Monday, September 7, 2009

Reviewing Summer 2009 TV

I'm mostly gonna talk about ratings and the TV landscape when I use this blog, but sometimes I'll indulge in some thoughts on shows creatively. On that note, a top 10 list for the summer.

10. - I think this is the best drama this network has produced. It's suffered from some repetitive storylines, and occasionally it dips into the women-are-great-men-are-evil territory that this network kind of gets stereotyped for, but in general it's just a competent family drama and not a bad way to spend an hour. Kind of a nice summer substitute for Brothers & Sisters, and in the same timeslot.

9. - This show's best days creatively are behind it, but like the above show, it still works on a comfort food level. Though it quietly sits near the bottom of the summer top 10 for now and probably isn't even in my top 25 across an entire season, a satisfying ending to the Trudy case could see it really shoot up when I start evaluating the whole of this season.

- My favorite new drama of the summer, but that isn't saying much, the way this summer went. Still, a fun dynamic between the leads, and while the tone often reminds me of Bones, it doesn't go silly the way that often does IMO. It's shown improvement during its run. That gets it on the list, but I hope it can continue to climb.

7. - A show that makes me laugh this much being all the way down at 7 means it must've been a fairly deep summer. Very enjoyable, but a show that I don't really mind missing and often don't get to on the DVR for awhile.

6. - Another show, like Warehouse 13, that I don't think has quite hit its potential yet. It was pretty close toward the end of season 1, though. But the characters are just fun to be around, and there's a lot of cleverness going on.

5. - Shockingly, a show that I ranked #2 for all of '08-'09 barely cracks the summer '09 top 5. But it's still early, and my end-of-season evaluation may be much more generous. For now, I just don't think the show is giving me much to work with. So much of the greatness is still here in the characters and the cinematography, but it needs a little drama injection.

- Almost every season something comes from almost completely off my radar to become a deeply enjoyable show for me. Wipeout probably falls under that blanket from last summer; I honestly expected to enjoy I Survived a Japanese Game Show a lot more but was done with that after a week or two. This summer, it was Shark Tank, a really fascinating look at entrepreneurism and venture capitalism. What I like is the simplicity - it's just people going in and pitching their businesses and maybe scoring an investment, maybe getting brutally shot down, without too many of the usual reality TV trappings. Sure, there are some Extreme Makeover: Home Edition sob stories, but it's almost like the show is playing with that convention since so many of these people get unceremoniously crushed by the sharks. All I can say is that this is the late-summer show I've been most looking forward to on Sunday nights, and that's a real shocker to me.

3. - I've been kind of up and down on this show over the years. Season 1 was one of the funniest seasons of TV I can remember, but since then it's kind of waxed and waned, struggling with the ill-advised Shawn/Jules romance and in the tendency to separate the cops from Shawn & Gus. But this year has been a good one so far. Deeply quotable, including the jabs at "copycat" The Mentalist which I always find hysterical.

2. - What a treat it's been to have Better Off Ted originals in the summer. Even though they've completely bombed in the ratings, this is a show that really found its footing a few episodes in and never looked back. I wasn't really a fan of previous Victor Fresco shows (I always thought Andy Barker, P.I. was the best Andy Richter vehicle) but this one just seems to know what it's doing, and it's got Portia de Rossi, who has desperately got to get an Emmy nomination next year.

1. - If you'll recall, I throw that "potential" label around a lot for these sort of light episodic shows like Warehouse 13 and Leverage. Burn Notice is an example of a show that has realized the potential. It has stakes and a dramatic credibility that the others just haven't yet been able to muster up. It has that awesomely informative voiceover. And it has four fully realized and really damn entertaining characters, including Sharon Gless, who may be one of the first to buck the USA Network "annoying family member" stereotype.

Now a few brief thoughts on shows that missed the cut, in no particular order except for when I thought of them. Interestingly, I only watched 11 shows in full this summer, so most of them made that list, while most of the below are things that I just sampled. Generally I note how much of the show I saw, so you can argue with me on whether or not I gave it a fair shake. ;-)

Royal Pains (USA)
- Again, potential, but even less realized than in many others. Lots of problems it needs to iron out, like the horribly uninteresting Jill/Hank relationship, and didn't seem to take many positive steps. However, I watched all the eps. There was some entertainment value.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (ABC) - I was disappointed by the fact that so much of the syndicated version and not the original primetime version got ported into this revival. Regis and the clock didn't mix. Still got four hours to watch on DVR, may have to delete.
The Philanthropist (NBC) - I thought this was a pretty interesting idea with a very capable lead but there just wasn't enough unique entertainment value in each episode. They all seemed the same to me. Watched three eps.
Merlin (NBC) - I kind of liked this show but it may have gotten pushed out by how busy Sunday TV was for awhile there. Just not enough substance for adults, I don't think. Decidedly not must-see for me. Saw three or four eps.
Defying Gravity (ABC) - Cool concept, not as bad as I expected, but I just kind of lost interest after about three episodes.
HawthoRNe (TNT) - Total genericfest. I saw nothing in this show that suggested to me it could even become something unique or enjoyable or good. Lead was way too perfect. Maybe it got better, a lot of shows do, but in my estimation it had a long road ahead of it. Bailed after pilot.
Dark Blue (TNT) - Listen, some people dig the really dreary stuff, but I don't. And Dylan McDermott and Logan Marshall-Green are not credible badasses by a long shot. Passed after pilot... I've seen a couple minutes here and there of some other episodes but didn't like any of it enough to want to give it another serious look.
Law & Order: CI (USA) - I think the show is in a better place than it was for its first few USA Network originals but it's not really must see. I usually catch up on it while traveling. Still four or five eps saved on my computer.
Shaq Vs. (ABC) - Too much filler in the first half-hour to be watchable for the whole way. We are not really in an era of half-hour programs, which works against this show. I'd prefer one act of the training/prep stuff and then straight to the competition.
Drop Dead Diva (Lifetime) - Too girly for me. That's about all I can say. But, seeing bits of promos while skipping through the Army Wives commercials, I have been fairly impressed with this show's arsenal of guest stars. Done after the pilot.
10 Things I Hate About You (ABC Family) - I was expecting this to be pretty good and was kind of underwhelmed by the first two episodes so I bailed. I actually have caught it a couple more times since then and have decided it's reasonably watchable, but not really Season Pass-worthy.
Ruby & the Rockits (ABC Family) - This was very Disney Channel-esque. I've heard before that places like the CW and ABC-F are supposed to be like the next stepping stone for the huge crowd watching Disney and Nick, but with only a couple content tweaks this could probably be right at home on Disney. Not really for me... saw pilot and maybe one or two random eps since.
Make It or Break It (ABC Family) - One and done. I was just completely uninterested. It seemed merely bad, not absolutely horrific like lead-in Secret Life, so that's something.

Thanks to TV-aholic for the show icons!

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