TOP 3 SHOWS
1. "Reaper" (The CW)
It’s the male version of “Buffy,” it’s like “Ghostbusters” if they were fighting demons, it’s all of the things it’s been compared to…and more. First and foremost, though, it’s Ray Wise as The Devil; the guy’s so good that you’d tune in every week just to see him. It looked at first like the series was settling into a formulaic rut, with Sam (Bret Harrison), Sock (Tyler Labine) and Ben (Rick Gonzales) getting assigned a demon to capture, being handed a vessel to capture said demon, and getting their task finished in time for the closing credits. In recent weeks, however, there’s been more exploration into exactly how Sam’s soul was sold to the Devil without his consent, the relationship between Sam and the love of his life (Andi, played by Missy Peregrym), and just how much interaction the Devil’s been doing with the planet’s populace. Does he have a daughter? Maybe, maybe not. “Reaper” is definitely one of the most creative and enjoyable shows on television, providing more laughs in each 60-minute episode than a lot of sitcoms. Long may it reign.
2. "Jericho" (CBS)
For a show which seemed decidedly iffy at several points during the first half of its first season, “Jericho” staged a comeback of unanticipated proportions when it finally returned from its network-forced hiatus. The effect of splitting the season into halves bombed in a big way with viewers, many of whom had just started to consider the show when it was yanked off the air, but when it came back, those who came back with it were greeted with a series which quickly realized that it was going to have to be packed with action and drama every week if it was ever going to have a chance in Hell at a second season. Only the fight of the fans made Season 2 a reality, but if there’s one good thing that could possibly emerge from this writer’s strike, it’s that a nation starved for new programming could well latch onto the show at long last. Dare we hope for a Season 3?
3. "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS)
What can I tell you? The show rules. I’ve given a lot of love for the DVD sets of the first two seasons, and Season 3 has already started off with a bang, thanks to a guest stint from Enrique Iglesias as Robin’s new beau, new dates for Ted who’ve been played by Mandy Moore and Danica McKellar, and finally seeing the clock at SlapBetCountdown.com reach zero. What once was a series where the sole novelty was catching up with people you hadn’t seen in awhile – Alyson Hannigan from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Jason Segel from “Freaks and Geeks,” Neil Patrick Harris from “Doogie Howser, M.D.” – has become one of most solid comedic ensembles on television today.
WORST NEW REALITY SHOW ON THE NETWORK
"Armed and Famous" (CBS)
If this series, which takes has-beens like Erik Estrada and La Toya Jackson and makes them train to be police officers in Muncie, Indiana, isn’t the nadir of how dumb a celebrity-themed reality series can be, we never, ever want to find out what is.
WORST NEW REALITY SHOW ON A CABLE NETWORK
"Sons of Hollywood" (A&E)
It was a tight race between this, “The Two Coreys,” and virtually every reality show that’s premiered on MTV and VH-1 in the last twelve months, but we finally had to go with the craptacular exploits of Randy Spelling (son of the late Aaron Spelling), Sean Stewart (son of Rod Stewart), and agent David Weintraub. Maybe we’re just biased against the series because Randy and Sean refused to do even an E-mail interview with us because they didn’t like the tone of our questions, but we’re pretty sure the show was legitimately awful. How sympathetic can you possibly be to a bunch of rich punks who whine about how awful their lives are while they’re living in the lap of luxury that their parents provided while blowing cash left and right? Not very.
MOST DEPRESSING SITCOM CANCELLATION OF 2007
"Knights of Prosperity" (ABC)
It says something about how much faith your network has in you when you’re the funniest sitcom of the Fall 2006 season but aren’t actually allowed on the air until the opening weeks of 2007. Despite a hilarious ensemble cast and a great concept, the show’s reputation at ABC never recovered from the loss of its original title, “Let’s Rob Mick Jagger.” When the Rolling Stones frontman decided that he wasn’t as hot on being involved in the show as he’d originally thought (despite a hilarious appearance in the pilot), a new and much less interesting title was slapped on the series, which resulted in much less in the way of ratings success than one might’ve hoped. It wasn’t, however, for lack of laughs.
MOST DEPRESSING DRAMA CANCELLATION OF 2007
"Drive" (FOX) / "Raines"(NBC)
Fox is so notorious for yanking the rug out from underneath new series before they have a chance to build a following that all you can really do is sigh and move on with your life. Still, we were really rooting for “Drive” to succeed, if only because Nathan Fillion kicks ass. And since Jeff Goldbum is one of those guys who can make just about anything worth watching, we also had our fingers crossed for “Raines,” a show about a cop who imagines that he’s talking with murder victims in order to solve their murders. Unfortunately, NBC could never figure out a way to promote the show’s unique concept without making it look like a rip-off of “Medium” and “Ghost Whisperer,” and it never grabbed an audience.
MOST DISAPPOINTING SERIES OF FALL 2007
"Bionic Woman" (NBC)
It seemed like the biggest “gimme” of the fall season: one of the guys behind “Battlestar Galactica” tries to make lightning strike twice by going after another slightly cheesy but fondly remembered series from the ‘70s. So how did it go so wrong? The biggest issue, of course, was the well-documented fluctuations of the show’s creative team, which kept the show from ever finding a consistent groove. It was more than that, though. Michelle Ryan’s plenty hot, but she doesn’t have the action-hero vibe that the title character needs…and, worse, Katee Sackhoff, who plays Ryan’s bionic adversary, does have that vibe, which left viewers wanting to root for the wrong side! Then there’s Jaime Sommers’ sister, who quickly turned from a character into a demographic-satisfying script device. Oh, right, and let’s not forget that, as a secret agent, Jaime does so many dumb things that even Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel would scream at the TV. Bottom line: “Bionic Woman” should’ve been put out of its misery weeks ago…and if it wasn’t for the writer’s strike (and the fact that it’s a NBC-Universal show), it probably would have been.
BIGGEST WASTE OF A PERFECTLY GOOD DRAMA BY A BROADCAST NETWORK
"Masters of Science Fiction" (ABC)
Here’s a story that’ll make you want to go punch someone at ABC in the face. The network had a damned fine science-fiction anthology series which featured appearances by Malcolm McDowell, Anne Heche, Sam Waterston, Judy Davis, Terry O’Quinn, Elizabeth Rohm, Brian Dennehy, and John Hurt, had episodes directed by Mark Rydell (”On Golden Pond”), Michael Tolkin (”The Player”), and Jonathan Frakes (”Star Trek: First Contact”), and featured adaptations of stories by Robert Heinlein, Howard Fast, and Harlan Ellison. So what did they do with it? Well, first, they sat on it for several months. Then, the network’s President of Entertainment dismissed it as “a low-cost initiative that we tried,” enigmatically calling it “very unseen” and “a little bit problematic,” even though the advance screeners for the series showed a good-looking, well-written, and well-acted anthology series. But, you know, the network’s always right, so they buried the show instant-death timeslot of Saturday nights at 10 PM, where virtually no-one saw it. Damn, ABC, what did “Masters of Science Fiction” ever do to you?
BIGGEST WASTE OF A PERFECTLY GOOD SITCOM BY A BROADCAST NETWORK
"The Loop" (FOX)
Given that Bret Harrison leapt from this show right into “Reaper,” hindsight keeps me from being as angry about it now as I was at the time, but many fans of the show – including Harrison himself – really have no idea what the hell Fox’s intentions were with “The Loop” and its second season. After a relatively successful first season, the network declined to put “The Loop” on the Fall 2006 schedule, instead announcing that they’d be doing a 13-episode second season in the spring. In November 2006, they announced that the 13-episode order had been cut to 10, then, when the spring schedule arrived, “The Loop” wasn’t even on it. New reports indicated that the show would be airing in early summer, but, in February, it was announced that Harrison had signed on as the lead in the pilot for “Reaper,” and, well, it’s never a good sign for a show’s future when its star is already planning for his next gig, so at least it wasn’t a real shock when Fox announced the Fall 2007 schedule and “The Loop” wasn’t on it. By the time the show finally made it on the air in June of this year, you could hardly hear the dialogue for the sound of the network yelling, “Dead show walking!”
THE "NICE SAVE" AWARD
Cartoon Network, for rescuing “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace” from oblivion and adding it to their Adult Swim lineup.
The elaborate parody of low-budget British sci-fi series of the ‘70s was the creation of Matthew Holness (who plays the esteemed Mr. Marenghi) and Richard Ayoade, and the night after the show made its premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel, I declared, “I laughed harder than I’ve laughed at any TV show since ‘Arrested Development’ went off the air.” Unfortunately, the majority of the Sci-Fi Channel audience just stared blankly at the show, and it was quickly yanked; thank God, then, for Adult Swim, who’ve started opening their horizons and expanded into the occasional life-action series. (All hail “Saul of the Mole Men”!) Unfortunately, only six episodes of “Darkplace” were ever made, and they can only re-run them so many times; still, maybe this’ll finally inspire a U.S. release of the series on DVD.
"I Love New York" (VH-1)
We didn’t even need two seasons of “Flavor of Love.” Why in the hell would we need a series focusing on a woman who wasn’t even good enough to win that show? Answer: we don’t. The fact that it’s been renewed for a second season can therefore only be yet another sign of the impending apocalypse.
LEAST APPETIZING / MOST ADDICTIVE REALITY SHOW
"Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern" (The Travel Channel)
Here’s proof positive that the definition of “tasty” is very, very relative. Each episode of “Bizarre Foods” finds your host traveling somewhere else in the world to embark on a culinary expedition which invariably inspires either nervous laughter or outright nausea in the viewer…and, yet, you can’t look away. (Mind you, my wife did have to turn her head when Zimmern followed the lead of his host in Argentina and suck the brain out of a roasted guinea pig skull.) You might claim to have an iron stomach, but if your personal checklist of things you’ve eaten doesn’t include fermented fish heads, black-bone chicken testicles, grasshopper pizza, or my personal favorite, a still-beating frog’s heart, then compared to Andrew Zimmern, you’re just a rank amateur.
LEAST SURPRISING FALL 2007 CANCELLATION
"Viva Laughlin" (CBS)
I don’t think even the handful of people who liked this show had any faith that it was going to last very long. Admittedly, the power of Hugh Jackman is not to be trifled with, but we keep returning to the question we posed when we first saw the pilot: did we learn nothing from “Cop Rock”? Well, actually, yeah, we did: while that show languished on ABC for eleven episodes, CBS gave up the ghost with “Viva Laughlin” after only two.