Tip Of The Cap/Wag Of The Finger: 2011 In TV

When I posted my list of the Top 10 TV Shows of 2011 on Saturday, I mentioned that there was another TV post on the horizon, wherein I planned to discuss the shows that narrowly missed my list as well as some of the worst offerings from this past year. After a bit of debate, I decided that another list simply wouldn’t suffice. Instead, I’ve chosen to take the “tip of the cap/wag of the finger approach.” Those of you who read TV Guide should be familiar with the format, as they use it for their Cheers and Jeers column. If this style of commentary is one that you guys enjoy, let me know in the comment section, and I’ll try to make it a somewhat regular feature of the site. Read more of this post

What Is The Shelf-Life Of Glee?

Earlier this week, I published a piece detailing my time as an extra on the Glee concert film planned for release this August. At the time, I contemplated expressing my thoughts on the show’s shelf-life in that same post but decided against it. It seemed like such a discussion warranted its own post. Then, on Tuesday, NY Magazine’s Vulture Blog posted an article that dealt with the shelf-life of many of TV’s biggest shows, Glee among them. Because of this, I thought I might as well express my opinion on the show’s longevity. Read more of this post

Armchair Scheduling: NBC Fall 2011

My goal was to get all of my armchair scheduling pieces up by this past Monday, but that clearly did not happen. Still, I wanted to weigh in on some of the decisions that new NBC President Bob Greenblatt has made over the last few days. As @BigTVFan astutely pointed out earlier this week, it seems as though Greenblatt is shifting the network’s focus towards women, which I personally think is a mistake.

NBC’s comedies may not set the world on fire with their ratings, but they are the best on TV. When you have a core competency (ie. Must See TV Thursday) that skews towards young males, I’d reason that’s the audience you should be targeting. Never mind the fact that ABC already targets middle-aged women and The CW targets younger women, while no broadcast network actively courts young men.

NBC had several pilots in development this year on the comedy side that I was excited about, none more so than Peter Tolan’s Brave New World and Dan Goor’s Family Practice. And, had I written this piece last week, they would have been included in my mock schedule below. Alas, the peacock passed on both shows yesterday, presumably because they were too much like the “niche” comedies they already have. I put niche is quotations, because I don’t buy into the notion that Community’s audience is its audience or that Parks and Recreation can’t cultivate a bigger following; I just think they need a hefty promotional push.

On the drama side, NBC picked up pretty much what I expected them to. They passed on high profile pilots Wonder Woman and 17th Precinct, but both had tested poorly so that wasn’t much of a shock. The one surprise, to my mind, was their decision to order Grimm over Metro or A Man’s World. Grimm has drawn mixed reviews from both brass and critics and doesn’t have the pedigree of either Metro or A Man’s World. Apparently, Greenblatt thought Metro was too high concept for broadcast, which I can see, but A Man’s World would have paired nicely with Harry’s Law.

Lately, there has been talk that NBC will bring their new reality hit The Voice back as early as September. If they do that, they stand the risk of potentially killing a viable franchise before it has time to sprout legs. Far more likely would be a decision to move The Sing Off to fall, though that would conflict with judge Nicole Scherzinger’s new gig as the host of X-Factor. All that being said, my predictions are below. Read more of this post

2010’s Top TV Series: Part 1

10. Justified

The first half of Justified’s debut season was made up of mostly stand alone episodes; the quality of which varied greatly. However, around the halfway mark of the season, Graham Yost and company began to unfurl a heavily serialized story that was utterly captivating. As Raylan Givens, Timothy Olyphant is suave and self-assured. If it weren’t for the abundance of strong male leads on television this season, Olyphant would have almost certainly been nominated for both the Emmys and Golden Globes. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sneak in next year when Bryan Cranston isn’t eligible. Individuals looking for a definitive episode from this season should seek out “Blowback,” which was not only Justified’s best episode but also one of the best episodes of television to air in 2010.

9. Chuck

In 2009, after a stellar 2nd season, Chuck topped my list of TV’s Best Shows. Yet, because of its recent struggles, Chuck falls to number 9 this year. The first half of the show’s 3rd season featured a number of strong episodes, including “Chuck Versus the Pink Slip,” “Chuck Versus First Class,” “Chuck Versus the American Hero,” and of course “Chuck Versus the Other Guy.” The additions of Brandon Routh and Kristin Kreuk were met with mixed reviews, but I thought both provided interesting tension. Having said that, I cheered right alongside other Chuck and Sarah shippers when they finally decided to give it a go. More recently, Chuck has struggled to balance its more comedic elements with the family drama that arose from Linda Hamilton’s addition to the cast. The back and forth of Hamilton’s story has been incredibly frustrating, and questionably written at best.

8. Boardwalk Empire

Unlike most people, I found the pilot of Boardwalk Empire to be incredibly underwhelming. Martin Scorsese’s direction was gaudy and Terence Winter’s script was overwrought. The second and third episodes did little to change my opinion of the show but, during the show’s 4th episode it came alive. From there on out, the show continued to improve each week, culminating in a sizzling finale. Winter has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, especially Michael Pitt, who steals the show with rich performance full of nuance. Guest star Jack Huston was also fantastic as war veteran Richard Harrow, making his recent upgrade to series regular status all the more sweet.

7. Fringe

Fringe has always been a very good show, but 2010 saw its evolution into a great show. Beginning with the season 2 episode “The Bishop Revival,” Fringe began to push boundaries. The writers’ decision to merely tease the alternative universe paid dividends when we finally traveled “over there” in the season finale. This fall, Fringe changed shape yet again, splitting time between both universes. Since then, it hasn’t missed a beat. “Amber 31422,” in particular, was one of my favorite hours of TV to air in 2010. People may be quick to dismiss Fringe because of its Sci-Fi branding, but the show is so much more. Week in and week out, the writing staff tackle some of life’s more universal themes with brutal honesty. Come January, Fringe will move to Friday nights. At first, this had me worried, but after some thought I’ve decided it may actually thrive on the night. Besides, if nothing else, we got this awesome new trailer for the show.

 

6. Terriers

Earlier this week, I ran a piece discussing why certain shows failed to make my list, while simultaneously commenting on the current state of the television industry. In that piece, I mentioned several shows that were prematurely canceled by their respective networks in 2010. Sharp observers likely noticed that I didn’t mention Terriers, an intentional decision since I knew it would be on my list. Terriers was this fall’s greatest revelation. For 13 weeks, the show managed to be funny, smart, dramatic, emotional and a long list of other things. With Terriers, Shawn Ryan, Ted Griffin, and Tim Minear crafted a gem that will likely find a second life on DVD. And, when it does, I hope people cherish episodes like “Change Partners” and “Sins of the Past” as much as I did.