Tag Archives: Revenge

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.

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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: 27-25

6 Feb

Ranking the shows, check out the intro page here for what qualifies for the list – 27, 26, and 25 follow.

27.  Sons of Anarchy

Redwood Original

I had never watched this show at all until I powered through it in the spring of 2012, getting really into it through season three, and then beginning to already tire of it in season four, when Clay’s position in the show became too outlandish even by the show’s own standards.  After finally making it through all four seasons, even though I enjoyed the overall experience and am glad I watched it all, I found myself hardly excited when the fifth season began.  I ended up storing episodes on my DV-R and not catching up until a couple weeks after the entire season had finished.  But, catch up eventually I did, and though I think I’m glad I watched it, my interest levels were a lot lower than when I was marathonning it.  The disappointing, and moreover, materially different fourth season, had caused me to check out a little bit from the show.  It’s still worth watching in its slightly lesser form, but I don’t think I’ll ever care as much as I did during a two week period where I was watching an episode or two a night.  At its best, it’s still a joy to watch, and the characters are generally fairly well drawn, particularly main character Jax.  Sons of Anarchy aspires to be a big show like The Sopranos and it doesn’t quite reach those heights for many reasons, but often you can see around the edges where they’re trying.  I’m not sure if this makes me admire the show more for trying or frustrated more because it’s not getting there, but I imagine I’ll keep watching future seasons like I watched this one.

26.  Revenge

A dish best served cold

I frequently vouched for Revenge during its first season, and I wasn’t the only one; within the bounds of a twisted primetime soap – conspiracy drama, it handled itself just about as well as it could be done.  The main character was likeable and the show had just the right amount of intrigue and trashiness which left the viewer waiting to see the next episode.  Unfortunately, Revenge is suffering from a classic second season (and sometimes later) problem with televisions shows that have an explicit or implicit goal bound up in their premise – where do you go from here?  Emily ne Amanda managed to solve her primary initial question of getting to the bottom of what happened to her dad in the first season, and more or less had her finger on the button to deal with the people responsible.  Kudos to the creators for pacing the show in a way that meaningful events actually happened in the first season, but as a reward for their smart pacing, they get to deal with the problem of why and how to keep the show going.  Revenge’s solution was a classic – increase the scope of the show, and in particular, to level up; the people she thought was behind the act were mere pawns working at the hands of a more powerful force which she can currently barely comprehend.  Unfortunately, in Revenge’s case, that takes the show from a fairly tight conspiracy organized around a number of rich socialites, and the drama that involves, to dealing with giant and complex para-governmental organizations with names like “the initiative” which seem to belong in Alias and feel completely out of place in Revenge.  It must make show creators jealous of the Mad Mens and Six Feet Unders and Parenthoods of the world, where  writers can pretty much set up their seasons however they want without a big final mystery to solve or put off.  It’s possible Revenge will get back on it’s game, but I think it’s less likely than not.

25.  Girls

Girls

The most controversial show of 2012 worms its way into the rankings at 25.  What this should tell you is that I stand squarely in between the two major Girls camps.  I find the show watchable and enjoy it, but don’t think of it as some amazing breakthrough television program that portrays life in a much realer way than most TV.  I think, and this is important to note, the show got significantly stronger as it went on, and the later episodes seemed to be sharper and tighter.  I don’t really understand the hype over the “realness” of the show; at least in a superficial way, I think the characters are fairly ridiculous, with maybe the exception being Alison Williams’ Marnie, and though I can probably understand the argument a little more as it pertains to some of the subject matter beyond the superficial level, I still don’t think that’s the main selling point of Girls.  I understand the argument against the show that the characters are unlikable, but many a great show has been built on the back of unlikable characters; it’s hard to find a character to unambiguously root for in prior HBO giants The Sopranos or Six Feet Under.  That said, I can enjoy, with the protagonist bias, removing ourselves one step (ie we root for Tony Soprano, because he’s the protagonist, even though in many ways he’s a terrible person), everyone except for Jemima Kirke’s Jessa, who I absolutely can’t stand.  I’m not sure why so many people make a big deal about having to relate to characters to enjoy a show; while it’s certainly a plus, I think there are significantly more shows I watch where I can’t relate to anyone.  Anyway, I pretty much enjoy watching it without thinking it’s the best thing under the sun.  More than anything, I don’t think it’s nearly worthy of the press it receives one way or the other.  We’ll see if Season 2 changes my opinion up or down.

Fall 2011 New Show Ranking

27 Dec

Well, we’ve just seen how I did in my predictions about the new shows in fall 2011.  Let’s take a look at what I actually think of them, rankings style.  I didn’t think it was a particularly strong season, as most of the shows sat in the healthy middle of mediocrity with a fair few as true garbage.  Although it’s a linear ranking, I’ve tried to point out when there’s a large gap between shows here and there.

1.  Homeland – far and away the best new show of the year – it’s not particularly close.  I’m not sure where they’ll go from here, but first season a must watch

2.  Revenge – surprisingly good for a trashy primetime soap and although that sounds like a backhand compliment, I really don’t mean it that way.  I enjoy this show thoroughly and Madeline Stowe is great.

3.  New Girl – improved as the season went on and seemed to find its place, the last of the three shows on this list that I’ve seen every episode of, and thus there’s a little drop off here

4.  Boss – I haven’t cared enough to watch more, but I was more impressed than I thought I’d be in the first episode, and more episodes could easily move this in either direction

5. Hell on Wheels – solid but not spectacular, I wish it was better, but I’m glad it’s not worse

6.. Ringer – 6 is higher than it should be, but it’s really just in a similar tier with the next few shows and I’ve seen more of it than the next few

7.  American Horror Story – I’ve never seen a show like it in any way, and I think I mean that as a compliment

8. The Secret Circle – the show is much more entertaining than it has any right to be for someone of my age and my gender

9. Terra Nova – It’s not great but it’s really not bad either.  There’s something to work with and I feel slightly more than ambivalent about continuing to watch

10.  Suburgatory – newer episodes are definitely better than the older episodes, and I like the two main actors, but it constantly battles not to not be a poor man’s Mean Girls

11.  Prime Suspect – you’ve just entered procedural country.  Prime Suspect is probably slightly the best of the bunch – it’s a minor shame it’s being cancelled but no Terriers

12.Grimm – second best of procedurals, my friend likes it because it takes place in his home state of Oregon, so props for that

13.Person of Interest – second in a row of shows my dad watches – he likes this one better, but I prefer Grimm slightly

14.Up All Night – it’s not bad, it’s just not really that good either – what in the world is Maya Rudolph doing here

15.Unforgettable – this may actually be better than one of the two above it – who even knows at this point?

16.A Gifted Man – repeat what I said about Unforgettable.  The show is fine but hardly compelling

17.Pan Am – we’re still in the section of shows I don’t completely want to bash, I just want to let them be ignored

18. Hart of Dixie– Rachel Bilson is good, I guess. Alabama seems pretty boring.  Is that the message?  Still not at the bad ones.

19.Enlightened – People tell me it gets better after the first episode, and maybe it does.  Laura Dern’s character was just so annoying.

20.Free Agents – shows starting to get bad here – it had two good characters, and a bunch of terrible ones

21.Once Upon A Time – why do people like this?  This is exactly the type of show people like to pretend is interesting and complex but really isn’t

22.  Man Up – men aren’t really men anymore part 1 – possible but hard to win with that premise

23.  Last Man Standing – men aren’t really men anymore part 2- much more patently offensive than the previous

24.  Allen Gregory – animated misstep – close enough to a good show to maybe understand what the creators were thinking but far enough away that it will never get there

25. I Hate My Teenage Daughter –  a generic instructional example of a bad traditional sitcom

26.  How To Be A Gentlemen – why do so many actors who were in shows with more modern forms of comedy (It’s Always Sunny inPhiladelphia, Mr. Show, Flight of the Conchords) sink to this?

27.  Playboy Club – Saying that Amber Heard is attractive is about the nicest thing I can say about this show

28.  Chalie’s Angels – Saying that Minka Kelly is attractive is about the nicest thing I can say about this show

29.  Whitney – and here we are, a Whitney Cummings two-some – whoever thought this show made sense after Community, Parks and Recreation and The Office should be shot, tarred, and feathered

30.  2 Broke Girls – there is nothing redeeming about this show – the fact that it is popular embarrasses the US as much as the existence of the death penalty

Fall 2011 New TV Show Predictions Reviewed, Part 1

23 Dec

A couple of months ago, I made predictions about how long new shows on cable networks, ABC, and Fox would last.  As all the shows have aired for a few weeks, it’s time for an evaluation of my predictions, although for some shows, the final word is not in yet.  Such an evaluation follows:

Cable

Hell on Wheels

Predicted: Renewal

What happened:  Renewed away – not as successful commercially as AMC stalwart The Walking Dead or critically as Mad Men or Breaking Bad, but good enough.  It’s no Rubicon.

Homeland

Predicted:  Renewal

What Happened:  Renewal – right on, everyone else agreed with me and I agreed with everyone else that this is the best new show of the year.  It’ll be back with a vengeance.

American Horror Story

Predicted:  Renewal

What Happened:  Renewed – I still don’t understand it, and I don’t mean that in either a good or a bad way, but it’s become a bit of a sleeper hit.

Boss

Predicted: Renewal

What happened:  Renewed – Cheating, it was renewed before it aired.  Still, it got good enough reviews, for whatever that’s worth.

Enlightened

Predicted: Renewal

What happened:  Renewed, but barely, as it survived the great HBO comedy extermination of 2011, which saw the ends of personal favorite Bored to Death, Hung and How To Make It In America.

ABC

 

Charlie’s Angels

Predicted:  12-

What happened:  Cancelled.  One of the five easiest predictions to make all year.  Had no chance from day one.

Last Man Standing

Predicted:  12-

What happened:  Picked up for full season so far.  Probably the prediction I got wrong which I would have staked the most on.  I still don’t think it will last past this year, but I would have said it’d be gone after three or four episodes, so who knows.

Man Up

Predicted:  12-

What happened:  Second of the top five easiest decisions.  Didn’t have a shot in hell, and shouldn’t have.

Once Upon A Time

Predicted:  13+

What happened:  Picked up a for a full season, likely renewal.  It’s become a family hit, and although it hasn’t been renewed yet, so I could technically still be right, it probably will be renewed and I’ll be wrong.  Oops.

Pan Am

Predicted: Renewal

What happened:  Not cancelled officially yet, but looking like all but a formality.  This was one of the more difficult shows to call.

Revenge

Precited:  Renewal

What happened;  Picked up for a full season, and looking likely for renewal.  Very pleased about both my call, which wasn’t obvious, and the popularity of one of the better new shows.

Suburgatory

Predicted:  13+

What happened:  Picked up, with a renewal likely.  It’s been kind of a surprise hit on what’s become a bit of a surprise hit Wednesday night comedy block on ABC, with Modern Family, The Middle, and Happy Endings next to Suburgatory.

Fox

New Girl

Predicted; Renewal

What happened:  Picked up for a full season, it would be a total shock if it was not renewed.  One of the biggest new show hits of the season so far.

Allen Gregory

Predicted:  12-

What happened:  Cancelled – not a shocker by any means.  Bad show, bad spot, no chance.  Third of my five easiest cancellations to call.

I Hate My Teenage Daughter

Predicted:  12-

Renewed:  Uncertain, as it didn’t start until the end of November.  That said, I still feel fairly confident in a cancellation.

Terra Nova

Predicted: Renewal

What happened:  This is the closest show on the list, and it could still go either way.  I wouldn’t take odds one way or the other.

Fall 2011 Review: Revenge

22 Sep

(Here at Television, the Drug of the Nation we’ll be doing one review for one show on each day of the week, each week.  For example, one Tuesday we might review 2 Broke Girls, and then the next week Terra Nova or The Playboy Club.  So, if your favorite or least favorite show didn’t get reviewed yet, not to worry)

Without ruining anything outside of the first half hour, here’s what we know so far in broad terms about Revenge.  A woman in her 20s moves into the Hamptons for the summer into a house where she spent summers when she was a little girl.  She’s there under an assumed name, she’s rich, and she’s determined to take revenge on people who wronged her father, framing him for a horrific crime he didn’t commit, by taking them out one by one.  The chief of those upon who she seeks vengeance is a regal Hamptons presence, Victoria Grayson.

After sitting through an hour of Revenge, there were a surprising number of parallels to another new season debut, Ringer.  Like Ringer, the main character is a relatively young woman, and a theme of doubling is prevalent, though less literally than in Ringer.  Emily van Camp’s character now goes by the name Emily Thorn, but was once Amanda Clark, and at least a couple of characters new her as this alternate persona.  Like Ringer, the action takes place in the midst of a high end socialite circle, through which we dive right into the seedy underbelly of the rich and powerful, complete with affairs and cover ups.  Like Ringer, there’s an unclear mix between soapy trashiness and action and suspense.

Compared to Ringer, Revenge didn’t get quite as far in terms of plot.  In the first half hour, I was just waiting to get moving a little bit.  The pacing was undoubtedly deliberate.  Unfortunately, in a show like this there’s no way to tell if it’s just a slow build, or straight out boring without at least a couple more episodes.  The second half definitely moved a little bit better and we got at least a couple more glimpses into what we’ll be looking at for the rest of the year.

I did like something that we saw towards the end of the episode.  Initially it seemed like this was Emily versus everyone with her British best friend acting as a sidekick who doesn’t know a thing.  We learn though that at least one of the characters, an internet millionaire allegedly loyal to her father, also despises the Graysons and would love to get in on the revenge, but Emily is not interested in sharing.  Almost any time conflicts become multifaceted instead of straight one on one they become more interesting.

I also wanted to note that Revenge uses a device dramas like to use sometimes (Damages does it, Breaking Bad sometimes as well) that I’m almost never a fan of, which is starting the beginning of a season or an episode with a flashforward which shows terrible and possibly tragic things happening.  The goal of this flashforward to leave you with a taste of what will be happening if you watch the rest of the season and to provide suspense for how we get from here to there.  It’s not that I think that this technique is inherently flawed.  It can absolutely work well sometimes. I just think that most of the times it’s used it doesn’t add a whole lot.  Even based on the first episode, we know we’re in for a show in which people are going to have at the very least their lives ruined; there’s no need to show us what will happen it at the end of the first season or half season.  If anything, it makes me worry that the show will go too slow.

Writing this review reminded me of the limits of judging shows after just one episode.  With comedies, this is because they generally take at least a couple episodes to gel and to find their niche.  With long building and complex plot shows like Revenge, it’s difficult because we just don’t get enough.  We get the premise, some general tone and mood, and a quick appraisal about how we like the actors.  After five episodes we won’t know whether the ending will disappoint us and whether the season-long plotting is poor, but we’ll at least get more of a sense for the pacing, more of the characters and at least a little clearer sense of where the show is going.  Judging it after one episode less like judging after one full chapter and more like judging after just five pages (which is why we’ll be doing midseason reports to see if some of these shows keep up on or fail their promise).

I liked Emily VanCamp so far, and that’s certainly going to be important going forward as it looks as though everything will revolve around her.  I also liked Madeleine Stowe as Victoria Grayson. She seems like she has everything she needs to be a quality ruthless villain holding up one side of the show.

Will I watch it again?  I think I’ll try it again at least one more, as it has at the least bare minimum essentials to put together a good show.  I think this is going to be in the category of watch five and reevaluate.

Fall 2011 Preview and Predictions: ABC

19 Sep

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

ABC’s got more new scripted shows than any of the other networks, but they also have a couple that look certain to fail, so it’s a trade off.  Charlie’s Angels, Revenge and Pan Am debut within a week, while everything else comes later.

Charlie’s Angels – 9/22

My friend posited that the only reason the original Charlie’s Angels was popular was because there was no easy access to attractive women on the internet in the 1970s.  That may be a bit simplistic, but this edition of Charlie’s Angels certainly doesn’t seem to be doing anything to improve views of the franchise.  There’s nothing to see here; while it probably won’t be embarrassing, I don’t think it will be very good, and I think audiences will not find much reason to watch the show.

Verdict:  12- I don’t think that ABC has put a ton of eggs in the Charlie’s Angels basket so it may not feel obliged to keep it around too long if it’s unsuccessful.  Other ’70s adaptation Wonder Woman didn’t even make it to TV, so maybe the trend isn’t there.

Last Man Standing – 10/11

There are few instant obvious choices for pure unredeemable terribleness on the schedule, but we’ve got one here.  I’m not sure what the exact word opposite of can’t miss would be (must miss?), but this would be categorized under it.  Tim Allen plays a Colorado man whose home life is dominated by women, his wife, played by Nancy Travis, and his three daughters.  He’s a man emasculated by their constant and overbearing female presence and misses times when men where  men.  Oh, and Hector Elizondo is in it for some reason.

Verdict:  12- This just be my easiest 12- of the entire season.  If it didn’t have Tim Allen on it, it wouldn’t be on TV.  Even if it did have Tim Allen, it wouldn’t be on TV if ABC didn’t owe him so much for years of Home Improvement

Man Up – 10/18

This series, part of the Man block with Last Man Standing, also deals with emasculation and seems at first blush about as likely to succeed as Last Man Standing.  The show is about three men who have decided they want to “man up” and start being well, more manly.  About the only thing I can see offhand to like is the appearance of Mather Zickel who plays a news magazine host in my favorite episode of Childrens Hospital and a pornographic film maker in a fantastic episode of Party Down.

Verdict:  12- It both looks terrible at worst and mediocre at best, has absolutely no buzz or backing and nothing to recommend it.  ABC has more new shows this fall than anyone; some of them have got to fail.  It’s supposed to be better than Last Man Standing to be sure, but that’s not saying much.

Once Upon a Time – 10/23

The other fairy tale show (along with Grimm), Once Upon a Time stars Jennifer Morrison, best known as Cameron from House, as a bail bondsman who finds out she may be the daughter of Snow White, and that she may be the only one who can save both the real and fairy tale worlds from, well, something bad, I’m sure.  The show takes place in Storybrooke,Maine where fairy tale characters like Snow White and Prince Charming have regular jobs (much like the comic series Fables, which I recommend to anyone who thinks this premise sounds interesting).  It has a very minor bit of cache coming from a couple of Lost writers.

Verdict:  13+ – one of the shows I could very easily see going either way, both critically and commercially, so I’ll take the easy way out.  I could see it being great, as the premise is interesting, or being terrible, as sometimes ambitious premises have the lowest floor, but it’s mostly likely to be somewhere in the middle

Pan Am – 9/25

The other early ‘60s show (along with The Playboy Club), Pam Am for sure looks like the better of the two.  Pan Am features Christina Ricci and others as Pan Am flight attendants who are also somehow involved with espionage.  The tone is light and fluffy rather than serious, and I’m interested enough to at least give it a chance, though I’m still quite apprehensive.

Verdict:  Renewal – it’s a good fit on ABC’s Sunday night next to Desperate Housewives, as hopefully for it, it will put people in the proper mood for a show that is closer in tone to Desperate Housewives than to Mad Men

Revenge – 9/21

Revenge is loosely based on The Count of Monte Cristo, the basic plot of which I finally had explained to me last week.  Instead of in France, Revenge is set in the Hamptons where mysterious woman Emily Van Camp of Everwood and Brothers and Sisters looks to take the title action on Madeleine Stowe and friends.  Every year, one or two series intrigue me for reasons I can’t quite explain, usually series where I don’t know enough information to make me realize they will be bad, so the series sound open to any possibilities.  I think this year’s edition is Revenge.

Verdict: Renewal – I may be well be wrong (on all of these, actually) and the show may be terrible, but I have not taken a subway not filled with Revenge ads in the last two weeks and if I’m intrigued maybe other people will be.  And maybe it will actually be good!

Suburgatory – 9/28

TV’s answer to satirical the-jungle-that-is-suburban-high-school movies like Mean Girls and Easy A, everyone is already labeling star Jane Levy as the new Emma Stone or Lindsay Lohan.  Levy plays a girl who was moved from NYC to the more affluent ‘burbs by protective single dad Jeremy Sisto.  I might be getting ahead of myself, but this show could actually be good; it’s a time tested premise, but what will make or break it is how it’s done.  Alan Tudyk of Firefly and Rex Lee of Lloyd in Entourage fame appear in the show as does Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines as a catty neighbor.

Verdcit: 13+ Writing up that preview I almost convinced myself that it would be good enough to just put renewal on a whim, but I’m going to be cautious.  I haven’t seen a whole lot of advertisements around for it.  However, if it actually is good, I think ABC could be a decent home for it.

ABC is the last of the networks to be previewed, so it’s time to sit back and see how the shows go from here.  We’ll be here all week with reviews, and probably another broad cable show preview at some point.