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.
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.”
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.
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.
There are some who say that “Homeland,” a series about a CIA officer (Clare 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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