List: Feeny’s Top 10 Current Shows
Posted by Mr. Feeny on August 28, 2009
This is a great idea from CJ. It’s a perfect way to introduce you to our blog, prepare for the new season, and fill the review-less void until September. So, it’s my turn. The way I’m choosing my order is very simple. I compare two shows, pretend they’re on at the same time, and choose which I’d watch live and which I’d DVR. Due to my work schedule, I often watch yesterday’s shows the next day. But there are some I can’t wait to watch. And those are mostly at the top of this list. The only exception is American Idol, which I make sure I watch since I know people will be talking about it the next day.
1) 24 — One year ago, I would not have ranked it this high. After a tremendously disappointing Season 6, 24 would be at the bottom of the list. But it redeemed itself in 2009. And then some. The show’s seventh season threw almost everything out. Started fresh. Disbanded CTU, put in a new president, and gave us a nearly brand new cast of characters. But the core of the show remained the old favorites. Keifer Sutherland delivering his best performance of the series (robbed of an Emmy nomination). James Morrison getting a fitting send-off. And Carlos Bernard returning better — and badder — than ever. This season of 24 gave us the personal story lines and emotions that had been missing since Season 3. Nobody cared about Audrey; she was a poor replacement for Jack’s wife. But fans have always cared about Tony. Watching him turn evil was both tragic and infuriating…and made for excellent television. Allison Taylor became the first president since David Palmer who seemed resolute, compassionate and intelligent. And then there’s Jon Voight’s performance, which could make him one of the greatest villains ever. Plus, the dialogue was crisp, Jack’s character development was intriguing, and…well…I’ll go into greater detail in January. I do worry about more changes in 2010, as they move to New York, but if they stick to those storyline fundamentals, it will be must-watch again.
2) LOST — I’m a very loyal TV watcher. I hate giving up on shows. I can’t think of one I’ve started, liked, and didn’t see through to the end. If I had quit, I might have missed The West Wing’s fantastic seventh season. Or, the aforementioned season of 24. (of course, that loyalty’s also forcing me to watch Heroes). When I love a show, it’s like a child. Unconditional. That’s the only way I can think of LOST right now. I’ve loved it so much for so long, I just can’t let it go. I watch every week, anticipating what will occur, predicting what each clue means. But there’s no denying it’s “lost” its early magic. The flashbacks relating to island events were the highlight for me, and those are no longer a mainstay. The addition of science fiction has been overdone. And the questions continue to get more confusing. But this is it. The final season. The answers should be provided. And for that reason, it’s still at the top of my list. I’ll look forward all week for each episode…and probably be disappointed in June. But until then, I’ll just hope for great character development and enjoy the return of long lost characters.
3) How I Met Your Mother — One of only two crossovers with CJ. There’s not much more that I can add…except that I would never try “The Naked Man.” This is without a doubt the cleverest comedy on television. The writers deal with every seemingly small aspect of dating and make up hilarious rules and circumstances. The way they play with time is brilliant, as flashbacks, fast forwards, and fake outs are often weaved into the story lines seamlessly. Neil Patrick Harris is on the verge of super — wait for it — stardom (according to my research, just the third person to ever host two major award shows in the same year), but he’s just one of five equally important characters. It’s Friends, with much more quirkiness and quotability.
4) Curb Your Enthusiasm — I’m incredibly excited that Larry David decided to do one more season of this hilarious show. As the creator of Seinfeld, he’s adept at connecting tiny elements throughout the entire episode. It’s unexpected and always entertaining. But the part enjoy most are the inane dilemmas. All the life rules and etiquette. What’s the cutoff time for calling someone? How much sampling is too much at a store? If you find someone’s lost watch, then lose it, are you responsible for it? Things that nobody really considers, but always lead to hilarity. Just like the promo says: there’s a little bit of Larry in each of us. It’s a short 10-episode season, but that only makes you appreciate each one more. And this year, the whole Seinfeld cast is reuniting, which should be fantastic.
5) The Office — I love half-hour comedies. My list contains a lot more on the sitcom side than CJ…and far more than Moltisanti’s will. But I still have a high standard for it. I don’t want one-liners. Two and a Half Men and the like are mundane. Some good jokes but there’s no reward for the loyal viewer. No growth. I expect the same quality storytelling that we find in dramas. And that’s what #3-5 all have in common. In The Office, not much changes from episode to episode. Each character basically stays the same. But their situations develop over multiple episodes and highlight those traits. The dialogue is witty, Steve Carrell is the funniest man on television, and herky-jerky filming is (or was) very unique. But like any good sitcom would, just when you think it’s a ball of laughs, there are touching moments as well. Character realizations that affect the audience significance. More than any other sitcom on TV right now, this show is about the characters more than the situations. And it’s a pleasant change of pace.
6) Dexter — Who’d think a serial killer could be so likeable? It’s a little dangerous, actually. The thought has crossed my mind a few times: “It’s OK, he’s killing bad people. No big deal.” Maybe TV can be a bad influence. Especially when it’s so well crafted. Every episode carefully puts you in Dexter’s shoes, helping you realize each of his emotions and what drives him (his value system…the Code of Harry). The mystery, action, and killing doesn’t hurt either. Plus there’s a little humor thrown in here and there. The supporting characters are a little blah, but they’re not important. This is about the mad man. Like Damages, the plot for each season is skillfully laid out over a 13-episode season so you feel like you’re watching a long movie. And contrary to popular opinion, it didn’t lose its mojo in the third season. Dexter is just as good as ever, which is why it’s now made my list. [originally off the list]
7) Mad Men — I was highly skeptical of this show. I like my memories of the 60s as they are…based solely on comedies of the era. I didn’t want to hear about the seedier elements. I realize now, though, that life wasn’t really like it’s depicted on Mad Men, so over-the-top. That allows me to enjoy it like any other piece of fictional television, like 24 or LOST. And stylistically and with dialogue, Mad Menis far superior. There are constant scenes that are beautifully crafted, well-written, and perfectly acted. It’s like watching a short motion picture. I’m usually not into the higher-plane of television viewing, but I’ve really enjoyed the subtleness of this show. And when that gets overdone, there’s the actual ad work that provides comedic and story relief (often tied into the episode’s themes). I’ll let Moltisanti review it like a professor. I just know that I enjoy it and look forward to finding out what happens next. That’s all I need from a drama. [originally #9]
8 ) Survivor — I stopped watching the first great reality show when I went to college. The combination of time and CBS’ sluggishness in streaming episodes just let it fade away. I was amazed, then, when I started watching again last year and found the show still had all the magic of its early seasons. Nothing could ever outperform Season 2 (Australian Outback) and no player could ever top Rupert. But these past two seasons have had all the basic elements that made those earlier ones so memorable. Characters you love to hate. Distinct personalities. Exciting scheming and challenges. Age has not diminished this show, nor have several changes. If you haven’t watched for a long time (read: Moltisanti), there’s now an Exile Island, a 3-person finale, and hidden immunity idols. But that’s only added to the enjoyment. Such as Bob’s (the oldest winner ever) fake necklaces. My two favorites from these past seasons both won, so I’m hoping my streak continues this season, though it will be tougher with a record 20 contestants. [originally #6]
9) American Idol — This show gets mocked incessantly by the 5 people in America who don’t watch it. I was one of them for seven years. But I decided to watch all of last season, from the first terrible auditions to Kris Allen’s blase win. But in between all that was some really fun television. Especially the finale, which was an amazing star-studded concert. As a musical person, I enjoyed hearing different renditions of songs. And as a judgmental person, I loved critiquing them for myself. Usually, Simon and I were right in line, which made it even more fun. Validated my opinions. You have to take this program with a grain of salt. The audition process is a joke. The final 12 rarely are the 12 most talented. There are blatant unfairnesses. But it’s really enjoyable when you accept all that. It does drag on, especially the results show…but I only watch it with DVR. [originally #7]
10) Family Guy — I think there are four types of people in this world. The type that assumes Family Guy is moronic. The type that doesn’t get it. The type that watches it for sex jokes. And the type that watches it for cultural and historical references no one else gets finely woven into each episode. Which do you think I am? I also love the musical parodies. Thirty years from now, people will still be debating which was the better cartoon: The Simpsons, South Park, or Family Guy. South Park‘s much too crass, and the animation annoys me. The Simpsons is a great show, but it lacks the clever allusions that I adore in Family Guy. I definitely think it’s the smartest of the three shows. Especially the way they splice together multiple references. The first clip here is one I love (only works if you know The Honeymooners):
Of course, some inappropriateness is certainly entertaining. [originally #8]
Just missed the cut: Monk [originally #10], House, Friday Night Lights, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Desperate Housewives, The Amazing RaceRecently off the list: Heroes, Damages, Brothers and Sisters, Scrubs, CSI