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TV Tonight: FAIL Success, Psychic FAIL

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A lot of summer TV debuting tonight, and not enough time to review it, so it’s time to break out with the capsules: 

Tosh.0: Given the unending success of FAIL Culture on the web—you’re probably familiar with FAIL Blog, or at least the various humiliating videos people have forwarded you from there—it’s surprising no one has come up with a successful TV iteration yet. The trick is capturing the particularly gleeful tone of Web snark that distinguishes it from America’s Funniest Home Videos. Comedian Daniel Tosh does this on Comedy Central’s Tosh.0, which is the simplest of ideas: Tosh replays famous or more obscure snippets of Things Going Wrong—or other viral oddities like crush-fetish videos—and comments on them. 

Why bother watching this when you can see the videos online—very likely you already have seen some—and read the comments there? Because Tosh shows the value of hiring a professional. You may well have seen the video, for instance, of “Colleen,” a TV hostess, getting run over by a massive Zorb ball during a standup. But Tosh spins out an obvious-in-retrospect thought: none of the crew—all of whom who can see the ball hurtling toward the reporter—bother to warn her. “Which leads me to believe,” Tosh observes, “Colleen is a bitch.”

Of course, snark is cheap. The most distinctive segment on Tosh.0 is “Web Redemption,” in which he travels to see the subject of a notorious FAIL video and gives them a chance to make good on their humiliation. In the first episode, Tosh visits Afro Ninja and gets him to (correctly) do a backflip and nunchaku tricks on camera:

A future episode promises a chance at redemption for Miss Teen USA South Carolina.Your typical viral laughingstock gets forwarded around the world millions of times (“OWNED!!!! EPIC FAIL!!!!”), for an audience who watch, laugh and cast that risible image in stone. Tosh.0 is, mostly, a chance to do just that, but on a comfortable couch and on a bigger screen—and it succeeds at that: it’s a funny enough way to blow a half-hour. But also using FAIL culture as a chance to connect with someone, and laugh with rather than at them—well, it’s almost epic. 

After the jump, Burn Notice, Royal Pains and The Listener:

Burn Notice: It returns tonight with season 3 on USA. I appreciate Burn Notice. The action drama, about a former spy who’s been “burned”—dropped as an agent, his assets frozen, and trapped in Miami doing freelance jobs while avoiding getting killed—is rascally, fast and explosive. And yet, despite repeated entreaties from other critics and my amateur TV-watching friends, I’ve never personally been able to get into it. I have to recognize that this is a personal failing. I am simply not fun, or at least not this kind of fun. My escapism is more the Real Housewives of New Jersey kind than the improvised-explosive-spy-caper kind. But if your mileage varies, it’s a reliably entertaining summer show, with a soulful performance from Jeffrey Donovan. 

Royal Pains: Judging from the premise—idealistic doctor moves to the Hamptons to become on-call “concierge” physician to the rich—I wasn’t expecting much from this drama. I was pleasantly surprised. While this dramedy / light drama /thing-to-watch-in-the-summer doesn’t have grand aspirations, the pilot is breezy and smartly written. Brilliant doctor Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) ends up in a predicament when a rich hospital-board member dies because he prioritizes saving a kid’s life; after he loses his job and his fiance, he finds work—irony alert—performing housecalls for the moguls, trophy wives and overindulged kids of New York’s summer resort. Some of the supporting characters are broad, and the show resorts to such movie devices as the Fiance Who’s So Grossly Materialistic It Makes No Sense They Were Ever Together. But it’s enjoyable anyway, thanks largely to Feuerstein, who manages to make Hank both principled and a bit of a sanctimonious jerk. But in a good way. 

The Listener: This NBC summer drama surprised me too. It was even more God-awful than I expected. In it, a paramedic gifted with the ability to read minds uses his power for good. (Apparently you have the chance to solve crimes surprisingly often in the paramedic game.) From the cliched voiceover opening to the melodramatic child-in-peril climax, my mind was screaming “Enough!”

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