The Light from the TV Shows: TV Comfort Food for Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving Eve ’round Bullz-Eye HQ as I write this piece, which means that anyone here who’s still working wants to be doing it about as little as I do. In fact, the biggest reason I’ve waited this long into the evening to get moving on the piece is because I’ve spent way too much of my day watching a marathon of a certain series on the USA Network…which brings me to the premise of this week’s column. Lord knows it’s become a small-screen staple for networks to offer programming which provides the one-two punch of 1) allowing the employees of these networks to do as little work as possible, and 2) inspiring all those TV viewers with Tryptophan surging through their veins to set down their remotes and bask in as many episodes of their favorite show as their holiday weekend downtime will allow.

Now you’re wondering what marathons you can catch this weekend, right? Well, there are a few good ones out there, to be sure:

Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America (Travel Channel, 9am-3pm Thursday)
ALF (The Hub, 3pm Thursday – 3am Friday)
The Andy Griffith Show (TV Land 4pm-9pm Thursday & Friday)
Behind the Music (VH1, 2pm-10pm Friday)
Beverly Hills, 90210 (SOAPNet, 8pm Friday – 1am Saturday)
Breaking Amish (TLC, 11am-9pm Saturday)
Castle (TNT, 10am-11pm Thursday)
Chef Race: UK vs. US (BBC America, 8am-5pm Sunday)
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The Light from the TV Shows: Live from the Summer 2012 TCA Press Tour

Yep, that’s right: much as I’ve done every summer since 2007, I’m coming to you straight from the Television Critics Association press tour. Unlike previous years, however, I’ve got my daughter with me this time around, since her birthday fell smack dab in the middle of the trip. As you can imagine, this is keeping me pretty busy, but I wanted to bring you at least a little bit of the TCA experience while I’m out there…and, rest assured, next week’s column will provide much of the same, since I’ll still be here then.

At this point, we’ve had panels for PBS, Fox, NBC, NBC’s subsidiary networks (Oxygen, E!, etc.), and a few locations on the web (Yahoo!, YouTube). I’m not in a position to go into great detail about everything I’ve seen and heard – I’ve got a little girls birthday to celebrate, after all – but you can find some key moments via my Twitter feed. I’ve had a few enjoyable close encounters here and there, talking to Sir Kenneth Branagh (PBS’s “Wallander”), William Forsythe and Zeljko Ivanek (Fox’s “Mob Doctor”), and Billy Burke and Giancarlo Esposito (NBC’s “Revolution”), and I’m looking forward to chatting with Lily Tomlin on ABC’s day and Kyle MacLachlan when CBS’s panels roll around. For the time being, however, I’ve pulled together some of the highlights from Fox’s panels. Hope you enjoy!


Nigel Lythgoe on why there’s never been a proper “So You Think You Can Dance” best-of DVD: “We’ve looked at doing it. It’s the music clearance is just really difficult, as well you know, in this country. There are no blanket agreements like there are in Europe. You can’t just use anything that’s been out there. If you want to use an Eagles track, you have to ask the publisher, the writer, every single Eagle. It just, at the end of the day, doesn’t make money because you’re laying so much money out on that early stage.”


Mindy Kaling on headlining her own show, “The Mindy Project”: “It’s awesome. Even more (than I imagined it would be). I mean, like, every day I wake up and I’m, like, ‘Oh, I’m the star of my own show that has my name in it and I get to write it and hire people, actors that I’ve loved for such a long time.’ It’s amazing. I’m going to turn into a monster. Like, I can’t handle it.”


Zach Gilford on his lack of job security on “The Mob Doctor”: “I think on a show like this, if someone wants to get back at (Jordana Spiro’s character), they could take out one of us. So you’ve got to not be an asshole on set and say the lines just right, because we’re all expendable.”

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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…

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 Cuouo, 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.

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.

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.

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