Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 edition: 31-28

13 Feb

Four more shows on my list. A great show coming off its worst season, a cancelled show coming of its best, a new show, and a consistently good but not great sitcom.

Intro here and 43-40 here and 39-36 here and 35-32 here.

31. Jane the Virgin – 2013: Ineligible

Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin is an excellent new entrant to the TV sphere. The first word that comes to mind as emblematic of the show is delightful. Jane is more than that – it’s funny, clever, heartwarming, and emotion-packed, but on the whole, in the wake of so much heavy, humorless, prestige television, like the recently covered AMC’s The Walking Dead, Jane the Virgin is a real pleasure to watch. The writers traipse across the world of telenovelas and soaps with a winking meta-eye, but in the course of that wondering, develop a world of characters we care about. The best of these are Jane and her family, including her mother, grandmother, and recently discovered father, all of whom (except occasionally Jane, who is occasionally a little too sainted) are riddled with believable flaws, and then strung together by love and the ability to see past these flaws for the bigger picture. Gina Rodriguez delivers an absolute breakout performance as Jane who centers the show. The overall vision is occasionally muddled; from episode to episode, the tone can be inconsistent, veering more serious, or more humorous, more real, or more absurd, but on the whole, Jane the Virgin is a treat.

30. The Mindy Project – 2013: 30

The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project has struggled to find itself, with many minor problems over its first couple of seasons. The one major problem was the show’s utter inability to develop solid supporting characters, which continues to this day. The show got one thing really, really right though, and it had the smarts, like The Bridge which I wrote about earlier, to recognize what the core of the show should be when it appeared even if it wasn’t part of the initial plan. In the first two seasons, Mindy went through a series of love interests, several which were more appealing than most of the other regular characters on the show, until she finally started dating Danny. While I’ve often complained about the cheap and unsatisfying strategy of going to the main-characters-dating-each-other well, Mindy is an example of a show in which that trope simply works. Mindy and Danny as the core of the show are strong, both as individual characters and in their relationship. The show is still constantly struggling to work around them. Side characters are in and out, the show has struggled to make meaningful plots using Jeremy, the only other remaining character from the premiere, while Adam Pally, who had been the best tertiary character outside of Morgan, is leaving. The Mindy Project has the Mindy and Danny relationship, however, despite all that, and that counts for a lot.

29. Justified – 2013: 5

Justified

Justified has been, over the course of its life, a great, not good, show, and it pains me to put it so low. Unfortunately, in this golden age of television, one slip, like this past weakest season of Justified had, and so many other show are ready to jump right ahead. The fifth season, after a promising start, was largely a disappointment. The writers didn’t really know where they wanted to go, and it showed. Justified relies on its antagonists to provide a strong contrast for our heroes; like the better seasons of Dexter, the antagonist is in some part, a vehicle against which Raylan Givens measures himself. The rival Crowe family, led by Wendy, a lawyer trying to go legit, and her brother, Darryl, part somewhat competent and somewhat incompetent crime boss, and the Kendal, a boy torn in the middle. Justified specializes in both competent and incompetent criminals, and it seemed as if it couldn’t make up its mind about which one Darryl, the lead antagonist should be. Eva’s prison side plot had potential but felt disjointed throughout. While even this inferior season had occasional highlights, including the performance of surprisingly excellent kid actor Jacob Lofland of Mud as Kendal, the season on the whole was a letdown.

28. The Bridge – 2013: 40

The Bridge

The first season of The Bridge was a mess. There was potential, and some things worked, but it never quite came together. The two main actors were fine, and the idea of exploring the border between Mexico and Texas and the drug trade which overwhelms everything else in the area was promising. That exploration though seemed to just be a stalking horse for a psychopathic serial killer with a personal vendetta against one of the protagonists, which was a disappointment. The second season, though, exhibited a rare quality. The creators clearly went back, saw plainly what worked and what didn’t, and doubled down on what worked, while slowly peeling away what didn’t. This seems like an obvious approach, but it’s shocking how infrequently it happens, either because writers don’t see what’s wrong with their shows, don’t want to see, don’t want to risk messing up what they have, or feel unable to improve it. The reporter side characters, a highlight of the first season, had much larger parts, while Charlotte and creepy Linder, obvious weak points, were slowly written out. Rather than one freak serial killer, the season dived into the murky corruption and government rivalries and tensions at the heart of the Mexican-American relationship. Because of this stark improvement, I was particularly saddened that The Bridge was cancelled. It’s sad to see a show really finding its feet only to have its head chopped off.

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9 Responses to “Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 edition: 31-28”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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