Monday, June 6, 2011

What I'm Watching

Since this is primarily a Colorado Avalanche blog, and there has been relatively little Avalanche news over the past two months (I sure do miss the glory days when the Avs would be playing until at least late May every year), I've decided to temporarily depart from my usual hockey theme and discuss the current state of television.

This time last year, we saw the endings of Lost and 24, two shows that revolutionized network television.  Both series had ground-breaking, incomparable runs.  Lost, with its countless mysteries, online following, and dozens of likeable, yet flawed characters.  Some friends and I actually were in a Lost fantasy league during its last two seasons.  I even won the first year!  24, while implausible, was creative and captivating for its "real-time" format; every season consisting of one day and every episode being an hour within that day.  24 also brought us Jack Bauer, the single most badass character on network TV. 

Anyway, since those two series in particular have ended or at least shown signs of ending, networks have been unsuccessfully trying to recreate that success.  Once-promising shows like FlashForward, V, The Event, and No Ordinary Family have all been canceled after only one or two short seasons.  While I liked all of the aforementioned shows, they were not comparable to Lost and 24 in their glory days and the viewership must have reflected as much.  Another show that has been on the bubble over the past couple of years is Fringe.  Fortunately, it keeps getting renewed despite being moved to the traditional "death slot" of Friday nights.  Star Joshua Jackson contributed its renewal at least in part to a fan campaign to send in Twizzlers to Fox.  Twizzlers being a snack often consumed by the eccentric character Walter Bishop on the show.  I was glad to see Fringe get renewed and I would say it's the best hour-long network show on TV and certainly the most underrated.

Nowdays, the best shows are on premium channels and basic cable.  The Sopranos started the premium channel original programming boom in the early 2000s.  Today, HBO is still flourishing with shows like True Blood (which returns later this month), Entourage (which will end after the upcoming season), and the new hit series Game of Thrones.  Showtime has also done well for itself with Dexter, which is probably my current favorite.  Starz has also broken onto the scene with Spartacus and Camelot, two very good period pieces.  Basic cable shows have emerged as well.  They have more freedom then network shows and are more accessible than premium channel shows.  The Shield helped to pioneer this in the early 2000s.  Currently, Rescue Me is set to end this year, The Walking Dead will return in the fall after a very successful 6 episode run last year.  I certainly hope DirecTV will have AMC in HD by the time season 2 comes out!  I made an SD exception last year for The Walking Dead, but the non-HD is a big reason I've never gotten into Mad Men or The Killing.  Breakout Kings on A&E is also decent.  Not the best show out there and not as good as its predecesor, Prison Break, but it has the potential to last longer with the standalone episodes rather than the serialized storyline.

Now, on to comedies.  It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia takes the cake as the funniest show on television right now.  Next, I would rank the new show Happy Endings as the second best and also the best new show of the 2010-2011 season.  Glad that it got renewed.  30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother are also solid.  The Office has dropped of significantly.  Many people I know stopped watching last season and I do not blame them.  The departure of Steve Carell should have been the nail in its coffin, but the desperate network NBC decided to renew in anyway.  I will most likely not be watching season 8 unless they bring in someone really good to replace Carell.  As far as animated comedies, South Park and Family Guy are still holding strong.  I still watch The Simpsons out of obligation more than anything else.  I dropped American Dad a couple years ago and never got into The Cleveland Show.  Tosh.O and Conan are the best talk shows around.

Well, we're officially into the summer season.  Very few shows left, the NHL and NBA playoffs are wrapping up...should be a good summer for movies though!  Thor did not disappoint!  Gotta go see X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern comes out in less than two week and Captain America next month!

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