Bullz-Eye’s 2012 TV Power Rankings

So…where were we?

Oh, fine, let’s go ahead and deal with the elephant in the room: it’s been nine months since Bullz-Eye doled out its last TV Power Rankings. What can we say? There were a lot of good shows on the air between May 2011 and February 2012, and somewhere around late October, it just kind of reached a point where we said, “You know what? It’s way more fun to watch TV than it is to write about it.” Eventually, though, the powers that be pried us off the couch (there’s still an indentation where we were sitting), set us back in front of the computer, and said, “Look, the readers demand to know Bullz-Eye’s take on the best shows of the past year* and, frankly, they’re starting to get a little belligerent about it.”

(*Rounded up for statistical purposes.)

So here we are, ready to offer up our list of the 25 best shows on television** as well as several shows bubbling just under our list, plus a new section called “Still Too New to Call,” where we praise shows that seem pretty damned good after their first few episodes but simply haven’t been around long enough for us to feel comfortable including them in the other two lists.

(**Okay, technically, it’s the 24 best shows on television plus one show that hasn’t been on since 2010, but we’re so excited about that particular show coming back that we included it, anyway.)

All told, we hope you’ll walk away from this piece either nodding your head in agreement or wondering why you haven’t been watching some of these shows. If not, however, there’s a perfectly good Comments section that’s just waiting for your opinions about what’s good on TV.

Everybody ready? Then let’s get this thing started…

1. Breaking Bad (AMC)

Fact: if you believe that there is any show on television that’s better than “Breaking Bad,” you are wrong. Period. End of story. Although the show began with a concept that spoke to many a family man – if you knew you were going to die, to what lengths would you go to make sure that your family was provided for? – it has since evolved into so much more. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul continue to startle with the depth of their performances, but Giancarlo Esposito‘s work as the chillingly efficient Gus Fring was the kind of work that makes an actor’s career. With an end date now in sight, the series has grown more gripping than ever, and there’s little doubt that we’ll see Hank (Dean Norris) figure out what Walt (Cranston) has been doing behind the back of him and his fellow DEA agents. In other words, folks, for all the shit we’ve seen hit the fan so far, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Breaking Bad lab

2. Mad Men (AMC)

Yes, we know it hasn’t been on the air since 2010 (we covered that in the intro, you may remember), and, no, we don’t know any more about what to expect from the new season – which premieres on March 25 – than you do (series creator Matthew Weiner is notoriously tight-lipped, and we’re pretty sure he threatens to do terrible things to his cast’s pets if they leak anything to the press), but if we’re going to be doing these TV Power Rankings on an annual basis, then we’re forced to go with our instincts here and presume that “Mad Men” will continue to be as awesome in the future as it has been up to this point.

Mad Men female characters

3. Modern Family (ABC)

It’s a little hard to take the cynics seriously when they say that “Modern Family” isn’t as funny as it used to be when we continue to laugh so hard at each and every episodes. Admittedly, the storyline about Cam and Mitchell trying to adopt another baby has been a little hit-and-miss, and the idea of Claire running for public office seemed a lot funnier in concept than it has in execution, even with David Cross in tow. But the heart of the show continues to be the relationships between the three distinct family units – Cam and Mitchell, the Dunphys, and Jay and Gloria – and their respective kids. If things haven’t been quite as funny this year, so be it: it’s still funny, and we’re still watching.

4. Game of Thrones (HBO)

It’s funny how the success of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy suddenly made it viable to take a shot at countless sword-and-sorcery, medieval-type tales that had previously been deemed more or less unfilmable. Rather than try to condense George R.R. Martin’s epic “Game of Thrones” into movie form, however, HBO kindly green-lit a television series based on the property, and with the help of executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the transition from print to small screen has been remarkably successful. With masterful performances by Sean Bean, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and – perhaps most impressively – Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones” is, in a word, epic. Shame about poor ol’ Ned Stark, though. Sure didn’t see that coming…

5. Sons of Anarchy (FX)

It’s been a long, hard road that “Sons of Anarchy” has ridden to get to this point on the Power Rankings, having spent its earlier seasons in far lower spots due to the fact that not enough of us were watching it. Eventually, however, more of us came around, and it’s finally begun to get its proper due. Better late than never, right? Season 4 saw Jax, Clay, and the rest of the guys emerging from their 14-month stay behind bars and returning to Charming, only to meet a couple of new “friends” who’ve come to town: Sheriff Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) and Asst. U.S. Attorney Linc Potter (Ray McKinnon). One could argue that this was a transitional season for “Sons,” or, at the very least, certainly a transitional season for Clay, whose presidency of the organization came to a conclusion in suitably dramatic fashion. Where things go in Season 5 is anyone’s guess.

Sons of Anarchy season 4

6. The Walking Dead (AMC)

Some critics, like our own Jeff Morgan, questioned whether “The Walking Dead” was losing its way in Season 2. The rest of us, however, were more than happy with the pacing – you can’t be fighting off packs of zombies every week. Also, Shane’s killing of Otis and the tragic climax involving the search for Sophia gave us bone-chilling moments that we’ll remember for years.

7. Community (NBC)

Oh, “Community,” you do so like to tempt fate, don’t you? We’ve watched you religiously since your inception, when we picked you as the must-watch sitcom of the 2009 fall season, and you’ve gone out of your way to make sure that you didn’t let us down, offering up some of the most creative comedy on television: turning a game of Dungeons & Dragons into an oddly emotional episode, dedicating installments to everything from parallel realities to paintball, having Jeff and Shirley bond over foosball…you guys were fearless. Unfortunately, fearlessness and creativity don’t tend to play well with a mass audience, which is probably why “Community” is, as of the writing, sitting in limbo without confirmation as to when the remainder of its third season will continue to air, let alone if a fourth is in the cards. But we’re guessing you have no regrets when it comes to your steadfast refusal to avoid dumbing it down for the average viewer, which is why we’re trying to have none as well. But it’s hard. It’s very, very hard. Dammit, we just want “Community” back! Is that so much to ask?

8. The Killing (AMC)

We ranked “The Killing” as our top show in the last Power Rankings as we got hooked on this AMC murder/mystery along with millions of other fans. But promises that the killer would be revealed at the end of Season 1 weren’t kept as we were left with a cliffhanger ending, so the haters came out in full force against the show. Bill Simmons was particularly harsh in his criticism. We felt the criticisms were overblown and we’re looking forward to Season 2. Mireille Enos is a real talent as the drab and dour Sarah Lindon, which completely hides the beauty and bubbly character of this actress. Search her on YouTube and you’ll see what we mean. Joel Kinneman is also excellent as her partner, even if he often seems to be doing his best Jesse Pinkman imitation.

9. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

Given that we never know for sure if the latest season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is going to be the last season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” it’s possible that we may grade the series on a little bit of a curve. Coming on the heels of the much-vaunted “Seinfeld” reunion, we knew we might not be quite as blown away by Season 8 of “Curb,” but leave it to Larry David to mix things up enough to keep things interesting. As Larry attempted to enjoy life as a single man (inasmuch as Larry can enjoy anything), we got to see him both at home in L.A. and in NYC with Jeff and Susie, and having interactions with celebs like Ricky Gervais, Rosie O’Donnell, Cheyenne Jackson, and, most hilariously, Michael J. Fox. Will there be a Season 9? HBO is optimistic, something which Larry David has never been. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

10. Justified (FX)

To our way of thinking, there wasn’t much chance that a series based on an Elmore Leonard character and featuring Leonard himself as an executive producer could possibly go wrong, so it’s been nice to see “Justified” prove us right. Season 1 was the series was good stuff, thanks to the outstanding onscreen chemistry between Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins, but by bringing Margo Martindale into the mix for Season 2, the show leapt to new levels of greatness. With Season 3 introducing Carla Gugino as a character who – for legal reasons – isn’t actually Karen Sisco (even though she so clearly is) and bringing back Stephen Root as everyone’s favorite red-thong-wearing judge, The Hammer, the ongoing adventures of Raylan Givens continue to deliver.

11. Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Bullz-Eye doesn’t actually have an official spokesperson, but if we were hiring, you can damned well bet that Ron Swanson would be in the running. “Parks and Recreation” continues to get better and better with each season, and while all it takes is a quick trip back to Season 1 to remember why we first wrote it off as a pale imitation of “The Office,” we’ve forgiven it for those transgressions several times over by this point. The relationship between Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) has been great fun to watch unfold, as has the unexpectedly successful marriage of Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza), and watching Tom (Aziz Anzari) and Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz) work together has been comedy gold. Although we’re still in mourning for Li’l Sebastian even now, the laughs we get out of Pawnee each week has been invaluable in our emotional recovery.

12. Hell on Wheels (AMC)

We won’t deny that there are comparisons to be made between this series and “Deadwood,” but, hell, they’re both westerns, so what did you expect? That’s like bitching that “Gunsmoke” and “The Rifleman” are too damned similar. No, “Hell on Wheels” hasn’t yet hit the heights of its AMC brethren, but as businessman Thomas “Doc” Durant, Colm Meaney’s performance alone is just about enough reason to start watching the show, and as it progresses, the diversity of the characters certainly keeps viewers from ever getting bored.

13. American Horror Story (FX)

The partnership of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk has given us great things in their time, including “Nip/Tuck” and “Glee,” so there was every reason to expect that their latest endeavor, “American Horror Story” would, if nothing else, be fascinating to watch unfold. And so it has been, although your mileage may vary as far as whether or not you actually think it’s any good. Sometimes it’s disconcerting, other times it’s darkly hilarious, and, more often than not, it’s just plain batshit crazy, but in addition to two well-seasoned leads holding the insanity together (thank you, Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton), it also features fantastic supporting performances by Jessica Lange and Denis O’Hare. God only knows where Murphy and Falchuk are going to take this thing when it comes back for its second season, but whether it slumps or succeeds, we can still probably count on not being able to take our eyes off the screen.

14. The Daily Show / The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)

Sometimes it feels like a little bit of a cop-out to combine these two Comedy Central staples, since they’re very different shows with their own distinct comedic identities, but if that’s what it takes to make sure they’re still flying high in the ratings (and to allow us to slip another program into the list somewhere), then so be it. Both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert continue to deliver incisive political commentary couched (or sometimes not) in comedy. Long may they reign.

15. Dexter (Showtime)

Those of you who tuned in to Season 6 of “Dexter” looking for parenting tips may not have reacted to Showtime’s advertising campaign in quite the fashion the network had intended. Rest assured, fatherhood has not done anything to stem Dexter’s tendencies toward killing, but as good as the series continues to be, it’s still a little hard to think that it’ll ever reach the same heights again that it did when John Lithgow did his arc. Still, in fairness, however, Edward James Olmos and Colin Hanks proved to be sufficiently satisfying as the Doomsday Killers.

16. Homeland (Showtime)

There are some who say that “Homeland,” a series about a CIA officer (Claire Danes) who believes that a Marine war hero and former POW (Damian Lewis) has been turned to the side of Al-Qaeda, is head and shoulders in quality above any other series on Showtime. Clearly, our Power Rankings suggest otherwise. Once Season 1 of the shows hits Blu-ray and DVD, however, don’t be surprised if more than a few people – including members of our own staff – suddenly realize that, yeah, actually, those other people are right. Full of nail-biting tension, remarkable writing, and wonderful performances by Danes, Lewis, Mandy Patinkin, and Morena Baccarin, “Homeland” is one of those rare series that virtually every critic can agree upon…but only if they’ve actually seen it. So what are you waiting for? Go subscribe to Showtime already: the whole thing’s available via On Demand!

17. The Office (NBC)

Of all the shows on the TV Power Rankings, “The Office” is the one which had the biggest issue to overcome this season. With the departure of Steve Carell from its ranks, everyone wondered what new blood would be brought in to freshen things up. The first answer was Will Ferrell, who, quite frankly, was a huge disappointment. When Season 8 premiered, however, we were fortunate enough to have James Spader reprising his role from the season finale as Robert California, now promoted to CEO of Sabre. There have also been other guests popping up here and there, from Catherine Tate to Maura Tierney to Stephen Collins. We’ve even seen David Koechner clear his schedule in order to bring Todd Packer back into the picture. Some say “The Office” should just be put out of its misery, and if that happens, we’d understand, but at the moment we’re still finding it pretty funny.

18. How I Met Your Mother (CBS)

What? We still don’t know who the mother is…? Sorry, had to be done. (At this point, it’s kind of a TV Power Rankings tradition to make that joke.) The status quo on “HIMYM” has changed a fair amount of late, with Marshall and Lily having moved to the suburbs in advance of the birth of their child, Robin entering into her version of a serious relationship with her former therapist (played by Kal Penn), and even Barney occasionally stepping outside his uber-bro self to show signs of emotional growth. But Ted…? That guy’s still hopeless. Looks like we’ve still got awhile ahead of us before the series wraps, based on recent conversations in the press, but there’s still enough life left in the series to keep us coming back.

19. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

When “Boardwalk Empire” first premiered, many viewers were, like, “Oh, sure, it looks awesome, and you can’t help but like Steve Buscemi, but it’s just not grabbing me.” As its freshman season progressed, however, things really began to pop deeper into the ensemble, with Michael Shannon portraying Agent Van Alden as an increasingly disturbed – and disturbing – individual, Michael Kenneth Williams made Chalky White a force to be reckoned with, and Jack Huston offered an air of mystery as Richard Harrow, the man behind the mask. When the series returned for its second year, the ante was upped even further, taking several major characters out of commission permanently by season’s end. If you aren’t grabbed now, you probably never will be, but we’re sure on board with “Boardwalk.”

20. Californication (Showtime)

It’s not that the basic theme of “Californication” has ever really changed over the course of its run – at its heart, it’s about Hank Moody (David Duchovny) trying to see how many times he can fuck, get fucked up, and completely fuck up his life and still end up with his beloved Karen (Natascha McElhone) – but as writers, we love it because it’s a chance to see how debauchery-filled we always figured our lives were going to be when we started doing this gig. Also, it continues to be highly enjoyable to see what guest stars are going to be brought into the mix, and Season 4 gave us some good ones, including Rob Lowe and Carla Gugino. It’s still early days in Season 5 as of this writing, but executive producer Tom Kapanos’ decision to jump ahead almost three years (which, by coincidence, is basically what “Weeds” did, too) seems to have been a positive move creatively.

21. Tosh.0 (Comedy Central)

As long as the beautiful ménage à trois between stupid people, video cameras, and the internet continues to flourish, Daniel Tosh’s career will stay in full bloom. Now in its fourth season, “Tosh.0” may not be the most highbrow series on the air, but it’s never at a loss for material and still offers a solid number of laughs per episode.

22. Archer (FX)

Some shows are perfect fare for guys and gals to kick back and enjoy together, but, guys, unless you have one of the most awesome girlfriends ever, then “Archer” probably doesn’t quality as one of those shows. Sterling Archer has the libido of James Bond and Austin Powers put together but without any of the charm, and not only is he unfailingly uncouth, but he’s a mama’s boy to boot. Damned if he isn’t funny, though, and Season 3 has started off just as funny as its predecessors…but, then, what would you expect when you’ve got Burt Reynolds playing himself?

23. New Girl (Fox)

When it comes to watching “New Girl,” one’s level of appreciation is directly proportionate to how one feels about the concept of “adorkability,” which Zooey Deschanel brings to the small screen in seemingly limitless quantities as Jess, a too-cute twentysomething who moves in with a trio of guys on the heels of an excruciatingly bad breakup. As with most ensemble comedies, it’s taken time for the chemistry of the cast to find its feet, but it’s coming along nicely.

24. Weeds (Showtime)

When we first picked back up with Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) for the seventh season of “Weeds,” she’d spent three years cooling her heels in the clink while the rest of the Botwin clan had been chillin’ in Copenhagen, but with Nancy being shifted to a halfway house in New York City, a family reunion was only inevitable. Big shock: Nancy started selling pot again. Possibly bigger shock: even going into its eighth season, “Weeds” is still reliably entertaining.

25. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

No, it’s not quite the same show it used to be, owing to the fact that the cast now consists of almost as many women as it does men, but with the series now in its fifth season, the trio of Kaley Cuoco, Melissa Rauch, and Mayim Bialik have probably infused “The Big Bang Theory” with more laughs than the it would’ve had at this point if it had stuck strictly to the original four geeks. The only question now is how much longer we’ll have to wait for Raj to come out of the closet…because, seriously, you don’t need to possess gay-dar to see that that’s what they’re leading up to.

Bubbling Under

Boss (Starz): No one blames you for being hesitant about the idea of longtime sitcom star Kelsey Grammer starring in a premium-cable drama about a Chicago mayor who’s slowly but surely losing his mental faculties, but the first season of “Boss” turned out to be a really strong piece of work. Here’s hoping more viewers give it a go when it returns for its sophomore year.

Cougar Town (ABC): Yes, the title sucks. We know it, you know it, and series creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel know it, so just get over it already. It’s not like it’s relevant anymore, anyway, since not only is Jules (Courtney Cox) not out bedding hot young studs, but as of the Season 3 premiere, she’s actually engaged to her beau, Grayson (Josh Hopkins). Call it whatever you want, it’s still a great ensemble comedy about a bunch of fun folks who like to hang out, drink a lot of wine, and, uh, not much else. You know, kinda like you and your friends.

Fringe (Fox): We weren’t sure what to make of the observer’s announcement in last season’s “Fringe” finale that Peter Bishop never really existed. Um…huh? Surely they wouldn’t just eliminate Peter from the storyline — the show wouldn’t be the same without any of its three leads — but how would this all play out? In typical “Fringe” fashion, they added even more layers to the show, with Peter now stuck in an alternate timeline (not to be confused with the parallel universe from which Peter was abducted as a kid) and working with the “alternate” versions of Olivia, Walter and Walternate to get back to his timeline and his people. We repeat: um…huh?

How to Make It in America / Hung (HBO): We’ve combined these two shows into one write-up not because they’re particularly similar (although they both speak to our nation’s economic struggles in their own way) but, rather, because when both series got their walking papers from HBO a few months ago, we couldn’t decide which cancellation depressed us more. “How to Make It in America” wasn’t a fast-moving series, but it was one which paid off handsomely over time as a study of its characters, and while “Hung” had a pretty deplorable second season, it really turned things around in Season 3. Sorry to see you go, Ray. We’d tell you to keep your pecker up, but given what you’re packing, we wouldn’t want you to pass out.

The League (FX): It took longer than we’d hoped, but “The League” finally found its groove last season. The show was more consistently funny in its third season, with the writers solidifying the foundation by finding the right balance between the fantasy football angle and more traditional storylines, and we loved watching the season-long “draft cheat” arc play out in the hilarious two-part finale. These characters finally have some depth, giving us hope that Season 4 will be even better.

The Middle (ABC): The biggest hurdle that “The Middle” has to cross before it earns the respect of a larger audience is that viewers have to learn to appreciate that, no, it isn’t “Modern Family,” but it is just as funny. Granted, the humor’s often coming from a slightly different place, putting a great deal of focus on the economic struggles of a family in the Midwest, one that just barely gets the bills paid, hardly even tries to keep their house clean, doesn’t interact well with others, and, ultimately, comes across more real than any other sitcom family on TV.

Parenthood (NBC): We’ve been bracing for the cancellation of “Parenthood” since it first debuted, and yet the show is in the midst of a typically fantastic third season. Hopefully, it keeps defying the odds because we really want to see Adam and Crosby turn their recording studio into a smashing success. (And their assistant is pretty easy on the eyes, to boot!)

Shameless (Showtime): We wouldn’t want to suggest that this show might not be nearly as much of a must-see if William H. Macy wasn’t playing Frank, the perpetually-drunk patriarch of the Gallagher family, but…we don’t know how else to finish that sentence. That’s not to say that Emmy Rossum isn’t great to look at, and it’s pretty cool having Joan Cusack as part of the proceedings as well. But, c’mon, let’s face it: when you get right down to it, it’s all about what Bill Macy brings to the table.

Suburgatory (ABC): The new kid in ABC’s Wednesday night comedy line-up is, as it happens, actually about a new kid. Tessa (Jane Levy) is less than thrilled when her father (Jeremy Sisto) decides that the best thing for his daughter and their relationship is to move from New York City to the suburbs, but the resulting culture clash has proven pretty funny, thanks to an ensemble cast drawn from alumni of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (Cheryl Hines), “Entourage” (Rex Lee), “Saturday Night Live” (Ana Gasteyer, Chris Parnell, and Jay Mohr), and even the Whedon-verse (Alan Tudyk, late of “Firefly). With Alicia Silverstone reuniting with Sisto (they were both in “Clueless,” remember?) for a several-episode plot arc, the future’s looking pretty bright for this show.

Still Too New to Call

Alcatraz (Fox): The last time J.J. Abrams brought us a series that blended sci-fi elements with a procedural format – this would be “Fringe” we’re talking about – it soon evolved into an incredibly mythology-heavy show that inspired obsessive fandom but limited viewership. Maybe that’s why his latest endeavor is several episodes in and still seems very cemented in the world of procedurals. Mind you, it’s a series about Alcatraz inmates and guards who mysteriously disappeared from the prison in 1963 and are now suddenly beginning to reappear, so it’s clearly got plenty of sci-fi shenanigans going on, and it is indeed building on its mythology right on, which means that it could well turn out just as awesome as “Fringe.” Let’s all keep our fingers crossed, shall we?

Awake (NBC): As of this writing, you probably haven’t seen “Awake” yet, since it’s not set to premiere until March 1, and given that A) it’s on NBC, B) it’s a serialized drama, and C) it’s got a premise that will probably blow the minds of way more viewers than it will intrigue, there’s a pretty good chance that it will be gone by the time the next TV Power Rankings roll around. But, damn, is the pilot good. Brought to you by Kyle Killen, whose last series, “Lone Star,” looked great but was gone after only two episodes, “Awake” is about a police detective (Jason Isaacs) who, after a car accident, finds himself living in two realities: one where his wife died in the crash but his son lived, the other where his son died in the crash but his wife lived. Also, he has different partners in each reality. And different therapists. (Like you’re surprised he’s in therapy.) See what we mean? It’s crazy stuff. But the pilot delivers in a big way. It’s all down to how many people will give it a chance.

Don’t Trust The B—- In Apt. 23 (ABC): Nope, you haven’t seen this one, either – it won’t hit ’til April 11 – but it’s another case where the pilot is so good that it warrants mention. Krysten Ritter, who you may remember as the dearly-departed Jane on “Breaking Bad,” plays the titular character here, a total con artist whose new roommate (Dreama Walker) refuses to be taken advantage of. It’s a really quirky piece of work, aided in no small part by the inclusion of James van der Beek playing a highly exaggerated (hopefully) version of himself, and it’s more than a little bit dark at times, too. As such, it’s hard to say if the average viewer will embrace it. But if you’re a fan of series like “30 Rock,” “Community,” and the late, great “Better Off Ted,” you owe it to yourself to check it out when it premieres.

Key & Peele (Comedy Central): It’s been awhile since Comedy Central had a proper sketch comedy series that really delivered, but these “Mad TV” alumni have put together something that’s a little bit “Chappelle’s Show,” a little bit “Mr. Show,” and probably some “SNL” and “In Living Color,” too, covering a lot of different bases with the topics they’re mining for comedy. Since it’s only a few weeks into its run and has already earned a pick-up for a second season, “Key & Peele” probably have a better chance than any other series in this bunch to make it onto the next Power Rankings, and based on how much we’ve laughed so far, they might just be near the top. Time will tell…

Luck (HBO): All things being equal, we probably could’ve slipped this series into the top 25 without seeing a single moment of it, since the people both in front of and behind the camera are so amazing. Created by David Milch, directed by Michael Mann, starring Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Dennis Farina, Michael Gambon, Jill Hennessey, Jason Gedrick, Richard Kind, Ian Hart, Kevin Dunn…man, we’re exhausted just trying to comprehend how much awesomeness is in this thing. Of course, as a David Milch show, it could be the next “Deadwood” or it could be the next “John from Cincinnati,” so rather than guess how good it’s going to get, we’re leaving it here for the moment. But suffice it to say that we have nothing but the highest of hopes for how it’ll pan out.

The River (ABC): It’s all too easy to dismiss a potentially fascinating show with the words, “Ah, they’re just trying to be the next ‘Lost,'” so try to keep that phrase out of your mind when watching this series, which involves the host of a nature documentary series (Bruce Greenwood) going missing in the Amazon while on a mysterious quest, leading his wife, son, and the crew of his series to search for him. Not only has Steven Spielberg affixed his name to the show, but the folks behind “Paranormal Event” have so far infused the show with a seriously off-putting vibe…but, y’know, the good kind, like you find in horror movies.

Smash (NBC): Given that the ad campaign makes it look like the sort of thing that would appeal strictly to “Glee” fans, a show which longtime TV Power Rankings readers will note has fallen so far out of favor that it doesn’t even rate Bubbling Under status, we can appreciate your skepticism about this series, especially since it revolves around the not-exactly-testosterone-heavy concept of the making of a Broadway musical. But it’s a Steven Spielberg production, it’s got a cast peppered with some serious street cred (two words: Anjelica Huston), and the occasional singing and dancing segments have thus far featured some damned sexy women. It’s cool to pretend you don’t want to watch, but the reality is that it’s been pretty damned watchable thus far.

Touch (Fox): At the moment, all we’ve seen of Kiefer Sutherland‘s new series is the pilot episode, which Fox sneak-previewed on Jan. 25 in an effort to get the buzz building in earnest, but we really dug what we saw. The premise revolves partially around widower and single father Martin Bohm (Sutherland) as he comes to grips with the realization that his autistic-ish son Jake ((David Mazouz) is tapped into the numeric inter-connectivity of everything in the universe. Or something like that. Anyway, the show comes courtesy of Tim Kring, who proved with “Heroes” that, if nothing else, he’s really good at setting up a cool premise. Let’s just hope that experience has taught him a few things about how to keep a cool premise going.


You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.