Tag Archives: Ben and Kate

Ranking the Shows I Watch – 2014 Edition: The Outcasts

14 Jan

Breaking Bad

It’s time for an annual beginning-of-the-year tradition over here at Drug of the Nation, the ranking of the shows I’ve watched during the previous year. This is my fourth annual ranking, and I’ll repeat the caveat I placed atop last year’s ranking introduction:

Because the TV season is no longer the fall-to-spring trajectory that it used to be, I arbitrarily rank things on a calendar basis, and that leads to strange situations where I’m occasionally ranking the end of one season and the beginning of the next season in the same ranking. It’s strange, and not ideal, but I have to pick some point in the year to do the rankings, so I’ll roll with the punches and mention within the article if there was a significant change in quality one way or the other between the end and beginning of seasons covered in the same year.

I’m only ranking shows I watched all of or just about all of the episodes that aired last year; if I’m just two or three behind I’ll rank it, but if I’ve only seen two or three, I won’t. I’m ranking three episode mini-British seasons but not shows with one-off specials (Black Mirror’s Christmas special is the most notable example this year) . These rules are arbitrary, admittedly, but any rules would be. No daily variety programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are eligible either.

The rankings this year were incredibly difficult, and a generally weak fall slate of TV shows had me forgetting just what an utterly strong year on the whole 2014 had been for television. I was forced to put shows I liked a lot towards the bottom of these rankings, and unlike previous years, there are just about no shows on this list that I’m one bad episode away from stopping, or that I’m just stringing out due to past loyalty until they finish. It’s absolutely brutal, and although I was forced to make tough choices, that doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely enjoy just about every show on this list. TV is that good, folks.

We start, as last year, with the shows that made last year’s list but didn’t make this year’s for one reason of another. This year these are almost entirely because they ended or didn’t air in the calendar year, so I’ll just run through them quickly, with some additional notes about the few that didn’t fall off due to simply not airing last year. This year I’m going to additionally throw in where a show ranked last year for context.

Here’s a quick link to last year’s final ranking as well. Now, on to the outcasts…

Breaking Bad – 2013: 1

Treme – 2013: 4

Eagleheart – Last year: 6

30 Rock – Last year: 10

Venture Bros. – 2013: 12

Top of the Lake – 2013: 15

Arrested Development – 2013: 17

Childrens Hospital – 2013: 21

Broadchurch – 2013: 23

Happy Endings – 2013: 24

NTSF: SD: SUV – 2013: 31

Black Mirror – 2013: 36

Family Tree  2013: 37

Siberia – 2013: 38

Luther – 2013: 45

The Office – 2013: 46

Dexter – 2013: 48

Enlightened – 2013: 6.5 (Initially, an embarrassingly mistaken omission)

Ben and Kate – 2013: 23.5 (Initially, an embarrassingly mistaken omission)

Take a deep breath. All of these shows did not air in 2014, so that’s the simple explanation why they’re not on the list. Many of these shows ended, Top of the Lake was a miniseries, several have extended offseasons and will be back in 2015 or later, and a couple are in extended hiatus, waiting to see whether they will return or not (looking at you, NTSF: SD: SUV). Easy enough.

Homeland – 2013: 41

Homeland

After a season and a half of utter frustration with the show’s inconsistency at best, and downright lousy and lazy writing at worst, I cut the cord, deciding not to watch the fourth season after a third season that really was not a very good season of television. People have told me the fourth season is better, and if a critical consensus emerges I’ll consider coming back, but I’m not that close to it. I got so sick of the show and Carrie and Brody in particular; if I had cut out earlier, I might have been more easily convinced to come back. It’ll always have an absolutely all-time first season, and is worthy fo remembering just for that, reminiscent of an athlete like Mark Fidrych who blows away the league in his first season only to never do anywhere close to the same again.

Under the Dome – 2013: 47

 

Under the Dome

Oof. Under the Dome’s first season makes the third season of Homeland look like the fourth season of Breaking Bad. It’s still stunning to me that I made it almost to the end of the first season (I never actually watched the season finale; either with only one left, I couldn’t bring myself to). The plot was incredibly stupid, the acting was generally pretty bad, and the characters were horrible. It’s hard to imagine a time when it could have been decent, but alas, a sneakily bad show is bound to end up getting watched sometimes when you watch so many shows.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: Recap and Mistaken Omissions

19 Feb

Well it’s all done – another year, another ranking in the books. I ranked 48 shows this year, comedies, dramas, dramadies, commas, and everything in between. I look over the rankings and I’m mostly pretty happy, though it’s incredibly tempting to tinker here and there, and in six months or the next time I rewatch a few of these episodes, I’ll probably want to move a few shows up or down. Still, it’s a document that represents a moment in time. These are your 2013 rankings.

PS. Oh, I accidentally missed ranking two shows I watched last year. One is, I think, fairly excusable, and one is not. I’ll post capsules for both shows below the rankings along with where I would have ranked them.

Remember this show's name

  1. Breaking Bad
  2. Game of Thrones
  3. Rectify
  4. Treme
  5. Justifeid
  6. Eagleheart
  7. Mad Men
  8. The Americans
  9. Hannibal
  10. 30 Rock
  11. Parks and Recreation
  12. Venture Bros
  13. New Girl
  14. Bob’s Burgers
  15. Top of the Lake
  16. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  17. Arrested Development
  18. Archer
  19. Orange is the New Black
  20. Orphan Black
  21. Childrens Hospital
  22. Masters of Sex
  23. Broadchurch
  24. Happy Endings
  25. Rick and Morty
  26. Girls
  27. Veep
  28. Boardwalk Empire
  29. Sons of Anarchy
  30. The Mindy Project
  31. NTSF
  32. Workaholics
  33. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  34. Wilfred
  35. The Walking Dead
  36. Black Mirror
  37. Family Tree
  38. Siberia
  39. House of Cards
  40. The Bridge
  41. Homeland
  42. Downton Abbey
  43. Community
  44. Marvel’s Agents of Shield
  45. Luther
  46. The Office
  47. Under the Dome
  48. Dexter

And two that were missed –

Ben and Kate

Ben and Kate and friends

Where I would have ranked it: This is tough; there’s pretty much no way to not use the three episodes that aired as somewhat of a stand in for the entire short series, and honestly, it’s been over a full year since I watched these, longer than just about any show on the list (equal only to maybe 30 Rock, whose final episodes I remember specifically better). I’ll stick it at 23, right above Happy Endings and below Broadchurch. It’s possible this is too high, but I only get one chance to put it on a list, and nostalgia is bringing back fond memories.

A delightful show in danger of being forgotten forever; I in fact completely forgot about it while making this list, though I think it’s somewhat forgivable considering only three episodes aired in 2013 before the show was pulled from Fox’s schedule (there are three unaired episodes that were pulled from the schedule). It’s really too bad; Ben & Kate was an excellent fit with the New Girl / Mindy Project block, and could have done as well as those shows with some more promotion and time to build (not that those shows do so well, but all things relative). Like Parks and Rec, Ben & Kate was a comedy of nice, a story of five characters who really and genuinely like each other; there were awkward moments but not cringeworthy ones. I had loved Nat Faxon from his brilliant turn as Garlan Greenbush (who Lizzie Kaplan pegs as the name of “an unemployed wizard”) in Party Down, and Dakota Johnson was delightfully awkward, fumbling with words at any opportunity. Ben & Kate featured the rare child actor who I liked, the adorable Maddie, who was likable, funny, and not too precocious. All and all, this was an extremely promising new comedy fallen well before its time.

Poor Mike White

Where I would have ranked it: This is even tougher, because it get more difficult the higher up in the rankings one goes, and the second season of Enlightened may well come to be viewed as a sneaky cult canonical season of television. I know it’s great because it’s a show that’s not by nature up my alley, and that, if it wasn’t great, a show I wouldn’t like at all. I’ll slot it between 6 and 7 – above a below average Mad Men season but below the possibly best season of super-up-my-alley Eagleheart. It’s also been about a year  since I’ve seen this, so I’m viewing it from more of a distance than I like, but this is the definitive season of this show (albeit, there are only two; but it’s hard to imagine a better season of this show coming later anyway); Parks and Recreation and Archer for example I may like more overall, but both didn’t just enjoy their best seasons.

Now, this omission is less forgivable. This also aired at the very beginning of 2013 but aired a full season that year, was much more of an event, and I marathoned both seasons of Enlightened over a couple of shockingly depressing weekends. I talked a lot about the revelation this season was here, but I’ll say some thoughts in brief. I originally watched the first episode of Enlightened and passed; Laura Dern’s Amy Jellicoe was a character that got on my nerves continually. That didn’t exactly change after I came back to the show after hearing recommendations everywhere, but what changed was the balance; I felt more sympathy for her and her position than I felt irritated by her actions. It’s an incredibly depressing show about the struggle of modern life, and the difficulty in trying to find meaning in the everyday, but the second season took the show to a new level. The finale was sad, frustrating, and empowering all at once, and the fourth episode of the season which just features Luke Wilson’s character at rehab was a bottle episode revelation. I’d recommend everyone try to put themselves through this second season if nothing else; it’s rough going, but not that many hours of TV and totally worth it.

Fall 2012 Previews and Predictions: Fox

18 Sep

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

Fox, loaded with terrible competition shows, which kill scripted tv, and with an hour less of programming than CBS, ABC and NBC, only features three new shows this fall, coming off a fairly successful season.  Let’s take a look.

The Mindy Project – 9/25

Mindy Kaling, The Office’s Kelly Kapur plays a gynecologist just over 30 who is only now realizing that her life is not a romantic comedy and trying to put it together.  If I created some sort of buzzometer based on internet chatter, this would go up near the top.  She’s basically a slightly more fleshed out, less extreme, and more competent version of Kelly, and co-stars include Groundhog’s Day Ned Ryerson, Stephen Tobolowsky, recurring character actor Chris Messina (The Newsroom, Six Feet Under, Ruby Sparks), True Blood anti-vampire crusader Anna Camp, and some British dude named Ed Weeks.  I’ve seen it, and while it’s not great off the bat, I have hope.

Verdict:  Renewal – I think Fox will be all behind The Mindy Project and looking to make it a success in any way possible, and pairing it with New Girl is a fantastic idea.  If it opens even okay, I think it’ll cruise towards renewal and hopefully develop into part of the new answer to the dying NBC Thursday night comedy block.

Ben and Kate – 9/25

Academy Award-winning writer Nat Faxon takes on the titular role as Ben, a mid-30s happy screw up who moves back home to live with his mores responsible and serious sister Kate, and help watch over Kate’s young daughter.  The premise does not sound particularly good, and the previews didn’t look great, but I’ve seen it, and it’s definitely promising.

Verdict: Renewal – I would never have given it this review if I hadn’t watched it already, and I honestly shouldn’t be giving it this review now, since it’s more of a vote based on my personal thoughts than on it’s objectively likelihood which always leads one to trouble (see:  picking 2 Broke Girls to fail quickly).  That said, it looks pretty good, and it’s on what could shape up to be a nice little Fox tuesday comedy block, so maybe if it gets caught up in that with New Girl and Mindy Project it’ll get just enough love.

The Mob Doctor – 9/17

My Boys’ own Jordana Spiro is a doctor with old famiy mob connections.  Somehow or other she gets pulled into managing some combination of regular doctoring and doctoring for the mob, and well, I’m not really sure.  I guess it was only a matter of time before we figured out a way to merge doctor show and gangster show.  I’m glad we did in theory, but probably not in practice.  It also co-stars fantastic that guy William Forsythe (He already has gangster experience as Manny Horvitz on Boardwalk Empire), former Dillon High QB Zach Gilford, and my all-time favorite TV recurring character actor Zeljko Ivanek.

Verdict:  13-  On my confidence meter, I think I’d be put this one up as fairly likely to be cancelled.  Looks bad, not supposed to be good, not a whole lot of advertising, and I’m just not feeling it, in my arbitrary “feel” method of prediction.

Fall 2012 Review: Ben and Kate

16 Sep

I didn’t really have any thoughts  one way or the other about Ben and Kate originally except excitement at seeing Nat Faxon, who plays Ben as is best known by me as one episode Party Down character Garland Greenbush (he’s the annual all around winner at the Party Down company picnic; Casey calls him an “unemployed wizard”) and Academy Award winner for co-writing The Descendants.  All I knew was that it was about brother and sister, and, well you can tell from the picture, Faxon plays kind of an idiot.  It’s also kind of rare to see a successful comedy based around siblings, and it’s an obvious arrangement that honestly I’m really surprised isn’t used more often.

Every since they were little, Ben, the older brother, was sort of a happy-go-lucky dingbat who makes other people laugh but has no sense of responsibility whatsoever while younger sister Kate got pregnant young (a la Goldie from The New Normal, regular blog readers note) and has had a heightened sense of responsibility since she was younger, due to I’m sure many things, but certainly largely due to having a kid.  Ben blows in and out of town on a whim, stopping by Kate’s for a day or a weekend and then leaving again to his home apparently in Sacramento.

Ben blows into town once again in the current day.  He’s here this time because the only woman he ever loved is apparently getting married, and he’s planning to crash the wedding with his one friend, Tommy.

Kate, meanwhile has had trouble with men ever since the birth of her daughter, and Ben is always there to make a bad situation worse.  This time, she’s dating George (a guy she really really likes, people) and Ben is already making things awkward when he barges in when they’re about to make out on the couch.

On the way to crash the wedding with Kate’s daughter (Ben did not approve of the babysitter, so decided to take the daughter along with him), Kate accidentally dials Ben on her phone, and Ben overhears George talking to another woman on his phone, leading him to switch plans mid-gear, prevent Kate from sleeping with the sleazebag George, and miss crashing the wedding in the process.  They all go to the wedding together, where Ben gives a horrendous rendition of the speech he wrote on his hand but can’t read to his great love, only to find out that she was married an hour ago.

Ben, down on life, but getting over it, tells Kate, maybe he’ll stick around this time and help her raise her kid, while she gets a chance to get her life more together (after all, he’s only moving from Sacramento – Sacramento burn);  while he’s admittedly a completely irresponsible dingbat, he knows how to laugh and enjoy himself, something she could use.  Our happy family then, including Ben, Kate, the daughter, Tommy, and Kate’s fellow bartender friend BJ all travel back from the wedding festivities together.

A lot of the charm of the show was purely the humor of Faxon (again, I admit I’m biased from his fantastic Party Down cameo, again, as what Casey calls a “wizard of making woman uncomfortable”).  There’s a scene where he’s making a U-turn in Kate’s huge car and it could easily be mundane and pointless but instead is possibly the funniest scene in the show.  There’s another couple of silly scenes of him making fun of the weakness of George’s high five which made me laugh.  He carefully walked the line between hilarious and lovable and total idiot (the Andy Dwyer line?).  Lucy Punch, the British actress who played BJ, had a couple of funny lines at the bar trying to tell Kate how to seduce a man, and strangely reminding me of Ricky Gervais – I think all British comedy is just the same.

Will I watch it again?  Yeah I think I’m going to.  I’m not 100% sold yet, but I laughed enough and I like Faxon enough to bring me back for at the least another episode.