Throughout the past year, for "can't miss" TV recommendations, you could do a lot worse than the 2012 presidential campaign. It's been constant must-see TV, from Rick Perry's "oops" moment to Barack Obama's Sleepytime Tea ad/debate performance. With the campaign at an end, though, luckily it's time for November sweeps – the ratings period upon which ad rates are based, so the networks pull out their biggest programming stunts. The addition of events like these should make up for the loss of all those entertaining political ads.
The Voice, NBC, Monday & Wednesday, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
I realize that the initial charm of this show was simply a piece of furniture. Watching those Star Trek-esque chairs swivel around when any of the judges/coaches decided they wanted to add an unseen singer to their team of performers was unlike any other competition show gimmick. This was more entertaining than Simon Cowell's tight t-shirts or Bruno Tonioli's crazy rants, but I have to say that I'm way over the chair ploy. Luckily, however, so is The Voice because as the show moves into the live rounds of Season Three this week, it's actually getting more interesting.
Now sure, some of the group musical numbers the competitors are forced to do will make Up With People gigs look like a Sex Pistols show. Still, the amped up energy that Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera bring to the live shows is seems more sincere and spontaneous than in the blind auditions and battle rounds. And the singers really do seem to have more depth (a.k.a. they're mostly older) than you usually see in these types of shows. There's nobody as exotic and exciting this year as Season Two's Lindsey Pavao or Juliet Simms, but look out for Avery Johnson and Melani Martinez. More importantly, while I'm still partial to Cee Lo's Purrfect the Cat from last year, I'm eager to see what his new pal – Lady the Cockatoo – can bring to the live shows.
Election Night, Tuesday, All Day
The comedy. The drama. The tragedy. The goofy characters you love to hate. The buzz they generate around the water cooler the next day. There really has been no better TV entertainment for the past year than the presidential campaign, which is why it's a bit sad to see it end tonight. What are we going to do without negative campaign ads featuring slow motion, black and white video of candidates doing ordinary activities that look suspicious simply because they're shown in black and white slow motion?
Regardless of whom you support, or who you hate less, this should be TV's most exciting evening given how close the presidential election is. Odds are it's going to be a late night, with lots of sweating and frenetic pacing, insincere pronouncements and random use of factual inaccuracies. And that's just the multiple cable and network news reporters who will be covering the evening and trying to be the first ones to declare a winner. The build-up to Election Night is never fun for viewers, especially given the billion dollars spent on those ads this year, but there is really nothing with more thrilling, uncertain impact on TV than the presidential election returns.
Modern Family, ABC, Wednesdays, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CT
Speaking of the candidates, who knew that this Emmy-winning comedy would become a hot topic during the election right up until the bitter end? Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had told reporters Modern Family was one of their favorite shows, with supporters on both sides privately griping that the other candidate was just dropping the show's name because it's the fashionable comedy to support. And frankly, it is hard to image either of them devoting 30 minutes to watching or laughing at anything. With the election done Tuesday, though, hopefully they'll be able to relax and watch Wednesday night's episode because there's a special sweeps surprise in store.
It's the return of Shelley Long as Jay's (Ed O'Neill) ex-wife. She doesn't do much television these days, but Long's quirky tics and takes on her dialogue have made her a comedic natural going all the way back to her Cheers days. Like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, she can create a new character but never disappears into it, keeping her unique personality intact at least to a small degree. And given that her daffy Dede is arriving on the scene just as Jay's new bride (Sofia Vergara) is pregnant should make for a great episode that deserves everyone's vote regardless of party affiliation.
Burn Notice, USA, Thursdays, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CT
There are a lot of things to miss about summer. Going to cookouts. Taking vacations. Getting your kids to do more household chores because they're home during the day. And, of course, summer action blockbusters. Tis the season now for all the artsy films vying for Oscar consideration, so explosions, car chases and gunfights are much harder to come by in the multiplexes. So, it's the perfect time for Burn Notice, TV's most action-packed series, to return for with its sixth season.
When we last left discarded spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) and his friends last spring, they had traveled to Panama in search of his brother's killer. Once there, however, much double-crossing and bomb dropping ensued. And in the end, they were stranded and presumed dead. This series has consistently found new ways to reinvent itself over the years, slowly incorporating more characters and plot twists beyond Michael's desire to see who burned him at the CIA, so it'll be interesting to see what's in store for his team. And how many explosions they'll be able to cram in per episode this time.
Family Guy, Fox, Sundays, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CT
I have to admit, I debated quite awhile about putting Family Guy on this week's watch list. Despite the title, it's one of the least family-friendly shows on the air. So even though this is a big sweeps episode, celebrating the show's 200th episode, I wasn't sure it would be entirely appropriate to plug it here. But then, I realized my teenage son has managed to see almost every episode now on his Kindle and he was downright manic when he knew I had an advance copy of the 200th show, so it seemed like a good idea to discuss what has become a family program for a new era.
And truth be told, this episode is pretty funny. Incredibly raunchy too, thanks to the inclusion of everything but reverse vomit jokes (don't ask!) to adult sexcapades, But there's nothing wrong with some risqué romps every now and again, and nobody pushes the envelope all the way off the desk more than Family Guy. As frightening as it was at first to watch my 15-year-old laughing at gags I'd usually be referencing in a bar with my guy friends, there is something kind of cool about sitting down to a show that you can enjoy on a grown-up level with your aging child. And frankly, it's a lot less stressful to watch a Family Guy episode with your teen than take him or her out for a driving lesson.