The 8 Ball 09.17.13: The Top 8 Anticipated Returning Fall Shows
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 09.17.2013
From The Walking Dead and Arrow to American Horror Story: Coven, Sons of Anarchy and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down his top 8 anticipated returning fall TV shows!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Top 8 Anticipated Returning Fall Shows
Welcome back to the 8 Ball, ladies and gentlemen! September TV month continues, and while last week's column looked at the best potential new shows of the fall season we have a fair amount of great shows that are returning as well. It's been a year or two of major shifts and transitions in television; some of the most revered shows of recent memory have come to an end or will be soon, while new shows have started to rise and--most significantly--a seismic shift has begun from broadcast networks to cable. For the first time narrative programming on cable has been able to beat its competing broadcast programming and has even in some instances won the entire night in overall viewers. That's meant some interesting things for both cable and broadcast returning shows and this week it's time to see what shows are coming back that are well-worth checking out.
Caveat: The criteria for this list was simple and almost identical to last week; it had to be a narrative show, non-reality based, that will premiere sometime before the end of the year. Except that in this case, we're looking at shows that have aired previous seasons. Judging and ranking was based on past greatness, off-season developments (cast additions, storyline teases, et cetera) and simple confidence in the show to remain good or improve. It will probably be easy to note that I tend toward serial dramas more than procedurals or comedies, so that did affect the list.
Just Missing The Cut
• Parks & Recreation (FXX)
• Castle (ABC)
• Eastbound & Down (HBO)
• Supernatural (The CW)
• Grimm (NBC)
#8: Modern Family (ABC)
It's a sad state for television comedy these days. Intelligent sitcoms have gone the way of the dodo and while there are a couple shows with some glory to maintain or recapture coming in 2014 such as Community or Archer, these days we find ourselves inundated with the likes of dreck like 2 Broke Girls and Two and a Half Men or shows that have become way too long in the tooth like How I Met Your Mother. And while I still am watching and enjoy HIMYM in large swaths, it isn't a program that I can say I'm looking forward to. That's why I'm happy that Modern Family is still around. While the series arguably dipped a bit in storyline quality for its fourth season, it still managed to be funny on a regular basis thanks to the fantastic work of its cast. The chemistry between Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell is one of my favorite dynamics on television and their ability to play comedy off of each other is priceless. Cam and Mitchell are always good for laughs as well and Ed O'Neill is wonderful in his dry-humored way as Jay, while Sofia Vergara gets to have a ton of fun and the children all continue their stellar work, even when the writers don't necessarily know what to do with them (seriously, Haley's storyline went nowhere). And even the lacking storylines managed to give the cast a lot to work with in terms of both humor and heart; at its core that mix is what makes Modern Family such a successful show. If the writers can get back from the minor off-track directions that last season took it could easily rise back up to the position of one of the best comedies, if not the best comedy, on television.
#7: Elementary (CBS)
CBS gave me one of the biggest surprises of last season by making me like Elementary. I had absolutely zero positive expectations for this one and to be honest I almost didn't give it a chance. For those who think I was being unreasonable, you have to remember how bad the series seemed at the time before it aired. CBS' show was widely viewed as a clear attempt to cash in on BBC's Sherlock, but the plan was to bring it to America and turn John Watson into Joan Watson. With the track record that broadcast networks have and the tongue-in-cheek references both the BBC series and the Robert Downey Jr. films have made in regard to the Holmes/Watson bromance, it was not unreasonable for fans to expect that the network would establish some kind of relationship between them, or at least a "Will they or won't they" tease situation. To the credit of creator Robert Doherty and his writing team, that has been completely avoided; not even a hint of it has come out and in the meantime the show has done a wonderful job of not only mixing procedural work with serial storyline arcs but letting Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu really shine in their roles. The two obviously have a very different style of characters than Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman on their BBC counterpart but that is to be expected and while I enjoy the BBC show more (it doesn't come back until next year, thus it's lack of inclusion here) I've found this to be a consistent delight and I've loved seeing how it's played out. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing if it can keep up the first season's momentum; second seasons are often tricky but this one could well be up to the challenge.
#6: American Horror Story: Coven (F/X)
F/X's critical and commercial juggernaut has a real love/hate relationship with TV watchers. There are many who turn their noses up at the increasingly bizarre twists from week to week, the over-the-top creepy weirdness, the fact that sometimes things just don't make sense at all, the tendency to play into archetypes rather than characters. Then there are others (including myself) who believe that the show's madcap stylings are all part of the demented fun. American Horror Story: Asylum vastly improved on the first season, which was very good but lost some heavy momentum by the end of the thirteen episode run. Conversely, Asylum got stronger as it went on and it gave new stars a chance to shine on the show; Lily Rabe in particular was fantastic in her role, Sarah Paulson absolutely shone and Jessica Lange of course brought the goods. With Coven, Ryan Murphy is taking the season-by-season anthology series to New Orleans to explore witchcraft and Voodoo, a topic that should be amazing grounds for him to work his demented charms. And if that wasn't enough he's assembled the strongest cast for the series yet; Lange, Paulson, Rabe and Even Peters are joined by season one cast members Taissa Farmiga, Frances Conroy (also in Asylum), Denis O'Hare and Alexandra Breckenridge, and a stunning array of Oscar nominees in Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates and Gabourey Sidibe. Add in Emma Roberts (Scream 4), and Danny Huston and you have an incredibly strong cast for any series, much less a horror one. AHS will continue to confound people and I can't wait to see how they do it next.
#5: Doctor Who (BBC/BBC America)
Oh, don't look too surprised. Okay, humor aside, my fandom for Doctor Who has been well documented in my Movie Zone columns for quite some time; I've fallen way behind on my final few serials to get caught up on but I have watched nearly every extant episode of the series in existence throughout all fifty years. And while the series has received some complaints over the past couple of years regarding the underwritten nature of certain characters, it remains one of my favorite sci-fi series of all-time, to say nothing of current shows on the air. And as such, the show's fiftieth anniversary episode is unreasonably high on the list of shows I need to see through the end of this year. In fact, if there were more episodes than just that one and the Christmas special (when the Doctor will regenerate into Peter Capaldi), this would probably be ranked higher but since it is only those two episodes I kept it just a bit down on the list. Still, look at the 50th Anniversary special details and it's not hard to see why a hardcore Whovian is psyched to the gills. David Tennant and Billie Piper are set to return as the Tenth Doctor and Rose, interacting directly with Matt Smith's Twelfth Doctor and Jenna Louise-Coleman's Clara. That in and of itself would be enough, but the presence of John Hurt as what is potentially another Doctor (a past, forgotten one is my favorite theory) is just as huge. It will only be two episodes, but those two episodes are absolutely must-see for me and thus, it's presence on the list.
#4: Arrow (The CW)
This one was a little bit less of a surprise among freshman hit series than Elementary, but it was still one that could have gone very bad. Let's face it; it's on The CW and that network has a tendency to make less than quality programming. But they've also had some serious successes and so there was a lot of hope that Arrow could become their next Smallville. The show succeeded with flying colors thanks to a capable cast and an approach to storytelling that honored the DC comics line it came from without being beholden to it. There are twists aplenty and not have been sacrilegious to the source material; meanwhile Stephen Amell is the latest actor to initially inspire "He's so wrong for the part!" and turn people around on his casting. (Affleck critics, take note.) The series doesn't tone itself down for the CW's audience which appeals to the fanboys, and the soapy storyline elements are done well enough so that it appeals to the core CW viewer without turning fanboys off too much. Casting of genre favorites like Colin Salmon and John Barrowman certainly haven't hurt either. The first season ended in a big way and the new season has teases of the larger DC universe coming in to play such as Black Canary and Flash, and that should be more than enough to keep people excited over the series through its sophomore run.
#3: The Walking Dead (AMC)
I find the reaction to The Walking Dead to be a deeply interesting topic. On one hand, most fans seem to dislike the second season, and there are certainly valid reasons to have issues with it. But the reaction has always seemed to be a bit overblown, and I can't help but wonder if that had something to do with the widely-reported drama around Frank Darabont's departure and the horrific way AMC handled it. I mean yes, there were some characterization issues with Lori being deeply flawed, Carl being unreasonably dumb and Andrea earning most fans' hatred with every decision she made. But there were a lot of great elements too that never got the proper credit. That dislike has seemed to carry over to season three and while I thought many of the problems were fixed (even if in some cases "fixed" means "killed off") and the introduction of new characters was remarkably well-done. Some people seemed to take issue with the Governor surviving but that interests me because he should get more than a single stand against the heroes; he's been built up that well and David Morrissey has played him to the hilt. The end of season three left the group in a very interesting position; there are elements of hope that will be tested and a chance for them to explore some new ground instead of going back to some of the same issues they've been tackling thus far. Now again we have a new showrunner, but I have no worries about that and all in all I'm deeply excited to see where they take the series (and its' just announced spinoff for 2015) from here.
#2: Homeland (Showtime)
Homeland is a critical and commercial darling at a crossroads, and that makes it deeply interesting to me. Don't get me wrong; I loved the first season and the second season had a lot of great moments and some stellar acting. But like any show that takes the TV-watching world by storm, it is starting to fall prey to criticism and, in this case, it's not at all unwarranted. There were some issues with Homeland, enough that I may be doing a top 8 things to fix in season three next week. But those issues do not take away from the absolutely fantastic elements that make up this series. Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin lead an absolutely stellar cast who are delivering nonstop great work and the writing, while there are some wacky elements and frustrating bits in the plot, has the mood and the themes carrying through strongly. The series has every element it needs to maintain its position as one of the all-time great TV action-thrillers, and I am at this point thoroughly willing to see it through the next season and let the writers right the ship. It is not the second best returning show this fall, but the opportunity it has make it compelling to me; I want to see where it's going from here.
#1: Sons of Anarchy (F/X)
It may be cheating a wee bit, but only if you consider that it started last week. To me that's not cheating because I still have basically an entire season left to be anticipating. Sons of Anarchy is my favorite show of the fall season, end of story. Yes, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may end up supplanting that (Marvel fanboy, remember?) but for the time being it's the easy #1. Kurt Sutter is a brilliant storyteller who has created a fantastic ensemble of characters with great and frankly underappreciated actors portraying them. The season got off to a start that is controversial even for SoA, with a school shooting taking place with the gun apparently being one that SAMCRO is tied to, which sets the storyline for the coming season and perhaps straight into the next and final season. All of the storylines are interesting, whether Clay's deal to save his ass in prison or Tara's refusal to do the same, the upcoming deal with Peter Weller's corrupt ex-cop or the continued ramifications from the death of Damon Pope and Tig's daughter. All of these are sure to add up to explosive elements and I expect this to be the same kind of shocking, brilliant season I've come to expect from the show.
Note: Now that I am caught up to current, I have gone back to watch the episodes that have become available in the US since I started watching and thus were previously unavailable to me (thus why I have episodes remaining despite being caught up).
Current Series/Season:Season Thirteen (1975) Episodes Watched: 621 Last Serial Completed:The Android Invasion - The Doctor and Sarah find themselves in the English village of Devesham near a Space Defence Station. The village seems deserted, the telephones don't work, calendars are stuck on the same date and white-suited figures are wandering about aimlessly. Who are the Kraals and what are their plans for Earth? Surviving Episodes Remaining: 20
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.