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Monday, June 17, 2013

MAKIN' LISTS MONDAY: Top 10 Network TV '12-13

It’s been way too long since I have posted a Top 10 list and I totally apologize for that.  Lots of things came up over the last few weeks, but I’m committed to getting back on track starting this week!

I am, admittedly, a TV junkie. Since getting a DVR a few years back, I have spent way too much time watching TV.  I watch while I’m writing. I watch while I’m drawing. I watch while I’m reading.  Is this probably something I should be concerned about?  Maybe, but if it weren’t for that addiction, we wouldn’t have this week’s Top 10 list—my Top 10 Favorite Network Television Programs of the 2012-2013 Season!

Let’s lay out the ground rules first.  This list does not include any shows that are regularly seen outside of primetime hours, which mostly eliminates game shows, syndicated shows, and Saturday Night Live (which if you follow me on Twitter, you know is one of my favorite programs).  The list also does not include anything on cable.  That eliminates some incredible TV that will probably become its own Top 10 list down the road—shows like Mad Men, Doctor Who, The Americans, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Archer, Girls, etc etc etc.

That being said, there are a few shows that just barely missed the list, but were worth mentioning:
RAISING HOPE (Fox) – This show would have made my list without question during its first two seasons, but towards the latter half of the season this year, it really jumped the shark.  The buildup to Jimmy and Sabrina’s wedding was great, but from there it fell flat. I expect that next season will be its last now that the show has moved to Friday nights.
PARKS AND RECREATION (NBC) – If I could have made this a Top 11 or Top 12, Parks & Rec would’ve made the list for sure. For a show that started off as a weird rip-off of The Office, this show has become quite incredible over the years, thanks mostly to its stellar cast.
COMMUNITY (NBC) – Last year, hands down, this would have been the #1 show on my list.  Unfortunately, after Dan Harmon left as showrunner, the once mighty Community has lost its way.  There have been some amazing episodes (like the puppet episode), but compared to seasons two and three, Community is a shelf of what it once was. Amazingly, though, after all of the drama and mismanaging from NBC, the show was renewed for a fifth season!

10. 1600 PENN (Thursdays, NBC)
When I first saw the promo pictures for this series, I thought for sure it was NBC’s not-so-subtle way of saying that they wanted Mitt Romney to win the 2012 Presidential Election.  When I saw the previews, I thought that it was going to be the lamest comedy of the season (which turned out to be NBC’s Go On).  As it turns out, I only started watching the show because I couldn’t find the remote to change the channel and after a few minutes of listening to it while I searched, I became hooked.  With a huge standout performance by series co-creator and star Josh Gad, the incredible chemistry of Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman, and the bold decision of having the first daughters be an unwed mother and a preteen lesbian, 1600 Penn was full of surprises and ended up being one of the most enjoyable shows of the year.  After a rough start, the show hit its stride, just in time to be cancelled shortly after its season finale.

09. NEW GIRL (Tuesdays, Fox)
I thoroughly enjoyed Fox’s New Girl when it debuted last year, but wouldn’t put it anywhere on my Top 10 list.  The show really kicked it up a notch for its sophomore season, though, firmly planting it at #9.  The parallel doomed love stories of Nick/Jess and Schmidt/CeCe dominated the storylines this year, highlighting the neuroses of the cast as they tried to figure out who and what they wanted.  I felt like they played it safe for much of last season, but the personalities of the characters bordered on the bizarre this year and that made the show all the more enjoyable.  Plus we got multiple guest appearances from Dennis Farina, who is one of my favorite actors that we simply don’t see enough of. The real test for the show will be season three.  Now that Nick and Jess have been together, will the show be as enjoyable a la Sam/Diane in Cheers or will it fall apart creatively a la Maddie/David in Moonlighting (or for the younger crowd Jim/Pam in The Office)?

08. SUBURGATORY (Wednesdays, ABC)
ABC’s Wednesday night (with the exception of The Neighbors) is a prime night for high quality comedy. The Middle, Modern Family, and Suburgatory are all great shows and all fought valiantly for a spot on the list.  This was the best season of The Middle by far and Modern Family was almost as good as it had been in the past (I especially enjoyed Rob Riggle’s episodes), but the mix of laughs and heartache pushed Suburgatory over the top. Suburgatory always seemed to catch me off guard this season—sometimes with laughs (like George Altman singing a stripped down version of R. Kelly’s “Bump and Grind” to Dallas) and sometimes with powerful emotional moments (pretty much anything with Tessa and her mother).  The first season showed how much potential the show had, but this season Suburgatory actually lived up to it.

07. CASTLE (Mondays, ABC)
There are more than enough formulaic crime shows on TV and it seems like every year, the networks try to cram a few more down our throats.  That makes Castle all the more refreshing.  Yes, it does often fall into the trappings of the genre, but it also is willing to poke fun at itself as well, just as you’d expect from any show starring the brilliant Nathan Fillion.  This season had some ups and downs, perhaps more than the show had in the past, but it was more great than less-than-great so it remained one of my favorites of the year (other than the lame clip show a few weeks back).  Plus, the brilliance of the Rear Window-inspired birthday episode was simply one of the best hours on television this year.  Even if the rest of the season was awful (which, thankfully, it was not), that episode would have earned it a place on this list.  It was that good. Castle has been a favorite of mine since day one—even if the cliffhanger at the end of this season is killing me!

There is no show more infuriating than CBS’s long-running How I Met Your Mother.  For every stupid decision that this show makes (like the continued teasing of Ted and Robin being together, despite the fact that we know they will not and the fact that the show keeps trying to push us in that direction is both frustrating and, frankly, insulting), it makes a slew of excellent decisions (like Barney’s “playbook” proposal to Robin or the awesome bachelor party episode).  Plus, honestly, the show has really pushed the limit on how long it can hold out its big “reveal” of how Ted actually meets the Mother.  But, in the end, the journey has been worth it thanks the sheer likability of its characters and the moments of brilliance that are the shows hallmark (usually done in long sequences where everything seems to come together).  A prime example of that came in the season finale, when we finally saw the mother for the first time, played by Cristin Milioti after a montage of the main characters at crossroads in their lives et to “Simple Song” by the Shins.

05. THE BIG BANG THEORY (Thursdays, CBS)
This is likely to be a controversial choice amongst my nerd peers.  I know that a lot of people take offense to the way in which comic/sci-fi/fantasy nerds are presented in this show.  Sometimes it does seem like the show is laughing at us more than it is with us—but I don’t really feel like it is ever being done maliciously.  The show captures a slice of nerd culture and hands it over with a glass of honesty on the side.  Leonard and Sheldon are simultaneously role models and warnings of what we are/can be at times.  Maybe I’m more easy going than some of my friends on the internet, but I feel like this show is hilarious and charming, with each season improving upon the last.  Oddly enough, though, the highlight of the season for me came at the tail end of the season when the girls played D&D with the guys.  In an awkward, but heartfelt moment, Amy and Sheldon had the closest thing we’ve seen to a moment of intimacy between them—even if it was simply in their imagination.  It was a powerful look at how frightening it is to be Sheldon—a brilliant mind with extreme social difficulties—and was the most intriguing moment of the series. 

04. HAPPY ENDINGS (Tuesdays then Sundays then Fridays, ABC)
I was a little late on the Happy Endings bus, only checking out the series mid-way through last season but was hooked instantly by the show’s wit and incredible dialogue.  The scripts for Happy Endings are so well done and so character-centric that the cast practically speak their own language—an offshoot of English that you will only find in this show.  It something that is difficult to develop in television and something that I haven’t seen done this successfully since Gilmore Girls (not my favorite show, but the interaction between Rory and Lorelei was tremendously well scripted).  If you’ve never seen Happy Endings, it’s like Friends only if everyone was as funny as Chandler (remember when Matthew Perry was funny?) but as zany as Joey—plus there is more than one storyline (the more I look back on it, the worse Friends was).  It’s a show where every character is the breakout star.  Sadly, ABC axed the series after switching its timeslot multiple times, though there are rumors that it could return on a cable network.

03. ARROW (Wednesdays, The CW)
It’s easy to compare Arrow to Smaillville simply because they are both live-action superhero shows that aired on the CW.  I think that means a lot of people aren’t taking Arrow seriously—which is a damn shame.  While Smallville was fun and campy, Arrow is a gritty action-drama that isn’t really an adaptation of the comic book exploits of Oliver Queen so much as it is just inspired by them.  While it does lovingly nod to the comics, it really is its own standalone interpretation, which is a huge part of the show’s success.  It has a great cast and a dynamite production team that came together to produce one of the biggest surprises of the year.  Arrow delivers on so many levels.  I am so glad to see that it will be coming back for another season.

02. ELEMENTARY (Thursdays, CBS)
I’ve been a huge fan of Johnny Lee Miller ever since seeing him in the incredibly 90s film Hackers and have been clamoring for his return to television since the cancellation of Eli Stone (one of my all time favorite television shows).  With that in mind, I was really excited for the debut of Elementary, despite some reservations over the liberties taken with the Sherlock Holmes mythos for this adaptation.  I was not disappointed in the slightest.  Miller and Lucy Lu are a dynamite combination whose interplay is a great reinterpretation of the Holmes/Watson dynamic—much better than the godawful Robert Downey Jr. movies of the last few years and on par with the brilliant British television version of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  Elementary is simply fun and exciting.

01. BOB’S BURGERS (Sundays, Fox)
This was a no-brainer for me.  Bob’s Burgers, which has been great from the get-go, really outdid itself this year.  I love everything about Bob’s Burgers.  From the insane plots to the memorable characters to the bizarre bits of dialogue to the amazing voice acting—everything about Bob’s Burgers works.   While the rest of Fox’s Sunday animation line-up had an off year (Family Guy and Cleveland Show were good, but not as good in the past and let’s face it, The Simpsons has overstayed their welcome by about 10 years), Bob’s Burgers had its best year yet.  I don’t think there was a single episode this season that didn’t have me cackling out loud and several episodes had to be paused at points until my laughing fits subsided.  This is definitely the funniest show on television and is quickly becoming one of the best animated primetime programs ever.  

What are your favorites?

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