Friday, December 28, 2012

Television Top Tens of 2012: Best Series

Here we are, the final tv top ten list of 2012, best series. The top episodes list is here, and the top new series list is here.

REMINDER: Lists are subjective. I ranked what I like. I don't watch Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones or The Good Wife or Boardwalk Empire or The Vampire Diaries or Downton Abbey. I don't watch any Fox Animated series or anything on Adult Swim. I don't watch any CSI or NCIS or Law & Order or anything that's title starts with Tyler Perry's. I don't watch anything on USA or CW or TNT or Starz. So if a show isn't included, it's probably because I didn't watch it, or because I didn't like it as much as the shows I listed. But feel free to ask away in the comments.

And with that, let's do this. Let's start with Brett Alazraki's Top Ten list.

There. Yell at him about ranking The Newsroom, it didn't quite crack my list. And now here's mine. Honorable Mentions are, again, kinda alphabetical.

I'm not going to breakdown each individually, because at this point I've pretty much written about each of these shows, so just a bunch of bullet points.

-The top four were incredibly close. I finalized this list only a couple days after what I thought was an incredibly strong Homeland finale, but on reflection I may swap it with Mad Men. But it's really close. Each of those four were in the top spot at one point while making this list.

-At the end of the day, while I think it's fair to say Parks and Rec is the better show than Happy Endings because of the world it has built and the deep emotional connections created in that world, there is no show I look forward to watching each week more than Happy Endings.

-The entire top nine are the same shows, albeit in a different order, as my top nine for the 2011-12 television season. I did not look at that list until I had finished this one. There's no good reason why Awake, which was #10 then, is not an honorable mention while Cougar Town, which has also not aired any new episodes since then, is. That's just kinda a mistake.

-Number 11 was Glee, and the two veteran shows that now share a time-slot went back and forth for the 10 slot week to week. Both Glee and Grey's had excellent falls and winters, and Grey's spring wasn't anywhere near as bad as some of Glee, even if it didn't reach the same heights, but that's a coin flip.

-Suburgatory probably gets as high as 7 if not for the Alicia Silverstone episodes. At its best it can be a top 5 show, if it ever reaches that best consistently.

-The top 4 were my clear top tier. New Girl was my clear #5. 30 Rock and Community were my next tier, and Parenthood and Suburgatory after that. Grey's, Glee, The Newsroom, and Cougar Town all received consideration for 10th, along with picking a specific arc or series of episodes from either (or both) The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

And that wraps this up. I might do some silly top 10s next week, but no promises. Feel free to comment/complain/laud in the comments or on twitter, and have a happy new year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Television Top Tens of 2012: New Series

The next list up is the top new series. You can see my top episodes list here.

REMINDER: Lists are subjective. I ranked what I like. I don't watch Vegas or Arrow or Dallas or Luck or Anger Management. So if a show isn't included, it's probably because I didn't watch it, or because I didn't like it as much as the shows I listed. But feel free to ask away in the comments.

This list is ranked, along with 5 honorable mentions that are listed alphabetically. (kinda. They're alphabetically in how I listed them, but the first one should actually be 3rd alphabetically. Oh well.) Here we go:

Let's start with the Honorable Mentions and work out way up:

-Last Resort never quite lived up to its potential to me. Every episode had something I enjoyed, but also something that I simply could not care less about.

-Elementary, on the other hand, was not a show I expected to watch past the pilot, but Johnny Lee Miller's and Lucy Liu's charisma and (non-romantic) chemistry elevates this procedural.

-Bunheads had some moments of greatness, but it also frustrated me more often than not. It is one of two shows (Girls is the other) that has grown on me since the season ended, but it mostly just seemed like not-quite-Gilmore Girls.

-Battleground, Hulu's original political series, was a genuinely fascinating look at local politics. The highlight for me was Alison Haislip as Ali (insanely attractive G4 alums was apparently a big thing for me this year). It does not seem like it will be back, but go watch it!

-Through most of the fall, I expected Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 to make my list, and to be fairly high (I believe it was as high as #5) based on the season 2 episodes, but the run of unaired season 1 episodes that closed out the year were bad enough to knock it down the list and eventually off.

And now about the Top 10.

10. Wedding Band- There are better new shows on TV than Wedding Band, in fact all five of my honorable mentions are probably better. But it is nice to have a show that's just enjoyable to watch; that I can not think about at all between airings. It airs in a terrible time slot and I have no idea if it will be renewed, but it is just a pleasant show to watch when there is nothing going on.

9. Revolution- Revolution had a strong pilot, which is not unusual for shows of this ilk. What was impressive about Revolution was that it was able to keep building intriguing story (while becoming TV's only new hit series). It certainly had weak episodes and weak links in the cast, but it was impressive and showed potential.

8. Girls- I appreciated Girls far more than I actually enjoyed it. What Lena Dunham has done is incredibly impressive, and I enjoy the cast, particularly Allison Williams and Zosia Mamet. There were highlights (the previously mentioned Crackcident) but more often I felt I was watching the show hoping something interesting would happen. It grew on me as the series continued, and in reflection since the series aired. However, the overwhelming hype leading into the show was entirely unwarranted.  It was a fine show, and Dunham's work in all facets is admirable, but it is not the tv-changing godsend that many critics made it out to be.

7. Veep- Veep never quite lived up to what I was hoping. It is an all star comedy cast and a top showrunner, but the show was often just okay. That said, it continuously made me laugh, and showed serious potential for the future. I'm excited and curious for season 2.

6. Ben & Kate- I've knocked Ben & Kate plenty on Twitter this fall. I think it is just alright, the cast has potential but it is largely unfulfilled. I don't understand why everyone is in love with it. That said, it is the 2nd highest new sitcom this fall on my list. It's a show I enjoy, but don't care about. I don't have any passion for the show, and I will easily get over its inevitable cancellation. It's a fine show, and #6 of all new shows is a high rating, but it is not the special show many people seem to think it is.

5. Bent- Now Bent, on the other hand, was special, or at least had the potential to be. I wrote plenty about Bent with my paragraph on the finale yesterday, and here. It was an enjoyable, short-lived series, and it's too bad we cannot see where it would have gone.

4. Scandal- I like political shows and I like Shonda Rhimes shows, so Scandal was always going to be a show I enjoyed. But the second season, in particular, has been tremendous television, often one of my favorite dramas to watch any given week this fall. Kerry Washington is absolutely spectacular (and award-worthy) as Olivia Pope, and the rest of the ensemble (especially Bellamy Young) has stepped it up in season two. While the Quinn Perkins conspiracy was alright, the voting machine scandal and the assassination attempt have lifted this show to another gear.

3. Awake- Kyle Killen is excellent. Jason Isaacs is excellent. Cherry Jones, BD Wong, Steve Harris, all excellent. Wilmer Valderrama, well, he dated Lindsay Lohan once, so good for him. Awake was never going to be a hit series, but it got to last a full season. There were ups and downs, but this show did the best job I had ever seen in combining a high concept serial storyline with a straight police procedural. I genuinely have no idea what the hell season 2 would have been, and perhaps the series is better off as a one-and-done, but that one season was terrific.

2. Go On- Go On is what NBC wishes Community was, and while it isn't Community (and as much as I love Community, I don't think we need 2 of them) it's a fun show on its own. Matthew Perry is doing what he does, and I'm a fan of that. The supporting cast is a lot of fun, and given how many of them there are (between the massive group and the radio station), it's impressive how well developed some of these characters have been. Laura Benanti and Allison Miller, both of whom survived hour-long flops from last season (The Playboy Club and Terra Nova respectively) have been surprising highlights. While it's a shame that Go On has taken potential viewers away from New Girl and Happy Endings, the show has earned them in their own right.

1. The Newsroom- I know. I know you hated The Newsroom. I know you found it sexist and pompous and arrogant. I know you didn't like them going back slightly in history and taking credits for other people's news breaks. I know you didn't like how they covered the Koch Brothers or Gabby Giffords or Osama bin Laden or gay marriage. I know you hated The Newsroom.

I just don't give a fuck. 

I loved The Newsroom. I love Aaron Sorkin. I even liked Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. See? I own Studio 60 and The West Wing on DVD, and had Sports Night prior to losing it to the hurricane (actually the condition of my West Wing DVDs is also unclear). So I'm all in on Sorkin. And The Newsroom? It was excellent Sorkin. You say Sorkin can't write women? You're ignoring Olivia Munn's Sloan Sabbath, one of the best new characters on TV this year. You think no woman would be stupid enough to accidentally send a mass e-mail? One of the cast members for the show accidentally tweeted out a topless photo. I get complaints about stealing credit for scoop, and if the reporters who actually broke these stories have an issue with this, I get that. But for fans? This isn't a retelling of what happened, it's an alternate universe. Things are going to be different, and our central characters are going to get these stories. The show isn't flawless, but almost nothing is (The West Wing certainly was not. Even in the Sorkin years, Mandy existed and Zoey was kidnapped). But this was far and away the best new series of 2012.

Up next, Best Series

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Television Top Tens of 2012: Episodes

It is that time of the year. The time for lists.

I have traditionally done 4 television lists biannually- once at the end of the TV season, and once at the end of the year. This year, I decided to cut the Top 10 Worst Series list. It just wasn't feasible to compare ¡Rob!, Work It, Are You There, Chelsea?Ben and Kate, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, and Anger Management.

Okay, I don't hate Ben and Kate that much.

That leaves three lists that I actually did. You're also getting two lists from my friend, and occasional blog contributor Brett Alazraki. First up is episodes.

REMINDER: Lists are subjective. I ranked what I like. I don't watch Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones or The Good Wife or Boardwalk Empire or The Vampire Diaries or Downton Abbey or Brickleberry. So if a show isn't included, it's probably because I didn't watch it, or because I didn't like it as much as the shows I listed. But feel free to ask away in the comments.

To start with the episodes list, I made a massive list of episodes I had in consideration. Here are the Honorable Mentions, with the episodes that were closer to making the list highlighted in yellow. These are listed in alphabetical order by series. I also limited my actual Top 10 to one episode per series, so some of these may actually be among my 10 favorite episodes of the year (okay, "Win, Lose, or Draw" definitely is).

Some notes on those:

-"At the Codfish Ball" was the Mad Men episode I chose in my end-of-season list, but on rewatch I preferred a different episode.

-I wasn't a huge fan of girls, but the Shoshana plot in "Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident" was phenomenal, as I wrote about here.

-The Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Late Show with David Letterman episodes are the post-Hurricane Sandy episodes that went on without a studio audience.

-The Smash pilot was actually good. You probably even liked it. Don't blame it for what came after.

-Meghan Ory is my absolute favorite part of Once Upon a Time, and the two Ruby-centric episodes have been two of my favorites.

-I finished this list a couple of weeks ago, but HIMYM's winter finale 2-parter would have also made this list.

-Happy Endings' "The Kerkovich Way" and 30 Rock's "Leap Day Williams" were my last two cuts. Those two shows are two of my favorite comedies (we'll get there) but are more about individual moments and jokes than full episodes (often the B or C storylines are completely forgettable). That said, if I didn't conform to the norm and did a Top 12 (for 2012!) they would be on there.

Which brings us to the actual Top 10. Unlike my series lists, I did not rank these. It was just too much.

Let's take these in the order they're listed.

-Bent- "Tile Date": This was the season (and series) finale for Bent, NBC's short lived (six episodes in three weeks!), star-filled (well, tv-wise at least) sitcom. This episode was the highlight, and left me wanting more episodes.

-Community- "Curriculum Unavailable": The show's second faux clip show wasn't as shocking as its first, but it was still brilliant in its own right. The insane asylum flashback, in particular, was a series highlight.

-Cougar Town- "A One Story Town": I got to see this episode at an advance screening (c'mon that made me sound cool), so crowd mentality may have helped my enjoyment of this episode. Yet to me it was one of the most brilliantly constructed episodes of television I have ever seen. You get the hints from the beginning- Bobby needs to get to the kiss, the crab festival, and The Worthless Peons singing Disney songs- that are all brought together for the "Kiss the Girl" sequence. And then there's the Scrubs reunion.

-Glee- "Goodbye": A funny thing happened on the way to Glee season 4- the show remembered it could be good. The season 3 finale packed an emotional punch as a farewell (at least as series regulars in Lima) to a number of characters, and despite my complete lack of shipper-ness, the Rachel/Finn breakup was beautifully done.

-Homeland- "Q&A": This was one of my top 3 episodes of the year. The entire series built up to the Carrie interrogation of Brody, and the two defending Emmy winners earned their next nominations in that scene.

-Louie- "Late Show" Parts 1-3: I don't regularly watch Louie, but one day this fall I decided to watch a bunch of the most popular episodes. This was the arc that sold me on the series. This arc was funny, smart, and moving, and while I may never watch the show regularly, arcs like this will make me keep coming back.

-Mad Men- "Signal 30": The Campbells' dinner party was one of my favorite scenes of the year (Annie Edison AND Alex Mack!) plus Lane Pryce knocking out Pete. But really, there are four or five episodes of Mad Men you could pick this year.

-New Girl- "Fancyman" Parts 1&2: This two-parter was the start of the turnaround for New Girl. Dylan McDermott's Dermot Mulroney's eponymous fancyman brought out new elements in both Jess and Nick, and the show became all the better for it.

-Parks and Recreation- "The Debate": Another of my top 3 episodes of the year. This episode highlighted what makes Parks what it is. There was plenty of the insane comedy- the non-Leslie candidates in the debate (Buddy Garrity!) and Andy's movie reenactment. And there was plenty of the sweet- Leslie's response to Bobby's threat, and Ron stealing the cable.

-Suburgatory- "The Wishbone": And my third of my top 3 episodes. This is fairly easily the best episode of Suburgatory. While the show is certainly inconsistent, this episode showed that, when the series is at its best, it can be the best series on television. The combination of sweet sincerity and comedic extremes is, when perfected, the best thing television can bring, and "The Wishbone" perfected this.

And here are Brett's Top Ten Episodes. He did rank them. 

Up next, New Series...