Posts Tagged ‘ grey’s anatomy ’

Grey’s Anatomy: Season 12

Grey's AnatomyI not only had to look up what number season this was, but I had to look up what on earth happened as i’d forgotten most of the details. Broadly speaking I still love Grey’s Anatomy. It’s my first pick for comfort viewing and I don’t even think about watching it without snuggling up on the sofa with a blanket, unhealthy food and a soothing drink. That said, this is the twelfth of these reviews that I’ve had to write, some I’m gonna break out the bullet points. It’s a bit spoilery, but I don’t think anyone really cares.

Things I didn’t like

  • What’s her face, Penny – she never really landed as her own character, as evidenced by the fact that I had to look up her name. She was just there to drive stories in other characters, Meredith, Cally and even the other young characters when it came to the bloody Preminger Grant. It just didn’t feel like she had the same depth of character that the others had
  • Callie and Arizona’s custody battle – where did that come from?! Cally wanting to take Sophia away without even considering it a big thing? Then the court hearing was so utterly artificial and inept. AND THEN Arizona deciding to let Sophia go anyway?!
  • Jo – good grief the girl is awful. She’s whiny and annoying at the best of times, but then it turns out that she’s supposedly kept this massive secret from Alex all this time. Some more poor writing.
  • Owen and Nathan’s antagonistic relationship and drawn out secret history that then turned out to not be that exciting. The only good moment of the whole thing was when they suddenly snapped into sync in a surgery.
  • DeLuca – Winning the prize for most under-used character this year. There just didn’t seem any point to him. His relationship with Maggie never seemed to go anywhere and her over-reaction to dating an intern was rather jolting given the rest of the relationships on the show!
  • Childcare – there’s a LOT of children and some incredibly flexible childcare arrangements going on

Things I’m not sure about

  • Amelia – she can be massively annoying at times, but at least it feels deliberate. She is just a pain in the arse sometimes, that’s not bad writing, it’s just how she is. Doesn’t mean I don’t wanna slap her sometimes though.
  • Stephanie – likewise I’m on the fence about her. I guess she’s a bit like Christina, restrained, ambitious and confident, but she just doesn’t have a Meredith to bring out the emotional elements. The weird whistle-stop romance with the musician felt like a cheap attempt to give her a more emotional storyline and soften the character and it just didn’t work.
  • I can’t remember any of the actual patients. It’s not exactly the point of the show, but usually there are a couple that stand out, even if only for being notable guest stars, but I can’t remember a single one this time.

Things I like

  • Family. Over the years the theme of family has been about the family you chose, not just romantically but about the brothers and sisters you chose. This year there was a bit more focus on actual family as Meredith, Amelia (her sister in law) and Maggie (her half sister) shared a house and kids. Watching Maggie’s sudden acquisition of a family, and Meredith and Amelia’s strained relationship introduced some new ideas.
  • Carpooling – there were a lot of laughs to be had about the recurring carpooling that went on throughout the series.
  • The music – the soundtrack of the series continues to be superb, and I liked that they were using some classic songs completely re-imagined. I wish they’d release more albums, the ones I have from the first few seasons are still my top playlist.
  • Alex and Meredith – I adore that Alex has stepped into Christina’s shoes and is completely Meredith’s person now and she is his. I would rewind their scenes together because I so loved the familiarity and complete lack of bullshit between them.
  • Referencing – the show generally remembers where it came from and where its characters have been. Most obviously of course is that Meredith wasn’t suddenly over Derek, but it was the little mentions of long past events and characters that made me smile. With 12 years of history, there’s a lot of shorthand that can be used with the audience to evoke emotions, a snippet of a song, characters lying on the grass, events and characters long gone; calling back on them gives me a little warm glow. Long may that continue.
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2014/15 Season

I’m getting worse and worse at actually writing stuff promptly. So my end of year wrap up comes after several of the 2015/16 shows have already started. Oh well, better late than never. I’m only talking about US shows here, I think I’m going to move the UK series so that I look at them at the end of the year. Frankly that’s pretty arbitrary but I watch so little UK television that adding it to the list just looked embarrassing. Also I’m focussing more on the returning shows as all the new things got their own little article last week.

Things I’ve watched

The Affair: S1
American Horror Story: Freak Show (S4)
The Americans: S3 (in progress)
Aquarius (in progress)
The Blacklist: S2 (half)
Criminal Minds: S10 (failed to review)
CSI: S15
Defiance: S3 (in progress)
Downton Abbey: S5
Forever: S1 (half)
Game of Thrones: S5 (half)
The Good Wife: S6
Grey’s Anatomy: S11
Jane the Virgin: S1 (review pending)
Justified: S6
Mad Men: S7 Part 2
Madam Secretary: S1 (half)
Marvel’s Agent Carter: S1
Marvel’s Agents of Shield: S2
NCIS: Los Angeles: S6 (failed to review)
The Newsroom: S3
Orange is the New Black: S3 (review pending)
Orphan Black: S3 (just starting)
Penny Dreadful: S2
Perception: S3 (failed to review)
Scandal: S4
Stalker: S1 (failed to review)
Transparent: S1
The Walking Dead: S5

So that’s 27 series, although four of them I only watched part of the season before giving up and four are still in progress. I think that’s probably about 340 episodes? It felt like I watched less television this year, but actually it’s up on last year’s count of 20 series. I think though that a lot of what I watched was just less memorable so it doesn’t feel like I’ve watched as much. 20 episodes each of Criminal Minds, NCIS LA, CSI and Scandal all add up pretty quickly, yet take up remarkably little space in my brain.

I watched six new shows to completion this year, an additional two I made it half way through and actually Orange is the New Black and Justified were both new series for me too which I binge watched from the start and then caught up to the current season. So 10 shows that appear on this year’s list but weren’t on last year’s. In the other direction there were 9 series that I watched last year which didn’t return. Five I chose not to pick up again: Castle (I just got bored with it), The Big Bang Theory (I just missed the start and never felt like catching up), The Following (just too ridiculous), Extant (I don’t think I even got through the whole first season) and The Lost Ship (couldn’t be bothered) . Two I haven’t got round to yet: House of Cards: S3 (it’s in my new Netflix queue) and The Night Shift: S2 (still no UK distributer). Almost Human was cancelled and Fargo didn’t broadcast any new episodes.

The more I think about the list of shows I’ve watched, the more underwhelmed I am with the year. Did I miss something? Have I watched so much TV that I’ve over-dosed and its lost its appeal? I just don’t think anything this year was outstanding. Even the shows that I list below for plaudits are mostly ongoing series that have just continued doing what they do, well. Where were the paradigm shifts? The big evolutions? The watercooler moments? It just feels like a very flat year.

Best Shows
Orange_Is_the_New_Black_Title_CardOrange is the New Black was a show that I’d wanted to watch from the get-go, but couldn’t justify the Netflix cost for. I finally caught up on the first season on dvd and then binged the second and third over a week or so when I finally gave in and signed up to Netflix. The lightness of the humour and the positivity of the relationships is starkly contrasted with the bleakness of the characters’ situations. The acting and writing is wonderful, the slow reveals of characters’ pasts through flashbacks is particularly clever and the whole thing is fresh, original and utterly compelling.

Justified_2010_IntertitleJustified was a great discovery for me, which I should thank Sky Boxsets for. I caught up with the first five seasons in just a few weeks and then got to watch the final season as it broadcast. I loved the whole series, but was particularly impressed that rather than fade away, the final season was actually one of the best. It focussed back on the main trio of characters and played out the uncertainty of “good”, “bad” and “somewehre in between” to the very end. A masterclass in how to close out a series.

americansThe Americans has been slow to reach the UK so I’m only about half way through, but it continues to be absolutely fascinating. The focus is alwasys on the emotional impact of the secrets and lies all the characters have to tell, which is good for me because I often struggle to remember the details of the various conspiracies and am far more interested in watching the phenomenal Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell acting. I feel a bit of a cheat putting something on here that’s only half way through, but it seems unlikely it will take a nosedive now!

Honourable mention: Defiance got off to a surprisingly brutal but very interesting start. There’s so little science fiction on television outside the super-hero genre that it’s a huge relief that this one doesn’t suck.

Favourite Shows
greys anatomyGrey’s Anatomy – only 4 of the original cast are left by the end of season 11. Each time someone leaves I think the show will struggle without them, that their gap will be unfillable, but each time the characters and relationships mature and evolve, not to replace the missing person, but to grow around the gap and evolve the show into something new. I love how the characters have grown, how the relationships mature and how nothing in the past is forgotten, but all makes a part of the present. Yes, it’s a daft soap opera with unbelievable stuff happening, but if you accept that key premise, everything else makes perfect sense. It’s like a comfortable blanket at the end of the day.

Agent_Carter_Series_LogoMarvel’s Agent Carter – while Agents of SHIELD did improve this year it’s still got a lot of problems and the pressure of being a headline show for both ABC and Marvel isn’t helping it. Agent Carter however didn’t have any of the pressure or any of the problems and quietly came along with a phenomenal central cahracter and hugely entertaining story.

Honourable mention: Jane the Virgin was a breath of fresh, if extremely cheesy, air.

Same old, same old (in a mostly good way)
The Walking DeadThe Walking Dead – The relentless pace of The Walking Dead never stops (ironic, given the increasingly shambling nature of the zombies). In the space of twenty odd episodes an incredible amount happened and it’s only through the efficiency of the writing and the talent of the actors that all the characters manage to develop and every nuance is clear. I do wish that we could catch our breath a little, and that the characters could actually find some brief respite and happiness, but I guess that wouldn’t be The Walking Dead.

pennydreadfulPenny Dreadful continues to be an under-watched and under-appreciated gem. The period detail is stunning and the interweaving of various literary characters is fascinating. It’s definitely a show that benefits from watching in chunks though as it is quite easy to lose track of the many different threads.

Mostly honourable mention: Orphan Black has got off to a strong start to season 3 (I’m about 3 episodes in) but its storyline is becoming more convoluted and I hope it’s not going to get lost.

Same old, same old (in a middling way)
CriminalMindsCriminal Minds – I didn’t even bother to review Criminal Minds this year because I honestly have nothing to say and very little recollection of what happened. I mean, I guess it’s safe and familiar (as much as that’s weird to say about a graphically brutal series about serial killers) and it’s not that I want it to be cancelled or dramatically changed, but 10 seasons later it needs some energy.

csiCSI – the final season trundled along much as the last half dozen or so had gone. Unremarkable stories, increasingly losing touch with the actual science and credibility that the show was founded on. Mind you (spoiler alert) having just yesterday watched the final feature length episode, the last season comparatively the creative highpoint of the show.

Middlingly honourable mention: NCIS: Los Angeles continues to have fun with its characters but struggle when it comes to memorable and engaging plots.

Same old, same old (in a bad way)
scandalScandal – oh good lord. It just keeps getting stupider and stupider. The core relationships are all stunningly unhealthy and I endlessly wonder why any of them (friends, colleagues or lovers) stay together when they’re clearly all phenomenally bad for each other and in fact the rest of humanity. I think I might be done.

Game of ThronesGame of Thrones – I’ve finally given up. There’s way too many characters that I really don’t care about, too many drawn out plots that aren’t going anywhere and a complete absence of any real fantasy. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Dishonourable mention: not even James Spader was enough to make me stick with The Blacklist as its convoluted mess of a story left me completely confused and utterly uninterested in who was trustworthy or not.

What happened there?! (in a very bad way)
goodwifeThe Good Wife – I hate seeing The Good Wife down in this section, but the more I think about it, the more frustrated I was by this season. I’d been really looking forward to seeing what would happen with Cary and Alicia’s firm, particularly with Diane joining them… and I was cheated out of it by a ‘too fast’ change of direction that saw Alicia running for State’s Attorney. The ongoing ridiculous arguments with the old firm was just pantomime and Cary’s legal problems were just contrived and frustrating. There’s still a lot of good about the show, but all the major storylines were miss-steps.

Grey’s Anatomy: Season 11

Grey's AnatomyThe show that just keeps going. Of the original interns, only Meredith and Alex are left, of the original ‘grown ups’ only Bailey and Webber (who will forever be The Chief). Only four of the original cast that made me fall in love with the show are still there by the end of this season. The cast has seen some other great characters come and go over the years, but even someone like Callie who has been there since season 2 feels like something of an interloper. So when this season we had to adjust to the absence of Christina and then say goodbye to Derek the show should have suffered.

But it didn’t. Watching Meredith adjust to being without Christina and watching her relationships with other characters grow to compensate was absolutely fascinating. I particularly love her relationship with Alex. Evil Spawn has come a long way and yet is still true to the somewhat obnoxious character he was on day one. He and Meredith *get* each other like no one else really does, probably not even Derek or Jo. Watching him become ‘her person’ was so satisfying.

Then with the loss of Derek, Meredith has to grow all over again. I have never been a fan of Derek and am not particularly sorry to see him go. As Christina said, he may be dreamy (although he doesn’t actually do anything for me), but Meredith is the sun. It’s more interesting to see the effect he has on her than it is to watch any of his self-important preenings. The fact that he went out in such a stupid way (doing a 3 point turn on a blind bend and pausing to find his phone, I mean, come on) was quite fitting I thought.

While Rhimes may not be particularly great at writing good leading men (President Grant on Scandal is even worse) she excels at relationships. There were 14 main characters on the show this year and just about every connection had depth, all completely grounded and aware of the complicated shared histories. Every time there’s a reference to an event in a previous season I give a little cheer; the connections of love, betrayal, frustration and forgiveness are all there and all track through.

Fundamentally this is a soap. So the plots have to occasionally be ridiculous. There have to be so many life events to drive narratives that it can become repetitive. There are little tricks used to change things up, the turnover of characters helps there, as do things like accelerating timelines so we don’t have to spend a dozen episodes watching people slowly mourn. The medical cases are pretty daft, the emotional manipulation pretty blatant and the number of workplace romances likely to drive any HR department to drink. But it doesn’t matter. I love it. I love these characters (the ones that are present and the ones that have gone) and I can’t wait to see what ridiculous things are thrown at them next.

The Upfronts 2015: ABC

ABC network logoOf all the American Broadcast Networks, it seems ABC is my natural match. I watch, or have watched more shows on this channel than any other, although even I would be hard pressed to describe some of them as ‘good’. I don’t know whether it’s just my good luck, or if I’m just synced up with what Americans want to watch, but ABC is also having a particularly successful run of things, with renewals far outnumbering the cancellations and some impressively long running series.

Finished or Cancelled
Forever is the only cancelled show that I was sort of watching. I liked the pilot and stuck with the series for the first half dozen or so episodes mostly thanks to the charismatic acting combo of Ioan Gruffudd and Judd Hirsch. But the momentum fell away and it slipped into ‘stuff to watch while cooking’ territory and then slipped off the list altogether. A bit of a shame really. It did see out the whole season though, which is more than can be said for Manhattan Love Story which won this year’s prize for fastest cancellation, airing only 4 episodes before the plug was pulled. Selfie made it 6 episodes, Cristela made it the whole season.
Revenge was a show that to me took the themes of the channel to an extreme and showed how hateful it could be. It made it four seasons though, so what do I know. Resurrection was a show that while more engaging that the French version Les Revenants still wasn’t quite compelling enough for me to watch and was cancelled after its second season.

Returning
greys anatomyShonda Rhimes continues to rule supreme, Grey’s Anatomy enters season 12 (although losing another original cast member this year may signal it’s living on borrowed time), the ever more ridiculous Scandal goes into season 5 and How to Get Away with Murder makes it to season 2 (I somehow missed it when it aired in the UK and am waiting for it come around again). Marvel’s Agent Carter gets a second season following its 8 episodes this year, to compliment Agents of SHIELD which swings widely in quality, but maybe Joss Whedon will spend some time with it now Avengers is done.
castleI actually gave up on Castle this year, I just got bored by it. It was touch and go for a while whether both Fillion and Katic would sign up for season 8 but they did, and back it comes. Once Upon a Time and Nashville are both series where I enjoyed the first season, but got lost and disinterested in the second and never bothered returning to. They’re renewed for seasons 4 and 5 respectively. Secrets and Lies is a new drama that completely passed me by but got renewed for season 2, American Crime is an anthology series (cf American Horror Story) and has been renewed for a second season with a whole new story but an overlapping cast.
ABC also has a pretty strong sitcom line up renewing six in all, upcoming season in brackets: Black-ish (2), Fresh Off the Boat (2), Galavant (2), The Goldbergs (2), Last Man Standing (5), The Middle (6) and Modern Family (6).

New in Autumn

The Muppets: The Muppets are back. Just like the original Muppet Show, it’s behind the scenes as they put on a show, this time a television late night chat show rather than a variety show. The series is set up as a behind the scenes documentary, including little interviews etc and aims to be more grown up. The trailer wasn’t as funny or as nostalgic as I might have hoped and they actually used the phrase “like you’ve never seen them before”. Honestly, what idiot writes these trailers?


Dr Ken: Ken Jeong a comedian who I find irritating in everything he does (most notably Community) now has his own show to spoil all by himself. The trailer was so painfully awful that I only made it half way through.


Quantico: A group of new recruits join the FBI training academy which is half military level special ops and half high school summer camp. But there’s a terrorist attack, one of the recruits is a traitor and another one is framed and must clear her name. I found the trailer deeply confusing, so I’m not sure whether the series told chronologically or in flashbacks. It also had a terrible narration that hopefully will not carry through the series.


OIL: Rich families, oil fields, money, poor families, American dream, yadda yadda yadda. Utterly not interested.


Of Kings and Prophets: Based on the biblical Books of Samuel, it looks like Game of Thrones with even fewer dragons. The trailer hovered on the edge of parody I felt and Ray Winstone may be the worst casting I’ve ever seen.

Coming later

The Catch: A woman who chases con-artists is herself conned by the man she spent a year with and was going to marry. I’m guessing the series will comprise her occasionally taking cases but mostly dealing with her personal stuff. It’s Shonda Rhimes again, so expect a strong female lead, a horrible male lead that we’re supposed to find dreamy and increasingly ridiculous plots that all combine into something incredibly compelling that you sort of hate yourself for.


The Family: Ten years ago Claire’s son disappeared. Now she’s the mayor and about to run for governor, and the son she thought was dead has reappeared. It’s a good idea for a film or mini-series, but I’m not sure it’s got the legs for a whole series. Still it’s actually an original idea so I’ll give it a try and see where it goes.


Wicked City: St in Los Angeles in 1982 following a serial killer and the investigation. I’m not sure how this can stretch into a series without becoming exceptionally repetitive and frustrating.


The Real O’Neals: A perfect catholic family turns out to have a few secrets. I may be desperate and mistaken, but I didn’t spot anything offensive or depressing in this trailer. I actually smiled a couple of times.


Uncle Buck: posh people get sufficiently desperate for a babysitter they call Uncle Buck who takes the kids to bars and is disreputable in a pre-watershed kind of way. Nothing horrific, nothing that exciting.

Grey’s Anatomy: Season 10

Grey's AnatomyI find myself filled with a pretty significant ambivalence about writing this review. I mean we’re talking about season 10 (which I had to look up) of a show. I mean, what am I going to say? Grey’s Anatomy season 10 is pretty much like season 4 or 8 of Grey’s Anatomy.

I thought about spending some time tracking whether there was a pattern (like even star trek films) which would explain waves of terrible storylines or characters, but I concluded that was just too much effort and analysis to apply to something that’s fundamentally a soap opera. It’s a glossy, expensive prime time one, but nevertheless it’s a soap opera whose characters are at the mercy of writers who have to fill 20 odd episodes a year with melodrama and a few episodes each year with enough drama and scale to draw in bigger audiences for sweeps. It’s not rocket science, sweeps week rolls around and something is going to explode all over a relatively big name guest star.

Of course it doesn’t make sense that the characters continually have no concept of birth control, or blindly walk into electrocuted puddles, or get drafted by the president, or get given a hospital in Zurich. The plots are ridiculous but I can just about deal with that so long as the characters’ responses to the insanity around them are self-consistent, and this season at least they did seem to be. Characters remembered what had happened before and learnt from it (except for the birth control bit), they moved forward and even occasionally had conversations about their feelings and talked about their issues like grown-ups. So it may be ridiculous that Burke offers Christina a hospital, she at least acknowledges that it’s like he’s Willy Wonka. There’s a self-awareness to the whole thing that sort of undermines any criticism.

If you didn’t watch, or didn’t like Grey’s Anatomy season 1 then you’re sure as anything not going to like this. But if you’ve been with the show, following these characters for 10 years, then you’re pretty unlikely to give up now. I’ve spent more years with some of these characters than I have with people I consider close friends and that emotional connection is powerful whether I like it or not. Knowing Sandra Oh was leaving, I thought I was prepared, I’m not even that big a fan of the Christina character, but as she and Meredith danced one last time I pretty much wailed into a tissue box. I mean, say what you like about the stupidity of the storylines, but to get that kind of reactions… they’re doing something right.

2012-13 Season – the best and the worst

2012_2013As the new season has officially started, it’s time for my wrap up of the 2012-2013 season! From the list below it really looks like I’ve watched 46 television series this year, which frankly even I find amazing, given that last year I was astonished that I’d gone from 28 to 39 series. Admittedly 10 of those series are still in progress and a couple might not get finished, but even without those, it’s still probably somewhere in the order of 700 episodes.

The Americans: S1
Blue Bloods: S3
The Big Bang Theory: S6
Bones: S8
Borgen: S2
Broadchurch: S1
The Cafe: S2 (in progress)
Castle: S5
Chicago Fire: S1
Criminal Minds: S8
CSI: S13
CSI: NY: S10 (in progress)
Defiance: S1
Doctor Who: S7
Downton Abbey: S3
The Fall: S1
The Following: S1
Forbrydelsen (The Killing): S3
Fringe: S5
Game of Thrones: S3
The Good Wife: S4
Grey’s Anatomy: S9
Hannibal: S1
Homeland: S2
House of Cards: S1
House of Lies: S2 (in progress)
Hunted: S1
Last Tango in Halifax: S1
Luther: S3
Mad Men: S6
Merlin: S5
Nashville: S1
NCIS: LA: S4 (in progress)
The Newsroom: S2 (in progress)
Once Upon a Time: S2 (in progress)
Orphan Black: S1 (in progress)
Les Revenenants (The Returned): S1
Scandal: S2 (Review to come)
Smash: S2 (in progress)
Supernatural: S8 (in progress)
The Thick of It: S4
Utopia: S1
Vegas: S1
The Walking Dead: S3
Warehouse 13: S4 (in progress)
Young Doctor’s Notebook: S1

There are also a few miniseries I watched (mostly British) – Dancing on the Edge, In the Flesh, What Remains (to be reviewed), The Secret of Crickley Hall and Southcliffe.

Best Shows
The Walking Dead title screenThe Walking Dead – I think this may be the show I obsessed most about this year (although see Scandal later on). I pounced on every episode as soon as I could, read analysis, studied trailers, frankly it’s a bit embarrassing. But what makes me really happy is that the show warrants its place in the best list, not just the favourite. The quality of this show is outstanding, from the breathtaking direction to the elegant writing and heartbreaking acting. There were a few miss-steps with the plot, but overall, this show is right up there with the likes of Battlestar Galactica for raising genre to a new level.

GoodWifeThe Good Wife – It’s hard to think of new superlatives to describe The Good Wife, from the very first episode of season 1 this show has been consistently good, interesting and entertaining. Sadly that consistency also applies to the ongoing poor usage of Kalinda, but if that’s the only problem with the show, then it’s still leaps and bounds above most of its companions on the schedules.

House of CardsHouse of Cards – It’s notable that of the three best shows I’ve selected one is on Cable, one is on Network and the final one is on neither! Thanks to Netflix it’s now possible to get exceptional television series completely independent of the television channels. House of Cards was smart, challenging and exceptionally well made and throws a real challenge at the traditional broadcasters.

Honourable mentions – I’m only 2 episodes in, but Orphan Black is rather amazing and reminiscent of the also stunning Utopia. Broadchurch was outstanding, blending believable responses to horrific events with a British humour and A Young Doctor’s Notebook was surprisingly weird and engaging.

Favourite Shows
scandalScandal – I haven’t written my review of this yet, because it would mean admitting that rather than waiting for the weekly episodes on the television, I was so addicted to the show, I saught out an alternate source and watched the whole season pretty much back to back over the space of a weekend. The story is utterly ridiculous, but I found it incredibly addictive. Shonda Rhimes has recreated the Grey’s Anatomy magic, it doesn’t matter how bad it is, I can’t let it go.

americansThe Americans – It’s almost impossible to talk about this show without comparing it to Homeland, which appeared on my best shows list last year, but is significantly absent this year. The Americans gets right everything that Homeland got wrong in season 2, it never took itself too seriously, never sacrificed consistent character development for cheap cliffhangers and remembered that spies (even in the 80s) are cool!

BorgenBorgen – Last year Borgen was in the ‘Best shows’ category, this year I move it to ‘Favourite’ because although I still adore it, I just didn’t think it was as good. I had a lot of trouble with the storylines and characters this season, many set off down unfortunate paths which ultimately led to dead ends and frustrations. But despite that, it’s still hugely entertaining, with sparkling dialogue, beautiful direction and an unfailing ability to draw me in.

Honourable Mentions – hmm, the fact I’m struggling to find ones of note is a bit of an indicator that this years shows have really gone to the extremes of “great” and “meh”. Nashville was reliable ridiculous fun (far far more successful than the increasingly awful Smash) and Last Tango in Halifax was endearingly easy watching. Oh, and there have been great moments in the first few episodes of The Newsroom, but those moments of brilliance are unfortunately surrounded with some real mediocrity (and that’s being charitable).

Actors
bBroadchurchI think there should be some kind of awareness that there is great acting going on in the oddest of places. Awards are generally given for great acting in great shows. That really is a bit chicken and egg, is the acting great because of the writing, or is the writing great because of the acting? For shows like The Walking Dead, House of Cards, Broadchurch, The Americans and The Good Wife, the quality just feeds back and forth elevating both to wonderful heights.

The Thick of ItThe more impressive achievement I think is great acting taking place in mediocre or even awful shows. The cast of Homeland did an admirable job with truly terrible writing as did some of the cast of Hannibal. The Thick of It had serious structural problems from a watch-ability point of view, but it did mean everything built up to the stunning inquiry which offered each of the actors an opportunity to give a masterclass in characters. Peter Capaldi was of course the star (and the only problem I have with him being Doctor Who is that he’ll have less time to do work like this), but everyone in the cast was incredible in that episode.

lutherThen you’ve got the type of performances that complete transcend and transform the shows they are in. Performances from Idris Elba (Luther) and Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) seem like they’re in entirely different leagues to everyone around them, bouncing off the screen with originality and charisma and really are the only reason I watch the shows. I came to Nashville because I love Connie Britton, but was surprised that I stayed with it in equal parts for was wonderful performance from Hayden Panettier. Between the two of them they made the ridiculous soap opera watchable.

Grey's Anatomy CastWhen it comes to relying on her actors to sell ridiculous storylines however, Shonda Rhimes is queen, I forgive Grey’s Anatomy its many sins because of actors like Chandra Wilson, Ellen Pompeo and Sandra Oh. I forgive Scandal for being demented because of actors like Kerry Washington who portrays Olivia Pope with such hardness and such softness, Jeff Perry who makes Cyrus the kind of manipulative bastard you want to share popcorn with and Guillermo Diaz who makes you want to give Huck a cuddle even if he is a terrifying psychopath.

Disappointments
Mad MenMad Men – If not for the fact that the next season will be the last, Mad Men season 6 would have been the nail in the coffin for me. I’ve just got no interest in watching a show increasingly dedicated to the unpleasant and repetitive character that is Don Draper. He goes round and round in destructive circles, holding back the other characters and the show itself from really developing.

Once Upon a TimeOnce Upon a Time – I’m struggling to find the enthusiasm to watch the whole season of this I have backed up on my Sky+ box. I think there are just too many characters (particularly given almost every character has a fairy tale alter-ego), too many worlds and too many storylines. I don’t care enough to watch every week, and without that regular viewing I lose track and therefore care even less.

fringeFringe – I’m sorry, but the final season of Fringe just wasn’t as good as the previous seasons. Jumping to the future threw everything off for me, it wasn’t as much fun, I wasn’t as engaged and it felt less original. It did however at least offer a solid ending to the show, so I am still grateful for that.

Things I Didn’t Watch
SonsOfAnarchyIn many ways the 2012-13 season was notable for the things I didn’t watch. Several shows that I’ve previously loved, I just couldn’t bring myself to watch. Glee and NCIS both got dropped because I was fed up with the inconsistent writing. I tried out Hawaii Five-0 to fit the NCIS spaced gap, but though I love the dynamic between the two leads, it wasn’t enough to keep my attention through the mind numbing plots. I also dropped Veep because I just didn’t find it funny enough to overcome the frustrations with stupid characters.

My reasons for stopping watching Girls are rather more profound. Like Veep, I didn’t think it was funny and I found the characters frustrating, but I had an extra level of repulsion to the series because it seemed to be claiming some greater reality than something like Veep. Lena Dunham, either through her own claims or those of the media appears to think this is what young women in New York are really like. Given that I think the characters are pretty hateful people, if that’s truly what this section of humanity is like, then I want nothing to do with them, even through the abstract medium of television.

This year’s high profile casualty is actually more about the fact that the writing is too good. Sons of Anarchy is a superb television show, but by making me care so much about the characters, the relentless misery heaped upon them has just become a bit much. As their situations become increasingly hopeless I found myself dreading each episode until eventually my anxiety overcame the quality and I remembered that I didn’t have to watch if I didn’t want to. It’s the same reason that I’m unlikely to watch Breaking Bad beyond the first season, that was enough for me to understand how good it was, and enough to for me to know I just didn’t want to watch something that hard.

To end this section on a positive note however, even though I didn’t get along with this season of American Horror Story (I just didn’t feel any connection to any of the characters) the clever thing about the way the series is structured means that I can try it again next year when it moves on again to a new set of characters and stories.

Local Talent
utopiaEvery year I pledge to watch more British television, and this year I actually managed it! A lot of it suffers from, what Sky’s director of entertainment eloquently described as “po-faced stick up your backside morose drama”. When done well that sort of thing is hard but fascinating to watch, but when done badly it’s just dull. Southcliffe fell into the latter category unfortunately, The Fall was doing well until it failed to reach a conclusion that just left a bad taste in the mouth. On the plus side Utopia was quirky, brutal, intriguing and beautiful to watch, and Broadchurch was utterly engrossing and entertaining from start to finish. It’s a good job David Tennant was so good in that though, because The Politician’s Husband was horrific and I know at least one person who’s Tennant crush has been permanently damaged by the dialogue he was forced.

Downton AbbeyA lot of dross was also put out claiming to be ‘pure entertainment’ with Mr Selfridge and The Paradise both trying to capture the ongoing magic of Downton Abbey and failing catastrophically. Hunted was entertaining, but nowhere near interesting enough to make me want to watch a second season. Sky’s offerings of The Cafe and Young Doctor’s Notebook are far from what I’d expect from the juggernaut, both understated and unusual.

Grey’s Anatomy: Season 9

Grey's AnatomyGood grief. Where to start.

It’s not like I really expect Grey’s Anatomy to be a paragon of subtle storytelling, but this season has been pushing against the season five “sex with ghosts” storyline in terms of credibility. Weirdly, it’s not one of the multitude of life threatening disasters that fell off the cliff of credibility, but a divergence into the world of business and economy.

To summarise – the gaggle of series regulars who’s plane crashed at the end of last season are rescued variously missing their marbles, their willingness to fly, a functioning hand, a leg and their lives. But a few episodes later the dead are buried and only referenced passingly, the injured get better, the crazy wears off and the only lasting impact is that Arizona’s got a prosthetic leg hidden under her scrubs and the fact that each of them gets fifteen million dollars compensation. Except it turns out that the crash was the hospital’s fault, the insurance is void by the fact they put so many series regulars, sorry, senior staff on one plane and the payments bankrupt the hospital. Have no fear though for our valiant plane survivors can use their money to buy the hospital for themselves. See, shopping really does make everything better. Oh and Jackson’s mother chips in and puts him in charge. It’s the American dream!

There are so many levels of stupid in that storyline it’s hard to know where to begin. What I found particularly amusing was the fact that no one had chosen to sue the hospital previously when they were shot, blown up, or had an icicle fall on them. Then there’s the fact that everyone got the same money, so compensating the death of one of the country’s top plastic surgeons is exactly the same as compensating someone who after a couple of surgeries is completely cured. Or that the hospital is responsible because the plane company had a dubious safety record, the fact that the company was still legally allowed to fly had nothing to do with it.

Grey’s Anatomy is really at its heart all about the characters. It’s not about the medicine, or the disasters, they’re just there to give the characters something to do, when the ridiculousness of the plots overwhelms the characters, the series starts having problems. If the initial impetus for character development is ridiculous, the characters in turn suffer. Arizona was the principle victim, her inability to get over the fact that her leg was amputated to save her life just got frustrating beyond all measure. By the end of the season it wasn’t coming across as PTSD, it was just a convenient excuse for her to sleep around and it didn’t seem like something Arizona would do. And don’t even get me started on the tedious circling of Owen and Christina.

I really did miss Mark and Lexie this season, not least because their absences was replaced with yet another gaggle of unremarkable interns, who’s only real interest came in Christina’s increasingly hilarious dwarf names for them all. I also remain frustrated with April and Jackson, who I still think of as “new” 4 seasons in. They’re another example of a relationship that’s endlessly pushed on the audience despite them making far better friends and April in particular has degenerated from quirky to unbearable. Fortunately Meredith and Bailey continue going from strength to strength, always reliably having appropriate emotional responses, be that extreme sarcasm, calm, anger, or in Bailey’s case some of the most heartbreaking tears you’ll ever see on television.

Yet again, I’ve spent my review moaning about a show and then in the final paragraph I say that despite all the problems, it’s still one of my favourite programmes and I can’t wait for the new episode each week. Much of my enjoyment comes from the ‘water cooler’ nature of the show, the fact that I can chat about it with a couple of fellow fans, and find a quote for every occasion. It’s also though that it’s a show built on emotions; by making you laugh and cry along with the characters every week, it’s one of the strongest connections that you can have. And for that reason alone, I’ll tune in every week until these characters are old and grey.