With economic woes and the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar making headlines, 2012 saw a definite upswing in televised "comfort food." These shows offer a regular escape from everyday woes in the form of humor or real-life adventure.
Familiar faces and old friends return to primetime television
Though the producers of "Survivor" like to bring back familiar faces to play the game, they upped the ante in the current Philippines edition. Lisa Whelchel, a veteran of "The Mickey Mouse Club" and "The Facts of Life," came on the show this year as a contestant. A self-proclaimed superfan, Whelchel looked like an easy target at first, but watching this former child star's eye-opening race for the million dollars is habit-forming.
Best known for his movie roles, Dennis Quaid has been a welcome addition to CBS' "Vegas." As real-life lawman Ralph Lamb, Quaid brings a comforting face, easy grin, and that good-old-boy sensibility to the show. Though each episode typically opens with a dead body, Quaid, supported by co-stars Jason O'Mara and Sarah Jones, makes this a watchable show.
Networks filling their plates with comedyA show nearly destroyed by the 2007 Writer's Guild of America strike, "The Big Bang Theory" remains a mega-popular show on CBS. The current TBS late-night schedule also is fairly heavy with the adventures of Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, and their big-brained companions. To paraphrase Dr. Cooper, the plots may be theoretical, but the fun is real.
Speaking of TBS, the network unveiled two original comedies in 2012. "Sullivan & Son" follows the exploits of an attorney who buys the family bar in order to run it with his mom and dad. Former teen heartthrob Brian Austin Green also reappeared as the star of "Wedding Band," a comedy about musicians trying to make a name for themselves.
Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs remain a couple of Monday-night charmers on "2 Broke Girls." Recently, CBS has been running back-to-back episodes featuring Max and Caroline's cupcake bakery opening. It's easy to root for these two budding entrepreneurs, because when they succeed, it sends a positive, hopeful message to the audience.
Is your boss this generous?The contemporary drama "Made in Jersey" made an early exit this fall. Its Friday night spot was quickly filled by "Undercover Boss," the reality show in which company bigwigs disguise themselves in order to learn more about their own firms. A typical episode shows the boss getting one heck of an education and then making some generous contributions to hard-working employees.
The recent episode featured Cinnabon president Kat Cole; it was particularly interesting because it tied back to one of the more controversial segments. Cole, a former Hooters girl, visited with the restaurant's CEO Coby Brooks to learn more about going undercover. Brooks's episode had showed one of his managers acting badly toward the female staff in one Hooters restaurant.