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Say Hello to Apple’s iPad

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

Unless you’ve been living in a technology-free zone for the last six months, you probably heard the rumors of the secret Apple tablet computer (and when I say secret, I mean officially the worst kept secret in the history of technology).

Well, today Steve Jobs and his black turtleneck finally unveiled the product to the masses at a media event in San Fransisco. Despite sounding more like a high-tech feminine hygiene product than a groundbreaking media device, the iPad demonstrated impressive capabilities and Apple appears poised to have another huge hit. We at Rhombus, of course, are here to bring you the breakdown of what you need to know about this next-generation mobile computing device.

Best of the App Store: Holiday Edition

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

Once again, the holiday season is upon us and we’ll be giving and receiving fantastic gifts like toy trains, dolls, and the ever-popular iTunes gift cards. And what better way to spend those iTunes bucks than on all the newest iPhone apps available on the App Store. Here are some of my personal recommendations:

SPORTS: BYU Basketball Roundup (Week 2)

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Sports

Jonathan Tavernari: Extreme Suckage

Jonathan Tavernari: Extreme Suckage

The Cougars came into last week with just one loss on the season, to in-state foe Utah State. The Aggies were able to do a good job exposing the team’s weaknesses on offense, forcing Jonathan Tavernari to shoot just 1 for 11 and holding Jimmer Fredette to an Iversonian 5 of 15. The team came back to Provo on Tuesday night hoping to rebound against the best team (on paper) the Cougars will face all season, Pac-10 opponent Arizona State, before traveling to California to take on Fresno State on Friday. Fortunately, the Cougars were able to come away with two wins; however, the team almost blew a 20-point lead in the second half at home against Arizona State. I came away highly unimpressed from what I saw from the team Tuesday night.

The news had spread prior to the Arizona State game that it would be a “white-out” and free t-shirts would be handed out. Of course, nothing brings the Cougar faithful out of the woodwork like the promise of free swag, no matter how lame the t-shirt design may be. It was painfully obvious that a large majority of the crowd were there for the t-shirts and not for the team. The home crowd seemed as lethargic as I’ve seen it in awhile, only coming alive after Jackson Emery 3s or when the cheerleaders threw more free shirts into the crowd.

The team was still able to grab a big halftime lead, mostly due to great defense and big efforts out of young guys like Noah Hartsock and Tyler Haws. Hartsock was able to rack up 13 points on 6 for 9 shooting , taking efficient shots and making some big baskets. Haws had the game of his career, scoring 17 points and notching 11 rebounds, while constantly crashing the offensive boards and getting big rebounds. He played outstanding defense. In many ways, he proved himself to be Diet Jackson Emery. Haws is in no way the most talented player on the team — he’s small and not incredibly athletic. However, he gave everything he had and showed a lot of heart, while giving more effort than anyone else on the floor. He’s young , but he’s exactly the kind of player every team needs to be successful.

Tavernari Suckiness Meter: Extreme Suckage

When the starting line-ups were announced over the PA on Tuesday, I felt as if God had given me an early Christmas present. Coach Rose made the choice to start Noah Hartsock over senior forward and Brazilian sensation of suckiness Jonathan Tavernari. Tavernari still played 25 minutes in the game, but he threw up a stinker, going 2 for 8. He did, however, set a season high in assists…. with 4.

The Cougars first half lead started to evaporate quickly in the second as the offense became stagnate. Once again, it devolved into Jimmer Freddette dribling around at the top of the key, driving into the lane and throwing up a terrible shot. At some point Jimmer got the idea in his head that he’s a born slasher — he is not. He did break the BYU record for most consecutive free throws made, as well as setting a new record for worst field goal percentage in the paint I’ve ever seen, going 1 for 11 by my count. The guy just can’t finish and should not be allowed to drive the lane.

Arizona State cut the lead to 4 with just 5 minutes to play. The Cougars, however, shot excellent from the free throw line at 92 percent and were eventually able to put the Sun Devils away. This brings me to a pet peeve of mine — let’s call it “Key Etiquette.” A tradition at basketball games is that whenever a home team has an insurmountable lead with little time left, the crowd pulls out their keys and shakes them at the opposing team, signifying that it’s time for them to go home.

Unfortunately, here at BYU the fans were never taught when it is and is not proper to take the keys out. For example, up 8 with 1:20 to play is not the time to pull out the keys. You are asking for a loss and the Basketball Gods will often oblige. If Reggie Miller has taught us nothing else, it’s that six points in six seconds is very possible. Let’s go ahead and define right now when it is acceptable to take your keys out:

1. The keys should never come out before the 1-minute mark. Never.

2. An insurmountable lead means at least double digits.

3. The general rules would be that it is acceptable to bring out the keys when:

  • With 1:00 to go, the lead is 15.
  • With 0:45 to go, the lead is 12.
  • With 0:30 to go, the lead is 10.


4. If at any time the lead is somehow cut to single digits, you must pray to the Basketball Gods.

Three Cheers
1. Benching Tavernari — Been waiting for that for years.

2. Tyler Haws — You’re off my bad side. Pray you stay there.

3. Noah Hartsock/Brandon Davies — Both are playing excellent with the minutes they’re getting.

Three Jeers
1. Jimmer Fredette — How has he managed to regress from his sophmore to junior seasons?

2. The fans — Most of them came to the Arizona State for the free t-shirts and showed an appalling lack of key etiquette.

3. Jackson Emery’s ankle — Don’t do this to me.

Ben Wagner is a regular correspondent for Rhombus and is trying to set a record for consecutive articles with a Reggie Miller reference. Follow him on Twitter @ben_wagner.

SPORTS: BYU Basketball Weekly Roundup (Week 1)

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Sports

Jonathan Tavernari may have a surprise in store for all of us.

Jonathan Tavernari may have a surprise in store for all of us this year.

Is it just me or is the world’s sports calendar really messed up this year? Baseball ended late, football started early, and basketball started really early. I think this has been the reason it’s taken me awhile to get into basketball mode. Don’t get me wrong, I love basketball. It was my first real passion in life. I love everything about it — the dunks and the buzzer beaters, the bad tatoos and the even worse hairdos. I love everything from the athletic swingmen to the overweight centers, Coach K to Donald Sterling. I love the game of basketball.

That being said, I’ve still been in the football mode for the last couple of weeks and it’s taken me awhile to get into following basketball again, and especially BYU basketball. In fact, it took me until the fifth game of the season to finally attend a game. In doing so, I was reminded of just how much I love the game and love following the team. In that spirit, I’ve decided to shamelessly ape Jake Welch’s weekly BYU football roundup and start my own BYU basketball feature, keeping you updated on the team as the season progresses.

Coming off last Tuesday’s 107-51 thrashing of Southern, the Cougars were undefeated heading into Friday’s game against in-state foe Weber State. I arrived at the game early in order to secure better seats for myself and was particularly impressed by this year’s intro videos. Let’s just say whoever is marketing the basketball team seems to be doing a much better job than the person honored with spiriting the tradition of BYU football — which reminds me: the Ronnie Ron and Roscoe halftime videos, starring Lamont Morgan Jr. and Charles Abouo, are pretty hilarious. Just saying.

There was one thing that was readily apparent just a few minutes into the Weber State game that sets this team apart from last year’s, and that is the amount of depth available to this year’s squad. Behind the starters, quite a few players are seeing quality minutes, including Lamont Morgan Jr., Charles Abouo, Noah Hartsock, Michael Loyd Jr., and Brandon Davies. (On a sidenote, how many teams have two players with “Jr.” on their jerseys? I think this phenomenon alone allows for Lamont Morgan and Michael Loyd’s inclusion on the Junior All-Star Team, along with Sammy Davis, Ken Griffey, Henry Jones, and Carl’s. But I digress.)

The other easy observation is that this team lacks an alpha dog. Every team needs that one player to give the ball to in crunch time. That one player who the team can feed the ball to when everyone else is ice cold, knowing he’ll get them a basket. This year’s team would seemingly have two candidates for this all-important role. The first is Jonathan Tavernari. Now let me say, I am on the record as saying I think Jonathan Tavernari is the worst player in college basketball. Last season, he routinely gave no effort on defense, refused to fight for rebounds, and took 10 really bad shots a game without ever looking to pass to his teammates. Not to mention his generally douchey demeanor (tucked-in warm-ups, always calling for the ball, a personalized license plate that says JT 45, etc.) made him seem like the guy you really don’t want on your team. However, I saw something I’d never seen before last Friday night — Tavernari actually looked like an asset to the team. I saw him give an effort on defense, fight for rebounds, and he only took three really bad, selfish shots. He may redeem himself in my eyes if this trend continues, but he still has a long way to go. Nevertheless, he is not versatile enough to be the crunch time player: Your alpha dog should always be someone who can create their own shot. I’m not sure if Tavernari has enough moves to be that player.

The second candidate for the alpha dog position would undoubtedly be Jimmer Fredette. Jimmer established himself as one of the best players in the Mountain West Conference and an elite 3-point shooter last season. (He also gave me some free pizza once.) Yet he seems to have gotten the idea in his head this season that he is Dwayne Wade and that his strength is blowing by people, driving into the lane, throwing himself into the defender and twisting in mid-air to make an acrobatic shot. This is not his strength. In fact, this is exactly what he should not be doing.

Time and time again, I watched him drive into the lane and throw himself at the defense in the post against Weber State, trying to make an acrobatic shot. It worked once. Not to mention he spent far too much time dribbling around at the top of the key for the entire duration of the shot clock before trying to drive and play one-on-five. It was like watching the Cavs’ offense in the fourth quarter. Jimmer has neither the ball-handling ability nor the athleticism to be efficient at that style of play; He is best when he gets his excellent 3-point shooting going and finds a rhythm. He did that near the end of the Weber State game, and he looked much better than he had for the previous 30 minutes.

The lack of a go-to guy will cause problems for this team as the year progresses. If Reggie Miller has taught us nothing else (and, let’s be honest, he hasn’t), it’s that if your go-to crunch time player(s) is a three-point shooter, you’ll win some games, but not championships.

The Cougars have just one game this upcoming weekend — this Saturday against San Francisco at 4:00 p.m. at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. San Francisco comes in with a 2-5 record and shouldn’t pose much of a threat for the Cougs. Look for a blowout and for Dave Rose to get a lot of the younger guys some quality minutes.

Three Cheers
1. Jackson Emery — Three straight threes to completely change the momentum and put us up in the second half. Simply put, he is the golden child and the team is significantly better when he’s on the court.

2. Brandon Davies — The freshman put in 10 points and 4 rebounds in just 11 first-half minutes

3. Ronnie Ron and Roscoe — No explanation necessary.

Three Jeers
1. Dave Rose’s personnel moves — Anyone with half a brain can tell Jackson Emery makes your team better. So why did he stay on the bench so long as Weber State cut the lead and eventually took it? And, as previously mentioned, Brandon Davies looked great in the first half — then didn’t play a minute in the second. Put your best players on the court, Coach.

2. Tyler Haws — You’re pretty terrible.

3. Whoever decided to play Austin Powers quotes over the PA during timeouts — Has any comedy held up worse then Austin Powers? Short answer: probably not.

Ben Wagner is a regular correspondent for Rhombus. He considers himself completely heterosexual, despite the fact that he has scribbled Jackson Emery’s name (with hearts) on the back of his notebooks.

TV: What's Wrong with the World Today

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in TV

There is something seriously wrong with the world today. I’m not talking about global warming, the recession, Twilight, Cafe Rio, or any of the other serious problems the world faces. I’m talking about a crisis that is much more serious than that — and it all starts with iCarly.

Yes, that’s right, iCarly: this popular, Emmy-nominated television series holds the keys to unlocking what’s wrong with the world today.

Now, it shouldn’t shock you to find out that I came to this realization at the Provo Denny’s around 2:30 a.m. (because, as you know, most good epiphanies happen at the Provo Denny’s at 2:30 a.m.) This revelation came after a long nostalgic discussion about the ’90s and the television series my friends and I grew up on. Great shows of Nickelodeon’s past like Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Hey Dude and a lot of things involving slime. There were the classic cartoons like Rugrats, Hey Arnold! and Doug. There was TGIF and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

And then there was the defining show of our generation, Boy Meets World. If Saved By the Bell represented the neon pink early ’90s, Boy Meets World represented the decade’s post-In Utero grunge era. The show featured ’90s staples, including (but not limited to) a long-haired delinquent best friend and an English teacher who liked the X-Men and rode a Harley.

Most episodes of Boy Meets World had a fairly simple premise, not unlike most shows of the era — a middle-class kid in suburban Philadelphia gets himself into trouble, gets himself caught, feels repentant, and eventually learns a valuable life lesson at the hands of his parents or the wise teacher next door. Sufficeth to say, I learned a lot of life lessons at the hands of Mr. Feeny. Boy Meets World was undoubtedly the most popular television show for my demographic during our formative years.

Now, take a look at one of the most popular television series among that same 9-15 demographic today. iCarly is a television series on Nickelodeon featuring the antics of, you guessed it, Carly (young star Miranda Cosgrove), whose parents are absent and remains in the custody of her inept older brother. In the vein of most children’s television series in recent years, Carly is precocious and far more competent and savvy than 98 percent of the adult characters in the show, especially her brother/legal guardian.

This dynamic perfectly exemplifies the kind of television heroes and heroines being presented to the children of America today. The child protagonists are smart and constantly outfox the dimwits that surround them, allowing them to get away with a wide range of trouble-making activities.

Not only do they tend to get away with whatever they want, but oftentimes the protagonists have problems or life goals that are highly unrealistic — and they deal with them in equally ridiculous ways. Carly’s week-to-week problems revolve around her online web show that she produces with her friends. On the other hand, one memorable episode of Boy Meets World involved a principle character blowing up a mailbox with a cherry bomb, hiding out under his best friends bed, getting caught, and paying the price for having done something wrong.

How many 13-year-old girls do you know that have their own popular web show? Now, how many 13-year-old boys do you know that like blowing things up with cherry bombs? That’s what I thought.

My generation was presented with shows that showed us kid problems that kids handled like kids. Today’s kids are presented with children that face unrealistic problems that they handle like adults. I can’t help but feel this kind of storytelling does nothing but talk down to children, telling them the very real problems they might face are irrelevant and that they are incapable of handling storytelling that presents realistic problems seen through the eyes of a child.

Politicians and psychologists like to present video games, rap music and the Internet as the face of “what’s wrong with the youth of America.” But in reality, is there any tangible difference between boys playing war outside with toy guns or playing Halo with their friends? And middle school kids will always find swearing and innuendos funny, whether it comes from Jay-Z or not. Has anyone ever stopped to consider that, if there is something wrong with the youth of America, it’s that they are taught by every television series they see that they are a) smarter then their parents, b) able to get away with whatever they want because their parents are too stupid to notice, and c) unable to solve any real problems — and that those real-life problems are irrelevant in the face of iCarly’s zany Web show antics.

Now, you may be thinking that I’ve taken this to an extreme; after all, iCarly is just one show. But this is bigger than Miranda Cosgrove. I challenge you to turn on one popular children’s television show and show me a protagonist that isn’t overly precocious, portrayed as smarter than the adults around him/her and who doesn’t face absolutely ridiculous “problems.” Hannah Montana is somehow able to outsmart everyone with a blond wig and balance her celebrity life with her “real life;” Zach and Cody hang out in a hotel/cruise ship staffed by complete buffoons; and is it possible to find a wizard with a brain at Waverly Place?

Sure, these shows produce their laughs, but I miss the days when Mr. Feeny taught me it was wrong to blow up mailboxes with cherry bombs.

Ben Wagner used to be a somewhat regular correspondent for Rhombus. Apparently he spent so much time watching Disney Channel shows that he didn’t write a substantive article for approximately nine years. You can follow him on Twitter @ben_wagner.

SPORTS: Rhombus Reports from College GameDay

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Sports

This past week, ESPN’s wildly popular Saturday morning pre-game show, College GameDay, made its first ever trip to Provo as BYU took on the Horned Frogs of TCU. While the game may not have lived up to the hype, many people camped out Friday night in order to get into the show’s live taping at 8:00 a.m. For those of you unable to make it, Rhombus correspondents Jake Welch and Ben Wagner were on the scene to offer you a glimpse into the GameDay experience.

Jake Welch and Ben Wagner are sports correspondents for Rhombus. Follow them on Twitter @jraywelch and @ben_wagner, respectively.

NO-HUD-05

Review: The Beatles: Rock Band

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

In my opinion, the recent development of popular music-oriented games, such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band, is due to the social aspects of said games. The first time I tried playing Guitar Hero was in the basement of my house by myself. I didn’t get it: a color came on the screen and I pressed the corresponding button on the guitar controller. Boring. This was a video game — where were the exploding alien heads and magic swords? I was not enthused and somewhat disillusioned about the game.

The next time I tried to play was at college with an apartment full of people. The experience was quite different. Instead of playing “Suck My Kiss” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers alone in my basement, I was singing along with a dozen other people as Steve Perry told me that I should never stop believing. People like playing Rock Band for the same reason they like singing karaoke: It’s a social experience. You and three of your friends get to jam along to some of your favorite tunes. For this reason, I’ve found that the most fun songs to play in such games are the more well-known songs that everyone can sing along to, such as Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” or Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer.” So it seems like a no brainer that a Rock Band game based solely on the songs of 1960s supergroup the Beatles would make for a great party game.

Apple’s Rock & Roll Event

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

Last week Apple had one of its trademark media events focusing on the iPod and iTunes line-up. Apple has become notorious for building up huge expectations for these events, inspiring a flurry of online speculation and rumors as to what will be announced. Last week’s event was no exception. For weeks rumors had been circulating the internet as to what would be shown at the event: the iTablet, an Apple TV refresh, an appearance by the remaining Beatles? Well, people hoping for those things were sorely disapointed. However, a plethora of news did come out of the event and Rhombus is here to give you the rundown.

SPORTS: "Sports Don't Matter"

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Sports

“Sports don’t matter.”

At least that’s what I have heard for most of my life. It’s something that English teachers, humanities majors, women, artists and other “intellectuals” would tell us. (In all fairness, I know plenty of English teachers, humanities majors, women and artists who enjoy sports; however, this sentiment generally seems to come from those groups.) To these people, there is no way nine guys hitting a ball with a stick carries any importance in any one’s life, and anyone who would waster their time in watching such endeavors are stereotyped generally as beer-drinking, uncultured, lazy, stupid men who only care about a) football, b) Journey/Boston, and c) power tools. (I blame most of this on Tim Allen. Then again, I blame a lot of things on Tim Allen.) I take offense to this stereotype: I would consider myself fairly well-read, I enjoy classical music, have no clue how to use a saw, and I am still a huge sports fan.

Both of my parents are BYU alums and, therefore, as far back as I can remember BYU football has been a part of my life. Once I became old enough to start following sports I developed a liking for particular teams, but BYU was the team that I was taught to cheer for. It is a quintessential part of my upbringing. I didn’t really become a die-hard, however, until the 2001 season, the Brandon Doman/Luke Staley year.

At that point I was being home-schooled, living in a rural part of the South. I had very few friends and I threw myself completely into the team (as much as I could 3,000 miles away, anyway.) As cliche as it sounds, I was as close to that team as I was to any friend I had. Every Saturday my dad and I would buy the games on PPV through the satellite and watch them. I knew all the players names, their stats, and even followed them all in their NFL careers. That season the team was undefeated and I had my hopes high that we would make a BCS bowl. Then we lost to Hawaii in the last game of the regular season. It was the first time my heart was ever broken. Seeing my team, my friends, lose was almost unbearable to my fragile 14-year-old self.

I took something away from that year though: the love of the sport and the team, something to be passionate about. And in reality, that’s what sports is: a chance to escape the mundane, to be passionate about something, to believe in something. In the eight years since, I’ve experienced the ups and downs, pains and joys, victories and defeats of loving sports — and when I use the word love, I mean it in the most literal sense.

Loving a team is often like loving a person. Just like no one can make you as happy or as sad as someone you love, no one can make you as happy or as sad as a team you’re rooting for. There are singularly sad moments in my life related to sports that stand out to me: Adam Vinatierri, Aaron Boone, Bryon Russell on his butt. There are also singularly happy moments that stand out: the 2004 ALCS, Lee Cummard vs. TCU, LeBron James with 1.5 seconds left. When you become a fan you realize you take the good with the bad. You acknowledge there will be more sad moments then good. You’re accepting that you’re willing to endure, if necessary, a lifetime of sad times to realize that one euphoric moment.

This deal, this unwritten constitution of fandom, is a shared experience. I really began to understand that when I got to college. For the first time in my life, I experienced sharing those sad and euphoric (but mostly sad) moments live with other people. I can still remember the breath being collectively taken out of 65,000 people as TCU ran a kick back for a touchdown, or how the entire campus seemed sad after losing to Utah in OT in 2005. Repeatedly, I have felt that BYU sports has ripped out my heart and stomped on it. Every loss, every stupid mistake, is like seeing someone who broke your heart. It only serves to re-open the wound — and yet I keep coming back. I made my deal with the devil. I’m in for better or worse, through the good times and the bad. All my criticism and negativity only comes from years of losses and a deeply founded love of the team.

In case you didn’t know, BYU‘s football team upset No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday. As I stood in my house watching the game clock tick down the final seconds, I came to the realization that I had no idea what to do. This had never happened to me before. As I walked into the street, people driving by were honking their horns in celebration. As I ran down University Avenue, a group of other fans began to gather at the corner, cheering at the passing cars. At some point another group gathered on the opposite corner and the two groups ran at each other, meeting at the middle of the intersection. In that huddled mass of people I hugged dozens of random strangers, jumped up and down in a frenzy with unknowns, and cheered loudly with people I’ll likely never see again.

For once in my life, after years of having my heart broken, I was rewarded for my faithfulness. I felt true, pure joy, as did hundreds (and later thousands) of people celebrating with me in the streets of Provo. My night took me from University Avenue to the stadium to the airport. I hugged strangers, doused my friends in water and danced in the street. It was one of the happiest nights of my life. I’m sure people at other schools will look down upon our non-alcoholic celebration as tame by usual college standards. To me, it made it all the more sweet: our celebration was not fueled by alcohol, nor by previous experience. It was a once-in-a-lifetime, completely spontaneous expression of pure joy. All those years of losing made that one night special — and something I will never, ever forget.

So maybe you still think sports are dumb, that caring so much about 11 guys trying to cross a line with a ball is stupid. But please, next time we see each other, don’t insult my intelligence. Don’t tell me that sports don’t matter. On Saturday night in Provo, thousands of people proved that it does — and that means everything to me.

Ben Wagner is a correspondent for Rhombus and writes on a variety of topics. Yes, he did start the riot at 700 North and University. Deal with it.

TV: Five Shows You Should Be Watching (But Probably Aren't)

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in TV

It’s fall again and, as per usual, the networks are preparing to launch the season premieres of all their big prime-time television shows. It can be hard to sort through all the junk to find the gems in the television world. For every great episode of House, we have to endure garbage like Bones, CSI: Wherever, and Tyler Perry dressing up like a) an old angry black woman, b) an old angry black man, or C) the head of Star Fleet (curse you, J.J. Abrams!), but I digress. Despite all the junk out there, there are still some great TV shows returning this fall that you might not be watching, but should be.

Lost

Lost

5) Lost — Returns in January on ABC
Yeah yeah, I know Lost isn’t a well kept secret. Everybody knows the deal: plane crashes on an island, smoke monsters and other insanity ensues. Lost had a stellar first season and was a runaway hit.

However, the show was definitely sub-par during the second season and, therefore, lost millions of viewers, a trend which continued into the third season. The fourth season, on the other hand, was breathtaking. The producers reached a deal with ABC to give the show a finite run, thus giving the producers the luxury of knowing exactly how much time they had left to finish the series, which increased the show’s pace.

While the fifth season had its ups and downs, the sixth and final season begins in January and, if you stopped watching the show at some point, now is a great time to get back into it. Most of the series is available to stream via Hulu or Fancast, so you can be ready in time for season six.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

4) It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia — Returns September 17th on FX
This show, from cable network FX, is far and away one of the best comedies on television. The irreverent comedy follows the adventures of four young, white, underachieving alcoholics who run an Irish pub in Philadelphia. Week in and week out, “the gang” runs in to problems and demonstrate time and time again that they are horrible people who deserve everything that happens to them.

This show can almost be considered, stylistically, to be an evolution of Seinfield. There are four main characters (three males and a female) and the plots generally aren’t very important. The show is essentially about nothing. The main characters’ plots intertwine with each other in a very Seinfeldian manner. All in all, this show is a hilarious comedy that’ll make you laugh every time.

30 Rock

30 Rock

3) 30 Rock — Returns October 15th on NBC
If you’re like most of the college students I know, you spend every Thursday night from 8:00-8:30 watching NBC’s popular mockumentary, The Office. Then you promptly turn off the television and completely miss the far superior show that follows it, the multiple Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning comedy, 30 Rock.

In principle, 30 Rock is a semi-autobiographical show conceived by Tina Fey, mocking her experiences working as a writer on Saturday Night Live. Fey plays Liz Lemon, a nerdy, late-30s, down-on-love slob, who is the head writer for a fictional NBC sketch comedy show called TGS. Alec Baldwin is hilarious as her uber-conservative, womanizing boss Jack Donaghy. Comedically though, the star of the show is Tracy Morgan, who plays TGS star Tracy Jordan (or, more accurately, himself.)

Every week, we see Liz Lemon run around the halls of 30 Rockefeller Center, trying to keep the rowdy writers in check, deal with the show’s eccentric stars, appease her boss and the corporate suits, and struggle to keep her personal life together. This show is simply the best-written comedy series on television and has won numerous awards — it is currently nominated for 22 prime-time Emmys, a record for a comedy series. If you’re a fan of The Office, please, don’t turn off the tube this fall. Give 30 Rock a shot and you’ll soon realize that Liz Lemon is ten times funnier than Michael Scott.

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights

2) Friday Night Lights — Returns this fall on DirecTV; re-runs on NBC in March
H.G. Bissinger’s bestselling book Friday Night Lights is simply one of the best sports books ever written. The film of the same name was a decent football movie but, in my opinion, failed to address many of the social issues present in the book.

Then along comes Friday Night Lights the television show. On the surface, the plot of the show is fairly straightforward: it revolves around the Dillon High Panthers, a fictional high school football team in Texas, their head coach, Eric Taylor, and his family. Below the surface, the show is a startling representation of small town life in the Midwest. As the first season progresses, the show becomes less and less about football and more about using the backdrop of small town Texas to address many important social issues facing middle America.

As someone who grew up in a small town, I can say this show — more then any other I’ve ever seen — realistically confronts issues in a small town, like racism, coming-of-age and the economic hardship. Simply put, the show may be the single most relevant piece of social commentary on television today. Right now, the show’s first two seasons are only $15 a piece at Wal-Mart or Target, which is literally a steal for one of the best-acted, best-written, and most impactful series in recent years. If you’re not watching Friday Night Lights, you’re missing out on something truly special.

Mad Men

Mad Men

1) Mad Men — Returned August 16th on AMC
Mad Men is quickly becoming the little show that could and odds are you’ve heard about it by now. Mad Men airs on AMC and, thus, has significantly lower ratings and visibility than other shows on major networks. However, the show is quickly gaining popularity and becoming something of a pop-culture phenomenon.

The story revolves around the men and women who work at Sterling-Cooper, a fictional advertising firm in 1960s New York. While it is acted by an ensemble cast, the main character of the show is Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the agency’s brilliant head of creative. The series has quickly become one of the most critically acclaimed of all time and is currently nominated for 16 Emmy awards, including four of the best nominations for “Best Writing in a Dramatic Series.”

The show is also acclaimed for its visual style, almost perfectly recreating Madison Avenue, circa the early ’60s. It is also noted for its accurate depiction of the era’s controversial issues, such as the treatment of women in the workplace, smoking, drinking and marital (in)fidelity. The show’s creators specifically opted for quality over conventional storytelling methods; therefore, the show moves at a relatively slow pace (in comparison to the slash-and-burn tactics of modern television dramas), while being expertly shot and acted. It is worthy of all the praise it receives and it is simply one of the most unique and well-made shows in the history of the medium. You owe it to yourself to experience Mad Men in all its glory.

Ben Wagner is a correspondent for Rhombus. You should probably start watching these shows so you can understand his frequent Friday Night Lights and Mad Men references. Follow him on Twitter @ben_wagner.