TV Diaries: The Killing is this week’s best new show

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AMC's new Twin Peaks-like crime drama, plus the premiere of The Borgias, and more.

I wouldn't say I was raised by TV. TV didn't teach me to tie my shoes, or how to make mashed potatoes, or why it's okay to make up facts if you need to win an argument. On the other hand, my parents didn't teach me how to kill vampires or get addicted to caffeine pills. So TV and I have a very close relationship. Luckily, it's also an open relationship  won't you join us on my couch? 

Sunday, April 3

9 p.m. — After some deliberation, I pick AMC's The Killing out of all the two-hour series premieres tonight. The show, adapted from a Danish original, follows the investigation of the murder of a seventeen-year-old girl in rainy, gray Seattle. I spend the first twenty minutes trying to figure out if the lead detective's name is Sarah, Linda, or Candy, because no one will call her the same damn thing and the sound levels are as muddy as the setting. (It's “Sarah Linden,” if you're curious.)

The show is stocked with the requisite distraught parents, douchebag boyfriends, and shady politicians you'd expect, but Mireille Enos' portrayal of Linden quickly wins me over, as does Joel Kinnaman as her sketchy partner. I think the moment I fall for him is when he flirts with some high-school girls, offering them weed so they will lead him to the boiler-room sex mattress all public schools have. Tune in next week, when he fingers a suspect by driving a Jeep into his living room, then literally fingering him.

10 p.m. — I cool down with an episode of House Hunters International (HGTV) in which a whining British couple buys what can only be described as an Italian sex villa. (It won't be the last such villa this week.)

Monday, April 4

2 p.m. — While flipping through channels, I see a real-estate commercial that promises “hardcore luxury” at the “Williamsburg edge.” I think I prefer my luxury softcore; the lighting is more flattering.

3:30 p.m. — It's time to start in on Showtime's The Borgias, which also had an unnecessarily long premiere Sunday night. I have to confess, I'm wary — as a Classics major, I like my sexy/violent period pieces set in ancient Greece or Rome, so at least I know when things are wrong. The show stars Jeremy Irons as the infamous Pope Alexander VI, whose hobbies include bribery, using people, and upside-down kissing; the first episode also features a surprise cameo by the Smoke Monster from Lost. (But seriously: they have a budget out the ass for this show and they couldn't just film some real chimney smoke?)

The show suffers from the usual period-piece ups and downs: clunky dialogue and too many stretches of exposition drag on the pacing, but no other drama on TV right now will offer you such amazing [swish voice] haaaa-aats! But here's my main gripe, and The Borgias could take a cue from The Killing on this: everything is far too clean. The streets of fifteenth-century Rome, the Cardinal robes, the flowing locks of comely maids — all look recently washed. I'm not asking for the place to look like a louse-ridden shit hole, but even in today's New York, the cleanest streets have some trash on them.

One last note: I was charmed by Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia, who deftly pulled off a fourteen-year-old girl who's already too good at getting what she wants. Which may be fucking her brother.

10:30 p.m. — I never know quite where I stand on The United States of Tara (Showtime). Often I find it funny and sweet, but sometimes I just think, “What the hell are you people doing?”

Tuesday, April 5

11 a.m. — The one thing I will miss as TV moves away from cable and towards instant-streaming whatevers is the chance to stumble upon entertaining garbage, like Ancients Behaving Badly (History Channel). This installment is about Caligula, and features many exciting variations on the phrase, “There's no proof, but… ”

3 p.m. — What is it about Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (USA) that appeals to me so? My current theory is that the conflict between keeping things fresh and justifying the SVU detectives' involvement leads to particularly unpredictable and absurd plot lines. Tell me again, Elliot Stabler, how did the dead woman in S&M gear lead you to a diamond smuggling ring?

This particular episode features the neglected children of two rock stars; a hopelessly dated plot, as we now know that famous people work their children like precious little organ monkeys until they burn out, fez in tatters, blow everywhere.

Wednesday, April 6

8:30 p.m. — I think about watching a show called Extreme Couponing (TLC). But then I realize I will never be as ingenious or as committed as a woman named J'aime who stockpiles jars of peanuts. I get sad.

9:00 p.m. — But then I get wine! A lovely magnum of red wine, which is completely appropriate as I — completely by accident — come upon the MythBusters season premier (Discovery). I watch this show for two reasons: one, I like to watch things explode, again and again, in slow motion. Two, I have a strong if strange attraction to three of the five MythBusters. (Can you guess which ones? Helpful hint: I like guys.)

But there are no explosions this time around. Instead I find the “build team” trying to spin a merry-go-round using guns, a “myth” which comes from a movie released in 2007. I think this should disqualify it from contention. Red wine agrees, and signals its displeasure by disappearing into my stomach. Adam and Jamie, meanwhile, wear terrifying Jamie and Adam masks inspired by Mission: Impossible. I've never seen the movie Trash Humpers, because I severely don't want to, but the whole thing reminds me of the movie Trash Humpers.

Thursday, April 7

10 p.m. — Thursday becomes a surprisingly quiet night on TV when the NBC comedies are M.I.A. This would probably be different if I were more interested in the overwrought dramatics of banal monsters who prey on the innocent while lusting after eternal youth, but I just can't get in to either The Vampire Diaries (CW) or The Real Housewives of New York City (Bravo).

Thankfully FX's Archer comes through in a clutch, with an amusing if not stellar entry about stolen 401k money that's then gambled away but actually stolen but then… whatever, that's not the point. The point is Mallory Archer in an Elvira costume. That's truly the point of it all.