If you were a kid watching TV in Australia around 1980, you probably remember this psychedelic animated music video they used to play all the time on the ABC (public TV station).
Some people were more traumatized by it than I was.
Patinkin was absent from a table read for Criminal Minds and did not return for a third season. The departure from the show was not due to contractual or salary matters, but over creative differences. He left apologetic letters for his fellow cast members explaining his reasons and wishing them luck. Many weeks before his departure, in a videotaped interview carried in the online magazine Monaco Revue, Patinkin told journalists at the Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo that he loathed violence on television and was uncomfortable with certain scenes in Criminal Minds. He called his choice to do Criminal Minds his “biggest public mistake”, and stated that he “thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality, and after that, I didn’t think I would get to work in television again.” 
Although I’ve no problem with violence portrayed on TV in general (eg Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos etc), I am really repulsed by that hackneyed opening scene of so many CSI/Law & Order type shows; detectives standing around a corpse cracking wise about the personal choices and assumed proclivities of the “vic” and musing about just how grisly their demise must have been.
The A.V. Club has a best of 2012 post up, so I thought I’d offer my own top 10 here in lieu of writing a post of any substance…
- Breaking Bad – It took me ages to check this out and I’m so glad I did. From the beginning it’s been clear that it cannot end well, and the question is merely how and when.
- Mad Men – Consistently awesome.
- Homeland – I wasn’t sure how they could possibly set this up for a third season, but they pulled it off with gusto. Mandy Patinkin for best everything.
- Justified – A show that could have been ordinary is made great by making even the lowest scumbags sympathetic and giving everyone a sense of humour.
- The Walking Dead – It was interesting, then it was boring, then it got great. A lesson in letting go of the idiot plot.
- Louie – Heartfelt, charming, random, funny.
- Parks and Recreation – Showing that everyone can like each other and still be funny.
- Archer – Silly, clever, dirty. Some people don’t like it and I don’t understand why.
- Downton Abbey – Didn’t make it into the AV Club’s list for some reason. Lush.
- New Girl – Fun, silly, fluffy. Everyone loves Schmidt.
One of my favorite TV shows is Homeland, but the jazz themed opening title sequence is such an overlong pretentious wankfest of ham-fisted psychological and political imagery that it really undermines the viewing experience.
I can’t believe they kept it basically the same for season 2. Surely the show’s creators are sick to death of this by now!
Five episodes in and really loving The Bridge. Normally I’m not a fan of murder/detective shows because they spend so much time riffing over the poor lifestyle choices of the victims, but this one features police who seem to actually want to do their jobs instead of cracking wise to their fawning underlings.
It makes Sweden and Denmark look gorgeously bleak, with exterior night shots a sickly green and interiors having the quiet and pallor of a hospital lobby at three in the morning.
Downton Abbey – For a period drama this show rips along at a cracking pace. It’s all manners and intrigue but beautifully put together, with some truly nasty people you wish would hurry up and die of syphilis. It took me ages to give it a go, but I’m glad I finally did.
Archer – A few wobbly episodes this season but still a great show. Worth catching up on if you’ve not given it a go.
New Girl – Occasionally a bit stupid but often charming and at least the writers have finally realized that Schmidt is far more entertaining than Zooey Deschanel’s schtick. I think the show never really recovered from the clumsy black guy hot-swap (Damon Wayans Jr was great in the pilot, only to have to back out for other commitments).
Awake – This show has a simple but far-fetched premise which manages to hide its absurdity through engaging procedural detective show stuff and pretty decent acting (unlike Alcatraz). Although it too will probably be a bit anticlimactic once it has to reveal what the hell is actually going on, it offers a fascinating setup with parallel realities and handles it reasonably well. Jason Isaacs carries it by underplaying almost every scene.
Justified – Seriously brilliant. I can’t really compare this show to anything, it is just awesome and full of people trying to kill each other for all sorts of complicated reasons. I’ve never seen a tv show handle character arcs and shifting alliances better than this one does.
Revenge – this started well but seems to have morphed into a tedious soap opera/melodrama with people constantly talking to each other over the shoulder and casting evil menacing glances to the side. Especially annoying is the Tyler character who was obviously loathesome from the moment he arrived but we are supposed to believe he is some kind of smooth-talking hustler. Almost as bad is the dumbass little brother character from the bar, who has a massive chip on his shoulder even though he owns half a bar. I think he exists only to keep the idiot plots moving along.
Luck – This expensive looking production might be more interesting if I could understand a single word of what anyone is saying.
Fringe – Why did I get stuck on this show– it gets stupider by the episode. John Noble’s Walter is the only thing worth watching here.
Alcatraz – Holy crap this is a dumb-ass premise, and feels like one of the later seasons of Lost for the sense that there is absolutely no plan for how this idiotic show will explain all of the unbelievably stupid shit that happens in it. Like if you were in a maximum security prison and suddenly got zapped 50 years into the future– do you think you would be so blindingly stupid as to rush straight out and start committing the same violent crimes you were incarcerated for? Yeah yeah I know it’s all going to be explained that there’s some kind of mind control thing happening…. but if you think for one second that there will be a satisfying motive driving whoever is behind it all, you WILL be sorely disappointed.
TV writer/producer Tim Kring moments before proposing Touch, an awesome new show combining the warmth and credibility of Touched by an Angel with the fast-paced excitement of Numbers.
Kiefer Sutherland grimaces through the role of long suffering dad who’s never been able to hug his 12 year old son, until the end of the very first episode at least. The boy suffers from a form of autism/mutism/intolerable smugness, which is a source of constant pain… until half-way through the episode when his dad googles “mutism” and clicks on the first link to find the website of Danny Glover, a magical old black man who immediately explains the entire supernatural premise of the show so the viewers don’t get too upset about not having everything immediately explained to them. There’s also a sexy case worker from child services, who plays the antagonist for all of 40 minutes before she too is utterly convinced that the child has special powers and so by the end of the episode absolutely everyone is on the same page and there is nothing left to do but prepare for a series of Littlest Hobo style journeys to help random people solve random problems in the most convoluted way possible.
Also, people are all connected (like wow! you know) and somehow a call center worker talks an involuntary suicide bomber out of his mission in such a way that there are no bad consequences for him or his family.
Tim Kring’s previous work Heroes totally sucked, but at least it didn’t totally suck right out of the gate. Touch is the worst big new show I have seen in a long time. I think I’d rather watch Game of Thrones, and that’s saying something.
I haven’t mentioned it here before but I’m a real fan of Archer, partly because it’s really trying something different for an animated comedy.
What really makes it is the writing and voice talent, and it’s quite pretty to look at too.
It’s quite amazing how pitch-perfect the 1995 Brady Bunch Movie was (and how much the creators clearly loved the original).
(I still have a crush on both Marcias)
There are so many great TV shows these days that it can be pretty hard to keep up with them all (but I try). The quality of television has been improving hugely over the last decade, to the point where it seems the average episode of a modern TV show is superior to the average movie in writing and direction.
Here are my top 10 recommendations (for current or recent shows).
Everyone already knows this is the best show on TV, if you’re not already a fan then nothing I say is going to change that, but I still wanted to list it just because it is awesome.
At the beginning of this prohibition-era series I found it all a bit plodding, but it’s really grown on me. Steve Buscemi’s understated performance works surprisingly well, and Michael Shannon is glorious as the terrifying evangelical probie. My only complaint is that there aren’t nearly enough scenes featuring Kelly Macdonald in her full-length nightie preparing for bed.
A very pleasing little show from the UK, reminds me a little of Adrian Mole (from the eighties) for its fearless warts-and-all treatment of the adolescent male psyche. Refreshingly, shockingly vulgar and very funny.
Another vulgar and funny UK offering. After the horror that was Heroes this show is a delight in its utterly irreverent handling of the “everyone gets superpowers!” idea.
Not sure why this show still holds my interest, but it does. Olivia is rather an annoying and empty character, with only one facial expression (anxious fake smile), but Walter’s loveable drug-addled craziness papers over this and more. And as stupid as the science is, the show dives into big silly concept stuff with such gusto that I don’t really care.
The Walking Dead
A beautiful production, making me wonder why the zombie-apocolypse has never been done for TV before, but slightly let down by the hackneyed rag-tag bunch of survivors dragging their pre-apocolypse baggage around with them. The ridiculously racist guy is the low point of this short series, and I get annoyed that it is never explained why people are so remarkably terrible at preparing adequate defences against slow moving brain-dead creatures.
Men of a Certain Age
Probably the main reason I like this show is that I am male, getting older, and seem to have no idea what I’m really doing with my life. Also I always wanted to see Ray Romano in something that wasn’t a sitcom, because I fucking hated that show. Scott Bakula is awesome as a handsome version of me in 15 years, and it’s good to see him in a TV show that isn’t Enterprise.
Update: I changed my mind, I now hate this show and am glad it got cancelled. I don’t know why it appealed to me so much, but god what a bunch of self-indulgent suck it is.
A funny little vérité show with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, painful to watch of course but real enough to make me care (unlike his Alan Partridge work). Everyone in the universe has probably already seen the duelling Michael Caine impersonations.
Now in its 7th season (pretty rare for a series in the UK) it’s perhaps not as fresh as it once was, but still so utterly different from anything else on TV that I can’t not watch it. What might have seemed like a silly technical conceit when it began (all scenes are shot as POV) has proven invaluable, enabling internal monologues to be used in an entirely natural way.
I would have been watching this show earlier if the promos here hadn’t been cut by douchebag Australians trying to make it seem more wacky and hip. That said, it’s plenty wacky and hip already, but has a lot of warmth to make up for it. Also it takes a few episodes for the show to realize that Abed is the character that everyone wants to see (he is basically Data).
Looking at this list now it seems rather dude-oriented… I wonder if anyone can suggest less sausage-heavy fare in the comments?
I feel compelled to point out that Mad Men is giving Deadwood a run for its money for the title of my favorite TV show ever. It’s just so… captivating. And beautifully lit. And both John Hamm and his hair are incredible.
There seem to be more good TV shows around these days than I have time to watch, and I don’t think it’s because my standards have dropped. My favorites of late:
I love this show. I love that it is vaguely historical. I love that it contains more swearing than every other show combined. I love that the dialogue as well as being vulgar is also complex and indirect, so that I often have trouble following it. Deadwood is full of desperation and brutality, but it’s also incredibly rich and satisfying. Three seasons of filthy mud-soaked blood-stained goodness.
Two guys framed for a bombing go on the run and have to try to clear their name by solving the crime. Not the most original premise for a show, but a pretty reliable one leading to nice drama and suspense and who-do-you-trust type themes. Now that I type this it sounds pretty ordinary, but I was really starting to like it… oh until it was CANCELLED of course, after a short season of only 8 episodes. At least the creator was nice enough to reveal on his blog the plans for the follow up seasons which were not to be.
I really like this one, because it’s just like Quantum Leap only without Dean Stockwell and the terrible 80’s acting, writing & production values. None of that "Ziggy says…" crap here; it’s all time travelling action adventure, with some fun central themes, eg our hero sees his ex when he goes back in time, gets a better perspective on his own past, and his spontaneous and inconvenient temporal jumps are presaged by something which resembles a panic attack (or perhaps the furtive anxiety of an IBD sufferer), so there’s this level of tension when he is making plans, spending time with his kid, driving etc where he knows he may have to disappear with only a few seconds notice. Also I like that the lead is played by a guy who looks like he would normally be cast as an Aryan thug.
Unfortunately Journeyman was also passed over for a second season, so there are only 13 episodes.
That Mitchell and Webb Look
Only just discovered this sketch comedy show, and nearly wet myself laughing at "The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar"
Stuff that doesn’t make my cut
Flash Gordon – what a pile of poo. It’s not like I expected much, but I did expect to see at least one goddamn rocket ship! Instead we get a crummy dimensional rift, and so it’s just like a stupid camp version of Stargate (I think, I never really watched SG), and Ming is just a boring white guy, which feels just a bit too PC even to me.
Bionic Woman – note the absence of the definite article. Also note that the cast, production values and even title font have been borrowed from Battlestar Galactica. This show just sucks, with BW bitching about being given brand new super limbs which she didn’t ask for (she would presumably prefer to be a triple amputee). Oh boo hoo she is so troubled, but not as troubled as Starbu… I mean, other bionic woman. Just like Buffy their super strength seems to be proportional to whoever they are fighting at any given time (so a well trained but otherwise ordinary man can hold his own in a fight, which is just dopey). There’s this long boring training sequence with her doing one-armed pushups. Wow. She could be bending lamp-posts and we’re watching her do pushups.
Man Stroke Woman – British sketch show with not enough quality control, a shame because I wanted to like it. It has that one-joke-per-sketch feel about it. Really stilted compared to Mitchell and Webb.
Reaper – Yet another supernaturally themed show, and just like Dead Like Me and later seasons of Buffy it relies on this annoying idea that even if you have superpowers you will still need to hold down a crummy day job and some semblance of a normal life. Haha hilarity ensues. I’ve seen a few episodes of this and the obvious hand of Kevin Smith kind of annoys me, manifested here as amazingly hot babe who wants to do nothing more than hang out and drink beer with slacker guys (and has no other friends of her own). It makes the will-they-get-together question totally pointless because she appears to have been created as the ultimate male fantasy, and the question just becomes so-why-aren’t-they-having-sex? See Rosario Dawson in Clerks II for another example of Smith’s improbable fantasy girl, who’s incredibly hot, sympathetic to flabby slackers, and totally up-for-it.