The Television Sommelier (Part Two)

The second installment of our fall television premier (we’re dealing with the rapid retreat of summer by pairing wonderful wines with our favorite television shows as they come back on this month) showcases three of our favorites, all of them comedy, all of them thirty minutes, and all of them well worth watching if you don’t already. There’s nothing we can do about the fact that there was a thick layer of frost on the lawn yesterday morning, but we can look forward to spending cold, dark autumn nights inside, sharing a glass of wine with our old friends John, Mindy, and Jessica. We hope you’ll join us.

Last Week Tonight (Recently returned from a brief hiatus, airs Sunday nights on HBO)

This. Is. Funny. Sh*t. When Colbert broke free of John Stewart, we worried about him… for about half a second. Then his genius shone brightly and we immediately realized just how fortunate we were to have two such shows where there used to be but one. In the case of John Oliver, we again worried briefly: can America handle a British political commentator in a comedic, satirical news-style medium? And again, almost instantly, the answer is a resounding “Yes! Yes we can!” (Familiar slogan… where have we heard that before?)

Bearing in mind that John Oliver is A. British and B. on HBO rather than cable, you need to know what you’re getting into with this show. It’s not out of the question for him to flash an image of an elderly senator’s wrinkly penis at his audience with little warning, and his language is better suited for navy yeomen and biker gangs than it is for Sunday school classes, no matter how much of a bind you’re in because you forgot that it was your week to plan the curriculum. All disclaimers aside,  Last Week Tonight follows in the footsteps of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert by offering edgy, intelligent political commentary. It’s only shortcoming is that while his predecessors are available four days a week, poor John Oliver only gets one. No matter what we say, we apparently still aren’t entirely over that whole “taxation without representation” scandal.

So what does one imbibe while watching such a show as this? Easy answer. For Last Week Tonight, we recommend Anthology, Amy LaBelle’s port-style wine from New Hampshire. We chose LaBelle ( because they make truly fabulous wines and are located in New England, which is pretty much like old England so far as we can tell, and we chose port because, unless you’re a raging alcoholic, you tend to drink fortified wines in smaller quantities — advisable given that at some point during the thirty minute show you’re likely to spit it out because you’re laughing so damn hard. Invest in some port-wine glasses, call up Amy Labelle, and don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The Mindy Project (Premiers Tuesday, September 16, on Fox)

The flagship project of actress and author Mindy Kaling (LOVED you in The Office), The Mindy Project is an honest, eccentric look into the life of a perfectly imperfect woman as she attempts to find herself amidst a cast of equally loveable, equally quirky characters in Manhattan. Said to have been inspired by Kaling’s own mother, herself a medical doctor, the show smartly takes on issues of race, class, self-image, self-confidence, and a litany of other issues that a variety of viewers will find relatable, current, and relevant.

Yet at the end of the day, Dr. Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) is still a semi-posh New York doctor, trying in so many ways to find herself, looking for love (in all the wrong places), and sharing her adventure with us all along the way. What wine could fit a show like this? Why, champagne, of course! Mindy’s not about to drop $150 on a bottle of Dom, but she’s not going to buy the cheap stuff either (image is so important), so for Mindy Project nights with friends we’re recommending the perfect middle-of-the-road champagne, the classic Veuve Clicquot ( True champagne readily available for around $45/bottle in virtually any wine shop, it’s as dry as Danny Castellano’s (played by actor Chris Messina) sense of humor, and as elegant as Mindy tries to be, and often is.   However, if you’re watching it by yourself, we recommend you go to Trader Joe’s and buy the cheapest sparkling they have, slide into your pj’s, and pair it with a bowl of rocky road. We’re almost certain Mindy would approve.

New Girl (Premiers Tuesday, September 16, on Fox)

If there’s a more diversely eccentric (or eccentrically diverse) cast of characters anywhere on television than Jess, Schmidt, Nick, Winston, Coach, and Cece, we haven’t found it. The remarkable thing about these characters is that they are as believable as they are bizarre, a rare feat on television these days and no mistake. With frequent guest appearances by Angela Kinsey (LOVED you in The Office), and cameos by Prince (the frog formerly known as) and others, the show has great appeal in that it’s light-hearted and funny, relatable, and casual. Unlike some, it’s a show you can miss an episode of and pick up pretty much where you left off the next go ’round.

While Zooey Deschanel is the star for good reason (she’s beautiful, talented, charismatic, charming, musical, etc.) there isn’t a weak link in the cast. Of particular note may be Jake Johnson, who plays bad boy/bartender/lay-about Nick Miller, a character who may get more Buzzfeed attention than Miley Cyrus. Johnson has lately broken into the film industry, and Let’s Be Cops offers audiences a spattering of New Girl cast members including Damon Wayans Jr. (Coach) and Rob Riggle (Patrick Warburton’s doppleganger). While Deschanel has clearly secured the spotlight in a show for which she sings her own theme song, the entire cast appears to be on its way up.

So what would Jessica Day drink? The down-to-earth, good-hearted schoolteacher is unlikely to fork over much money for wine, and her bartender/roommate/ex-boyfriend counterpart Nick Miller would probably offer up a convincing philosophical commentary about why spending money on fermented grape juice is a fool’s errand anyway. With that in mind, we’re pretty confident sending viewers of New Girl to Trader Joe’s to pick up a bottle (or several) of Charles Shaw, affectionately nicknamed “two-buck chuck.” You can thank inflation for “two buck chuck”’s three dollar price tag, but you can’t get too upset about the price all the same. Available in a variety of reds, whites, and even white zin, Charles’ Shaw is, well, cheap wine, but depending on your palate, it’s not awful, and it certainly won’t break the bank. At $36 a case, even a schoolteacher like Jessica Day (or Mark) can afford to enjoy wine with their favorite television shows, and with the cost of cable being what it is, well, hey, you gotta save money wherever you can.

So there you have it: the shows we’re looking forward to this week, and our recommendations on what wines to drink while you enjoy them. We hope you have a good time, and please send us your thoughts, your own pairings, or any other musings about shows we should watch, wine we should try, blogs we should write, wine we should try, wine we should try, and so forth.









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