Friday, December 23, 2011

My Favorite New TV Shows of the Year

I know some writers believe television to be an abomination, but I'm not one of them. When done right, TV is very much a writer's medium, allowing for character and plot development on par with novel writing. Given the length of time dedicated to a series, it is much more akin to novels than film in a lot of cases. I've always been a big television watcher and this year there have been a lot interesting new shows. I think television has been taking risks with scripted shows again, something it hasn't done in a few years since. I wanted to share my thoughts on my favorite new shows of the year. Keep in mind, I refuse to pay for premium channels, so save the comments about Boardwalk Empire, Homeland, and Game of Thrones. I haven't seen them.

American Horror Story (FX): This show grabbed my attention in the first two stellar episodes. Though not particularly innovative in the sense that it uses classic, well-worn tropes of the horror genre, the show was instantly intriguing visually and extremely daring for television. I love how they were never afraid to embrace the truly weird elements. I thought the middle episodes of the season fell flat and was worried it would turn out to be a real disappointment. However, the last four episodes were once again exceptional. I loved how the things you thought had happened turned out to have happened completely differently. The idea of carrying a twist several episodes after the fact was very clever. There are still some characters that I'm not crazy about (I'm talking to you Zachary Quinto), but others are great and Jessica Lange is truly amazing in this show. I'm looking forward to seeing how far the writers can take the haunted house motif.

Thundercats (Cartoon Network): Easily the best American cartoon since Avatar: The Last Airbender, the new re-invention of the late 80's cartoon is bright, fun, adventurous, and contains a huge story arc that is just getting started and promises to be a fantasy adventure for the ages. Like Avatar, it is really a hybrid of American and Japanese styles of animation that is delightful. The story follows the traditional elements of a hero quest, delving nicely in the sibling rivalry, oppression, and good vs. evil. Wileykit and Wileykat, along with Snarf (all pictured above) add a great comic relief to the heady action. I can only hope this show runs for years like it's lead-in, the equally great Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

New Girl (Fox): I had very low expectations for this comedy seeing that Zooey Deschanel typically annoys me more than she delights. However, she is absolutely perfect in this show, completely changing my opinion about her. It's a basic sit-com set-up with a girl moving in with three guy roommates, but manages to bring something entirely new to it. It helps that all of the characters feel like people you know, if not slightly exaggerated. I never really cared for Friends because I always felt the characters were so obviously television characters. This show captures what I believe that show always lacked. It's quirky, funny, but genuinely has a lot of heart too.

The Walking Dead (AMC): This was a slow starter for me, early in the year was the 6 episode first 'season' which was a bit shaky and very uneven. But then with this fall's new episodes, I felt the characters began feeling comfortable in their own skins. There are things that still bother me about the show, like the old school American values feel and the sexist roles of the characters (thanks Julie for pointing that out to me, you're so right on about that.) However, the last episode of this year, especially the last ten minutes, was one of the best scenes I've ever seen in television or film. It was truly jaw-dropping and intense. I had to rewind it and watch it over again at least two times. I really hope the show moves forward on the momentum built there.

Outnumbered (BBC America): This show has been on in the UK since 2007, but it premiered in the US this year and it's such a refreshing comedy. The episodes barely feel like episodes in the traditional sense. They mostly take place in real time, following these parents of three young children, dealing with the absurd situations that are all too real. It sometimes take two episodes for a joke to build, but the payoff is the kind of spit-out-your-drink type of laughter. The two youngest kids are hilarious, especially Karen, everything she says cracks me up. There are rumors this is being americanized, I truly hope it isn't seeing as the track record for that is pretty terrible.

Suburgatory (ABC): A modern, light-hearted My So Called Life, this clever show rightly pokes fun at the ridiculiousness of the upper middle class suburbs around New York City. Having grown up in the 'burbs and migrated to NYC, I can identify with the main character's cynical disbelief at how people in her new town live compared the city. It strikes the right level of satire, without ever going over the top.

Honorable Mentions: The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret (IFC), Up All Night (NBC), Friday Night Dinner (BBC America) and G.I. Joe Renegades (The Hub)


  1. Ooh! We watch so many of the same shows (shocking, I know), but I have never heard of Outnumbered. Sounds like something I'd love! And I was very surprised by New Girl, too. I love her roommates, and I'm happy she's less the center of the show than expected.

  2. I`ve watched(and still am) `New Girl` and `Suburgatory`.However,I totally oppose the reference of the latter as to `My So-Called Life`.There`s so much more in the old series that whatever new one could never compete.They are not even slightly similar.Anyway,I think u should check out(if u haven`t yet) `The Middle`.I was looking down on it because of the trite plot,but I guess,just when u least expect it, they never fail to surprise you.I also liked `Bunheads`,`Drop Dead Diva`,`Parenthood` and `Switched at Birth`.

    1. Oh, I think they are certainly comparable in that they are about a girl coming of age (which there aren't very many series about). Sure Suburgatory takes a lighter look at it, but they are certainly in the same category.

      I haven't done a TV for this year...perhaps I should :)

    2. The entertainment industry is fading food for brain there any more...As for the series,I`m quite touchy when it comes to `My so-called life`,that`s why I spoke.It`s so much more than a regular series.It`s unique and meaningful to limitless extent for me and will remain so.)