Tuesday, August 23, 2011

TV Preview 2011/2012 – 25 Must See Series, Part 3: 15-11

Has television programming ever been better than it is right now? Not in terms of great individual shows, but in terms of lots of really great shows (many of which did not make this list, and I had some tough decisions) on the air right now. This is a list of the best twenty five series in the upcoming 2011/2012 season.

Rank: 15
Genre: Comedy
Network: FX
Creator(s): Louis C.K.
Cast: Louis C.K.
Premier Date: June 23, 2011
Current Season: Second
Plot Summary: The series is loosely based on stand-up comedian Louis C.K.’s life – depicting his off-stage exploits as a newly divorced father of two girls.
Why It Made the List: Louie has an indie film style, somewhat comparable to Woody Allen’s work. It features very funny stand-up segments. While season one was good but a bit mixed, season two has been fantastic. It is among the best review shows (with Breaking Bad and Justified ahead of it rounding out the top three). Though Louis C.K. is the only fixed cast member, there are a number of guest appearances from stand-up comedians and actors (Ricky Gervais, Bob Saget and Matthew Broderick to name a few). This is not your typical sitcom with rapid-fire jokes, rather there is much more deliberate style with long set ups that feels very satisfying. Louie is just a great comedy.

Rank: 14
Genre: Showbiz Comedy/Drama
Network: HBO
Creator(s): Doug Ellin
Premier Date: July 24, 2011
Current Season: Eighth
Plot Summary: The series is about Vincent Chase, a film star, and his group of friends who follow him to Hollywood from Queens. It chronicles his highs and lows in the business.
Why It Made the List: Entourage has entered its last season as one of the most entertaining series. It has tons of cameos and guest appearances, essentially playing as a fictional (but with real celebrities playing themselves) look behind the curtain of Hollywood. The cast is great as well – Kevin Dillon is always very funny while Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold steals almost every scene he is in and has become one of TV’s most iconic characters (see Complex Magazine’s list of his greatest rants). While Entourage does comedy really well, it also gets the dramatic and character work right. It is a lot of fun to watch.

Rank: 13
Genre: Comedy
Network: FX
Creator(s): Rob McElhenney
Premier Date: September 15, 2011
Current Season: Seventh
Plot Summary: The series is about four friends who operate an Irish bar in Philadelphia. They find themselves in crazy and awkward situations due to their big egos, arrogant attitudes and outright stupidity.
Why It Made the List: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is ridiculous and hysterical. It often tackles situations or issues with politically correct implications, turning them on their heads and making an utter mockery of them. The show is fearless it what it is willing to address. I also love how crazy it allows its characters to be. As much as I enjoy watching Charlie Day’s character, if I met that person in real life I think I would be terrified of him. He is constantly on the edge of full on insanity. But that is what makes it so funny. While you know things are going to go downhill quickly once the group inserts itself into a situation, witnessing the comedic carnage is great fun.

Rank: 12
Genre: Crime Drama
Network: BBC America
Creator(s): Neil Cross
Premier Date: September 28, 2011
Current Season: Second
Plot Summary: The series is about a troubled detective John Luther who returns to work after taking a leave of absence due to a personally devastating case. He specializes in solving serial murders, but when he meets his match in Alice Morgan things get interesting as she develops a deep fascination with him.
Why It Made the List: Returning The Wire’s Stringer Bell to a crime drama was the first step in making sure Luther would be excellent. Second, the casting of Ruth Wilson to play Alice Morgan was an act of brilliance as she is amazing in season one. While the show is somewhat structured as a crime drama procedural, it is much more a character drama with mystery genre implications in the structure as there are many twists and turns. I went into Luther thinking it would be great (it was one of my top five most anticipated show in last year’s Fall TV Preview) and it still blew me away. If you like crime dramas, you need to watch this one.

Rank: 11
Genre: Crime Drama
Network: FX
Creator(s): Kurt Sutter
Premier Date: September 6, 2011
Current Season: Fourth
Plot Summary: The series is about Jax Teller, a man in his early 30s who struggles to find the right balance in his life between being a new dad and his commitment to the SAMCRO motorcycle gang.
Why It Made the List: Honestly, I thought I would not like Sons of Anarchy going into the first episode of season one, even despite creator Kurt Sutter being a creative force behind one of my favorite shows The Shield. I was wrong. It is brilliant and one of the best things on TV. It is very well written and has wonderfully drawn characters. It is a very addictive series, as each episode builds – both tension and plot. You can easily watch a whole season in one sitting. Sutter is also not afraid to take his characters to the danger zone (what I call story elements that change things for the characters in dramatic ways), something most show are too afraid to even approach. Give Sons of Anarchy a chance, and you too will be hooked.

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