Arts & Culture

Jews Watching TV: Mid-Season TV Round Up Best and Worst

Since the Fall television season has been pretty unpredictable, we figure what better way to start it off than give you our Fall Mid-Season roundup? Jon Re Read More

By / November 16, 2010

Since the Fall television season has been pretty unpredictable, we figure what better way to start it off than give you our Fall Mid-Season roundup?

Biggest Disappointment: The Dreadfully Disappointing Decline of Dexter

At the beginning of the season, the smart money would was on Dexter as the most important show of the coming season.  After a triumphant fourth season featuring the best acting we’ve ever seen from Michael C. Hall (including his Six Feet Under days) the special guest star to end all special guest stars, John Lithgow as the trinity killer, and the heart pulverizing ending that was the season finale, Dexter it seemed, would finally have it’s time.  Season Four’s finale had a record breaking 2.6 Million viewers, making it the most watched episode of a Showtime Original Series thus far.  It was as if everyone who’d been avoiding the show up to that point, was finally finding their way to the serial killer that could.

Unfortunately after with a disappointingly detached first episode, the unsatisfying love match of Deb and Quin and Julia Styles’ cringe worthy acting (watch her smile when Dex first kills one of her captors), Dexter has all but shit the proverbial bed.  Our only hope is that Johnny Lee Miller will shine as the show’s new Tony Robbins style bad guy and the show will turn around for Season Five’s second half.

Best Comeback from a Seemingly Doomed TV Show:  Weeds

It’s been three seasons since Weeds showed any promise.  Starting with the whole Olsen twin debacle, followed by two seasons trapped in a tedious Mexican drug cartel plot line and worst of all, Nancy giving birth to another kid, it seemed like the show was too far gone to ever be worth watching again.

This season was a complete rebirth from the very first episode with the Botwin family on the run, stuck in the mundane, bored American backdrop that made us fall in love with them in the first place.  Jenji Kohan and the writers at Weeds have also reinstated the almost comically sticky, life threatening situations Nancy finds her way in and out of, a trait that endeared the show from the get-go.   Most of all, they’ve given us that one thing that can always save Weeds, no matter how many mid-life babies Nancy pops out, more Andy.  Justin Kirk could save Shit My Dad Says if called upon, and along with a writing upswing, he’s turned Weeds into one of this season’s best shows.

Honorable Mention- It’s Always Sunny In Philapdelia:

Sunny hit something of a lull last season, not quite hitting all of the irreverent notes that made us fall in love with it in the first place.  This season, between making us think that Dee was pregnant with her brothers baby, the Dave Foley guest spot and most of all, the continued and heightened use of Charlie Day’s genius, Sunny is back to being one TV’s best comedies.

Biggest Surprise New Hit Comedy: Raising Hope

In my opinion, My Name is Earl was almost always un-watchable and almost never funny, so when I heard that there was a new show by the people behind Earl, I wasn’t the least bit interested.  If it hadn’t been for a passing mention of the name, Bijou Philips in reference to the show, I’d have never tuned in.  To my surprise, Raising Hope is one of the most confident and well-executed new shows on TV, much more willing to broach dark humor territory than almost any other network show.  Bijou’s role turned out to be short-lived but Martha Plimpton makes up for it with her off beat, white trash, comedic prowess.

Honorable Mention: Outsourced

If you wanted my guess for which new Fall show would be the absolute worst, I’d have said Hawaii Five-O and then probably, Outsourced.  However, Outsourced has proved to be overwhelmingly pleasant and even occasionally funny — but a bit cringe-worthy as well.

Biggest Surprise New Hit Drama: Terriers

Like Raising Hope, Terriers was certainly not the drama I would expect to be calling this season’s new standout.  I probably wouldn’t have tuned in if not for two factors.  Firstly, I’ve been a fan of Donal Logue’s ever since his charismatic performance in The Tao of Steve.  Second, the promotion for Terriers was very well done, subtle and intriguing, without saying too much.  I’m not one for detective-style shows, unless they star Zach Galifianakis, but Terriers, on every level, just works.  It’s hard to say what goes into making a drama like this “just work.”  A big part of it is confidence, confidence in the world in which the show takes place as well as strong relationships between the main characters.  The relationship between Hank Dolworth (Logue) and Britt Pollack (played by Michael Raymond-James) is fleshed out and strong, without being bogged down with details.  Rarely do I enjoy watching buddies solve crimes together, but with well-researched and often dark subplots, and the-law breaking joviality of the two protagonists, Terriers has become my favorite new show.  Also, the guest appearance from Sasha Grey certainly did not hurt.

Weirdest Treatment of a Show by the Network: I Love Money 4

Perhaps the worst “Of Love” spin-off thus far, Megan Wants a Millionaire, was cut off three shows in, once the news emerged that one of the contestants, Ryan Jenkins had murdered his fiancé Jasmine Fiore.  It got worse when it was realized that Jenkins was not only a contestant, but the winner, of Megan Wants a Millionaire.  A manhunt ensued and a few days in, Jenkins was found dead in a Canadian hotel from an apparent suicide.  Only one serious question remained; What would happen to I Love Money 3, the reality competition show featuring ex members of all the VH1 “Of Love” shows?  Reports started coming out that, not only had Jenkins won Megan Hasuerman’s heart but he’d also won the quarter million dollar prize in I Love Money 3.  Vh1 released a statement that it would be canceling Megan Wants a Millionaire as well as Season Three and Season Four of I Love Money.  Vh1 suffered a barrage of public criticism for their irresponsibility in casting Jenkins and furthermore for the low-brow content of their reality show lineup and the unsavory characters the shows featured.  Vh1 decided to start producing more positive reality TV.  Any oxymoron?  Arguably.

That’s why it was a major surprise to find out that Vh1 started screening the fourth season of I Love Money 4 on the down low, late nights, without any promotion whatsoever.  In fact, one cannot even find a page for the show on Vh1’s website.  Season 4 features cast members of the doomed Megan Wants a Millionaire as well as Rock of Love Bus, Real Chance of Love 2 and Daisy of Love.  Speaking of beautiful women on TV.  It’s hard not to find Britanya, from Rock Of Love Bus, alluring, much like it’s hard not to want to buy a Big Mac when you pass by McDonalds hungover, just remember, if you don’t ignore this instinct, you will soon regret it.

Best Twist on an Old Show: Top Chef Just Desserts

Top Chef has come a long way since the old Katie Lee Joel days, but it was getting to the point where there had just been too many seasons, what did it mean to win Top Chef anymore?  When they came out with Masters, new life was breathed into the Franchise and again, there was reason to watch.

With Just Desserts, the show acts a the perfect TV Dinner entertainment, inciting your neurons to crave dessert.  With a colorful cast, including the cartoonish Danielle, the Macho Morganza and most important, ridiculous Seth, the show is one of the most exciting competitions on TV.  Also, thanks to Seth, we have this year’s biggest douche- chill inducing quote.  “The red hots were for my moommmyyy.”

Guiltiest Reality Pleasure: The A-List

Dubbed by many as, “The Real Gay Housewives of New York,” The A-List follows a group of young, gay, go-getters through their NYC day-to-day.  Thanks to the handsome young troublemaker Austin Armacost bumbling his way through an attempted modeling career and lusting after the Ken Doll lead of the show, Reichen Lehmkuhl, The A-List is a drama factory that churns out more of the good stuff than any other reality vehicle this season.

Best New “Alone Time TV”: Boardwalk Empire

Remember back when you were a kid and getting cable meant more than just being able to watch “Hey Dude?” It meant HBO, and thus, Dream On and The Larry Sanders Show, otherwise known as “Alone Time Shows,” for their protagonist’s ability to find themselves around naked women.  Plainly put, your only opportunity to see boobs.
The hype surrounding Boardwalk Empire was vast and everyone was aware of the load of cash that HBO dropped into the show, however, the Scorsese directed premier was wonky, and it seemed like Boardwalk Empire would meet a Waterworld-like fate.  Thankfully, Buscemi’s charisma started to shine through and slowly save the show.

Season’s Best Comedy: Community

Early in Community‘s first season, it was a tough call whether this show would be a guilty pleasure, occasional chuckle kind of show, or a serious comedy contender like 30 Rock, but as the first season hit its stride, it became clear that it was the latter.  The second season has seen even more creative plot lines, more toying with sitcom convention and standout performances from Donald Glover, who’s proved himself a force to be reckoned with in the world of comic actors.

Season’s Best Drama: Son’s of Anarchy

Not since Oz, has a show so immersed the viewer in a world with such an insanely violent backdrop, thereby paving the way for a weekly onslaught of off the charts drama.   Sons of Anarchy takes us through a world where violence and betrayal are so stitched into the fabric of the show’s reality, that Shakespeare would have to tip his hat to the shows creator Kurt Sutter.  With two strong Jewish leads, Katie Segal and Washington Height’s own, Ron Perlman, as well as Undeclared‘s Charlie Human as the heir apparent leader of the vicious motorcycle gang, this FX original features one of the strongest casts on TV. Not since The Wire has such a convincing and compelling outlaw world been portrayed on the tube.  Score another one for FX.