Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2012+: The Year in Television

As it seems with almost all of my media exploits, my ambition outstrips my ability. I may use my screens as much as a couple of hours in a day, but that usually includes video games, computer time, movies, and television shows. I would say, on average, that I watch five to seven hours of television shows in a week, which seems like a lot but really is not. I generally end up dividing my shows into three categories: drama, comedy, and sci-fi/fantasy, the latter of which also includes superhero cartoons and other fantastical set-ups - I know they also technically count as dramas, but I find that it's easier to separate them. At any given time, I am following one intense drama (those are the shows my wife does not watch), along with half a dozen comedies, one sci-fi/fantasy show, and my one reality vice, Survivor, which really functions more as a serial drama with the way it runs. Those alone take up a few hours, which does not account for the myriad shows to catch up on - "first world problems", I know - but I thought I would go through my lists of some of the shows that have been on my radar over the past year. Maybe I should just finally give up on some of these, but I'm keeping them on my list(s) for now. Here are some of my thoughts on the TV shows I watched last year.
Edit: After having had this post sit for close to a month, I have decided to incorporate my first quarter update on TV into this post and make it about the TV I've watched in the past year and a bit. It really hasn't changed much, but it just makes more sense than the kind of arbitrary Dec. 31 cut off.

To start, here are five shows from the past that I've (re-)watched recently: 30 Rock, Sports Night, Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, and Star Trek: The Next Generation (Seasons 1-3).

Serialized Dramas: There are five dramas I have been watching, along with my one reality staple, which tends to be dramatic enough that I can put it in here. Here are my quick hit thoughts on the dramas I have watched in the last year.

Breaking Bad - The first half of Season 5 was absolutely perfect. Gilligan and crew have set the story up for one of the all-time great finishes, and I cannot wait to see how they resolve all of the open ends in the upcoming final eight episodes. BB is as close to perfect television as it gets.

Dexter - Season 7 redeemed itself from the slow descent into awkwardness in Seasons 5 and 6, and the show has set itself up well for an exciting final season. I think at this point, though, that I'll mostly be glad that it's over.

Homeland - Season 2 might have been better than Season 1, which is saying something. There is so much subtle complexity in each scene, and Lewis and Danes are two of the best on TV right now. If you haven't been watching Homeland, you need to start. Now.

Justified - Season 3 expanded the world of Justified and brought in several new great characters as well as cementing Boyd Crowder's place as one of the best characters on TV right now. Season 4 has kicked it up a notch, and this might be the show that I enjoy the most right now. The show has a great rhythm for its characters and a nasty comic kick, and I really enjoy that EP Graham Yost provides commentary on each episode for It really adds a lot to the show to know the "behind-the-scenes" stuff.

Sherlock - Series 2 was perfect. I'm looking forward to rewatching both series this summer in preparation for Series 3 this fall - and they just confirmed Series 4 too!

Survivor - Season 25 (Philippines) was one of the best in years, and its meta-focus on how players were perceived outside of the game seemed to bring the show full circle. Season 26, Fans vs. Favourites 2, has already provided some of the most memorable moments in the show's history, and it's not even half over. I think there's a lot of life left in this show, especially with the awesomeness that is Jeff Probst.

As of next week, the only drama that I will be watching regularly will be Survivor, with nothing new on the horizon until June, when Dexter (June 30) and Breaking Bad (July 15) come back. So these next couple of months are the perfect time to integrate some of the projects I have kept on the backburner for a while. In order, the next show I plan to watch are: The Newsroom (Season 1); The Hour (BBC); House of Cards; The Americans (though I might wait until it finishes in a month and watch it all at once if I like it); Kings; Luther; Jekyll; and Utopia (the latter three are all BBC series, so they're short). I might not get through all of those shows (I likely will not), but I'm looking forward to some good Netflixing over the next three months.

There are, of course, network dramas that I have thought about adding to my rotation, but there is something so tiresome about the weekly commitment of watching 22-24 episodes. I far prefer shorter cable series at this point, which is probably why these are the five network dramas that I have thought about watching but that I will probably continue ignoring for now: The Following, Last Resort (now cancelled), Person of Interest, Revolution, and Vegas.

Then there are always the long-term projects I have in the pipeline but that I probably will not get to any time soon. I really should make time for The Wire, considering how many people call it the best show ever made, but I may have to wait until the fall, when Dexter and Breaking Bad are finally over. I want to work through Friday Night Lights and The West Wing (at least Seasons 1-4) with my wife at some point. I will probably wait until Treme is over to finally watch it, and maybe I'll try to catch up with Mad Men in time for Season 7.

Comedies: I'm surprised at how many comedies I'm currently following - 8! It has helped that several of them have not overlapped in airing, though I am still behind in a couple of them. It also helped that only one new comedy caught my attention this season; I guess I'm getting more picky with the shows I have in my repertoire.

30 Rock - I finally finished Season 6 and 7 in the past couple of weeks, and the show was strong right until the end. I think I might bump it up a spot or two on my list of favourite sitcoms, actually. It went out on top, and it stayed sharp right up until its conclusion. It might be one of the most rewatchable sitcoms ever, so even though it's done, it will never be gone. That makes me happy.

Community - The frenetic end of Season 3 was one of the most audacious sequences of any sitcom ever, and Harmon and company pulled it off in a blaze of glory. Of course, the show itself was only half of the story; the other half was all of the drama surrounding Harmon's departure after the end of the season. Season 4 just isn't the same. I hope they end it now, rather than prolonging the show's inevitable demise. I think I might have to write a separate post about this, actually.

Futurama - The first half of season 7 was just as strong as Futurama has been throughout its entire run, save for perhaps the concluding "Naturama" episode. It's still not tired, which is impressive after 111 episodes and four full-length movies.

Go On - Matthew Perry's turn as a sportscaster grieving his wife's death with his wacky support group is the only new show that has caught on with me. It feels a lot like a less acerbic Community, with the same kind of diversified cast and spastic sensibilities combined with emotional awareness. On rewatching several episodes, there's a real humanity to the comedy here, and I hope that I get to see some of these characters develop in Season 2. The celebrity guest stars and cameos from sports figures actually work really well into the show (especially Terrell Owens) - plus, John Cho is hilarious. Yeah, I said it.

Louie - Season 3's storyline about Louie preparing to take over for Letterman was the best in the show's short run. It's too bad that we have to wait a year for Season 4, but I get that Louie C.K. needs a break after his pace in the past three years. I'm okay with waiting if he keeps making high quality comedy.

Modern Family - I have not really gotten into Season 4 yet (it's about 3/4 of the way through), and I'm not quite sure why. The fatigue of the show is being discussed, but I think it's just that the standard that has been set was so high that it seems tired even though it is as good as it has been. I'm sure I'll really enjoy it when I binge-watch Season 4, but it's just not that high on my priority list. It's missing that "pop" - those moments that make it must-watch TV, unlike the next show...

New Girl - This show might be the best comedy on TV right now. I think it's largely due to Kay Cannon as the new Executive Producer in Season 2, but the show has hit a great rhythm with its characters. Each episode has had laugh-out-loud moments, and some of the ideas and terms used this season have real (pop) cultural resonance. This is my "can't miss" comedy now, and I don't think it will be dethroned anytime soon.

Parks and Recreation - I have not yet started Season 5, and I'm not really sure why. Okay, it's probably because I have mostly been waiting for my wife to watch it with me, and she has not wanted to for months. But I might just go ahead and finally watch it without her. At any rate, this is still one of my favourite shows on right now, and I love the subtlety in the situations the show features. I need to binge on this one and catch up as soon as possible. That's how Leslie Knope would do it.

Most of those shows still have a few episodes left in this season, so I'll have to finish those up along with binging on Parks and Rec before I move onto a few of my projects. Here are a few of my lists

My top comedies to watch next (in order):
The Joe Schmo Show: The Full Bounty - Spike brought it back after eight years, and it looks as good as it ever was. This one will be fun.
Veep - I would like to watch Season 1 before Season 2 premieres in a few weeks.
Bored To Death - How have I not watched this yet? It stars Jason Schwartzman. C'mon, Turner - get it together.
Slings & Arrows - The Canadian comedy is all on Netflix, and it's all about staging Shakespeare. Again, how have I not watched this?!
Curb Your Enthusiasm - I just need to binge this show. 80 episodes is only 40 hours - if I don't work for a week, maybe I should just watch every episode. Seems like something Larry David would do.
Workaholics - I don't know if I will actually end up watching all three seasons, but I feel like I need to at least to check it out.

Five current/recent British shows I'd like to watch soon: An Idiot Abroad, Cuckoo, Derek, Life's Too Short, Moone Boy

Five classic British shows I should finally watch: Spaced, Monty Python's Flying Circus, The Thick of It, Fawlty Towers, Black Adder

And, for good measure, five shows I really should finally watch after over a decade of procrastination, even if only to have finally watched them for friends who have recommended them to me over and over again: Andy Richter Controls the Universe; Clone High; Police Squad!; The Critic; and Larry Sanders Show.

Sci-fi/Fantasy: The final category is the smallest: the science fiction and fantasy shows. They are mostly dramatic, but there is something different about these shows that separates them from regular dramas. I tend to watch these shows more intermittently, which is probably why I have not been watching the SF/fantasy shows that are more serialized in nature. Here are my quick thoughts on the shows on my radar in this category.

Adventure Time - I just discovered this cartoon, and I am still deciding whether I like it. I think I do, but every so often an episode comes up that is just a little too weird for my tastes. It's not like anything else I watch, so Finn and Jake may yet find a place in my regular watching.
Star Trek - I have not watched it for a month, but I'm almost done Season 1. That puts me at a third of the way through my quest to watch all 79 episodes by the time the movie releases. I have some more Trekkin' to do.
Star Trek: The Next Generation - My wife and I have stalled at the beginning of Season 4. That's just when it gets good, you say? I agree. But you try to be the one to convince her to watch it. When we do, we'll binge, but for now it's just waiting for us.
The Dead Set - A short British series about the zombie apocalypse that my wife won't watch with me. I just need to watch this one.
Battlestar Galactica - We have owned Seasons 1-3 for a year, but we probably will not watch it until we get through TNG, so maybe I'll watch it next year. Sigh.

And, again for good measure, five sci-fi/fantasy/escapism shows I feel like I should be watching but probably will not have time to watch anytime soon, thus making my nerd credibility decrease significantly in the process: Burn Notice, Doctor Who, Eureka, Fringe, and Game of Thrones.

And there a couple of other SF shows on my radar, but that I again probably will not get to, in light of the quality of that previous list, including Arrow, Continuum, and the upcoming Defiance.

Those are my thoughts on the television I have watched in the past year. My list was exhaustive and kind of exhausting, so I am looking forward to just watching the shows, rather than thinking about them. But let's end on a strong note, with the five TV events I am looking forward to the most in the rest of 2013: the return of Arrested Development (May); the conclusions of Dexter and Breaking Bad this summer; Series 3 of Sherlock in the fall; and the return of Futurama this summer. It should be a fun next few months as I wait for a great summer in television and knock a few shows off my "to watch" list in the meantime. I have also been thinking that I may start writing more reviews and reflections on the shows that I watch, even if they are shorter pieces, so stay tuned. (See what I did there? Hehehe.)

1 comment:

  1. So I completely forgot to shout out to The Walking Dead (a SF show I'm currently ignoring) and HBO's Family Tree, a mockumentary series from Christopher Guest, as one of my most anticipated events of the year.



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