Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Best And Worst Of The 2016-17 TV Season

Last year, I wanted to wait until the end of my favorite show's season to put out my Best and Worst list. This year, I'm doing so right after my favorite show ends its season. Because while it's become tradition that the party don't stop till The Flash walks out, I'm sorry to say that that show's writers have committed so many party fouls this year (mostly relating to their increasingly heavy focus on WestAllen, and also the interminable "Save Iris" arc) that I can no longer call The Flash my favorite show. I can no longer even count it in my Top 5, and I'm scared that, for the first time, it'll fail to win a Pinecone at year's end.

But while The Flash has disappointed me, it's been a great year elsewhere for five other shows. And there are also five shows (one of which is also a longtime fave) that have either annoyed me or made me want to rage against my viewing machine week after week because of their ongoing existence.

As usual, let's get my Five Worst out of the way first.

5. Powerless

I think it might've had something to do with the change in concept between the initial pilot's filming and the actual airing of the final pilot, but this DC Comics-based NBC sitcom proved shockingly low-quality. Really, given the presence of the likes of Danny Pudi and Alan Tudyk, I was expecting better. But then, I'm a little more forgiving of this show for its faults because, well, they couldn't help having trouble behind the scenes, could they? I only wish they could've stuck with the original insurance-agency idea, and maybe looked for a better lead actress than Vanessa Hudgens...but would it have helped the show last more than one season? Who knows.

Here's hoping for a stronger effort at a DC Comics comedy someday. A Vibe spinoff from The Flash, perhaps?

4. Taken

I literally only started watching this show because my dad saw the trailer for it and thought, "Hey, a spinoff of the Liam Neeson movies? Count me in!" Too bad the trailers for this reboot (it's a prequel, but it's still set in the present day) did such a good job of hiding the fact that this show, being the secret origin of Bryan Mills, pretty much lacks everything that makes the movies worth watching. It's nowhere near as intense or over-the-top as the movies, and with its desaturated color palette and standard plots for every episode, the show is so subdued as to fade into the background - and that's not getting into the fact that each episode suffers from erratic pacing and hole-filled plots. I was also very shocked that NBC renewed it for a second season - which, unless it manages to do well in its new Friday Night Death Slot, will probably be its last.

Personally, if you want more Clive Standen, I'd recommend Vikings. Still getting through their early seasons.

3. No Tomorrow

Maybe this show wasn't for me because it was more for the crowd that watches Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - both critically acclaimed out the wazoo, but also both with premises so absurd that it alienates me from the get-go for some reason. No Tomorrow, with its promise of potential apocalypse, sounded a little more up my alley, but one episode was all it took for me to realize that it was basically a John Green book for adults, with only a gender-swapping of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope (and Joshua Sasse's presence, creepy and douchey though his character was) to sell it. One and done for the CW, and hopefully next year they'll think twice before wasting The Flash lead-in on something so incompatible.

They should've given that lead-in to Frequency, which I won't forgive the CW for cancelling. EVER.

2. Conviction

It never fails to peeve me that ABC's spent the last few years either putting half their eggs in Shonda Rhimes' basket (am I the only one who simply can't get into any of her shows?) or putting another quarter of their eggs in the wastebaskets of ShondaLand's seemingly infinite imitators (Quantico, anyone?) while making me fear for the lives of my favorite genre shows on the network (as I especially did last year with Castle and Agent Carter.) Speaking of the latter, I really hope that Hayley Atwell's not totally done with the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet, as dirty as they did her in all the ways. But this year, they put her in as the lead on the legal drama Conviction, which, despite a fairly all-star cast, was so derivative of Scandal (and, again, I say this as a decided non-fan of that show) that it bored me to tears and made me feel so sorry for Hayley Atwell, saddled as she was with a piss-poor consolation prize of a job.

Come back soon, Ms. Atwell. Maybe in an Agents of SHIELD flashback? :)

1. The Walking Dead

Bet you didn't expect to see this bottoming my Bottom 5, did you? Well, if you've followed my Twitter anytime in the last seven months or so, you probably did. Honestly, I'm ashamed of what this show's become - torture porn for Robert Kirkman, Scott M. Gimple, et al. to beat off to while they laugh at how much we the viewers are scarred for life by the gratuitous physical and psychological violence of the Negan arc. It's gotten to the point where, because of this season, I've taken to telling people who haven't started watching the show to skip it. Not even to watch from the stellar beginning, because that's a surefire way to get you hooked - and therein lies the insidiousness of this show. You can't stop watching, even when you really, really want to. Even through the nihilistic valleys of Season 2, Season 4B, Season 5A...and now, all of Season 7, where all the show's worst flaws (too many characters, too many locations, glacial pacing because they spend entire episodes in one place, the writers blatantly plot-armoring the villain because they have such boners for him, and worst of all, forgetting that this is supposed to be a goddamn zombie show!) come out in full force. Bottom line, if you value your mental and emotional health, avoid The Walking Dead.

Also, that episode where Carl met Negan? Fiction has never made me so ragingly bloodthirsty.

And now for my Five Best!

5. The Good Place

I thought this show was a fun fantasy-comedy in the vein of Bryan Fuller's early days, before he started dabbling in the Gothic and back when he could see the funny side of death. But The Good Place is so much more than that - it's a skillful parody of all the best myth-arc kind of shows on TV. Lost, Fringe, Westworld, Breaking Bad, The X-Files...but to get into particulars of how wild and unexpectedly awesome this show's first season is would risk massive spoilers. Watch this show, love it to death, scream at the finale...then we'll talk.

And if, somehow, you don't like it, go fork yourself.

4. Timeless

Last week, I was scared that NBC had made the same epic mistake they pulled with Revolution and got trigger-happy on the ass of another underrated Eric Kripke show. But it took so little time for the fan outcry to convince the network that, hmm, maybe they had a potential hit on their hands? And after the cliffhanger ending to this terrific time-travel drama's first season, no resolution, ever, would have made me so incredibly raging mad at NBC, you wouldn't believe it. Though they had their pitfalls (God, could we please go back in time and wipe that Bonnie and Clyde episode from existence?), they were otherwise so awesome that I had to watch each episode twice - once live by myself, and the second time with my dad. Sixteen episodes in Season 1 were certainly not enough, and neither will be ten episodes for Season 2...but you know what? It's always worth it, because Kripke never fails.

All hail the all-awesome #TimeTeam. (And Garcia Flynn, that charismatic anti-villain.)

3. Lucifer

I was raised Catholic, but am so over religion. So I have that in common with the title character of this super-cool Fox paranormal crime drama, now ramping up to the end of its second season and with no end to the awesomeness in sight. I also have certain parental issues, trouble connecting with normal humans (and a tendency to balk at said connections when they're made only because I'm suddenly paranoid that something's wrong with it), bisexuality (though he's far more confident in expressing his own), and...and you know what? If you don't believe me, give this show a try. Forget Mark Pellegrino - Tom Ellis as a cuddly and adorably douchey Lucifer is always going to be my definitive version of the character.

You saucy boy, Luci.

2. Supergirl

Taking The Flash's place on my Top 5 list (roughly) is the true shining star of the Arrowverse these days - Kara Zor-El, Supergirl, the Angel From Krypton whose show I've had so much fun pairing with viewings of Lucifer (which will be a little harder to pull off next season if Supergirl stays on Mondays at 8, thus putting it on TV at the same time as Lucifer, but that's neither here nor there.) And as petty as it might be for me to say, the primary reason for this is because of shipping. While I'm so over the main ship on The Flash (and also bummed that Cisco continues to be one of the most relatable characters on that show because he's pretty much forever alone like me), Supergirl has ditched its chemistry-free canon ship as set up at the end of Season 1 in favor of pairing her with her love from the comics, Mon-El, played amazingly by Chris Wood. (It helps that he and Melissa Benoist are now dating in real life, lending Stonefield-level natural chemistry to their performances.) Unpopular opinion - I LOVE KARAMEL. Mon's character development has dovetailed so wonderfully into his and Kara's blossoming relationship, and alongside this emotional roller coaster, we've had Winn taking more of the spotlight being the DEO's resident inventor, and Alex's coming out and finding love in Maggie Sawyer. Oh, and some damn despicable villains in Lillian Luthor and Rhea, the truly monstrous Queen of Daxam. The season finale is next week, and with Tyler Hoechlin returning as Superman, that's just the tip of the iceberg of awesomeness.

Though I'm still shipping SuperFlash like nobody's business, I'm so in for Karamel, those sweet space bunnies.

1. Agents of SHIELD

My favorite show on TV right now isn't The Flash anymore - it's last year's second-place Pinecone winner, Agents of SHIELD. Last year brought the show to new heights with the white-knuckle "Fallen Agent" storyline that cut me deep in my Daisy Johnson-loving heart, but this year, they've taken the show higher and higher. Dividing the series into not two, but three "pods" tightened the writing and pacing to perfect degrees, and each pod serves up a totally different surprise and style that keeps you guessing at every turn. In order, we've got "Ghost Rider" (with Gabriel Luna kicking all the ass as Robbie Reyes), "LMD" (with Mallory Jansen creeping everyone the fuck out as AIDA), and "Agents of HYDRA" (a scary backwards world where SHIELD is dying, HYDRA rules the roost, and Brett Dalton is playing Grant Ward as we all want to remember him - Awesome McCoolguy.) The whole way, it's clear, now more than ever, that I had the right fave all along - Daisy is the true hero of this show now, with Yo-Yo and FitzSimmons not far behind. #ItsAllConnected - all of it. And let me tell you, now up there with The Flash's "Out Of Time" or Person of Interest's "If-Then-Else" or Fringe's "Over There" or The 100's "Perverse Instantiation" on my list of the best episodes of TV ever is Agents of SHIELD's "Self Control." Written and directed by Jed Whedon, it more than rivals anything Joss ever did, and is one of the most screamingly intense hours in TV history. I'm still sure I died watching it that night and came back as a ghost - or, perhaps, a Framework construct. (Huh...that might actually explain a lot about this shitty world, except we wound up in the Framework while the "Ghost Rider" pod was still happening.)

And thus endeth my Best and Worst lists...what do you guys think?

Till next time, Pinecones...

Remember: Denis Leary is always watching. Always.

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