10. HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (CBS)
At some point I’ll probably devote time for a lengthy blog post about the evolution of HIMYM. For a time, it was my absolute favorite comedy, and probably favorite show. I don’t know if there’s a sitcom other than FRIENDS that I liked more (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is in a genre of its own) during its prime, but the last few seasons have devolved into hit or miss, run of the mill sitcom stuff, made all the more painful because the jokes were being made by some of my favorite people.
Meeting the mother in last season’s finale was a massive deal, but at the time, for me, it was too little, too late, and didn’t meet my impossible expectations, something the show had built up over its previous 8 seasons. But, the first three episodes this year have reignited my excitement, and I really like what we’ve seen of the Mother thus far.
If you subtract Marshall’s awful PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES subplot with Daphne (Sherri Shephard, really?), the first two episodes were some of the funniest the show has been in a while. The show has always thrived playing with the timeline, and Barney and Robin’s wedding is clearly ripe with potential. Of course, it appears they’ll be milking that cow all season, dragging it out to the bitter end. If that means that Marshall and Daphne are going to be on this infernal road trip for most of the season, I’m going to be pissed. Marshall is the best…and he’s going to spend the last season NOT with Lily and the rest of the gang but with this random woman who is painfully unfunny? Marshall trying to remove a photo from Facebook, a “plotpoint” that got him kicked off a plane was some of the worst moments this show has ever seen.
But the moments with the Mother, and some great Lily/Ted moments and Barney/Robin moments have made up for it, as the show’s best weapon is its big, beating heart. It’s a pale imitation of its former great heights in the comedy department. But, based on the first three episodes, I think it’ll be more resurgent in that area this year as well.
9. MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
I’ll admit, this ranking is probably boosted due to my insane hype and excitement for this show, even if the first two episodes, while good/great, have underwhelmed me. Of course, that was bound to happen, but I’ve been surprised how heavy handed and cliché the various parts have come together thus far. The team and the plot seems so manufactured…but there’s far too many promising pieces in this puzzle, and with Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson running the show, you can’t complain too much.
I’m stoked about where this show is heading, and I expect that by season’s end, it’ll be firmly entrenched in my top 5. For now, I’ll save you guys from Whedon love, for a week.
8. SLEEPY HOLLOW (FOX)
After a stunningly great pilot, the next two episodes declined in quality each week. That was remedied with this Monday’s fourth episode, and I’m officially all in. I love the National Treasure/Da Vinci Code vibe with the Revolutionary War serving as a playground for alternate history and magical objects and weapons and the like.
The show has a great look and some awesome FX, Tom Mison’s Ichabod is wonderful, and each episode thus far has delivered some sweet visuals. Thus far, my only problem has been the continued ignorance and insistent on disbelief by Abby, despite way too much evidence to the contrary. That seems to be melting away quickly, and it better, since she’s in danger of being the least interesting character on the show, when she’s posited as the savior and main hero. In a show with Ichabod flippin’ Crane in it, that might be a misstep.
7. BROOKLYN NINE-NINE (FOX)
Step up, best new comedy of the fall. And it’s not even close. A few years ago, Andy Samberg was the “it” guy in comedy, the swell SNL dude that everyone couldn’t get enough of…until they realized he’s kind of too much to take sometimes. I worried that that might be a problem on this show that seemed like a lot of a crazy and wacky Andy.
And while that’s the case, it’s amid one of the best new ensembles on TV, and he’s reined in perfectly by the gruff and great Andre Braugher, riffing on his famous HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET turn.
Ever since the man uttered “let us gingerly touch our tips” in ROLE MODELS, it was clear that Joe Lo Truglio deserved a knighthood, or a starring role on a sitcom. Thankfully, he landed a good one, though I hope his character isn’t completely…hopeless going forward.
I have an odd crush on Chelsea Perretti’s nasal voiced Gina. The ridiculously muscled Terry Crews as a man terrified of action because of his daughters? Brilliant. This show may be the fastest riser on this list.
UPDATE: BROOKLYN NINE-NINE has received a full season order [22 eps] from FOX.
6. MODERN FAMILY (ABC)
I can hardly believe we’re onto the fifth season of MODERN FAMILY, and it keeps winning Emmy’s. I’d argue that its best episodes are already behind it, and it’s decidedly old news and a lame selection, but it’s still undeniably witty and heartwarming.
In fact, this season’s premiere and subsequent couple episodes have been stellar, almost on par with its glory years when it reigned as the best comedy on TV. The older Lily has turned into a joke machine, and Phil is just as wonderful as ever, as Ty Burrell is easily one of the five funniest men on TV, even still. I also made that up, so I don’t know if I can actually back that up.
The show doesn’t really know what to do with the kids or with Claire, but Claire working with her dad is off to a promising start, and now that Luke and Manny are older, it seems like they’re going to be joining Alex and Haley in more storylines. Nolan Gould especially hit a growth spurt this past year, so it’ll be interesting to see how that influences his character, as he’s probably my second favorite after his dear old Dad.
5. PERSON OF INTEREST (CBS)
I recently burned through this entire show in advance of this third season, and I couldn’t be more excited. Not only has the show added another sexy stalwart in Sarah Shahi’s dangerous Agent Shaw, but Amy Acker’s villainous Root is now a regular, meaning she’ll be a devious thorn in the side of Finch and Reese for that many more episodes!
Amy Acker gives me the tinglies, and she’s fantastic as a baddie, as she plays off her sleight frame and mousey looks. Add another in a long line of mysterious overarching big bads, with some interesting status quo changes with Detective Carter and Fusko, not to mention Elias, and POI is shaping up to be one of my favorite shows.
So far, Root and Shaw have been the highlights of the early going, as Finch and Reese’s shorthand have almost become tiresome or just…regular, like clockwork. Kudos on the producers for recognizing and emphasizing new blood. In the early going, I haven’t been mesmerized with the numbers or the cases, as even when POI has been lean with the nuggets dealing with the machine and the larger picture, you normally can rely on a great guest star and a thrilling case. But two episodes is hardly reason to panic, or bump it down any.
4. PARENTHOOD (NBC)
This is probably the most underrated show on the planet (familiar territory for the FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS creative team onboard), and after a pretty much perfect finale and swansong last year, the show is back. This normally means a ton of tears, life lessons and ends with me wishing I could hug my mother, while alternating between loving that I don’t have a massive family that gets together all the time and kinda upset that I don’t. So far, and granted, it’s only two episodes, but I’m not really feeling that emotion thus far, likely because I can’t really pinpoint a storyline I like. At least one that’s getting a lot of play.
Julia’s struggling to get back into the job market, which would be interesting, but her character isn’t exactly the most easy to relate to or…appreciate. And now they’re adding perennial “other guy” David Denman (Pam’s ex in THE OFFICE) as what suspiciously feels like a love interest. He actually seems like a wonderful dude…but Joel is a saint whose semen is likely used as gorilla glue on his construction sites. Meaning you don’t cheat on him. Ever. And if that’s where this subplot goes…ugh.
I like that Kristina is running for Mayor, even if Adam is right, that it doesn’t really make a lick of sense, but good for her anyways. Plus, getting another FNL alum in the show in Jurnee Smollett-Bell as her no-nonsense campaign manager is always a good decision, like Samuel Adams with tits.
I love that Hank (Ray Romano) and Max are bro’ing it out at the camera shop as they form their own weirdo nucleus where they remark at how crazy and TV show-y Max’s family is. In some universe, this subplot would be totally creepy, but it’s adorable instead.
I hate that Amber is engaged to Matt…which is so obviously going to end in tears and awful that I kinda just want to skip over it. That said, the only poignant moment so far was when Sarah uncharacteristically was a trusting and not-overbearing mother, by respecting her decision to Matt and decide to help with the wedding. If I had a scrapbook of dream weddings under my bed, I’d probably still be bawling.
We get it, Crosby continues to be an immature, man-child, and while he’s great with Jabbar, he never had to deal with him as a stinky, crying baby, and he hates taking care of his newborn. What a swell dude. I’m mildly concerned with Jabbar’s diet. Thanks to Crosby he gets as much soda and candy as he wants, and his choice of restaurants is the cholesterol circus that is RANDOM ITALIAN RESTAURANT™. Of course, Jabbar weighs less than a modest fruit basket, so my concerns might be unfounded.
Hey, remember Haddie? Me neither. Cornell will do that to a girl.
3. NEW GIRL (FOX)
Going into this season, NEW GIRL was my favorite comedy, surpassing PARKS & REC and the rest by a mile, thanks to its brilliant ensemble. There’s not a show I laugh out loud to more. And while that’s still likely the case, I’m concerned at how the third season has begun.
On one hand, they’ve given Winston more screentime to shine, even if he’s kind of devolved into a sad, lonely halfwit. But he’s a hilarious halfwit who struggles at puzzles, and he’s the key to keeping the show’s brand of funny alive.
Why? I’ve mostly liked what they’ve done with Jess and Nick since they’ve gotten together, but I doubt its sustainability. The real concern is Schmidt. He was the breakout comic character when the show first started, transforming the show into Zoey’s show to…a show that has Zoey in it. He’s still hilarious, but I’ve hated what they’re doing with his character since the end of season 2. In fact, I haven’t really liked any character developments they’ve done with him since the end of season 1 when he unfathomably threw his relationship with Cece away for no apparent reason.
Now they went with the tried and true sitcom shtick of juggling two women (OH HOW WILL IT END?!), and while it was hilarious in spite of its stupidity to open the third season, it predictably blew up in Schmidt’s face, losing both Elizabeth and Cece (speaking of Elizabeth: she’s wonderful, but I never truly bought that Schmidt loved her in the same way that he liked Cece; I feel like he was merely going back to a woman he knew he could have when he knew he couldn’t have Cece, and never bought it escalating). It’s exactly what he deserves, and I hated Schmidt’s excuse or reasoning to Cece. He couldn’t handle two women because he used to be fat and isn’t used to it? He hasn’t been fat for years and has been a playa for awhile now, and it’s pathetic. Schmidt is a treasure, but they’re in danger of making him cross into bad douchebag territory. They need a bigger douchebag jar.
2. PARKS & RECREATION (NBC)
I love P&R, but towards the end of last season, I felt like it had lust some of its luster. It was still hilarious, has the best cast, and wonderful characters, but it just didn’t grab me as it had previously. The two-part London premiere changed that completely. It was wonderful…and probably brought more outpouring of emotion from me than any other show in the fall season thus far. I’ll miss Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones when they leave the show in episode 13, but I don’t think the show will suffer for it. Neither of them have added anything of substance to the show in awhile, even if they’re both great. It sets us up for a fond farewell, a precursor for THE farewell, which may take place at the end of the season. And that’ll be truly sad.
And, despite it ending almost three weeks ago, I have to give the top spot to…what else?
1. BREAKING BAD (AMC)
A massive tip o’ the hat to BREAKING BAD, one of the best shows of all-time. I thought the finale was practically perfect, almost play-like in its theatrics and drama and fantastic acting and dialogue, and tying up pretty much every question or lingering subplot. Vince Gilligan has crafted a masterful work of art, and became one of the few shows to not only meet the hype, but thrive under the intense scrutiny and ramped up pressure as the show came to a close.
Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Anna Gunn, Giancarlo Esposito, Bob Odenkirk, et al, I salute thee.