You wouldn't be far off the mark to title my first blog at OnMilwaukee.com "How I Spent My Summer Vacation."
In the couple weeks since leaving my old gig at the Journal Sentinel, I've been doing a lot of the things you'd expect somebody with unexpected free time on their hands: spending a day wandering aimlessly through the State Fair, taking in a matinee at the iPic in Bayshore ("Julie & Julia"); and even preparing an elaborate Beef Bourguignon for a friend's potluck Julia Child-themed dinner party.
But I have been watching TV, even though nobody's paying me to watch until October.
The summer schedule is full of "reality." I did stop following NBC's silly "America's Got Talent" after the cavalier way they treated Elkhorn's 9-year-old guitar sensation, Tallan Latz. He made it through the audition round, but then was cut in a mass dump without explanation. I'm still watching saucy Milwaukee chef Suzanne Schlicht trying to survive this season of Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" and its foul-mouthed host, Gordon Ramsay. Schlicht's Bartolotta training, combined with an in-your-face TV personality, has made her a contender. And MTV's "Real World" remains a guilty pleasure, especially this Cancun-based season.
There are quality scripted programs at this time of the year, especially if you have cable.
HBO's "Entourage" continues to be a weekly habit. I'm hearing from regulars that this season isn't as good as previous years. But , frankly, I enjoy the fantasy story of a bunch of guys who get pretty much all the stuff -- and that stuff includes women -- that they want. It's not deep or insightful. But it's still fun. (For the record, I'm DVRing this season of HBO'S "True Blood," so don't ask me about it until maybe next month.)
Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" is a weekly trip around the world through the eyes and words of the world-weary chef turned social critic. Each of the hour-long shows is a well-crafted short film with Bourdain's tightly written narration demonstrating a true love of language equaled on TV these days only by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's nightly "Countdown."
What I -- and 2.8 million other viewers of quality TV (according to Nielsen Media Research) -- have really been waiting for is the third season of AMC's stylish "Mad Men," which launched Sunday night. While "Mad Men" is ostensibly about an early ‘60s agency, it's about much, much more, it's about men and women, about lies and truths. The best TV shows are about more than their basic description. "The Sopranos," after all, wasn't just a mob show.
That leads me to my TV project for this two-month hiatus -- my OnMilwaukee.com column launches Oct. 1, although I'll be blogging between now and then. My homework involves another one of those great HBO shows, one which some critics say is the greatest TV show ever: "The Wire." I've watched episodes here and there, but didn't follow the five seasons from beginning to end. So I'll be spending the next six weeks or so going through "The Wire" the way these novel-like TV gems are best watched. I've just seen episode one and I hope to get through another couple tonight.
TV shows like "The Wire" are worth watching -- even when nobody's paying you.
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.