Bunheads

February 26, 2013

Bunheads

At this awkward but significant time in the television calendar, there are any number of reasons why this viewer could be prone to anxiety, consternation, jubilation, or excitement.  The impending return of Mad Men and Game of Thrones, the final season of Breaking Bad, the gaping hole in our collective chest as 30 Rock has come to an end, the decline (something that’s both exaggerated and unmistakable) of the beloved curio Community, or ABC’s seemingly willfull destruction of the fantastic Happy Endings are all likely to weigh on my mind from time to time, but the one that causes me the most grief is, of all damn things, the slim renewal prospects of ABC Family’s Bunheads.

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The nature of the medium of television breeds a certain amount of critical consensus every year.  There just aren’t that many shows out there, and while there are enough that this list could be entirely different from someone else’s, it isn’t likely.  So what’s the point of making this list?  Basically, it’s just a bit of fun really.  I’d also like to talk briefly about something that I devote far too much of my time so it feels at least somewhat worthwhile beyond sheer entertainment.  The rules are simply whatever aired in 2011, so the final results shouldn’t include the first half of a broadcast network season (even though I admit that they probably play a role in some cases).  There’s an intriguing discussion to be had somewhere about how a year-end list favours cable dramas because of this, but we’re not going to have it here.  Just a note that Friday Night Lights could technically be on this list, but as it only aired 3 or so episodes – as I saw them – this year it didn’t seem fair.  Suffice it to say that it’s a great show and if you haven’t seen it you should seek it out. Spoilers for two shows have been noted in the headings.

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Downton Abbey

September 30, 2011

I’ve already complained enough about the milquetoast tastes of Academy Awards voters and their love of inoffensive, tarted-up junk food like The King’s Speech, and though I will certainly wheel that bugbear out again in a few months, it is a little bit harder to say the same thing about the Emmys.  Sure, they tend towards the conservative (as you’d expect), but they’ve also spent the last decade as a platform from which to praise HBO, which is without a doubt the single most artistically interesting (and, indeed, revolutionary) television channel of our times.  You can make arguments that the middle of the road taste still wins out when Modern Family receives best comedy series or even that Mad Men’s four successive best drama victories represent a handy intersection of those milquetoast values with genuinely complex artistic achievement, but really, this has been HBO’s decade and it will continue to be for some time to come.  It is, then, only under these circumstances where a five-part mini-series adaptation of James M. Cain’s Mildred Pierce by idiosyncratic director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, I’m Not There) would be seen as the all-but-unbeatable juggernaut of the night.  So it was a shock when plucky ITV-produced upstart Downton Abbey, aired in the US on PBS, swept in and took the prize from under poor old Mildred’s nose.  This isn’t to say that Mildred Pierce was the best possible winner – that went to the not-even-nominated Carlos – but it was still a deserving one.  I subsequently watched all of Downton Abbey, and all those King’s Speech feelings came flooding right back.  Once again, the “discerning” American viewer gave into their baser instincts for easy, melodramatic nonsense, only this time it was incredibly offensive.  Read the rest of this entry »

With the rebirth of scripted television and the rise of original cable programming came the need for networks to establish an identity to rope in new viewers.  Gone were the days of four broadcast networks wheeling out their new shows over the course of a month and people picking and choosing; original programming is now year-round and there are a lot more outlets to choose from.  As such, cable networks have developed brand identities in the hopes of building a core audience of faithful viewers who are always willing to check out their new shows because they have certain expectations.  FX is largely male-oriented and ‘edgy’, HBO is high-quality content for the discerning viewer, USA is light entertainments, and TNT hews closer to broadcast drama procedurals.  AMC has been in the original series game for five years now, and off the back of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, they’ve gained enough critical acclaim (and the awards that go with it) to see themselves as the only true rival for HBO’s high-quality crown.  The idea, I think, is to not have any particular genre niche to cater to, but rather to create and maintain a stock of exceptionally good shows that anybody who likes good TV can tune into and enjoy.  Their biggest hit to date, The Walking Dead, complicates this, of course, as it is a fairly mediocre show that doesn’t transcend its zombie trappings at all, but like HBO and True Blood, AMC won’t complain about a hugely successful money maker.  The Killing, based on the acclaimed Danish series Forbrydelsen, on the other hand, is clearly attempting to rise above its crime genre roots and become The Next Great Thing.  At that it fails miserably, but for reasons that go beyond simple execution.  Read the rest of this entry »

A message board I frequent is running a poll on the top 25 television shows of the decade.  There were threads for nominations (which I missed), and the votes had to be chosen from the resulting list of a couple of hundred programmes.  The qualifying rules meant that any show had to air episodes in this decade, but could started in the fall ’99 season.  If shows started before then, only the seasons aired from fall ’99 onwards were to be considered.  This is Part 4, which features numbers 5-1.  Part 1 can be found here.   Part 2 can be found here.  Part 3 can be found here.

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A message board I frequent is running a poll on the top 25 television shows of the decade.  There were threads for nominations (which I missed), and the votes had to be chosen from the resulting list of a couple of hundred programmes.  The qualifying rules meant that any show had to air episodes in this decade, but could started in the fall ’99 season.  If shows started before then, only the seasons aired from fall ’99 onwards were to be considered.  This is Part 3, which features numbers 10-6.  Part 1 can be found here.   Part 2 can be found here.  Part 4 can be found here.

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A message board I frequent is running a poll on the top 25 television shows of the decade.  There were threads for nominations (which I missed), and the votes had to be chosen from the resulting list of a couple of hundred programmes.  The qualifying rules meant that any show had to air episodes in this decade, but could started in the fall ’99 season.  If shows started before then, only the seasons aired from fall ’99 onwards were to be considered.  This is Part 2, which features numbers 20-11.  Part 1 can be found here.  Part 3 can be found here.  Part 4 can be found here.

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