The Upfronts 2016: The CW

cwPoor CW, always the runt of the network channels, and I add insult to injury by leaving a big gap between postings. The CW plays to a very specific younger demographic and their fan enthusiasm and loyalty gives a tremendously stable line-up of shows, many of which interlink and feed off each other either directly or thematically. It’s cemented itself as the home of DC superheroes to the extent that wayward child Supergirl makes the very sensible move away from CBS to join the family.

What’s cancelled or retiring
Beauty and the Beast has rather incredibly been running for three seasons, however the fourth season which will be broadcast over the summer will be its last. Containment didn’t do anything like as well and will end after a very short 7 episode first season. It always looked rather out of place on The CW, looking like a more mainstream network show, but probably not good enough to make it on CBS or Fox.

What’s back
Supernatural - Season 5Good grief, Supernatural moves into season TWELVE. It’s old enough that it used to be on The WB! I keep saying, that when and if I know it’s got a happy ending, I’ll go back and catch up on all the seasons I missed since I judged it too depressing. I’m beginning to think it’s never actually going to end. The Vampire Diaries is rather surprisingly still going too (renewed for season 8) despite losing the lead actress. The contrarily named spin-off The Originals is renewed for season four, although possibly only as a half season conclusion.

Jane_the_Virgin_logo (1)The DC universe shows trundle onwards with Arrow renewed for a fifth season, The Flash for a third and Legends of Tomorrow for a second. As mentioned above, Supergirl’s second season will also come to The CW. Period piece Reign is renewed for a fourth season, The 100 for a third and iZombie for a second.

The CW has managed to find considerable critical success with its comedies, with both Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend garnering awards attention for the first time for the channel and therefore unsurprisingly renewed for third and second seasons respectively.

What’s New
Frequency – based on the Dennis Quaid film, it’s sort of time-travelly, with a daughter in 2016 talking to her soon-to-be dead father in 1996 via a ham radio. The trailer actually looks pretty good and the fact they’re both police officers working on a case spanning the decades looks to be an interesting hook.

No Tomorrow
– a bloke with a powerpoint is convinced that the world is ending in 8 months and he’s living like there’s no tomorrow. Then he meets a “risk-averse procurement manager” and he persuades her to start living the same way. I think it was supposed to be a comedy. I didn’t laugh.

Riverdale – based on the Archie comic strip which has been running since the 40s, it’s basically a teenager goring up in a small town. Sounds utterly unremarkable.

Upfronts 2015: The CW

cwThe CW – home of young, pretty people with problems. Superheroes, monsters, vampires, survivors of the apocalypse, Mary Queen of Scots, zombies and a woman accidentally impregnated with her boss’s baby. You know, the usual day to day issues that life throws at you. The CW only has about a dozen shows on its schedules and many are very long running, so there’s only a couple of cancellations and a couple of new shows.

Cancelled of finished
Hart of Dixie ran for four seasons, The Messengers was cancelled after only three episodes with spectacularly low ratings even for The CW.

What’s returning
Supernatural - Season 5Supernatural continues into its eleventh season. I gave up on the show several years ago, not because it wasn’t good but because the relentless misery inflicted on the main characters just depressed me too much. Skimming the summary of recent episodes, that really doesn’t seem to have changed any!

Ranked up behind it are various super hero and supernatural-lower-case offerings. Arrow and The Flash share a universe and go into seasons 4 and 2. The Vampire Diaries will enter season 7 without its leading lady, which should be interesting, while its spinoff The Originals goes into season 3. The vampires are followed up with zombies with the unfortunately named, but apparently not bad iZombie getting a second season and Beauty and the Beast, a series I never hear anything at all about, getting renewed for season 4. A couple more teen focussed series, The 100 set in the future and Reign set in the past are both renewed for third seasons.

Jane_the_Virgin_logo (1)The real star of the network though would be Jane the Virgin, which is not only good, but so good that it won the CW its first ever Peabody and Golden Globe (for leading actress Gina Rodriguez) awards. Unsurprisingly it will return for season 2.

New series

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: joining the Arrow and Flash universe are a misfit bunch of superheroes who travel through time to battle a supervillain. It’s got a huge challenge ahead of it to overcome the obvious “budget Avengers” label. It’s a shame that so many of the characters seem to overlap with Marvel universe and the dialogue in the trailer didn’t quite land. Still, nice idea.

Containment: There’s a virus, it’s fatal and while the authorities try to contain it, those inside the containment are trying to survive. This looks like it’s on some kind of exchange trip with Supergirl on CBS as each show seems lost on the network that’s showing it, and I think that’s a real shame for both shows’ survival chances.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: OK. There just aren’t really words to describe this one. Just watch the trailer and marvel at the weirdness.

Why I’m no longer watching: Supernatural

Supernatural - Season 5I had a very fast burning relationship with Supernatural. In 2009 I picked up the first season on dvd for possibly the best seven quid I’ve ever spent and burnt through the first four seasons in just a couple of weeks until I caught up to the new episodes. Then I had to plod my way through episodes as they aired which felt like torture. It went in at number 6 on my television of the decade list and both show and actors appeared on my favourites lists at the end of various years.

Supernatural is by far the best successor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s achievement of being so much more than it might appear. It may be on the CW, may be talking about monsters, and feature a couple of lead actors that are pretty easy on the eye, but it’s not about any of those things. It’s about destiny and family, commitment to a cause and to people. It’s two brothers driving around the country in a cool car which a huge intricate mythology unravels around them. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s a huge amount of fun along the way with a willingness to poke fun at itself and its genre that means even after 10 seasons it doesn’t fall into being so far up its own mythology that you’ve got no hope of following.

supernatural season 6It also managed, maybe even better than Buffy did, to survive the end of its planned arc. After the five-year plan wrapped up and the original creator and visionary left, the show continued on. It could even be argued it got better. The new characters slotted in, the lines between good and evil continued to meander about engagingly and the relationship between the brothers grew ever more complex at the same time as it remained fundamentally oh so very simple.

Given all that gushing, why is it appearing under the heading of “things I’m no longer watching”? The simplest explanation is that I think I liked it too much. I fell into the series so hard and so fast that I cared a bit too much about everyone in it, and Supernatural is not a show that it’s good for your mental health to be too close to.

The problem is that bad things happen to the characters. Endlessly. They save the world over and over and in return the world really screws them over. I mean getting hurt and angsty is fine, that makes good television, but the level of misery inflicted on these guys just gets very wearing. As a quick (spoilery) summary goes basically everyone the Winchesters love dies, including each other. And they don’t just die quick and easy, they go out messy, drawn out and painful for everyone leaving and everyone left behind. Season 3 set the tone with a season long death sentence for someone that was excruciatingly well played as everyone came to terms (or not)with the unavoidability of not just death, but a sentence to eternity in hell. That was season 3. It got worse.

At the end of season 7 I said:

The stories are all compelling, they’re all well written, well acted and entirely justified in the context of the world threatening badness that surrounds the Winchesters. But good grief is it ever depressing. The boys end up alcoholic, sleep deprived, mentally unstable and disconnected from any kind of happiness; doomed to forever be saving the world yet unthanked and unrewarded. It’s relentless.

supernaturalAnd that was one of the last things I said about Supernatural. Because when season 8 rolled around, I just couldn’t face watching it. I let it back up on my sky box for a while and every time I sat in front of the tv wondering what to watch I decided I didn’t *want* to watch Supernatural. I felt I should watch it. But I didn’t want to and eventually, I just deleted it.

I kept up on recaps for a while, but that was even worse, because seeing what was happening without also seeing the lightness of the character interactions, the wit of the dialogue and the fun of the action sequences just made it all seem even worse. By all accounts the strengths of the show are all still there, they’re just happening without me along for the ride.

The series is currently showing season 10 and it’s renewed for an 11th, an amazing run for a little show on the CW. I have it in my head that when the show finally finishes I’ll find out whether there’s a happy ending for the Winchester Brothers or not, whether all their suffering is eventually rewarded appropriate. If it is, if it’s all worth it somehow, then I may pick up some dvds and push on through. But if it’s not, then I’ll let them live in my memory as maybe one of the best shows on television, one that is so good, it’s unwatchable.

The 2011-2012 Season

I’ve been dragging my feet on my season round-up post as I’ve been trying to polish off a few more series. But all the new stuff is starting, so the time has come to just get on with it! I’ve watched 39 series this year, last year was 28 so that’s a pretty terrifying increase! A fair number of the series are only a handful of episodes though (for better or worse) so I figure the number of episodes is about the same, somewhere around the 600 mark.

American Horror Story – S1
Awake – S1 (In progress)
The Big Bang Theory – S5
The Big C – S2
Blue Bloods – S2
Bones – S7
Borgen – S1
The Bridge – S1
The Cafe – S1
Castle – S4
Criminal Minds – S7
CSI – S12
Downton Abbey – S2
Forbrydelsen (The Killing): S2
Fringe – S4 (in progress)
Game of Thrones – S2
Glee – S3 (in progress)
The Good Wife – S3
Grey’s Anatomy – S8
Homeland – S1
House – S8
The Jury
Luck – S1
Luther – S2
Mad Men – S5 (In progress)
Merlin – S4
The Newsroom – S1
Once Upon a Time – S1 (in progress)
Outnumbered – S4
Sherlock – S2
Smash – S1
Sons of Anarchy – S4
Supernatural – S7
Terra Nova – S1
Veep – S1
The Walking Dead – S2
Warehouse 13 – S3

There are a few other bits and pieces that didn’t make the list, mostly documentaries, many of them really rather excellent – Inside Nature’s Giants, David Attenborough’s Kingdom of Plants filmed at Kew Gardens, Frozen Planet, Wonders of the Universe to name a few.

Borgen. “The Danish West Wing” is an overused label, but it’s so accurate it’s hard to resist. It’s not just the subject matter that draws the comparison, but the quality of writing and production and, sadly, the ability for it to break your heart as characters realistically, but depressingly make the wrong decisions.

Fringe. For complicated housemate related reasons I still haven’t seen the final two episodes of this series, but I can’t see how they would do anything that would mean the series drops from this list. Fringe continues to evolve into a spectacularly complex, yet completely followable series while never forgeting to actually entertain its audience with self-aware nods to the ridiculousness of the situations.

The Good Wife. A brilliant cast, fascinating storylines, sure and steady character development all polished off with sparkling dialogue makes a package that’s just a complete and utter joy to watch. In a world of mediocre network procedurals, this one is so far ahead it’s clearly in a different league.

Homeland. Another show that’s complex yet accessible. The gradual reveal and development of characters is fascinating and I was on the edge of my seat all season not knowing which way anything was going to go.

Mad Men and Awake could potentially be added to this list, but I am less than half way through each.

The Newsroom. This show was the one I’d been most looking forward to, and I’m slightly devastated that I can’t include it in the ‘best’ category. But despite massive flaws with the characters and a preachiness that even I find rather troublesome, it’s still one of my favourite shows of the year. That may be blind Aaron Sorkin obsession, but I don’t care.

American Horror Story. A huge collection of characters and stories intricately interwoven and elegantly revealed over the span of a carefully structured series. It felt both innovative and yet thoroughly grounded in the history of the genre. I’m especially happy that each season is completely self contained, so nothing is dragged out or has the chance to get dull.

Smash. It’s original and fun, balancing cheesiness and melodrama with engaging characters and a surprisingly real feeling storyline. I’m really looking forward to next season, particularly given they’re getting rid of all the annoying characters.

Once Upon a Time. Another new show that’s original and fun. The storyline is incredibly complex yet revealed so elegantly that there’s never any difficulty keeping up. It’s beautifully designed and just a lovely series to watch.

I sort of covered my thoughts on actors in my Emmy post, so here are some broader thoughts.

House . Hugh Laurie gets the most praise publicly, but the whole cast of the series are absolutely superb. Robert Sean Leonard as Wilson completely and utterly broke my heart, Peter Jacobson (Taub) cracked me up, Olivia Wilde (Thirteen) stole the very few scenes she was in, and Jesse Spencer (Chase) produced one of the most satisfying character developments I’ve seen in a long time.

Homeland . One of the few things that myself and those that vote for awards actually agree on, the superbness that are Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. I however would go a lot further and also heap praise on the supporting performances by Morena Baccarin and Mandy Patinkin.

Sons of Anarchy. Award voters clearly have some kind of blind spot when it comes to Sons of Anarchy, because year after year they completely fail to register the incredible performances throughout the cast, but in particular from the female leads Katey Sagal and Maggie Siff

Katharine McPhee (Karen) and Megan Hilty (Ivy), Smash – I loved the dance the characters went on, competing with each other but respecting each other’s talents; sometimes gracious, sometimes bitchy. And boy can they belt out tunes! Also Jack Davenport (Derek) had some of the funniest lines of the year!

Fringe . The cast are good as their primary characters, but what’s impressive is that most of them then go on to play the same person in the alternate universe, each of them the same person but with slight variations. It’s astonishing, they are the same person yet completely different, it’s mind twisting and fascinating. I can’t imagine a greater challenge as an actor. While Anna Torv and John Noble rightly get a lot of praise, the performances of Jasika Nicole (Astrid) and Seth Gabel (Lincoln Lee) are just as subtle. Poor Joshua Jackson must feel rather hard-done-by without an alternate version to play with. He is pretty though.

The Good Wife – so many great performances and characters that I love from both stars, supporting characters (I could watch Josh Charles and Christine Baranski do the Will and Diane show all day long) and a dream list of guest stars (Michael J. Fox, Martha Plimpton, Matthew Perry – all playing deliciously slimy characters).

Booth and Bones getting together on Bones. I was completely against it, but cheerfully admit I was wrong. Having them jump from no relationship at all to living together and having a baby brought a breath of fresh air to the series. It was handled with such lightness and charm, with both characters bending to accommodate the other, but not making any fundamental changes… beautifully written and acted. Here’s hoping Castle can do the same.

The end of House. A series going out gracefully and winding everything up with a collection of satisfying resolutions for all the characters. House has never been about the medicine, but about the puzzles and about the people, while I may personally wish that Wilson had a different conclusion, it all fed in so perfectly and everyone ended up where they were supposed to be.

Creativity! It felt like there was some variation with what’s on TV, not just an endless stream of interchangeable procedurals. Shows like American Horror Story, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and Walking Dead (finally) are investigating what it’s like to bring non-traditional genres to television, and shows like Smash, Luck and The Newsroom brought different subjects to the screen.

Female Characters! There are plenty of people out there who have and will write far more eloquently on the plight of women in television, but this year has felt like a relatively good year. Shows are full of strong women doing their jobs, raising their families and doing so as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Shows like The Good Wife, Smash, Once Upon a Time and Grey’s Anatomy have dominantly female casts, and almost everything else has a nice balance. Even something like Downton Abbey with its period constraints provides some wonderful roles for female actors.

Lighten up! Supernatural is superb, but it really really needs to lighten up a bit! It’s turned into something I have to force myself to watch, rather than something I really look forward to. The same argument could be made for Sons of Anarchy. Relentless depression is just not entertaining to watch, I’m not saying they suddenly need to be all sunshine and puppies, but just every now and then, let them catch a break.

NCIS . After 9 seasons, I realised there’s no point in watching this any more. The plots are utterly disposable and the characters are disastrously erratic. The last two seasons I’ve relegated it to ‘ironing watching’, but I’m even giving up on that (the show, not the ironing sadly).

Glee. I still haven’t managed to get to the end of the season having realised that I’m increasingly just fast-fowarding episodes. I just got sick to death with the terrible writing which completely undermined the charm of the characters and the talents of the actors. It just stopped being fun.

Still no spaceships. Can no one make this work?

Too short! Sherlock and Luther both had only 3 episodes, each ‘double’ length. It’s not enough. There’s the obvious problem that like a small child if I like something I want more of it, but it also really hampers the ability to get invested in characters and stories, just as you’re settling in, it’s all over and the voice over man is saying “will return in 2014”.

In preparing this article, I went back and looked at my summaries of last years shows and I have to highlight the following phrase in my summary of 2010-2011’s new shows:

Superheroes are out – there was a flurry of superhero shows and none of them were any good. People keep trying to find the magic of the early season of Heroes and the massive success that’s being found by Marvel and DC Comics at the cinema, but no one’s managed it yet. Here’s an idea, stop pissing off Joss Whedon and get him to do one, after he’s done making millions with The Avengers that is.

I rejoice in my ability to predict the future and can’t wait to see what Joss does with S.H.I.E.L.D.

Supernatural: Season 7

Spoilers for the whole series and season 7

So my hope for season seven – lighten up on the guys, just let them hunt some monsters and catch some good luck for a change.

That was what I said in my season six review, and boy was I ever not listened to. Remember back in season 3 where they spent the whole season with a death sentence hanging over Dean’s head? Well that was a pretty cheerful time relatively speaking. Since then life has got worse and worse for the Winchesters every single season and season 7 is no different. Given that Dean died and went to hell in season 3 and Sam did the same in season 5 then lost his soul in season 6, just imagine how bad it is now!

I really struggled with this season of Supernatural. I watched the first few episodes early in the year and then just couldn’t face any more of them. It was only as I came up on the end of the year that I really felt I should buckle down and watch it. The word ‘should’ there really defines my relationship with Supernatural these days. It’s not a show that I actually really want to watch any more, it’s one that I feel an obligation to stick with.

That obligation has a few sources. Foremost is that I still love the characters. They are beautifully written and acted , nothing is unexpected, every reaction, over-reaction and under-reaction makes perfect sense in the context that these characters have lived. Be it laughing in the face of horror, or being scared in the face of sentiment, everything the Winchesters and their extended family do is ‘right’.

The other source of the obligation is longevity. I was late joining the Supernatural party, but there’s nothing like a late convert. The show is still good! It’s creative, wildly original in content but completely self aware. It blends standalone episodes and charismatic guest stars seamlessly with intricately crafted arc storylines and recurring characters. The whole thing has built up over seven years into a giant knot of interweaved threads without a single lose end left hanging. I can think of no other series that’s been so successful in that regard.

But, and it’s a really big but. It’s depressing. It’s devastating to see characters that you understand and love endlessly brought down. How’s this for a ‘tempting fate’ quote in my season 6 review:

What I haven’t enjoyed this season so much is the way the boys always end up pretty much alone. With the exception of Bobby, they lose absolutely everyone that gets close to them. It’s getting to be quite ridiculous that absolutely no one except the seemingly invulnerable Bobby survives befriending (or be-villaining for that matter) the Winchesters

So of course this season first they kill Castiel off. Then they kill Bobby off. Then they even kill off Bobby’s ghost. In between that they introduce old friends, old comrades, even a daughter (all be it one created by monsters) and not a one of them outlives their first episode. They even have to give up the car!

The stories are all compelling, they’re all well written, well acted and entirely justified in the context of the world threatening badness that surrounds the Winchesters. But good grief is it ever depressing. The boys end up alcoholic, sleep deprived, mentally unstable and disconnected from any kind of happiness; doomed to forever be saving the world yet unthanked and unrewarded. It’s relentless. While there’s still plenty of incidental laughs to be had from pop culture references, inappropriate smutty remarks and jet black humour, the overall tone rather drags you down into the depths of despair.

The show is still great, but it’s become harder and harder to actually watch. So I’ll reiterate my plea. So my hope for season seven eight – lighten up on the guys, just let them hunt some monsters and catch some good luck for a change.

The 2010-2011 Season

As always my definitions of what counts for a season are a bit variable, pretty much anything that aired somewhere between the beginning of September 2010 and the end of August 2011 are fair game for this.

Blue Bloods: S1
Bones: S6
Brothers & Sisters: S5
Castle: S3
Criminal Minds: S6
CSI: S11
Doctor Who 2011
Downton Abbey: S1
Friday Night Lights: S5
Fringe: S3
Game of Thrones – S1
Glee: S2
The Good Wife: S2
Grey’s Anatomy: S7
House: S7
Leverage: S3
Lie to Me: S3
Mad Men: S4
Merlin: S3
NCIS: Los Angeles – S2
Sons of Anarchy: S3
Stargate Universe: S2
Supernatural: S6
Terriers: S1
The Big C: S1
The Walking Dead: S1

There’s a few bits and bobs that don’t make the list – Outcasts (meh), Mad Dogs (ok), Warehouse 13 (fun but poor), Bedlam (awful), Falling Skies (still haven’t got round to finishing) more documentaries than I might expect (I remember being impressed by a lot of them but the only one I really remember is the superb Inside Nature’s Giants).

Between everything listed above and the pilots I reviewed that’s getting on for 600 episodes of television, probably about 500 hours, which given the national average is somewhere between 20 and 30 hours a week, actually is still way below ‘average’. Of course most normal people don’t watch television in the ridiculous concentrated way that I do, so I guess I shouldn’t jump up and down and declare myself well adjusted just yet.

All in all, I’ve not been massively impressed with this year. Although I found it hard to narrow down most of the categories below there were relatively few things that I’d label as outstanding. I don’t know whether this is because I’m getting increasingly hard to please in my old age or because television writers and networks are getting more willing to settle for mediocre in the tough financial times. Either way, given that several of the shows I mention below have come to an end or are looking at likely final seasons, it doesn’t bode particularly well.

Best Shows
These are the shows that are superb – with amazing writing, beautiful direction, compelling acting and thought provoking stories. The ones that the Emmy’s and Golden Globes *should* be nominating.

  • Friday Night Lights – I don’t think season 5 was the best season of the show, I never fell in love with the Lions as much as I did the original Panthers, but even with that in mind it was still one of the absolute highlights of the year and I will miss it.
    Mad Men – this show can appear very slow and dull to a casual viewer, but if you invest in it and pay attention there is such incredible depth that with a little bit of analysis and discussion you have a real sense of satisfaction fitting everything together.
  • Fringe – I rewatched a few episodes of the first season recently and who knew that the ok but unspectacular X-Files wannabe would turn out to be such a fascinating and creative story about alternate worlds literally colliding.
  • The Big C – A comedy about terminal illness, really? But it manages to combine being hilariously funny with being beautifully moving without becoming cloying or preachy. It’s one of the most uplifting things I’ve seen in a long time.
  • Stargate Universe – as far as I’m concerned season 2 was as near to my idea of perfect science fiction as is likely to be seen for a long time. It had interesting stories and ideas, but more importantly was all done with a fascinating group of characters and a lot of humour.

Favourite Shows
These are the shows that I adore. They’re the ones that I desperately wait for new episodes of, the ones that I follow on blogs, the shows that make me smile, cry, and forget that the characters aren’t actually real. Comparing these to Mad Men is like comparing apples and oil rigs, but they still deserve recognition.

  • Glee – this is far and away my favourite show of the year. It has massive consistency problems when it comes to writing and storylines, but every single episode makes me laugh, and simply hearing one of the songs on my ipod can make me forget all about my troubles and grin like a fool.
  • Grey’s Anatomy – with the exception of a questionable couple of storylines towards the end of the season Grey’s has been right back on the sort of form that got me addicted to the early seasons of the show. Even my frustrations with what I describe as poor writing choices are only because I’m so unhealthily emotionally tied to these characters.
  • Doctor Who – I’m not sure whether I’m referring to the previous season that ended at Christmas or the one that’s currently half way through (which is likely why I’m missing the season review), but it really doesn’t matter because each has been superb, somehow managing to be hugely entertaining Saturday evening family viewing, but also superb quality drama with delicate and beautiful writing. This one really could have gone in either category.
  • Terriers – This may be a partial pity vote, if it hadn’t been cancelled would I have been so passionate about it? Don’t know and never will, so it’s on this list because I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Downton Abbey – I’d been looking forward to the remake of Upstairs Downstairs and probably to the BBC’s consternation, this ITV almost-rip-off blew it out of the water. A great cast, hilarious writing and a lovely Sunday evening vibe to the whole thing made this a lovely piece of television to watch with friends and family.

Male actors

  • Tim Roth, (Cal Lightman, Lie to Me) –Roth’s performance was so entertaining and unpredictable that it took me three seasons to notice that the rest of the show around him was actually not very good at all.
  • Jared Padelecki (Sam Winchester, Supernatural) – I’m a Dean girl through and through, but even I have to acknowledge this season that Sam got the better material and Padelecki acted his way through Sam’s splintering personalities impressively.
  • Matt Smith (The Doctor, Doctor Who) – who knew that I’d start forgetting David Tennant. The energy and charm of Smith’s doctor is just infectious.
  • John Noble (Walter Bishop, Fringe) – Noble made it on to my list last for playing the wonderfully bonkers character of Walter – sometimes brilliant scientist, sometimes emotionally unstable child. Given that in addition to that performance he adds on the character of Walternate, an alternate universe version where he’s a terrifying politician, there was no way he wouldn’t make the list this year too.
  • Kyle Chandler (Coach Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights) – poor coach had a miserable couple of years struggling with having to chose between the lesser of two evils over and over, nothing ever seemed to quite go his way. Chandler’s understated performances just broke my heart.

Female actors
I still find myself struggling to find 5 decent nominees for this category, I hope that it’s just a coincidence of the shows I watch, but I fear that it’s representative and that’s very troubling.

  • Laura Linney (Cathy Jamison, The Big C) – I imagine this is the kind of role that actors dream of. Linney is simply phenomenal.
  • Julianna Marguiles (Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife) – I think this season of The Good Wife lost its way a little, but that doesn’t change that this continues to be a wonderfully rounded character and a lovely performance.
  • Anna Torv (Olivia Dunham, Fringe) – I’ve found her character a bit bland in previous seasons, but this season thanks to playing multiple different characters, Torv proved that it’s the character that’s bland, not the performance. The subtle differences with her alternate universe version were fascinating, and as for her performance of being possessed by Leonard Nimmoy…
  • Connie Britton (Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights) – like her husband, nothing ever seems to go Tami’s way, every piece of good news is balanced with a difficult decision. She’s got more stoic and resigned to this as the years have gone by, but watching her wrestle with the potential break up of her family at the end of the season felt like the world was ending.
  • Katey Segal (Gemma Teller-Morrow, Sons of Anarchy) – I very nearly put her into the group category alongside Maggie Siff’s Tara because these two women at the heart of the male oriented motorcycle club are incredible. But Segal’s performance is the more nuanced one, the balance between confidence and insecurity, cold blooded scariness and utter devotion to her family.

In cases like Tom Sellek there’s one actor holding together an otherwise mediocre group, in cases like Laura Linney, she’s clearly carrying the weight of the series and standing out from an already very good supporting team. But for these guys and gals it’s the pairings and groupings that are the standout, if I commented on one of them, I’d have to comment on them all or I’d have the guilt.

  • Grey’s Anatomy – this show has always been the gold standard of ensemble acting and character development and this season has been no different. Everyone has interesting relationships that grow and mature (if you overlook some terrible backwards steps) and all are equally capable whether dealing with melodramatic emotions, intense medical scenes or hilarious comedy.
  • NCIS LA – the season has been an exploration of what it means to be partners and each of the pairings has delivered fascinating and entertaining performances, ably supported by the centre point of Hetty, NCIS could learn a lot from its offspring.
  • Glee – although Chris Colfer is clearly my (and the writers) favourite this is a spectacularly talented bunch of kids. The movie proves that they can perform just as well live in front of thousands of people, while the tv series shows that they can also deliver even the most ridiculous of storylines compellingly. All this on a ridiculously intensive schedule, imagine what they could do with decent material and a bit of sleep.
  • Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James (Terriers) – My new favourite partnership sadly gone too soon, but I loved the easy camaraderie and open friendship of two people who came from entirely different backgrounds and ended up exactly the same.
  • Stargate Universe – it took a while, but eventually I came to love these characters and performances, right from the flamboyant ones at the front, through to the ‘supporting’ array of scientists and soldiers who could steal an entire scene with a throw away reference to Star Wars or a perfectly timed eye-roll. A dysfunctional family, just like lies at the heart of every great science fiction show.

Notable absences
Not listing Supernatural as one of my favourite shows of the year actually hurt, but it came down to a choice between it and Terriers and Supernatural was edged out just because my abiding memory of the season is one of sadness. It all just got a bit much this season for the show to be as enjoyable as before, but while it was all done really well it doesn’t quite make it into the other category of top shows because it wasn’t quite even enough to stand alongside the other shows.

Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead – being a genre fan I also find it sad that I can’t comment on these more favourably, but just being about a different subject doesn’t give you a free pass, you still need to be good. Game of Thrones was good, it only narrowly missed out in the favourite category, but The Walking Dead just wasn’t good enough, yes it’s great to see zombies on television but it still needed to just be better – better writing, better characters, better acting – just better. My feelings on BBC’s Outcasts meanwhile were so confused that apparently I never even got round to writing a review of it… it tried hard, but it really wasn’t very good.

British TV – there are a few British series that I watched all the way through this year, and a few that were so short they didn’t make it to proper reviews, but generally I find that I really have to force myself to watch them. Partly it’s self-fulfilling, I watch mostly US stuff, so I mostly read US blogs etc and therefore mostly find out about US stuff. I often find out about British stuff a couple of episodes in and then never get round to catching up. iPlayer et al help, but it’s one of the areas that I’d like to watch more of this year.

Supernatural: Season 6

Supernatural had a lot to prove this season. Eric Kripke planned out a five year storyline for the show and delivered it more successfully than I think anyone could hope for. Off the back of that success he passed on the show runner duties and left his successors trying to work out what you do after you’ve fought the apocalypse and won. Oh, and one of your two lead characters is dead. Good luck with that.

The way the writers seem to have gone is to pull out elements of previous seasons and turn them on their heads a bit. So there’s a strong element of monster-of-the-week to many of the stories, but sometimes the boys are actually having to protect those monsters from even worse monsters. The ‘alpha’ monsters are also a way to up the drama levels, after all taking down a standard vampire or werewolf wouldn’t be much of a challenge for the team that took out Lucifer.

There was also a nice turnaround on the plot of season 1 as the brothers gradually learn how to work together again after being separated, except this time it’s Dean who’s been living a ‘normal’ life and is more aware of the impact of their actions while it’s Sam who is committed to the fight and sometimes gets carried away. Although it’s great to see the characters when they’re happy and working well together, it’s of course far more interesting to see them challenged and struggling to suss out their relationship again.

What I haven’t enjoyed this season so much is the way the boys always end up pretty much alone. With the exception of Bobby, they lose absolutely everyone that gets close to them. It’s getting to be quite ridiculous that absolutely no one except the seemingly invulnerable Bobby survives befriending (or be-villaining for that matter) the Winchesters. This season the writers seemed to go out of their way to bring back characters that were already dead, just so they could be killed off all over again. It’s not only frustrating because the supporting characters are generally pretty good, but by continually isolating the central characters we miss out on some really interesting and entertaining relationships, which show the boys from different perspectives.

The thing with Supernatural is that it covers a lot of ground, from the extremes of ridiculous comedy to the depths of heartbreaking despair. It’s one of the things that I’ve always admired about the show. However it can also be slightly exhausting, after their five year arc built up to the climax of the apocalypse it might have been nice to just relax a bit, give the guys a break and have something… anything… work out for them. It’s a credit to the writers and actors that they’ve crafted characters that I care so much about that I ‘d rather watch the stand-alone throw-away episodes than the ones where masses of plot and development happen.

This is one of the reasons it’s taken me a long time to write this review. I wanted to write a good review, because fundamentally the season was really very good, doing all the things that I’ve always loved about Supernatural – excellent acting, entertaining writing, beautifully developed characters and complex but engaging plots. However rather than leaving me feeling satisfied, it left me feeling sort of weary. So my hope for season seven – lighten up on the guys, just let them hunt some monsters and catch some good luck for a change.