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Monday, December 23, 2013

MAKIN' LISTS MONDAY: Top 10 Network Television Shows (Mid-Season 2013-14)

At the end of last television season, I posted my Top 10 favorite network television shows of the year and now that we are just a few weeks away from the launch of the mid-season replacement shows, I figured it would be good time to rank how the 2013-14 network TV season is coming together.  I’m a TV junkie and I’m glad to share this obsession with you!

Please note that this does not include any cable or internet television shows as their seasons run rather irregularly.  I’ll probably drop a full 2013 cable list at some point in time as there is so much awesome stuff on cable right now.  I also didn’t include Saturday Night Live, even though it is have an incredible season that is being overlooked by far too many folks.

(Mondays on Fox)
I am cautiously optimistic about this show as it has only dropped four or so episodes, but all of them have been really good.  Karl Urban is one of the best badass actors around and he brings his usual magic here as a grizzled cop in a dystopian future.  Urban’s chemistry with Michael Ealy, who plays his android partner, is a major part of this show’s success.  It’s been a while since we’ve had some really great sci-fi on TV so this show is a welcome addition to my viewing line-up.  While it still needs to find the right balance with its humor as there are times that the jokes pull me out of the story.  This show still has so much potential though and I’m hoping it sticks around long enough to find it.

(Mondays on ABC)
I was a bit worried that the engagement of main characters Rick Castle and Kate Beckett would ruin some of the show’s fantastic dynamic, but so far it has been just as good as ever.  After a weird start with Beckett leaving the NYPD for the FBI, the show has returned to its classic formula that has made it one of my favorite shows over the last few years.  Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic are simply brilliant on screen together, and the new wrinkles in their relationship have kept the show fresh.  While I think the end for Castle in on the horizon (I don’t imagine it will stick around long after their marriage), this season has shown that the quality of the show is unlikely to dip before it does met its natural conclusion.

08. BROOKLYN 9-9
(Tuesdays on Fox)
While I loved Andy Samberg on Saturday Night Live, his few disastrous forays into leading films made me think that Samberg’s career was on a downturn.  After the first few episodes of his new comedy Brooklyn 9-9 aired, it really seemed that my suspicions were confirmed.  But then, around episode three or so, the show suddenly found its footing by focusing on the ensemble cast as a whole rather than Samberg’s character.  Since then, the show has gotten better and better (Parks and Recreation, which barely missed the Top 10 had a similar start).  Samberg is backed by perhaps the best supporting cast in comedic television in this “police procedural,” including breakout stars Terry Crews and Stephanie Beatriz.  I nearly gave up on this show, but it has really come together to be one of the best comedies currently airing.

(Tuesdays on ABC)
Expectations were ridiculously high for Marvel’s first modern live-action TV series and a lot of viewers felt let down by the Joss Whedon-helmed TV series, perhaps due to the lack of direct connection between Agents of SHIELD and the superheroes of the Marvel cinematic universe.  Aside from the mysterious presence of the once-dead Agent Phil Coulson and a very brief cameo by Sam Jackson as Nick Fury, the show stands on its own for the most part, but that suits me just fine.  The young group of agents is interesting and well-acted thanks to a strong cast of mostly unknowns (especially the quirky tech nerds Fitz and Simmons), which elevates the show.  As the layers peel back each week, not only is there depth being added to the characters, but also to the world in which they inhabit.  If you are looking for a huge payoff to what was built in The Avengers, you may feel like this show falls short, but if you just want a fun adventure series with a familiar lead, this show has been a lot of fun that has steadily improved each week.  Personally, I’m hooked and I think that if you can approach it objectively, you will be too.

(Tuesdays on ABC)
Last year New Girl was one of the most pleasant surprises on television.  For what began as a simple vehicle for Zooey Deschanel turned into an oddball ensemble series thanks the hilarious “supporting” cast.  While the relationship between Jess and Nick could have easily led to the downfall of the series (much like so many shows before it), this simply added another level to the absurdity.   The charm of the cast and their eccentric characters has allowed this show to fill the Happy Endings-shaped hole in my heart and television schedule, especially in the Winston-heavy episode (Lamorne Morris is, in my opinion, the real star of the show this season, not Deschanel or even the standout of last season, Max Greenfield).

(Mondays on CBS)
It is really amazing that the limited premise of How I Met Your Mother could sustain a show for as long as it has.  Honestly, I figured it would have a 2-3 season shelf life at most and yet, here we are, nine seasons later.  This season the show made its boldest move yet by containing the entire season to a three day period before the wedding of Robin and Barney, which is where Ted finally meets the fabled mother, who the audience met in the season finale last year.  The move paid off as this has been the most interesting and entertaining season since the first.  The writing has been super tight with gags that have been cycled numerous times throughout the season across episodes and some incredible dialogue that has been the best since the show began.  The show ends this season and it is definitely going out on a high note—so far, this season has been a great payoff.

(Thursdays on CBS)
After an incredible shocker in the season finale last year that not only is Irene Adler alive, but that she has been Moriarty all along, Elementary hit the ground running this year with its twisted version of the Sherlock Holmes mythos.  What I really love about this season is how it has explored the way in which Holmes’s idiosyncrasies alienate him from those around him.  Watson, the NYPD, and even his brother Mycroft have seen their relationship with Holmes torn apart and rebuilt over the course of the first half this very cerebral season.   Every single episode has been just terrific.  I have loved the character of Holmes since childhood and I can honestly say that with the developments this season, this is my favorite version of the character outside of the original Doyle stories.

(Tuesdays on ABC)
Nostalgia comedies can be really hit-or-miss, with very few succeeding.  When you combine that with the fact that 80s nostalgia has really be played out over the last few years, I fully expected to hate The Goldbergs.  That was foolish of me, as this is the best new series on television right now and one of the funniest shows on TV in general.  The great group of charming characters stick to the usual sitcom formula (overbearing mother, arrogant and clueless older brother, etc), but the sharp wit of the shows writing elevate them to a higher level that what you see in sitcoms these days.  I’ve had to pause the show multiple times because I’m laughing so hard.  It’s that freakin’ funny.  Plus it is always great to see George Segal on TV again, even if Troy Gentile steals the show as Barry Goldberg.   What really separates this show from other sitcoms though is that, even though it is over-the-top and completely ridiculous, it remains grounded in the relationships between the characters, which are based upon series creator Adam Goldberg’s real family (who are shown in his actual home movies at the end of each episode).

(Wednesdays on The CW)
In its debut season last year, Arrow was very impressive, doing a great job of introducing Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and an excellent cast of supporting characters that were both borrowed from the comics and completely original.  The series very grounded tone worked well with the street level vigilante, with slight tweaks being made to established comic characters to allow them to fit into the world of the show (the best example being Count Vertigo becoming the producer of a very hypnotic drug).  This year the show has been even better, introducing a number of new comic book characters like Brother Blood and, perhaps most notably, Barry Allen in unexpected new ways.   The twists and turns this season have been utterly fantastic.  I know a lot of you are watching it on Netflix, so I won’t spoil anything for you—just know that some of the coolest characters from the Green Arrow comic books have really cool developments in the show.  This series has quickly cemented itself not only as one of the best shows on TV today, but quite possibly the best live-action comic book TV series of all time.  It’s that good.

(Sundays on Fox)
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Bob’s Burgers took the top spot on my list—it has been my favorite comedy on television since its debut a few years ago.  The show features the strongest voice cast in prime time animation (and one of the best in animation in general), anchored by the always hilarious H. Jon Benjamin.  This season has been filled with unforgettable moments, from Linda’s high school reunion to Bob teaching home economics to the incredible Christmas episode a few weeks ago.  And how could we forget Bob’s stint as the private chef for a college fraternity?  Every single episode this season has been spot on fantastic.  Hands down, Bob’s Burgers is the best show on television this year.

What are your favorites? 

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