2010-2011 Rank: NEW SHOW
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.
2010-2011 Rank: Didn’t Watch Previously
It’s sort of hard to describe Shameless. It’s an American remake of a British dramedy about a poor-ish family that seems to have little morals and will do almost anything to survive. This American version stars William H. Macy as the easy to dislike patriarch of the Gallagher family. Emmy Rossum co-stars as the eldest of the children and the one actually taking care of the family. There are six Gallagher children in all and since their father is a deadbeat drunk with no job, they pretty much have to fend for themselves. It’s an entertaining show that makes you appreciate not being one of them.
2010-2011 Rank: NEW SHOW
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.
2010-2011 Rank: 3 (-3)
Blue Bloods continued its formula from season one. The show is a police/detective procedural show merged with a family drama. Most of the main characters deal with week to week cases while Jamie, the youngest adult sibling of the Reagan family deals with a season-long arc that isn’t addressed every episode. In season one he was trying to figure out what happened to his late brother, which came to a conclusion in the season finale. This past season Jamie accidentally fell into an undercover job infiltrating a mob family. The other main characters, District Attorney Erin Reagan-Boyle (Bridget Moynahan), Detective Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) and Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) round out the stellar cast for this solid police/family drama.
2010-2011 Rank: 4 (-1)
After three seasons, Parenthood continues to be one of the best shows on television you’re not watching. The acting from the incredible ensemble cast is some of the best and most realistic performances on television. This family drama revolves around the Braverman family which includes grandparents, adult siblings and their children. It is the epitome of a family show, bringing true realism to the events that shape each of the characters’ lives. You may have noticed several characters from Parenthood on my top characters lists. There is good reason for that. You won’t get mysteries, action, big explosions or gun fights that you’ll find in many of the dramas, but you will get a an engaging show that makes you feel like you’re just another Braverman family member. It is a drama but it is more about real life, which includes happy and funny times just as much as dark and heartache-filled times.
2010-2011 Rank: 5 (+1)
The second season of HBO’s prohibition-era drama took what season one built and brought it to new heights. Steve Buscemi has continued to excel as Nucky Thompson. This season Nucky was being probed for many crimes and while the spotlight was on him, he still managed to stop his former friends from overthrowing him as the underground leader of Atlantic City. Big moves were made, revelations occurred and one of the main characters was killed off.
2010-2011 Rank: 2 (-1)
Neil Caffrey is still one of the most likeable and charming men on television, which of course are strengths for a con-artist like him. In fact it’s difficult to dislike anybody on this show. Neil’s FBI partner Peter has learned a lot from Neil and the two of them work well together. The supporting cast is also quite solid, highlighted by Neil’s good-hearted con-artist friend Mozzie and Peter’s wife Elizabeth. The season did end with a decent cliffhanger with Neil cutting his ankle bracelet and fleeing the country.
2010-2011 Rank: NEW SHOW
I came onto Person of Interest late, but recently finished the first season. 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. They also have help in the form of two New York detectives, Carter and Fusco. At first Carter was after Reese, but eventually they convince her that what they're doing is a good thing. Fusco was originally a dirty cop who tried to kill Reese, but he has transformed into someone who wants redemption for the bad things he's done and is making good by helping Reese and Finch. Looking forward to where things go next season.
2010-2011 Rank: 1 (-)
The best drama and one of the best shows currently on television (in my opinion) is still Justified. This was my favorite drama last year and my top two favorite male characters in a drama are the same two years in a row (Boyd Crowder #2, Raylan Givens #1). The writing is excellent, the atmosphere is gritty, the hero is full of flaws and the villains are incredibly complex. The characters definitely make the show as strong as it is and each season features at least one memorable adversary for our favorite cowboy hat-wearing US Marshall. Each season has improved from the previous season and I have high hopes for season four. One of the major villains from last season may be gone (Quarles) but Boyd Crowder and Ellstin Limehouse remain. Which is definitely a good thing for the viewers.