TV Diaries: The Borgias will give you an existential crisis

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Plus ABC's Happy Endings, PBS reboots Upstairs, Downstairs, and more.

TV and I have a very close relationship. Luckily, it's also an open relationship  won't you join us on my couch?


4 p.m. – Sunday morning is hard, as in “Why do I think it is reasonable to go to bed at 5:30 a.m.” hard, so I self-medicate with nature documentaries on National Geographic. Which do you think would make a better sandwich: zebra or wildebeest?

10 p.m. The Killing proceeds apace, and it occurs to me that the AMC marketing team needs to tread carefully as it promotes the show. I recognize that it's a requirement these days to have an online presence with some sort of viral twist, but it still sounds weird when a commercial encourages me to “go deeper into The Killing.” (But, officer, the television commanded me to do it!)

On an unrelated note, someone describes sketchy cop Holder as looking like Justin Bieber. The only way that's true is if Bieber has some rough years ahead of him, like giving-handjobs-for-drug-money rough.


6 p.m.The Borgias (Showtime) is giving me an existential crisis over the nature of man. I recognize that the people in fifteenth-century Rome were operating with a different worldview, and I also know that there are places in this world where it's not uncommon for people to be murdered, but these characters are so kill-happy. Killing with poison, killing with knives, killing their enemies, killing their friends. One man kills people, then props up the corpses in his serial-killer version of the last supper. This is what his son shows off to guests as a conversation piece.

Is this it, everyone? How little would it take for you or me to turn into a cold-blooded killer? Are we simply animals at the end of the day, cowering in fear of the darkness while we wait for the chance to turn our enemies into so many wildebeest sandwiches?

7:30 p.m. Community (NBC) repeat. Oh Abed, you're so wacky.


1:00 a.m. – I think I watch all of How I Met Your Mother. I don't know, I was drunk.

9:00 a.m. – I watch all of How I Met Your Mother. When did Ted start actually dating Zoe? Do I only watch this show after I've been drinking?

8 p.m. – I've never seen the original Upstairs, Downstairs (PBS), but who would pass up the chance to revisit the simpler world of the 1930s British upper class, a place where it's completely appropriate to hire a hot young man to do your bidding and your biggest problem is that some AMERICAN TRAMP used her plus-one to bring a Nazi to your cocktail party. (Etiquette tip: when you need to get a National Socialist out of your house, the proper thing to do is have your butler spill a tray of drinks on him. But remember, it needs to look real, so then you should probably slap the butler. Really sell it.)

Unfortunately this incarnation is only three episodes long, and this episode moves with a peculiar pacing that makes me unsure if weeks have passed or merely days. But if nothing else, I love this show for introducing me to Eileen Atkins, whose aging matriarch owns a monkey and is a total HBIC. Her presence also guarantees that we'll be presented with a truly exciting assortment of [swish voice] jewELLLLLSS. (I've really got to stop with that.)

10 p.m. – I'm not sure when this season of United States of Tara (Showtime) was written and filmed, but how much do you think everyone involved shit their pants when they realized the third episode uses a major earthquake in Japan as a throwaway plot device?


2 p.m. – I don't watch Oprah (ABC), but I tune in today just to watch Salt-N-Pepa perform, something I thought they had stopped doing now that Salt got all into God. But there they are, grinding their way through “Push It” like it's 1987. Mostly it makes me miss VH1's Let's Talk About Pep, an amazing reality TV show/Sex and the City ripoff that I used to watch with my friends Megan and Meghan. We were the entire viewing audience.

9:30 p.m. – Don't feel bad if you can't tell the difference between ABC's Happy Endings and the two hundred other Friends clones currently limping across your screens. If you need something to remember it by, this is one with a black guy. (And a gay guy. And a brunette! Diversity is fun.)

This is going to sound supremely backhanded, but Happy Endings is pretty good for a show that's not very good. ABC smartly shows two episodes tonight, because the pilot gets stuck establishing the premise: bride-to-be Alex bolts on the day of her wedding to nice guy Dave, leaving their friends to wonder if they can ever hang out as a group again. The show mostly ignores this plot device after the first episode, so I'm choosing to do the same. The second episode picks up considerably once it's freed from the weight of that surprisingly un-traumatic event.

The standout is probably Adam Pally as straight-in-every-way-except-the-gay-sex Max, who gleefully encourages the other characters to indulge their worst traits. In fact, the cast  — which also includes Damon Wayans, Jr. and SNL alum Casey Wilson — is good enough that it makes me wish they were all starring in a different, better sitcom. I doubt this will ever be 30 Rock, but maybe with some practice it could be How I Met Your Mother.


9:00 p.m. – Thank God for the return of Community, The Office, Parks & Recreation, and 30 Rock. (They help me stave off the emptiness.) Of course, this week NBC continues its “mess with a good thing” campaign, bumping everything except for Community forward half an hour to premiere The Paul Reiser Show. I don't watch it, because it looks terrible and I remember Mad About You. This is the equivalent of directing a vehicle for Jennifer Lopez today if the only thing she'd ever done was 1995's Money Train.

On to the old reliables. Some have better returns than others, like Parks & Rec with a sweet and surprising wedding episode and 30 Rock's increasingly family-friendly Saw ripoff. But can we talk about how NBC is bringing back the pratfall? When Ed Helms took a tumble over a table on tonight's Office, he joined the venerable ranks of Chevy Chase on Community and Chris Pratt on Parks & Rec as champion trippers. (I can't think of a reliable fall guy on 30 Rock, but I only need three examples to make up a trend.) Has a sitcom block ever had so much reliable physical comedy as this? Screw nuance or word play. Fall on your face, you ungainly wildebeest!