Networks provide quality shows for spring

nedleebrickstryker-w800-h800Column by Ned Leebrick-Stryker

Do you feel that? The warm air, the crisp breeze and the birds chirping? That’s spring, everyone!

As a result, we are annually given an arbitrary date in which we can go enjoy the returning season in whatever way seems fit.

Some students go down south in the hopes of finding a rowdy party or enjoying a sandy beach. Others make time to ski in the mountains or visit their girlfriends abroad.

But, if you’re like me, you have no money, no car and nowhere else to go but home.

Besides looking for a summer job and finally having my own shower, what can a lonely boy do in St. Paul for 10 days? What can any of you do in a similar position?

The answer is right in front of you: television.

Yes, the weather is pleasant, but if you haven’t been paying attention, there is a lot more going on inside than out.

Everyone talks about the shows on HBO, AMC and Showtime, but, as I have established, we have no money.

What then? I’ll let you in on a secret: There is a lot of quality television to be viewed on the major networks.

So if you and your broke butt are sitting in your living room feeling miserable, why not try watching these to brighten your day, even if it will be bright outside already.

Hannibal (NBC)

“Hannibal” has been largely overlooked by critics and audiences, which is a bummer, because its one of the best things you can see on TV, period.

As the name might imply, the show features Hannibal Lector, the cannibalistic, serial killer we met and strangely fell in love with in “Silence Of The Lambs,” thanks to Anthony Hopkins.

This time, he is portrayed by Danish actor Mads Mikkelson, a relative unknown here in the United States.

But dare I say it, his less hammy, reserved performance creates a complicated and interesting Hannibal Lector who trumps Hopkins’ portrayal in every way.

But of course, Lector isn’t the only character. In fact, he isn’t the main one.

That would be Will Graham, played by Hugh Dancy, a haunted, scarred and slightly crazy profiler who we know will eventually catch Hannibal in the act, even as he works right next to him in the FBI.

The supporting cast is rounded it out by the always fantastic Laurence Fishburne, who we all still remember as Morpheus in “The Matrix.”

Fishburne doesn’t do much to make us forget that role, but it doesn’t matter because we love that character anyway.

“Hannibal” delivers some of the most shocking hours of television, on network television or cable.

It’s a dark drama with layers and intrigue, deserving a watch from anyone who isn’t too squeamish.

Agents of S.H.E.L.D. (ABC)

Look at the movies coming out over spring break: “Need For Speed” or “300: Rise of An Empire.” Yawn.

Not only do these look incredibly bad, but nothing can quite scratch that itch you have for a summer blockbuster in the middle of March.

That is, unless you watch “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Taking place in the same world as The Avengers, we learn more about the secret organization, S.H.I.E.L.D., that we have seen everywhere since the very first “Iron Man.”

The universe of Marvel is expanded, which gives us a chance to see heroes and villains both from the screen and off.

Reprising his role from “The Avengers,” Clark Gregg returns as Agent Phil Coulson. As you may or may not recall, he was killed in the film, which lends itself to an interesting mystery throughout the series about how he is still alive.

Various hints have been dropped throughout the series, but a definite answer looks close. Now would be a perfect time to start watching.

Coulson is accompanied by a motley crew of agents, played by relatively unknown actors.

Among them are veterans and newbies fresh out of the academy, which creates an interesting dynamic among all the characters.

Each week brings a new mystery or threat, and it’s always entertaining. It isn’t incredibly deep, but if you are looking for a nice guilty pleasure to occupy your break, give this one a chance.

How I Met Your Mother (CBS)

I don’t particularly like sitcoms with laugh tracks. They bug me. It’s like I’m being told to laugh at things I don’t find funny. It makes everything seemed forced.

Take the steaming pile of crap that is “Two And A Half Men.”

There’s a new story each week. None of the characters grow or change.

There’s also a tendency for the characters to be unlikeable, despicable and mean to each other.

There is absolutely no reason to like most of the characters in modern, multi-camera sitcoms.

Then why am I telling you to watch “How I Met Your Mother?” Because, although the jokes occasionally fall flat and the laugh track can become grading to the ears, it manages to do the opposite of everything I just said.

Its main cast is made up of likeable people and engaging episodic story telling.

Sure, its quality has dipped, but then again, like any good show, it knows when to call it quits.

This season is its lasts, and by the time of this reading, only one episode remains.

Even if you gave up on the comedy years ago or never even watched it in the first place, we all have the time to see Marshall, Lily, Robin, Barney and Ted’s journeys end.

Leebrick-Stryker is a first-year broadcast news major and can be reached at

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