Wednesday, August 31, 2011

TV Preview 2011/2012 – 25 Must See Series, Part 4: 10-6

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: 10                                 
Genre: Sci-Fi/Mystery
Network: Fox
Premier Date: September 23, 2011
Current Season: Fourth
Plot Summary: The series is about Olivia Dunham, an FBI agent who investigates unexplained phenomena with the help of a formally institutionalized scientist Walter Bishop and his son Peter.
Why It Made the List: Fringe started out as a The X-Files like procedural, but with the show becoming more serialized the narrative has become much more interesting. I like this show a lot because it is different from anything else on TV (well as least as much as something on network TV can be). Where it is now from how it started in the pilot is amazing – Fringe’s writers are so ambitious to push the show’s narrative. While this may not be as highly ranked on other TV lists, I love watching Fringe – from its wonderful aesthetic, great performances and writing to its inventiveness and multifaceted narrative. There is not a better sci-fi show on TV.

Rank: 9
Genre: Period Crime Drama
Network: HBO
Creator(s): Terence Winter
Premier Date: September 25, 2011
Current Season: Second
Plot Summary: The series is Nucky Thompson, a politician and gangster who ruled Atlantic City during the 1920s.
Why It Made the List: All you really need to know about Boardwalk Empire is that it is a period gangster series on HBO executively produced by Martin Scorsese – if you are not interested at this point, maybe this show is not for you. It is also one of the best acted shows, dominating the TV Screen Actors Guild awards in 2011. In addition to the principal cast, Boardwalk Empire has great guest stars, including: Michael Stuhlbarg, Stephen Graham, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Gretchen Mol. Gangster genre fans need to see this.

Rank: 8
Genre: Comedy
Network: NBC
Premier Date: September 22, 2011
Current Season: Eighth
Plot Summary: The series is about the employees at the Scranton, Pennsylvania, branch of the paper company Dunder Mifflin – done in the style of a documentary.
Why It Made the List: The Office has two big challenges this season: first, can the show continue without Steve Carell? Second, can the show return to the quality consistency it once had? James Spader has been cast to be Steve Carell’s replacement and it on paper seems like a good choice, but of course we will have to wait to see how it plays out. While the seasons as a whole continue to be good, the episodes consistency has not been quite as good in the last two seasons. The show is also relying too much on celebrity cameos lately. I love this show, more even than the British original (on the surface that sounds crazy, maybe, but it is because I know and love these characters more than the British versions). There have not been too many sitcom style comedies that have done a better job of fleshing out their characters, and this is really why this show is so good – and it is really funny.

Rank: 7
Genre: Western
Network: FX
Creator(s): Elmore Leonard and Graham Yost
Premier Date: February 2012
Current Season: Third
Plot Summary: The series is about an old-school style U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, who is reassigned to Eastern Kentucky near his hometown, surfacing up old feelings and conflicts.
Why It Made the List: Westerns are few and far between these days, and great ones are even scarcer. Justified is a Modern Western, but still features a lot of the same ethos of the classic Westerns of cinema (and to a lesser extent TV). After Deadwood, Timothy Olyphant is just the perfect person to play the lead in Justified (Raylan is not too different from Seth Bullock, and that is not a bad thing as both a great characters). While season one was very good, it only scratched the surface of the show’s potential. Season two was even better and thus there is a ton of expectation for season three. TV needs a great Western, and Justified is that show right now.

Rank: 6
Genre: Mystery
Network: PBS
Creator(s): Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat
Premier Date: Spring 2012
Current Season: Second
Plot Summary: The series is a modern update of the Sherlock Holmes story – a brilliant student of details who puts his gift to work solving crimes with the help of his friend Dr. Watson.
Why It Made the List: Sherlock Holmes is a character that has been done a ton of times (and even recently as a blockbuster movie series). Even so, BBC and Masterpiece Theatre’s Sherlock is completely fresh, exciting and original (even when it incorporates classic characters and storylines). I cannot wait to see Sherlock’s impending confrontation with Moriarty, who was done so well in season one. There are so many detective and mystery procedurals on TV today (some good like Bones, but most are just tired and poorly made), Sherlock should be the standard that all these shows and future procedurals to stand against and try to achieve the same level of quality. If you have not seen this yet, get on that.

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