Another year has passed, and another ungodly amount of my earthly hours have been invested in watching TV shows. A post about 2012's new ones will be forthcoming soon (click here
to read), but for today, I thought I'd take a look at how the new shows of 2011 held up in their second year.
Please see here
for my original article about 2011's new shows, which this entire posting is in reference to.
18 of the 27 new shows I checked out last year still aired mentionable amounts of new contents this calendar year, and I will go through them from weakest to best. For each show, I'll make a general judgment of whether it stayed more or less the same, got better, or worse. I'll also list its ranking last year in parantheses, for your convenient reference (that number is obviously adjusted to remove the many shows that showed up on the list last year but didn't air anything in 2012).
Without further ado, the list:IMPROVED 18 (15) * Breakout Kings (A&E) - dead
Simpson kept carrying this show, but the other actors got more to do this season, and improved further with the removal of one of the less interesting members of the ensamble cast early on. The second season also sported a season villain, which was a huge step up in terms of arc. It's sad that even after a lot of improvement, the show ended up further down on the list than it did last year, but (unsurprisingly and encouragingly) most of the shows on the lower end of the list improved in their second outing, and Breakout Kings simply improved the least.IMPROVED 17 (17) * Falling Skies (TNT) - will return
The only show I outright gave up on last year, and then this year, because I'm weak-willed, relented on and gave a second shot. Whilst still not great entertainment, it got a lot better. The show is doing very well at making sure every new insight into the alien threat (and we do get new insights) are followed by even more mysteries and questions. The cast is still more or less a good one, even if the characters could stand to be a bit less formulaic. Oh, and it added Terry O'Quinn as a recurring towards the end, and that cannot possibly be a bad thing.IMPROVED 16 (18) * Husbands (online series) - will return
I was disappointed in this last year, but changing to fewer and longer episodes improved it a lot. Joss Whedon's part as one of the main characters' agent is flat out hysterical, but the show as a whole got funnier too. I'm glad, as I really wanted to like this, and last year kind of wasn't. Of all the shows with the IMPROVED-tag, this is one of the ones with the biggest leap.IMPROVED 15 (12) * Grimm (NBC) - will return
The severe standaloneitus I diagnosed last year seems to be only a mild case now, but it's definitely still there. They still need to get a lot better at not making up new creatures every week, and they still need to get better at doing big arc stuff, and they still need to get better at not dragging their feet with the interpersonal plots, and they still really need a protagonist with a personality. But gosh, they ARE actually getting better at all these things, even if there is still vast room for improvement on all fronts. And Silas Weir Mitchell is still positively adorably good here.IMPROVED 14 (13) * Alphas (Syfy) - ask Schrödinger
The second season of Alphas improved like the first season promised, but not nearly to the degree that I had hoped. Some of the cast here is really good, other parts are rather underwhelming. The plotlines are still a mesh of The 4400, X-men and Heroes, but they're staying good at keeping the power levels down, at keeping the episodes streamlined and reasonably engaging. So in short, it is improved, but less so than others, which is why it is bumped a spot down on the ladder this year. My expectations for next year is more of the same, with possibly and hopefully another slight increase in quality -- assuming there will be another season, that is.IMPROVED 13 (11) * Young Justice (Cartoon Network) - will return
Young Justice did a genious move between season 1 and 2 -- it skipped five years ahead, updated the team roster accordingly, and added a subtitle reflecting the new ongoing plots. Man, was that clever. The new episodes are just as accessible to the casual viewer, but with a myriad of subplots for the faithful watcher, piecing together what the various old cast members have been doing in the five year gap. And it's usually very interesting stuff.SAME 12 (10) * Harry's Law (NBC) - dead
Harry's Law got even more Kelley-standardised in the second season, departing its quaint shoe shop-offices for a bigger law firm. But the show for the most part stayed the same: a lot of heart, a lot of preaching, and a lot of quirky fun. And with its cancellation, I'm particularly lamenting Christopher McDonald's character, a signature Kelley-creation on par with Denny Crane, Alan Shore, Richard Fish and John Cage.IMPROVED 11 (16) * The Borgias (Showtime) - will return
Much, much less disappointing this year, but still not by far all that I feel it should be. The intrigues just aren't clever enough, and while I cared more about the cast in season 2 than I did in season 1, I still feel an emotional distance to the whole thing that's really unfortunate. Hopefully it will keep on improving next year, because on paper, this show should be really darn solid.WEAKENED 10 (4) * Revenge (ABC) - will return
Disappointed! I loved this show in the first half of season 1, but since then, it has gotten mired down in soap, and the revenge that made the first batch of episodes so very engaging is hardly ever front and centre anymore. It's still quite a good show, don't get me wrong, but it's cemented its departure from greatness this year, and it's not looking like it will return to form. That said, there is a lot of good stuff going on here, and even in its changed form I will be watching this every week as long as they care to make it. I only hope that one day it will get as awesomely cold and engaging as it once was.SAME 9 (9) * Ringer (CW) - dead
I can't believe this show was on the CW and still made my top 10 last year. Oh, it was soapy bordering on the operatic, sure, but it was also engaging, twisty and reasonably clever. While never a favourite of mine, this is one of the cancellations of 2012 that I will miss more than I expected to, I think.IMPROVED 8 (14) * New Girl (Fox) - will return
Deschanel's been thankfully toned down, the other regulars given way more attention, and yes, I really, really like this show now. It's consistently fresh, it's consistently charming (I still dislike Jess, but much less so than before), and most of all, it's consistently funny. Probably the biggest ladder-bump of all on this list.SAME 7 (8) * Suburgatory (ABC) - will return
This show's just solid, I don't know what more there is to say. But here goes: Nearly every character is idiosyncratically funny and played by good actors, and while every single episode might not be hilarious, they're all good fun, with just the right amount of grounded heart and sentiment to make you care. As Jeremy Sisto said in an interview, you watch it because it's fun, and then there's also other stuff, that make you feel and care and maybe even think, but that's just extra, that's bonus. Show's funny.IMPROVED 6 (7) * Once Upon A Time (ABC) - will return
The hammy acting of the early first season nearly completely gone from the main cast by now, this show's really found its footing. Gone are the boring standalone episodes. Gone is the dreadful main arc of Snow White and Prince Charming being in love but not remembering why. Character relationships change dynamically. Who's good and bad becomes less and less clear even as they maintain a cheesy fairy tale-style morality framework. Captain Hook's been disappointing -- a fun rougish pirate he is, but I wanted Cold and Scary Hook, not a swashbuckling staple pirate -- and that's really the only negative. very pleased with this. I look forward to the new episodes every week.IMPROVED 5 (6) * Boss (Starz) - dead, with tiny chance of movie
Way to go! Boss really cleaned up its act this season, fixing basically all my concerns from season 1. So of course, they cancelled it. _ANNOYED_. Really crossing my fingers for that movie, but I'm not exactly holding my breath.SAME 4 (5) * Suits (USA) - will return
Exactly what it was last year: "Funny, exciting, and most of all plain cool, this is as good as a lightweight fluff-over-substance drama can reasonably be expected to be." Aye, Past-Me, aye.SAME 3 (2) * Game of Thrones (HBO) - will return
I was considering saying it had improved, but some absolutely incomprehensible creative decisions in the final few episodes really ruined the experience of season 2 for me, so I think overall I must say it's much the same. Which is to say it's astonishingly well pulled off, but still doesn't hold even a third of a candle to even the weakest of the books. That said, season 3's subject matter should have the framework needed to bring the show to new levels entirely, so I'm hopeful this fantastic adaptation can rise even higher next year.WEAKENED 2 (1) * Shameless [the US remake] (Showtime) - will return
I gushed a lot about this show last year. And don't get me wrong, season 2 was very awesome, but it wasn't as charming nor was it as fun as season 1. I'm not exactly disappointed, as I still thoroughly love the show ... but I must admit that I had hoped it would keep overwhelming me with greatness every episode, and it didn't. Oh well. Still utterly fantastic.SAME 1 (3) * Homeland (Showtime) - will return
Mandy Patinkin is still in this.
Hm? You need more? That's highly unreasonable, but okay: I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THEY DO IT. The balls
of this show. Nearly every episode burns more important plot-bridges than entire seasons of even quality cable shows tend to do. And from a creative standpoint, setting up season three, the stuff they pulled off in the finale is just mind-boggling. I don't know how they do it, I don't know how they can KEEP ON DOING IT, but there they are, every week, doing it. And while I judge it as pretty much the same level of awesome as it was last year, having _kept_ _this_ _up_ for an entire second season is an immense achievement and I'll say it, an improvement in and of itself. First sport. Easily. Heck, it'd be the first spot compared to every single show airing in 2012, regardless of when they premiered (with the sole caveat that I've not yet seen this year's Breaking Bad). If ever a show deserved its onslaught of awards, Homeland does.
Also, my heart strings seem to be permanently chained to Patinkin's facial muscles now.
Mostly, it seems they got better, and only two got noticeably weaker. Encouraging, that.
Feel free to consider this a heartfelt recommendation of everything from spot 8 and upwards for everyone who likes quality television, and a friendly nudge to check out spots 9 through 14 as well if any of the premises catch your interest.
Do please share your thoughts on whatever of this you've seen! The only thing I like more than lists is talking about lists.