Tag Archives: Louie

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2015 Edition: 34-31

25 Apr

Three comedies, two of which are only occasionally funny, on purpose, and a Netflix drama.

Intro here and 58-55 here and 54-51 here and 50-47 here and 46-43 here and 42-39 here and 38-35 here.

34. Louie – 2014: 27

Louie

Evert year, feel like I rank Louie too low. Louie has the misfortune of appearing towards the bottom of a dozen or so shows that form a tier, and while I could definitely justify ranking it a bit higher, I’d then have to think about which shows it passes, and since if I thought more about this I’d never write it out, it’ll have to just put it right here. While it took me a while to get on board, I eventually came around to the genius of Louie, and though season 4, in 2014, had some serious missteps, season 5 is largely free of them. Louie is only ranked lower this year because there were simply so many more exemplary shows. Louie is always thought provoking, and like I wrote about the previous show on this list, Orange is the New Black, Louie is unique; Louie is the direct-to-our-screens vision of one man and is definitively unlike any show on TV. Louie has definitely suffered a little bit of the new ideas drain that these types of shows can face, and there weren’t so many mind-blowing conversation-starting episodes as there have been in earlier seasons. But when you start any new episode of Louie, you know there’s a chance for greatness, and that’s enough to keep watching Louie as long as he keeps making it.

33. Parks and Recreation – 2014: 13

Parks & Recreation

If I dislike putting Louie this low, I absolutely hate putting Parks and Recreation this low, an absolute first ballot hall-of-famer of a comedy that simply did everything right. It’s not, like Louie, a particularly different or unique series, but boy was it so much better at doing what it did than almost any other similar show. In fact, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, its fine but inferior descendant, shows just how difficult it is to create the all-around magic that was Parks and Recreation. The final season was actually pretty solid, better than the previous season, and could easily have moved higher in this tier. This particular rank is mostly an indictment of its fantastical finale, which, while probably exactly what I should have expected from the world of Parks and Recreation, contained more emotional manipulation than well-earned wins for our favorite characters. Parks and Recreation momentarily forgot that what make its emotional moments so powerful was the hard work, time, and struggle it took for the characters to achieve them, and tried to overdose us on feels by having all the characters get exactly what they want for all of the rest of their lives in the span of an hour.

32. Girls – 2014: 23

Girls

Girls trudges on year after year, and like a veteran athlete quietly putting up solid numbers years after being a rookie sensation, it remains a force amongst those who watch it if not the polarizing zeitgeisty culture magnet it was in its first couple of seasons. Girls hasn’t blunted its ambition due to whatever criticism came it’s way and that’s a good thing. While the characters can drive me, and each other, crazy, and their arcs often find them walking two steps forward and one step back, the characters are well developed and their adventures make for compelling television, along with the welcome growing roles for the expanded cast, the boys of the show. Season four also contained the gleefully terrible Desi, who was as fun to hate as any character on television in recent years.

31. Narcos – 2014: Not Eligible

Narcos

There’s probably a couple of other shows on this list that meet the following description, at least in some way, and it sounds like a backhand compliment but it doesn’t have to be. Narcos is a high floor, low ceiling show, and while I have a hard time imagining it ever making it to the top 15, it’s floor is pretty damn decent, and it’s a nifty little show that is a lot better than it could be (which also sounds like a backhand compliment, but really isn’t). It’s compulsively watchable and that’s not a quality to be sold short. When 24 was at its best, there were always lapses with the show, and it lacked a lot of the depth and development that some of the shows higher up on this list are awash with. But when you finished an episode, dammit, you wanted to watch another. Narcos has that same feeling, and being on binge-friendly Netflix, it’s ideal for said binging. I watched one and then paused, but when I eventually got back to the show I knocked it down in just a couple of days.

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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 Edition: 27-24

20 Feb

Onwards to 27-24. Two shows coming off a rest year, one drama in its last season, and one sci-fi drama.

Intro here and 43-40 here and 39-36 here and 35-32 here and 31-28 here.

27. Louie – 2013: Not eligible

Louie

Louie took me a long while to really sink firstmy teeth into, longer than most. By the end of the two seasons, I more or less recognized its general excellence and groundbreaking features even while I would never quite have ranked it as highly as many TV fans and critics. Still, Louie, by refusing to confine to TV norms, has continued to put out an excellent product. Louie, understandably, took off a year between the third and fourth seasons to take the time to come up with new ideas. Unfortunately, in this past fourth season, the show made its first prolonged missteps. There were strong moments to be found; the mini-movie, “In the Woods” which harkened back to Louie’s childhood was charming, sweet, and affecting, if not groundbreaking, and the episode in which Louie dated an overweight woman, portrayed by Sarah Baker, set the internet afire, stroking up worthy conversations which didn’t necessarily have obvious answers. The second half of the season, though, the Pamela episodes in particular, stopped being charming and instead because occasionally troubling, sometimes unfunny, and for once, what Louie never was: TV. At its absolute worst was a scene in which Louie clearly sexually assaulted Pamela, which the show didn’t seem to get, but that troubling scene aside, dating Pamela brought out Louie’s worst wish-fulfillment wanting-to-love-being-in-love qualities, with Pamela as the demonic manic pixie dream girl. If the show used this to continue to show how poor a match Pamela and Louie were, this would be understandable, but it seemed to keep trying to bring them together against the objections of sense and logic.  Louie has earned enough leeway to continue to be must-see television, but last season it seemed to finally lose a little steam.

26. Sons of Anarchy – 2013: 29

Sons of Anarchy

A member of FX’s breakthrough generation of dramas, alongside Justified, Sons of Anarchy’s last season was fairly emblematic with its entire run, filled with strong points, continually struggling to figure out who its best antagonists are, and dropping the ball occasionally in critical situations. About half of the episodes were really strong and packed with plot which really brought the season into motion, with a powerful sense of forward momentum. The other half felt like filler episodes indicating there was enough plot movement for an 8 episode final season stuffed into 13 episodes. The penultimate episode was the true finale; momentous and moving, though many of the plot developments which occurred had become inevitable, they still packed weight. The actually finale was not bad as much as anticlimactic; everything had been determined the episode before and there were no surprises. The show successfully developed a second wave of strong secondary characters like Wendy and Nero in the second half of the show’s run which led to a late renaissance, but the unrelenting meaningless cycles of violence and two gangs squaring against the others while Sons utter “no more bloodshed” could get tiring and repetitive. Sons of Anarchy’s place in the TV canon may take time to settle, but for now, I’m putting it firmly in the grade B second tier, with shows like Dexter and Battlestar Galactica.

25. Orphan Black – 2013: 20

Orphan Black

I’m going to come right out and say what anybody watching both seasons of Orphan Black is thinking. Orphan Black’s plot is pretty stupid. At best, it feels like a giant MacGuffin for the character interaction between clones which is the beating heart of the show, whuile at worst, it feels like a stuttered descent into science fiction nonsense. The creators have no real plot goal, and simply must dig a deeper and more techno-bio-babble ditch every season to keep going. Why do I keep watching and why is it not ranked lower? Well, in short, Tatiana Maslany, who does an acting job unlike any other in TV. She’s brilliant as every clone and most of the best and most important characters, and when the show is on, it’s extremely fun to watch. Like watching 24 at its best, the lack of ongoing plot coherence matters less because you’re enjoying yourself in the here-and-now. Alison is the obvious hilarious highlight character, but Maslany is a delight whenever on screen, even when just about nothing makes sense around her. Her banter with Felix is a treat, as he is the one non-Maslany character worth caring about in the entire show. Orphan Black definitely risks going off a cliff if it sucks the fun out with meaningless plot, which it hinted out at the end of the last season, but I still believe there’s a path there for its success.

24. Sherlock – 2013: Not eligible

Sherlock

Sherlock is another show, like Orphan Black above, that hinges on the delightful and joyous interaction between the primary characters. Sherlock’s third season was overall not as strong as either of the first two, but the obvious chemistry between Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and Martin Freeman’s Watson make the show fun even when the plot isn’t, as in the third episode, which promises big things, only to be somewhat disappointing and anticlimactic. Unlike the first two seasons, whose middle episodes were their respective seasons’ weakest, the middle here is the clear winner, as it places even more emphasis than usual on the comedy of the Sherlock-Watson interaction, with the two going on a bachelor party (or stag night, as the Brits call it) for John, bonding, and making wonderful idiots out of themselves. The plotting was not as tight as the first two seasons, but because of Freeman and Cumberbatch if nothing else, I’ll continue to watch Sherlock as long as they make it.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: The Outcasts

25 Dec

The Men and Woman of The League

It’s time once again for my annual ranking of the shows I watch, my third edition. I’ve changed the eligibility slightly from years past. 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. In previous years I declined to rank new shows that hadn’t finished their season in the calendar year of the rankings, but I’ve eliminated that policy because it means I didn’t get to rank Ben and Kate, which had seemingly not finished its season by 2012, but was swiftly cancelled before airing any episodes in 2013. There’s just about no episode cut off as well; I’m counting Top of the Lake, a miniseries, here, because with seven, it already has more episodes than a couple of the ongoing series on the list.

I have a longer list than ever before, and I’ve talked about more of these shows in depth elsewhere than ever before so this will consist largely of a snapshot of where the show is now, with relevant links to previous discussions as they come up. 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.

The Outcasts

There are far fewer shows that are off the list than last year, and they’re largely less interesting than last year so I’m going to address them more quickly. Bear with me.

Louie, Sherlock

Both of these shows simply skipped last year but are coming back this year and I’ll be watching eagerly. Due to changing TV schedules there will probably be more of these types of shows just skipping years moving forward than in years past, though it’s still relatively uncommon.

Revenge

I stopped watching sometime through the second season. I don’t feel particularly strongly about this decision. Revenge wasn’t super well-positioned for multiple seasons and I wrote in last year’s entry here most of my thoughts about the show, which remain the same. I harbor no ill feelings and in another world I could have watched Revenge a little while longer. I both miss Emily VanCamp and go long stretches forgetting that the show is still on.

The League

I’ll probably catch up on this show at some point even though I haven’t watched this current season, largely because I can move through a season on a Saturday. It’s live action mid-period Family Guy, as I wrote in last year’s entry here, where there are funny jokes even as the overall show isn’t really above par. I feel pretty much the same way I did last year. I like the people; I wish it was a little bit better, but I’m trying to enjoy it for what it is.

Suburgatory

I feel pretty much the same way I did last year except that I had many more shows to watch this year and didn’t really get around to watching by default a show I don’t like quite enough to begin with. Star Jane Levy is great and I’m sure I would enjoy this show well enough if I watched it, but I don’t, which probably says more about how I feel than my words.

Top Chef

I have considered marathoning this most recent season set in New Orleans and have avoided reading the results in case I do. However, the fact that I haven’t watched yet shows how it’s fallen on my personal list, which is not a huge surprise considering its place last year. It’s a show best watched in quick succession because when you start getting into it, it can be addictive but I got tired of some of the gimmicks and the seasons can be very uneven.

That’s it. Next up, shows I actually watched.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 Edition: 15-13

15 Feb

Here’s one piece of my ranking of all the shows that I watch in 2012 – the rules are here, and 15, 14, and 13 follow.

15.  Sherlock

Sherlock and Watson

Sherlock is the show with the most unusual airing schedule, as it only airs three episodes a season, but those three episodes are virtually movies, at an hour and a half each.  I seriously considered whether or not Sherlock should be considered, but it is a television show now with multiple seasons, and the length of the combined episodes is just about the length of a ten episode season of an HBO comedy, let alone a standard British comedy season.  It’s the second of two British shows on the list; as mentioned in the intro, I look forward to catching up on Peep Show and The Thick of It (and a couple of other British shows I’m far farther back on) but I’m not there yet.  There’s something about the Sherlock Holmes character the world has always loved and this new adaptation showcases that while smartly updating the show for modern times.  It takes enough from the actual stories for originalists to appreciate it, while adding enough to keep it fresh and current.  At the heart of any adaptation has to be the actors behind Sherlock and his assistant, John Watson, and their interactions, and Sherlock shines here as the work from Benedict Cumberpatch and Martin Freeman is exemplary.  Cumberbatch plays Sherlock as aloof and insensitive enough for some to despise but slightly caring and fascinating enough for Watson to look up to and care for.  The episodes are not even in quality, and the first and last has tended to be better in each season than the middle episodes, but overall it’s compelling television.

14.  Louie

Louie

I’ll admit to having a change of heart on Louie.  I was way behind the curve initially (and many will say I still am, ranking the show a lowly 14), but I’ve come around, slowly but surely.  I think I was initially put off by some combination of not understanding what the show was trying to be, in particular not being a big fan of the first couple of episodes I saw, and being a little bit turned off by the amount of stand up in the show (while I’m not immune to good stand up, it’s not my favorite form of comedy).  I’ll admit that it was my personal hang up for trying to put Louie in a box, and I struggled initially to figure out whether the show was trying to funny or serious or important or dry.  Eventually I just came to the conclusion that, well, Louie is a different show in different episodes, and that’s okay.  Some veer on uproarious, while some are deadly serious and not funny at all.  The first couple that I saw, I felt were a little bit too outlandish for the look and feel of the show, and seemed like they were unsuccessfully trying to be a less funny, more real Curb Your Enthusiasm.  However, after seeing some really winning episodes, particularly in the second season, I’m a full fledged fan, if not a fanatic.  Because of its nature, some episodes are vastly superior to others, but when it hits all the right notes, there’s some seriously poignant television that is definitely like nothing else on the air.  Louie specializes in a reality based awkwardness; unlike Larry David in Curb or David Brent in The Office, Louie is generally the reasonable character in his situations.  My favorite segments are less the ridiculously awkward ones than some of the amusing vignettes, such as the last season episodes where he and Robin Williams attend a funeral together, and when he apologizes to Marc Maron.

13.  Bob’s Burgers

Bob and Family

If you told me a year ago that I’d be ranking Bob’s Burgers here, I’d have told you you were crazy.  In fact, I’d have told you, I hadn’t even ever seen Bob’s Burgers, because, well, it looked pretty dumb, I didn’t have a lot of people I knew or respected telling me to watch, and it was buried in a network slot in a way that I largely forgot about its existence after the first wave of commercials that came with its debut.  I’m not sure why though; when I looked even a little deeper, I realized it’s by Home Movies co-creator Loren Bouchard and features voice actors H. Jon Benjamin, Eugene Mirman, and Kristen Schaal, all of whom I’m fans.  After some prodding, I took the plunge with some friends, and while the first one I saw wasn’t great, it had enough to get me on to a second episode.  From there I just couldn’t believe how much I liked the show for a show I had, until then, not even seriously considered watching; it wasn’t merely that I just hadn’t gotten to it but had meant to.  It’s a pure joy to watch.  Many of my favorite shows are heavy or awkward or serious but Bob’s Burgers is none of those things and that makes it a great show to put right before you go to sleep to leave you with a smile on your face.  It’s constantly funny, and every single character gets a moment to shine.  While I probably prefer Bob, Louise and Gene, they’re all great, and I think, like in great shows like Arrested Development, any given person could have a different favorite character order.  When I recommend this show, I have found other people equally surprised by how much they like it, and I plan on keep spreading the wealth, pleased by the fact that when many of my favorites shows are getting cancelled, Bob’s has been renewed for a fourth season.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – Honorable Mentions

2 Aug

Ranking the Shows That I Watch

As you may or may not know/realize, I watch a lot of TV.  34 programs in fact, I’ve watched a season of in the past 12 months.  I’d taken it on myself to rank these shows, starting at 34 to 1.  First, however, a look at:

Shows That Came Close But Didn’t Make the Cut

Some brief mentions to shows that, for various reasons, almost made it but didn’t:

I want to watch these soon, but haven’t yet:

Cool jackets, but is the skeleton a bit much?

Sons of Anarchy – I read almost nothing but good things, Ron Perlman is just about always awesome, and it comes from the creator of the Shield, another extremely buzzworthy show I’ve never seen.  Compared to The Shield, this has fewer seasons, making it much faster to watch, and my motorcycling friend watches it and I’m eager to talk with him about it.

Treme – It’s created by David Simon, and it has Bunk and Lester Freeman from The Wire. Oh, and Anthony Bourdain is responsible for writing the restaurant sequences. Do I really need anything else? It’s actually good that I don’t, because aside from the people and the great reviews, the intrinsic plot doesn’t sound all that interesting, at first glance anyway.  I’m sure I’ll regret saying that when I’ve watched it, though.

Men of a Certain Age – I didn’t know what to make of this show when it debuted on TNT, but since then I’ve read nothing but good reviews, and heard nothing but good things. I appreciate that it seems to be a concept and an age range that hasn’t been explored as much, and I’ve loved Andre Braugher ever since Homicide: Life on the Streets.  (Update:  sadly, it’d been cancelled – still, I’ll watch the two seasons that exist.)

I’ve seen these intermittently but not enough to rank them:

Fry and friends

Futurama – I’ve kept up here and there with the new episodes – the quality isn’t quite high enough to draw me in to watch it week in and week out, but I have enough fondness for the show to turn it on when I see it, and since it’s Comedy Central, repeats are not infrequent.

Family Guy – It’s crazy to believe that this show, which was cancelled for a couple of years, is now going on its tenth season. I can’t say that the show is perfect by any means, but what I can say is, due to its disjointed, flashback, plot-light nature, even a bad episode is likely to have two or three hilarious parts. That said, I watch it just here and there and on repeats.

Louie – Allow me to be the one out of the loop for a minute. I watched a few episodes of this last year. It was all right. There were some funny parts, and some not so funny parts. Yet, everywhere I read, the show was a work of true comic genius. I think he’s a decent comic for sure – but in the biz he seems to be regarded as the best, and not close. I’ll try it again, but maybe it’s just not my thing.

I watched these shows, but they ended just before the arbitrary cut off I made for this list:

Are we having fun yet?

Party Down – I’ll be honest, I really just added this section to give a much-needed shout out to Party Down, possibly my favorite show of the last five years, which has a critical acclaim to ratings ratio of infinite (or more like not computable – since the ratings were 0, and we all know you can’t divide by that). It didn’t help that absolutely nobody has Starz. Nonetheless, if you haven’t seen it, watch it now.  It’s on Netflix streaming and DVD.

24 – I was an early adapter to this show when it started, and it will always have a warm place in my heart, but I was a bit tired of it by the end, and I watched only occasionally. That said, even though I was no longer a regular, I still have good feelings towards it, and don’t think it became so terrible or anything, just a little repetitive and lower down on my priority list.

Lost – I was also just about finished with this show by its last season, but with much different feelings than 24 gave me – anger, confusion, and frustration chief among them. I didn’t even watch most of the last season, constantly meaning to catch up but also constantly realizing I didn’t want to; I finally consented to read Wikipedia entries about the episodes and realized how glad I was that I didn’t watch the season.