Every year countless pilots are presented to networks and a majority of them don’t get picked up. Of the shows that get a minimal order there are always casualties that don’t make it past the first few episodes (Charlie’s Angels). Some will get picked up for a full season then get cancelled (Alcatraz) while others squeak out a renewal (Whitney). There are those that become moderate hits for their networks (Revenge) while others will have the potential to be successful for several seasons (New Girl).
As a viewer there’s always many to choose from at the beginning of the fall season and it can be tough to know which ones are worth watching. For the most part I like to at least check out new shows, but I won’t necessarily stick with them. This past television season I found a couple new favorites. There were a few other shows I stuck with through the entire season and yet a few more I didn’t start watching until late and am still catching up on. There were also a couple sitcoms that I watched on occasion and was still moderately entertained.
Writer/Comedienne Whitney Cummings had a busy year. She managed to bring two new shows to television. The first (Whitney on NBC) was not only created by Cummings, but stars her and is loosely based on her life’s experiences and comedy routines. It was however her other series that has been more successful, finishing as the most-watched new show of this past season. 2 Broke Girls is sort of like a modern-day Odd Couple with a touch of Laverne and Shirley. Caroline Channing (Beth Behrs) was born into a wealthy family and lived like the 1% her entire life, until her father was imprisoned for running a Ponzi scheme that cost many people lots of money. Caroline loses everything as her father’s assets are frozen. She gets a job as a waitress in Brooklyn and meets and befriends Max (Kat Dennings), a young woman around the same age who has lived poor her whole life. Caroline moves in with Max and soon the two decide to start a cupcake business together. The show is funny and enjoyable, though the constant female-driven sexual humor and racial stereotypes can become bothersome. Overall 2 Broke Girls is a solid comedy that fits well on CBS’s Monday night comedy block with hits How I Met Your Mother, Mike and Molly and Two and a Half Men.
When Smash was first being promoted, many including myself believed this was going to be Glee for adults; an adult drama that takes the best of Glee (the music) and mixes it with adult themes. The main reason I never watched Glee was because of the high school format. I am in fact a fan of musicals and they can be very enjoyable when done right. So Smash follows the process of a new musical trying to make it to Broadway. The process is viewed from multiple angles, giving equal attention to the writers, director, producer and two potential stars. The strongest part of this show for me has been the music. While the story is pretty good, it is a little too “soapy” for me. For one, there was…hold on a sec while I count in my head…4-5 accounts of cheating either physically or emotionally on various levels. It seemed like no one on this show could be faithful, except for whom the show pushes as the main protagonist Karen Cartwright (Katherine McPhee). The ensemble cast was quite solid as both actors and singers. It is hard however to pick a stand-out performance among them as they were all quite equal. Angelica Huston is great as the show’s producer Eileen Rand. Jack Davenport is good as the brash but talented director Derek Wills. The writers, Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom (Christian Borle) provide much of the drama with what goes on in their lives. The season-long battle between Ivy (Megan Hilty) and Karen is the main focal point and comes to a satisfying conclusion at the end of the season. Also, Smash provided probably one of my most hated characters of all time, Ellis Boyd (Jaime Cepero). He has inspired me to maybe do a write up on my least favorite TV characters in the near future. So I will probably continue to watch Smash when it returns next winter, though I have no idea what’s next.
If I had to choose a favorite film genre, it would probably be horror. The problem with horror though is that it doesn’t have much of a presence on television. I imagine it’s difficult to come up with a concept that can be extended past a two hour movie into a full season of television. With that being said, this was a good year for horror television. The Walking Dead, which premiered last season, is probably to thank for that. The 2011/2012 season found two new horror shows entering the airwaves. The first on this list is The River, which was created by Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli. Like Paranormal Activity, The River’s format is a found-footage/horror theme. The series follows a crew of people looking for a television adventurer who has disappeared in the Amazon. There is a heavy focus on mysticism and magic that provides much of the horror. The River did a good job of bringing decent scares to a network that no doubt limits how far they could go. Sadly the series was only eight episodes long. I didn’t expect this to go many seasons, but they did close out the season with the potential of having more. Oh well.
The other horror series this season was American Horror Story. AHS is about a family who moves to California from Boston and unknowingly into a very haunted house. The house seems to have strange powers and anyone who dies in the house ends up being stuck there as ghosts for what appears to be eternity. Add to the fact that many people have died there and that makes for a crowded home. There were many great performances on this series, including Jessica Lange as the neighbor/former resident of the house who knows its secrets, Dylan McDermott as the current owner and Evan Peters as a troubled teen and ghostly resident of the house. AHS gained much positive attention and even won two major Golden Globes (Best Drama Series and Best Supporting Actress for Jessica Lange). Not bad for an uncommon horror-genre series.
There was only one show that completely came out of nowhere for me this past season, and that was Suburgatory. I didn’t really hear anything about it prior to the season, so I didn’t even think to try to watch it. I also don’t watch much ABC, so I hadn’t seen any promos for it. It wasn’t until halfway through the season that I finally discovered it. Suburgatory is about a single dad (Jeremy Sisto) who moves himself and his teenage daughter (Jane Levy) from New York City to the suburbs in order to give her a “better life.” The two of them become strangers in a strange land, moving to the Stepford Wives-like town of Chatswin. This is a very pleasing comedy that also feels original. The supporting cast includes some comedy pedigree, including Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Alan Tudyk (Dodgeball), Allie Grant (Weeds), Rex Lee (Entourage) and two former SNL cast members Ana Gasteyer and Chris Parnell. There is even a Clueless reunion when Alicia Silverstone guest stars as a love interest for her former Clueless co-star Jeremy Sisto.
House of Lies is a comedy about a management consulting team that is hired by big businesses to help with financial issues. The team, who works for a larger firm, is made up of Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle), Jeannie Van Der Hooven (Kristen Bell), Clyde Oberholt (Ben Schwartz) and Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson). The team will go to any lengths to seal a deal and con big businesses into paying them. This show excels in fun but it definitely has a few dark moments. They take complete advantage of being on Showtime with lots of sex and heavy adult language.
There hasn’t been a good western on television since Deadwood ended in 2006. Justified is like a western, but it takes place in the present so it’s not quite the same. Hell on Wheels takes place in 1865 and centers on the construction of the first trans-continental railroad. Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) is a former Confederate soldier who while trying to get revenge on the Union soldiers who murdered his family becomes the foreman of the railroad construction. There are a number of very fascinating characters on the show. They include the main investor of the railroad Thomas Durant (Colm Meaney), former slave Elam Ferguson (Common), land surveyor Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott), Reverend Cole (Tom Noonan) and head of security The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl). Hell on Wheels certainly isn’t on the same level as Deadwood and unfortunately has to be toned down since it is broadcast on AMC. However after one season it definitely shows promise.
Since Arrested Development ended in 2006, Will Arnett has had a difficult time at finding success as the leading man of a series. That changed this past season with Up All Night, a comedy starring Arnett, Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph. The show is about a couple who just had their first baby. Chris (Arnett) quit a successful career as a lawyer so Reagan (Applegate) could continue her job as the producer of a daytime talk show. The three stars are full of talent and combine for a fun show with likeable characters.
I came onto Person of Interest late, and am only halfway through the season right now. I can say with still half a season left that this is an interesting show. It acts like a cop procedural with a case of the week, but with a fun twist. Jim Caviezel plays a former CIA hitman named John Reese who has been in hiding for several years. He is hired by a mysterious man named Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) who built a machine for the governemt that can predict violent crimes. The two work together to save innocent people and stop the guilty ones. There is a lot of mystery to the show, which I like, and it's not too over the top or science fiction. Emerson plays Finch perfectly as a smart, wealthy man with secrets who feels like it could be Emerson's character on Lost (Ben Linus) escaped from the island and taking up residence in New York. I look forward to seeing how the rest of this first season unfolds.
I didn’t start watching Once Upon a Time until near the end of the season, so I ended up watching all of the episodes in a short period of time. OUaT is a fantasy series in which fairy tale characters have been cursed to live in our world. They are unable to leave their town of Storybrook, ME and they do not know who they really are. The daughter of Snow White, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) was sent to our world as a baby to one day be the fairy tale characters’ savior. As an adult, she is unaware of her past having grown up completely in our world. Emma is brought to Storybrook by her son who she gave up for adoption as a baby. He knows the truth and is trying to help her believe. OUaT follows a similar format with Lost, using flashbacks to focus on specific characters and their past each episode. The show has an original concept and has some well-acted characters, including Morrison’s Emma, the Evil Queen/Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle).
Though 2 Broke Girls was the most-watched new show this year, New Girl was a close second. New Girl was completely marketed as the new comedy starring Zooey Deschanel. It is safe to say however that it is because of the supporting cast that New Girl has found sustained success. Zooey plays the quirky Jess exactly how one would expect her to and it works, but the strength lies with Jess’s roommates Schmidt, Nick and Winston as well as her best friend CeCe. The laughs are numerous and the characters are likeable and fun to watch. Like another comedy favorite of mine (How I Met Your Mother), the group of friends in New Girl is the type of group I’d want to be a part of.