Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: 9-7

20 Feb

We’re on the top 10 of my ranking of the shows I watched in 2012 – the rules to be included are here, and 9, 8, and 7 follow.

9.  Childrens Hospital

Blake Downs, MD

The last of the three Adult Swim shows on this list, Childrens is also the most accessible, as it balances a healthy level of absurdism with a brand of silly, feel good hijinks.  Parks and Recreation got a lot of credit when it was first getting popular for being a truly nice comedy; it was made up of characters that were largely civil to one another (April aside), and the humor was built on the back of a startling lack of cynicism. Childrens Hospital, while a far zanier show, filled with characters who are alternately nice or mean depending on the needs of any particular episode, also operates with a startling lack of cynicism.  There’s occasional continuity between episodes, but only when the creators feel like making a reference, and otherwise every episode stands completely one its own, and every character has a different personality in every episode.  The characters are more a company meant to pull together whatever plot and string of jokes the writers can think of. Childrens Hospital features frequent parodies, of which some are specific, and some are of general tropes, but rather than being cutting and deep, they’re light-hearted and in good fun.  While some episodes stand strongly above others, gimmick episodes frequently work, including last season’s ingenious “British Hospital”, which was simply an episode of Childrens, except with an all British cast, using slightly different names and making a number of British references, but played completely seriously.  The short run time of episodes make them ideal for rewatching, and the cast’s comic skills make the jokes work.  A legal parody is episode “Childrens Lawspital” funny less because it hits on exact legal tropes than because of how ridiculous and outlandish it is.  Childrens Hospital is not for everyone, but I think many people who wouldn’t appreciate the far out absurdism of Eagleheart would chuckle at Childrens.

8.  Treme

Down in the Treme

Treme and Eagleheart are probably the two least watched shows on this list.  Eagleheart most people don’t know about, but also many people wouldn’t like, and it probably makes sense that it couldn’t be anything more than simply a bigger cult hit.  Treme, sure, most people don’t know about it also, but is far more well-known than Eagleheart, and has somehow developed a reputation of being boring and uninteresting.  I’ve seen at last three separate TV shows over the past year name check Treme, in both positive and negative ways, but generally around the idea of how it either is or seems boring.  And I do get that; I thought it seemed boring and uninteresting for a while based simply on the concept and that’s why I didn’t watch it.  And then I watched it, and it’s not that at all.  Unfortunately it’s going away after a shortened fourth season, because nobody watches, but honestly we should be thankful to get four seasons at all for a show that might not have lasted 10 episodes on a network.  David Simon, as sanctimonious as always, has talked about how people shouldn’t watch and judge Treme episode by episode, and should instead take it as a whole season.  I don’t necessarily agree with many of Simon’s opinions, including often those about his own show, but I do believe if more people really gave Treme a full season’s chance, they would be surprised with how much they enjoyed the show as well.  The characters are as deep, detailed, and real as any show on TV, and no show currently airing feels more like the real world.  The only dramas above this on the list are excellent, but either fantasy, set in the past, or heavily stylized; Treme deals with contemporary reality and does an extraordinary job.

7.  Archer

Archer

Archer’s first season I liked, but didn’t love.  The show improved greatly even from the first to second half of the first season, and over the course of the next two, I was entirely sold.  Archer, the second animated program on this list, features a great group of characters, but relies most on the dickish charisma of main character and super spy Sterling Archer, voiced by the great H. Jon Benjamin (also the voice of the main character of the other animated show on this list, Bob’s Burgers), who consistently brings the laughs.  Archer is a perfect combination of competent and reckless, and you don’t mind that he’s an asshole; in fact, if he wasn’t, much of the humor of the show would be eliminated.  Archer, about a private often incompetent organization of intelligence agents and super spies, run by Archer’s mother, Mallory (voiced by Jessica Walter, Arrested  Development’s Lucille, playing a very similar character) opened the most recent third season with a fantastic three parter about Archer being caught by pirates and later becoming a pirate king, and ended the season with a two parter featuring the crew in space caught in the web of a rebel astronaut voiced by Bryan Cranston.  Recurring jokes and humor play a significant role in Archer.  There are more than a handful of hilarious catch phrases and repeated bits, and everyone has their favorites, but mine include Archer’s shout of “Phrasing” whenever his mother, who heads the intelligence agency, uses sexually suggestive wording, and his “Read a book” when he makes a random historical reference. Archer isn’t for everyone, but I think if you like other FX comedies (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, in particular), there’s a good chance you’d like Archer.

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