Thursday, June 2, 2011
TV Report Card: 2010/2011
The end of May marks the end of the network TV season. Since cable operates under a different schedule, there really is no precise start/end to the overall TV season. But this is the best time to assess, really, since all of my rotating shows have wrapped. My DVR is officially on hiatus.
What a lackluster season it's been! I knew I'd feel the void left by Lost, 24 and The Shield last year, but I didn't think it would be this depressing. I usually like to litter my DVR with A-level shows but this year I settled with too many low B's and C's. I felt very indifferent about many of my long-running favorites.
Let's break it down, shall we?
Parenthood, Season 2 = A+
Friday Night Lights, Season 5 = A+
Modern Family, Season 2 = A
Men of a Certain Age, Season 2, Part 1 = A-
The Walking Dead, Season 1 = A-
There were only five shows in the entire year where I felt excited to be watching them. I couldn't wait for the next installment. They were truly must-see TV. Faithful readers will know which two are my favorites. After an uneven and unfocused debut last season, Parenthood came together beautifully during this second season. Showrunner Jason Katims crafted some memorable and delicate arcs for the Braverman family this year, showcasing some fine performances all around, especially its young cast members.
Katims also anchored the final season of Friday Night Lights, which did not disappoint. The writers had a chance to craft satisfying storylines that sent our characters off to their lives after high school football. This season reminded me so much of the first one, and that's how you end a series. Bring it full circle! The marriage of Eric and Tami Taylor is the most realistic and heartfelt I have ever seen on television. I cannot wait to see Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton in new projects. Texas forever!
Modern Family, only in its sophomore season, continues to impress. Without fail, it's the only sitcom on the air that makes me laugh out loud week after week. I hope the writers can keep it going for a long, long time.
And the best new show of the year goes to The Walking Dead, a frightening series about a group of humans who struggle to survive as zombies take over the population. We've seen all of this before in popular films, but never as a recurring series. The pacing allows the characters to breathe life into a familiar story as we slowly learn why and how the "walkers" came to fruition. I cannot wait for season 2 of this intoxicating, slow burn thriller.
Dexter, Season 5 = B+
Louie, Season 1 = B
I was weary about Louie when I gave it a shot last fall but I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. It's one of the most unconventional sitcoms I've ever seen. There is no concrete narrative here. It's like performance art disguised as a sitcom. We're watching comedian Louis C.K. in a series of vignettes that correlate to his stand up routines. Even for a show on FX, this is dark, racy stuff. Louie is also surprisingly moving and bracingly funny. Consider me hooked.
Glee, Season 2 = B-
How I Met Your Mother, Season 6 = B-
On the upside, How I Met Your Mother reversed its downward spiral that started during season 5 (a dreadful, forgettable year), thanks to fresh and exciting new arcs this season. John Lithgow's turn as Barney's father was inspired casting and nicely handled by the writers and Neil Patrick Harris. The death of Marshall's dad injected new blood into the series and gave the show much needed gravitas (we always knew NPH was a star, but watching Jason Segal emerge as one is incredibly satisfying). However, the less said about Zoey and the writers' tiresome quest to tease us about the "mother," the better. I've learned not to focus too much how Ted eventually becomes Bob Saget and who the mystery woman of the show's title will be.
Rescue Me, Season 6, Part 1 = C+
Grey's Anatomy, Season 7 = C+
Desperate Housewives, Season 7 = C
And when will Grey's Anatomy hang up its stethoscope? I had to bow out of ER simply because it grew tiresome, and I'm hoping I don't have to do the same for Grey's. This season saw some of their strongest arcs in a while -- the aftereffects of last year's hospital shooting; the Alzheimer trials and how it affects Meredith, Derek, and the chief's wife; the unique triangle between Callie, Arizona and Sloan. All strong stuff. The musical episode landed with a resounding thud while the overpopulated hospital continues to ignore interesting characters like Jesse and Lexie and focus too much time on Christina, Owen and Teddy. In light of a strong finale, I'll give Grey's another season before deciding to jump ship.
Ditto for Desperate Housewives, which I'm surprised I'm still watching to this day. I do have to give it credit, though. It's engaging, sometimes funny, and the girls look fabulous. The addition of Vanessa Williams is an inspired one -- her character has grown a bit throughout the season, and I like her more than Dana Delaney or Nicollette Sheridan. But everything else is just stale. Case in point: the central murder mystery dates back to season one, involving Paul Young and Felicia Tillman. Could the show possibly out date itself any further? Tom and Lynette are still my two favorite characters, but even this year, I was growing weary of Lynette's overstepping of her boundaries. And the less said about Gabrielle's switched-at-birth storyline, the better. The writers need to plant a bomb on Wisteria Lane and kill everyone off. That'll shake things up. Or better yet, the network just needs to cancel the show. Everyone here is looking desperate, indeed.
Mr. Sunshine, Season 1 = D
Mr. Sunshine was a dud. With a cast that included Matthew Perry and Allison Janney, I was so hoping it would improve but it became really tough to watch. As talented as these folks are, the show just wasn't funny.
It won't be back next year, but there are a lot of new shows debuting this fall. I'm unsure which ones I'll try out, but hopefully next year's report card will see more A's.