How to Survive the TV Drought With the Writers Guild strike stretching on, what's a television addict to do? Mo Ryan of the Chicago Tribune's TV Watcher blog, makes a few suggestions.
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How to Survive the TV Drought

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How to Survive the TV Drought

How to Survive the TV Drought

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Well, thanks to the TV writers strike, Alison, I'm turning into this, like, demented, Mother Hubbard of TiVo. Every night, I check my little list of shows - AKA my cupboard - and alas, it is quite bare. And then…

STEWART: I'm so sorry.

BURBANK: …yeah, I cry a little bit. Then I watch a World Series of Poker rerun. And this is how I spend almost every night. You know, the sad part is I'm being deprived of shows like "30 Rock," where, as we know, Alec Baldwin plays NBC executive Jack Donaghy. Here he is making a confession in the NBC executive dining room.

(Soundbite of TV show, "30 Rock")

Mr. ALEC BALDWIN (Actor): (As Jack Donaghy): Some of you may or may not recognize the woman standing beside me. Her name is Celeste Cunningham, and she wants to tax us all to death and make it legal for a man to marry his own dog, and I'm proud of her. And I'm not going to hide it any longer. I'm Jack Donaghy, damn it, and this is my woman.

Unidentified Man #1: (As Character) I gave to NPR last year.

(Soundbite of crowd shuddering)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman: (As Character) My children go to public school.

(Soundbite of crowd shuddering)

Unidentified Man #2: (As Character) I'm gay.

Unidentified Man #3: (As Character) I'm black.

(Soundbite of applause)

Unidentified Man #4: (As Character) I murdered my wife.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: It's sad that we're getting less "30 Rock," but I realized something the other day. This is a rare opportunity. There are all these awesome shows out there either on DVD or deep in the folds of Bravo that I've always been meaning to watch. I haven't had a chance, but now that chance is here.

And here to help us make the most of it with some recommendations is Mo Ryan, who writes the TV blog - TV Watcher for the Chicago Tribune, that is. Hi, Moe.

Ms. MO RYAN (Writer, TV Watcher, Chicago Tribune): Hi. How are you?

BURBANK: Great. All right. Let's start on the DVD side of things…

Ms. RYAN: Right.

BURBANK: …with what, I think, is maybe pound-for-pound, the best TV show out there right now, "The Wire."

Ms. RYAN: Yeah. The new season of the show starts up in January, January 6th. So this is a show that probably a lot of people out there have heard, they must see before they die or, you know, that's, like, it's an incredible show and very well-done. If people are intimidated, though, in terms of, oh, gosh, I don't have time to watch four seasons of "The Wire" before the fifth and final season begins in January, I would say just watch season four. To me, that's my favorite season of the show. It is a complicated show, there are a lot of characters. But if they can get up to speed with season four and then go into season five and watch it as it airs on HBO, it's certainly worth getting into that way rather than, you know, waiting another, I don't know, six months or so before it all comes out on DVD.

BURBANK: What I'm telling people with "The Wire" is you got to hunker down with - with a couple of DVDs of it and, like, turn your phone off. And you'll watch two episodes and you'll think…

Ms. RYAN: Right.

BURBANK: …I hate this show. I don't know…

Ms. RYAN: Right.

BURBANK: …what's going on. And then by the third, you'll be, like, it's crack.

Ms. RYAN: It's totally crack, and that's the great thing about it. It's, like, you can sit there, and sometimes it takes me up to four episodes before I really get into it, and then it's like some switch is thrown in your brain and you're like I cannot do anything except watch this show.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Let's get a preview of an old show - one that is much loved, though -"My So-Called Life." There's a new DVD box set out.

Ms. RYAN: Right. There's a new DVD box set, and it's really - it's not one of these cheap, skimpy ones. It's incredibly festooned, if you will, with lots of extras and commentaries and a really great booklet which has essays by Joss Whedon and Janeane Garofalo, and, you know, and people who were influenced by this show and just completely blown away by it. And I actually compare it to, I mean, something like "Friday Night Lights." It sort of has that feel of intimacy and emotional situations, and also the whole issue of adolescence and reliving that through someone who's going through the most painful parts of it, you know? It's one of the shows that does hold up over time. I watched the DVD, and I thought, I don't know, is it going to be as good? And you certainly have some cringes at the '80s hair but…

BURBANK: And, Mo, hang on a quick second, can you?

Ms. RYAN: Sure.

BURBANK: Because I want to hold you over the break…

Ms. RYAN: Sure.

BURBANK: I want to talk about some other great shows that people need to catch up on.

Ms. RYAN: No problem.

BURBANK: Mo Ryan from the Chicago Tribune will back with us in a moment on THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: Welcome back to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. We're always available online at I'm Alison Stewart.

BURBANK: And I'm Luke Burbank.

We're still talking to Mo Ryan, who writes the blog TV Watcher for the Chicago Tribune about some of the great TV out there that you can watch while no good new TV is being made thanks to the lack of the writers.

Mo, we don't have too much time here…

Ms. RYAN: Yeah.

BURBANK: …but I just want to kind of run through some BBC shows that people may not have heard of. There's a show called "Prime Suspect" with Helen Mirren that people rave about, right?

Ms. RYAN: Right. And they just did the last edition of it. It's kind of a mini-series format, so it's easy to watch over a weekend. And she is so terrific as this female cop in London. It's something definitely worth checking out if you think Helen Mirren is all that.

BURBANK: Uh-huh. How about "Life On Mars?"

Ms. RYAN: That is a BBC show which is at its second season which begins tonight on BBC America. It's - the first season is not available on DVD here in the States yet, which I don't really understand. But the basic premise is that a cop from our era somehow got put back in time to 1973. And I won't spoil it, but there's just a lot of - there's a lot of mystery as to, you know, what's going on and how he got there. But the performances are really, really great, and there's a lot of, you know, crazy '70s clothes, but it's not done completely in a sort of camp mode. It's actually a pretty good drama.

BURBANK: And lest I dismiss all reality television as crap, there is always "Project Runway."

Ms. RYAN: Oh, of course. If we didn't have "Project Runway" to get us through this next couple of months, what would we do? Honestly.

BURBANK: I don't know. Oh, Tim Gunn, you always make it work.

Ms. RYAN: He does.

BURBANK: All right. Mo Ryan writes the blog TV Watcher for the Chicago Tribune. Thanks a lot, Mo.

Ms. RYAN: Any time.

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