Friday, July 15, 2011

The Top 25 TV Shows of the Past 365 Days, Part 1

Well, it’s the time of the year when I look back fondly at what entertained me on the television (and the internet) over the last year. As usual, the list is in reverse-order and today’s posting covers shows 25 through 21. As always, I make no claim that this list is the last word in what’s best for the last TV Season. Just what I found entertaining. Your mileage may vary.

When I threw all the enjoyed shows into the hopper this year, I actually ended up with approximately 40. Two shows just missed out, tying for 26th. Shameless (The U.S. first season) was raw, really raw. But darn it, William H. Macy is good in anything he does, even here where he gives seedy a bad name. Big Emmy Rossum fan and all the kids were interesting, which is virtually unique in the industry. The come-and-gone Terriers was West Coast seedy and Donal Logue was just as good as Macy, although a little less seedier. Having a real conclusion to the first and only season just about got Terriers onto the Top 25 list.

Other shows worth mentioning include Leverage (a past #2 and #18 last year, but bogged down by Elisabetta Canalis and a bad over-arching story this season), Svetlana (a "throw it against the wall" sex comedy about a Russian madam), Stargate Universe (a much better sophomore season on the way to oblivion), Psych (never made the list, a total oversight, but still not good enough this year), Silk (Brit legal drama), Injustice (Another Brit one-week thriller series), Rubicon (Serious spies) and Better With You (with Joanna Garcia virtually re-playing her Reba role … which is OK with me). A late addition to the runner-up list was The Chicago Code, a Jason Clarke star turn if there ever was one. Loved villain Delroy Lindo too and Amy Price-Francis is getting sexier as she gets older. But headliner Jennifer Beals? Didn't work for me, and hated her concluding scene at a hotel bar.

The shows that dropped off last year’s list and were still going this year included #16 The Dog Whisperer, #19 Human Target, #20 Eureka, #23 NCIS and #25 Doctor Who. Too many repeats spoiled Dog Whisperer for me, while the SF trio had down years (as far as I was concerned). Too much multi-episode threading on NCIS for my tastes and ease of access to the program on a regular schedule. Still, there isn’t a bad show in the bunch, and I include Human Target, cuz Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley were entertaining throughout.

#25 Outsourced tied Drop Dead Diva

Might as well get the teeth gnashing out of the way now.  I’m probably Outsourced’s only fan. I loved the original movie and decried the changes made in the TV version (Diedrich Bader’s Charlie was SOOOOO unnecessary). But I liked the rest of the cast, thought Rebecca Hazlewood was dazzling and was willing to put up with Parvesh Cheena’s Gupta, the second of two stupid characters. The train episode was something unique to the show and it’s hard to find something new in comedy. But like I said, it’s MY guilty pleasure and this is MY blog. So, a tie for 25th is mandated.

Bluntly, the charm of April Bowlby and Ben Feldman as Stacie and Fred still drives Drop Dead Diva for me. And I really liked how down to earth Margaret Cho's character is. AND I actually enjoyed the inevitably doomed affair between Kaswell (Kate Levering) and Parker (Josh Stamberg). But here's the thing. I found Brooke Elliott's Jane to be much harsher looking and not nearly so winsome this year. And Jackson Hurst, the would-be David James Elliott, never seemed to rise above wooden this year. The newest season has a lot of Jaime Ray Newman, a generally good thing. But either Jane and Hurst's Grayson find some soul-mating, or this is the last season for DDD on the list.

#24 The Magicians (British)

The Magicians was a five-episode ‘reality’ show with various magicians pairing up with celebs to earn audience votes at the end of the hour. Lenny Henry was an amusing host and, let’s face, with no new The Zoo shows this year, I had to get my amusements via magic. Don’t much care for the noveau-style magic men and much prefer the Vegas-style acts that made it to this show. More next year, please.

#23 Nikita

Another U.S. remake, this time of a classic movie turned Canadian-produced TV series. Nikita did the heritage proud. Maggie Q made a fetching new Nikita and her protégé, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) promised an even better next generation. Add in a truly menacing Melinda Clarke as Amanda and Xander Berkeley playing to oily stereotype as bad-guy leader Percy and you had the mix that made the most of the original concept. Of course, the key ingredient to stir things up was Michael, played this time around by Shane West. It all worked, from the big reveal at the end of the pilot of Alex’s loyalties and then the extraordinary cliff-hanger to end the year.  The show sagged before a mid-season revitalizing break, but the first and last episodes suggest that this is the last time the show will be out of the top 20 during its run.

#22 Castle (#7 2009-10)

Yes, it’s a tumble for Castle. And yes, I found the dalliances by both Castle and Detective Beckett with others to be a waste of time. But it at least worked better than the Bones implementation of the same gimmick. I read both Richard Castle novels this year and find myself enjoying the whole Castle universe. Nathan Fillion continues to be whimsical and Stana Katic can read the telephone book, for all I care. And, let’s face it, Molly Quinn is the best TV kid going right now. Too bad the status quo had to be upset at the end of the season.

#21 Buzz Out Loud tied with Tekzilla (Internet shows) (#21 2009-10)

So, this is the spot for my computer news fix (or is it fixes?). Last year, it was Tekzilla tying with Windows Weekly, while the year before, the late lamented Cranky Geeks was actually 17th.  Paul Thurrott and Leo Laporte did nothing wrong with Windows Weekly over at the Twit Network ( It’s just that I found myself turning to Buzz Out Loud for the daily news commentary, rather than Twit’s Tech News Today. Basically, I prefer Molly Wood (who I think I might be developing a crush on) and Brian Tong (although I miss Rafe Needleman a lot), over Tom Merritt and Sarah Lane. I don’t mind Lane when she pairs with Laporte on iPad Today, the weekly show. And there are certainly other Twit niche shows that probably hit your sweet spot if you are into computers. But, for a weekly show, I like Tekzilla, which is actually twice-weekly these days, albeit with two different casts. The one constant is Patrick Norton, who’s probably the most engaging of all the show hosts mentioned so far. He does one show a week with Robert Heron that is very tech oriented and is sliced up for the weekly HDNation show and then the more traditional format with Veronica Belmont. Check out the shows at Lastly, I have to mention GeekBeat.TV, a thrice-weekly mini-cast with a longer Friday roundtable, all featuring bubbly and beautiful Cali Lewis. I’m just to old for perky and bubbly anymore.

Back tomorrow with the ten that didn’t make the top ten.

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