TV

My Top 10 New Shows of Fall 2011 (Part 2)

So, after an untimely delay in getting this written and posted, here it is. Before I get into numbers 1-5, I have to give special mention to Charlie’s Angels (ABC) and A Gifted Man (CBS). When it comes to new shows that are only just starting out, I like to give them a couple of episodes before I make a definitive decision as to whether it’s worth watching or not. Therefore, if I make a decision after just ONE episode, as was the case with the two above, then in my eyes, it is a clear marker of how bad the show really is. Anyone who is vaguely familiar with US TV will know just how universally panned Charlie’s Angels was and it was for good reason; Horrible writing, atrocious acting and nothing but garbage from beginning to end. A Gifted Man was not much better, either. It was better than CA, but the ludicrous concept combined with the CBS procedural environment made for an extremely tedious show that wasn’t worth going back to. It was like ‘House’ meets ‘Ghost Whisperer’ – two very different concepts that don’t pair well.

I also watched only one episode of Prime Suspect (NBC) but honestly, I fell asleep for half of the episode so I cannot give a definitive opinion on it, nor do I care to watch any of it again due to how boring it clearly was. The fact that it’s now been cancelled probably says all that needs to be said when it comes to this show.

Anyway, now on to the actual post!

5 – THE SECRET CIRCLE (THE CW)

Witches – so easy to get right and equally as easy to get wrong. The Secret Circle is something you’ll either like or hate. My advice, though, is to not make a rash decision after the first episode. I very nearly gave up on it after the first but as you can see by my placing it in the top five, it has improved in droves since then.

Just from looking at the picture above, you get the distinct impression that this show is ‘teeny’ and in some ways, it is, but rest be assured that this is very much an adult show. The cast are a bit of a mixed bag. Some are of an acceptable standard and portray their characters rather well, whilst others fall severely flat of that mark. I’m not going to name any names as, to be honest, they all hover from one side to the other very frequently. What I will say, and I am going into ‘shallow mode’, is that The Secret Circle does have a largely attractive cast, regardless of which side of the fence you sit on. Honestly, I get so distracted by that, sometimes, that I forget about what is actually going on. I don’t do that with all shows. Honest.

Where TSC shines is in the way it chooses to carry forward its story. Although there are elements of a ‘story of the week’ format, each episode tends to focus on the ‘main’ story on the whole, and it benefits from this. With a ‘story of the week’ format, it is easy to dip in and out of the show at will as each episode is something new story-wise, but with a serial format like TSC, it becomes less easy to do this as the cliffhanger endings and the  ‘need’ to see what happens next becomes overwhelming. It may not be easy to understand what I’m saying but lets just say that TSC benefits greatly from not relying too heavily on a plot of the week format.

On the whole, The Secret Circle is an enjoyable show but it can be fairly inconsistent in the fact that one week it can be fantastic and the next, it can be just ‘average’. The cast are exactly the same but the way in which the show carries forward its story is one of the largest reasons to stick with this show, as the main plot is interesting on its weakest day.

4 – NEW GIRL (FOX)

You may wonder why I have chosen the picture above as the one to represent this show. Well, it’s quite simple – New Girl is, essentially, Zooey Deschanel. Her quirks and mannerisms are either to your tastes or they aren’t.

New Girl seems to split opinion wherever you look. Some people hate it, some love it. I am not the biggest fan of comedy shows and I don’t usually watch them unless somebody recommends one to me, but when they are done right, they are fabulous, and when they are done wrong, they are catastrophic failures. New Girl is extremely enjoyable once you get used to the character of Jess, as portrayed by the delectable Ms Deschanel. It can take a while, as she is extremely ‘quirky’ and odd, but they seemed to have toned her down a little in the last few episodes. The show isn’t all about her, however, as the other members of the cast do leave an impression for various reasons. I have to give special mention to Schmidt, who is simply fantastic for reasons that you can’t really understand until you watch it yourself. As a matter of fact, the entire cast work very well together which, for a comedy show of this nature, is crucial to its future success.

You can take my word for it or you can see for yourself, but New Girl is a great show that is full of humour that isn’t always glaringly obvious but still present. Zooey Deschanel certainly isn’t an actress that everybody is going to love, and a large part of whether you will like the show or not depends on whether you like her, but past that, New Girl is a stellar addition to the TV line-up. Just don’t let me hear the word ‘adorkable’ used to describe it, again. Awful word *shivers*.

3 – ONCE UPON A TIME (ABC)

Once Upon a Time has such a bizarre concept, that you really have to watch it for yourself to make a determination as to whether it works or not. Said concept is that the fairy tale stories you all know, such as Snow White and Cinderella, are all true and the characters all exist. However, they have all been cursed by the evil queen and banished to our existence, where none of them know who they are or anything of the fairy kingdom. Like I said, it’s extremely strange but give it a chance, as it may surprise you as it did me. 

Where OUAT shines is in the stories and the characters. Although Jennifer Morrison wouldn’t have been high on my list to cast in the lead role, due to her limited range as far as I’m concerned, she seems like the best choice and gives the role her all. Other characters, such as the deliciously evil queen and the insane Rumpelstiltskin, are all portrayed fantastically by their respective actors and it is because of this that I consider OUAT to be one of the best new shows of this season. 

When you see the words ‘fairy tales’ in the description of this show, you immediately think that this will be a thing for kids to watch. I thought the same, but from the first episode alone, it is clear that that is not the case. People die, there are few happy endings and blood will be shed. Fairy tales have been made more adult and OUAT is a bizarre, yet utterly captivating, show to watch. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

2 – REVENGE (ABC)

This show is easily the biggest surprise for me, this year. I went into it not knowing what it was about, who was in it and I had no expectation of watching it for more than one episode. However, this show is absolutely fantastic for so many reasons. Yes, it is ‘soapy’ at frequent points, but the plot is so fast moving and interesting that you barely get time to breathe. This makes for an addictive, engrossing, show that it would be easy to watch the entire season of in a few days. 

The concept of Revenge is that Emily (real name Amanda) lived with her father who was framed for a crime he did not commit and jailed as a result of this. Amanda later returns to the place she lived as a child and sets about bringing down those who were a part of framing her father, and there are quite a few of those lurking around. Emily VanCamp plays her part extremely well, as does Madeleine Stowe (Victoria), who plays Amanda/Emily’s nemesis. They play well off each other, as do the rest of the cast, and combined with an addictive plot as described above, they make for a good show.

What makes Revenge so good is that it doesn’t seem to care how ‘soapy’ it is: it doesn’t try to be anything else. The plot moves at a very rapid pace with surprises and twists at each corner, some that you will not suspect at all, and it is because of this that Revenge is so high up on this list. I never expected this show to be this good and the fact that it surprised me so much is also one of the reasons I like it so much. Were it not for one other, I would take no hardship in labeling this as my favourite new show of 2011.

1 – HOMELAND (SHOWTIME)

Homeland is absolutely brilliant. I could leave this portion of the post as that one sentence as there are very few things I can say that don’t further that point. The show is not only brilliant, but it’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into making it that way.

The characters are all well written, well acted and one of the biggest reasons as to this shows massive success. Clare Danes and Damien Lewis work incredibly well together and have such chemistry during their scenes that I get engrossed at how well they actually play off each other. Not only that, the plot is fascinating and meanders during each episode so that you very rarely know what is going to happen next. The story is that Brody, a US soldier, was captured by terrorist forces and kept as a prisoner of war for many, many, years during which he was tortured and, as suspected by Carrie (Homeland Security), turned against his country. It’s not that simple, however, as Brody is returned to the home he lost for many years and then the plot unravels itself from there.

From the excellent opener all the way through to the fantastic climax, Homeland has done nothing but deliver on all fronts. It is incredibly sad that we will have to wait so long for the second season to begin, but I expect nothing but sheer quality and brilliance when it does return. You have to check this show out if you haven’t already. There is a reason it is at the top of this list, after all.

 

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