Tag Archives: Ranking the Shows That I Watch 2012

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: 3-1

25 Feb

We’re finally here at the end the ranking of shows I watched in 2012 – to see what qualifies, check out the intro here – 3, 2, and 1 are below.

3.  Game of Thrones

The seven houses

I kind of knew what Game of Thrones was before the show aired, but only the vaguest basics.  My friend had been touting it for years, but I kept putting it off and putting it off, and though I was excited for the show, I didn’t get around to reading the books before the show aired.  By the seventh episode, I was so obsessed with the show that I started the first book and finished them all that summer.  I would have read five more books pretty quickly if only they were available.  This is of course the TV show, and not the books, but with Game of Thrones, they’re somewhat intertwined; George R.R. Martin is involved with the show, writing an episode each year, and because the story is so complex, and is unfinished, there’s a limit to the amount the show can deviate from the books, as opposed to shows like The Walking Dead or Dexter.  While I haven’t agreed with all the changes from the books, some have been very smart, including the added screen time for Tywin Lannister, an important character in the book who does most of his work outside the main storylines, and particularly his pairing with Arya Stark.  The show, like the book, is a thought-provoking fantasy for people who don’t like fantasy. Instead of a stark (no pun intended) Lord of the Rings-like contrast of good versus evil, Game of Thrones is about shades of gray.  Who the heroes and antagonists are isn’t always clear, and with the exception of a couple of truly psychopathic characters, the antagonists also have believable motivations.  While at first I was disappointed by the fact that dragons actually existed in the world of Game of Thrones, I’ve now come to terms with it and have begun to appreciate George R.R. Martin’s very selective use of magic and traditional fantasy elements.  Rather than water down the book by having magic appear everywhere, its uses are uncommon and important.  Each episode is chock full of ruminations on the nature of power and justice and the right to rule, all tied up with well-crafted characters and psychological intrigue.  Characters are constantly playing each other, important characters die, and when big moments come they seem both surprising but not out of nowhere at the same time.  All of these factors make for extremely gripping television; I haven’t found someone yet who started Game of Thrones and didn’t really like it.

2.  Mad Men

Mad Men

For some reason, between the third and the fourth season of Mad Men, I had convinced myself that Mad Men was solid enough but that maybe it wasn’t so great.  Then, the fourth season came out, and I realized the show was fantastic and I was crazy to have ever thought that.  I did not make that mistake again in the long wait between the fourth and fifth seasons, and was rewarded with another excellent set of episodes.  I haven’t seen the other seasons again since finishing, but the fifth season might have been the best ever.  There was no one obvious best episode of the season like there was with the fourth season’s “The Suitcase” but that spoke to the strength of the season as there were several stand outs, including “Far Away Places,” “The Other Woman,” and “Commissions and Fees.”  Roger on LSD was a real treat and Roger has over the past couple of seasons become my favorite characters (I tend to love sharp tongued nihilists (see Jaime in Game of Thrones)).  I was extremely skeptical about Megan as a character from her relatively small role in the fourth season, but the dynamic between Megan and Don was one of the more interesting plotlines of the season.  Although new character Dawn was underused, other new character Michael  Ginsberg was a real winner, challenging Don in ways that Peggy never did.  We’ve seen Don challenged at his job by his own lack of interest, but we’ve never seen him challenged before now because he’s losing his touch generationally, a point driven home by the first ever use of a Beatles song, Tomorrow Never Knows, in a TV show, which famously cost a quarter million dollars but was fantastic. My minor qualm with this season was that I don’t see the point of including Betty plots that showcase how awful Betty is; to me Betty a couple of seasons ago became a cartoonish villain, and kind of let Don off the hook for all his cheating because she was so irritating.  I would have just cut Betty largely out of the show.  Still, every other character from Don to Megan to Roger to Peggy to Pete to Lane to Joan (Christina Hendricks work is masterful in “The Other Woman”) are firing on all cylinders.  I look forward to watching it again some day, and I can’t wait for the new season.

1.  Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t like the first half of season five as much as I did season four, and I seriously considered moving Breaking Bad down. It was essentially a tie, and I let Breaking Bad keep its place, much like Supreme Court decisions are upheld with a tie.  However, while it’s absolutely worth saying that I didn’t like this half season as much as the last, it’s still phenomenal TV.  Even minor decisions I disagree with are imbued with serious thought and care, and I appreciate that.  The brilliant filming technique was on display in episodes like “Dead Freight”, a heist episode which was far more action movie than I’d like Breaking Bad to be, but was still enjoyable due to the skillful cinematography.  If season 4 turned recurring character Gus into a break out main character, season 5 did the same for Mike.  Jonathan Banks perfected Mike’s blend of an incredible level of competence, been-there-seen-that skepticism and eternal calm.  Walt was interesting too, figuring out how to proceed as the winner, rather than under the gun, and though he certainly became in some ways more evil, I actually didn’t entirely hate him, compared to many other viewers.  No show keeps as many possible scenarios going forward, all of which are plausible, leading to the best form of unpredictability. Breaking Bad does as good a job as any show on tv of leaving lots of different strands in the air, only a few of which actually need to be answered to avoid the feeling of pulling a Lost (leaving important questions unanswered) (ie. the ricin cigarette; not coming back to that again would be unacceptable).  Little scenes which may not be entirely central to the plot work as brilliant vignettes in and of themselves, such as the opening to “Madrical” in which a German executive kills himself with a defibrilator is a fantastically nifty bit of filmmaking.  Like any show, of course, I have minor qualms; I thought the resolution to the situation at the end of “Dead Freight” was a bit of a cop out, and new character Lydia has some issues.  Still, this is compelling TV at its best every week, with wonderful characters and beautiful scenes, and though I’m often scared to watch what will happen in each episode, once it finishes I often want to go back and watch again.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: 6-4

22 Feb

We’re nearing the end of my ranking of shows that I watched in 2012 – the intro explaining what qualifies is here and 6, 5, and 4 are below.

6.  Parks and Recreation

The cast of Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation isn’t revelatory or mind-exploding; it’s merely a workmanlike comedy which is funny and great nearly every single week, almost never putting out a weak episode.  Like just about every show on TV that has lasted more than a couple of seasons, Parks and Recreation has threatened to tire and run out of ideas over time.  In its case, the biggest concerns have been the potential hammering into the ground of the single dimensionness of some of the characters, including Tom, Ron, April, Andy, and Chris.  However, the show has somewhat recognized this and begun handling this issue in a better way by fleshing out at least some of these characters; Tom and Ron have had their single-minded ridicouslessness mellowed out by Tom’s new store and business ploy and Ron’s new girlfriend, which make both of them seem at least ever so slightly more like real people.  I oft complain about unearned emotion on television; I hate when shows use songs to rev up emotional feeling towards characters that you wouldn’t care about otherwise.  Contrary to this, Parks and Recreation has earned the right to emotional moments through character building over the years; it was hard not to be moved when Ben proposed to Leslie.  Leslie and Ben are both extremely well built characters, and the show reached its peak period when Ben and Rob Lowe’s Chris Traegar joined the cast and the bland Mark Brendanawicz left at the end of the second season.  Ann is multi-dimensional as well, but sometimes has trouble finding anything to do in the midst of the Parks and Recreation employees who have a tighter bond.  Every one of the characters is  capable of delivering laughs, and many of the recurring bits, like the Eagleton-Pawnee rivalry, and the idiocy of the Pawnee residents at town meetings could easily wear out, but are used just sparingly enough, and are written well enough, that they continue work.  All of these elements add up to a show that while not groundbreaking will be considered a classic for years ago to come and hopefully has a couple more seasons left.

5.  New Girl

Jess and the gang

New Girl is also of the Parks and Recreation school of comedy; there’s no dynamite crazy ambitious episode where everything comes together like in Community (or maybe Louie) but rather sheer episode to episode consistency and hilarity.  After taking a few episodes to find its voice, New Girl has really come into its own over the last season or so, emerging to the point that I found myself talking with several other people who agreed that all of a sudden New Girl had to be considered in the top tier of TV comedies.  There are small kinks; mainly that they’re still slowly figuring out how to use Winston and Cece.  The handling of the other three characters, however, is superb.  Jess turned down the quirk just enough after the first few episodes of the first season and has been incredibly entertaining since.  Schmidt has been the break out character, and has certainly earned the acclaim, expertly playing a lovable pretentious douche with just the right amount of obnoxiousness to love.  Nick is the most underrated of the three, but my personal favorite; his smallest lines and movements I find hilarious and worth repeating over and over again; recently I quoted the short vaguely throwaway line, “I’m not a dad guy” constantly around my brothers who quickly grew tired of it, but I never did.  A Nick b-plot earlier in the season in which a homeless guy came into his bar and told Nick that he was him from the future was fantastic, and perfected walked the line of is-this-real-this-can’t-be-real for both the audience and Nick.  Another small flaw is that the writers haven’t quite properly figured out how to use cutaways – too often they get nothing from the flashback that wasn’t already gotten from the description.  Still, this is great TV just emerging, and if you’re not on the bandwagon yet, it’s time to get on.

4.  Community


As noted in my Parks and Recreation entry, Community, due in part to its ambition and risk taking,  is more inconsistent compared to New Girl or Parks and Recreation but that’s a trade off for the occasional incredible episode in which everything comes together to produce 22 minutes of unforgettable TV.  Gimmick episodes, which work for some shows and don’t for others, have become the stock-in-trade of Community, probably more so than any other show ever. Several shows have attempted the fake clip show, but no one has done it better than Community, in the episode “Curriculum Unavailable”, in which John Hodgman plays a psychologist trying to convince the Greendale crew that they’re in a mental institution rather than a community college. An entire Law & Order homage episode would have been an insane idea for just about any non-Community show and was cat nip to longtime fans of the program including myself, and featured an appearance by real Law & Order medical examiner Leslie Hendrix and spoke to casual and hard core fans of Law & Order.  Virtual Systems Analysis may have been the best episode last spring, in which Annie and Abed take a tour through the Dreamatorium and explore Abed’s unusual psyche. Though that episode and others, Dan Harmon has shown he is the best since Joss Whedon at packing powerful emotional punches in gimmick episodes.  In any given week, Community is more likely to have a couple of attempts fall flat than the two shows listed before it on this list, and John Goodman’s role as head of the air conditioning repair school was an example of something that never quite worked for me as well as it could have (the plotline had its moments, but often felt like it was just off).   Community is also more likely though to produce that brilliant episode, and while I look forward every week to New Girl and Parks and Recreation because I know they’ll be good, I looked forward to Community because there was a shot at brilliance.

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


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 I Watch – 2012 edition: 21-19

11 Feb

The 2012 ranking of the shows I watched (well, 2013 ranking of the shows I watched in 2012) is on – check out the intro here for the rules, 21, 20, and 19 below.

21.  Wilfred

Which one is Wilfred?

With two main characters who are a man and a man in a dog suit, this is a show whose set up could easily get tired. A couple of times it seemed like it was about to, before the writers pulled a trick or an episode out of their bag that again reveals there’s plenty more material to work through.  The premise relies on a little bit of possible mental instability, or possible magic realism, as Elijah Wood’s main character Ryan sees  his attractive neighbor’s dog, Wilfred, as a living and talking human.  Is Ryan crazy, or hallucinating, or is that just how it goes?  Wilfred the show occasionally tries to explore the origin of Wilfred the character, something I”m less interested in; I’m generally content to not care why Ryan sees Wilfred as a human in a dog suit, and just go along for the ride.  That said, some of the best episodes tend to be the strangest which actually delve into the Wilfred situation, without actually providing so far any real answers, which I’m thankful about.  After a couple of episodes at the beginning of the series which didn’t thrill me, I caught on to one which featured the idea that Wilfred potentially had the power to kill suffering elderly patients at a nursing home.  It was weird, and in this case, weird meant good.  The show can get a bit repetitive at its worst, with Ryan slavishly following Wilfred’s terrible advice after objecting time after time, and it’s insistence on opening with a quote which attempts to focus the episode is misguided, but the show has smartly evolved and changed up the procedure and the outcomes.  I like it more than I thought I would from the beginning, and while it could use work, it always seems like right after a lackluster episode, the show delivers a winner.

20.  It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia


It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been going on from a damn long time now, and while maybe it’s still a cult show in some sense, the cult has gotten a whole lot bigger over the years, with green men showing up at sporting events as the best outside manifestation of Sunny’s popularity.  Every year I think the show has run out of material, and while every new season is hardly constructed of 10 consecutive all time classics, by now I’m come to expect a few absolutely excellent episodes and the rest to be at least pretty decent, with a fair amount of laugh lines.  I largely thought they would run out of material because many early episodes seemed to rely on the gang’s zany take on contemporary issues – how would the gang deal with abortion, or homosexuality, or any number of different drugs.  The show smartly now relies less on specific issues than on finding fun ways to butt the characters’ personalities against one another.  The best episodes of the show, like one of the best last season, in which the gang in separate groups visits a nice Italian restaurant, rely on exploiting the different characteristics of each member of the gang which have been built up over so many seasons, and playing them against one another.  The super high concept episodes aren’t my favorite – the flashback episode, or the revolutionary war one, but I can appreciate that they’re trying.  Either way, after slightly souring on the show after the third or fourth season, the show has nicely plateaued into reliable laughs, and I’m pretty pleased about that.

19.  NTSF: SD: SUV


It’s important to note as I go further, and I should have already, and will again, that the rankings are more useful in tiers, than they are in regard to exact placement.  For example, I’m pretty confident in picking my #10 show above my #22 show, but the distinction between #19 and #20 is pretty useless.  NTSF is the first of three eleven minute live action Adult Swim shows to appear on this list, and was the last one I got into.  I watched the first episode long before I watched any others, and it didn’t thrill me; I didn’t expect to keep watching.  However, as the show featured a number of actors I like (Paul Scheer, Martin Starr, and Party Down and New Girl veteran June Dianne Raphael), and appeared right after personal favorite Childrens Hospital, I decided, wisely, it turns out, to give it another chance.  NTSF: SD: SUV is a perfect fit with Childrens Hospital and with Adult Swim in terms of sheer absurdism of the type not often seen in live action television.  Nothing, wonderfully, has to make sense.  Each episode has a plot featuring the members of NSTF: SD: SUV trying to prevent some sort of scheme to destroy their beloved San Diego, but beyond that, everything’s fair game.  My likely favorite episode of the most recent second season featured time travel, as the agents, guided by the Time Angels, take a time slide back and forth to prevent a nuclear explosion and capture evil time slide-creator Leonardo Da Vinci.  It is ludicrous, filled with nonsensical time paradoxes, and wonderful.  When I first watched, I viewed NTSF as a poor man’s Childrens Hospital, and while I still regard Childrens higher, I now believe NTSF can be in its class.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: 30-28

4 Feb

Moving along.  Check out the intro for the details of what qualifies for the list.  30, 29, and 28 below.

30.  The League


The show can be so one-note and stupid to sometimes be painful, but at its best, there are actual laugh out loud moments which make the ridiculous and often predictable plotting and poor character development worthwhile.  My friend has recently advised me to view The League through the Family Guy lens, which means don’t even worry about the characters or the plot, and realize that a bunch of the jokes won’t work, but focus on the few solid jokes that The League brings in almost every episode.  I haven’t tried watching yet with that new attitude, but hopefully that will address my issues, or at least put them to the side.  The League falls into a lot of plotting traps, trying to outsmart itself and be Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm in terms of plots that weave together, and sometimes it goes for way too far over the top ridiculousness in its attempt at humor.  Honestly, though, systematically, I’m not sure there’s a guaranteed way to filter what works and what doesn’t; I think often a lot of the ideas seem very similar on the page, and while I could pick out a few losers right away, some just click, and some don’t.  I think the show has definitely lost a little bit of freshness since the first season, but there’s no serious serial elements or narrowing of subject matter that would lead to the show naturally getting tired quickly.  I think this is just what The League is; you watch it, you get some funny here and there, and try to just not worry about the rest.

29. Dexter


A few more shows left in my ambivalent tier.  Dexter was pretty great in its early seasons, and even when it was great I wasn’t quite as big a fan as many, though I certainly wholeheartedly recommended the show to others.  This period ended with its excellent fourth season.  The fifth season was a notable step down, and the sixth season was out and out bad; if I had assembled this ranking early in 2012, Dexter would be even lower.  The seventh season was a comeback, but a relative one; Dexter may not be out and out done yet but it will never be the show it once was.  Many people think the seventh season was better than the fifth, but I disagree.  The season actually started out fairly well, and credit to Dexter’s writers for finally changing the status quo with a major storyline change at the very end of the sixth season which leads to change the dynamic for some of the characters.  That said, the season had a tremendous focus issue, a problem Dexter usually doesn’t have, since he’s usually paired against a major antagonist for the length of each season.  The most intriguing outside character was  strangely eliminated from the season just over halfway through, and took away a lot of the momentum the season had been building.  The other major developments were interesting but somewhat ham-handed in the way they were handled, and I’m just not as emotionally invested in the show for the big moments to mean as much as they would have to me, seasons ago.  All in all, I’m going to finish it out, but it’s a show that’s not on its A game, and really hoping to just finish out with its B-game.

28.  Veep

TV's Joe Biden

After I watched the first episode of Veep, I wasn’t sure I was going to continue.  After I watched the second episode, I wasn’t sure, nor after the third episode, either, until the fourth, when I pretty much decided it I was in for the season.  That wasn’t just because I had already gone almost halfway through the season, though that played a part, but it was also because the episodes did improve in quality as they went on and as the relationships between the characters and their banter seemed to build.  I”ve watched most of The Thick of It, Veep creator Armando Ianucci’s similar BBC show about the British government instead of the American one, and Veep is very similar in style.  The only downside is that Veep doesn’t have a proper equivalent to The Thick of It’s best character, the foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker.  While the schtick is more or less a version of similar incompetence and inappropriate language amongst our high-ranking political officials every episode, it was still frequently funny, though not as often and not as laugh out loud as I’d like a show of this tenor to be. It’s enjoyable enough to watch but I think there’s room for it to be a little bit better with all the same basic ideas in place with simply tighter writing and just knowing the cast’s strengths better after watching them for a year.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 Edition: The Outcasts, Part 3

28 Jan

This is my ranking of shows that I watched in 2012 – for the rules, see the intro;  so far we’re discussing shows that made my last list but not this one.

Here are even more shows that made last year’s list that didn’t make the cut this year.


Entourage and Ari

2011 Rank:  25

Never a great show, at times not really a good show, I still never really seriously considered stopping watching Entourage.  Maybe it’s because for the most part it was so light.  I don’t like when shows that should be heavier are needlessly light, but a show like Entourage never made any serious pretensions to reality or big issues and themes.  Of course, Entourage had two dark seasons which I still can’t decide if I liked or didn’t like, but either way, even when the show was kind of bad I never really minded spending half an hour with the gang.  I don’t think the show will be remembered particularly well, but I don’t think it will be remembered poorly either; I think it’s just likely to not be remembered much at all.  I don’t think that’s necessarily a huge shame, but I think then I’d like to get my two cents in and say, on the whole, I’m glad I watched the whole series of Entourage and I would do it again.

The Killing

Who killed this show?

2011 Rank:  23

Now here’s a show that makes me angry.  I was far too kind to it last year.  Unlike AMC failure Rubicon, which just slowly drifted apart after a promising start, The Killing spectacularly imploded at the end of its first season delivering an impressively terrible 1-2 punch of maybe having the worst final and penultimate episodes of a season of all time.  Yes, it was that bad, and the show jerked every viewer who watched around, leading to an end of season that hopefully will live on as a name of what not to do.  This on top of the fact that the main character had started violating police common sense, even by television standards, and basically after being fairly invested through most of the first season, I had basically no interest in watching the second season.  I watched the second season finale, just because, and it unsurprisingly didn’t make a ton of sense to me, but that’s fine.  I’m glad my chapter, and hopefully everyone’s, of The Killing is finished now.  I want to say it was a good run, but it wasn’t.  The best The Killing can do at this point is be responsible for launching Joel Kinnaman’s career.

White Collar

White Collar, Blue Tie

2011 Rank:  21

The last USA show!  Finally!  White Collar was a tad more serious than any of the other USA shows on this list.  It’s a nice show, and I think the two main actors do a fine job individually and together, but it’s held back, as everything is at USA, by the limitations of what dramas mean there; it’s going to follow a formula, and though there’s room in that formula for entertainment, there’s also a fairly low ceiling.  White Collar hits the ceiling sometimes but doesn’t break out of it.  I’ve also just kind of tailed off watching it as I have with my other USA shows; it’s not bad, it’s just not super compelling either.

Friday Night Lights

The early cast

2011 Ranking: 19

This is a show that I think has a chance to really grow in viewers’ appreciation after it’s already over.  A critical favorite from day 1, the show lagged in ratings, and shockingly was picked up in an unique arrangement by Direct TV for seasons four and five.  Even as the show was coming to a close it seemed like the internet was more and more excited about it.  I like the show; I think it’s a very good one, though I wasn’t nearly as upset as many that the show was leaving.  Stick this is the category of shows I like and admit are good but that I probably just don’t see eye to eye on as far as exactly how good.  The show dealt with interpersonal relationships very well, but it always felt forced and sometimes over the top; there was a lacking of subtlety of plot and dialogue it could have used.  Still, good show, always sad to see a good show go.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: The Outcasts, Part 1

23 Jan

I’m currently out of the country, which is causing me to unfortunately to temporarily fall behind on current television.  What better time, then, to finally issue my slightly belated ranking of TV shows that I watched in 2012.  I last put together a ranking in the summer of 2011, and it will be interesting to see what went up, went down, and stayed the same.  Here are the rules:  to be ranked, the show has to have aired episodes in the 2012 calendar year.  Secondly, I’m not ranking any shows that debuted in Fall 2012 and haven’t finished full seasons, because those shows haven’t put in enough time yet to judge.  Third, I’m trimming the fat from my 2011 rankings; I’m only ranking shows that I’ve seen several of this past year; for most shows that I rank, I’ve seen all of, and for just a couple I’ve seen most of.  So for the most part, I at least like every show on the list, and it’s something of an accomplishment just to make it on.  Fourth, while I’m considering body of work as far as the whole year goes, if a show was much better in fall 2012 than the end of a previous season in the spring, I’ll tend to lean towards accounting for the uptick in performance.  Lastly, primetime shows only; which mainly means no Daily Show or Colbert Report.

With that in mind, we’re almost ready to start, but first we’ll spend a couple posts going over shows that made the last list but didn’t make this one, and why that was the case.  Also, quick apologies to British shows Peep Show and The Thick of It, both of which aired episodes in 2012, but which I’m one season behind on and thus won’t rank; I look forward to catching up with both of them.


Fuck Glee

2011 ranking:  34

I had already stopped watching this show by the fall of 2011; it’s simply, well, bad.  I know a number of people who watched it regularly at some point and most have at one point or another just decided to quit. It’s closer to Heroes than to even a show like Lost in the ratio of how long it was good before it turned bad. There was a half season in which the show had a coherent plot arc,while  the remainder of the show has been spent trying to reach that again. Flaws include characters which have extremely inconsistent personalities, an extreme reversion to status quo sometimes (like a comic book villain, Jane Lynch can’t win enough to stop the club, but also sticks around to keep almost doing it), plot arcs that just go way over the top, and plenty of the characters that are just well, bad.  Goodbye Glee, I’m glad to see the public has largely stopped caring about you as well.

Modern Family

Three Modern Families

2011 ranking:  33

I gave myself more leeway last rankings in terms of how much I needed to watch a show before ranking it, and though I’ve seen most of Modern Family’s first season, I haven’t watched much after it.  It isn’t so much because I don’t think it’s a good show (though I certainly don’t think it’s a great show) as much as it’s not a show for me; it just isn’t really up my alley.  It does feature an all-time personal pet peeve with little narrations at the end of each half hour summing up the episode and giving it some totally unnecessary and unsubtle overarching theme, but mostly I think it’s still just a small bit old-sitcom-y for me.  I will say I think, from my previous watching, that Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen and their family are far and away the funniest of the three families on the show and I do think there are some genuinely good laughs.  Anyway, I can’t really begrudge anyone for watching it, though I’ve heard it’s gotten worse of late, but I stopped because I realized I just didn’t care enough it to watch, and that’s still how I feel.

Fairly Legal

Fairly Legal

2011 ranking:  32

We’re really in the dregs here.  Honestly, there was absolutely no reason for me to be watching Fairly Legal at any time, except that I had a bit of a possibly ironic, and possibly not ironic obsession with USA programs.  That obsession has subsided and Fairly Legal, the worst of the USA programs that I watched, was pretty quickly dropped.  It’s not awful but it’s pretty generic; charismatic lawyer-turned-mediator uses her natural charm, ability, and determination to solve problems others can’t.  You’ve seen it before.  Just in case I hadn’t stopped watching it by now, USA’s stopped it for me; cancelling it after it’s second season finished airing last summer.  I doubt many will be crying over the loss.


Somebody's Watching You

2011 ranking: 31

Last year’s list reached back into 2010, so it hit upon AMC’s one true failure (we can debate The Killing, but at least it went two seasons),  Rubicon.  It’s a little bit of a shame because Rubicon, unlike say Fairly Legal, had a chance to be a really interesting, good, show.  And then, well, like so many other dramas that start off with promise, it wasn’t.  It tackled a 70s neo-noir feeling in a way I don’t think recent shows have, but while the mood was right, the plots slowly fell apart and the conspiracy may have unraveled a little too far even for a conspiracy show.  I probably would have watched if there was a second season, but part of me was certainly comforted by the fact that it was cancelled and I wouldn’t have to.  I wish it was better, because I think there was something there, but it wasn’t, and it’s rightfully gone.