Tag Archives: Helix

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2015 Edition: The Outcasts

7 Mar

The Americans

It’s time for an annual beginning-of-the-year tradition (beginning-ish this year, granted, my bad on the lateness) over here at Drug of the Nation, the ranking of the shows I’ve watched during the previous year. This is my fifth 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 a few miniseries and but not shows with one-off specials. 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.

This year, as I said last year, ranking these show was incredibly difficult and often arbitrary, generally running in tiers; I probably liked the tenth ranked show clearly more than the 20th ranked show, but not necessarily clearly more than the 11th show. It’s a snapshot of how I felt the second I finalized the rankings, and they could have changed if I had finalized them the next day or hour or minute. The top tier was probably the hardest it’s ever been, particularly in regard to the strongest overall group of great half hour shows I’ve seen in my five years ranking shows.

Many of the shows no longer on the list are simply because they ended in 2014 or took a break in 2015, but I’ll put in a couple of notes for shows that I didn’t watch even though they did air in 2015.

The Outcasts:

The Honourable Woman – 2014: 7

Olive Kitteridge – 2014: 9

Doctor Who – 2014: 22

Sherlock – 2014: 24

Sons of Anarchy – 2014: 26

The Bridge – 2014: 28

Boardwalk Empire – 2014: 37

24: Live Another Day – 2014: 38

Wilfred – 2014: 40

Okay. Three of these were miniseries. Sherlook, as it is wont to do, took a year off, and the rest are done for good. Now, a few words about the couple that aired last year that I declined to watch anyway.

Masters of Sex – 2014: 35

Masters of Sex

The two shows that follow this I definitively decided to stop watching. Masters of Sex I just kind of fell behind on and never caught up to. I did, and kind of do, intend to catch up eventually, but the fact that I haven’t after half a year certainly says a fair amount about the show. The second season was fine, but it seemed so much less focused than the first, contained a puzzling midseason time jump, and generally just didn’t seem to have any idea what it was doing or where it was going. The actors are great, and there are moments of promise, but it was so scattershot that I definitely loss some interest. I watched the first couple of episodes from the third season, and they were also fine but not particularly compelling and I just haven’t gotten back to it since. During the first season, I was heartily recommending my friends watch it. Since then, not so much.

Downton Abbey – 2014: 41

Downton Abbey

I was stunned to read I had actually watched Downton Abbey in 2014. I thought I stopped long before that, but I guess not. It’s harder and harder to remember that Downton Abbey was actually, well, pretty damn good, in its first season, a fun, soapy, look at a time long gone, with a decidedly positive sheen, for sure, but with some pretty good characters also. And then, well, the soapiness remained, but the show got less interesting as did the characters, as often happens. I stayed on a couple seasons after I cared all that much, but eventually decided to pull the plug.

Helix – 2014: 43


Ick. Every year, I try to find at least one show to watch with my dad; not necessarily with him at the same exact time and place (though sometimes) but at least one show that I watch that he’s also watching that I can talk about when I see him or talk to him over the phone. The show at various points has ranged from 24 to AMC’s ill-fated Rubicon. Last year, the show ended up being Helix. I was intrigued by the pedigree; it was from BSG’s Ron Moore, and the first episode held promise. The show spun farther and farther out of control, revealing bigger and bigger mysteries that entirely blew up the scope of the show. Also it just wasn’t very good. It seems like half a decade ago that I watched this show, but apparently it was only two years ago, so here it is.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 Edition: 43-40

26 Jan

Let’s kick if off – here’s a link to the introduction to our annual ranking of shows that I watched last year. This is our first batch of shows, and it contains the only couple shows I didn’t really enjoy watching last year along with a show that ended without quite living up to its potential. Here we go.

43. Helix – 2013: Ineligible


For almost every show on this list, I’m going to struggle to explain how it was ranked so low, and make sure that it comes across clearly how much I enjoy the show despite its relatively low ranking. Not here. Nearly every year, there’s one show I keep up with for far too long before it disappoints me and comes apart so much that I have trouble remembering why I kept up with it that long to begin with. In 2013, that show was Under the Dome. Last year, it was Helix. Like Under the Dome, Helix had an intriguing sci-fi premise. It was also from Ron Moore, who was behind the buzzy and worth-watching, if often overrated Battlestar Galactica remake. Helix was about a team of government scientists sent to a remote artic base outside of any government’s jurisdiction where a team of scientists and researchers work on top-secret projects. At its best, it had horror-suspense intrigue; think The Thing. Unfortunately, the characters and writing were weak and didn’t get stronger, and on top of that, the story scaled up way too quickly – so much that halfway through, it turned out the base was being run by a secret cabal of immortals. By the finale, it felt like I had been sold a bill of goods in the pilot and I left fairly disgusted, writing off any chance of my watching the second season.

42. House of Cards – 2013: 39

House of Cards

My opinion about the second season of House of Cards is similar to my opinion of the first season, but even more so. House of Cards is such an apt name for the show because it captures the plot from the viewer’s perspective – if you deign to think about any plot element for any amount of time, the entire plot of the show simply crumbles. This makes House of Cards ideal for marathon watching; the less you think about the show, the more enjoyable it is, which is generally not a great recommendation for a series. The second simply makes even less sense then the first, and Kevin Spacey’s protagonist Frank Underwood can get tiresome.  It often feels like his character has little depth or anything other than ambition and a mediocre southern accent to keep us peeled. The show is nonsensical, and lacks characters worth caring about. It’s lazy, sloppily written, and the dialogue is often silly and stupid – if I ever have to hear about “back channeling” something again, I’m not sure how I’ll react. How the president is so incompetently naïve to get manipulated by Spacey time and again makes one wonder how he ascended to the office in the first place. Admittedly, I may well watch the next season, as long as I do it in less than two days and never have to think about it again thereafter.

41. Downton Abbey – 2013: 42

Downton Abbey

Every year I forgot whether I qualify Downton Abbey season-wise by the time of its original British airing in the autumn, or its American airing in the following spring. A thorough search history tells me I chose the latter, so this blurb is for the show’s fourth season. Downton Abbey, to be frank, hasn’t been a very good show since its surprisingly enjoyable first season. It’s a melodramatic soap that sometimes acts as if it thinks it goes deeper, which it doesn’t, and the show suffers because of these pretentions. Every year I strongly consider not watching the next season. I’m currently leaning towards not watching season five, but ever year I’ve relented so far so I can’t be sure of myself. Every year, after I finish the season I wonder why I watched. Downton Abbey is less culturally relevant than it has ever been and is rightfully a show whose cultural relevance has declined at the same speed as its quality. On a positive note, for what it’s worth, the theme music is still as great as ever.

40. Wilfred – 2013: 34


Wiflred was the little show that could, an adaptation of an Australian show that pushed on towards four seasons even though it could never quite become the cult favorite it wanted to and very occasionally deserved to be. The fourth and final season was largely less than satisfying, particularly the ending, and the show was as up and down and inconsistent as ever. At its heights, Wilfred, the story of a man and his best friend, a dog who looks like a human in a dog suit to him and only him, was warm, funny, irreverent, and weird. In its lesser moments, Wilfred was flat, somewhat boring, and repetitive, especially because most episodes followed a very similar pattern in which the man doesn’t listen to Wilfred, before coming around to his advice. The show, unwisely I always thought, decided to take on the big question of whether Wilfred was real or whether Ryan was simply crazy, and while those mythology episodes worked surprisingly well in earlier seasons, in the fourth season, they didn’t. The disappointing ending was only a small part of the last season, but it was emblematic of the season’s failure to convert of its potential. I’m glad I watched Wilfred, but redone with a number of edits, it could have been a lot better.

Spring 2014 Review: Helix

15 Jan


I’ll be honest. I like science fiction as much as the next person but I’m not a hardcore sci-fi guy, and SyFy as a network has more or less flown under my radar in terms of scripted shows for the past few years, largely since BattleStar Galactica. I have been making an effort since I started this blog two and a half years ago to watch the vast majority of new scripted shows, and until now I haven’t watched a SyFy show, which speaks both to its absence in my peripheral vision and the relative lack of general buzz built up behind any of their shows while networks like FX and AMC are churning out talked about programming. SyFy finally appeared again on my radar with the debut of a show called Helix created by who else but BSG creator and showrunner Ron Moore, and I decided there was no matter time to give a SyFy show a shot. I’m not the biggest BSG fan, and I probably like it less than most people who have watched it all the way through, but it has definite merit and I’m glad I’ve seen, so I was at least intrigued to give Helix a shot.

Helix is about a super secret private science lab complex in the arctic that, because of its location, is not controlled or governed by any nation. Because of its unique position, no one exactly know what the scientists up there are doing and what kind of crazy experiments they’re conducting. It’s run by a veteran PhD, Dr. Hiroshi Hitake. Unfortunately, there’s a problem; a couple of people die from an unidentified virus and the base is concerned. The army calls on CDC expert Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell, the most famous name in a largely lesser-known cast) who brings a small team (three doctors and an army member) up with him to check out the infection, figure out what’s causing it, stop the spread, and decide how to deal with the infected. This guy is just one of a few potentially qualified experts in running these disease control operations, but he’s called upon because his brother is one of the infected.

Ron Moore’s previous SyFy hit BSG featured plenty of action, but the action in Helix is of a very different stripe. It’s a thriller-horror, most closely in the mold of John Carptner’s classic The Thing. The most basic reason for the comparison is obvious; The Thing is set in an international base in the antarctic, while Helix is set in the arctic. Helix, like the Thing, features the terrifying premise that we may not at anytime know who is infected and who isn’t, and that a strange and never before seen virus (it’s an alien in The Thing, but still) turns some of those infected against other humans, removing their humanity. Helix actually has a bit of a zombie vibe in that way as well in the way humans with the virus are programmed to infect other humans, and gain super speed and strength; think 28 Days Later.

The show is tense and fairly terrifying. The characters don’t appear that interesting at first anyway, but honestly that’s not that important. The best shows do everything well, but shows that do even one thing well can still be well worth watching, and while Helix isn’t aces so far on characters or dialogue (don’t even talk to me about BSG characters or dialogue, but that’s for another day), the tension and pacing absolutely do the trick of making you terrified but wanting to know what happens next. Helix unfurls fairly quickly, and a bad situations continues to get worse. No one has ever seen any infection like this at all before, and for every step forward the scientists take, they seemingly end up two steps back.

There’s some science mumbo jumbo, and there’s a not particularly necessary possible romantic triangle between Farragut, his ex-wife, who is a scientist on his team (who cheated on with, of all people, his now infected brother), and his new younger protege seems to have a crush on him. This show might better be done with characters that had less previous relation to one another, without the soap angle, but while probably best removed, this doesn’t really take that much away from the show, simply because that’s not really what the show is about or why you’re watching the show to begin with.

The intrigue in Helix is real and present. I want to know what the virus is about, but less because I actually care about the meaning behind it, but because minute-to-minute I want to see if they have any chance at surviving one more episode. Additionally, unlike in the The Thing, there are villains, people actively preventing the scientists from doing the best job they can from stoping the virus. This makes their job far more difficult, makes contact with world outside the insane arctic ice complex nearly impossible, and places them in a land with no laws and men and women running around like crazed zombies. This could easily go off the rails, but it’s an intriguing premise, and good shows on this genre are hard to find on television. I love deep character studies as much as the next person (you won’t find a bigger Treme fan) but there’s a place for tense thrillers as well.

Will I watch it again? Yes. I’m very concerned the concept could get tired, or feel drawn out after a season or more, and without a set end date, it’s hard to see it ending well. But after I watched the first two (they aired back to back on the debut day), I was at least kind of hooked, which may not sound like a resounding endorsement but it’s already more than most shows.