Tag Archives: best shows

Top 10 TV Shows of 2011

A large percentage of my favorite shows tend to be ones that have been on for a few seasons. That being said, there were a few shows that premiered this fall that really stand out in my mind–plus a handful that I think really hit their strides in 2011.

1. Grimm (NBC)

NBC’s Grimm is, at its heart, a police procedural. The main difference here is that the suspects are all critters that inspired fairy tales and the cop is the last Grimm, essentially a criminal profiler who specializes in things that go bump in the night. What separates Grimm from its “ripped from the pages of fairy tales” cousin, Once Upon a Time, is the former show’s premise that, while fairy tales may not be real, the monsters that inspired them are.

2. Young Justice (Cartoon Network)

DC has long been the champ of television animation. Young Justice follows in the footsteps of classics like Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Justice League Unlimited. Unlike these older shows, Young Justice exists in a separate universe, one where superheroes are relatively new and Batman assembles a covert team of teen sidekicks to go on missions that are too sensitive for the higher profile heroes to handle.

3. Unforgettable (CBS)

The premise–a detective who remembers everything she sees–may be a little ridiculous, despite being based on an actual condition, but Unforgettable is a fun little show with an appealing cast of characters. Bonus points may have been added for a main character who is (a) not under 25 years old and (b) played by Poppy Montgomery.

4. Happy Endings (ABC)

I’m not really sure how I missed the first season of Happy Endings, but I did. (Actually, I think it might have had something to do with a lot of chatter about it being similar to a certain sitcom about the epic tale of the search for a female parental unit and, if there’s one thing that bores me, it’s something created solely to suckle at the teat of something that’s already an established success.) Anyways, Happy Endings is thoroughly charming and one of the few genuinely funny sitcoms out there.

5. Person of Interest (CBS)

I grew up watching shows like The A-Team, Knight Rider, and The Equalizer, so a show where Ben Linus and Jesus use a top secret super-computer to fight crime is right up my alley.

6. Up All Night (NBC)

I’m not going to talk about the state of the sitcom on NBC. We all know what happened, so there’s no reason to open up old wounds. That being said, Up All Night is a winner and, despite the programming hoopla, deserves every last ounce of faith that the network has seen fit to bestow upon it.

7. Whitechapel (BBC America)

Whitechapel could have easily taken the Sherlock route and simply presented itself as a modern retelling of the Jack the Ripper crimes. Instead, Whitechapel is a modern police drama in every sense, except in the stories it decides to tell. The first series focussed on a suspect who was meticulously recreated Jack the Ripper’s murders, while the following series tells the story of the heirs to ’60s mobsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray.

8. Parks and Recreation (NBC)

    Community (NBC)

Neither of these shows really blew me away when they premiered, but 2011 became “The Year I Learned to Love Them.” I can’t pick a moment when Community finally clicked for me. Parks and Recreation, however, won me over during its third season with the Leslie/Ben storyline and the April/Andy storyline (man, I hated those two characters until they got together and became adorable).

9. Downton Abbey (PBS)

The show for which the phrase “All British and shit” was invented. Created by Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey has much in common with Gosford Park, which was written by Fellowes. Set prior to the outbreak of World War I, when the British aristocracy was slowly losing ground (figuratively and literally) to the growing middle classes, Downton Abbey is as much social satire as anything written by Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. Also, where else can you see Professor McGonagall and Harriet Jones, Prime Minister (yes, we know who you are) snipe at each other for hours on end?

10. Covert Affairs (USA)

If you liked Alias, but thought that running around trying to find giant balls of mysterious red liquid was a little too pulpy, then Covert Affairs might be for you. If you ignore the oh-so-very-pretty cast (or don’t, it’s your call), Covert Affairs presents a fairly accurate portrayal of what I think being a spy is really like, from the inter-departmental backbiting to the boring stretches of downtime during an op.

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Top 10 Shows of 2008

Following on the heels of my Top 10 Books of 2008 comes this list of what I consider the ten best shows of 2008 (most of these did, in fact, debut in the 2008 calendar year…however, one or two have been on the air for a while).  So, in no particular order, here we go:

1. Leverage

 

Leverage premiered in early December, barely making the cut as a 2008 show, but I’ll be damned if it might not be the best show of the year (or, at the very least, my favorite show of the year).  Why?  A few reasons.  First, it stars Timothy Hutton who is, in no uncertain terms, 10 pounds of awesome in a 5 pound bag.  Second, the basic premise is totally up my alley: after getting screwed by the company he works for, a former investigator for an insurance company gathers a team of thieves and grifters to rob from the rich and powerful to help the helpless.  Bonus points for the limber, vaguely sociopathic blonde cat burglar.

2. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

 

The first two Terminator movies might very well be the greatest pair of films ever made (and, yes, I’ll admit that I didn’t even hate the third one), but does that mean they’d translate well to the small screen?  Some people might say “no.”  However, I think Sarah Connor Chronicles is pretty good.  You can’t help but respect a show that (a) casts Summer Glau as a killer robot from the future, (b) casts Garret Dillahunt as anything, and (c) goes out of its way in the first episode to erase the third movie from existence (hint: it involves time travel, naturally).

3. The Office

 

Okay, I admit that for the last few years I’ve avoided the American version of The Office like a plague-invested village.  I really love the BBC version and the first few episodes of the American series were shot-for-shot copies that, in my opinion, just did not work.  But, after catching a few episodes on TBS, I decided to give it another shot…and, if you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I’m pretty much in love with this show now. 

4. Fringe

 

Fringe was probably the most hyped new show of the year for two reasons: J.J. Abrams is more or less a TV god these days and Fox was hoping this would recapture some of that old X-Files magic.  But, to tell you the truth, I had no desire to watch it.  So, with absolutely no expectations, I watched the pilot and was immediately won over by Joshua “Please don’t call me Pacey” Jackson, John “Boromir is dead?” Noble, and a cow.  Yes, I said “a cow.”

5. Ben 10: Alien Force

 

Alien Force is a sequel to Cartoon Network’s Ben 10, which was about Ben Tennyson, a ten year old who finds an alien device that allowed him to turn into ten different alien heroes.  This sequel series is set five years later, and Ben has to use a different set of aliens to find his missing grandfather and fight off an alien invasion of Earth.  Ben is aided by his cousin Gwen and former adversary Kevin Levin.  As much as I liked the original series, I think Alien Force is a vast improvement: the animation is cleaner and the writing is more mature (both in terms of basic plots and humor).

6. Crusoe

 

Crusoe fills a gap in network programming that has existed since the ’80s ended: the rippin’ yarn.  This is an adventure series, plain and simple.  If you want pirates, savages, muskets, swords, and gadgets made out of vines and bamboo, this is the show for you.

7. In Plain Sight

 

I’ve decided that there is a single reason that God invented cable television, and that reason is to have a place to produce and air shows like In Plain Sight.  Remember when there used to be shows about old ladies who solved murders, priests who solved crimes, and guys who hung out on boats with robots?  Those kinds of shows used to be all over TV.  Now, they can only exist on cable stations like USA or TNT.  In Plain Sight is a show like that.  It mixes action, suspense, and humor in careful balance.  Plus, it co-stars Paul Ben-Victor and Peter Weller’s cousin.

8. Flashpoint

 

It’s a scientifically proven fact that I love cop shows.  I can take or leave your basic doctor or lawyer show, but give me a cop show and I’ll follow you anywhere.  Flashpoint is a little different from your average cop show, though.  For starters, it’s made in Canada.  But, more importantly, it doesn’t follow your basic “let’s solve this crime that’s been committed” storyline.  The main characters on Flashpoint deal mainly with hostage situations, so you pretty much know “whodunnit” already.  Also, most episodes begin in medias res, with a member of the Strategic Response Unit trying to negotiate with the perp, and then flashback to see how we got there.

9. Eleventh Hour

 

Eleventh Hour is far from unique among the new shows for 2008.  First of all, like Life on Mars, it’s an American remake of a British series.  Second, it deals with similar pseudo-scientific situations like those found on Fringe.  Now, I’ve never seen the original BBC series, so I can’t really talk about the former statement; however, as to the latter, although Fringe and Eleventh Hour both deal with pseudo-science, the similarities more or less end there.  The science crimes presented on Eleventh Hour are played a little bit straighter than those on Fringe (no hot sauce-chugging bald guys or old ladies with robot hands on Eleventh Hour). 

10. Bones and NCIS

 

Neither of these shows premiered in 2008, but they each did something of note in this season.  Last season, Bones ended with the reveal that Brennan’s assistant, Zack Addy, was in league with the Gormogon serial killer.  This season, Zack is behind bars at an asylum and occasionally helps the team out Hannibal Lecter-style.  To find Zack’s replacement, a string of applicants have paraded through the Jeffersonian, including Brennan’s estranged father.  The writers could have pulled a House and turned this season into “The Quest for Zack’s Replacement”, but giving each potential replacement two or three episodes on their own to grow as characters was a great move–plus, it allowed the writers to examine the dynamics of the team through fresh eyes.

A few seasons back, the team on CSI was broken up into two different teams.  That lasted for most of the season.  This season, NCIS did something similar.  It lasted two episodes, and I’m not complaining.  I knew coming in that Gibbs wouldn’t rest until his team was reassembled.  What I never suspected was the real reason why his team was disbanded and that it would have repercussions throughout the entire season.  Oh, and we got to meet Gibbs’ dad this season.

Top 10 TV shows of 2007

Well, here we are…the final “Best of 2007” list that I’m going to be putting together for you guys (you’ll notice that there’s no “Best Music of 2007” list…that’s because I listen to very little music recorded after 1986). So, without any further ado, here are my picks for the 10 best shows of 2007.

1. How I Met Your Mother

Probably the funniest non-animated half-hour show on the air today. It’s like Friends…only funny. What does HIMYM have that others shows don’t? First, it has an awesome cast. Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, and Neil Patrick Harris are on fire each and every week. Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders have only become watchable since their characters split (and, I might add, Smulders’ Robin has become at least three times hotter without being saddled with Radnor’s Ted). Second, HIMYM might be the reigning king of TV catch-phrases (thanks, in no small part, to Harris’ Barney). Not only did this show breathe new life into the waning classic “awesome”, but it also brought us “legendary” (and its endless hyphenated permutations) as well as “Slapsgiving”:

2. Eureka

Eureka is a throw-back to a simpler time in television. The premise is simple: U.S. Marshal Jack Carter finds himself transferred to a top-secret government-run town full of super-geniuses.

Each week, Sheriff Carter finds himself confronted with a new mystery, usually involving some kind of wacky, super-scientific invention created by a resident of the town or by Global Dynamics, the government think-tank at the heart of Eureka. If you want harmless fun with off-the-wall characters and “gee-whiz” sci-fi gadgets, then Eureka’s for you. It’s a mix of X-Files and Twin Peaks, starring the cast of Northern Exposure.

3. Heroes

Might as well get this out of the way, right? Everyone had Heroes fever in the first half of 2007, and with good reason. The freshman season of the show was one of the greatest television experiences I’ve had in recent years (I think the last show that I really, truly looked forward to each week as much as I did Heroes was Buffy). Rewatching the first season on DVD made me realize just how well the show was plotted and executed.

I’m the first person to admit that the second season stumbled out of the gate. The writers and producers came to their senses and did their best to make the last third of “Generations” (the title for the first half of Heroes second season) as exciting as the first season. I think they managed to pull it off, effectively preventing what could have been the largest crash and burn I’ve ever seen.

4. Big Bang Theory

I probably never would have looked at Big Bang Theory if it hadn’t been scheduled after HIMYM. I’m glad it was. If HIMYM is the funniest show on television, this is a close second. The premise is fairly simple: four highly intelligent, but ridiculously socially awkward guys are forced to interact in the real world when “hot girl” Penny moves into the apartment across the hall from physicists Leonard and Sheldon.

I’m usually less than thrilled by the ways that geeks, dorks, and nerds are portrayed in Hollywood. Too often I find that Hollywood geeks are just normal guys with floppy hair and glasses whose geek-cred doesn’t extend any further than the current best-selling video game (I’m lookin’ at you, Chuck!). Leonard, Sheldon, and their posse are true geeks. Many of their conversations and arguments sound like ones I’ve had with my friends at one point or another. Okay, maybe they take it a little too far from time to time…but, what do you expect, it’s television.

5. Drive

In the future, when scientists make a list of the television shows that were killed long before their time, two shows will be at the top: one of them is Firefly, and the other is Drive (both, ironically, starring Nathan Fillion…I hope he’s not the superstitious type).

Drive tells the story of an illegal, underground cross-country race where many of the participants are bullied, cajoled, or otherwise coerced into racing. Fillion’s Alex Tully, for example, is forced to join when his wife is kidnapped. Each week, contestants are given riddles that they must solve in order to make it to the next checkpoint. If it takes you too long to get to a checkpoint, you’re out of the race (don’t worry, sometimes the shadowy group running the race will give you a second chance if you agree to rob a bank or shoot someone in the face). It was probably envisioned as a mobile version of Lost, and I would have been down with that for two reasons: (1) Nathan Fillion and (2) Emma Stone.

6. Burn Notice

Burn Notice is to the action-adventure genre what Eureka is to sci-fi: an homage to a simpler time. Burn Notice would have fit nicely into NBC’s Friday or Saturday night schedule back in the ’80s. It’s the story of Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donnovan), a government agent who pisses off someone in power and gets fired (or “burned”, as the Feds call it). He ends up with no job and no money in Miami, where he does what anyone else would do in his situation: he uses his spy training to become a private detective. As if his life isn’t complicated enough, Michael also has to deal with an ex-girlfriend (Gabrielle Anwar) who used to run guns for the IRA, a buddy (Bruce Campbell) who’s informing on him, and his mother (Sharon Gless):

7. Doctor Who

This show has been around for about 79 years (well…maybe a little less), so if you have no interest in watching it, me telling you about it probably won’t have any effect. But, on the off chance that you’ve never heard of it before (and you like time travel, aliens, parallel dimensions, immortals, and British people), please check it out.

The Doctor is the last living Time Lord, a race of immortal aliens who have mastered time and space. He travels from planet to planet, from past to future, looking for adventures and helping those in need. Currently in his 10th incarnation (when a Time Lord is about to die, they can regenerate into a new person, making it easy to recast the ridiculously long-running BBC series), the Doctor travels with human companion, Martha Jones. I must admit that it took me a little bit to get into the third season, but I’m glad I did.

8. 30 Rock

I know that people say that bad things come in threes, but can’t good things come in threes, too? Along with How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock is the most consistently funny show on TV. Alec Baldwin and Tracey Morgan are having so much fun being ridiculous that you can’t help but come along for the ride (one of the greatest moments of the year involves Baldwin, Morgan, therapy, and the spirits of half of the cast of Good Times). 30 Rock never shies away from the insanity that is Corporate America and the “Television business”, whether it’s Seinfeld-vision or product placement:

9. Bionic Woman

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you remember watching the original Bionic Woman, then you probably won’t like this 21st century reboot. However, if you enjoy mindless action shows, strong female characters, and Miguel Ferrer, then you probably would have enjoyed this:

Sadly, lackluster ratings and the WGA strike has pretty much killed Bionic Woman. Another fine program bites the dust, and American audiences are deprived of the gorgeous Michelle Ryan.

10. House

There are two kinds of shows that I really love: Procedurals and any show with a lead character who’s ridiculously intelligent but socially inept. House is both of those things. Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House is a rarity on American TV, a main character who is not a nice person. House is rude, arrogant, and borderline misogynistic. He’s also one hell of a doctor. Give him a mysterious illness and in about 52 minutes he’ll have it figured out.

This current season has gotten some bad press, but I think it’s as good as any of the previous three. I like the idea of House turning his search for three new assistants into something akin to a reality TV show (if we live in a time when Kid Nation is considered viable entertainment, then why not?). I like that Foreman (who quit last year because he was afraid of becoming “just like House”) is forced back to his old position because no other hospital wants him. Why? Well, it seems he’s just like House. The cast is just as good as always, including additions like Kal Penn and Olivia Wilde (whose “Thirteen” might as well have been named “Cameron Two-point-Oh”), although I confess that I will miss “Ridiculously Old Fraud” almost as much as House will.