Friday, September 16, 2011

Fall TV is Back: My Top 5 Series

Summer is officially over. It sucks. I know it and you know it. Many people are returning to the classroom, the weather is getting colder, it's  getting darker earlier, and before you know it many of us will have piles of snow to contend with. But there is one bright spot in all this.......the start of the fall TV schedule!

I don't watch a lot of television to be honest. It takes a lot for me to sit down and devote my time to a series. But there are a few shows that interest me enough to watch week to week. Here's a breakdown of my top 5 series premiering this fall.

Sons of Anarchy


Now on its fourth season, Sons of Anarchy centers around an outlaw motorcycle club in Northern California. The show follows key members of the club as they deal with family, local law enforcement, rival gangs and local townspeople. It's The Sopranos meets the Hell's Angels.

While at its core Sons is an ensemble piece, the story focuses primarily on Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam). He's our protagonist. Jax is the Vice President of the club and the son of one of its founding members. At one time deeply committed to the club and his brothers-in-arms, Jax is beginning to question the direction the Sons are taking under the leadership of his step-father Clay, played by Ron Perlman. As the MC's activities become more illegal and violent in nature, Jax wonders if the club has lost sight of its original purpose. Now the father of two small children, Jax is struggling with his loyalty to the club his father built and his desire to raise his family in a safe environment away from the blood and and death that seems to follow the club wherever it goes.

When this show was originally announced, the creators had characterized it as a modern-day Hamlet. Anyone who knows me will be quick to point out that if you want to interest me in a television show or movie just compare it Hamlet. Although not a strict adaption of Shakespeare's work, the comparison is not without its merits. After Jax's father died, his mother, played brilliantly by Katey Sagal, went and married his old man's best friend. Now the new "king and queen" of the MC are starting to destroy what his father built. Couple that with suspicion that Jax's father's death may not have been an accident and you've got drama that would make Shakespeare proud.

The first two seasons were perfect, however Season 3 disappointed me a bit as I felt the show moved away from the tone that made it so successful. Two episodes in to Season 4 and I'm happy to report that all is well with the Sons once again. When it's all said and done I think this will be one of the best series FX has ever produced and will make a nice addition to any DVD collection.

The Vampire Diaries


I know what you're thinking. Vampires, really? Prior to this series airing I was done with vampires as a genre. Between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight and True Blood, not to mention the dozens of other movies and television series on the subject, I felt that we said everything we needed to say about these creatures of the night. But somehow Vampire Diaries grabbed my attention and I've been watching it since episode one.

Based on the book series by L.J. Smith, the series, now in its third season, focuses on a love triangle between Elena Gilbert and two vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon Salvatore. It sounds simple enough, but the show has far more going on under the surface. In fact, I would argue that the love triangle quickly took a backseat to far more intriguing storylines.

The show is set in Mystic Falls, Virginia. It's a small town with a lot of history. It's one of those towns that has been populated by the same families for generations. For instance, the governing body is comprised of descendants of the town's Founding Families. Everyone knows each other, you can keep your doors unlocked, oh and it's also plagued by supernatural beings. That's probably important to mention. From vampires to werewolves to witches. Mystic Falls has it all.

As with any series, Vampire Diaries succeeds because of its cast, the vampire brothers more specifically. Stefan and Damon (played by Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder) are brothers but you wouldn't know it by the way they act. Stefan is almost ashamed that he is a vampire. He's goodhearted and amiable. He hasn't fed on human blood in hundreds of years. Damon on the other hand is viscous and blood-thirsty. He has embraced his vampire side. They are opposites, and their motivations and personalities put them at odds quite a bit. As the series progressed, Stefan made it his goal to reform Damon. To reach the "human" still inside him. Due to his brother's efforts, and his increasing attraction to Elena (Stefan's girlfriend), Damon has become something of an anti-hero. Season 3 begins with a bit of a role reversal, as we see Damon and Elena dealing with an almost feral Stefan, a turn he took at the end of season 2. This is shaping up to be one of the best storylines the show has had.

If there is one thing that Vampire Diaries does better than any show on the air it's the cliffhanger. Each episode ends with a gut punch. The next one always worse than the one that preceded it. You'd imagine this would be difficult to keep up but this show has done it consistently for two seasons. One episode ends and you find yourself anticipating the next one with fervor. If you are a fan of True Blood or Twilight you should be watching this. It is without question a superior series.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia


Sometimes you just want to laugh. It's that simple. It's nice to have a break from the overly emotional or cerebral. FX's Always Sunny goes a long way in providing that much needed laugh at the end of a long week.

Premiering in 2005, the show follows four friends who run a less than successful bar in Philadelphia. That's really all you need to know. The show lacks any real continuity, with each episode existing on its own. New viewers can just as easily begin watching with season 7 as they could with season 1. Every episode finds "The Gang" faced with a dilemma (usually a ludicrous one) and we get to sit back and see how they handle it. Spoiler Alert: It's usually handled in the most immature and vulgar way possible. With episodes titled: "Charlie Wants an Abortion," "The Gang Finds a Dead Guy," and "Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody's Ass" you probably get my point.

Is it vulgar at times? Yes. Is it low brow? Yes. Is it funny as hell? Absolutely. If you like to laugh and want to try something other than the standard half-hour network comedies, give Always Sunny a shot. You won't be disappointed.


I absolutely loved HBO's Deadwood. I consider it to be the greatest television series I ever watched. I was flabbergasted when it was cancelled and I have always hoped that it would return, either as a new series or as a movie. Every time I see one of the actors appear on another series, and they all have, I get a little sentimental. I wish that series was still on. But it's not. Thankfully Justified is.

Justified stars Timothy Olyphant as Deputy U.S. Marshall Ralan Givens. Many of you will remember Olyphant from his portrayal of Seth Bullock on Deadwood. Olyphant's Givens is a man-out-of-time. He works as a present day U.S. Marshall but he dresses, talks and acts like you plucked him out of the Dakota Territory circa 1870. He enforces an almost archaic brand of justice, often times utilizing less than legal methods to hunt and punish fugitives.

When the series begins, we find Raylan working for the Marshall Service down in Miami. After pulling the trigger on a fugitive in a controversial shooting, Givens is transferred back to his hometown in Kentucky. Raylan had a childhood he'd like to forget. The Marshall service was a way out. Coming back was never really an option for him. Being "home" puts him face-to-face with friends and enemies he wished to forget. However after a few days back in town it's obvious to everyone except Raylan that this is exactly where he belongs.

The entire cast is exceptional but the series lives and dies with Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins. You may remember Goggins from The Shield, where he played Detective Shane Vendrell. Here Goggins plays Boyd Crowder, a childhood friend of Raylan's turned bank robber. When Raylan first comes to town, Boyd is his primary headache. As the series progressed, Boyd's character transformed into something of an ally to Raylan. A relationship neither expected and Raylan isn't entirely comfortable with. Watching these two on screen together is electric and reason enough to watch this show. Thankfully it is also exceptionally written and produced. I expect this series to continue on a lot longer than Deadwood and I'll be along for the whole ride.

The Big Bang Theory

What kind of nerd would I be if this show wasn't on my list?

Premiering back in 2007, The Big Bang Theory focuses on the relationship between four geniuses and their aspiring-actress roommate from across the hall. The shows quartet of nerds (Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj) meet all the requisite stereotypes: They are extremely intelligent, socially awkward, well versed in all things sci-fi and frequent their local comic shop every Wednesday. Their neighbor Penny on the other hand is the kind of woman that frightens them to the core. What she lacks in intelligence she more than makes up for with her social skills, knowledge of pop culture and intoxicating personality. They compliment each other well, having the skills that the others lack.

The show's laughs come primarily from Penny's response to the guy's out of control nerdiness and high levels of intelligence. Everyone in the cast brings something unique and humorous to the table, but the show would be nothing without Jim Parson's Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Sheldon makes the other three guys look like the poster children for normalcy and social grace. He is extremely intelligent, often times portrayed as head and shoulders about his colleagues. While never labeled as such on the show, Sheldon exhibits all the traits of someone with Asperger syndrome mixed with a little OCD. He is a slave to routine and lacks anything resembling social skills. A majority of the scenes revolve around the group attempting to deal with Sheldon's bizarre behavior.

Parsons has created a character that will go down in the annals of television history as one of the greatest characters of all time. The show is funny. There's no doubt about it. But the series is carried by Parsons's Sheldon and Kaley Cuoco's Penny. It's at its best when these two are on screen together. Their interplay, their chemistry, and their command of their characters are what drives this series. With very high ratings and a few shelves of awards to its credit, The Big Bang Theory has delivered across the board. Admittedly last season, the show's fourth, was not its best. Not by a long shot. But the series has proven capable of delivering a quality product for three solid seasons. This is a show I'm going to stick with until the end. What kind of nerd would I be if I didn't?


With a new crop of shows hitting the air this fall I'm looking forward to seeing if any make the list next time around. What are you watching?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another great blog post! I hope more individuals gravitate to at least one of these series and appreciate the characters the way we do. =)