Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Top 25 Shows of the Past 365 Days, Part 2

A day to go before the day before my birthday and the official end of the 2010-2011 TV viewing season. Continuing from yesterday’s countdown with the 20-11 ranked shows in giving me entertainment over the last year.

#20 The Mentalist (#15 2009-2010)

I wanted to award this show a higher honour. Afterall, shouldn’t there be something for nailing Red John? Assuming Bradley Whitford’s Red John was RED JOHN. If you know what I mean. I sure hope so. The fact is, we don’t know for sure and that’s the ‘Sylar’ problem with this show. Sylar’s return in Heroes’ second season was the show’s death knell. Nothing against Zach Quinto, but he stayed waaaaaay beyond his best before date. We’ve had three season of Red John being omnipotent in The Mentalist and having tentacles in impossible to reach places. It got a little pedantic. Still, Simon Baker is amusing at worst and enlightening at best. The supporting players never step out of place and into the spotlight for TOO long. We’ll see what Patrick Jane, sans motivation, can do next season.

#19 Lie to Me
(#24 2009-2010)

We’re going to miss Lie to Me, now that it’s gone. Tim Roth played Dr. Cal Lightman fairly unlikeable for most of the time. But the human lie-detecting machine Lightman was always worthy of respect. The unfortunate fact was that the premise seemed perennially on the verge of cancellation and the move of Lightman into the field more often, acting like a James Bond wannabe, was more a failure than a success. But the subject was always fascinating at its core and I’m a big Kelli Williams fan. Plus, Hayley McFarland was the second-best TV kid.  I just wish they’d stuck to HQ, brought the cases inside and tried to survive there, rather than out and about.

#18 New Tricks (British) (#5 2009-10, #7 2006-07)

I keep fearing the current season is the last for New Tricks and I keep being wrong. Hurrah for being wrong time and time again.  The cold case squad of geezers continues to amaze me with their ability to look into the past fourty years and find something to bring relevance to their retirement years. Alun Armstrong continues to be the heart of the show as barmy Brian Lane, who makes everyone else tick. That’s not to discount the efforts of Dennis Waterman and James Bolam. Of course, any show with Amanda Redman is going to be worth watching. It still has the best theme song going with Waterman warbling the title tune, It's All Right. Best of all, season eight is airing as we speak (read?).

#17 Monroe (British)

James Nesbitt is merely brilliant. He was the heart of the second or third best show over the last decade (Jekyll, jousting with Life on Mars behind State of Play). And here, he goes after House territory. He plays a neurosurgeon with a sarcastic wit and a crumbling personal life to pair with his professional successes and excesses. The secret with this series, as with all things British, is the limited nature of only having to write six brilliant episodes rather than the American-style 22. Nesbitt and company accomplish this and leaves me hoping we will eventually see more of the quite broken Dr. Monroe.

#16 Warehouse 13

I’m not a Saul Rubinek fan. No reason not to like the fellow Canuck. He just has a habit of playing characters who rub me the wrong way. So, I penalized Warehouse 13 for him in it’s debut season. On the other hand, the lead duo of Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly playing Pete and Myka are real drawing points. Add Allison Scagliotti’s Claudia this year and I had to admit, this replaced Eureka as my favourite SyFy show.  Best Christmas show of any series this year. Highly enjoyable.

#15 Candy Cabs (British)

I think Candy Cabs was the shortest series on the list this year. Three episodes. In some ways, this replaced Satisfaction as ‘Girls in Business’ show on the list. Not sex-workers this time out. Just a bunch of women looking to create a female-only cab company.  Now, surprise, surprise, discrimination does have some downsides as the ladies all find. Best intentions and all lead to unusual situations. Really loved the All English Ladies Final that capped the season. And the three-episode length was just perfect, despite a last scene to build another year on. Worth looking for.

#14 Real Time with Bill Maher
(#17 2009-10, #12 2008-09, #8 2007-08, #4 2006-07)

Ending three years of decline in my ratings, Real Time gets an uptick in the mid-term elections season. And the reason could be summed up with his reading of Congressmen Anthony Weiner’s emails together with Glee star Jane Lynch. You don’t have to write the comedy. Reality will do it for you. Still, Maher seemed genuinely engaged in this election year, recovering from the prior election-less year. Americans need to listen to this show more often. Maher lets conservatives come on and skewer themselves, although not to the same degree as Colbert or Stewart. The sad fact is, the same happens to the gutless Democrats who come with little else than slogans themselves. Maher’s ripping of former regular Politically Incorrect guest Christine O’Donnell remained fresh throughout the countdown to her election loss.

#13 Community

More or less paired with 30 Rock in the public consciousness, which almost made the list the last two years, Community turned it up a notch in its sophomore year. The humour was more biting and the Britta-Jeff version of Chuck and Diane was largely thrown aside to do a whole series of Mad Magazine-like media send-ups. Alison Brie’s Annie matured immensely and there seemed to be a stand on (Chevy Chase) Pierce’s tomfoolery. Which all led to Paintball II, a brilliant two-parter to finish off the season. While 30 Rock gets the headlines (albeit, of the idiotic kind thanks to Tracy ‘Meathead’ Morgan), Community was the funnier of the two shows this year. And while the gang eventually has to break up (Career junior college attendees are either janitors or teachers), I like the chances of Community going forward.

#12 Not Going Out

I was a little surprised to see Not Going Out hasn’t ever made the list. Neither has Lee Mack’s other starring vehicle, the faux game show Would I Lie To You? Both take advantage of Mack’s comic persona as a under-achieving layabout. In Not Going Out, Lee Mack’s Lee (they do the Tim Allen thing over there, too), actually got married to Sally Bretton’s Lucy, although it was strictly a fantasy piece. Hilarious though. There did seem to be some sensible defrosting of the Lee-Lucy relations, even after Lee let a soft porn production company take over the apartment for a day. Lucy’s brother Tim, aka Lee’s best pal, continued to be a font of comedy thanks to Tim Vine. (And yes, Tim Vine played Tim. Did I mention Tim Allen yet?). Out was Miranda Hart’s Barbara the Cleaning Lady, although that led to more of the dipso antics of Katy Wix’s Daisy. Oh well. (Notice, the ladies were up to using fictional first names). At any rate, Lee Mack is funny. Not Billy Connelly funny. But funny enough.

#11 The Big Bang Theory
(#14 2009-10, #1 2008-09, #9 tie 2007-08)

I can hear Jan Brady yelling Priya, Priya, Priya. The girlfriend everybody but Leonard seemed to hate, was a major not-good point this year. Ergo, a slide out of the top 10 for The Big Bang Theory. It was accompanied by an increasing role for dead-pan Amy Farrah-Fowler, as played by Mayim Bialik. A lot of people liked her. For me, I could pair her with Aarti Mann’s Priya and make both disappear without a tear or even a second thought. I liked Johnny Galecki’s Leonard pairing with Kaley Cuoco’s Penny. Still do. And yes, the ick factor of Penny and somebody else (Raj) is something I do NOT want to consider. But it least it wasn’t the rumoured Penny-Sheldon hook-up. And as funny as Jim Parsons is, there’s no recovery from that jump the shark moment. It’s going to be hard to navigate around the Penny-Raj pairing back to normalcy as it is. One highlight: the further humanizing of Simon Helberg’s Wolowitz thanks to the charm of Bernadette, played by Melissa Rauch.

Tomorrow’s Top 10 day and the last day of my 55th year on this planet. Let’s make it a good one.

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