Hello! As promised, I am still here to bring you the Report Card for this Fall 2011 Television season. It’s not an easy task, watching all this TV, but someone’s got to do it. No, I’m kidding, I do this because I want to give more meaning to spending hours and hours of vegging out in front of the television and devouring more TV shows than your average network executive. 😉
We have reached November and the sweeps have officially begun. Some shows have even had their Fall finales, and some networks have released their mid-season schedule (No Community, NBC?? WTF?). Anyway, as infuriating as NBC’s decision to bench Community can be, I still have to make good on my promise to report to you how our returning Fall shows are faring this season. So without further ado, let’s just take a look at our Fall 2011 television season so far and see how they’re doing so far. Is this a great TV season, or is it the worst in years? Let’s take a look, shall we?
Truthfully, the only returning show that I still watch on Sundays is HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. I don’t watch The Good Wife (please don’t make me explain why again, I’ve done it so many times in this blog), I have given up hope on Dexter after the disappointing season 4 and I don’t watch The Walking Dead (serious zombies are not my thing. I prefer my zombies hilarious, a la Zombieland and Shaun of The Dead). And I’m so not into How To Make It In America (which is basically Entourage, with a smaller budget). Which means I’m going to have to compare Boardwalk Empire with last season to be able to judge it fairly. And so far, this season is not much of an improvement. I love that we get more Richard Harrow, Rothstein, Capone and Chalky White – who are all great characters played by amazing actors, but I think the show could benefit from some character developments. Last season the female characters suffer from lack of developments, and this season, it seems the writers don’t really know what they want to do with Jimmy Darmody, which is a shame since Michael Pitt is definitely a great actor who can deliver perfection every week. Now that the season’s inching closer to the end and the stakes are raised, I’m hoping they’ll finally get it together and give us a truly satisfying finale that will make us forget about the frustrating early episodes.
Sunday Night Grade:
Boardwalk Empire: B- (It definitely got better midway through, and Richard Harrow alone made the show deserving of this grade)
Like I said in my previous post, Monday night is definitely a pretty crowded night of television for me, so if a show is lacking in quality on a night like this, I usually give it up pretty quickly (goodbye, Hawaii Five-0!). But one show I know I won’t ever give up even if it gets 8 seasons like Entourage (which I highly doubt because nobody seems to be watching it except for me and a few people in Brooklyn), is HBO’s Bored To Death. Now in its third season, this Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis screwball comedy continues to be hysterically funny and wonderfully odd. As one commenter in NY Magazine’s Vulture blog once said, “Bored To Death is Entourage for people who hate Entourage.” – a fitting description for a show that is light, funny, a tad insane and a whole lot of fun.
Of course in terms of ratings, Monday nights belong to CBS’ How I Met Your Mother, now in its 7th season (and we still haven’t met the mother yet! Do we even still want to?) and ABC’s Castle, now in its 4th season. How I Met Your Mother may not be as “cool” as Bored To Death in terms of comedy, but surprisingly, this season is not half-bad. It was flailing in the beginning of the season but now I’m enjoying it more, and not just because they seem to be revisiting the Barney and Robin romance once again. I’m not too crazy about Kal Penn as Robin’s boyfriend because she seems to have more chemistry with a stick of butter than with him, but eh, at least he helps drive the plot forward. Meanwhile, Castle benefited from having a strong season opener and even though the show focuses more on the cases of the week instead of the Castle-Beckett sexual tension, it actually works in their favor. Who knows, maybe they’ll just pull a Bones next season and have Beckett pregnant with Castle’s baby all of a sudden. That’s one way to beat the Moonlighting curse!
Speaking of pregnancy, The CW’s Gossip Girl is going through with the Blair Waldorf pregnancy plot, though now almost halfway in the fifth season, she still looks as thin as ever (seriously, stick a pillow under there or something!). However, despite the ridiculousness of every single plot, I think this season is actually an improvement, or maybe the last two were just so bad that anything can be seen as an improvement. Two things I would want to be rid off in this show though: Dan Humphrey’s floppy hair and Elizabeth Hurley. As Jessica Pressler of NY Magazine’s Daily Intel blog notes, “She’s the only British who can make her real British accent sound fake.” Too bad it doesn’t seem like her (and Dan’s Jeff Buckley hair) are going anywhere soon. Across the (Canadian) border, the addictive CBC drama Being Erica is now in its fourth and final season, and sadly the season has been underwhelming so far. I like that Kai is back, but I was kind of expecting Erica to have finally resolved her issues with men already by now, and yet she seems to still be as damaged as ever. I just hope that it’ll improve fast, since we all deserve a satisfying series finale and conclusion to this journey.
Monday Night Grades:
Bored To Death: A (I just can’t find anything bad to say about this show!)
How I Met Your Mother: C+ (Still in a continued decline from the early seasons, but there’s hope of a turnaround)
Castle: B (The quality remains consistent)
Gossip Girl: C- (We still need to suspend our disbelief every week, but at least some plots are quite enjoyable)
Being Erica: B- (Come on, Erica, get your shit together, girl!)
Tuesday night television used to be the most exciting night for me, mostly because of Glee. But that show burns out so fast (more on that later) that I’m not even that excited about it anymore. But Tuesday night continues to be a great night for television simply because of the little show that could on NBC called Parenthood. Honestly, I don’t know why people aren’t watching this show. It’s honest-to-goodness that amazing. Emily Nussbaum of (now) The New York Times once said that Parenthood is the television equivalent of a nice, warm, bubble bath. You just want to soak in the goodness, preferably with a glass of red wine in your hand.
When Parenthood continues to warm our hearts in its third season, I can’t say the same about Glee, which saddens me because it was only two years ago when the show stole my heart and made me a devotee. But Glee, much like its characters’ relationships, turns out to be just another puppy love – it burns hot, it burns bright and then it fizzles away. Out of the six episodes that have aired so far this season, only two were actually great and reminiscent of the early episodes of season one. Ryan Murphy can’t seem to figure out what to do with half the cast, and he’s got to write in parts for winners of The Glee Project too. I still hold out hope that this show will return to its former glory before this season’s over but from the looks of things, we may have to bow out just as soon as the New Direction seniors graduate. However, another Fox comedy Raising Hope seems to be faring a lot better than Glee, if only in terms of quality. It may not have as many viewers, but now in its sophomore season, Raising Hope is still as funny, crazy and irreverent as its freshman year. If Glee continues to dwindle in quality, I wouldn’t be surprised if New Girl and Raising Hope end up replacing it as Fox’s favorite.
On to the good ol’ cop procedural, Canadian drama Flashpoint has just moved from CBS to Ion TV and yet continues to churn out solid episodes. It’s edge-of-your-seat thrilling while still tugging at your heartstrings at the same time. I will even go so far as to call this show the “Parenthood of cop procedural“. It doesn’t disappoint even after four seasons and two cast changes. Over on ABC, Body of Proof seems to be finding its footings in its second season, and Dana Delany’s character is a lot more sympathetic now, but it still has room to grow. Let’s hope for their sake they find their groove soon, because I don’t think ABC has given it a back-nine order yet.
Tuesday Night Grades:
Parenthood: A (It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it’s perfect)
Glee: C+ (there are two solid episodes this season but the rest are still meh)
Raising Hope: B (It’s still hilarious and such a fun show to watch)
Flashpoint: B+ (it does get heavy-handed sometimes but overall it’s damn good television)
Body Of Proof: C- (still not that great but it has its moments)
When it comes to Wednesday nights, it’s pretty clear who dominates in terms of ratings: Modern Family. This ABC comedy won big at the Emmys and people are still loving this big, crazy, slightly dysfunctional family show. And don’t get me wrong, I still love this show very much, but I think in its third season, Modern Family is starting to enter The Big Bang Theory-like state: it’s still funny and the masses love it, but it doesn’t really go beyond that. We’re not attached to the characters or even the plots anymore, we just watch every week for the laughs and that’s it. I’m not saying it has come to that, but if it’s not careful, it can very well be in the next one or two seasons, because so far none of the season three episodes that have aired was particularly memorable. They’re all funny, but I somehow just don’t connect with them – unlike in seasons 1 and 2. On the other hand, ABC’s sophomore comedy Happy Endings seems to hit all the right notes lately. Sure, it had a rough start last season but it quickly turned around and made us fall in love with its quirkiness. Ever since Cougar Town is banished to mid-season (or maybe even longer, DAMN YOU ABC!), Happy Endings is the only ABC show that makes me feel like I’m hangin’ with the coolest people on earth when I watch it. And that feeling is – as Penny would say – amahzing.
Meanwhile over on USA, Psych has finally returned for its sixth season, after being bumped to Fall to make room for Suits last Summer, and I’m happy to report that even in its sixth season, the show is still as fresh and fun as ever. I like how they handle the Shawn and Juliet relationship, which is really to shove it in the background. But it works! It’s always tricky when a will-they-won’t-they couple finally get together and the only way they can sustain it Jim and Pam style is to push it to the background a little bit, until they make big life decisions such as getting engaged, married, having babies etc. And since Shawn and Juliet aren’t ready for that kind of leap, it’s best to only get glimpses of their blossoming romance for now. Finally, on to CBS’ Criminal Minds. Not much to say, except that it’s good to have the gang back together again. Last season felt a bit off with both AJ Cook and Paget Brewster getting the cut, but luckily CBS realized its mistakes and rectified the situation by bringing both actresses back. And now we can finally focus on the serial killers – and Matthew Gray Gubler’s fabulous hair.
Wednesday Night Grades:
Modern Family: B- (It’s still good but it’s not as great as it used to be)
Happy Endings: A (It’s seriously amahzing, you guys)
Psych: B (It’s still funny but sometimes it does get a bit “been there done that”)
Criminal Minds: C+ (Still comfortingly watchable, but it’s already in season 7)
First, I just want to take a moment to mourn the darkest timeline of all: NBC benching my favorite show Community for mid-season, which means there will be no Community come January. Let us all put on our black goatee and plot the destruction of the world. Okay. Moment over. I don’t want to dwell on it, especially since the thought of no Community can trigger a breakdown, Abed-style. I’m just praying that the powers that be will let this little show gets what it deserves: six seasons and a movie. Especially since this season, the show continues to deliver amazeballs episodes. Yes, I said it. Amazeballs. Why NBC chooses to bench this show (and cancel Prime Suspect while they’re at it) and let the insipid Whitney live on to annoy the masses is beyond me. Obviously, this is the darkest timeline. I’m just waiting for someone to right the wrong. I’m talking to you, Bob Greenblatt! Anyway, moving right along, my second favorite show ever, Parks and Recreation, also has not disappointed me yet this season, despite their decision to break up my favorite sitcom pairing since Jim and Pam: Ben and Leslie. What used to be romance was replaced by angst and blossomed into romance again and oh! It’s just so good, it deserves a place in Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness.
The Office post-Steve Carell isn’t doing too great, however, which is a shame because I had always seen that show as more of an ensemble instead of a Steve Carell show. But I guess he left some big shoes to fill and somehow both James Spader and Ed Helms haven’t managed to do that just yet. The dynamic feels off somehow, and I’m still not getting why Spader needs to be there all the time. I’m still hoping they’ll finally get it right but it’s looking less and less likely now. Something tells me The Office should’ve just ended when Carell left. Over on CBS, The Big Bang Theory still gets monster ratings, and yes it’s still enjoyable to watch, but it’s getting less and less memorable now that it’s in its fifth season. I just simply can’t care about the characters anymore and I watch it with about as much enthusiasm as when I watch 2 Broke Girls. This show will live on forever, probably (hey, Two and A Half Men still exists, right?) but I’m not so sure I’m sticking around for the long haul.
Moving on from comedy to drama, Bones on Fox has just premiered its seventh season a couple of weeks ago with a pregnant Brennan and I have to say, they have managed to avoid the Moonlighting curse pretty cleverly with this plot, that happened mostly because of actress Emily Deschanel’s real life pregnancy. Brennan being pregnant help gives the show something else to focus on besides the Booth/Brennan relationship. We still get to see them as a couple but the shift in dynamic is a lot smoother this way, and they’re still just as interesting to watch as before they got together. Another upside: Sweets gets more to do, and I always love it when I get to see more of John Francis Daley (see my 10 Hottest Men of Fall list for clarification). Over on The CW, my favorite supernatural show this side of the millennium, The Vampire Diaries, also isn’t showing signs of a decline now in its third season. The plots remain interesting, the twists continue to surprise, the guest stars are added delight, and the relationships that are formed and broken continue to be exciting. Last season we had Jeremy and Bonnie hooking up, this season we had them breaking up thanks to Jeremy’s ghost vampire ex (don’t ask). Last season we had Matt walking out on Caroline because he couldn’t deal with her being a vampire, this season we had Caroline hooking up with werewolf Tyler who was later on turned into a hybrid and sired by Klaus, which ruined their ongoing romance (again, don’t ask). There’s always so many things going on, so many interesting characters at play in this show. The only downside? The producers are not shy about killing off beloved characters, so I’m always anxious that someone awesome is going to die in every episode. I don’t need that kind of anxiety in my life!
Thursday Night Grades:
Community: A+ (I’m biased, I know.)
Parks and Recreation: A+ (Again, totally bias. Don’t protest, it’s my blog!)
The Office: C (It’s really getting frustrating to watch)
The Big Bang Theory: C- (I just can’t care about the characters anymore)
Bones: B (Overachieving Brennan would probably not be happy with this grade)
The Vampire Diaries: B+ (It still gets a little too cheesy at times, but overall it’s still awesome)
Friday night television is usually the night when good television comes to die, or what we die-hard TV fans call “Programming Siberia”. And while it’s true that high ratings for Friday night shows are not easy to come by, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t any quality show on Friday night, because it just so happens that Friday night is also “Geek Night”, with Chuck on NBC airing at 8 pm and Fringe on Fox airing at 9 pm. With those two shows on any given Friday night, do you even question why I never leave the house? 😉 And so far, both shows totally deliver in terms of awesomeness. Chuck is in its fifth and final season and it’s still as entertaining as ever. I like that the stakes are raised and they keep giving us something to look forward to every episode, as well as the fact that I still have NO CLUE how they’re going to end the series. It’s going to be epic, for sure, but they’re clever enough not to give away the ending from the beginning. Fringe doesn’t disappoint either, after introducing a new timeline (Abed will LOVE this) at the beginning of season 4 that complicates things and at the same time makes them even more interesting. Plus they upgraded Seth Gabel to series regular, and he’s been pretty awesome so far. The only downside? With dismal ratings, I have a feeling this show will not make it to season 5, unless by some miracle. So internet! You know what to do, start a crazy fan campaign so huge Fox just has to give it one more season – or at least 13-episodes final season like Chuck.
Friday Night Grades:
Chuck: B+ (They did downgrade Beckmanand there’s just not enough of Jeffster this season)
Fringe: A (It deserves an A for Agent Lincoln Lee alone!)
And there you have it, my Report Card of the Fall 2011 Returning TV shows. What’s your favorite show of this season? Do you think NBC is crazy for benching Community? (The answer is yes) How ’bout that Ben and Leslie kiss? I will be back soon with my annual Christmas lists – so be on the lookout for that. For now, I bid you adieu and until next time!