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Underrated: The TV shows you should be watching

Scene Staff Report | Tuesday, February 22, 2011

“The Vampire Diaries” — The CW

Thursdays 8 p.m.

The CW network has never been a ratings champ, but that’s okay: It’s the poor, neglected but stylish little sister to the “Big Four” networks of ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.

Just like its network, “The Vampire Diaries” has consistently been written off as third-rate: a junior varsity “True Blood,” another useless rider on the “Twilight” domination bandwagon or a vampire-infested “Dawson’s Creek.”

Simply put, “Vampire Diaries” is the epitome of good serial television. It burns through more plot in a single episode than most dramas do in half a season. This breakneck pacing is supported by fantastic characterization, the product of crisp writing performed by ridiculously talented and outrageously good-looking ensemble cast. Showrunners Kevin Williamson (previously of “Dawson’s Creek,” no less) and Julie Plec aren’t afraid to shock — they killed off half a dozen significant characters in the first season alone, and this season the Mystic Falls town death count is already to the double-digits.

The truth? “The Vampire Diaries” is smarter than “True Blood,” sexier than “Twilight” and “Dawson’s Creek” really wasn’t half bad, but “Diaries” breaks the mold of the high-school-set drama.


“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” — FX

Thursdays 10 p.m. (on hiatus until fall)

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is not for the easily offended. The show focuses on a group of friends who own a shoddy bar in Philadelphia. At the center of the commotion is the Reynolds family, comprised of siblings Dennis and Sweet Dee (Glenn Howerton and Kaitlin Olson) and father Frank (Danny DeVito). Dennis and Dee, from their outrageously-egotistic viewpoint, propel an absurd storyline dealing with social issues such as homelessness, abortion, underage drinking, terrorism and illegal immigration. Further initiating the humor are Dennis’ childhood friends, the laughably bizarre Mac and Charlie (Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day). Mac’s fondness of karate and comical statement T-shirts elicit laughs on a regular basis. Charlie is the bar’s resident handy man, whose unpleasant jobs include cleaning the restrooms, killing rats and whatever else the other bar owners are too lazy to do. Currently in it sixth season, Always Sunny is still going strong. Notable episodes from the current season include the Halloween special, in which the gang tries to piece together its hazy memories from the Halloween party in order to figure out who impregnated Dee. Such humor is characteristic of the show, whose outrageous and uproarious content is certainly not for everyone.


“Archer”— FX

Thursdays 10 p.m.

“Archer” is not your typical spy show. For one, it is animated. But it also features Sterling Archer, considered the world’s most dangerous secret, who is actually a completely inept loose cannon. He succeeds only through his dumb luck and only wants to be a spy so he can take advantage of the lifestyle of sex, alcohol and spy toys. It also helps that his mother is the head of the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS). The cast of characters keeps this comedy fresh and quick. Mary Archer, Archer’s mother, frequently launches half-baked and disastrous plans through which she attempts to use ISIS resources for her own advantage. Lana Kane, Archer’s fellow agent and ex-girlfriend, has a love-hate relationship with Archer, encouraged by her second-tier place in ISIS due to nepotism. Creator Adam Reed’s plots and lines are original and catchy. The humor resembles another that of another FX, “It’s Always Sunny,” though specially tailored to the spy world. Be sure to check out this show to keep up on Archer’s latest disaster and his fortuitous escape.


“Psych” — USA Network

Wednesdays 10 p.m.

Have you ever watched or heard of CBS’s “The Mentalist?” Well, this is the show from which they stole their idea, except they could not copy the unique humor and awesome chemistry of “Psych.” Shawn Spencer (James Roday), fake psychic, works with his best friend from childhood, Burton “Gus” Guster (Dulé Hill), to solve crimes for the Santa Barbara Police Department. Shawn’s methods are unconventional and frustrate SBPD Head Detective Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Osmond) to no end, but he always gets his bad guy. Hijinks, tomfoolery and shenanigans abound in this series as Shawn, a modern-day Peter Pan, cracks jokes ranging from obscure 1980s movies to pineapples to marriage rights in Massachusetts. He has successfully impersonated an astronaut and a streetcar racer, among other things. Despite its five-season run, “Psych” has not grown old, and its jokes are still fresh. So tune this summer for its return to see what ridiculous new nickname Shawn has made up for Gus.