Tag Archives: Archer

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2015 Edition: 50-47

28 Mar

Two comedies, one action, and one drama/thriller. Moving forward…

Intro here and 58-55 here and 54-51 here.

50. Workaholics – 2014: 36

Workaholics

I will always have much affection for Anders, Blake, and Adam, but it badly feels like the boys of Rancho Cucamonga are running out of ideas, no matter what occasional breaks between seasons they take. This is particularly obvious since the show Workaholics is paired up with in its time slot, Broad City, has risen as Workaholics has fallen, and on the whole I love Broad City more than I’ve ever liked Workaholics, which is more a compliment to Broad City than an insult to Workaholics. Workaholics still has the funny joke here and there, and again, I still love the three of them, but it’s not the buzzy, quotable show of the first couple of seasons, and I almost feel like I want to spend more time in this review going to pay tribute to some of the great episodes (“Real Time,” “To Friend a Predator” for example) than talking about this past season which was largely unmemorable. Alas. Nothing gold can stay.

49. The Affair – 2014: 33

The Affair

Oh, to be a Showtime show. A mildly ambitious premise, generally a little less glassy or bold than an HBO show (generally; HBO made Ballers). They’re often just good enough to be intriguing and keep me watching for a few episodes or a couple seasons, only to eventually let me down, quickly, or slowly. The Affair drew me in with a fascinating premise; a modern day Rashomon – a story slowly drawn out, told in two perspectives, both of which contained shades of the truth. The first season left more or less how it started; still maintaining that same level of intrigue and possibility for more without having actually accomplished that much. The second delivered a little bit less than the first, even while including some worthwhile moments and adding two more perspectives to the melange. Dominic West’s Noah became increasingly despicable over the course of the season which made it difficult to watch and times, and the show continued to feel like it didn’t exactly know where it was going or what it was doing. I’m about at a coin flip over whether I’ll give the third season a shot.

48. Archer – 2014: 39

Archer

Archer is long-veteran show at this point, and like Workaholics, just above, it often feels at this point like it’s running out of ideas. However, unlike with Workaholics, this past season was a step up over the previous season, the ambitious but ultimately lacking Archer Vice. It certainly wasn’t golden era Archer (seasons 2 and 3) but it was clearly, if not way past the solid enough to keep watching point. At this point it often feels like the veteran that it is; it’s not exciting or flashy but it comes to work and does the job at least well enough to earn its paycheck. Archer marks the first clear tier break on this list so far. Everything Archer and above I plan on coming back to for sure in their next seasons; everything below is a big question mark.

47. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – 2014: 32

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I doubt Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is ever going to rise too high in these rankings. It’s probably never going to be a great show; it’s been on long enough that I feel pretty comfortable I know what it is and it’s unlikely to take a leap. That said, it’s settled into a comfortable place in my viewing lineup, never much higher than the cut off, but safely above. After a really rough first 15 episodes that had me ready to give up the show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has improved to a level of competence putting together enough smart dialogue and occasionally unpredictable plotting to take advantage of my natural inclination to like things comic book and superhero. Like Flash and Arrow, this show isn’t for everyone, and those who have zero interest in superheroes have absolutely no reason to give it a look. But it is a step up above those DC shows, slightly better written, one level deeper, which is not saying a lot, that stay just a little bit farther away from obvious and cringeworthy tropes enough of the time to make it worth watching.

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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 Edition: 39-36

2 Feb

Two well-loved comedies coming off down years after running a little low on ideas a few seasons into their run, one prestige drama which ended, and one decidedly non-prestige drama which just came back. Let’s go.

Intro here and 43-40 here.

39: Archer – 2013: 18

Archer: Vice

We’re now firmly onto shows that I generally enjoy, but which suffered through flawed seasons. Archer sadly seems to be slipping firmly into the decline phase that nearly all shows that last as long as it has slip into. There are all the telltale signs – the writers are out of ideas, situations repeat, the characters tell the same jokes, and the same tropes reappear again and agian. What’s makes Archer’s repetitiveness this season particularly noteworthy is that the season, known as Archer: Vice, started out with the idea of switching up the show’s entire premise. After the big shakeup however, where the gang became drug dealers instead of an intelligence agency, while the show was cosmetically different, the inner workings were the same.  Archer is a fairly breezy half hour, to its credit, by this point, I can’t think of what it would have to take for me to stop watching before the show is over, and I’ll always think of Archer overall in a positive light. Still, Archer has gone from a show I really looked forward to every week to one I knock down as part of my routine.

38: 24: Live Another Day – 2013: Not Eligible

24: Live Another Day

24 has a distinct formula which it’s continued to stick to in its rebirth, a formula which provides reliably fairly enjoyable programming and at the same time limits any chance of greatness. 24 provides a superior version of the House of Cards principle I explained in that entry; it’s enjoyable when watching, especially one after another, but tends to be far less enjoyable when ruminated on afterwards. 24’s magic is particularly strong this way. I never look forward to an episode, only to be pleasantly surprised while I’m watching, only to again forget everything about the episode soon after. It’s superior to House of Cards because it self-consciously knows what it is; it doesn’t have pretentions of being anything other than a non-stop action drama full of twists and turns which may or may not make sense. There’s no weird subplots that go nowhere, no strange episodes that feel entirely out of place. It’s all action, all of the time. Some seasons are better or worse, but that mostly has to do with the relative repetition of the plot, the likeability of the seasonal characters, and the coolness of the action scenes. Live Another Day was about average 24, and while I can’t get as excited about it as I wish I could, it definitely has a place on television that nothing else has truly occupied in its absence.

37: Boardwalk Empire – 2013: 28

Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire wanted to be The Sopranos from the start, and never quite got there, though it had fits and starts where it seemed like it might come close. The final season, unfortunately, was not one of those times. Shoehorned into eight episodes, the season lacked focus, bouncing around in an effort to end the many plots Boardwalk had started over the years. This was admirable but really missed an opportunity to simply spend more time with the characters and plots we really cared about the most, which were few. The Al Capone sideshow was subpar, and it felt as if the fact it was real history was that main reason it featured, rather than because it actually made for good TV. Capone was more a caricature than character, whether or not it was an accurate portrayal and while he was enjoyable in doses, he was overtaxed in the final season. The flashbacks while occasionally illuminating took time that could have been used to work out the many threads which Boardwalk had to deal with. As it was, many plots felt rushed, as if valuable transition scenes which would have sewn the episodes together ended up on the cutting room floor. I do think with a full 12 episodes, this season could have been a lot better, but as it was, it left a lot to be desired. Beautiful, with brilliant acting and genius cinematography, but missing humor, passion, and enough solid side characters, the final season was emblematic of the what-could-have-been nature of Boardwalk Empire on the whole.

36: Workaholics – 2013: 32

Workaholcis

Most contemporary television comedies create characters we become invested in and storylines that take us through their lives over the course of several seasons. Still, shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Workaholics, push on under a different model, centered around incredibly stupid characters who never grow and change. The only goal of these shows is to make you laugh. These shows can be great but they pose a challenge. Parks and Recreation generates appeal in two ways; you can like an episode because it was funny, because it made you feel, or both. Workaholics has got to be funny. Shows like Workaholics often feature a problematic running-out-of-ideas over the course of a few seasons, and Workaholics is no exception. Five seasons and going is a run to be proud of, but with so many episodes, it’s hard to keep pumping out new classics. Because of the difficulty of coming up with new ideas every episode, these shows tend to be consistently inconsistent; a hilarious episode is followed by a relative dud. All of this is true for the solid but not spectacular fourth season of Workaholics, which had its share of winners and was definitely worth watching for fans of the show, but which stopped short of classic status.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 20-17

27 Jan

It seems like we’ve just started but we’re more than halfway there. Two hour longs, and then two half hour comedies in this edition, 20-17.

20. Orphan Black

Orphan Black

There’s a lot to like about Orphan Black, but there’s really one thing first and foremost. That’s actress Tatiana Maslany, who owns the show in a way few other lead actors and actresses can own the television shows they star in, largely because she plays not just the main character, but several other characters, ranging from major characters to fairly small roles. She is fantastically wonderful and makes the show work in a way that very few actors or actresses could. She’s so expert at her portrayal of different people that when watching, I, just for a moment, questioned whether it really was the same actress, so different were the looks, voices, and expressions, of each character. So beyond that, Orphan Black is a sci-fi show about a crazy conspiracy involving secret clones; it’s the kind of storyline that makes a little less sense the more you think about it, but in this case, just don’t, and you’re bound to enjoy the roller coaster ride – unlike say, a Lost, Orphan Black doesn’t feel bloated with the weight of its own pretension. It’s just fun.

19. Orange is the New Black

Orange;New Black

The secret is out by now: While House of Cards initially draw attention to Netflix original series, and not without reason, Orange is the New Black is sneakily the better show.  No show features more pathos for people typically overlooked in television. In most of the TV and movies we’ve watched, the people in jail are the bad guys, or they’re actually innocent and there unjustly; Orange is the New Black attempts to demonstrate that they may be there for a reason, but that doesn’t make them the bad guys (well, girls, but bad girls conjures up a whole set of images) at all. The backbome of the success of Orange is the New Black is the perfect combination of humor and drama; without the humor, the drama would feel overbearing and occasionally too on the nose, while the drama contextualizes the humor and adds heft making Orange is the New Black more than just a wacky prison show. Orange is the New Black loves its characters (well, except the guards, one of my few major complaints) and it comes through in a big way, making us love its characters as well.

18. Archer

Archer

It’s a strong time for animated half hour programs, and Archer is one of the strongest. The members of a freelance secret agency Isis, Archer, the best secret agent they have, is a giant asshole, and son of the agency head who is a drunken asshole herself, who also happens to be occasionally cavorting with the head of the KGB. Of course, everyone in this show is an asshole, and half of the characters are idiots, and while that would probably not be a successful formula for a particularly enjoyable drama, it makes for great comedy. Layered within Archer by last year’s fourth season are a dense array of repeated inside jokes – so much so that every Archer fan has a particular favorite, mine is probably Archer’s yelling of “phrasing” every time someone says something that could be interpreted in a more awkward and innuendo-filled way. All said, this wasn’t its strongest season, and was weaker than the genius season three, which is why its dropped a little bit lower than last year. Archer sometimes runs the risk of going over the same schtick too many times, and while it hasn’t gone over it so many times it’s tired, it did last season just enough to make it a little bit inferior to the season before. Still, it’s one of the best comedies on TV and last year featured strong episodes as well; the condemnation is merely relative.

17. Arrested Development

The Bluths and co.

Insane hype and eager anticipation for the long-awaited Arrested Development reunion quickly turned to polarization as many of the uber-fans of the original came away disappointed with the new product. I may have been in that camp to start, but by the time I finished, I was firmly a champion of the fourth season. Those expecting a repeat of the first three seasons are bound to be disappointed, and I understand why; that was great, and this isn’t that. What this is though, is something no comedy, and really no television show has managed to do before, something literally unprecedented which is incredibly rare in TV even with all the great shows on now. The season is 15 episodes meant to be taken as a whole; rather than simply serial they’re overlapping, returning to the same events over and over again through different characters, with later renditions of similar events adding layers of humorous meaning. It’s for this reason precisely that I beg viewers of the fourth season not to grow discouraged in the first couple of episodes, the meanings deepen, and jokes come back again three and four times in new ways, meaning the last few episodes are funnier than the first few, but the groundwork laid early was essential for the show to work late. It’s not perfect by any means, but that’s sometimes the price of great ambition. There’s something to be said for dreaming lower and reaching that ceiling, but there are few shows that dreamed as big as Arrested Development’s fourth season, and for getting astonishing close to reaching that ambition even if it fell short, it should be applauded.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 7: Archer

8 Nov

Archer is an FX cartoon by the creator of Adult Swim fixture Sealab 2021 about a super spy named Sterling Archer, voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, who works for a private intelligence company called ISIS, run by his mother, Malory Archer.  The other main super secret agent is his ex, Lana, and they work with accountant Cyril, HR director Pam, secretary Cheryl and mad scientist Doctor Krieger.  Archer is a giant unabashed self-centered asshole who everybody mostly can’t stand but who is constantly making hilarious sarcastic comments at the office and throughout his super agent missions.  Much of the humor comes from Archer’s dickishness, and it’s unquestioned that he’s the primary reason that the show is so high but the supporting cast is consistently entertaining as well.

I liked the first season or Archer – I watched it all in one day, but, with all due respect to Archer, it was more because I had absolutely nothing to do that day than because I was absolutely and wholly consumed by Archer.  That said, I enjoyed it.  It was funny, pleasant, fun, and starred the never overrated vocal talents of one H. Jon Benjamin.  I watched it, remembered a few jokes here and there, and put it away in my brain, figuring I wouldn’t think much about it until the next season started.

Some number of months later the second season started, and I started watching weekly, and at the beginning I felt more or less the same way.  But as the season got maybe a third of the way through, almost at once, I realized that the show had made a bit leap that some shows make around this point in time  (Parks and Recreation, yet to come on this list, might be the best other recent example of this).  It’s certainly not as if old Archer was bad, and I’m also curious if going back and watching the old episodes, they’ll seem better than I remember them being.  That said, this Archer has just reached another level.

My friend invented the phrase “hit the jukebox” to be an opposite of the internet adage “jump the shark.”  When “jumping the shark” refers to a TV going over the hill, like Happy Days did after Fonzie jumped said shark, “hitting the jukebox” in when a TV show (or anything else really) goes into overdrive and really hits its stride.  Archer hit the jukebox and has not looked back.

Why It’s This High:  It’s funny, and it’s quotable is which one of the best compliments you can give to a comedy of this ilk

Why It’s Not Higher:  We’re at the rank where there aren’t too many ways to bash these shows.  It’s pretty much a crapshoot, and I could change my mind any time,  It’s more because I had more reasons for the shows above it at the time.  I suppose if I have to say anything, it’s just because it didn’t quite hit its absolutely top form until a dozen episodes ago or so.

Best episode of the most recent season:  Looking over the list of episodes, I’m reminded of just how excellent the last season was.  Realizing I don’t remember more about each episode makes me want to rewatch the entire season, but just reading each of the descriptions make me laugh.  I wish I could take the three episode arc aired this fall about Archer’s capture by pirates as one episode, but that would clearly be cheating so I’ll go with “Placebo Effect,” about Archer’s dealing with his diagnosis of breast cancer.  After he finds out that the drugs he’s been on are fake, he goes on a rampage, dragging around his IV, to figure out who was responsible for the fake drugs.  He turns his rampage into a film with the working title “Terms of En-Rampagement.”