Appointment Viewing: Revisit MTV’s Early Days and Will “American Ninja Warrior” Finally Crown a Winner?

It’s time to look at ahead at a week of Appointment Viewing and you’ve got plenty of ways to fill your DVR, including a look back to the days before The Real World changed MTV, Morgan Spurlock’s picks for the most important documentaries and the biggest American Ninja Warrior season yet.

Friday brings the debut of a trio of animated series that I think might grab your interest. First off, Cartoon Network’s update of ThunderCats. Kids of a certain age certainly remember the camptastic syndicated 80s cartoon with its charming mix of sword & sorcery, sci-fi and cat people, along with an early Pokemon prototype of a mascot. (Snarf taught Pikachu something branding reinforcement by constantly repeating one’s name.)

When the original ThunderCats aired, animated series were usually episodic and each episode ended with Lion-O and Mumm-Ra back at the point they started. Since then, shows like Avatar and Teen Titans have opened up animation to longer story arcs, which should create some interesting possibilities for this reinvention of ThunderCats.

Meanwhile, G4 is debuting a couple of anime-influenced takes on Marvel superheroes Iron Man and Wolverine. In addition to taking inspiration from the Japanese style of animation, these series actually take their heroes to Japan– at least for the opening chapters. Iron Man features Adrian Pasdar as the voice of a contrite Tony Stark, looking to make amends for making his fortune off of manufacturing weapons. His first act is to build a nuclear power plant in Japan, only to have the Zodiac organization decide they want the reactor for themselves.

The Wolverine anime has Milo Ventimiglia as the gruff mutant with the complicated past. Unsurprisingly, Logan’s love of Mariko brings him back to Japan when she disappears, presumably at the hand of her crime-lord father. Both series come under the guidance of  comic writer Warren Ellis (who earned quite a few gay fans when he created Apollo and Midnighter in the pages of StormWatch and The Authority). Ellis has certainly come up with interesting new takes on familiar concepts in the past. Will these new series add to his hits or his misses?

Friday also brings a new episode of Haven where… er, the “town docks” starts attacking people? Surely there’s a typo in that episode description, as it sounds strange even for Haven. Meanwhile, the Torchwood team heads to California to investigate drug company PhiCorp. Gwen gets to try and thwart a biometric lock.

IFC has a major challenge for Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings when they’re asked to create an ad for a colonic facility. With a product that doesn’t exactly sell itself, they end up turning to 80s singer Richard Marx for help.

Also, HBO has a new Real Time with Bill Maher with Eliot Spitzer and Bryan Cranston on the guest list.

Finally, Bravo has a new Platinum Hit.

Saturday is a great day for people nostalgic for those early years when MTV actually played music videos. At 1 AM, MTV2 is set to debut 120 Minutes with Matt Pinfield, a revival of the classic MTV program that featured alternative rock artists. (You might want to take a close look for it, however. My cable guide still lists it as “To Be Announced.”)

Back in its heydey, 120 Minutes was a great way to discover gay and gay-ally performers like The B-52’s, Kirsty MacColl, Morrissey, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Hüsker Dü. (It was also a how many U.S. fans first discovered the greatness of comedians Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, thanks to 120 Minutes’ lead-in shows, The Young Ones and The Comic Strip Presents.)

It should be interesting to see if the spirit of the original 120 Minutes can be recaptured. The music industry has changed so much in the decade since the show last aired.

If I were better at making demands as a kid, the sight of the original MTV VJs
would probably fill me with nostalgia.

Meanwhile, VH1 Classic is celebrating 30 years of MTV with three days of programming.The three day marathon MTV30 On VH1 Classicbegins at 6AM on Saturday and will feature the many important moments from the channel’s history. That will include a look at the programs that gave MTV its identity early on, including Remote Control (in hindsight, maybe introducing TV audiences to Adam Sandler and Denis Leary wasn’t such a good thing), Yo! MTV Raps, Liquid Television (it’s been ages since I’ve seen “The Art School Girls of Doom”), Beavis and Butt-Head as well as moments like the “I Want My MTV” ad campaign and John Mellencamp’s Pink House giveaway.

The important hour comes in at Midnight on Saturday when VH1 Classic will air MTV’s very first hour of broadcast, starting with The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Try to tune in and not turn into a curmudgeon grumbling about how in your day MTV discussed vital social issues instead of leaving viewers wondering if a reality TV producer would allow a drunk person get into the driver’s seat of a car.

BBC America’s “Ministry of Laughs” kicks off a new line-up with two new family comedies. The first is Friday Night Dinner, which has a number of familiar faces to anglophiles. The series focuses on a family of four. While the two sons have moved out and have their own lives, they still return home every Friday for dinner with their parents.

The cast includes Tamsin Greig (Black Books, Love Soup, Episodes), Simon Bird (The Inbetweeners) and Mark Heap (Spaced, Love Soup, Big Train). It’s not a comedy where the punchlines come fast and furious, but these characters make for a nice way to spend a half-hour.

In addition to Friday Night Dinner, BBC America has a new Outcasts. There’s also a new episode of The Graham Norton Show featuring guests Elle Macpherson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Cee Lo Green and Snoop Dogg.

There’s got to be at least one blooper where Glover says “whale” instead of “dragon.”

The Syfy Channel has another camptastic original movie Saturday with Age of Dragons, which turns out to be the beginning of one of the strangest programming coincidences I’ve seen in a while. The movie stars Danny Glover as Captain Ahab a man who is obsessed with getting revenge on the White Dragon that killed his family. That plotline will start to sound more and more familiar as the week goes on.

Over on WeTV, Staten Island Cakes is moving to a new night. The reality series follows Vinny Buzzetta, an out pastry chef and cake artist who works with his large family. Thankfully, it doesn’t sound like Vinny’s partner, Spiro is one of Vinny’s employees, since it looks like things are stressful enough at Vinny’s cake shop.

Staten Island Cakes’ Vinny Buzzetta

Finally, as if that’s not enough choices for you on Saturday, HGTV has a new Color Splash that sees David Bromstad work on a “masculine” bedroom for two women.


G4 has ten episodes of athleticism and obstacles starting on Sunday when the biggest season of American Ninja Warrior begins. Spun-off from Ninja Warrior (Sasuke) the series has a format you rarely see on American television. There’s no guaranteed winner on the show, and while G4 has been sending U.S. residents to compete in the Sasuke course for years, they’ve yet to see someone return as a champion. However, this year anyone who can beat all four stages will also win a $500,000 endorsement contract, will that make a difference?

Part of the fun of Ninja Warrior is the Japanese announcers who describe the action in very melodramatic terms. Meanwhile, the focus on athletics means Ninja Warrior has always had plenty of sexy men to appreciate. Many of them weren’t shy about running the course shirtless.

However, since the focus is on beating the obstacle course — not each other — there’s a camaraderie that makes for a big difference between Ninja Warrior and a show where someone will declare “I’m not here to make friends.” Last season, American Ninja Warrior added a few reality TV tropes like the weekly elimination and team drama, but that spirit of camaraderie stayed strong. I hope that doesn’t change this season.

Speaking of imported television, if you’ve been enjoying Wilfred on FX, then IFC has an interesting way to fill four hours on your DVR when it airs eight episodes of the original Australian series Sunday afternoon. It should be interesting to see how the series changed as it crossed the Pacific.

After suddenly being pulled from the schedule a couple weeks ago, OWN is bringing back Carson Nation and moving it to Sunday night. This week sees Carson Kressley head to Eureka, California where he’ll help a bride-to-be with lupus, a tattoo artist and a Coast Guard medic who wants to reconnect with her feminine side.

CBS’ Same Name didn’t really grab my attention when it debuted last week and featured David Hasselhoff meeting another David Hasselhoff. But this Sunday’s installment has Kathy Griffin switching places with a woman from Fayetteville, Georgia. As one Kathy learns about the challenges of motherhood and marriage, the other will meet Joan and Melissa Rivers as she prepares to perform a comedy show in Kathy’s place.

There’s a pretty big difference between the two Kathys. It looks like the Kathy Griffin of Fayetteville comes from a fairly conservative background where she’s uncomfortable with gay people and works hard to keep her husband and sons comfortable. She’ll be forced to confront her homophobia in Hollywood while her family has to learn to deal with someone who isn’t used to doing housework for other people.

Sunday also brings this season’s penultimate episode of In Plain Sight which sees Mary working with a pregnant witness who (unsurprisingly) forces her to reconsiders how she views her own pregnancy. While USA’s other dramas like White Collar have gotten more interesting with bigger, long-term storytelling, I’m enjoying In Plain Sight more when we see less of Mary’s family and the mystery over her absent father. Mary is a lot more fun when her family is a source of support and not an additional headache.

AMC brings a different view of Albuquerque with a new Breaking Bad that sees Skyler turn to Saul for help in buying the car wash. Meanwhile, Hank hears from an old friend in need of help and Marie returns to an old habit. I suspect that means they should hire an extra security guard at the Gertrude Zachary store and Skyler shouldn’t try to return any gifts Marie gives her.

Lifetime has a new Drop Dead Diva where Jane makes another discovery about the original Jane’s life.

Also Sunday, Mark Salling and Ashley Fink mentor The Glee Project as the hopefuls have to demonstrate sexuality in their next performance. Plus, Jason deals with a full moon on a new True Blood on HBO and a new set of nominees are announced on Big Brother.

Teen Wolf this week will see Allison come closer to figuring out her family’s secret while Stiles starts to uncover some interesting truths about Derek’s history. So far, Teen Wolf is matching a common pattern for me and supernatural dramas: I find myself caring about the supporting cast a lot more than the main character. Is it wrong that I’d choose Kate Argent to survive the season over IQ-challenged Scott?

Syfy has more sci-fi with new episodes of Eureka and Warehouse 13 Monday. On Warehouse, Steve joins Claudia on an assignment to a Civil War re-enactment.

Brief hat-tip to Warehouse: Last week I thought Pete’s reaction to learning that Steve is gay was funny. I was happy to see Steve cringing at Pete’s striptease, which was a pretty inappropriate thing to do a work. Pete’s inappropriate tendencies give Warehouse 13 plenty of comic relief, but Steve’s reaction was completely apt.

Encore is offering an interesting choice for a mini-series on Monday as it begins a two-part adaptation of the Herman Melville classic about the price of obsession. The mini-series cast includes Donald Sutherland, Ethan Hawke, Gillian Anderson and William Hurt as Captain Ahab.

Logo brings new episodes of RuPaul’s Drag U and The A-List: New York to Monday while ABC Family has new episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Switched at Birth. HGTV has a new Design Star and Capt. Raydor causes more trouble for Brenda on a new episode of The Closer.

Ever since Michael Moore charmed audiences with Roger and Me, the documentary has been a part of how we learn about each other. Filmmakers have found different ways to engage audiences in topics such as the street art movement (Exit at the Gift Shop), New York drag culture (Paris is Burning) and climate change (An Inconvenient Truth). Tuesday, Current TV celebrates the genre when Morgan Spurlock counts down The 50 Documentaries to See Before You Die.

The title might lead you to expect another show to mix talking heads and film clips, but Spurlock will be checking on the participants of the films he discusses, from Billy Mitchell of King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters to three of the people involved in Hoop Dreams. Spurlock is probably at his best when he inserts himself into his work, so it should be a lot of fun watching him step into the worlds these different movies introduced us to.

Meanwhile, USA has the last episodes of White Collar and Covert Affairs before the season finale. Whilte Collar certainly looks like its headed towards an interesting finale. This week has Eliza Dushku, the return of Matthew Keller and the public learning about Neal’s Nazi treasure ship.

Tuesday also brings a new Flipping Out on Bravo, and since the episode is called “Dropping the Axe” I’m guessing he’s firing somebody this week.

Tuesday also brings new episodes of Pretty Little Liars, America’s Got Talent, Chopped, Web Therapy as well as the awkwardly-titled Awkward.

USA’s new sports drama Necessary Roughness gets inclusive this week when Candis Cayne makes an appearance. The series stars Callie Thorne as Dani, a therapist who works for a professional football team. This week Dani attends her high school reunion only to learn that her crush Gerald is now Geraldine.

So far, even the hope of seeing Mehcad Brooks’ impressive abs haven’t inspired me to find the time to check out Necessary Roughness. I’ve recorded a couple episodes, but my DVR ends up deleting it before I’ve gotten to watching either episodes. However, Cayne certainly gives me more motivation. Has anyone checked out the show? What do you think?

Wednesday is a big night of comedy on ABC Family with two new episodes of Melissa & Joey and four new episodes of State of Georgia. I hope this has something to do with the “Campus Crush” promotion and isn’t a burn-off for the wonderful Georgia. At least we should be seeing a decent amount of Aunt Honey. The four episodes see her become Georgia’s new roommate and plan a talent contest. I’ve enjoyed watching Loretta Devine in the past, and just about every line she delivers on this show is hilarious.

TV Land also has its Wednesday night comedies as Victoria has to face a practical-joking co-worker on a new Hot in Cleveland followed by a new Happily Divorced. Lifetime delivers even more Wednesday-night laughs as Roseanne tries to cook a passover dinner using only food she grew on her farm on a new Roseanne’s Nuts.

Wednesday also brings plenty of reality TV with a new Big Brother on CBS, the latest elimination episode on America’s Got Talent, more drama on The Challenge: Rivals on MTV and another night of performances on So You Think You Can Dance.

Finally, some of you might be interested in the latest episode of Rocco’s Dinner Party when the guest list for a fashion-themed dinner includes  Nikki Blonsky and Project Runway decoy-finalist Kara Janx.

Planet Green debuts a three-hour documentary special Thursday with Detroit in Overdrive, which attempts to understand how the current recession is affecting individuals instead of taking an overall look at the city. While that sounds like a depressing topic, a big focus of the series are the people who are working to improve the city’s prospects. That includes fashion designer Joe Faris, who retrofitted a factory to be the home of his company, Motor City Denim and a high-school senior who discovered an interest in engineering thanks to an after-school robotics program.

Thursday also brings a new Futurama as Leela becomes obsessed with a four-dimensional space whale… is this Moby Dick week? Did programmers from different channels run into each other at happy hour one day and say “Hey, I’ve got a program that takes inspiration from Moby Dick as well, let’s air all our shows on the same week!” No doubt somewhere at this moment there’s a music channel airing a Moby marathon.

The rest of Thursday night’s comedies also feature new episodes: Wilfred and Louie on FX, along with new editions of Childrens Hospital and NTSF:SD:SUV:: on Adult Swim. If you’re looking for some drama, USA has new episodes of Burn Notice and Suits.

Thursday also brings a new Expedition Impossible that promises an overconfident Team Gypsy and a bickering Team Fab 3, which AJ seems to be carrying. So far, I’m really enjoying this Expedition, which has been light on the personal drama and heavy on the challenge. Thursday’s other reality TV choices include a So You Think You Can Dance elimination and another Project Runway challenge. Unfortunately, due to my temperamental DVR, I haven’t been able to check out the Runway season premiere, but what did you think? Is the magic back?

There’s a lot of new debuts this week, which one are you most excited to see?


Last week, Captain Jack’s one-night stand on Torchwood was the show you were most eager to see, earning 25% of your votes. The new season of Project Runway came in a close second with 22% while the debut of the newest Eating Out movie took the bronze with 18%.

Next week brings a bunch of season finales including Teen Wolf, White Collar and Switched at Birth.






Editor’s Note: has recovered from a serious site crash. User comments posted between Thursday midnight and 3:00pm on Saturday have sadly been lost. (More details here).

Lyle Masaki is a fan of obscure superheroes, video games, adorkable guys and that show you loved that got cancelled way too soon.