Tag Archives: The Affair

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2015 Edition: 50-47

28 Mar

Two comedies, one action, and one drama/thriller. Moving forward…

Intro here and 58-55 here and 54-51 here.

50. Workaholics – 2014: 36

Workaholics

I will always have much affection for Anders, Blake, and Adam, but it badly feels like the boys of Rancho Cucamonga are running out of ideas, no matter what occasional breaks between seasons they take. This is particularly obvious since the show Workaholics is paired up with in its time slot, Broad City, has risen as Workaholics has fallen, and on the whole I love Broad City more than I’ve ever liked Workaholics, which is more a compliment to Broad City than an insult to Workaholics. Workaholics still has the funny joke here and there, and again, I still love the three of them, but it’s not the buzzy, quotable show of the first couple of seasons, and I almost feel like I want to spend more time in this review going to pay tribute to some of the great episodes (“Real Time,” “To Friend a Predator” for example) than talking about this past season which was largely unmemorable. Alas. Nothing gold can stay.

49. The Affair – 2014: 33

The Affair

Oh, to be a Showtime show. A mildly ambitious premise, generally a little less glassy or bold than an HBO show (generally; HBO made Ballers). They’re often just good enough to be intriguing and keep me watching for a few episodes or a couple seasons, only to eventually let me down, quickly, or slowly. The Affair drew me in with a fascinating premise; a modern day Rashomon – a story slowly drawn out, told in two perspectives, both of which contained shades of the truth. The first season left more or less how it started; still maintaining that same level of intrigue and possibility for more without having actually accomplished that much. The second delivered a little bit less than the first, even while including some worthwhile moments and adding two more perspectives to the melange. Dominic West’s Noah became increasingly despicable over the course of the season which made it difficult to watch and times, and the show continued to feel like it didn’t exactly know where it was going or what it was doing. I’m about at a coin flip over whether I’ll give the third season a shot.

48. Archer – 2014: 39

Archer

Archer is long-veteran show at this point, and like Workaholics, just above, it often feels at this point like it’s running out of ideas. However, unlike with Workaholics, this past season was a step up over the previous season, the ambitious but ultimately lacking Archer Vice. It certainly wasn’t golden era Archer (seasons 2 and 3) but it was clearly, if not way past the solid enough to keep watching point. At this point it often feels like the veteran that it is; it’s not exciting or flashy but it comes to work and does the job at least well enough to earn its paycheck. Archer marks the first clear tier break on this list so far. Everything Archer and above I plan on coming back to for sure in their next seasons; everything below is a big question mark.

47. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – 2014: 32

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I doubt Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is ever going to rise too high in these rankings. It’s probably never going to be a great show; it’s been on long enough that I feel pretty comfortable I know what it is and it’s unlikely to take a leap. That said, it’s settled into a comfortable place in my viewing lineup, never much higher than the cut off, but safely above. After a really rough first 15 episodes that had me ready to give up the show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has improved to a level of competence putting together enough smart dialogue and occasionally unpredictable plotting to take advantage of my natural inclination to like things comic book and superhero. Like Flash and Arrow, this show isn’t for everyone, and those who have zero interest in superheroes have absolutely no reason to give it a look. But it is a step up above those DC shows, slightly better written, one level deeper, which is not saying a lot, that stay just a little bit farther away from obvious and cringeworthy tropes enough of the time to make it worth watching.

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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 Edition: 35-32

4 Feb

One first year show, two second year shows, and one extremely popular cable show now in its fifth season. Let’s take a look.

Intro here and 43-40 here and 39-36 here.

35. Masters of Sex – 2013: 22

Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex, one of 2013’s most promising debuts, took a step back in its sophomore season. Still a generally enjoyable show, the delights rested even more heavily on the substantial acting talents of Michael Sheen and Lizzie Kaplan. Lack of focus was the critical issue; the plot darted back and forth and couldn’t make up its mind about any direction for the season. This included a bizarre several year time jump in the middle of the season that didn’t add a whole lot while being needlessly confusing and incongruous. Poor Caitlin Fitzgerald, as Masters’ long-neglected wife is stuck with will-intended side plots that don’t completely fail but also don’t work as well as the show wants them to. There are certainly positives to be found here; the pleasant surprise of the season was the coupling of Masters and Johnson cameraman Lester with an equally damaged new character Barbara played by Breaking Bad’s Betsy Brandt. Overall I don’t feel the same enthusiasm I felt after the first season and am not recommending the show as thoroughly. That said, there’s hope; there’s no plot or character bridge that’s been crossed that should irreparably damage the show going forwards. It’s time for the writers to sit back, take stock, and really think the next season through before moving forwards.

34. AMC’s The Walking Dead – 2013: 35

AMC's The Walking Dead

AMC’s The Walking Dead is one of the more inconsistent shows on television – so much so that it’s inconsistently inconsistent. There’s a good half season, then a terrible episode, then a good two episodes, then a bad six episodes, a good A plot, a terrible B plot, and then a great C plot. To their credit, after a predictably wildly uneven second half of the fourth season, which dedicated whole episodes to different groups of characters separated for a period of time after the destruction of their prison home, the first half of the fifth season may have been the best block of episodes in the show’s run. It’s, unsurprisingly, not perfect, but the characters are better developed. Early seasons featured Rick and a bunch of thinly drawn compatriots. Now, nearly a dozen characters feel like they have distinct personalities and motivations. Even when the messaging is occasionally mind-numbingly unsubtle, the characters have at least earned a greater sense of investment. You still never know when AMC’s The Walking Dead will lay an egg, and the midseason finale left something to be desired, but overall, I look forward to the show more than I have in a couple of years.

33. The Affair – 2013: Not eligible

The Affair

Showtime’s The Affair is a solid new entrant into the premium cable universe. It’s a show that I watch and will watch again when it comes back but which I’m not quite sold on enough going forwards to freely recommend it to others. The unusual format and lack of traditional genre are the show’s two strongest selling points. We get to see a series of events from both the male and female protagonists’ perspective. These are Noah and Alison, the two participating in the titular affair, and the show deftly plays with memory and point of view. Both recount the events of their summer affair on Long Island differently in sometimes small but telling ways. Smartly, it’s not just plot and dialogue that change between the two accounts, but rather the entire look and feel. The Affair is both a character study and a murder mystery. While I spent much of the first few episodes trying to pin down what the show was trying to be, I’m not sure I even know at this point, but the unusual genre combination actually works. The weaker points of The Affair are the characters themselves; they lack depth and their motivation is often murky and not always entirely believable. Ruth Wilson has that accent that no actually American person has that some foreigners put on. The Affair is intriguing and I enjoy it, but it’s a few steps from greatness.

32. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – 2013: 44

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I was just about ready to give up on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last spring, especially when I had to take a sabbatical from the show because, in both an ingenious and an incredibly irritating bit of Marvel Cinematic Universe synergy, you had to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier to follow along past a certain point in the first season. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have come back to the show at all, which I was completely and thoroughly sick of, if not for the prodding of a couple of friends who assured me that the show picked up after the crossover. Calling me skeptical was an understatement. I was willing to believe the show got better, because that was a low bar, but I found it hard to believe the show could improve to the point I could be really interested in it again. I was wrong though. The events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier presaged a fundamental shift in the premise of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which basically changed the show in every way for the better. While it’s not Breaking Bad or The Wire level of quality, it’s surprisingly hard to overstate just how much better the show has been since that crossover. The show has finally become a fun watch, in the vein of the better Marvel Cinematic Universe properties, and I hope it continues to grow in this direction.