Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Couch Collection

Top movies of 2011 lists are appearing all over the place. Some time next month, when I'm caught up with the December releases, I'll post my annual film year wrap-up.  Critics are also posting the best television of 2011, but I won't because even though I watch a fair amount of TV (too much), I'm not a paid TV critic who has to sample everything.  And TV, unlike movies, often requires more than one viewing to appreciate something.

Still, I figured I'd put up the TV list over at the AV Club, coming from the combined votes of all their critics, and comment on it. Here's their top 30 in reverse order:

30.  Sons Of Anarchy

Don't watch it. It sounds like one of those shows, such as The Shield, that is decent but I'm never gonna check out unless someone buys me the DVD set.

29.  Raising Hope

I liked My Name Is Earl and this seems like a redo.  One friend told me it's the show Earl wishes it was, but the few times I've checked it out I didn't get into it.

27   (tie) The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

What he does he does well, but I only like it for comedy's sake (and then only occasionally)--it's scary that anyone would watch this to be better informed.

27.  (tie) Men Of A Certain Age

Another show I couldn't get into and now that it's gone I never will.

26.  Parenthood

Haven't watched it.

25.  Childrens Hospital 

Seen a few episodes. Frenetic and never quite as funny as I'd like, but not bad.  (Not as good as Robot Chicken, if you have to pick a 15-minute comedy.)  It was fun to see the Party Down reunion.

24.  It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

I've seen a few episode and find the characters more annoying than humorous.  Maybe I should give it another chance.

23.  30 Rock

Poor 30 Rock.  It displaced The Office as the critics' darling, but now Modern Family gets all the awards.  Still worth checking out, but seems to be on its downward arc.

22.  The Vampire Diaries

I don't really want to watch a series about vampires. (I prefer zombies and don't even watch the zombie show.)

21.  Cougar Town

Watched it a bit in the first season, didn't go for it.  It supposedly has gotten better, but when I checked I couldn't tell.  A charming cast, but not great material. I like it best as a reference on Community.

20.  Boardwalk Empire

One of the more overpraised show.  Looks great, but the drama isn't that compelling, and once you get to know the characters most of them aren't that interesting.  Still, I often check it out so there must be something beyond my need to justify the cable bill.

19.  Curb Your Enthusiasm

Can still be very funny, though this season was spotty.

18.  Misfits

Don't watch it.

17.  Treme

I've given this chance after chance, but it's unwatchable.  I like the music, but I don't watch a show for its soundtrack.  Critics give it way too much credit--just because David Simon created The Wire doesn't mean everything he does is great.

16.  Fringe

Watched it a bit during the first season, but didn't get into it.  My sf friends say give it a second chance, but maybe it's too late.

15.  Bob's Burgers

Really?  Got a shot in the Sunday night animation line-up, and it seemed to be a minor, not especially good, comedy.  Family Guy and The Simpsons have been around so long they no longer make these lists, but I still prefer them.  I even prefer Allen Gregory, which may be weak but is at least supremely bizarre.

14.  Happy Endings

This has been getting some critical attention lately, and I'm flabbergasted. It represents what's most wrong with sitcoms today--young hipsters ironically commenting on their lives as they go by.

13.  Downton Abbey

Didn't watch it, but it's being repeated now and with all those Emmys I'll give it a shot.

12.  Mildred Pierce

Impressive design, and did stick more closely to the novel than the melodramatic movie, but sort of a snooze.

11.  Archer

Didn't watch it.

10.  Enlightened

Didn't like the pilot and haven't been back.  Critics seem to say it's something, and it'd be easy to check out, but I'm still doubtful. (Still better than The Big C, at least.)

9.   The Good Wife

Another highly-praised show I missed out on.  Maybe I'll buy the first season for myself as a Hannukah gift and see what all the talk is about.

8.   Friday Night Lights

From the way the critics talked you'd think this was another Sopranos or something.  I watched it a few times and didn't come back.

7.  Homeland

Best new show of the season.

6.  Game Of Thrones

Second best new show, though there seems to be a lot of time spent with various parties maneuvering.  Okay, you've maneuvered, now do something.

5.  Justified

Friends and critics rave.  Guess I'll have to get this DVD too. (These days I prefer to watch hour-longs from the start.)

4.  Community

My favorite sitcom.  Please give them one more year to graduate.

3.  Breaking Bad

Made the top of a lot of lists, so surprised to see it only third.  I thought the fourth season wasn't quite as good as the previous seasons, but was still easily better than any other drama out there.  (No Mad Men this year, I see.)

2.  Parks And Recreation

Okay, it started weak and has become fairly reliable, but let's not overstate how good it is.

1.  Louie

One of the more intriguing comedies.  Louis C. K. attempts things no one else will, and even if it doesn't always work, you never know if you might see something brilliant.  Maybe rated a bit high, but should be up there.

There are a lot of omissions here, but the most surprising is Modern Family, which keeps winning Best Comedy Emmys. It's also a damn fine show.  Is it now cool for hip critics to overlook it?


Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I felt there was a drop off in season 2 of "Raising Hope" (so far at least). In dysfunctional family comedies, it seems to me that it is essential you have "normals" who stand in for the audience and obsreve the oddity around them. They also serve as straight men (straight persons?) for the jokes to bounce off.

Like many such comedies, Raising Hope is losing its normals as it proceeds. Sabrina was the normal season one, but in season two she's becoming a neurotic mess.

The same was true in "Everybody Loves Raymond," where the normal, Ray's wife Debra, was sucked into the inanity of the Barone family and turned out repeatedly to be worse than they were. On Raymond, they kept trying to introduce other normals, like Robert's girlfriend Amy, but it just became cumbersome.

12:17 PM, December 27, 2011  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Compare The Bob Newhart Show, or Newhart, where Bob's wife was always the normal through every season, which I think worked very well. (Bob always had the veneer of a normal, but when pushed went bizarre).

In contrast, Patricia Heaton from Raymond plays the most neurotic character on "The Middle," which leads me to believe she must like playing nutsy and pushed the Debra character in that direction over the years.

P.S. I think "The Middle" should at least be in the top 25 for 2011.

12:17 PM, December 27, 2011  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I gueess Greg Garcia, who created Raising Hope, doesn't do normal. For example, My Name Is Earl was populated by nothing but eccentrics. I guess an occasional normal got in but not as a regular.

It is a common comedic thing to have a character, often a central one, be the stand-in for the audience, but I'm not sure if it has to be that way. Look all the way back to All In The Family. Who's the normal one there? Or more recently, Community and Modern Family have characters who can all be described as quirky. (Jeff on Community might have been the "normal" one at first but no more. Perhaps the documentarian was the normal one in Modern Family, but he was cut from the pilot.)

Or what about Big Bang Theory. I guess Johnny Galecki plays the "normal" nerd, but he's still a nerd.

If you're a reactive comedian, like Jack Benny, letting everyone else go wild around you can be very effective, and the funnier they are, the funnier you are. Many would say that was the role Newhart himself played on his shows, but maybe it was his wife. But playing a character like Bob's wife on Newhart (Mary Frann), when almost everyone else gets to be crazy, is a pretty thankless role.

By the way, I like The Middle, but don't consider it top 25 material.

12:28 PM, December 27, 2011  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I'm just saying I think Raising Hope was funnier when Sabrina was relatively normal, and seemingly unaware of the antics going on around her. The crazies would strive for what they saw as the normality she represented. But then they had an episode that revealed she was at least as nuts as them. Maybe that's the common arc, but I sort of like the shows more when there is the contrast.

I thought Penny was going to be the normal on Big Bang, but that certainly fell away pretty quickly. I guess even if you go back to "I Love Lucy", Ricky was the normal, but by the later seasons, he had is own share of goofiness. But Alice! - Alice was always the normal on "The Honeymooners."

1:22 PM, December 27, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I agree having a "normal" and then losing them to nuttiness can disrupt the flow of the show but having the normals go crazy can work too- depends on the writing and the character. I still like The Office (though its past its prime) and they usually did this well. Certain voices of reason went completely nuts (Jan and Ryan and even David Wallace briefly), others went mildly eccentric (Pam and Oscar), others stayed relatively normal (Karen who is now playing the same role on Parks and Rec & maybe Bob Vance and Michael's non-Jan girlfriends). The only mistake was Jim- he is a snarky self-assured slacker and any effort to make him "develop" and be more than that or nutty in some way (as a bumbler in his wedding toast and handling office crises as a co-manager) seemed to fall flat.

I agree Earl worked fine with all nutsos but the fact that it got cancelled mighgt undercut that opinion somewhat

6:37 AM, December 29, 2011  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Every show gets canceled eventually (except for the fortunate few that leave voluntarily). Earl did just fine. It lasted four seasons, longer than most, and had better ratings (so far) than Raising Hope.

9:32 AM, December 29, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nlitioActually- though he had crazy hair and clothes, Earl himself was the "normal" everyman in that show

10:26 AM, December 29, 2011  
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