Well we're rapidly approaching the close of 2012... bring on the top ten lists!
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For months, we were hyping the new series for the 2012/13 season. Then, the season kicked off in grand fashion; some shows disappointed us, some knocked our socks off. Which new programs found their way into your homes and hearts? Which shows became destination television after a few brief episodes?
So here is my personal top ten list of the best new shows of the season (so far). This has nothing to do with ratings, just a personal take on which shows have delivered and promise great new episodes to come. If you haven't yet checked out a show on this list, I say give it a shot--you may be pleasantly surprised.
10) 'Ben & Kate,' FOX
While I am the first to admit that this series has its flaws, the comedy of Nat Faxon and the adorable supporting work by Lucy Punch earns 'Ben & Kate' a place in the top ten. The episodes are somewhat by-the-numbers with little in the way of surprises, but there are laughs and charming moments that make 'Ben & Kate' work as a comfort sitcom. Worth checking out.
9) 'The Mindy Project,' FOX
Another FOX sitcom makes the (bottom of the) list, as Mindy Kaling single-handedly carries an entire show on her back. Not only is Kaling the lovable star of the show, she has personally written the vast majority of the first season episodes. The show's scenes tend to be hit-or-miss, but Kaling's affability and charm is undeniable. It's refreshing to see an Indian-American star on a program, let alone an Indian-American woman. 'Mindy' has a lot of heart.
The first drama series on our list is Eric Kripke's 'Revolution.' After creating 'Supernatural,' Kripke turned to this post-apocalyptic dystopian serial to tell the story of how humans forge ahead in a world after the loss of electricity. Produced by mega-star J.J. Abrahms' Bad Robot, 'Revolution' brought in the heavy-hitters from the onset--even Jon Favreau ('Iron Man') was brought in to direct the pilot.
Despite the fanfare, 'Revolution' has had a shaky start. Far from the next 'LOST,' which many people hoped it would be, the pacing of each episode has proven dodgy and audiences have been underwhelmed as a result. Still, no one can deny the quality of the acting performances on the show, making 'Revolution' worth watching.
7) 'Go On,' NBC
Our second offering from NBC is the Matthew Perry single-camera comedy 'Go On.' As Ryan King, Perry plays a sportscaster who attends group therapy in order to try to help him past his wife's untimely death. While the premise left much to be desired, in practice, 'Go On' proves capable of delivering laughs thanks to the stellar ensemble cast assembled.
Despite the fact that no tight-knit group of therapy patients has ever existed quite like this, anywhere, the humour and heart behind 'Go On' allows you to suspend that disbelief in the same way that we ignore the unbelievable grouping on 'Community.' With a strong cast who each deliver their own quirky brand of comedy, 'Go On' is anchored entirely by Perry, who has relaxed his comedic style since 'Friends.' Great little comedy.
ABC makes the list with their new musical drama 'Nashville,' starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere. Rayna James (Britton) is the Queen of Country music, however her popularity is beginning to wane. Cue Juliette Barns (Panettiere), the hot new thing on the Country music scene. James and Barns pair up for a tour, despite repeatedly coming into conflict over music styles and lifestyle choices.
'Nashville' has reached the impressive status of "universal acclaim" on Metacritic. The show definitely delivers what it promises: music, interpersonal drama, and palpable tension between the stars. The best part of the show is how Callie Khouri (creator of 'Nashville') has fleshed out histories for her characters, giving a very real and believable amount of emotion to each episode. Deep, multi-faceted characters presented in an accurate portrayal of the music industry? That's win-win. Keep watching 'Nashville' and reward good writing.
5) 'Hunted,' Cinemax, BBC
Next on our list is an underrated and underappreciated British spy thriller from Frank Spotnitz, of 'The X-Files.' Created for the BBC and distributed in the US by Cinemax, 'Hunted' has received rave critical reviews despite a smaller share of the ratings. Samantha, played by the beautiful Melissa George, is an operative for a private intelligence agency. After narrowly surviving an attempt on her life, Samantha is on the run, not knowing who to trust or where to turn.
The stark realism of 'Hunted' makes this series a winner. The first season takes place in London, whereas the upcoming second season will take place on location in Berlin. Gritty, intelligent and suspenseful, 'Hunted' needs more eyes on it each and every episode. Check it out.
4) 'Wedding Band,' TBS
This is perhaps the biggest surprise of the new season. 'Wedding Band' is a comedy starring Brian Austin Green ('Beverly Hills: 90210') as the frontman in a band of thirty-something rockers, balancing work and family with their side-job performing at weddings around Seattle. Given the premise and the assembled cast, you wouldn't expect anything special from 'Wedding Band'... but the writing, the dialogue and the delivery have captured something special.
As you can see from my reviews of the first four episodes, the quality and the laughs on 'Wedding Band' are more than a fluke. This is a rare instance of catching lightning in a bottle, creating a very crowd-pleasing show that moves at a fast pace and keeps the laughs coming. Take a solid concept for a sitcom and cast capable hands in the lead roles; don't try to reinvent the wheel, just deliver laughs based on character and premise. Just like in BBQ, the simplest television recipes are often the most satisfying.
Also: the cast performs their own vocals for each musical number. How cool is that?
3) 'Elementary,' CBS
Now I have to admit that I was biased against 'Elementary' when it began. As a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes stories, I was less than enthused when I caught the first episode of 'Elementary,' where Holmes showcases a number of bizarre, out-of-character traits. But I endeavored to give 'Elementary' a real chance and I'm glad that I did.
While this isn't the Holmes nor the Watson you know, 'Elementary' is delivering consistent characterization and fun episodic action. Jonny Lee Miller is a joy to watch and his chemistry with Lucy Liu (who plays Joan Watson) is strong. The cast and writing make 'Elementary' a hit, even if it may ruffle the feathers of traditional Holmes fans.
2) 'Arrow,' CW
I never expected 'Arrow' to be this good.
The Green Arrow is a C-List superhero in the DC Comics universe; a far cry from Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman of the Justice League. When I heard that CW was developing a live-action series based on Oliver Queen I cringed, expecting a strange updated Robin Hood, complete with fluffy I-cannot-take-a-life principles.
Boy, was I way off.
'Arrow' is fast-paced action, complete with violence and (gasp) the occasional loss of life. The manner by which the plot has unfolded over the first half-dozen episodes is masterful: we continue to sneak glimpses into Queen's past while hanging on for the break-neck pace of the present plotline.
The acting in 'Arrow' is also far better than anticipated. Canadian Stephen Amell is more than just a pretty face, carrying the collected intelligence of Oliver Queen along with his rippling six-pack.
'Arrow' is the sort of show that turns people off before they even see it, based on premise alone. If you are among that group, I urge you to give the show a chance. It is far more intelligent and well-handled than a show about a C-List superhero could be expected to be.
1) 'Vegas,' CBS
CBS delivers once again with 'Vegas.' Dennis Quaid is your protagonist; Michael Chiklis is your antagonist--what more do you need to know?
Sheriff Ralph Lamb (Quaid) is dealing with Chicago mobster Vincent Savino (Chiklis) with his own Western brand of justice. There is something pure about the concept behind 'Vegas' that makes the show enjoyable from the onset. As much as we love shows that keep us guessing which side everyone is on, there is an innate pleasure in watching a story unfold where you have good guys, you have bad guys, and you get to watch them collide.
The series is ambitious, big, and feels like a feature. On top of Quaid and Chiklis you've got Carrie Anne-Moss, the Canadian star of the 'Matrix' film franchise. The performances are excellent and the plot is gripping.
The best part? Quaid's character is based on the real Sheriff of Clark Country, who served from 1961-1979. Period dramas based in real history always carry with them a certain flair that you can't attain elsewhere. 'Vegas' is the best new show of the season.
So there you have it! Let me know just how wrong I got it in the comments below!!