July 28, 2010By Mala Bhattacharjee Posted: Jul 28, 2010
Between PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, and WHITE COLLAR Tuesday nights are THE best TV night for me this summer. I even told my family not to call me between 8 and 10! Invite me somewhere, and I guarantee I will trump up a lame excuse not to be there, because I've got shows to watch!
I know I've already praised PLL and MIOBI in past entries (June 30 and Feb. 17, respectively), but I really can't say enough good things about these programs. ABC Family gets flak, I think, because people associate it with stuff like THE 700 CLUB and the preachy THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER. (I was talking to a friend this weekend, who is a high school senior, and he astutely observed that "Everybody gets pregnant on that show. Even the mom!" LOL!) But the bulk of the network's original programming is just that: original.
I'm, essentially, getting from these shows what daytime soaps seldom offer up anymore: a great balance of crisp writing, over-the-top shenanigans, intrigue, sex and women sharing complex relationships. MIOBI's Lauren is a competitive little brat, but the viewer still gets the sense that she loves her best friends, Kaylie and Payson. She's not a one-note bitch and neither is Emily, the new gal in town, the obvious root-for character. Frankly, Emily annoys me more often than Lauren does, because she's so passive. But, at the end of the day, watching the show is about watching all of these girls pursue their dream of Olympic gold. And last night, I was so happy to see my favorite character, Payson, making major strides towards accepting that she is a different kind of gymnast in the wake of her back surgery.
Speaking of major strides, PLL, like GREEK before it, is making them in terms of portraying a same-sex romance without any kind of fanfare. It wasn't until after last night's episode was over that I went, "Oh, hey, Emily and Maya making out in a movie theater was pretty significant, wasn't it?" Within the context of the episode, it was just two people on a date, enjoying themselves. They didn't dub it a Very Special Episode just because the bisexual girl and her potential girlfriend locked lips. I thought that was really cool, and it reminded me of how GREEK treats Calvin and his love interests. On daytime, I feel like we're still struggling with that "no big deal" aspect of LGBT storytelling. It's a huge thing when ATWT's Luke gets to kiss somebody or OLTL airs daytime's first, and only, gay love scene. Meanwhile, Calvin and Emily just do their thing, like every other character on their respective shows. It's funny, and sad, that shows aimed at teens and 20-somethings are leaving soaps in the dust in that regard.
And then there's USA's WHITE COLLAR. Both the show and its protagonist, Neal Caffrey, are smart, sharply dressed and funny...something you could gladly watch for hours of endless entertainment. Matt Bomer has come a long way since he played Ben on GL, and I'm so proud that we get to claim him as a soap alum! He and Tim DeKay, whom I've adored since his turn as Jonesy on CARNIVALE, have wonderful chemistry. Neal and Peter's relationship is the perfect amalgamation of a buddy cop vibe, an exasperated parent and child, best friends, and people who should just make out. You think I'm exaggerating? Just tune in. It's remarkable! But unlike many procedural shows with strong male leads, WHITE COLLAR doesn't sacrifice its women. (Not counting the utter waste of Natalie Morales' Lauren last season, that is.) Peter's wife, Elizabeth, played by Tiffani Thiessen (ex-Valerie, 90210), is awesome. And Marsha Thomason (ex-Gillian, GH), who returned this season as Diana, kicks all kinds of ass. Diana's an incredibly competent agent and, oh yeah, she's also gay. The July 20 episode where she proved impervious to Neal's considerable charms while they were undercover had me in stitches. WC has a great cast, it's wonderfully written and it never fails to put a smile on my face. There's a madcap, old school quality to it that's missing in a lot of shows today, which rely on grittier, darker stories to hook their viewers.
Is it any wonder I spend my Tuesday nights crashed out on the couch in front of my TV?