This year’s crop of freshman shows were a little thin in the impressive department. I found myself reaching to extended and premium cable more than ever to get my TV ya-yas, while thanking the television gods that the sophomore seasons of my favorite network shows (Community, Modern Family, Glee) continued to perform admirably. Here I’ve assembled those few newbies that earned a permanent spot on my series recording list.
Archer – There’s nothing I can add that the briefest bits of dialogue don’t already demonstrate why this raunchy yet witty animated spy spoof series with the best comedic voice cast assembled on television (particularly lead H. Jon Benjamin and Arrested Development alums Jessica Walter and Judy Greer) should be on everyone’s Must Watch list.
Raising Hope – First to admit my status as a comedy snob, I’ve set a standard that shows must impress within three episodes or I don’t invest in a season pass. The sole new network series I’ve included in my favorites fold took exactly that long to win me over. A surprise considering the pedigree of co-starring legend Cloris Leachman, but even though the pilot had some amusing bits, the pieces of the whole didn’t click together instantaneously. That changed with the episode “Dream Hoarders,” which brilliantly combined the hapless yet heartwarming aspects of the show and its characters, and throwing in a little something wacky with the sight of Cloris Leachman’s MawMaw becoming a Jenga savant when hearing They Might Be Giant’s “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).”
Justified – No, I’m in no way employed by FOX Broadcasting Company or related to Rupert Murdoch. Usually I’m the harshest critic on series coming from Uncle Rupie thanks to inane cancellations of great series (Arrested Development, Wonderfalls, Firefly…the list goes on), but this past year they’ve really impressed me thanks mostly to little brother FX which continued its commitment to out of the box programming. In Justified we’re treated with the classic archetypes of renegade cop and prodigal son wrapped up in lead character Raylan Givings, plus stories dripping in crime noir from the mind of author Elmore Leonard. I also confess that my country roots make me a sucker for shows set in the south. Plus Timothy Olyphant really pulls off that gun and cowboy hat combo (see also, Deadwood). Whatever the case, it can’t be denied that a strong lead and well-executed storytelling are at the heart of Justified and worthy of dedicated viewership.
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Honorable Mention: Terriers (RIP) – I really believed FX would give this phenomenal PI series a second season, considering it fit well with the anti-hero niche the extended cable network had started to corner. Alas, ’twas not in the cards for Terriers as it struggled all 13 episodes to gain a decent-sized audience and it’s pretty easy to put my finger on why – the head-scratching title and obscure marketing choices. I’m all for avoiding the too-obvious route in storytelling, letting viewers discover a little on their own rather than hitting them over the head with exposition, but when it comes to enticing an audience to start watching there’s got to be some explanation to a show’s premise prior to its premiere episode. Those who took a chance and did tune in to the pilot were not disappointed. Surprisingly, but thankfully, the creators were given a heads up by the network to prepare for cancellation, so there’s a good sense of closure in this neatly packaged 1-season series that I highly recommend picking up on DVD when available.
Not being one for cops & robbers TV – yes, I’ll admit with it being on the air 2/3 of my life I have been guilty of catching an episode or two of Law & Order and its many iterations, no one can completely resist the strange yet awesome combo of Ice-T, Richard Belzer AND Chris Meloni – the one spin on the crime genre that’s always intriguing is the focus on down and out, possibly shady but ultimately good guy PI stories. This very kind of series has recently surfaced on FX, the network that has truly cornered the market on anti-hero tales (see Sons of Anarchy, The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Justified), and its name is Terriers.
Huh? Isn’t that the TLC show about a kennel for designer dogs? Obscure title aside, after viewing the pilot I immediately wanted more and every episode of this SoCal detective series that’s followed has delivered on its fine first hour.
Coming from the mind who created The Shield, Shawn Ryan, and the wordsmith of the Ocean’s 11 remake, Ted Griffin, Terriers is such a perfect mixture of self-contained cases and over-arching mystery that this fan sees strong resemblances to gone-before-its-time fave Veronica Mars since it includes conspiracies and corrupt, wealthy locals in a seemingly idyllic beachside community (sans the high school setting). While not starring a spunky, pixieish blonde it does have an excellent lead pairing in stars Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James as the two intrepid private investigator heroes who, despite not being officially licensed, take cases that continually put them in harm’s way (or police custody), don’t always pay off big and usually involve beefier men highly trained in the art of pummeling. Basically the kind of situations that create great drama, action and quite a lot of comedy.
With a rather lackluster crop of new shows on the big five networks’ fall schedule, Terriers is a welcome breath of fresh air, another noteworthy notch in FX’s impressive belt of series and has the privilege of receiving a coveted “series recording” space on this TV aficionado’s overtaxed DVR queue. In other words, it’s one to watch – FX, Wednesdays at 10/9c.
Being only half-way through the 13-episode run, it’s easy to play catch-up thanks to the interwebs. Let this excellent promo whet your viewing appetite.