter lettuce” or “gas powered stick,”** then I do not know what to do with you.
Bravest Warriors begins its second season on October 17th. The first season can be viewed on YouTube on the Cartoon Hangover page.
So that is what I am watching this fall. Are you keeping up with these series as well, or are you watching something different? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to follow my Twitter and like me on Facebook.
*Interesting fact about this show: at first Nickelodeon was unsure about having a female main character, but when they focus tested it nobody cared because she was awesome.
**Those sound stupid now, but trust me when I say that they are excellent in the show.