May 28, 2010

My Five: Favorite TV Shows this Season

Thank television for helping turn me towards books again a decade ago. All that horrible reality television, sickeningly pat prime-time dramas, and god-awful degradation of sitcoms killed what used to be an enduring love for the idiot box. Oh, it still has its hooks in me, but less so. And if I had HBO and some of those other fancy-pants cable channels, this list of shows would likely look a lot different. But beggars can't be choosers, and I managed to find a few shows I could watch faithfully and not feel like I should hang my head in shame ... much.

So here are my five favorite TV shows from this past season:

#5: Smallville - This show is my guilty pleasure. It jumped the shark a few seasons ago, right around the time Clark Kent's dad died. Since then the show has managed to throw buckets of chum in the sea, attract a whole swarm of sharks, and systematically water ski over each and every one of them. And yet I cannot turn away. It's like the world's longest sustaining car pileup. No sooner does one minivan full of girl scouts slam into the pile of wrecked humanity and metal, then an SUV full of hungover beauty pageant runners-up careens right in behind it. And I think Zod wound up being the most ineffectual supervillain to appear on the show yet. It was like the writers forgot that the climactic showdown had to include a villain who wasn't a sniveling eunuch. Oh sure, Clark Kent finally got his Superman costume, courtesy of Mama "I'm the Red Queen--I know, it doesn't make sense to me either!" Kent, but feigned a cliffhanger death scene to finish the season. Great. Now the entire next season will probably involve a long-winded story arc of Clark's new nemesis: His tailor.

#4: The Cleveland Show - Honestly, you could just place any cartoon produced by Seth McFarlane here. It doesn't mater which one, I enjoy them all. "The Cleveland Show" is new though, so I give it a tip of the hat. When I heard the character was getting its own spin-off, I figured it was doomed to a six-show run before Fox pulled it, as it's done to so many promising sitcom over the past decade. It went a full season though, and I think among the three shows (this, "Family Guy," and "American Dad") it had the highest batting average for funny. The funniest episode may have been when Cleveland called child services on his hillbilly friend, then had to help him get his son back from the affable yet well-armed foster family. Good times.

#3: Lost - I don't think I can remember a TV show, a movie, or a book that has been so infuriatingly convoluted as "Lost." My sister got me started on this show at the end of the second season. I kind of dug it, so watched the recap episodes to get a feel for what I'd missed up until then. But when I got hooked on it, my sister quit because of the increasing subplots, loose strings, and vague allusions to things that had happened or would happen. This final season was refreshingly boiled down to its core elements, as the two previous seasons were like Rube Goldberg contraptions--but with less of a payoff. I have some peeves about how the whole thing concluded, but I can let that go and remember the show as a rare occasion when a TV drama really kept me coming back for more. As for the ending, I defer to Marge Simpson's wisdom: It's an ending, and that's enough.

#2: Fringe - I never really watched "The X-Files" that much, mainly because the times I did the shows were about the overarching U.F.O. conspiracy storyline, and I didn't have the patience to get caught up. But with "Fringe," I got in on the ground floor and have seen just about every episode. A good thing too, because the show has gone right out of "X-Files" territory into "Twilight Zone" country, and at its current trajectory could soar right into some psychedelic acid trip from the further reaches of Charles Manson's daydreams. Or maybe it'll just collapse under its own weight. The alternate dimension storyline is engrossing, but at this point I don't see them drawing in many new viewers. Still, it's a great cast with some exciting action and sci-fi goodness. I'm hooked.

#1: Supernatural - I'm starting to wonder if I should chalk this show up as a guilty pleasure too. Why? Well, I found out this year that there is not only a Supernatural magazine designed just for all the slobbering fangirls who fantasize about those two sacks of man candy, Sam and Dean Winchester. But beyond that, I also found out there is erotic fan fiction dedicated to the incestuous exploits of those two characters, which may be even creepier than the fact that there is Kirk & Spock erotica fan fiction out there somewhere.

Getting back to the actual show, this past season was a protracted experience as it was all a slow burn towards the impending duel between Lucifer, destined to possess Sam, and the archangel Michael, destined to possess Dean. After being tricked into unleashing the Devil upon Earth at the end of last season, this season created a lot of foreboding and the most tension and conflict between the Winchester brothers yet. Plus, there were some interesting explorations with the supporting characters too--Castiel's antics were especially entertaining at times. The season finale was a bit of a dog's breakfast though, as the big showdown wasn't that big and wasn't that showdowny.

Despite the disappointing ending to the season, the season as a whole was fun and action-packed. The show has always been able to keep that balance between suspense and self-deprecation. And while I have some doubts as to how great the next, and likely final, season of the show will be, I am going to stay on the bandwagon.


  1. Although the season finale of Supernatural was a letdown, the rest of the season was so good. I loved the Valentine's Day episode about Famine. I can't wait to see what will happen next season.

    The Cleveland Show is pretty funny, but American Dad is still my favourite Seth MacFarlane show. Roger the Alien cracks me up.

  2. The Famine episode was good, and there were a few other really good ones for me--"Changing Channels" and "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" were two of the more memorable ones. Oh, I enjoy a scene in which Paris Hilton dies, but who wouldn't?

    And "American Dad" is a very, very funny show. I really got into it this year. Hope it's back for another season.