HST’s Best of 2011: Television

With so much of my (Lauren’s) personality constructed by Television, from PBS shows of my childhood to everything Joss Whedon that influenced my sense of humor and sarcasm, it’s no surprise that every year I get pretty excited for the pilots making their attempt to gain viewers.  Not only that, but sometimes I go crazy fanatic for those shows I have come to love for seasons and seasons.  Chuck is only a half season!?  Community is getting shelved!?  NNNOOO!!!!  Good thing there are some great new shows that helped these irritated wounds sting a little less.


Lauren’s Favorite New Shows:

American Horror Story (FX) – This creepy and often disturbing show is about the living and dead cohabiting within a Los Angeles home with a colorful past.  Let’s face it, a house doesn’t get the nickname “The Murder House” without good reason.  And throughout the season we are lucky enough to become privy to just what this history includes.  Long story short, there are a lot of ghosts to discover within the walls of this far from happy home, each with a story as worthy as the last.  Feeding off the feelings built in the viewer while watching films like The Sixth Sense, this show is perfect for any horror fan.

Awkward (MTV)­ – I may not be a fan of MTV’s reality programming, but scripted programming was definitely something this channel got right this year.  Awkward follows a high school girl who accidentally convinces everyone that she tried to commit suicide when everything goes wrong for her in the bathroom.  Suicide is no laughing matter, but that does not stop this show from being one of the funniest shows on TV this year.  Ashley Rickards plays Jenna Hamilton, and the episodes revolve around her less than popular character as she narrates and journals out the events of her school drama and love for the popular boy.  Nothing new, but what makes this show stand out is the amazing script of each and every show, that produces more than a handful of quotable lines from each episode, coming largely from Jillian Rose Reed as Jenna’s best friend, Nikki Deloach as Jenna’s mother who often relives the glory days of high school through her daughter as she has yet to fully grow up, and Desi Lydic as the school counselor who quite possibly never gives out usable advice as she falls victim to misunderstanding and bullying within the school as well.

Game of Thrones (HBO) – Though I cannot speak to the novels that this show is based on, Game of Thrones has to be one of the best examples of adapting books to television.  Granted HBO seems to have a knack for this seeing as True Blood had a smooth transition as well (and I have read a large percentage of those novels).  Another thing HBO does right is shock value.  From the moment a character throws another out a window I was hooked (the first of many shocking moments), and could not wait for each week to be over to see what happened next in this world of corruption, backstabbing, and manipulation.  The story is broken down to follow numerous families and individuals throughout the world, with each character getting the appropriate screen time necessary to form memorable characters, forming the perfect whole, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for these warring families next as winter approaches.

New Girl (FOX) – Though Zac may take the cake on Zooey Deschanel fandom and therefore overall love of this show, even those who believe that Deschanel plays too many of the same characters have to admit that she owns New Girl.  As an awkward teacher with a love of breaking out into song, each episode has plenty of moments that are worthy of rewinding and rewinding due to situational/physical comedy or line reading.  Not only that, but Deschanel is surrounded by one of the best casts on TV.  Jake M. Johnson, Max Greenfield, and Lamorne Morris play Deschanel’s three roommates, and though Greenfield’s Schmidt might steal the spotlight as best roommate (especially when his kitchen habits come into play), this show just wouldn’t be the same without all three.  Plus, Hannah Simone’s model best friend to Deschanel’s Jess is just so adorably perfect because of how unexpected it is, yet with how unquestionably believable it manages to be.

Suburgatory (ABC) – Growing up in St. Louis County I know a thing or two about suburbs, and though I have never experienced anything like how it is depicted in this show, I’m willing to look past my own experiences and fully accept this heightened world.  Then again, maybe for someone moving into the suburbs from New York City it would actually seem this way.  Like the elephants in 300, cuz we all know that they weren’t that huge, but behemoths make a much better story when riling up the troops.  Ok, maybe that isn’t the best example, but these suburbs are their own type of war zone with crazy neighbors, distorted values, etc, all shown through the eyes of a girl trying to fight the assimilation into this culture, giving us the opportunity to laugh at how much better we are than these people.

Teen Wolf (MTV) – When previews first started appearing for this show I was more than skeptical, yet I decided to give it a chance because Teen Wolf just so happens to fall into my guilty pleasure genre of teen supernatural dramas.  Now I can admit that I am unhealthily addicted to the show, already having rewatched the season a few times.  No it’s not because of all the shirtless boys, though that never hurts, but rather the effective blend of high school drama and the downfalls of becoming a werewolf.  No matter how much I laugh at the makeup design of the werewolves in this one (still a fan of how Oz’s werewolf makeup turned out in Buffy), I can’t really find any other flaws with the show.  The mystery stays strong throughout the season, the “star crossed romance” between Tyler Posey and Crystal Reed is adorable, and the show manages to be far more hilarious than I expected it to be thanks in large part Dylan O’Brien as Posey’s best friend.  Perfect blend of everything I love.

Lauren’s Continuing Favorites:  Big Bang Theory, Castle, Chuck (this season started out rough, but I have faith in my spy team to end the series on a high note this January), Community, Fringe, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, and The Walking Dead.


Heather’s Favorite New Shows:

New Girl (FOX) – I am one of those people who has gotten tired of Zooey Deschanel’s relaying of the same artsy-fartsy character in nearly everything she does, but as soon as I saw commercials for New Girl I know I was going to love this show.  It without a doubt is the new show I most look forward to watching each week.  While I was initially a little sad that the token black roommate  in the pilot (Damon Wayans Jr.) was replaced in all future episodes by a different black roommate (Lamorne Morris) – a transition merely glossed over and rather poorly explained in the show if you ask me – my fear that the chemistry between the cast mates would not quite be the same was quickly put to rest.  I pretty much want to be best friends and/or live with all of these quirky roommates, even if they are fictional.  I will definitely be watching again next season.

Up All Night (NBC) – Ever since Samantha Who? (which met its untimely demise after just 2 seasons in 2009), I have been a huge fan of Christina Applegate.  So of course I had to watch her new show Up All Night, in which she stars opposite Will Arnett.  In the show Applegate and Arnett play Reagon and Chris Brinkley, a couple struggling to figure out parenthood.  Chris quits his job to be a stay-at-home dad, so that Reagan can continue to work as the producer of her best friend Ava Alexander’s  (played my Maya Rudolph) talk show.  Although I can’t say that I look forward to Up All Night all week like I do for New Girl, it still has charm, a few laughs, and even better – an adorable baby.  My favorite moment on the show thus far has been on an episode where Chris tries to suggest to Reagan that maybe she shouldn’t change into her frumpy sweatpants as soon as she gets home from work, which consistently kills the mood and with it any hope of romance.  The next morning, Chris finds Reagan dressed in an enormous black gown with satin gloves stretching to her elbows speaking in her “fanciest” voice.   I’m not really sure how long the show is going to stay on the air, but I enjoy it enough to keep watching for as long as it does.

Suburgatory (ABC) – When  Tessa Altman’s father finds a condom in her room, he decides that perhaps she is growing up to fast in the company of her New York City friends and uproots her to the picket fenced line suburbs.  Her neighbors range from over-friendly nosy busybodies (i.e., Sheila Shay – played by Ana Gasteyer) to superficial Real Housewives of Beverly Hills types (i.e., Dallace Royce – hilariously played by Cheryl Hines).  Ok… so maybe this show exaggerates and over-dramatizes what it is really like living in the suburbs (which is made even more ludicrous through the eyes of the ever cynical and witty Tessa), but it is so ridiculous at times that it is hard not to laugh.  The amazing cast of Suburgatory is just the cherry on top of a deliciously packaged sundae.

Heather’s Continuing Favorites:  Modern Family (although it seems to have lost some of its zest this season (e.g. Phil’s Tightrope walking episode), it’s still my favorite comedy on TV), Dexter (after that unexpected season finale I can’t wait for next season), The Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad.

 A Tearful Goodbye:  Friday Night Lights (NBC) – This year marked the end of an amazing show, Friday Night Lights, which revolved around a Texas town that lives, breathes, and dies high school football.  I was happy to see some familiar faces from past seasons return (e.g., Tyra Collette and Matt Saracen – there has been a void in my heart ever since he left; he helps make the few and far between Tim Riggins appearances this season more bearable).  Plus, we got to see an all new, gentler side to Mindy Collette as well.  Although I was hoping for a bit more from the series finale (it seemed to slip out with a whisper rather than go out with a bang), I still felt more than a little sad the next day knowing I would never see those character’s that I have grown to love again.  Is it weird to love characters the way I love Coach Taylor, Mrs. Taylor, and Tim Riggins?  Probably… but the heart wants what the heart wants!




Zac’s Shows of Note:

Game of Thrones was the best new show of the year and one that I can’t wait to watch more of, hopefully, for years to come.  The setting, the characters, and the fact that it isn’t afraid to kill off cast members is something every show needs to realize.  It doesn’t hurt that it looks great and has some great effects work as well; I really can’t wait till April for Season 2.

Boardwalk Empire got off to a slow start this season; still good, but by the end we realize they were setting up the brilliant final three or four episodes.  Like Thrones, the show isn’t afraid to kill, and the death toll on major characters is both shocking and fair.  Season 3 is going to be crazy interesting and again, an HBO show has me frothing for more.

Is Louie the second best show on TV right now? Possibly, but the second season of the show can not be classified as it struck a tone that is unprecedented on television and film today.  Louis C.K. gets to show off his brilliance and gets all the credit as he is able to create the show completely on his own and has no one telling him what he can and can’t do.  Maybe we should let smart people do this more often in our entertainment?

There were more than a few continuing shows that had some impressive seasons this past year, Parks & Rec is operating at its highest level, Community continues to innovate and be the most original show on TV (even if it’s constantly an homage), Curb Your Enthusiasm was as sharp as ever, The Walking Dead greatly improved upon a rather rough first season, and Parenthood is easily the best hour long drama on network TV.

Portlandia is a show I just caught in the last week of the year (thank You Netflix) and it is freaking hilarious.  The show is refreshingly weird and silly and irrelevantly biting of society.  And I get season 2 in just a week!

I heart New Girl, Zooey Deschanel, and Jake Johnson.

Sherlock was another recent discovery for me and I enjoy it, so far, as much as the Robert Downey Jr. film counterpart.  Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are excellent as Holmes and Watson, respectively, with the show carrying a sharp wit and wonderfully grounding of the source material in a modern tale.

Life’s Too Short is another feather in the cap for the duo of Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais and I can’t wait to see more adventures of Warwick Davis in 2013.

Friday Night Lights also came to an end this year, and with it one of the best shows in television history ran its course.  The show is still ignored/written off by people when I recommend it to them because it is a “sports show” or “about football,” and they are idiots.  The show is an amazing representation of family, friendship, and love that featured amazing work from Taylor Kitsch, Connie Briton, Kyle Chandler, and Michael B. Jordan.  It’s on Netflix streaming, watch it already, you are missing greatness!

Speaking of greatness, Breaking Bad.  The show has cemented itself as my personal best show in television history this year and has set up its fifth and final season to make sure it sticks the landing.  Walter White is a phenomenal character and performance by Bryan Cranston, but he is flanked on all sides by talent that nearly matches him.  Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Betsy Brandt and Anna Gunn are all at their best here and creator Vince Gilligan is on the verge of complete greatness here.


Alan’s Favorite New Shows:

Grimm (NBC): A lot of people out there have mixed feelings about this show, and towards the beginning, I did too. I thought it was a typical cop show, just with some supernatural/fairy tale thrown in there. However, it takes the creatures and stories of old (the pilot episode is reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood), and twists them to give viewers a fresh taste on the genre. The current season started out a bit slow, but it really is progressing into a great little show to watch on Friday nights. I hope that NBC doesn’t drop the ball with this show (as it’s known to do), because Grimm has a lot of potential.

Episodes (Showtime): If you came up to me last year, and told me that Matt LeBlanc was going to be nominated for a Golden Globe this year for ANYTHING, I would’ve told you to leave and to never talk to me again. But alas, he did, and he deserves the nom. Showtime’s original comedy was more of a satire of the American television industry than it was about a fake show. Taking something that the British made, spinning it, and turning it into a completely new show is something that we, as Americans, have done with countless shows. But Episodes took THAT idea, and made fun of it. I highly recommend that everyone watch an episode or two, maybe the entire first season.

Alan’s Continuing Favorites:

Community (NBC): C’mon, was this a surprise to anyone? Community has become one of the funniest shows on television, which is a sad fact now that it isn’t getting shown this upcoming spring. But for the past year, which includes the end of season 2 and beginning of season 3, the show has both ended and come out incredibly strong. The two part paintball finale was a fantastic way to cap off an incredibly solid season, while season 3 brought out new characters and predicaments that no other show on television has tried yet (they did an episode replaying the same event, with different outcomes). The mid-season finale Glee homage was the best way to go out; not only with a bang, but with a pop (pop!). I hope NBC brings it back soon to finish off the third season, then sign it to the six seasons and a movie that it deserves.

The End: That about does it for TV. Tomorrow, we will be talking about what video games captivated us throughout our year. Again, don’t be afraid to list some of your favorites below, and to come back tomorrow!

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