Michael and Michael Have Issues
10:30 p.m. Wednesdays
This summer, standard cable TV offers recessioners on staycation the usual mix of mystery/ crime shows and reality series, with some half-hour comedies peppered in. Even with the fall TV season already waving at us from a near distance, new summer fare just keeps on coming.
Comedy Central, for instance, is always testing new lead-ins to The Daily Show. The newest entry, Michael and Michael Have Issues is a good one, maybe the worthiest try since The Sarah Silverman Program.
Michael and Michael Have Issues stars comedy partners Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter as "themselves," but in the same way Larry David plays "himself" on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. The difference is, David's character is still kind of endearing underneath all the selfishness and cluelessness, but Michael and Michael are just jerks.
Still, jerkitude can yield yuks, and many are to be found here. The fictional Black and Showalter are co-hosts and creative partners on a half-hour sketch series. Their work relationship often has them pitted against each other, thanks to petty jealousies, one-upmanship and unflagging self-interest. In the premiere episode, they vie for the attention of a teenage intern who's writing about them for his high school paper.
"Every John Lennon needs his Ringo," Showalter tells the kid, Later, out of earshot, Black makes a different musical analogy: He sees himself as Simon to Showalter's Garfunkel: "Somebody who's less talented than me, but somebody who could sing on pitch."
These two guys play narcissism to a giggle-worthy hilt, and they each play it differently. Black, whose comic persona we've come to know over the past few years, plays narcissism like borderline sociopathy. Showalter is just a big whiny baby.
Topping it all off, the sketches they introduce and perform in are nearly as smart and funny as the rest of the show. Give Michael and Michael a shot—it may just beat your expectations.
9 p.m. Wednesdays
10 p.m. Wednesdays
Meanwhile, over on TNT, Leverage, starring Timothy Hutton, begins its second season this week. And it's got company. Say hello to Dark Blue, which runs immediately after Leverage. It's a show about a dark knight in the LAPD who runs a team of undercover cops so covert that most of the regular cops don't know about them—which makes for some tricky situations.
Dylan McDermott plays Carter, a five-o'clock-shadowy figure in a long leather coat who sends his three cops (played by Omari Hardwick, Logan Marshall-Green and Nicki Aycox) into deep cover, where they could easily get killed. Another ever-present concern: They could be corrupted at any time by all that dirty money.
It's dark, suspenseful, fast-paced, violent, and things go boom on a regular basis. Things also get clichéd, such as when Carter delivers one of his Travis Bickle-style monologues ("I see a girl who just made her rent in the back seat of a car ... I see everything that needs to be fixed.") But for the most part, it works, and the moral ambiguity gives the story some heft.
On the lighter, much funnier side, there's Leverage. Former insurance investigator Nate Ford (Hutton) is resisting both the bottle and efforts by his former teammates to reunite the corruption-busting gang that parted ways at the end of Season 1.
Fat chance. These revenge merchants happen to be an insistent, charming bunch of thieves and con artists, played by a very likable cast (Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf and Aldis Hodge). In the first episode, these crooks-turned-good-guys have picked a timely target: corrupt bankers. Yep, the same kind of crooks whose financial scams ultimately condemned many of us to staycation this summer.
Go get 'em, guys.