One of my favorite shows this year came at the very end and proves - once and for all - that the DVR could be the greatest invention of our lifetimes.
Here's how it happened. I get an email from one of my old high school buddies who tells me that there is a new show beginning that is based on one of his favorite comic book series. Now, granted, this isn't a ringing endorsement for me, but I set the DVR and figured I could take it off if the show didn't do it for me.
Bang. I was hooked from the first 10 minutes.
Television seems to be getting better and better lately. I dare say the there are more quality television shows than there are quality Hollywood movies. Yeah, I went there.
Ok, let's get to it. I'm going to try to put the correct channel and time the show is on to get you to set your own DVRs but I have a hard time figuring out when things are on. I usually just hit 'My Recordings' and select the show I want to watch. It really makes life so much more enjoyable.
BEST OF THE BEST
The Walking Dead (AMC, Sunday 10pm): This was the comic book show my friend alerted me to and I will be forever in his debt. Sadly, there were only 6 episodes in the opening season but that also makes it easy for you to catch up on. Maybe Hulu has the episodes? Yes, it's gory and there is one scene that is easily the most disgusting series of events (it involves masking human scent with zombie) ever put on television but it's the characters and acting that put this over the top. The season finale had me rooting for the survival of characters I didn't even know I cared about. Kudos to everyone involved in this violent masterpiece.
The Good Wife (CBS, Tuesday 10pm): I've written enough about this here already, so just friggin' watch it, will ya? Each episode perfectly balances a stand alone court room trial with the ongoing ripple effects of a father/husband political scandal on every member of a family. Last week's death trial episode is a great example: how the decision of the trial changes the religious life of the daughter. Interesting, too, that this is the first drama I can remember that has characters feeling apprehensive about religion. Intelligent, funny, superbly directed, must see.
Modern Family (ABC, Wednesday 9pm): I mentioned this to several people who all say the same thing: 'I don't watch it regularly, but when I do it's really funny'. Well, watch it regularly then. Why deprive yourself of the funniest show on network television since 'Seinfeld'?
Community (NBC, Thursday 9pm): While not as funny as the first season, this still provides plenty of laughs with pop culture references and satire riffing on all sorts of movies. The episode where Troy and Abed built a fort, which becomes a college fad across the country is a highlight. Although, frankly, the jokes come so rapid fire at times they can get lost unless you watch it again.
30 Rock (NBC, Thursday 9:30pm): Somehow this show keeps getting funnier. To be fair, though, this could just be better with the subtraction of the god awful Julianne Moore character. Twenty years ago, who would have ever predicted Alec Baldwin would be the funniest guy on TV.
Boardwalk Empire (HBO, Sunday 9pm): I had my doubts after the series opener, but this show built on each previous episode like a mammoth feature film. Stellar acting from everyone, story arcs that are engrossing, violence, sex (fairly certain every female in the show is naked at some point) and character turns that are shocking even if - in hindsight - we should have seen coming. Special shout out to the actor portraying Al Capone who brings vulnerability, humanity and humor to one of the most notorious gangsters in history. Also intriguing is how the show treats the quiet trauma of the recently ended war. Back when nobody 'discussed' bad things, physically and emotionally scarred men litter the shadows of every corner.
Terriers (FX, Wednesday 10pm): An alcoholic ex-cop and his low life former criminal/now best friend, inadvertently become private investigators and slowly uncover an enormous land grab scandal that has yet to play out. Unpredictable, often funny, always human and - at times - uncomfortably real. Didn't realize how much I looked forward to watching this until FX was gone from Dish Network for a few weeks. Thought maybe it had been cancelled or was a short run series and was very happy to have everyone back in my life.
Cougar Town (ABC, Wednesday 9:30pm): I know, but it's actually sort of strange, ensemble comedy that has two to ten great laughs an episode. The title has little to do with what the show is actually about as the men are what makes this show hilarious.
Detroit 187 (NBC, Tuesday 10pm): Standard police drama that took a huge leap forward it's last few episodes which address the racial scars left behind from the riots of the early 70s.
House (Fox, Monday 8pm): I had my doubts when Cuddy and House became lovers and 13 disappeared without explanation or follow up, but I rather enjoyed the breaking in of newbie (Joan of Arcadia) and the dismantling of her 'always tell the truth' philosophy.
The Office (NBC, Thursday 9pm): Agreed, it's nowhere near as good as it's greatest seasons, but it still provides laughs and the snowball fight episode was it's best in a long time.
Jersey Shore (MTV, on constant rotation): Watching scumbags, douchebags and tramps frollic around should never be this entertaining. That I find myself actually liking a few of these people is a testament to how well this show is put together.
WORST SHOW OF THE YEAR
Outsourced (NBC, Thursday 9:30pm): Really, NBC? I couldn't get past ten minutes of this disaster.
The Event (NBC, no clue): Made it through four episodes before ditching. Confusing, slow moving despite the constant 'action' scenes and improbable escapes in nearly every episode. If this conspiracy has been so effective for decades how can they not stop one 20 something moron from mucking up the works. Just shoot him in the head already. By the way, my theory was that group of people are time travelers from the future. Thus they can't say anything to anyone for fear of messing up their own present. Butterfly effect, if you will. Fortunately, I don't care if I'm right or not. I'll just take comfort knowing my theory is probably better than what is actually going on.
Lone Star: Despite rave reviews and a non stop promotional campaign from Fox, the show was canceled after three episodes. I caught the first one and was left unimpressed. When you ask viewers to sympathize with a con man living separate lives you better make sure you cast the perfect actor for the part. Flashing an 'aren't I good looking?' smile does not equal charisma.
MIGHT BE TIME TO SAY GOODNIGHT
Bones (Fox, Thursday 8pm): Still better than most shows out there and I'll keep watching, but the love triangle is tired and the charm of the relationships seems forced. Every now and then an episode captures that old magic which just makes the other shows pale in comparison.
American Idol (Fox, every friggin' night for eternity): Does anyone outside of Fox think this show can work without Simon? He was the reality check and I sure as hell don't think Steven Tyler or Jennifer Lopez is willing to carry that torch for him. My only hope is a sex scandal involving Tyler and/or Lopez and 15 contestants.
V: What started off as a disturbing, fast paced allegory about terrorism and civil rights quickly veered into camp during the second half of last season. I knew things somehow went wrong when I was rooting for the aliens (esp that hot, blonde one) to finish off the annoying human rebels.
With that, my friends, we head into a new 2011 year. I'm guessing there will be some new shows that we'll be discussing next year.