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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The Light from the TV Shows: Kevin Smith and his “Comic Book Men” are coming to AMC

If you don’t know that Kevin Smith has a tendency to get a little geeky with his pop-culture pursuits, then I can only presume that the sentence you’re reading at this very moment is the first time you’ve ever heard of Kevin Smith. Seriously, the man’s all about geek culture, and he’s not afraid to liberally pepper the dialogue of his films with comic book and sci-fi references…and by “liberally pepper,” I mean that, as often as not, you’re knee deep in the stuff. As such, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that his latest endeavor finds him serving as the executive producer of a new AMC reality series – their first in the genre – called…

The series takes place in Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, the comic shop Smith owns in Red Bank, NJ, and revolves around the guys who work there – Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, Michael Zapcic, and Ming Chen – as they go through their daily routine, much of which…at least for the purposes of the series, anyway…will involve the people who bring items into the store in hopes of selling them.

Yes, that’s right, go ahead and figure on every review of “Comic Book Men” featuring some reference to the series being like “Pawn Stars,” except geekier. This is in no way an inaccurate comparison. In fact, to hear Smith tell it, his pitch for the series actually involved the words, “Let’s do ‘Pawn Stars’ in a comic book store.” But, look, I’m just gonna tell you outright: that sentence alone would’ve been enough to get me to sign up for a season pass on TiVo, and having now actually watched a rough cut of the first episode, I see no reason to backpedal on that theory. Not only do we see some pretty cool shit coming into the store – like, say, a still-boxed Six Million Dollar Man figure with bionic “scope” eye – but there’s a lot of incredibly geeky conversation, too, like the guys’ deepest superhero crushes. (For the record, mine was always Tigra. Just sayin’.)

By the way, speaking of Smith, you probably noticed that I didn’t mention his name as one of the guys who works at the Secret Stash. This, of course, is because he’s got better things (relatively speaking) to do with his time. Don’t worry, though: he’s still in every episode, since the goings-on in the store end up being discussed on the group’s podcast, of which Smith is a part, and the recording sessions have been filmed and are spliced into the proceedings.

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Is “The Walking Dead” losing its way?

I went into season two of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” thinking it would be a slam dunk. How could it be anything but? The first season, at just six episodes, was one of the most intriguing pieces of television I’ve seen in years. Most of its allure was the pacing. Every episode had moments of pure calm that were invariably interrupted by drooling hordes of zombies. But the zombies didn’t carry the show. The characters did most of the work, which is exactly what a good zombie show needs. We need to care about the characters so that the inevitable losses have some consequence, a task the writers of the show met head-on. All of this is to say that my expectations, high as they were, were based on the merit of the first season.

Season two started well. The survivors from last season had decided to leave Atlanta and head for Fort Benning. They hit a roadblock on the way out of town, which included a brush with a shuffling horde of zombies. We saw a pair of walkers dispatched, the first with a screwdriver through the eye, the second with a quick stab to the brainstem. It was a perfect re-introduction to the gruesome, post-apocalyptic world I loved in season one.

While creative zombie-killing is great, it isn’t enough to carry the show. There has to be some sort of plot. For season one, it was getting into Atlanta and the CDC with the hope of finding more survivors. In season two we have Fort Benning, again with the hope of finding survivors. It’s a fine plot, though it does get quickly derailed when Sophia, one of the children in the group, is chased into the woods and later disappears. Sophia’s disappearance would have been fine had it been contained to just an episode or two, but it has utterly consumed the show. Read the rest of this entry »

  

A Chat with Norman Reedus (“The Walking Dead”)

ALSO: Check out our Season Two preview, as well interviews with actor Jon Bernthal and executive producer Robert Kirkman.

Bullz-Eye: I know you won’t remember me, but we met fleetingly at the New York Comic Con, during the press roundtables.

Norman Reedus: Oh, right on. (Laughs) The craziness that is Comic-Con…

BE: Yeah, there’s no way you’d remember me in the middle of all that. But it was a good time nonetheless, so it’s good to talk to you again. And I’ve had a chance to check out the first episode of the new season…

NR: Oh, yeah? What’d you think?

BE: I think I should’ve gone straight on to the second episode.

NR: (Laughs) Awesome!

BE: So when you leapt into Season 2, how enthused were you to get back to work? It seems like it’d be a lot of fun to do.

NR: It’s a blast. I wanted to go a month early and just wait for everybody to show up. It’s such a fun job. It’s by far my favorite job I’ve ever done. The crew and the cast, everyone is so tight there. We’re all just one big family, for real. I just wanted to get back to it. I’ve never really had an acting experience that’s just so…fun. It’s so engaging. I’m really into it.

BE: Do you get used to the humidity down in Atlanta pretty quickly?

NR: You know, you kind of just suffer for the show. The heat and the surroundings are definitely a character on the show, so we’re out there surviving for our lives already. But, you know, I…I’m in Los Angeles right now, getting ready to go back to George to finish the season. But it started getting cold the last night we were there, and I shot ‘til about 4:30 in the morning and took an 8 AM flight to California, so I was exhausted. But it was freezing. It didn’t feel right. I prefer the heat.

BE: I think it was Steven (Yeun) who was telling the story about how he actually passed out his first day of filming.

NR: Yeah, he did. He had a long running scene, and he just sort of fainted. It was pretty crazy. Of course, we all teased him uncontrollably forever after that. (Laughs)

BE: So do you have to get into a Daryl mindset when you go back to work?

NR: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, ‘cause last season, it was all ‘fuck you, I hate you,’ and this season you sort of see Daryl form alliances with certain members you wouldn’t necessarily expect. Damaged people recognize other damaged people, so they have a kindred spirit going on. It’s not just so one-noted this season. He really kind of bounces all over the place, and it’s really interesting. It’s like he needs a hug, but if you tried to hug him, he’d stab you. He’s really fragile, like a little kid in a lot of ways. You see certain members of the group trying to tell him his worth, that he’s worth more than he thinks about himself, and you find a little bit about his back story, his family history, and you see how truly damaged this guy is. It’s interesting to play all those levels. It really makes for an interesting day of work.

BE: Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t call him a delicate flower or anything, but even in the first episode of Season 2, he feels like a slightly different Daryl than we saw last season.

NR: Yeah, but, you know, even last season, I tried to tear up between squirrel throws and whatnot, just to make him still be, like, he lost his big brother. Even assholes have big brothers. I tried to make him more than just an angry guy. It was, like, show some reasons why he’s so angry and damaged.

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A Chat with Jon Bernthal (“The Walking Dead”)

ALSO: Check out our Season Two preview, as well as interviews with actor Norman Reedus and executive producer Robert Kirkman.

BE: I’ve seen the Season 2 premiere, and from what I can tell, it seems like you guys are still playing at the same level that you were in the first season.

Jon Bernthal: Aw, thanks, man, I appreciate you saying so.

BE: So you guys got to play the love triangle in Season 1, and it’s obviously still ongoing in Season 2. Is it a challenge to play something like that in the middle of a zombie thriller?

JB: I don’t really look at it so much as a love triangle. I look at it more as a family that…these horrible circumstances, this disease that’s turned the world into this apocalyptic state, I look at it more as a family that’s been severely fractured by it. I think that it’s not as simple as two guys in love with the same girl. I think Shane is very much in love with Lori, but I think he loves his best friend, too, as well as their little boy, Carl. I think these are relationships that are immensely important to him, and unfortunately, they’re forever tainted and they’ll never quite be the same. In this world that we’re trying to create, all of these characters have lost so many people. I think what’s very interesting for Shane is that the people in the world who mean the most to him are still alive. It’s just that their relationships will never be the same because of what’s gone down.

BE: Shane is a pretty complex character because of his situation. Do you find it hard to find that balance of personality when you’re playing the part?

JB: No, man, I love it. As an actor, it’s the kind of part you look for. When I first talked with Frank (Darabont) about this, our goal was to not just make him sort of this one-dimensional villain straight out of the comic. We wanted him to be a layered, nuanced character that wasn’t a good guy, wasn’t a bad guy, but was a real guy. I think he’s just operating from a place of being a loyal friend and trying to do what’s best, trying to protect these people that he loves so much. I think he’s always coming from a place of trying to do the right thing, but it’s fractured. It’s just such a different, cold, brutal world now. Also, what’s very interesting about the character is that he’s the first one in the series, I think, to just sort of recognize the lawlessness of this world they’re living in now. He does it when he beats down Ed by the water in Season 1, and also when he trains the gun on Rick in Season 1. I think he recognizes that there are no real circumstances for your actions in this world, and I think Season 2 is very much about Rick and Shane splitting on how they feel the best way to go forward in this world is. I think Shane feels that, to survive, you have to make very brutal, very harsh decisions, and you really have to abandon emotion and morality and just do what’s best for survival, whereas Rick, I think, is kind of plagued by trying to do the right thing. They really become at odds with each other over those philosophies.

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