Monday, November 09, 2009

TV Power Rankings: November 2009

With a few new shows having premiered, and one on the way out, it seems like an opportune time to do another TV power ranking.

1. Mad Men – By far the best show on TV, it’ll be a long wait until next season. I didn’t love the backhalf of the season as much as I liked the first half, but it closed on a great note, with a vast array of possibilities for next season.

2. Parks and Recreation - The best comedy on TV, the recent Halloween episode was a series high point, and last week’s library battle was another classic. This is better than the American Office has ever been, if it keeps up this level of quality, it could be an all time comedy classic, a Seinfeld or Arrested Development level series.

3. Bored to Death - I haven’t seen the season finale yet, Mad Men took precedence, but I just like this show more and more. It does have that weird HBO comedy feeling of not really being funny, but I love the atmosphere and the characters, and the past couple of episodes have been really top notch, particularly the mission to retrieve the sex tape. It’s great to see so many New York locations on screen, and I’m glad this is coming back for a second year.

4. 30 Rock - A lot of the buzz this year has been about how 30 Rock is going downhill. This season has had some issues, but the trip to “real America” last week was consistently hilarious, and I don’t think there’s been a full on clunker in this batch of episodes. I think the show might have been overpraised a bit, so it’s logical for things to even out. I think the bigger issue is that the characters have become so familiar that jokes that might have been funny earlier have become tired. But, Jack and Liz still work well together, and there’s enough material each week to keep it on the higher end of the Thursday comedy lineup.

5. How I Met Your Mother - This is another show that’s struggled with balancing the wacky and the emotional side of things. The Barney/Robin relationship has had some strong jokes, but I haven’t felt that emotionally engaged with them as a couple. Maybe I’m just expecting too much of the show. It’s still been pretty sharp and relatable, and perhaps the groundwork is being laid for some more substantial stuff down the line.

6. The Office - Another show I’ve had mixed feelings on. This most recent episode was one of my least favorite of the show’s run, not working on an emotional level, and balancing a maudlin, pointlessly cruel A story with a pointlessly dumb B story. Still, the previous week’s episode worked well, and the supporting cast gets better and better. I’d be happy if Jim and Pam disappeared and we got more time with Andy and Erin.

7. Community - The show has done a better job of balancing its goofier side with its emotional side, particularly in the standout Halloween episode, which featured some great surreal imagery and an ability to be absurd but still smart that is the hallmark of many great sitcoms. Some of the storylines still feel too rushed or sitcom cliché, but it’s getting better, and that’s one of the best things you can say about a freshman show.

8. Curb Your Enthusiasm - After a very strong start to the season, things have dipped into boring and predictable in this last batch of episodes. I think the problem may be that I’ve never loved the show, and this Seinfeld reunion hype got my hopes up about it becoming something that it’s not. The scenes with Jerry are great, but the rest is just Curb by the numbers, and when you’re expecting more, that’s not going to cut it.

9. Glee - The show hasn’t aired an episode in a while, but the last one was fairly strong, and even though there’s still a lot of things that bother me, I’ve got a better feeling about the show going forward. If it gets out of the rut of just hitting the exact same beats every episode and lets the characters grow and the situations evolve organically, not through terrible, imposed plots, it could become a very strong show.

10. Modern Family - This show is wearing on me a bit. The central issue is that it has the appearance of a slightly edgy, irreverent show, but is a traditional sitcom underneath, and the “awww” moments at the end of each episode are getting tiresome. It also feels like there’s no real evolution going on at all. I know it’s a sitcom and things aren’t going to change much, but I want a greater accumulation of feeling and events than I’m getting. It’s funny enough to be worth watching, but could slip off the radar if it doesn’t improve.

11. Dollhouse - Sometimes I feel like I’m watching a different show than people online because the one I’m watching is not very good. I’m sticking with it because of Joss, and it seems like there’s only a few more to go, but the show is so totally nonsensical and emotionally impenetrable, it’s hard to believe it came from the guy who managed to skillfully poke fun at the sort of absurdity that Dollhouse is mired in, and was able to find the emotional in for even the most absurd storylines on Buffy or Angel.

12. V - This was a pretty terrible pilot, with no defined characters and the most perfunctory telling of a potentially great premise. I’ll give it one more episode just because I’d really like to love the show, but the pacing on the pilot was horrendous, the whole thing felt like one long “Previously On…” section, skipping over a huge amount of potentially interesting story for no apparent reason. A real clunker so far.


Anonymous said...

Shame on V- though the re-tooled version in March may improve.
Pity since I think Elizabeth Mitchell is a genuinely interesting screen presence and strong actor, with a keen genre sensibility.

Patrick said...

Yeah, it's the new show I've most been looking forward to this Fall and it just totally failed to impress. I hope that Elizabeth Mitchell gets more to do, she was fantastic on Lost, and I think the show'll be missing something without her on it full time this year.