Summer Shows That Don’t Suck

I know, I know. Summer time is here and that’s usually when everyone heads outside and turns the television off. I understand. Given a choice between either Six Flags, the beach, outdoor sports, people watching and repeats of the latest lame reality series, television loses in a landslide. It’s not a secret. That’s why networks save their best product for the fall and put on garbage that is cheap and easy to produce in the summer.

But there are two bright spots this summer. First is a new series on NBC called “Fear Itself.” I enjoyed the pilot episode a lot. It’s a thirteen-episode horror anthology that has many well know horror directors like John Landis (“An American Werewolf in London,” “Thriller”) and Darren Bousman (“Saw II, III & IV”) at the helm for at least one episode. It stars many talented actors from current hit television shows and film. I have to admit being a sucker for these kinds of series. Some of my favorites included “The Twilight Zone,” “Fright Night,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and the famous “Trilogy of Terror.” I can remember during the commercial breaks the hand that came up from underground as the voiceover groaned “chilllller!” If you couldn’t get to the movies on a Friday or Saturday night, these series made being at home ok. If you had friends over or just a brother or sister who was scared out of their minds, it was pure entertainment. There have been a few that tried and failed, but “Fear Itself” is off to a good start and worth a shot.

My second choice is “So You Think You Can Dance.” It isn’t new, but it’s joyful and heartbreaking to watch. I feel like Robert De Niro’s character in “Analyze This” that found himself tearing up every five minutes and wondering, “What’s wrong with me?” I can’t help that I am attracted to success stories. Watching people set a goal, work hard and get what they want is compelling. “SYTYCD” appeals to me on three important levels. One, I’m an artist and love to watch fellow artists in other disciplines. Two, it’s about young people pursuing their dreams. Three, it’s not contrived or gimmicky. Cue music. DANCE! Period. You got it or you don’t. And let there be no doubts, some of these kids are not just good, but some are jaw-dropping great!

There is a flip side. Desire doesn’t always match talent. Where many of the dancers have the heart and training, they’re just not ready or simply not good enough to make the cut. To see that kind of pain and anguish is extremely tough. These are kids who gave up their jobs, defied their parents, are homeless or spent their last dollar in an all or nothing shot and come up short. They open themselves up, become totally vulnerable and get rejected…again. Not the kind of pain I’d wish on anyone.

The direction is a little sketchy for me. I could do without all of the quick cuts and reaction shots of the judges during the performances. I want to see what they see. It’s hard to agree or disagree with their opinion when all you can see is one of ten dancers on the stage or a fraction of the performance. However, the judges are very fair most of the time, and their criticism is usually constructive.

I will still make it to Six Flags, but I’ll have plenty to watch on Tivo.

Let me get my remote!

Darryl Bell is an actor and Chicago native, best known for his roles in classic TV series “A Different World” and Spike Lee’s “School Daze.” His unique television commentary is exclusive to Urban Thought Collective.

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