Tuesday, January 01, 2013

TV: Best New TV Shows of 2012

In order of category, I give you the best new shows to hit primetime this Fall season:
Best New Action Drama: "Revolution"
I realize you've probably had it up to HERE with conspiracy theory mystery dramas, but give this one a try. What's interesting about it, whether the creators and the network know or not, isn't the mystery as to why all the electricity in the world turned off or who did it. What's interesting is how it affected humankind, how we adapted, who adapted better than others, and what it's turned us into. It's like a case study on the effects of technology on an extremely dependent society. It's like when your cell phone battery dies or DVR is on the fritz, except exponentially worse. It's like the aftermath of Sandy on a non-stop, global scale. No FEMA. No China. No nothing.
Best New Drama: "Nashville"
I'm not going to lie to you: If you hate country music, listening to the sporadic performances might become annoying. But if you're as fascinated by the music industry and how it churns out hits and hitmakers and discards them once they're unmarketable, and how gossip is disseminated and manipulated to either promote or destroy an artist's career, then you're going to enjoy this show. It'll make you wonder which musicians have gone through the same troubles and what they're hiding behind their perfectly manicured facades.
Best New Dramedy Geared Towards Young Adults: "Underemployed"
In this generation of struggling new graduates, overwhelming unemployment statistics, and loan debt, it's fair to assume that characters like these exist. Unlike most of the "unscripted" content on MTV these days, it's very relatable and fairly well-written. It captures the small victories in life, from promotions to coming-out speeches, and the moments that test us, from pending eviction to unplanned pregnancies. It's a mirror of the current generation that serves to commiserate with the unfortunate masses.

Best New Ensemble Comedy: "Go On"
For a minute there, you thought Matthew Perry would never crawl from under the crippling success of "Friends." He tried with NBC's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" in '06 and again last year with ABC's "Mr. Sunshine." We could just apply the "third time's a charm" rule here, but I think he's just found the right ensemble cast to replace his former friends, and the right character to allow him to do what he does best: teeter between awkward experiences and heartfelt moments. NBC is actually known for its workplace slash makeshift, non-biological family sitcoms, from "The Office" to "Community." They've cornered the market on people who exert crazy, unorthodox behavior during inappropriate times. And this series about a therapy group that work out their emotional issues, oversharing and overstepping their boundaries, is a perfect fit for both the network and Perry.

Best New Female-Driven Comedy: "The Mindy Project"
Tuesday night has become a neurotic and obsessive ladies' night on FOX, starting with Dakota Johnson on "Ben and Kate," escalating to Zooey Deschanel on "New Girl," and capping off with Mindy Kaling on "The Mindy Project." It's a comedy block of zany female fun that could've become repetitive, but didn't. While Johnson is busy trying to raise her daughter—and her older brother—and Deschanel is trying to master being an adult, maintaining a steady job and learning to stick up for herself, Kaling is confidently navigating the dating world and trying to further her medical career, in spite of many testosterone-fueled obstacles in both arenas. My favorite part of the series, however, is the love-hate relationship between Kaling and her costar Chris Messina. Not because they got that "Moonlighting" thing going on, but because unlike Jess and Nick on "New Girl," their hate is very believable. And his secret affection for her is very subtle. It has the potential to not reach a climax for at least two solid seasons, keeping fans at bay. "New Girl" fans, however, might get rabid as soon as next season. 
Best New Family Comedy: "The Neighbors"
Yes, I know this is a series about goofy aliens with British accents who befriend their new Jersey neighbors—and that that's ridiculous—but I swear it's funny and eye-opening. Think about it: If you had to explain your life, your traditions, your interests, and your habits to another culture or even just a child, you'd be surprised how stupid it all sounds out loud. Santa Claus. Playing hard to get. Predicting just how much affection you're allowed to show your child in front of his friends. All of it makes sense when you're doing it, like grammar, but then loses all logic, when you have to explain it. And that's why this series is so funny. It mocks the absurdity that propels the human race.

Best New Mystery Crime Drama: "Elementary"
If you're a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, like I am, in that you've seen the movies, the BBC series, and read the books and short stories—and are highly critical of them all—then you might want to give this new take on an old soul a try. Much like Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch, Johnny Lee Miller's Sherlock is an obnoxious, peculiar investigator with a keen eye for clues and clever deduction methods. He may not have combat skills (as of yet) like RDJ or a pristine wardrobe like Cumberbatch, but he does share their similar lust for intrigue and adventure. The reason to not disregard this incarnation in favor of any of the others is simply his relationship with the female version of Watson, played by Lucy Liu. I'm comforted to have recently learned that they will never ever fall in love, which makes their bickering and heated quarrels that much more poignant for the development of their partnership—and friendship. This series is the making of Sherlock and Watson, an exploration into how two very different people complement each other so well that one is lost without the other.

Catch up on the first half of this season before they all return!

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