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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Grading The Summer Season Of 2012 Television Shows

You can read my previews for the best shows of the 2012 spring season here

Breaking Bad (AMC) Season 5, Part I
Grade: A+
Sundays 10/9c

NOTES: Breaking Bad is not only the greatest show on television right now, but it is the greatest show ever to be made for American television. I do not mean this as a hyperbole or an exaggeration. This is just fact. There are four television shows that can be considered as the greatest television show ever: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Wire, and The Sopranos... and Breaking Bad blows them all out of the dust. Seasons 3 and 4 of B.B. are some of the single greatest television series ever to be made. With that being said and with the explosive finish to Season 4, Season 5 had a hard bar to climb. And Season 5 failed to even come close to that bar.

Yeah, that's right, Season 5, Part I of Breaking Bad was not even close to how good the previous two seasons were and you can make the argument that this was probably its worst season. And *even still* this season of Breaking Bad was excellent and some of the best stuff on television.

I always thought the show really started to pick up steam in Season 2 when Walter and Jesse first meet Saul Goodman and really start interacting with him. The show is really heavy and I remember watching Seasons 1 and 2 on Netflix and having to watch some How I Met Your Mother in between episodes because the tension and drama was too high. But Saul Goodman infused some much needed comic relief to make a great show even better. But Season 5 barely had any Saul in the show which "lessened" the quality of the show. Breaking Bad is obviously still great but the more Saul Goodman there is, the better.

Also, many critics felt the compact 8 episode season this year (versus the normal 13 episode season) ruined the quality and forced the show to gloss over or not spend as much time on characters and/or plot points as they could have in a "full season". While I agree that's true to an extent but sometimes, even with an amazing and powerful show like Breaking Bad, critics just need to get out of their own way. Could the show have been made better by a 13 episode season? Sure it could have but Season 5 is still excellent and amazing just the way it is.

EMMY NOTES: [SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT READ THE FOLLOWING IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN SEASONS 1-4 OF BREAKING BAD] In a year where there is no Gustavo Fringe and where there is very little of Jesse, I would replace Aaron Paul and Giancarlo Esposito's 2012 Emmy nominations with Jonathan Banks (Mike) and Dean Norris (Hank) for 2013 for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama. I know it seems sacrilege to not include Aaron Paul ever when Breaking Bad was eligible but a) The guy already has an Emmy win so I don't feel bad for him and b) Dean Norris has been amazing not only in Season 5 but throughout the show's run that I truly believe he deserves "Paul's spot" more.

Workaholics (Comedy Central) Season 3
Grade: A-
Tuesdays 1030/930c

NOTES: Workaholics is not a good show. There are no literary qualities to the writing or directing and there are no nuances to the performances. But hot damn is this show entertaining as sh**. The show follows the lives of three stoners who live in the same house and work at the same telemarketing firm. The show is stupid, and silly, and at times gross, but it's always funny. While I have not yet seen every episode in Season 3 the quality from what I have seen has not diminished from its first two seasons. Listen, this show is not for everyone and no you absolutely do not need to be stoner to enjoy this show (me case in point) but if you enjoy It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and how dark it is then Workaholics is right up your alley

Suits (USA) Season 2
Grade: B+
Thursdays 10/9c

NOTES: Wow. What an incredible and unexpected season for Suits. The show's first season tended to follow the typical USA model with an extremely lighthearted tone where the good guys always win and the bad guys always lose every week and every week is a new case and new story line with a little bit of the overarching story line lightly sprinkled in throughout the show, mainly towards the end of the episode. But Season 2 mixed it up in a good way. For starters, the show mainly focused on one overarching story line and the weekly and different story lines were barely there. The show followed the Season 2 Justified model where the beginning had different story lines but the ending was just one main story line.

The season started off really strong with its first two episodes setting the stage for the series long battle between Harvey and Jessica versus Daniel Hardman played by Breaking Bad alum David Costabile as well the the love affair between Mike Ross and Rachel. With the first two episodes I thought we were seeing a Justified-esque jump in quality but alas, the show's USA-ness rubbed off on it as it had many missteps as the season dragged on.

The first major problem the show has is its predictability. The fact that the show is on USA not only means the good guy is still going to win but you know exactly how they are going to win. The predictability also showed up many times during the season (for the sake of spoilers I won't go into specifics). The other problem I had was (again, because it is a USA show) the show would often sacrifice characters in favor of plot points. While Season 2 surprisingly dealt much more into these characters lives (which was delightful) the show also had gimmicky episodes, like when the show did an episode where it went back five years into all these characters lives and instead of showing us something meaningful it was used solely for a plot point in the war of Pearson vs. Hardman (and a minor point at that).

EMMY NOTES: I would strongly consider (at least for me personally) nominating Rick Hoffman (who plays Louis Litt) for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama. While Hoffman is in a category where one nomination is guaranteed to go to Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones), two nominations are going to go to Breaking Bad (*at least* one), and one nomination is going to go to Mad Men [This nomination list is for both me and for the actual Emmy voters] it will be hard for anyone else to garner a nomination but I thought he was excellent in Season 2 and when I do my Emmy nomination prediction post for the 2013 nominations I will strongly consider putting Hoffman on my list.

Hoffman's character was the bad guy in Season 1 and therefore was portrayed in a typical cartoony USA-esque villiany light. But the writers actually made Louis a character in Season 2. Sure he was still a thorn in both Harvey's and Mike's side and sure he did some pretty sh**ty things but you actual emphasized with Louis many times and actually felt for him which is something you never would have said about him in Season 1. Hoffman's portrayal of Louis Litt was one of the best parts of Season 2 of Suits and he is the sole reason the show earns its "+".

White Collar (USA) Season 4
Grade: B-
Tuesdays 9/8c

NOTES: I hate to use the phrase "Jump The Shark". Especially on television shows I really enjoy. A show can Jump The Shark and still be good and many times the show has set its own expectations so high that we all unfairly expect that same level quality from the show. But that being said, as my friend and former Game Of Inches contributor Irwin Weiner (aka Cubsfanevr1) has said, White Collar has Jumped The Shark.

While this season is not yet over (there's one more episode left to go as of the writing of this post), I think I have to agree with my friend. For a show I still personally enjoy and still watch every week and a show I have consistently held in my top ten list for the best T.V. shows of the year, I have to come to grips that White Collar is not the same show anymore. While the show has always been the type of show that has a new problem in it during every given week with an overarching season-long problem sprinkled in throughout the series, that season-long problem seems to have been the glue that held the show together. (SIDENOTE: I think we need a new name for this type of show because hot damn is it really long and annoying to type out and read). Throughout the beginning of the series' run it was all about finding Kate/ the music box and during the latter half of the series it was about finding out about the conspiracy about Kate/the U-boat the music box led to. But when the season finale of White Collar's third season came and went all of those questions were fully answered. Therefore the show needed a new season and series long conflict. They created one revolving around Neil's dad, but it feels too little too late.

Despite all of that, the show still could have been successful in it's post-U-Boat run. The biggest problem is the writing of these mini-one-week plots. Ken Levine wrote a recent blog post about shows becoming too clever for its own good and the main example he used to illustrate his point was White Collar. Sure these one-week-plot-plots are fun and entertaining and predictable and very USA-y, but what sucked you into the show was the simplicity of it. I agree with Mr. Levine that the show got too clever for its own good and I hope the show corrects itself for Season 5. I really hope White Collar has not Jumped The Shark.

Anger Management (FX) Season One
Grade: D+
Thursdays 9/8c

NOTES: I am an American. And just like every other American I surprisingly and actually care about the television career of Charlie Sheen. I was one of the billions of people that tuned in to Ashton Kutcher's first episode post-Sheen of Two And A Half Men and I was one the millions of people who tuned in to watch Anger Management. Not only was I curious to see a new Charlie Sheen television show, but I am a huge FX fan. Here are some of the great shows that FX has produced over the years: Justified, Terriers, Lights Out, Archer, The League, Louie, and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. And that list only includes the shows I have seen and doesn't include: The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, and Rescue Me. So I had high hopes for Anger Management. And I was severely let down.

Anger Management is basically another version of Two And A Half Men. It has the same tone, the same widespread and generic jokes and situations, and I'm pretty sure they both were filmed in the same house. The show did well in the ratings and FX just ordered one hundred and seventy two more episodes so kudos to FX for finding a hit (which I feel they desperately needed) but the overall quality of this show is so poor that I would not recommend anyone to watch it.


Since I lasted posted my review on 2012's spring TV edition I have seen both seasons of Game Of Thrones, Homeland, and the first two seasons of Dowton Abbey. The latter two shows aired seasons prior to 2012 and GOT's first season was in 2011. However, Game Of Thrones second season was in 2012 and should have gone in my Spring Edition column. So I'm here to rectify my mistake...

Game Of Thrones (HBO) Season Two
Grade: B+
Sundays 9/8c

NOTES: I normally hate things that are set during the 14th century or medieval times type things. I think The Lord Of The Rings are just "meh" films and I don't think I can ever bring myself to watch Braveheart- 4 hours of boring shit that I don't like. So I was extremely skeptical to watch Game Of Thrones. It was right in the genre and wheelhouse of things I don't like. To add to all of that I prefer character-driven shows over plot-driven shows. I'm probably the only person in the world that doesn't like Dexter because of that reason. I thought GOT was going to be extremely plot driven and be set during a period in which I don't like to watch. Yet I loved Season One of Game Of Thrones.

The main reason I liked it was because it was surprisingly character-driven. Despite its huge cast the show actually spent time on characters that I actually cared about week to week. The other reason I really enjoyed Season One was that it was a fairly simple and straight forward plot. Dany is coming from the East to take over Westeros, the White Walkers seem to be invading from the North and the Lannisters and the Starks were fighting from within. I was really getting in to Game Of Thrones. Then Season Two happened.

Again Season Two had a fairly simple plot: everybody was gunning for King Joffrey and King's Landing/Westeros. The Starks, Two Baratheons, and a Greyjoy to add to the White Walkers and Khalessi. But the extra characters in addition to the already ginormous cast was the straw that broke the camel's backs. I could handle and somewhat understand who was who in Season One but to add like ten more people and three more families to Season One not only diminished screen time and quality character time for everyone on the show prior but it made the show pretty confusing for the masses who had not read the book. Speaking of which and as Hitfix's Alan Sepinwall constantly points out, this is a television show first and not solely a physical representation of a beloved book. Because it is a T.V. show it has to explain things (mainly people) properly. You can not just say "Well it is in the book therefore the audience should understand these gaps". A television should not and does not work that way. But because Season Two worked that way (It was A LOT worse in Season 2 than in Season 1) I had to knock off a few grade points for the show.

One last final complaint about the show. For two seasons I have been told and/or led to believe that Dany and her fucking dragons and the things that are north of The Wall are scary and important and will eventually come into Westeros to destroy it all. I like the characters of Dany and Jon Snow and they're interesting but for two seasons I could have done without them. If you deleted every scene of the Targaryen siblings plot line and every scene with Jon Snow in it not only would that allow the audience to spend more times with characters who actually seem integral to the plot but the overall plot would not have changed in the slightest. At some point the show needs to actually give a reason why we are spending so much time with these characters and as Season Two dragged on these characters and plot line bored me more and more.

I know I just took a huge shit all over Game Of Thrones and that's sort of unfair. The show still is great, it's one of the four best dramas on television right now (behind Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Homeland) and I am extremely excited for Season Three. Plus, The Battle Of Blackwater, the season's penultimate episode was one of the best things I have seen on T.V. But considering how high Season One of Game of Thrones set the bar, Season Two was in some respects a let down.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: At the time I wrote my 2012 Spring Edition of T.V. shows I gave Mad Men a grade of a solid B. While the show was not yet over the episodes I had seen were just flat out boring and it looked like the show had Jumped The Shark. But immediately after my review came out Mad Men finished on a VERY strong note- mainly centered around a major problem of Lane Pryce. The show's final 4 episodes were excellent and as such I have to give Mad Men a higher grade. I really want to give the show an "A-" because that's how good the last four episodes were but I can not discount just how painstakingly bad boring the middle (and frankly its first two episodes) were. As such I will now give the show a "B+".


1) Breaking Bad (AMC) Season 5
2) Parks & Recreation (NBC) Season 4
3) New Girl (FOX) Season 1
4) Workaholics (Comedy Central) Season 3
5) Game Of Thrones (HBO) Season 2
6) Mad Men (AMC) Season 5
7) Suits (USA) Season 2
8) Justified (FX) Season 3
9) Archer (FX) Season 3
10) 30 Rock (NBC) Season 6

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