Tag Archives: Eagleheart

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.

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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 8-5

10 Feb

Three dramas and an 11 minute comedy, one of the dramas a debut, and the other two a couple of veterans of the top of these rankings. 8-5 coming up.

8. The Americans

They're really Soviet!

The incredibly strong freshman drama crop of spring 2013 strikes again on this list. The Americans was a revelation, a show that was a must watch almost right out of the gate. The way Hannibal belied my tiredness of cop-genius shows, The Americans belied my tiredness of shows set in the past. Two deep cover Soviet spies conduct missions while living a life as an ordinary family with kids who know nothing of who their parents really are. Their neighbor is an FBI agent working to expose Soviet deep cover spies with no idea that a pair of spies live next door. There’s so many layers of subterfuge, both literally and figuratively; it almost seems like it could be too much and too on the nose, but it works. There are great and sometimes funny action spy set pieces which bring you in but underneath it’s a show about identity and relationships and truth and lies and the wide ground between. Get on the bandwagon now.

7. Mad Men

Don Draper, Rainy Day

This was probably the weakest season for Mad Men, at least in a while, but that being said, it’s still Mad Men, and it’s still pretty great. The weakness was largely the fault of Don’s plotlines, which felt repetitive, treading ground we’ve tread before, but slightly worse, and Matt Weiner seemed hell-bent on sending him lower than he had ever been before, which would be fine if it wasn’t simply not particularly gripping. Luckily, everyone else’s plots were there to pick us up. Peggy had a fantastic season, Betty actually became a real, interesting character, rather than a caricature, and Sally continued to develop, and had a couple of really powerful moments to shine in the second half of the sesaon. Likewise Roger and Pete, who I felt bad for for the fist time in the series, which is an impressive achievement. New characters Ted and Jim were welcome additions. An absolutely surreal episode broke up the season, and while I’m not sure how I feel about it overall it contained a Ken Cosgrove tap dance which made the episode worthwhile in and of itself. I say it again. Even non-vintage Mad Men is very excellent TV.

6. Eagleheart

Marhsal Chris Monsanto

The weirdest and almost certainly least watched show on my list, Eagleheart is a show I’ve desperately tried to convince every single person I run into to watch. Like Venture Bros., it’s absolutely not for everyone, but anyone who has any taste for absurdist humor should get on board immediately. Eagleheart is far an away the most absurd non-animated show on TV, making something like Childrens Hospital seem like The Wire in terms of reality in comparison. Chris Elliott plays US Marshal Chris Monsanto, and well, it’s just nuts, trying to attempt to explain any of the best episodes might take more than the 11 minutes the episodes take to watch. The best Eagleheart episodes change plots three or four times per episode. While normally Eagleheart episodes are disconnected, the third season was loosely strung together in an arc called Paradise Rising. The first two seasons were great, but this may be the best yet. My favorite episode Spatz, is mind-bogglingly ridiculous and equally wonderful and hilarious.

5. Justified

Raylan Givens

If it’s not already obvious, we’re getting to the crème de la crème here. Justified warmed up in its first season, hit some serious heights in its second, suffered a small comedown with its third season and followed that with an absolutely exemplary fourth season. Everything that makes Justfied work was present in the season; Timothy Olyphant’s suburb portrayal of Marshal Raylan Givens, a character that could easily become an anti-hero caricature if not played and written exactly right. The season features fantastic Elmore Leonard-inspired settings and crackling dialogue; Justified is a funny show, and a hit parade of idiot criminals and witty retorts by the more competent among them keep it crackling. The season long plot was compelling and fascinating and guest stars were spot on, including dramatic turns for comedians, which Justified does better than anyone, including Patton Oswalt and Mike O’Malley and stellar work from underrated character actor Jim Beaver. That fourth season for me elevated Justified to a near-certain TV hall of famer in my mind.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: 12-10

18 Feb

Moving on through the rankings of shows I watched regularly in 2012 – this intro will explain what qualifies one for the list – 12, 11, and 10 follow.

12.  Workaholics

Anders, Adam, and Blake

Much to my shock but not dismay (what’s the exact opposite of dismay?) it seems like Workaholics is catching on for real, moving into its fourth season, which is incredibly impressive for a scripted Comedy Central show not called South Park.  Making it past a dreaded Comedy Central first season is already an achievement in and of itself, but four is a true rarity.  Unlike Bob’s Burgers, I’ve been along for the entire ride this time, though it’s as much luck that I have been watching since the beginning as anything else; one humorous commercial convinced my friend and I to watch, and we were as surprised as anyone that it was actually pretty good.  The show picked up from there, and it’s the type of show where repeated interactions with the characters improves your appreciation as you get into the chemistry between their three personalities.  When Adam does something that’s so Adam, it’s funnier the more episodes you’ve seen.  Adam is clearly the star of the show and provides many of the funniest scenes, but Blake and Anders are hardly just along for the ride.  Perhaps the best episode of the most recent season involved a contrived plot in which the three characters had to stay drunk for the entire episode, to prevent becoming hungover.  Played like Speed, but less like a parody than a loose plot to work around, the episode was hilarious throughout and contains a combination of physical comedy, pop culture references, silliness, and absurdism.

11.  Justified

Justified

I’ve said it before, but Raylan Givens, the main character in Justified, is the role Timothy Olyphant was born to play.  It’s his vehicle, and everyone else is somewhat secondary, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have chances to shine.  Still, he’s a strong enough character to carry the show largely on his own.  Justified is what a USA show could be if it didn’t have the shackles imposed on it simply by being a USA show.  Justified is limited in scope; it could never be The Wire or The Sopranos, in terms of the sheer breadth, but it does what it does very well and there’s something to be said for knowing what you’re good at and sticking to your strengths. The third season came off of the second season high with a weaker overall serial plot, particularly the primary antagonist, Robert Quarles, who was terrifying but less interesting than Mags Bennett and her largely incompetent clan.  Still it may actually say more about the resilience of the show that it was able to chug right along with an overall weaker villain and feature a season that was damn near almost as good.  The show has struggled at times to find a role for Walten Goggins, who plays sometimes villain, sometimes anti-hero Boyd Fowler, especially when he’s not working with or against Raylan, and while I’ve sometimes thought they should just not feel inclined to include Goggins in every episode, they’ve done a fairly good job of keeping his plots interesting and relevant considering.  I like the secondary characters that work with Givens at the Marshals Office, and I like that they don’t shy away from pointing out Givens’ ridiculous behavior. I expected solid but not spectacular from Justified, and while the show may not reach the breathtaking heights of Mad Man, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones, it certainly exceeded my initial expectations.

10.  Eagleheart

Eagleheart

All three of the Adult Swim 11 minute shows on this list are absurd live action shows of a type found nowhere else on TV, but none are as truly absurdist as the least known and talked about, Eagleheart, which stars Chris Elliot as a Marshal, along with his sidekicks, Maria Thayer and Brett Gelman.  Episodes sometimes change plots twice an episode, invent things as they go along, and, in one episode, the entire plot turns out to have been an amusement park ride.  It’s ridiculous, and how ridiculous it is makes it wonderful; there is no non-aminated show more out there on television.  The best episode of the season may have been the opener in which it’s postulated that the chief, played by Mad Men’s Michael Gladis, inspired Chris Elliot’s character to become a US Marshal by impregnating his wife, and then having his son, which he made seem like Chris’s son, hiring the son to fake his death 10 years later, which caused Chris to become a marshal.  The son also pretended to be various important characters in Chris’ deputies’ lives, then faked dying, to persuade them to become marshals (Thayer’s old college boyfriend, and Gelman’s favorite restaurant waiter).  Later in the same 11 minute episode, it’s revealed that there’s a baker who makes a cake to celebrate every bloodbath caused by Chris, but all the cakes have already been made, thus predicting the future bloodbaths.  If this sounds convoluted and insane, that’s because it is, but it’s a lot funnier when watched than when explained, and if you actually expect it to make any sense, you’re watching the wrong show.  I would guess this is by far the least watched show on this list (though it may have competition with one of the next few) and I don’t know why more people haven’t found out about it, but if anyone likes absurdism, this is the place to go, and it takes just a couple of hours to watch all the 11 minute episodes of the entire series.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 13: Eagleheart

18 Oct

Probably the most obscure show this high on the list, Eagleheart is the rare show that I had never heard of at all before I watched it for the first time.  It was on after Childrens Hopsital on Adult Swim, and my friend, who I was watching with, said he had heard of it, and that it was supposed to be decent, so we decided to give it a watch.  Expectations were relatively low, and all we could tell right away was that it was a comedy in which Chris Elliott portrayed a ridiculous supercop charged with serious missions, along with his two partners, an idiotic guy Chris uses as a battering ram, and a woman who is generally more competent but whom he ignores.  We started to watch and we slowly started laughing and looking back and forth at each other until the realization gradually set in that this was actually pretty good.  We still weren’t entirely convinced, so we watched a couple more episodes and by the time two more were finished, we were pretty sure; surprised, but pretty sure.  Soon, we finished the series (it really only takes about two hours if watched all in a row – that’s how short the episodes are, eleven minutes each) and when I told my brother to watch, he balked.  When he eventually gave in, he was just as surprised, but enjoyed the show just as much as well.

It’s an excellent companion piece for Childrens Hospital, because the shows share a very similar sensibility.  The show is loaded with terribly corny wordplay which takes a certain appreciation which I understand not everyone has.  When Chris is captured on a blimp, the evil blimp captain baron tells him there’s only one day when one can leave the blimp – splatterday.  Yeah, it sounds stupid when I write it like that I realize.  But with audio and video it’s funny, I swear.

I’ll be the first to admit that this show is possibly ranked higher than it should be because I just watched it recently and the lines and laughs are fresh in my memory.  That said, I’m also glad that I put it this high because I think it’s probably the show in this tier that people are least likely be familiar with.  The show is so unheralded that the entry “Eagleheart” in wikipedia’s search takes you to Finnish power metal band Stratovarius’s thirteenth single release Eagleheart rather than the show.  I’ve read just about no buzz about the show, and I had never heard about it, yet I’m not sure why.  A lot of people may just not be into this type of comedy, but with each episode lasting a mere 11 minutes, it’s certainly worth giving a shot.

Why it’s this high:  It’s ridiculous, absurd, and though my brother noticed after watching a few in a row, there’s a pretty similar rhythm to the episodes, just because you know what’s coming doesn’t make it any less funny

Why it’s not higher:  I suppose when you have twelve eleven minute episodes it limits your peak here – the shows are short and sweet which is normally a good thing but may have a topping out point

Best episode of the most recent season:  I thought one would jump right out, but not as much – I’ll take “Chris, Susie, Brett and Malice,” in which the cops must disguise themselves as swingers in a swinger-unfriendly town.  When they try to shop in the supermarket and pick up some aluminum foil, the employees lets them know that they only sell “family foil.”