Ranking the Shows I Watch – 2012 edition: 24-22

8 Feb

Ranking the shows I watch, from 2012 – for the rules, see the intro here; 24, 23, and 22 below.

24.  Downton Abbey

Downtown Abbey

I thought the show was titled Downtown Abbey for a good year, like many.  The first season captivated me a lot more than I thought it would, and I’d like to make a shout out here to the wonderful theme music.  The second season, with more episodes, struggled a little bit (we’re using American air dates, so second season aired in 2012, rather than British air dates, where the third season was shown last fall).  While some people were stunned to realize they were watching an overblown primetime soap, albeit with interesting social issues at play, that much was obvious to me.  The problem rather was that some of the twists in the second season were pure daytime, most notably the absolutely ridiculous plot in which an injured soldier cons Edith into believing he’s a family member the Granthams thought dead on the Titanic in the first episode of the series (by the way, starting your show with a succession issue caused by the Titanic’s sinking? that’s high drama).  Matthew miraculously gaining the use of his penis (yes, penis) and legs back after having them paralyzed was a little much, though mostly inevitable; they could at least have had him suffer some kind of permanent damage to make the whole injury meaningful.  The show was also constrained by having to figure out how to get Matthew and Mary together and then apart and then together and then apart within the rules of high English society. By the end of the season, while I was certainly rooting for them, I just wanted something to be done and final.  The Bates murder trial never worked for me either.  Anyway, the moral is that the second season paled in comparison to the first, but still had some wonderful moments and the always excellent sniping of Maggie Smith’s dowager countess.  These problems are also easily correctable, so I’m looking forward to the third season.  Also, Downton is unusual in just how much time is spread out over a single season.  Years happen between episodes sometimes.  That’s neither here nor there, but I thought it bore mentioning.

23.  Boardwalk Empire

Boredwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire, like Sons of Anarchy earlier on this list, aspires to be a BIG series full of deep and meaningful themes, like The Sopranos, in particular, in this case, a show on which Boardwalk series creator Terrence Winter worked. It almost feels like the show was put together with The Sopranos as the ideal model, trying mathematically to adhere to the recipe that made the Sopranos so great, and hoping that after putting it all in the oven for 15 minutes, it would lead to a brilliant show.  The care put into the show is clear; the sheer filming technique is impressive and definitely significantly adds to the enjoyment.  That said, the formula doesn’t always click.  Main character Nucky Thompson is generally a strong one, packed with charisma and complexity, but few of the secondary characters can equal him, and those who could often don’t get the amount of screen time they need.  This problem was clearer in the third season than in the first two.  While there were several serious issues that made the season all right instead of very good, the biggest might have been that the creators chose the wrong secondary characters to get the bulk of screen time after Nucky gets his.  Whatever greatness is, I think it’s unlikely Boardwalk Empire is going to get there in more than glimpses and moments, but there is definitely plenty to enjoy in the craft if less so in some of the characters, and that alone makes it worth watching.

22.  Happy Endings

Happy Endings

The volume shooter of TV sitcoms, Happy Endings fires away jokes at breakneck speed, not even worrying about whether they hit or miss, because by the time they’ve thought about it, ten more jokes have been recited.  Like NBA volume shooters J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford, this leads to serious consistency problems, but also periods of time where it seems like every joke (or shot) goes in.  There are six friends, they’re all grouped together differently for A, B, and sometimes C plots in various episodes, and they’ve got lots of inside jokes and pop culture references are often flying. Sometimes after time goes by without watching an episode, I’ll remember the show as mediocre, and then watch a good episode and recall what I liked about it.  Because of the way the show works, it’s never going to be an absolutely transcendent show the way, say, Community or personal favorite Party Down can be.  Sometimes an episode will work a lot better than others, and even in an episode where a lot works, some won’t.  The flip side is that the show has a high floor; even when everything’s not clicking on all cylinders, there’s an excellent chance of at least a couple of solid chuckles coming through.  I have a hard time being extremely passionate about this show; it’s not great and it took me a while to get into enjoying it at all.  That said, the more I’ve watched over the years, the more I’ve become to appreciate its quirks, and like the best shows of its type, the excellent chemistry enjoyed by the cast, which turns some percentage of those jokes from misfires to winners.  I originally had the show lower and moved it up because for the first time, this season, I realized I’d very much miss it if it was cancelled, and sometimes that emotional connection tells you something that your brain doesn’t; while this will never be a favorite, I genuinely like the show.

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