The Magic TeeVee Box

Not long ago, prompted by seeing one in action at my sister’s house, we bought us a Roku-like device (we actually got a Sony one. I don’t know what these things are actually called.) What this is is a box you hook to your TV that lets you stream things from the Internet directly to it. We also re-signed up for Netflix streaming. This means we now have easy access to all kinds of stuff again. We’ve been watching some TV shows.

Black Books is a show I’ve heard a lot about for some time, but never got around to seeing. It’s a really funny British comedy with all-over-the-scale humor. Dylan Moran plays Bernard Black, a bookstore owner who hates people and books. Bill Bailey is his assistant, the much-abused Manny, and Tamsin Grieg is his friend and neighbor, Fran. Together they get into absurd situations, usually of their own creation. There are only three seasons of six episodes each, but that’s fine. We’re in season two now.

Even our bottom-of-the-barrel cable tier has IFC on it, so we’d seen Portlandia before, but only in bits and pieces. Netflix has the entire first season (no second season yet) on Watch Instantly, so we enjoyed it all over again. The show is a hilarious satire of hipper-than-though lifestyles (I love every scene involving Fred Armisen with fake ear gauges and a chin-beard) with SNL alumnus Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney alumnus Carrie Brownstein. There are also plenty of guest stars, with the best being Kyle MacLachlan as the mayor. It’s a great show and I can’t wait for them to get season two.

You know that show you’ve been asking for, where a musician who was in some Jim Jarmusch movies goes on fishing trips with folks like Tom Waits, Dennis Hopper, and Willem Dafoe, despite not really knowing much about fishing and not catching much of anything? Where the narrator wanders off-script and not a whole lot seems to happen but it’s funny anyway? Fishing With John, starring John Lurie, is that show. We’d seen it before but it’s great re-watching it.

And I guess we have a way to watch Project Runway now? Season 9 was a gigantic snooze, as was All-Stars, but this season might be a little better. There’s some actual talent for a change, and the judging seems like it might be back to being about the designs themselves instead of all the hand-waving fuffery Kors and Garcia have been about recently. I’m already tired of the Gunnar/Christopher will-they-or-won’t-they subplot, and this season’s kook, Kooan, doesn’t seem to have the talent to match his personality. I’m already loving Dmitry, though.

The not-Roku thing is pretty nifty, and it’s nice having Watch Instantly back around. I already have plans to dig through the documentaries section once I’m back at a safe cruising altitude at work. I’m sure I’ll be soliciting suggestions for those soon enough.

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