Three shows that have pleased me lately

I mentioned a while ago that I was tired of grim ‘n gritty TV shows, things full of cynicism and decidedly lacking in color. In contrast, I’d like to recommend three TV shows that are bright! and energetic! and feature almost no death whatsoever!

Bonus, of a sort: all of these shows are short-run, with the longest having only ten episodes. So if you’re looking for something you can marathon for weeks, these will not fit the bill — but if you want something that isn’t a huge time commitment, they’re perfect.


#1 — The Librarians.

This show. THIS SHOW.

It is a totally worthy successor to the movies, while still being its own thing. Basic premise of the setting, for those who don’t know: there is a Library, which contains all kinds of weird magical shit and miles upon miles of information about same. There is also a Librarian, who is selected from among the geekiest trivia magnets in the world to chase down and deal with magical problems in the world. (Played by Noah Wyle.) In the show, events conspire to bring together three candidates who were invited to apply for the Librarian’s job (back when Noah Wyle got hired) but didn’t show up for one reason or another, along with a Guardian who is supposed to protect the Librarian — except that the current guy has done without a Guardian for ten years and doesn’t see why he needs one now. Stuff happens, things go crazy, and the Guardian gets assigned to babysit the Librarian candidates on various missions while Noah Wyle’s character runs off to deal with something else.

Things that are awesome: well, for starters, the Guardian is a woman (played by Rebecca Romijn), a counterterrorism expert who suffers throughout the first season from a constant case of “this magic stuff is making my sanity melt down.” One of the Librarian candidates is also a woman; another is an Asian guy. (Could have done with more characters of color elsewhere, I will admit.) And the candidates’ personalities make me wonder if the writers thought up the character types, matched them to the castings, and then rotated the set one click. The math nerd isn’t the Asian guy; it’s the girl. The art history major isn’t the girl; it’s Christian Kane from Leverage. The smart-mouthed thief isn’t Christian Kane; it’s the Asian guy. And their dynamics together are a lot of fun.

And then. Y’all. This was a silly bit of fluff full of nerdy trivia goodness, and then every so often it would punch me in the feels. There’s an ongoing thing involving terminal illness, which the show handles with a surprising amount of nuance for a story that is essentially comedic in its tone. Magic does not wave a wand and make the illness go away. Sometimes it is debilitating to the sick character; sometimes it is not. The fact of the illness affects how that character acts, and how other people act toward that character, in good ways and bad. Heck — there are ways in which the illness even provides a benefit sometimes . . . but the story never loses sight of the fact that the character is still sick, that no amount of side benefit can make this a good thing. Given that the show has been renewed for a second season, I won’t be surprised if eventually there is a solution; the alternatives are a) the character dies (which would be saaaaaaaaaaad and not really how this show rolls) or b) the character mysteriously cruises on forever without that whole “terminal illness” thing ever reaching its conclusion. But in the meanwhile, it’s frankly done a better job with that side plot than a bunch of dramas out there. That isn’t the only thing that punched me in the feels, but it was one of the big ones.

So, in summary: nerdy trivia goodness, magic, plots that are lolarious “no seriously whut” kind of fun, surprisingly good coherence overall, entertaining characters, yay.


#2 — Agent Carter.

If they do not keep going with this show, I will cut someone.

Basic premise, for those who don’t know: Peggy Carter from Captain America joins the Strategic Scientific Reserve after WWII and, despite being a full agent, gets treated mostly like a secretary. When a bunch of Howard Stark’s inventions get stolen and he gets accused of selling them on the black market, she agrees to work in secret and try to clear his name.

Shorter version: come watch Peggy Carter punch sexism in the face! With bonus weird science!

Seriously, this strikes a beautiful balance for me of addressing the sexism of the time without depicting it in such pervasive detail that I want to slit my wrists. (I can’t watch Mad Men at ALL.) This is in large part because its genre is pulp adventure, and Peggy is a two-fisted action hero who handles both chauvinistic colleagues and molecular nitramine bombs with equal panache. Furthermore, the show doesn’t fall into the trap of making her only “a woman in a man’s world”: her workplace is entirely male (apart from the “telephone operators” downstairs who open the secret door to the real office), but she has a social life outside of work, and that’s made a relevant part of the story rather than a bolted-on addition. She has a roommate, a friend, women who live in her building who help her or get in her way or just exist in ways that tell you their lives don’t revolve 100% around Peggy Carter. Heck, she even talks to one of those telephone operators on several occasions, despite that being a bit part. (It doesn’t address racism at all, though, so if you’re looking for that, you won’t find it here.)

Her relationships with men are good, too. Can I say that I ship her and Jarvis so much in the most non-sexual way ever? I would be massively disappointed if the show ever had them hook up, but the good thing is I don’t think they’re going to. Jarvis is awesome as the buttoned-down butler who will occasionally try to hit people but isn’t very good at it and is absolutely devoted to his wife. I love the fact that he respects the hell out of Peggy, and also the fact that his respect doesn’t prevent them from having problems of other sorts. I’m amused by Howard Stark, cruising in and out of the show being an outrageous ass but occasionally slipping up and showing real substance. If I’m rooting for Peggy to hook up with anybody, it’s Sousa, the phsyically disabled SSR agent who sees Peggy a lot more clearly than most of their colleagues, largely because they don’t see him in much the same way they don’t see Peggy — but again, that clarity doesn’t make him perfect, and he isn’t always the ally Peggy might want him to be. Heck, even Thompson is growing on me, the golden boy who isn’t quite as perfect as he appears.

I like the fact that the characters on this show are generally smart. Not just in the “we know facts” way, but in their reasoning and actions (allowing for a certain amount of pulp adventure ridiculousness). Peggy’s colleagues are not buffoons; she only stays ahead of them by working fast and having access to some information they don’t possess. There’s only one point on the show where I’ve felt like somebody made a choice that was inexplicably short-sighted, and that’s in last week’s ep — jury’s still out as to whether the follow-up in the next one will mitigate that for me. (I won’t get to watch that until my husband comes back from his work trip, sob weep alas.) I may wail “no you idiot!” at the screen, but it’s generally for good in-story reason, not for gratuitous stupidity.

WANT MOAR. There had better be more than eight episodes of this show when it’s all over.


#3 — Galavant.

I didn’t actually expect to like this show, but my husband talked me into watching it.

Basic premise: Ye Olde Mediaeval Europe. In the opening song (yes, it’s a musical), Galavant’s beloved Madalena is stolen away from him by the evil King Richard. When Galavant charges into the castle to win her back, though, Madalena tells him she rather likes the notion of being queen. Galavant gets thrown out; jump to one year later, and he’s a pathetic drunk in a tavern who gets hired by the Princess Isabella to rescue her parents and save her kingdom from King Richard, who has taken over.

This is the most straight-up comedic one of the lot, which is why I didn’t expect to like it. But its humour relies more on witty social commentary than grossness or slapstick or oh my god how have you people not perished of your own stupidity, which are the things that usually put me off comedies. (My favorite line so far is probably the one that comes after Gareth, the cockney-accented bodyguard of King Richard, attempts to tell a joke that consists mostly of bleeped-out profanity. Richard stares at him and then says, “Good lord, Gareth. Do you kiss my ring with that mouth?”) The sidekicks are competent — often more so than the lead, but without the lead being so useless that I wish the show would just jettison him and talk about the other, more interesting people. The song lyrics are often clever; if the melodies aren’t the most amazing in the world, well, you try running a show with several musical numbers every week and see how well you do.

I haven’t seen to the end of this one yet. Since there are only eight episodes and each one is half an hour minus commercial time, though, you can sprint through the whole thing in under three hours — less time than some movies would take.


There are other shows I enjoy, too, but these share the qualities of being colorful and packed with energy and I think the cumulative death toll of all three might be less than half a dozen. I know at least one will be getting a second season; I’d be delighted if all three did.

Comments are closed.