Tag Archives: Ranking the Shows That I Watch 2013

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

19 Feb

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

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

Remember this show's name

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

And two that were missed –

Ben and Kate

Ben and Kate and friends

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

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

Poor Mike White

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

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

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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 4-1

14 Feb

Here we are, the final four. Two returnees from last  year’s top four, and two new entrants. All four hour longs. Let’s do it. 4-1.

4. Treme

Let the trombones play

David Simon’s post-Wire paean to post-Katrina New Orleans and the people who live there isn’t The Wire, and I think that’s hurt it in the minds of a lot of people. Tons and tons and tons of people who loved The Wire, many of whom came to The Wire late, refuse to even give Treme a chance. I don’t get it. Someone makes a show that you consider great, and you’re unwilling to even make an effort to watch the first couple of episodes of his next show, especially when it’s critically acclaimed. Well, me telling you to watch it now probably won’t help, but I’ll do it anyway. Treme is sadly over before it’s time, but the final season continued doing everything Treme does so well. While The Wire feels like a story where characters take two steps forward, followed by three steps back, Treme is a little more optimistic; characters take two steps back and three steps forward. There’s plenty of being beaten down by the system, but it turns out David Simon can do hopeful as well as depressing. No one constructs shows that feel more like real life than David Simon, no one constructs more full and inhabited worlds, and no one makes characters that are easier to empathize with and emotions that feel entirely earned. Basically, even though the show is just about people living there lives, there’s really nothing else on TV like it and probably won’t be until the next David Simon show crops up.

3. Rectify

Rectify

The final new spring 2013 drama, three of which made it into the top 10 (what a freshmen class!). Unlike Hannibal or The Americans, Rectify had no problem with originality; I can’t think of any show that was particularly similar to Rectify, in terms of premise and plot. A death row inmate is exonerated after 20 years in prison thanks to DNA evidence, and he tries to fit back in to the real world in a small Georgia town that still believes strongly in his guilt. To say it’s deliberately paced would be an understatement; it makes the early True Detective episodes seem like 24 in comparison. It’s beautiful though, thoughtful, and heartrending. Instead of the deliberate pace being a drain, it’s actually a boon, and the show takes its time to linger and savor; the same way time moves slowly for Daniel, the former inmate, for whom each regular every day experience is new again after 20 years away. Nobody knows how to respond to Daniel; as difficult as it is for him to engage with his family, it’s equally difficult for them to reengage with him. The final scene of the season may have been the most emotional moment I saw watching TV in the entirety of last year.

2. Game of Thrones

In the game of thrones, you win or you die

It’s hard to write these capsules without being a little bit spoil-y but I’ve mostly tried to avoid delivering huge spoilers and I’ll continue to do so here. But I will say no show on TV delivers more shocking moments and huge twists which entirely change the direction of the plot more than Game of Thrones, sometimes turning the entire show on its head. If it was just about plot and aesthetics, Game of Thrones would already be entertaining and a must-watch but there’s so much more. Series author George R.R. Martin, and the writers who translate his work, DB Weiss and David Beinoff, have a talent for creating relatable motivation for almost every character, and making some of the most instantly hatable characters understandable if not likeable. In a world threatened by desperate winter conditions and external threats, Game of Thrones constantly reckons with the nature of power; what are the rules, what are the rights, and what are the responsibilities. The wealthy fight over a throne while the poor struggle merely to survive. Like most great shows, fans can have polarizing opinions about many of the characters and all have credible arguments.

1. Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad, bitch

Well, one last time. Breaking Bad delivered a final season and a finale surely to be considered one of the greatest of all time. Even if not every single moment worked, Breaking Bad simply did so much in eight episodes that the success percentage was still absurdly high, and even the very few decisions I disagreed with, I was able to understand the reasoning behind. Breaking Bad told us right from episode one of the final season that they were done playing it slow and safe, as Walt was on the move after confronting Hank. From there it was a non-stop episode to episode roller coaster ride, which led to one of the rare times where I really felt like I couldn’t wait another week for the next episode, although if each episode had come any faster I might have had a heart attack. The last season was so creative, so much happened, the drama was on such high alert; Breaking Bad went for it in a huge way and won. There are so many many riveting and memorable scenes that there are too many to name, but his phone call with Skyler was maybe the emotional high point of the season, while Ozymandias may go down as one of the best episodes of television of all time. One last salute, Breaking Bad, before I won’t be able to rank you anymore. This is how memorable final seasons are done.

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 – 2013 Edition: 12-9

5 Feb

Three comedies and a drama. Two of the comedies are a lot alike, one is very different, and like Top of the Lake in a previous entry, the drama is humorless enough to suck the funny out of all three comedies combined. 12-9 await below.

12. The Venture Bros.

Ventures and friends

Enjoy this spot, because Venture won’t be back next year. The Terrence Malick of television series, Venture Bros has aired five seasons and 63 episodes over an 11 year period. Season five consisted of a mere eight episodes airing over two and a half years after the previous season ended. Hardcore fans, which is pretty much everyone who watches Venture Bros. was salivating for anything, hoping to dig deeper into the complex mythology built for nerds and obsessives. It wasn’t a perfect season, and there’s always frustratingly little to dig through in a mere eight episodes, especially when a few are very peripheral, but there was plenty to like, and lots that hit upon what Venture Bros. does best, deliver on the humorous mismatch between the superhero/supervillain fantasy world and the ordinary. Bot Seeks Bot this season may have executed on this best, featuring a robot date at a villain’s nightclub, and hitting up many more hilarious villain names, a recurring gag which succeeds almost every time. This show is admittedly not for everyone, but if you’ve got any love for comics and superheros and complicated fictional universes, I highly recommend Venture Bros. a shot.

11. Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation Dept.

I sometimes feel like people out there are always looking to nail the exact point when a show peaks and then hits a downward slope, however gentle, while a show is on the air, as if there’s a prize for not missing it as it happens. Yes, Parks & Recreation may not be in its absolutely best days. Seasons three and four will have good shots at the TV comedy hall of fame when all is said and done, and admittedly, season 6 may not hit those magical heights, or at least not as much of the time. Still, if Parks and Recreation is on a downward slope (and I hate the absolute inevitability that gets attributed to the first up and the down of TV series, particularly comedies, which 30 Rock, for example showed up, with a killer final season), it’s one of the gentlest I’ve ever seen. While let’s certainly note the show’s misses, let’s also stop dwelling too much are how Parks and Recreation season 6 may not be season 3 and let’s instead celebrate what will probably be the final couple of seasons of one of the best comedies of the past decade. We can get nostalgic about the best and worst seasons when it’s done.

10. 30 Rock

Jack and Liz

Admittedly, this spot is kind of a cheat. 30 Rock only aired the final five episodes of its seven season run in 2013, so evaluating its yearly performance is difficult compared to shows that aired full seasons. What I wanted to celebrate here however is how good that final season was and how good the finale was. 30 Rock ,a show that I’ve knocked as overrated during its first peak in early seasons, made a sneaky comeback in its final season, putting out some of the best stretches of episodes in its run. Additionally, it came as a bit of a surprise, and gave me a chance to credit 30 Rock for what I love about it rather than unfairly knocking it based on what I had thought was too much hype compared to some other comedies years ago. The Jack and Liz relationship is the best platonic male female relationship in our era, and I loved how 30 Rock’s consistent refusal to ever even pretend to the possibility of pairing the two led to a great series of love interests for both, a totally earned feeling of happiness and fit when Liz finally marries Criss. In the last few episodes, the writers really used dug deep and used up every joke left in their, well, whatever type of container carries jokes, and because of the ending, I have mentally carried nothing but extremely positive feeling for the show in the last year.

9. Hannibal

Will and Hannibal

Hannibal competes with True Detective for darkest television show currently airing, and somehow it’s on a broadcast network (NBC) which just makes absolutely no sense for a show that seems much better positioned on a cable network (I’m thinking Showtime ideally). The premise to Hannibal didn’t sound that attractive to me, both because I didn’t think there was much new to wring out of the Hannibal Lecter storyline, and because I’m not exactly excited for another cop drama with a super brilliant cop at its center (FBI agents admittedly may not technically be cops, but close enough). I was quickly proven wrong though. Creator Bryan Fuller showed that there’s plenty of juice left in this old chestnut and that a crime drama can be much more than that, a story of mind vs. mind, about reading people, about obsession, about sanity (there really is some serious overlap with True Detective). The acting is sharp, and the cinematography may be the best on television, turning ritualized murder into act that’s disturbingly beautiful and horrific at the same time. If there’s any downside to Hannibal, it’s that I’ll now associate all sorts of food with murder, but based on how delicious both look in Hannibal, that may not be such a bad thing.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 16-13

31 Jan

Three comedies, two of which air back to back, and one seven episode miniseries that has just about as much lack of humor to counter act all three comedies combined. 16 through 13 below.

16. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Andy Samburg and the gang

The best new comedy of last year, Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t perfect but it is far ahead of the curve for where most good sitcoms are at this point in their runs. Created by Parks and Rec veterans, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the work of writers who know what it’s like to start slow and build from there with the great Parks & Rec, and many of the errors from that show’s first season and a half aren’t present here. There’s still building and character establishing to do; it be nearly impossible for there not to be with a first year sitcom. But the elements are there, the jokes are fresh and funny, and the actors are good. Andre Braugher as I continue to shout to the world, is a national treasure whose presence should be, well, treasured wherever it is.

15. Top of the Lake

Top of the Lake to you, Elizabeth Moss

This is a seven episode miniseries, but that already means it’s longer than the 2013 output of some other recurring series on here so I’m including it. This is definitely a series that when I finished it, it both made me want to watch it again instantly because it was dense, confusing, and complicated, and never again because it was shocking and disturbing. Elizabeth Moss gives a bravura performance, as does Peter Mullan. If New Zealand is really like this, it’s a far scarier place than I had ever imagined. The mood is eerie, and it just feels like there’s something off with every character and every series of events, and I don’t mean off in a bad way, I mean rather like they’re not quite kosher. There’s seediness lurking everywhere, and Moss can’t rest for a second without risking someone turning on her, whether it be someone she knows or someone she does. It’s creepily meditative; before there was True Detective’s Rust Cohle, there was Holly Hunter’s GJ, spouting quasi-philosophical possible nonsense. All writing this makes me realize is that I really do need to see it again.

14. Bob’s Burgers

The Belchers

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Bob’s Burgers makes me smile. That’s about all there is to it. Don’t get me wrong, it also makes me laugh. In particular though, what makes Bob’s Burgers stand out amongst my favorite comedies is that there’s no show I’d rather watch before bed after a tough, stressful, or depressing day (or even a happy day, but there’s more leeway than). There’s no way that has the ability to change my bad mood and put me on the road towards pleasant dreams. I like dark humor, and I like cutting humor, and I like uncomfortable humor in different extents when done well. Sometimes though it’s nice to watch a comedy like Bob’s Burgers  that dispenses with any of those; that’s fun and zany and light, even when our favorite family is losing and Jimmy Pesto is putting it to Bob once again. The show has ramped up over the years, and the formula shows no signs yet of slowing down. I’m only sorry I didn’t jump on this bandwagon earlier, but I’m glad that the show keeps getting renewed without much stress.

13. New Girl

It's Jess! And friends

It’s been an interesting run for New Girl. The second half of the second season last spring featured a mind-bogglingly killer run of episodes that, had I been ranking right then, would have almost certainly put New Girl in the catbird seat for the highest ranking comedy, as it was last year (the second season was just really good overall). The third however, has had a higher share of fits and starts as the show tries to figure out how it’s going to handle Nick and Jess romance and deal with Schmidt and his relationship missteps. It’s still a first tier comedy, and almost all episode have laughs, but it’s seemed a little more inconsistent episode to episode. I’m still hopeful. It’s a good show with good actors by good people; they’ll probably figure it out. But a yearly review couldn’t be written without mention of its occasional third season struggles.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 20-17

27 Jan

It seems like we’ve just started but we’re more than halfway there. Two hour longs, and then two half hour comedies in this edition, 20-17.

20. Orphan Black

Orphan Black

There’s a lot to like about Orphan Black, but there’s really one thing first and foremost. That’s actress Tatiana Maslany, who owns the show in a way few other lead actors and actresses can own the television shows they star in, largely because she plays not just the main character, but several other characters, ranging from major characters to fairly small roles. She is fantastically wonderful and makes the show work in a way that very few actors or actresses could. She’s so expert at her portrayal of different people that when watching, I, just for a moment, questioned whether it really was the same actress, so different were the looks, voices, and expressions, of each character. So beyond that, Orphan Black is a sci-fi show about a crazy conspiracy involving secret clones; it’s the kind of storyline that makes a little less sense the more you think about it, but in this case, just don’t, and you’re bound to enjoy the roller coaster ride – unlike say, a Lost, Orphan Black doesn’t feel bloated with the weight of its own pretension. It’s just fun.

19. Orange is the New Black

Orange;New Black

The secret is out by now: While House of Cards initially draw attention to Netflix original series, and not without reason, Orange is the New Black is sneakily the better show.  No show features more pathos for people typically overlooked in television. In most of the TV and movies we’ve watched, the people in jail are the bad guys, or they’re actually innocent and there unjustly; Orange is the New Black attempts to demonstrate that they may be there for a reason, but that doesn’t make them the bad guys (well, girls, but bad girls conjures up a whole set of images) at all. The backbome of the success of Orange is the New Black is the perfect combination of humor and drama; without the humor, the drama would feel overbearing and occasionally too on the nose, while the drama contextualizes the humor and adds heft making Orange is the New Black more than just a wacky prison show. Orange is the New Black loves its characters (well, except the guards, one of my few major complaints) and it comes through in a big way, making us love its characters as well.

18. Archer

Archer

It’s a strong time for animated half hour programs, and Archer is one of the strongest. The members of a freelance secret agency Isis, Archer, the best secret agent they have, is a giant asshole, and son of the agency head who is a drunken asshole herself, who also happens to be occasionally cavorting with the head of the KGB. Of course, everyone in this show is an asshole, and half of the characters are idiots, and while that would probably not be a successful formula for a particularly enjoyable drama, it makes for great comedy. Layered within Archer by last year’s fourth season are a dense array of repeated inside jokes – so much so that every Archer fan has a particular favorite, mine is probably Archer’s yelling of “phrasing” every time someone says something that could be interpreted in a more awkward and innuendo-filled way. All said, this wasn’t its strongest season, and was weaker than the genius season three, which is why its dropped a little bit lower than last year. Archer sometimes runs the risk of going over the same schtick too many times, and while it hasn’t gone over it so many times it’s tired, it did last season just enough to make it a little bit inferior to the season before. Still, it’s one of the best comedies on TV and last year featured strong episodes as well; the condemnation is merely relative.

17. Arrested Development

The Bluths and co.

Insane hype and eager anticipation for the long-awaited Arrested Development reunion quickly turned to polarization as many of the uber-fans of the original came away disappointed with the new product. I may have been in that camp to start, but by the time I finished, I was firmly a champion of the fourth season. Those expecting a repeat of the first three seasons are bound to be disappointed, and I understand why; that was great, and this isn’t that. What this is though, is something no comedy, and really no television show has managed to do before, something literally unprecedented which is incredibly rare in TV even with all the great shows on now. The season is 15 episodes meant to be taken as a whole; rather than simply serial they’re overlapping, returning to the same events over and over again through different characters, with later renditions of similar events adding layers of humorous meaning. It’s for this reason precisely that I beg viewers of the fourth season not to grow discouraged in the first couple of episodes, the meanings deepen, and jokes come back again three and four times in new ways, meaning the last few episodes are funnier than the first few, but the groundwork laid early was essential for the show to work late. It’s not perfect by any means, but that’s sometimes the price of great ambition. There’s something to be said for dreaming lower and reaching that ceiling, but there are few shows that dreamed as big as Arrested Development’s fourth season, and for getting astonishing close to reaching that ambition even if it fell short, it should be applauded.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 24-21

22 Jan

Four more shows, one comedy on its way out, one underlooked comedy that keeps on producing successful seasons, and two hour longs. Keep it going, below.

24. Happy Endings

Happy Endings

File Happy Endings away as a show that I didn’t appreciate enough until it was gone.  Well, not quite. I appreciated it not when it was gone but when, in the third season, it seemed as if its chances were grim. I savored each of the last few episodes, apologizing to my television for only really loving the show once it was already out of my grasp. It took me a while to really enjoy Happy Endings, because superficially it has markers of sitcoms I don’t particularly like, particularly Friends in its set up. When it comes down to it though, it was a consistently funny show with a fantastic cast with great chemistry that really seems like they’re enjoying themselves. The writing was sharp to begin with, but the cast made jokes work that some other combinations of actors wouldn’t have, through their timing and physical reactions. Not every episode was a gem, but by the end I was far sorrier to see it go than I had ever realized was possible when I started watching. Happy Endings with its no frills simple style, would have been a perfect fit on a cable network which makes its cancellation a particular shame.

23. Broadchurch

Broachchurch

A local boy is a small English seaside vacation town is murdered and a couple of detectives, one local, one Scottish, have to solve it. It’s a simple enough premise, but Broadchurch delivers on with surprisingly solid execution. The ending, which matters a lot for shows like this, satisfies; it’s heartbreaking and surprising but manages to not feel completely out of nowhere or too ridiculous. Broadchurch is only eight episodes long and the British desire to keep it short plays a large role in its success, preventing it from straying too far off the course with loads of red herrings and keeping a relatively tight focus. It’s not an all-time must watch but it’s surprisingly good and it’s a great eight episode pot boilder for weekend marathon viewing. Like with a good mystery novel, once I was halfway through I couldn’t stop until I got to the finish.

22. Masters of Sex

Mastes of Sex

Lizzie Kaplan and Michael Sheen play revolutionary sex researchers Masters and Johnson in this Showtime series set in 1950s St. Louis. Rather than feel just like another drama set in the past (which seem to be a possibly Mad Men-inspired cottage industry these days), Masters of Sex feels fresh and if anything is too ambitious; sometimes it summons ideas without having any plan what to do with them. Overall, though the ambition is admirable, and a surprisingly high percentage of Masters of Sex’s efforts work, more in the second half of the season than the first. The show discusses love, sex, and gender roles in an engaging way and features an assortment of well-built characters that stand to be enriched in future seasons; hopefully Alison Janey and Beau Bridges, who played recurring characters who star in bad CBS sitcoms, will be back. The future looks bright and this is a show that I think has no reason not to be even better next season.

21. Childrens Hospital

Childrens Hospital

I’ve been a long-time backer of Childrens Hospital and the fact that its this low says, as I find myself repeating a lot during this list, more about how much good television there is now, than anything about the lower quality of Childrens Hospital itself. That said, this probably wasn’t its best season yet, but there were definitely some classics. “Country Weekend,” a locked room mystery written by David Wain was a highlight, as well as “My Friend Falcon,” posed as a documentary with David Wain interviewing Childrens Hospital cast member Just Falcon, as played by Ken Marino. It’s the silliest and gentlest of the Adult Swim live action parody shows (basically, this, NTSF, and Eagleheart), and the most well-meaning – its satire is always in good fun rather than cutting. I honestly have no idea why Childrens Hospital has never caught on with a bigger cult audience and I recommend it frequently, as it’s usually safe to assume that people who I speak to about television, haven’t watched it. Give it a shot today, if you haven’t.