Tag Archives: Suburgatory

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: 33-31

1 Feb

So, finally, we’re ready to get into the rankings for real.  Check out my intro for the details on qualifying for the list. Shows 33, 32, and 31 follow.

33.  Suburgatory

The dangers of suburgatory

If I was to create a television version of WAR (Wins Above Replacement, an all-encompassing measure of a baseball player’s worth that counts how many wins he is worth in a season above a fictitious replacement player), Suburgatory would be a great stand it for the replacement player.  It was right at the border of whether I’ve seen enough episodes to put it on this list, and frankly this was the only show that was a difficult call in terms of making the list at all – generally, I either had seen almost every episode of a show, or just one or two.  I decided eventually to keep it on as a marker, if nothing else, of the exact current limit of my viewing.  I pretty much never go out of my way to watch Suburgatory but if I’m cruising the on-demand section of my TV and find nothing else new, there’s a fair chance I’ll throw one on.  It could easily be replaced by something better, but there it sits.  It’s not particularly laugh out loud funny, and it’s over the top cartoonish drawing of a posh suburb can be a little bit unsubtle and on the nose, but I really like the two leads, Jane Levy and Jeremy Sisto, who are by far the two most normal people in the town, and the best characters, as they both struggle to fit in.  Maybe there’s something to be learned that in this show, the super quirky characters who are pretty much designed purely for humor are significantly less interesting, and funny, than the two major more well developed characters.  Suburgatory could still get better, but will probably stay the same, which is okay.  This is where it belongs.

32.   The Office

Strange poster

This season of The Office may actually be worse than Suburgatory, but I do watch The Office every week, so that alone will keep it ahead.  I’ve complained loudly and often about The Office’s recent struggles, and how they’ve gone from a hitter with a mere slump to a player on his way to retirement  and as we all know by now, retire The Office will, in just a few months, and thankfully so.  I still hope the last few episodes will be better because I don’t want a show of the caliber of The Office to go out on such a down note.  Many other shows I’d simply stop watching, but The Office has had such a strong run over several years, that I’ve given it far more benefit of the doubt than I would to many other shows.  This leeway The Office has pretty much showed it doesn’t deserve by just totally running out of new ideas, creating serial plots which viewers have no interest in, and reshuffling the characters in ways, after Steve Carrell’s exit, that just don’t make sense.  Even if they didn’t realize it before, they should have been able to figure it out by now, and shift things around, since it’s been two seasons of slightly lower than mediocrity, but they haven’t reacted as I’d hoped.  Dwight’s still funny; so there’s something nice about the show.  While the other characters change personalities, or grow, or are just boring, Dwight pleasantly remains the same.

31.  Top Chef

Seattle

Every season I’ve watched Top Chef, which is since the fourth, I’ve gotten into mini-bouts where I get kind of obsessed with the show, and heavily invested in who wins; like in sports, I take an emotional hit if my guy loses, and especially if my arch-enemy wins.  This peaked in Top Chef Season 8, All Stars, in which I rooted fiercely for Richard Blais to win, and was thrilled when he actually pulled it off.  That peak though was short lived, and as so often happens, my obsessiveness largely fell away quickly after, in the next season Top Chef 9, where a string of gimmicks helped to siphon my interest, along with a top group of contenders which only featured one person I actually wanted to win.  That contestant did win, thankfully, but it was more of a relief than euphoria, especially since the last couple episodes featured some out and out terrible challenges which were often based on elements other than the contestants’ ability to cook, such as chiseling ingredients out of ice and hitting targets with rifles to acquire ingredients; thus if you were bad at marksmanship, you’d have trouble cooking (I shit you not).  The season ended and left a bad taste in my mouth.  I started up this new season with less hope, and though I dutifully watched the first few episodes, I found myself often falling behind, only watching the previous episode once I was planning on talking to my friend who is also a viewer, to discuss the episode with him, rather than for my own edification.  Anyway, odds are about even as to whether I’ll finish the season, though I don’t think it’s been as disheartening a failure as The Office, which is why it’s higher, but not much.  You’ll notice a pattern, that this tier of shows on my list I all watch dutifully, but ambivalently, and Top Chef fits right in.

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: Suburgatory

4 Oct

Suburgatory tells us a tale we’ve all seen before – outsider doesn’t fit in at exaggerated suburban high school, because high school is a jungle and as vicious a setting as anywhere else in life.  We’ve seen it in Mean Girls, in Easy A, in Clueless (Cher’s not an outsider, but the same other operating principals apply), in Heathers, and I’m sure in a number of other high school in suburbia movies.  Suburgatory expands this principle to the entire town rather than just the school, but the idea is more or less the same.  That’s not necessarily good or bad, but it instantly opens itself up to comparison against similar shows and movies, whereas my being unable to think of an instant comparison to, say,  Homeland makes it harder to have a direct benchmark to put it up against.

Jane Levy, portraying Tessa Altman, is moved by her dad, George Altman, played by Jeremy Sisto, from Manhattan after George discovers a box of condoms in his daughter’s room and panics, deciding he needs to raise her somewhere more wholesome.   When they get there they find the suburb to appear vaguely Stepford Wives-ish, while underneath is a culture of gossip and plastic surgery and incredibly irritating teenagers.  Both father and daughter struggle to fit in with the unusual surroundings, which go over the course of the episode, in Tessa’s opinion, anyway, from utterly hellish to maybe-not-entirely-the-worst-place-on-Earth.

How does Suburgatory do as a suburban satire?  Well, okay, but okay in the slightly disappointing sense rather than okay in the slightly better-than-I-thought sense.  The ideas are there – this is a concept that can certainly work, but the jokes and humor mostly falls flat.  In this suburbia-gone-mad setting, it’s always difficult to know how exaggerated to make everything – should you hew close to reality, shifting the humor towards very relatable situations, or should you go extremely over the top, drawing humor from the ridiculous and absurd?  Suburgatory seems to mostly stray towards the uber-ridiculous, which can work, but it mostly doesn’t, with a couple of exceptions.  There are a few concepts that seem like they could be funny, but just don’t quite click.  For example, Tessa describes Sugar Free Red Bull as the official drink of the suburbs.  This abstractly seems like it could be a funny idea, but in the context of the show it just doesn’t hit.

Cheryl Hines as the uber-hip but clueless mom (Think Amy Poehller’s character in Mean Girls) just didn’t work at all for me.  Whoever’s choice it was to give her an incredibly irritating accent was a poor one; honestly, it’s hard to tell how much of my dislike of the character was due to anything other than the accent.  Alan Tudyk was a little bit better as Sisto’s friend who seems to have convinced him to move to the suburbs, and he has one or two of the few standout lines.  Rex Lee, Entrouage’s Lloyd, who will be joining the cat full time as a guidance counselor, gets probably the best line of the episode, when he introduces Hines’ Plastics-ish daughter as Levy’s buddy.  Hines’ daughter notes that “Buddies are not your friends,” to which he agrees, “Not necessarily” (it doesn’t really work written, but it did spoken).

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.  It wasn’t out and out bad, and I like Jane Levy and Jeremy Sisto, but it disappointed.  I’ll certainly be interested to check it out at my mid-season check in, if it lasts that long, and see if it improved, because I do think it can, I just didn’t get enough out of that first episode to check in any earlier.

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.