Monday, October 19, 2009

TV Power Rankings

Monday Oct. 12th - Sun. Oct. 18th

I haven't had much time for other blogging, but this is a hell of a lot of fun and I've been able to work on it bit by bit at night and over the weekends. Here goes week three of the television power rankings.

1. Mad Men (Last Week #1) (Wow. I wonder if the other dramas here tend to duffer in their rankings because of how good Mad Men is. Mad Men is first and foremost about Don and Betty Draper, but the show also manages to seamlessly integrate it's supporting characters in a way that I wish Battlestar Galactica could have learned from. This week, Paul Kinsey was featured and given the opportunity to drink himself silly and forget his best idea ever. Just as interesting were the sexist comments he directed at Peggy, all the more surprising considering he's been shown to be one of Sterling Cooper's most progressive characters. In the end though, we wind up with a nice little bit where Peggy bails him out and he gains a measure of respect for her abilities. But there are much bigger problems brewing in the world of Mad Men, where Sterling Cooper may be up for sale yet again and where Betty has discovered, but not yet confronted Don about his past.

2. 30 Rock (Last Week, Not On Air) (30 Rock operates at a comedic level that I can only remember in Arrested Development, where the jokes flow quickly and naturally as part of the dialogue. At times some of the jokes may fall flat- Pete and Liz sneaking around and struggling to cover it up was a bit contrived- but the pace of the show keep such moments from weighing it down. More than anything else, 30 Rock succeeds as a real study on class. It's typically a bit more subtle, but this week it was successfully woven into the plot in the form of Kenneth's page strike and Tracy's attempt to reconnect with the common man. Stay tuned regular readers, because I think 30 Rock is deserving of a post onto itself.

3. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (Last Week #2) (I'll have "the milk steak, boiled over-hard, and a side of your finest jelly beans, raw." Another Sunny classic, with Charlie's milk steak and career as a "full on rapist" getting the most laughs. Only down a notch because 30 Rock is just that good.)

4. Fringe (Last Week #3) (Last year at this time I would have never thought I'd have Fringe on a top ten list, but it's gotten to that point by both embracing the program's inner X-Files and giving the characters a chance to get some depth. The characters of Fringe don't quite match Mulder and Scully and the cast will never be the equal of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, but Fringe has reached the point where it's enjoyable on a weekly basis. Last week seemed a bit reminiscent of several X-Files episodes, but the neat little twist at the end of the episode made the whole outing worth while.)

5. Californication (Last Week #4) (Still going strong.)

6. Parks and Rec (Last Week #5) (America, Fuck Yeah! In last week's episode Parks and Rec may have finally hit it's stride, allowing all the characters to react to an outside threat in the form of a delegation from Venezuela. Very much over the top, but true to the show's premise and quite a cute yet clever defense of the mess that is democracy.)

7. Flash Forward (Last week #6) (Let me just say that I am enjoying this show and it's great to see a show of this sort on the air, doing so well in viewership. That being said, my list of complaints is growing. To go back two weeks ago, the 24-like scene where the crow deaths in Somalia were discovered by a quick google-like search was just a painful example of style over substance and the more I think about it, the circumstances of the release of the Nazi war criminal were just preposterous. Last episode we had more painful plotting and more clunky character development. Dmitiri's reaction to his impending doom never made much sense and makes even less sense in the wake of his discovery of the specifics. Either you fully beleive it to be true, in which case you'd be living out your life like a terminal cancer patient, or you'd have doubts about the infallibility of these visions, in which case you could more or less go about your life until you got close to the time in question. Dmitiri is running around acting like he's going to die in a week, leading to the inevitable and unsatisfying confrontation with Mark. Mad Men does brilliant work in relying on only it's characters, but Flash Forward can't even manage to do a halfway decent job when it has the tapestry of the flash forwards to work with. Part of the problem is the focus on the mosaic investigation, where each week since the pilot has focussed on the investigation. In a way it reminds me of the beginning of Fringe's first season, where the character growth was similarly stilted of a very formulaic plot structure. I loved the reveal at the end of last episodes, but can we please get some good writing.)

8. South Park (Last week, #7) (Better than last week, but still not quite that elite level that the show is capable of operating at. You've just got to love a Butters episode, but a tiny, tiny part of me wonders whether or not South Park reached it's creative peak with Imaginationland a few years back.)

9. Curb Your Enthusiasm (Last Week, #8) (Wendy Wheelchair and Denise Handicapped provided plenty of laughs, but in a week where 30 Rock took on class and economic issues full bore, Larry's argument with Rosie O'Donnell seemed particularly out of place. While 30 Rock's Tracy Jordan was trying to rediscover his roots, Larry's rants about flying Rosie's whole family out to L.A. to go out on her yacht seemed to delve full bore into the realm of unrelatability.)

10. Full Color Football: The Story of the AFL (Last Week, #9) (Say bye bye, as the saga of the AFL ended with the Chiefs victory in Super Bowl IV and the merger that represented an end of an era.)

Not On The List:

# The Office (Last Week #10) (The only reason it's out of the top ten was because 30 Rock returned and no one else slipped enough for the Office to make a leap up. But this is more like it. The best episodes of the Office don't involve special events, but give the characters an opportunity to react ridiculously to run-of-the-mill events. I loved Kevin using Jim's office and accidentally canceling Jim's credit cards and I loved Oscar as the lone remaining voice of reason.)

# House (The disappointment of the year thus far. Ever since the opener, the cases have seemed stale, the non-House characters dull, and the structure overly formulaic. Chase's murder of the African dictator may wind up as a jump the shark moment as it's just something a much lesser medical drama would have attempted.)

# I'm behind in Community, which my wife has given up and Bored to Death, which I've just fallen behind on. I also heard a good review of ABC's Modern Family this weekend from another couple who liked Arrested Development.


Blogger McMc said...

Flash Forward - I actually thought the most recent episode was one of the best and I'm wondering if you're missing some of the finer points. Is Demetri acting odd for someone in his situation? He knows he saw nothing when he blacked out. He knows of another person who saw nothing then died. He was also anonymously tipped off when his death would occur. His girlfriend actually says she saw him in her flash forward. This isn't like finding out you have terminal cancer, that's just one giant mindfuck. How would anyone react to that? My guess is by overreacting to any lead possible like our man Harold, I mean Demetri.

And what about Olivia? I think the last episode was great in the fact that she was tested. She doesn't want to believe these flash forwards are actually the future, yet she's met the man she has an affair with and now a patient's flash forward helped diagnose his illness and in turn saved his life.

I just think the characters of Flash Forward are all conflicted and the conflict is what leads to development. Your characters aren't going to grow or regress in one big leap, it takes time. Conflict is there for Agent Benford, Olivia, Demetri and Benford's sponsor Aaron. We've got a bunch of characters with different ideas of what their flash forwards meant and we've slowly been getting glimpses at what caused them.

I actually found this past episode to be the best thus far and I was actually a little bit disappointed that we found out our villain so quickly. Don't get me wrong, who Simon was talking to was awesome, but it just seems like the actual look at the bad guys has been very disproportionate to the rest of the investigation.

I find your comparison to Mad Men and Fringe interesting. I haven't seen Mad Men, but that show seems to be one purely about the characters. Fringe and Flash Forward both seem to be about an event(s) and how characters react to those events. I know you're not giving up on Flash, but I urge to just be cautious with your criticisms. It seems like you just want to (pardon the pun) flash forward with the character arcs. It's not going to happen overnight.

2:27 AM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

I like the premise and it has so much potential that I think I'm just holding Flash Forward to a higher standard. The good thing is that it's set up for continuity of plot and character, so it would take a lot for me to actually stop watching it.

Just a few comments before I hit on some good things- I think my big problem has been the focus on the mosaic, which has made the show a bit too much part 24 and part CSI/ Law and Order type procedural. I've found the character stuff to be lacking because I just don't feel like they've spent enough time on it. Te fact that we needed a medical incident to finally focus on Olivia's character indicates to me that there's too much focus on action and not enough on characters.

But I do want to make some good points about the show. The mystery is evolving quite nice and I have no problem about the reveal of Simon, mostly because I'm not quite sure he is "the bad guy." Without knowing the whys it's hard to say what's going on exactly and like Lost has done, I hope they make the question of good guys and bad guys not as black and white as it would seem. And also great in terms of mystery is Dmitri's fiance's statement that she saw him on their wedding day - just what does that mean?

10:18 AM  

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