Posts Tagged ‘ brothers and sisters ’

Brothers & Sisters: Season 5

Five seasons of sappiness was apparently all that the world wanted from Brothers & Sisters. The accountants just didn’t like the balance between the large, expensive cast and the falling ratings, so the plug was pulled. I can’t help but think that it’s no coincidence the show was cancelled the same year its parent network cancelled All My Children and One Life to Live, two of the biggest soap operas in US history. I can’t be bothered to go find the in depth reasons behind the cancellations, but is it possible that people (well Nielson homes in the US, who control the only ratings anyone cares about) just aren’t interested in soaps any more?

This year, even Brothers & Sisters was even more soap opera-ish than ever, complete with staple soap plots like car crashes, amnesia, long-lost loves, paternity issues and stolen babies. There was a death, a wedding, a divorce, an affair, an adoption, an unplanned pregnancy… it was like they were playing bingo and desperately trying to get everything ticked off. It just about all hung together, but it really was getting pretty ridiculous!

Although I think they pushed the melodramatic plots a bit too far, I still found it incredibly watchable. It’s the kind of thing that you throw in when you just can’t quite take the stress of Grey’s Anatomy. It’s something I watch while sick or miserable and just enjoy the relationships, humour and mild angst without having to pop a Prozac afterwards. It’s not that I’m not invested in the characters, it’s just not quite the same level as something like Grey’s Anatomy or Friday Night Lights. Brothers & Sisters is more escapist, the characters and situations aren’t quite real, it’s all got a shiny California, Hollywood feel to it.

I will miss the Walkers and all their extended family, the way that individually they’re so utterly dysfunctional, yet as a group they’re fearsome. I always adored the fact that although at first sight the title refers to the five siblings, when you look closer, and as the family grows and changes, it becomes clear that it’s about Nora and Saul’s relationship too, and all the brothers and sisters-in-law, and half siblings.

The show’s success and its downfall were its large cast – it enabled the show to feel more realistic about the number of relationships that real people juggle, depicting them in all their wonderful and difficult varieties. But at the end of the day, that just became too expensive to maintain. I for one am actually glad that the show was cancelled rather than trying to run it with a reduced cast. This last season with Tommy, Rebecca and Holly gone almost completely and Kitty in a reduced number of episodes already felt reduced, too small. I’d rather leave the Walkers drinking and dancing at a wedding and say goodbye properly than watch the mighty Walkers waste away.

The Upfronts: ABC

What’s out
Biggest loss as far as I’m concerned is Brothers & Sisters, it’s cheesy, melodramatic and basically a well polished soap opera, but I loved it. Apparently the large cast made it too expensive and time was called after five seasons.

V also bit the dust. I gave up on this very early on in because in the battle between all these characters, I found myself rooting for the third option of ‘kill them all and leave me in peace’. With its cancellation unless I’m missing something, there isn’t a sniff of a spaceship anywhere on US television.

More freshman deaths – Detroit 187 (nothing special, but solidly ok from the pilot, not enough to drag me in for more), The Whole Truth (awful), No Ordinary Family (tolerable pilot, but seemed doomed from early on) and Off the Map (showing that even the creator of Grey’s Anatomy is finding it tough to make the next Grey’s Anatomy). I’d forgotten ABC was also responsible for the hideous My Generation which never aired more than 2 episodes. Oh and Matthew Perry still can’t catch a break, Mr Sunshine was cancelled, he’s back in rehab and I never even got round to watching the pilot.

What’s back
Surprisingly – Body of Proof made the cut, personally I thought it wasn’t great, but apparently desperation set in and they had to actually renew something! Less surprising are renewals for Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Castle. Desperate Housewives was also eventually renewed after some kerfuffle about salaries, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was its last season. Various comedies that I don’t watch but hear good things about will also be back – The Middle, Modern Family, Cougar Town (although not until January) and Happy Endings.

What’s new
Charlie’s Angels – it’s exactly what you’d think it would be, so long as it doesn’t take itself too seriously, I see no reason why this shouldn’t be stupid, entertaining and successful.

Once Upon A Time – I so want this to be good! It’s got a great cast and the back and forth between fairy tale looks great in the trailer. Please don’t suck. Please don’t suck.

Apartment 23 – not really what I’d call funny, but it was considerably less offensive than most of the other ‘comedy’ trailers ABC brings us this year.

Last Man Standing – I like Tim Allen, he can pull off the stuff that in the other shows is offensive and contrived, not sure the writing or supporting cast of this can manage it though.

Scandal – lawyers doing ‘crisis management’ i.e. (it would seem) solving problems by threatening people. It sounds sort of horrific, but actually I rather liked the trailer (if they dilute the melodrama a bit). It’s Shonda Rhimes which gives it an extra couple of points as well. But it’s not arriving until midseason.

The River – This was not the kind of trailer I expected to see for a television show, certainly not one on ABC, but it’s got me hooked already.

Revenge – ah, this was more what I expected from ABC, more melodrama than you can shake a stick at.

Good Christian Belles – ee! So much blonde! So much wooden acting… Kristin Chenoweth deserves better.

Missing – I have no idea what’s going on with this, the show looks like the Bourne Identity all exploding and espionage, for some reason though ABC decided to have the lead actress do the voiceover as herself, not the character. Worst trailer evah!

Suburgatory – from the school of ‘think of a title the rest will follow’. The central out-of-place character I kind of love, the problem is that she’s out of place because she’s surrounded by the most annoying and ridiculous collection of characters I’ve seen since… well last pilot season.

Man Up! – It’s a very very sorry state of affairs when this is not the worst trailer I’ve seen today.

Work It – Oh. My. God.

Links: The Futon Critic, The TV Addict (with some different video clips and first impressions).

Bubble Shows

Posts at Narrative Devices have been pretty few and far between recently. As I mentioned a couple of posts back I’m basically just trudging through the mid season of most of the shows, and there’s nothing particularly remarkable or blog worthy occurring in the TV world. It won’t be long though until I’m drowning in ends of seasons and the drama, cliffhangers and end-of-year report cards they bring. May will also bring the excitement of the upfronts, where networks announce what terrible sounding pilots they’ve replaced all your favourite shows with.

The biggest news as far as I’m concerned that has arrived in the last few weeks is the surprising, yet utterly wonderful news that Fringe has been picked up for a 4th season. It took me a little while to get into the show, but at some point it evolved from being an X-Files wannabe into a fascinating, complex and yet still entertaining look at alternate realities. Its renewal is all the more surprising given that it was moved into the ‘Friday Night Death Slot’ on Fox that has been held accountable for the death of shows such as Firefly, Wonderfalls, and even the Original Star Trek if wikipedia is to be believed.

So I was happy to see Fringe saved from the uncertainty of ‘the bubble list’ – the list of shows that are in danger of not being picked up for next year. Being on this list almost always comes down to a simple matter of money – how much the show costs to make/buy and how much revenue it generates from advertisers. That’s where the ratings come in – more viewers means more advertising revenue, but it’s not quite that simple. Advertisers love ‘the demo’, the 18-49 age bracket who apparently spend all the money. So you might have millions of viewers, but if you’re Murder She Wrote and they’re all over 60, no one cares.

The only other factor, besides income and expense is the age of the show. There’s a magic point at 100 episodes where the show becomes viable for syndication – the holy grail which means that it can be run over and over again by the myriad of local channels available in the US (according to wikipedia it’s 100 because this allows the show to be run daily for 20 weeks). There’s big money in there, so if you’re a bubble show in your 4th season with about 80 episodes in the bank, you’ve got a better chance of renewal than a show with comparable ratings and costs, but only 40 episodes.

Of course while all that is happening behind the scenes, the very fact that your show is on the list effects its chances of renewal. Marketing spends less money on a show and people can stop watching it – why spend time getting invested in a show that not be around next season, after all if it DOES get picked up, you can always just catch up with summer re-runs or dvds.

While Fringe has been saved, there are still plenty of shows bubbling away, but I find myself in the unusual position of really not caring whether most of them live or die. There’s a few on the list that I intend to watch when they make it over here (Off the Map and Chicago Code for example), but even those, if they’re cancelled I don’t think I’d really be that disappointed. CSI: New York is also bubbling apparently, and although I’ll continue to watch it if it airs, I wouldn’t miss it if it disappeared. Of all the remaining bubblers (sadly of course Stargate Universe has already been declared dead) there are only three I actually care about.

Lie to Me – The show itself can be a little predictable, the side characters are so far off to the side that it’s almost surprising when one of them actually speaks and the constantly changing show-runners have led to erratic direction… but Tim Roth’s performance is one of the most entertaining and interesting ones on television at the moment. I can’t work out why it doesn’t get more attention (both critical and from the ratings), I don’t think it’s ever really been marketed heavily, leaving people to think it’s “just” another procedural, if only they could do some promotion and get Roth some well deserved award nominations. I would have thought this show would work very well to support the increasingly elderly, but still Fox network stalwart – House. Unfortunately the Fox schedules are extremely tight (too many reality shows like American Idol) and with Fringe’s renewal, it’s not looking good for Lie to Me.

Supernatural – I don’t think this has been the strongest season ever, but the show and characters continue to develop in interesting directions and the writers and directors continue to find increasingly bizarre ways to push the boundaries of what a silly sounding show on the CW can actually do. It doesn’t do amazing ratings, but considering that it’s in the Friday Night Death slot on the smallest of the networks, they’re not too bad. Also it’s companion, Smallville, is ending this year, leaving CW without any well established shows. The fan base is absolutely rabid and I don’t think the CW will piss them off.

Brothers & Sisters – It’s cheesy and occasionally ridiculous, but I do love it like a comfortable blanket to be snuggled under. Fighting against it is the fact that it’s quite old and therefore relatively expensive to produce (pay rises and the like), but it does relatively good ratings and ABC where it airs have a reasonably open schedule.

I got my bubble list and information from (updated as things change) are available at TVLine and EW.com mostly.

What I’m watching at the moment

I’m pretty much in the depths of scheduling desperation at the moment. Keeping on top of all the stuff coming in each week is about all I can manage, taking an evening out to watch a film can cause catastrophic backlog on the sky+ box. Unfortunately while I’m watching a lot of TV, there’s not much for me to talk about, no new pilots, no season end reviews, I’m just trudging through the middles. So with a lack of anything else to write about, here’s a snapshot of what I’m watching at the moment.

Bedlam (Sky Living, Mondays) –Sky’s attempt to offer an alternative to Being Human, with a supernatural ghosty drama type thing. It’s awful. Particularly hateful is the lead female character, Kate, who is an absolute bitch of a blond trendy 20something who the rest of the cast don’t slap about the head for some reason that escapes me. Will Young is kind of adorable, but the rest of the cast is completely bland and the plots simultaneously over the top and boring. I gave it two episodes, but I don’t think I’ll be watching the third.

Glee (E4, Mondays) – I’m also enjoying Glee recently, although I have no idea why. The characterisation is all over the place, just about every relationship is lacking in chemistry, plots are painfully ‘issue of the week’ and I want to gaffer tape Rachel’s mouth shut every time she appears. However, there’s been some really fun music choices, the Rocky Horror Picture Show episode was kind of inspired, Kurt breaks my heart every week and for all the fact that most of it is rubbish, it really makes me smile.

Blue Bloods (Tuesdays, Sky Atlantic) – There are two remarkable things about this otherwise mediocre show. The first is that the writing is often utterly terrible, plot is delivered in scenery chewing monologues with all the subtlety of breeze blocks, “it’s a shame mom is dead and my brother was killed on duty, I’d really like to talk to them about my conflicted feelings” isn’t far off the quality of dialogue here. The other remarkable thing however is Tom Selleck. Every time he is on screen he brightens the place up, managing to somehow have credible relationships with his concrete inspired offspring and navigate his way through the awfulness in a way that makes me come back for more each week.

Bones (Sky Living, Wednesdays) – Bones herself seems to have regressed this season, becoming even less aware of how normal people behave, more annoying than ever. But despite the best efforts of the central character, I still enjoy the show a lot. It comes up with an interesting gimmick each week (the body in chocolate was particularly grim) and Booth and the supporting cast (including the entertaining, rotating interns) are extremely watch-able.

Grey’s Anatomy (Sky Living, Wednesdays) – I’m loving this season. I pounce on every episode as soon as it arrives and I can find a safe time to watch it – there cannot be any possibility of interruption or distraction, it just has to be me and my show. Everything just seems to be working, there’s not too much whining, there’s no duds in the character collection, the relationships are all interesting and going somewhere and the dialogue is as sharp as it’s ever been. Love it.

Mad Dogs (Sky1, Thursdays) – the first episode was definitely the high point with the careful pacing and gradual creepiness now replaced with a random chaotic collection of violence and shouting. The actors make it enjoyable, but I’m glad it’s only four episodes long and finishes this week.

The Good Wife (More4, Thursdays) – I am SOOOOOO over Kalinda. I mean seriously? Are we supposed to be sympathetic, because frankly I’m beginning to think she’s had some kind of psychotic break. I also don’t really understand why Diane and Will have suddenly taken against each other, I loved them in the first season, friendly and constructive while still keeping a few cards to themselves, now they’re acting like paranoid conspiracy nuts, did I miss something? I’m also pretty bored of the political campaigning – has there even been mention of the actual political issues at all it seems to be all about threats and manipulation? So overall, I’m struggling a bit with The Good Wife at the moment.

CSI (Thursdays, Five USA) – There have been a few interesting bits this season, but nothing spectacular. The emotional and personal stuff has been laid on a bit thick, issues coming and going like sledgehammers. The show could really use some younger characters to come in and challenge the status quo a bit, it’s at risk of turning into Midsummer Murders.

Brothers & Sisters (Thursdays, More4) –This isn’t an amazing show, but it continues to be comfortable. It’s full of melodrama, cheese and sappiness. The cast has thinned down a bit having lost Robert, Holly and Rebecca which I think actually improves the show and I don’t miss any of them. The small time shift also makes things a bit more interesting, but at its heart this is a hot chocolate and duvet show.

The Big C (Thursdays, More4) – It’s billed as a comedy, and it *is* funny, but all the humour comes from the “you’ve got to laugh or you’ll cry” school of thought. It’s not an easy show to watch, but it is extremely good with a spectacular performance from Laura Linney.

NCIS (FX, Fridays) – only just returned so the only episode I’ve seen is the resolution to the big mid-season cliff-hanger which I really didn’t care about in the slightest. Despite the fact that the ratings are through the roof on this in the US, I’m losing interest as characters continue to behave erratically and the plots get less and less engaging.

Criminal Minds (Sky1, Fridays) – I always enjoy Criminal Minds, it’s not spectacular, but each week the mysteries are interesting, the action suitably dramatic and the characters and their relationships rewarding for the long term viewer. I do miss JJ horribly, but am enjoying Garcia’s increased role and appreciate that the new agent brings a bit of energy to the show. A solid performer.

CSI:New York (Saturdays, Channel 5) – The disappearance of Stella and her replacement by Sela Ward was a bit spontaneous, but gave the show a bit of excitement. But it didn’t really last and it’s settled back into a bit of rut. It’s ok to watch while cooking or ironing, but that’s not exactly high praise.

Outcasts – (BBC1 Sundays) – it’s a bit n&*f really, I have some really very serious doubts the writers have any idea about the timelines, the history of the colony or where they’re going with the mystery. BUT if treated as mindless entertainment, it’s actually moderately enjoyable.

NCIS: LA (Sky1, Sundays) – the sister series however I’m enjoying more and more. The plots are still pretty dull, but the characters and dialogue have a spark to them that the original series seems to have lost. The ensemble is working well together having lost Nate and what’s-his-face who were pretty dull and replaced them with quirkier and more interesting Nell and Deeks.

Top Gear (BBC2, Sundays) – Falling to the bottom of my watch list, I find myself fast forwarding more and more of each episode. When they’re spontaneous, I still love them, but too much is scripted and obviously faked.

Supernatural (“spring/summer”, Sky Living) – when a show takes on the apocalypse and the devil, it’s a big question where to go next, but the tighter focus on the more personal issues was a good choice. There’s still a great mix of angst, action, drama and a bucket load of humour (it’s been a long time since I laughed at anything as hard as I laughed at Dean and the fairy).

End of year report card

The start and end points for the television year is pretty fuzzy. Given that I watch mostly US shows, I tend to go by their year which runs roughly from September rather than the calendar year. So I decided that I’d count the start of the year as 1st September (and I go by American air dates, not the UK). BUT life isn’t that simple, because what do I do with shows that start in one year but end in another. For example Mad Men season 3 ran August-November 2009, running one year to the next. Then I looked at what the Emmys do and it turns out they run June 1st 2009-May 31st 2010. BUT they don’t strictly speaking pay attention to show seasons, it’s just whichever episodes ran in that time frame, which means from what I can tell – the last two episodes of the season of Glee weren’t eligible for entry as they aired in June 2010.

So after all that, I decided to hell with it and I’d count what I felt fit within 2009-2010 and be pretty much arbitrary about it.

Bones – Season 5
Brothers & Sisters – S4
Caprica – S1
Criminal Minds – S5
CSI – S10
CSI:NY – S6
Defying Gravity – S1
Dollhouse – S1
Doctor Who – 2010
FlashForward – S1
Friday Night Lights – S4
Fringe – S2
The Good Wife – S1
Glee – S1
Grey’s Anatomy – S6
House – S6
Leverage – S2
Lie to Me – S2
Mad Men – S3
The Mentalist – S2
Merlin – S2
NCIS: Los Angeles – S1
NCIS – S7
Outnumbered – S3
Sons of Anarchy – S2
Stargate Universe – S1
Supernatural – S5
Trauma – S1
Warehouse 13 – S1
White Collar – S1
V – S1

Top of the Class – Best Drama

  • Mad Men: For once, I’m in absolute agreement with the Emmys. Season 3 (season 4 has just started on BBC4) was a work of near perfection. The pacing, the way everything had been so carefully and subtly built up until the final episode which was one of the most satisfying hours of television I’ve ever seen. The detail of this show is incredible, it’s a slow burn, but it’s really worth it.
  • Friday Night Lights – I have a guilty relationship with this show, because despite the fact I have it ‘available’, I haven’t managed to bring myself to watch the second half of the season. This season has felt like really hard going, everybody’s’ lives really seem to suck and it’s just hard to watch. But that doesn’t make it any less superb or any less worthy of its position in the number 2 slot in the drama category.
  • Sons of Anarchy – There’s just something about this bunch of gun running, murdering, hells angels that just makes you forgive them everything they do. The closest thing I can think of to this show is Brothers & Sisters, it’s got the same sense of families fighting amongst themselves, but ultimately doing anything for each other – just with more Nazis.
  • Trauma – Maybe this show wouldn’t have made the cut if I didn’t feel bad for it being cancelled, but I really do think it was one of the better shows of the year. It’s not perfectly refined like Mad Men, but the heart and soul of it are true, the characters and relationships are interesting and different and I enjoyed every episode.
  • The Good Wife – Proving that ‘legal procedural’ doesn’t have to mean Law and Order or wanting to kill all the characters. The ensemble cast is amazing and contains some of my favourite actors, and seeing them together creating such complex characters is immensely satisfying.

Head Boy – Best Male Actor/Character (you don’t get to be a great actor without a well crafted/written character and great characters don’t survive great actors)

  • Tim Roth (Cal Lightman, Lie to Me) – I don’t understand why Tim Roth and Lie to Me don’t get more attention. In a world of dark, sober, troubled and angsty television detectives, Tim Roth lights up the room. He’s manipulative and arrogant, but he’s also a brilliant father, a caring friend and of all the investigators on television, he’s the one I’d want in my corner the most.
  • Matt Smith (The Doctor, Doctor Who) – I had my doubts, not because he was young or unknown or anything like that, but just because I thought David Tennant had created an un-equalable character. Matt Smith blew me away with his charm, his goofiness, his terrifying speeches and his ability to make a fez look cool.
  • Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor, Friday Night Lights) – This man seems to do less acting than anyone else on television, he hardly says anything, sometimes he barely moves, but somehow you understand every single thing the character is thinking.
  • Jenson Ackles (Dean Winchester, Supernatural) – I was a bit disappointed by the season of Supernatural, but I was never disappointed with either of the lead performances. Part of what frustrated me about the season was that it was all over the range from slapstick to suicidal angst, via homicidal range and utter psychosis. Jenson Ackles nailed each of the emotions and how stubborn, but over-his-head Dean would approach each one.
  • Hugh Laurie (Dr House, House) – I didn’t like this series of House much, as per usual I think it spent too long coasting through the middle of the season and then made some dubious relationship choices. But Hugh Laurie was consistently great throughout, except for the bookending episodes, where he was absolutely amazing.

Head Girl – Best Female Actor/Character (is actress politically incorrect?)

  • Julianna Margulies (Alicia Florrick,The Good Wife) – A breath of fresh air on network television, a woman with kids, a career, issues and most importantly a personality of her own. I loved when she got drunk with Kalinda, or acted as a big sister to Cary, or didn’t quite know how to interact with Diane. But mostly I loved the way she fell back to being a college student falling for her friend and not knowing what to do about it.
  • Katey Segal (Gemma Taylor-Morrow, Sons of Anarchy) – Gemma had the epitome of a bad year on Sons of Anarchy, but through it all she was their Queen, she loves all the members of her family and fights to protect them, whether with a gun, her fists, or just by keeping a secret. Katey Segal was amazing.
  • Connie Britton (Tammy Taylor, Friday Night Lights) – The other half of the best couple on television, Tammy’s not had a great year either. But like her husband, she doesn’t have to say anything for you to understand the multiple faces the character presents to everyone, including herself. When she steals her little victories wherever she can, and fights for her kids (the whole school load of them) it makes me want to hug her.
  • Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy) – Meredith grew up and got happy and made me love her. Last year I put her on this list partially out of pity, this year she’s there on merit, actually taking her position as ‘lead’ actress more than just being a ‘prominent female member of the ensemble’. She’s completely settled into her position as the mother of the group – her reaction to her marriage and the loss of her friends was really mature. Whiny Meredith is hopefully gone for good.
  • Sally Field (Nora Walker, Brothers and Sisters) – When Sally Field cries, I cry. When she screams, I hid under a cushion. Whether herding her unruly brood, or causing chaos all by herself, I love her to pieces.

Prefects: Boys (Supporting actors)

  • John Noble (Walter Bishop, Fringe) – Walter is crazy. Utterly and completely, self-medicatingly, one-too-many-magic-mushrooms, bucket loads of crazy. But then in alternate world Walter is utterly sane and calm and scary and slimy. Noble bounces around between Walters multiple personalities and bodies with amazing talent.
  • Chris Colfer (Kurt Hummel, Glee) – The best thing in Glee. He’s completely over the top and ridiculous to the point you almost want to throw him in a dumpster yourself, but then he does something heartbreaking. Also, he can belt out a tune like the best divas out there.
  • David Blue (Eli Wallace, Stargate Universe) – He’s exactly what the stereotypical Stargate fan would be like if they found themselves inside a Stargate series. He’s got no clue about the military, or really people at all. He’s a massive geek who breaks tension by making Star Wars jokes. He brings a bit of reality to the otherwise slightly highly strung Stargate team.
  • Cliff Curtis (Rabbit Palchuk, Trauma) – Cliff Curtis became one of my favourite actors this year playing the deeply troubled, but utterly charming Rabbit. A really fascinating character and a slightly unlikely leading man, but he was the heart of this show.
  • Enver Gjokaj (Victor, Dollhouse) – I ummed and erred between Victor and Fran Kranz’s Topher, but eventually the Doll edged out the geek because he got to play a different role (and accent) every week and nailed them all, even managing to play Topher to perfection.

Prefects: Girls (Supporting Actresses)

  • Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey, Grey’s Anatomy) – She wasn’t even nominated for an Emmy this year, which I was so astonished by I had to check multiple times. Bailey follows the Sally Field rules – she cries I cry, she shouts, I actually cheer out loud. Her final scene of the final episode just destroyed me.
  • Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson, Mad Men) – “I’m Peggy Olson. And I want to smoke some marijuana” and “Beg me? You didn’t even ASK me”. Nuff said.
  • Christine Baranski (Diane Lockheart, The Good Wife) – Although her colleague Archie Panjabi (Kalinda) got the Emmy, I think Christine Baranski was far superior if for no other reason than she seemed to be having so much FUN with the role. Not afraid to flirt with a colleague or laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of a situation.
  • Allison Scagliotti (Claudia, Warehouse 13) – like Eli in Stargate, Claudia is the voice of the fan. She’s a geek who loves a gadget and points out the idiocy of all the plans. She, and her ever changing hair colours, brings life to the show.
  • Linda Hunt (Hetty Lange, NCIS:LA) – A breath of fresh air, a bizarre mix of motherly and drill sergent that manages to make even LL Cool J quake in his boots.

Team Players (Best pairings/ensembles)

  • Callen and Hanna (NCIS:Los Angeles) – A perfect yin and yang thing of hot headedness and cool, all bundled up in a caring (but not out loud!) partnership. Who’d’ve thought it.
  • Team Free Will, Supernatural
    “This is it… Team Free Will. One ex-blood-junkie, one drop-out with six bucks to his name and Mr Comatose over there. Awesome.”
    “It’s not funny”
    “I’m not laughing”
  • Christina and Meredith (Grey’s Anatomy) – When Meredith revealed the plans for her and Derek’s dream house and pointed out Christina’s Room I burst into tears yet again. I love these two sisters.
  • The Walker Clan (Brothers and Sisters) – You can’t really break this group up. They squabble and occasionally even fight, but the group of them together and the complex relationships between all of them are amazing.

Points for effort – The home of the things that are solidly doing their job, are entertaining, and occasionally verging into brilliant, but are generally just really solidly plugging away doing what they do.

  • CSI:Original had a really solid season, settling down after the changes of recent years and just turning in an entertaining, reliable and interesting season, there’s not many shows that can say that moving in to their 11th season they’ve still got some spark.
  • Grey’s Anatomy deserves a lot of praise for bouncing back from the previous terrible season, I nearly gave up on the show, but I’m glad I didn’t.
  • Brothers & Sisters – cheesy, melodramatic, sappy and utterly sentimental – it embraces these things with such enthusiasm and does them so well, it’s hard not to love.
  • Glee – If only the quality of the plots were more consistent, this would be worthy of considerably more praise. As it is, I enjoyed most of the episodes, but ended up frustrated that it wasn’t just slightly better.

Must Try Harder

  • The Mentalist – A nice idea, a charismatic lead character… but ultimately the character development isn’t, ‘mysteries’ aren’t, and the novelty wore off.
  • Outnumbered – It was still funny, but it just wasn’t as good as previous seasons. Not least because it seemed to spontaneously stop dead, to such an extent that I completely failed to note it had finished and never got round to writing a review.
  • Science fiction – it’s not been a good year for science fiction imho. V, Caprica and Flashforward were all disappointing.
  • NCIS – Still flipflopping all over the place with a lack of consistency and character development. Maybe it’s time for this one to retire.
  • Criminal Minds – I praised the show for finally having the team come together and having an impressive group of strong female characters… then they sacked two of them.

Brothers & Sisters: Season 4

I’ve been quite harsh on a number of shows this year, so it makes a nice change to sit down to review a show and realise that it’s managed to entertain me without fail for 24 episodes and leave me desperately waiting for its return.

On paper, Brothers & Sisters doesn’t look like the most ambitious of shows – the trials and tribulations of the Walker family – five siblings, their mother and her brother, their partners and their assorted hangers on. It’s the televisual equivalent of comfort food, not quite as overdone as Gossip Girl or Desperate Housewives (although I haven’t seen that for a few years), but more cheesy than Grey’s Anatomy.

The magic thing about Brothers & Sisters is the people. There can be up to fourteen people sitting round a dinner table shouting at each other, and every single one is an interesting character with complex relationships with almost everyone else at the table. Each of the siblings has their own life, career and family, but they all mesh together like cogs in a giant machine. A gossiping, drinking, sniping, shouting, crying, sarcastic machine, but somehow a pretty functional one.

The joy of the show isn’t in the day-to-day plots that get pushed into the machine, or about the generally predictable resolutions that eventually emerge. It’s about watching the machine in action – the drunken dinners, the shouting in the kitchen, the gossiping conference calls. I could go into great details of the plots and the characters, what worked well this season and what didn’t, but you know what, I don’t actually want to. I love this show, shamelessly and hopelessly. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry and it makes me feel part of the family.

Top 25 Characters

Four years ago I came up with a list of my top 25 characters. I couldn’t resist updating the list.

1Gaius Baltar (Battlestar Galactica)
A fascinating character, weaving from hero to villain and back again often within the space of a sentence. The religious stuff was laid on a little heavy towards the end, but the character managed to pull it off.

2President Bartlet (The West Wing)
Martin Sheen was so amazing, and the character so inspiring it’s hard to believe that he never won an Emmy. These days we may have Obama, but for a long time President Bartlet was the best hope we had.

3Sam Beckett (Quantum Leap)
Bumbling through history playing a variety of parts, but always being Sam. The only connection he had to his old life was his weird friend Al, but despite not remembering it, he desperately wanted to go home.

4Chandler Bing (Friends)
The only character in the series that managed to feel like a real person all the time (well, almost all) probably because it’s basically Matthew Perry playing himself.

John Crichton (Farscape)
Hilarious and heart-breaking, just your average astronaut (!) having a weird life.
“I try to save a life a day. Usually it’s my own…”

6The Doctor (David Tennant’s Dr Who)
Tennant’s Doctor was such a wonderful character covering the full spectrum from depression through anger to pure childish joy, that I decided he was eligible all by himself without needing his other versions.

7Michael Garibaldi (Babylon 5)
Garibaldi was always my favourite character on Babylon 5. He was the human element, he fought, he drank, he mocked everyone and the universe seemed to have some kind of grudge against him.

8Jethro Gibbs (NCIS)
I love Mark Harmon and his ex-marine is brilliant. Outwardly gruff and hard, but not so inhuman that he doesn’t show his affection to his team with a kiss on the cheek for Abby or a slap on the head for DiNozzo.

9Harper (Andromeda)
Andromeda had some epic problems with plots and writing, but it had some amazing characters and Harper was my favourite. He’s a scrounger, desperately trying to get through life as unscathed as possible while his friends seem weirdly obsessed with dragging him on suicide missions to save the universe.
Abel: You must be the engineer.
Harper: Why? Because I’m the short guy with the sense of humour, the wry wit? Huh? Because I’m so freakin’ amiable with the careless demeanor? Is that it?
Abel: Well, that – and the tools.

10Gregory House (House M.D.)
Most of the time he’s a complete and utter bastard, and yet he’s also generally right. Every now and then he shows that he might, just about care about his colleagues.

11Susan Ivanova (Babylon 5)
No one from B5 made the first list and now I’ve got two. I had decided on Garibaldi over Ivanova, but then when I started reading through quotes I remembered just how many brilliant lines she had and managed to squeeze her in.
“No boom today. Boom tomorrow. There’s always a boom tomorrow. What? Look, somebody’s got to have some damn perspective around here. Boom, sooner or later. BOOM!”

12Josh Lyman (The West Wing)
He’s a political genius who can’t keep track of time zones or find his luggage without his assistant. Sometimes he’s brilliant, sometimes he’s embarrassingly poor, but he always tries so hard.

13Rodney McKay (Stargate Atlantis)
Another character that says all the things normal people never would (I’m spotting a theme). He’s arrogant, obnoxious and rude… he’s also a geek, a genius and occasionally very sweet.

14George O’Malley (Grey’s Anatomy)
Poor George. He always means so well, and tries so hard and yet his colleagues are always the ones getting the glory. Except, just possibly, the last thing he does on the show, makes him the greatest success of all of them. His absence almost made me stop watching the show and there’s not much higher compliment can be paid a character.

15Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars)
Teenager with attitude. She’s the kid that’s so amazingly cool, the cool kids at school don’t even realise that she’s light years ahead of them. So she tells them. Except that occasionally she also has a bit of a cry, falls in love with the wrong people and needs her dad.

16Peggy Olson (Mad Men)
From a historical point of view her character is fascinating, a woman making the leap from being an object, to being an individual. As a character though she’s so compelling because she’s not making a statement about women at work in the sixties, she’s just doing what she wants to do.

17Hawkeye Pierce (M*A*S*H)
“I will not carry a gun…. I’ll carry your books, I’ll carry a torch, I’ll carry a tune, I’ll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to Old Virginia, I’ll even hari-kari if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun!”

18Mal Reynolds (Firefly)
The hero who doesn’t want to be a hero, it never goes smooth for poor Mal. Some people are at their best when they’re having yet another bad day.

19Doug Ross (ER)
There are reasons why George Clooney is a star and they’re all demonstrated in Doug Ross. Mark Greene may have been the soul of ER but Ross brought some character to it. He drank too much, womanised, looked great in a tux, looked great in scrubs, said what he thought and even rescued drowning children!

20Nick Stokes (CSI)
Nick is a straight swap for his boss Gil. This is partly because Gil is gone and got a little irritating towards the end. But Nick deserves this place because he’s the little engine that could, never the smartest or most heroic of theCSIs, he’s just been quietly plugging along with his Texas twang and concerned looks until someone finally realised the department couldn’t run without him.

21Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Almost all the characters in this show are great, and it’s rare for me to chose a hero over a witty sidekick, but I had to go for Buffy over the others. She does occasionally wallow, but then if your teenage years were commandeered by destiny, wouldn’t you whine?

22Malcolm Tucker (The Thick of It)
He’s loud and obnoxious and rude beyond words. But he’s also generally the only one talking sense. Also I will forgive absolutely everything he’s ever done wrong, because while he was having the worst day of his career, he ran to his secretary’s defence because people were badgering her.

23Nora Walker (Brothers and Sisters)
The very definition of matriarch. Always ready with several bottles of wine, a shoulder to cry on, a rallying call, or even just a perfectly delivered cake. Nora not only rules her dysfuntional family, but is also trying to work out what a sixty year old woman does when her kids have all left home and her husband dies leaving her alone for the first time ever.

24Dean Winchester (Supernatural)
Amongst Supernatural fans there are Dean-girls and Sam-girls, I’m a (only slightly ashamed) Dean girl. He’s a simple guy wanting to kill monsters, drink, eat pie, sleep around, drive his car and above all keep his family safe. He pretty much never gets what he wants, but always has a witty comeback.

25Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Buffy and Angel)
In terms of character development you don’t get much more extensive than Wesley, turning from the annoying twit in Buffy to the scary hero in Angel. He does what needs to be done, regardless of the costs.