by Tim Goodman
The dark secret of television criticism is that one person can't watch everything. Not even with three TiVo machines working frantically through the night. So as Bill Buckner can tell you, sometimes one gets through.
Or three or five.
It's inevitable, really. Good shows get ignored. Intensely weird series that oh-lord-you've-gotta-see pass right on by through the TiVo net, into the office out-basket, disappearing into the ether -- at least until they come back for a second season and we wise up.
So here then are a smattering of series that, for one reason or another, never got reviewed but deserve your attention. They are the Lost Gems. And this is a rewind.
"Campus Ladies," 10 p.m. Sundays (and various other times), Oxygen.
Every network would wish for a series like this, a ridiculously funny send-up revolving around Joan (Carrie Aizley) and Barri (Christen Sussin) two 40-year-old housewives (one divorced, the other a widow) who decide to head back to college for the good times they never found the first time around.
Less quirkily dark than "Strangers With Candy" but able to mine better situations, "Campus Ladies" allows Joan and Barri to cluelessly but sweetly dive into all kinds of college-level mischief and trouble. The aging freshmen stick out socially and academically, so embarrassments are not just limited to the classroom or the dorm.
In one sublimely great episode, the duo try to figure out if they are lesbians, going from doubtful to fully into it and eventually to the sad realization that they're not. Aizley and Sussin are veterans of the Groundlings and can play improv for wonderful comedic gain, which keeps the episodes lively. The characters are aided immensely by a talented ensemble cast and some celebrity cameos (Fred Willard, Maya Rudolph, Paul "Pee-Wee Herman" Reubens, etc.). The series is executive produced by Cheryl Hines of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
"Campus Ladies" will be in reruns through February, then return to original episodes in March.