Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top Tensploitation: TV (2012 Edition)

A lot of TV critics' Top Ten lists seem to be very similar. BREAKING BAD, HOMELAND, MODERN FAMILY, WALKING DEAD, blah, blah, blah. Full of "edgy" and "daring" shows that I have no interest in watching. My list is just a bunch of shows that I enjoy week after week and as a part-time producer, ones that I wish I was involved with.
1) MAD MEN (AMC, Sundays) Back in top form after a hiatus. What can I say? This show is perfection. The most compelling cast and storytelling out there. While others have tried to imitate it's success (PLAYBOY CLUB, PAN AM, THE HOUR, MAGIC CITY and most recently VEGAS) - none were even able to come close. It's hard to pick the best episode or scene of the season because in my eyes it was all great. This is perhaps the best serialized TV drama of all time. There, I said it.
2) DOWNTON ABBEY (PBS, Sundays) Just having seen all of Season 3 (premiering in January on PBS) - this show keeps chugging along with all it's grand soapiness. Outshining and outliving the disappointing UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS revival - the Downton imitators are soon on their way. Julian Fellows' TITANIC miniseries was well-done in a very similar storytelling style, but ABC buried it over a summer weekend and it was barely noticed.
3) REVENGE (ABC, originally Wednesdays, now Sundays) I was late to the Revenge craze - watching all of Season 1 over one week in late summer in time for the Season 2 premiere. The first season was amazing - a rollicking rollercoaster ride of a mystery that kept me guessing all along the way. Unfortunately, Season 2 has been a huge disappointment - hopefully the show can get back on track.
4) SMASH (NBC, originally Mondays, now Tuesdays) The most entertaining pilot of 2012 led to the campiest bitchfest of a musical ever seen on TV. Great songs and over-the-top production numbers made this show watchable week after week and the backstage Broadway antics may have been unrealistic - but this "GLEE for grownups" made for perhaps the gayest hour of TV ever. I'm really looking forward to see what changes Season 2 brings in February.
5) HAPPY ENDINGS (ABC, originally Wednesdays, now Tuesdays) Funny, dirty, funny, sexy, funny, silly. I never fail to "laugh out loud" each week as these 6 "friends with issues" work with (or against) each other week after week to figure out life and love in the 2010s. Paired with the cartoony B IN APT. 23 for an hour of charming comedy.
6) EPISODES (Showtime) Season 2 of this behind-the-scenes sitcom was even funnier than the first. Great work by all. Looking forward to more.
7) DALLAS (TNT, originally Wednesdays, now Mondays). They said it couldn't be done. Off the top of my head, other than DEGRASSI, it's hard to recall any revival series that was successful. Okay, maybe 90210 - but does anybody even watch that? This revival picked up where the original left off and used the show's rich history to weave in new characters without neglecting the veterans. It will be interesting to see where Season 2 goes after Larry Hagman's death.
8) COMMUNITY (NBC, Thursdays) TV's most underrated and under-appreciated sitcom and the only NBC Thursday night show worth watching anymore continued to amuse, charm and tickle. What will happen now that creator Dan Harmon and co-star Chevy Chase are leaving?
9) PORTLANDIA (IFC) I'd describe this show as 'LITTLE BRITAIN meets TWIN PEAKS'. It's quirky and hipster-ish and while I've never lived in Portland, it somehow seems to get it all right. Clever and unique.
10) DAYS OF OUR LIVES (NBC, Weekdays) Salem continued to keep my attention this year despite some missteps (Alamania, Stefano's "murder", the new Celeste). Fun storylines like the "Daysaster" and Eileen Davidson's return as Kristin Blake have been balanced out by great dramatic turns like the Will/Sonny relationship and Caroline Brady's Alzheimer's plotline. We said goodbye to favorites Lexie Carver, Bo Brady, Carrie Brady and Jack Devereaux - but welcomed back some beloved characters as well (Eric Brady, Nurse Maxine, Nick Fallon, Doug and Julie). Behind-the-scenes drama led to a quick disposal of Madison James and Ian McAllister and a few others - but Dr. Marlena Evans finally took the spotlight in some well-written scenes with her gay grandson Will and her newly-returned nemesis Kristin. While ratings have been up & down - I feel the show is a solid contender and with the popularity of serial drama once again on the rise - DAYS may be around for a few more good years.

So, you may ask, what dropped out of my TOP 10 from last year? Well, let's take a look:

PARKS & RECREATION (NBC, Thursdays) Still a well-made show - but I've dropped it from my regular viewing because it just wasn't as funny as it used to be. Not sure why.

UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS (PBS, Sundays) A disappointing second season was a poor exit for the revival of the TV classic. Be forewarned DALLAS.

LOUIE (FX, Thursdays) Some great episodes this season - but overall I found it too depressing to keep watching.

WILFRED (FX, Thursdays) The concept wore really thin, really fast for me.

and finally...

AMERICAN HORROR STORY (FX, Wednesdays) - Last year this show was my #1 pick. My favorite series of the entire year. This season, has become a weekly dose of "torture porn". It is so sad to see great actors like Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, James Cromwell, Clea DuVall, Chloe Sevigny and others demean themselves week after week in a series of violent, pointless and just plain dumb scenarios. Plus, it's not even scary anymore. I gave ASYLUM a fair chance and lastedabout 6 or 7 episodes when I decided I just couldn't take it anymore. To see this show still on some critics Top 10 lists sickens me. Never has a series gone from great to utter crap so quickly. Not sure if it will ever redeem itself.

That's how I see it. Feel free to discuss. Happy New Year!


Justen said...

I agree with you on Mad Men...such an amazing show. I'm still plowing through the seasons to play catch up, but I can't wait to see what they do/did this past season...

Joshua said...

I couldn't agree with you more on DALLAS, Mad Men and Happy Endings.

Dallas in particular was able to transport me to the 80's with smart, soapy writing. Looking forward to Judith Light in Season 2 but a bit unsure given the death of the great Larry Hagman during production. I only enjoyed the Dallas-reboot as much because of Larry Hagman and his chemistry with everyone.

I totally get your feelings about AHS: Asylum. I nearly gave up early into the season but I keep finding myself back because the great performers. Season #1 lost my interest and I never finished the season but Season #2, I'm more invested in the survival of some of the characters. This season's episode #10 has the greatest scene I've seen in television in years. I'm an admitted Jessica Lange-groupie, but Sarah Paulson, James Cromwell and Lily Rabe are fantastic to watch. I could go on but there may be a character-limit.

I am a longtime Days of Our Live viewer who cannot abide by how empty and vapid the show has become. I think it's one of the worst television shows on the air and the worst condition the 47-year-old show has ever been in. Granted the "DAYS-aster" episodes were entertaining, that was it.

P.S. I think The Good Wife is the smartest, most satisfying show currently on television.

Doug said...

Hi Joshua -

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments.

I'm confident that DALLAS will survive J.R.'s demise and I'm looking forward to seeing more faces from the past.

I have seen the "Name Game" clip from AHS and it was entertaining, but overall I still feel that great actors like Lange, Paulson, Cromwell and Rabe are wasting their talents in "torture porn".

DAYS is not everyone's cup of tea these days. I think they are struggling to survive in a world where daytime soaps could soon be a thing of the past. I will continue to support the show since it does entertain and oddly comfort me.

I've heard very good things about THE GOOD WIFE. I missed the boat on it, but will check it out someday.

Thanks for reading (and writing) and Happy New Year!