The TV List 10.06.12: Top 10 TV Channels
Posted by Michael Ornelas on 10.06.2012
From the Family Guy-led FOX and Showtime with Dexter and Homeland to HBO's Game of Thrones/Boardwalk Empire combo and more, 411's Michael Ornelas counts down the top 10 TV channels!
Welcome back to the TV List! I am 411's resident TV binger, Michael Ornelas. Regarding last week's column which was met with light criticism, I'll say this: it was funniest dads. Not best, greatest, most iconic, most relevant, but the funniest. The ten dads listed have made me laugh more than the dads I left off the list. But at the end of the day, my list is by no means definitive and we all have our likes and dislikes. I stand by my list, but have added to the shows on my radar on account of reader suggestions. I'm not ignoring certain shows, I was just born in the late ‘80s. And with the quality and volume of shows currently on the air, it gets harder and harder to go back and watch classic shows from other decades.
This week's topic is the top 10 TV channels. This is based on original scripted programming, so reality shows have no bearing. Also, I'm focusing on the good, so if a channel has ten great shows and five dreadfully bad ones, it'll still place better than a channel with seven great shows and no bad ones. I'd also like to point out that I'm only judging based on the shows currently airing on these channels, and no including anything that has yet to complete its first season. Let's cut to the chase!
ABC is on an upswing right now. For many years it was all shows almost exclusively worth ignoring, but it's starting to turn around, largely in part thanks to Modern Family. Of the shows on this channel, I follow the aforementioned Modern Family, Happy Endings, and The Middle. I truly watched nothing on the channel until Scrubs switched from NBC and I found Better Off Ted – one of those amazing shows that never got the support from the network to really find its audience despite being very good. Once those shows ended, I followed Neil Flynn (The Janitor from Scrubs) to The Middle and found Modern Family, which is one of the best sitcoms of the decade, easily. And while I'm not one to watch broadcast TV dramas, I've heard great things about Revenge and what I've seen of Once Upon a Time was very good, despite it not being the kind of show I would follow. Add Castle to that mix and you've got enough for ABC to justify its spot on this list.
USA is a tricky one for me to include on here as they are almost exclusively cable dramas, and I watch very few of those, and none of the ones that USA has to offer. However, that doesn't mean that I haven't seen them, and based on that, USA is a very decent channel. I have started Psych after numerous recommendations by various people, and while I'm not loving the first season, I've heard everything after it is gold. But this channel makes the list for another reason – three hours a week I watch WWE Raw. It may be a bit of personal bias (and I can be honest with myself and admit that it's not great every week), but that means I have been watching USA every Monday night for the past…seven years? Ever since WWE made the switch from Spike. This leads to me seeing my fair amount of whatever follows Raw (through the years, it's been Monk, Psych, Burn Notice, Royal Pains, and more), and most the time, I'll finish those episodes before changing the channel. Additionally, while I've never seen it, I've heard great things about Suits and plan on starting it sooner than later.
FOX would place much higher if they had a good grasp on live-action sitcoms. Their Animation Domination block on Sunday nights is really the only thing they have going for them, including Family Guy, American Dad!, Bob's Burgers, The Cleveland Show, and pop culture juggernaut The Simpsons. While all of those shows can be hit or miss, usually two or three of them hit on any given Sunday. In addition to those shows, FOX has Bones and Fringe to balance out the drama side, and by most accounts, those are very solid shows. The most polarizing show on their network is Glee which is an indisputable success, but it doesn't push this channel too far forward because the story quality is just okay. I haven't seen enough of New Girl to comment on it.
This will likely be the last time in the foreseeable future that NBC will place this high as it apparently hates comedy. The shows they've debuted this fall are varying degrees of painful with the exception of Go On, but even that hasn't been anything special. But this is the network that, for now, is still home to the line-up of Parks & Recreation, The Office, 30 Rock, Community, Up All Night, and the iconic Saturday Night Live. Parks & Rec is one of the best comedies of the past few years, but constantly faces uncertainty about its renewal after each season, and that goes double for Community. Both The Office and 30 Rock are wrapping up after this season for sure (which I definitely agree with, but I will say that I've really enjoyed the first three episodes of The Office's ninth season). NBC has also had a steady winner in Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit for years. Unfortunately their stock is likely to fall after two shows wrap up and the likely cancellation of Community. I'm sure Animal Practice is every bit as clever.
I find it funny that a channel that shares its identity with another one (Cartoon Network) can crack the top six. I have slowly grown to appreciate Adult Swim, as I thought most of the shows were stoner shows as of five years ago. But now they have several live-action shows that provide some of the best laughs of the week when they're on, despite being over the top (Eagleheart, NTSF:SD:SUV::, and the Emmy award-winning Childrens Hospital). And despite being arguably the least coherent show on TV, Aqua Something You Know Whatever can bring the funny when it wants to. But among the animated shows on Adult Swim, The Venture Bros. and The Boondocks are some of the best-written animated shows out there (and I really wish they'd both get around to putting out their next seasons already!). Add to that Robot Chicken and Metalocalypse, and you've got a very solid line-up (both of which are shows I've been meaning to watch more of as I'm relatively unexposed to them).
The 10 Episodes of TV I Enjoyed Most This Week 10.Malcolm in the Middle* – "Rollerskates" 9.South Park – "Raising the Bar" 8.Family Guy – "Into Fat Air" 7.Parks & Recreation – "How a Bill Becomes a Law" 6.The Office – "Andy's Ancestry" 5.Luther* – "(Season 2) Episode 3" 4.Key & Peele – "Episode 10" 3.Dexter – "Are You…?" 2.Homeland – "The Smile" 1.Luther* – "(Season 2) Episode 4"
*Indicates that the episode wasn't from this week
…and the worst episode I watched: The Big Bang Theory – "The Decoupling Fluctuation"
Comedy Central was my "default channel" for a really long time. I'd argue that it still is. What I mean by that is when I'm channel surfing and nothing's on, I end up on Comedy Central. South Park has been running for sixteen years now and still has the capability to have a strong showing, new episodes of Futurama have been great additions to the channel's programming, and Ugly Americans is occasionally really funny. Then Comedy Central has its variety shows in The Daily Show and The Colbert Report which work great back to back and have piled up numerous awards. This year's addition of Key & Peele was a very pleasant surprise to me as they have had some absolutely brilliant sketches in their short run so far. Workaholics is an absolute riot and one of the best "slacker" comedy shows I've seen in a long time. And last but not least, Tosh.0 has been the only show given to a stand-up comedian that really clicked and managed to catch an audience. Even though it's too new to tell, I've enjoyed Brickleberry so far too – against my will too (I wasn't expecting to find it even a little funny). Add the occasional roast or stand-up special to this line-up, and it's pretty easy to see why Comedy Central has earned its place on this list.
The network that airs this year's Emmy winner for Outstanding Drama Series is the first premium cable channel to make this list. Homeland and Dexter are the two staples of Showtime, but it also has some really good comedies in House of Lies and Episodes, the latter of which earned Matt LeBlanc an Emmy last year. While Showtime has plenty acceptable shows, unfortunately those are the only four that I really think makes it stand out. Dexter was actually the first non-comedy I got into, so that will always hold sentimental bias from me, but Homeland is the show I look forward to the most on Sunday nights in the fall, so that's a big testament to the high level of content Showtime produces.
AMC is unique in that it really only has four active shows - Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Mad Men, and Hell on Wheels. I haven't seen any of the latter and have heard very little about it, but I've seen all of the other shows and can vouch that they are revolutionary to TV in their own ways. Breaking Bad, as I've said before, is my favorite show on TV and is a clinic in storytelling and character building. Mad Men is similar to Breaking Bad for those reason except for the fact that it's pretty boring. Doesn't make it any less of a show, it's just not compelling to me. And then The Walking Dead is the first attempt at zombies on TV (for a sustained amount of time) and manages to keep the show exciting (I'm in the minority that agrees with how much time they spent on the farm in season 2 – they used it for some much needed character development). The fact that they did that means that season 3 can afford to be action packed. Those three shows alone are such achievements in television, that they boost AMC all the way up to third on this list.
HBO is a revolving door of quality programming. It's no surprise, as the pressure on premium cable companies to offer great shows is very high. The thing about HBO is that it has plenty of fantastic hits, but because it focuses on appealing to many demographics, it's hard for someone to like ALL of their shows (in other words, they're diverse and I'm not saying that should change). But that doesn't change the fact that they offer Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Eastbound & Down,Curb Your Enthusiasm,and The Newsroom, which is a very strong line-up. I didn't like the pilot episode of Veep, but I'll check that one out further eventually. I haven't seen any of Tremé yet though – anyone who has seen it: is it worth checking out? Regardless, HBO has enough stellar programming to snatch this number two spot.
How could it be anything else? Great dramas, great comedies, lots of artistic freedom, and when I looked at all their original shows, I realized that I religiously watch all but three (but I'm about to go through Sons of Anarchy and change that). The League is absolutely one of the funniest shows on TV (and I'm not even a follower of football), It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a modern classic, Louie is absolutely brilliant and is one of the more experimental comedy shows around, and there's Wilfred which is…pretty good (it has its moments but I'm usually not blown away). Oh, and Archer is probably the funniest animated show I've ever seen. But then the network has three big dramas, two of which I've seen every episode and the third I'm starting to get into but haven't had the chance to really dive into yet. Those would be Justified, American Horror Story, and Sons of Anarchy. That is just a crazily strong line-up and means that at any given week of the year, FX has at least one, if not two must-see shows on the air.
That's it for this week! I don't know my topic for next week yet, so I'll take suggestions this time. If there are several I like, I'll take note and do them in the future. Thanks for reading and until next week…stay sexy.
Shows of which I have seen every episode (including shows still on the air): Da Ali G Show; American Dad!; American Horror Story; Andy Barker, P.I.; Andy Richter Controls the Universe; Angry Boys; Aqua Teen Hunger Force (including name changes); Archer; Arrested Development; The Batman; Batman Beyond; Batman: The Animated Series; Beast Wars; Better Off Ted; The Big Bang Theory; Big Bite; Black Mirror; Bob's Burgers; The Boondocks; Bored to Death; Boss; Breaking Bad; Brickleberry; Bunk; Childrens Hospital; China, IL; Clerks: The Animated Series; The Cleveland Show; Clone High; Comedy Bang! Bang!; Community; Conan (on TBS); The Critic; Curb Your Enthusiasm; Delocated; Dexter; The Drunk & On Drugs Happy Funtime Hour; Eagleheart; Eastbound & Down; Ed; Entourage; Episodes; Family Guy; Firefly; Flight of the Conchords; Franklin & Bash; Freaks & Geeks; Friends; Frisky Dingo; Futurama; Game of Thrones; Go On; Happy Endings; Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law; Homeland; House of Lies; How I Met Your Mother; Hung; The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret; The IT Crowd; It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; Jackass; Jon Benjamin Has a Van; Justified; Key & Peele; Kid Notorious; The King of Queens; The League; Louie; Lucky Louie; Luther; The Middle; Modern Family; Monk; Mr. D; Mr. Show with Bob & David; My Name Is Earl; NTSF:SD:SUV::; The Office (UK); The Office (US); Parks & Recreation; Party Down, Portlandia; Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings; Scrubs; Sealab 2021; Seinfeld; Sherlock; The Simpsons; Sons of Tucson; South Park; Spiderman: The Animated Series; Sports Show with Norm MacDonald; Star Wars: Clone Wars; Summer Heights High; Superjail!; Tenacious D; That ‘80s Show; Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!; Titus; Tosh.0; Trailer Park Boys; Twin Peaks; Ugly Americans; Undeclared; Up All Night; The Venture Bros.; Viva La Bam; The Walking Dead; We Can Be Heroes; The Whitest Kids U' Know; Wildboyz; Wilfred; Workaholics; 30 Rock
Shows I'm currently watching: Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes; Cheers; Dinosaurs; Mad Men; Malcolm in the Middle; Manimal; Most Extreme Elimination Challenge; Psych; Shameless (US); Sons of Anarchy; That ‘70s Show; Tiny Toon Adventures; The Wire
Shows on my radar, but haven't yet started All in the Family; Animaniacs; Becker; Boardwalk Empire; Boston Legal; Boston Public; Boy Meets World; Californication; Castle; Chappelle's Show; Chuck; Criminal Minds; Dallas; Death Note; Doogie Howser, M.D.; Downton Abbey; Dr. Who; The Drew Carey Show; Everybody Loves Raymond; Frasier; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; Fringe; Girls; The Good Wife; Greg the Bunny; Happy Days; Home Improvement; Home Movies; Homicide: Life on the Streets; House; In Living Color; The Jeffersons; Just Shoot Me!; The Kids in the Hall; King of the Hill; Lie to Me; The Life & Times of Tim; Lost; M*A*S*H; Metalocalypse; NewsRadio; Northern Exposure; Oz; Person of Interest; Pinky & The Brain; The PJs; Reaper; Reno 911!; Rescue Me; Robot Chicken; Roots; The Shield; Six Feet Under; The Sopranos; Spin City; Sports Night; Stella; Suits; Taxi; The Tick; The Twilight Zone; Upright Citizens Brigade; Weeds; The West Wing; Will & Grace; The X-Files; 24; 3rd Rock from the Sun; 8 Simple Rules
Thanks again for reading – feel free to voice your agreements or disagreements below!
Also this (don't watch if you don't like sadness or experiencing sympathy):