What a fine, fine year for geek TV. While geek movies have been breaking new heights for a while, TV has not yet made it to its zenith. This year, though, has made some very strong strides in the right direction. With improvement to existing shows (some suggested in this article) and some mind-boggling things that we know are on the way, like the Netflix/Marvel deal, we’re not far off from Geek TV Heaven!
Most of these lists are structured as “BEST” and “WORST”. I watch so much TV, I don’t waste my time on terrible shows, so this list has no “WORST”. It only has the “BEST” and the “REST” aka “NEEDS IMPROVEMENT”. Like the other lists on this site, these are only shows that I watch personally, so DR. WHO fans, you’re out of luck. Here’s the “BEST” and the “REST” in no particular order. (CAUTION, SPOILERS)[divider]
BEST – ARROW (THE CW) – I am happy to lead off this list with ARROW. I will be honest with you. Before this show premiered, I said that there was no way I would watch it. Simply, the initial promos just didn’t catch me. After some prompting from friends, I caved. The first season was good, but you could tell it was still finding its legs. This year, Season 2, is knocking it out of the park at every turn. Stephen Amell is fantastic as Oliver Queen. He’s a compelling leading man, I believe he does a lot of his own stunts, and I would welcome him into the DC Cinematic Universe (hell, he’s already a more effective super-archer than Hawkeye). The women of ARROW are all great in their own rights (Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, Katie Cassidy, and even Summer Glau), and as seems to be a requirement of shows on The CW, are all smokin’ hot. Well, everyone on the show is good-looking and at a cocktail party or a nightclub EVERY WEEK! The show has found a wonderful balance between bad guy of the week and a running narrative of Oliver’s time stranded on the island. The show also has no shortage of comic book name drops, heroes, and villains: Deathstroke, The Huntress, S.T.A.R. LABS, Deadshot, and tons more. The most recent episodes featuring the debut of Barry Allen (yup, that Barry Allen) were just further signs that show knows what it is, knows what it’s doing, and knows how to please both comic fans and non-fans alike. That leads to…
REST – MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC) I watch this show every week. Every week I am excited to see what happens. Why is it a “REST” on this list? Simple: BECAUSE NOTHING EVER HAPPENS THAT MATTERS. In the 10 episodes that have been on in 2013, only TWO (“Pilot” and “The Bridge”) have had something substantial occur. Every other week, I feel like I’m watching some weekly action procedural with TV-caliber James Bond-y characters. There’s simply not enough MARVEL injected into this show to keep fans happy. Clark Gregg is the man and I’d be thrilled if they gave him something to do each week besides wonder how it is he’s still alive after the events of THE AVENGERS. The rest of the cast seems like they are all very excited to be there, but other than an episode or two of focus on each of them with some type of personal background, NOTHING MATTERS.
Losing 50% of the pilot’s audience by the time we get to episode #10 shows something very clearly: something is missing on this show. I TOTALLY understand that we are not going to get Iron Man or the Hulk on the show every week, that’s just not feasible. However, random barely super powered original character bad guy of the week isn’t going to work either. I hate to make an ARROW comparison here because I understand they are very different shows and different companies, but S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to start bringing in B or C-Level heroes and villains NOW! (see what I did there?) Remember in episode #3 there was a guy who would eventually turn into Gravitron? That’s been the extent of our Marvel proprietary villains. Time to ratchet it up, guys. I WANT TO WATCH THIS SHOW and I WANT TO LOVE IT. Right now, only half of that is true.
BEST – SHERLOCK (BBC AMERICA) SHERLOCK kicks so much ass I’m not going to waste space on a giant write-up. BENEDICT CUMERBATCH. MARTIN FREEMAN. SHERLOCK HOLMES in 90 minute blocks. Six of them so far. New ones on in January. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO. NOW.
BEST – SOUTH PARK (Comedy Central) South Park recently completed its 17th season. That’s a worthy feat by itself. Though more recent seasons have been a little more uneven than earlier years, it makes the list for this year’s epic Game of Thrones/XBOX ONE/Playstation 4/Black Friday 3-parter “Black Friday”/”A Song of Ass and Fire” / “Titties and Dragons”. This 3-parter manages to expertly feature the new console wars, how insane Black Friday shopping is, and does a fine job parodying Game of Thrones, The Red Wedding, and George R.R. Martin’s obsession with wieners – don’t ask.
BEST – GAME OF THRONES (HBO) This year, Game of Thrones once again took non-book readers to another place… a place where your favorite TV characters can die horrible deaths when you least expect it and for that, I salute them.
REST – FALLING SKIES (TNT) Every summer, I watch FALLING SKIES, like AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. hoping for something to pick up. The show has some giant action set-piece moments and Doug Jones is a welcome addition to show as the alien Cochese, but the show has been on for three 10-episode seasons so far and not a ton has been done to advance the overall goal of the show. Noah Wyle and crew were relocated at end of the last season, but I’m not sure what dumping our characters on another continent is going to do except for give them new environments to do the same stuff we’ve watched for three seasons. I’m sticking with you, 2nd Massachusetts, don’t let me down.
BEST – WALKING DEAD (AMC) From surviving an alien invasion to surviving the zombie apocalypse, I had to think a bit about whether I wanted WALKING DEAD to be a “BEST” or the “REST”. The show has been dogged with problem after problem in terms of personnel and uneven storytelling, both despite record-breaking ratings season after season. 2013 featured the back half of season three and the front half of season four. The back of season three would have put this on the “REST” for me. It featured a horrible non-resolution to Governor/Woodbury storyline and the totally wasted deaths of Milton, who would have made a great long-term addition to the show, and Andrea, who never realized her character’s comic book potential.
Season four righted the ship a bit in my opinion and I enjoyed the style of show more than I have in some time. I thought the standalone Governor episodes were a nice touch and the trouble at the prison with illness and the action both in the supply runs and the mid-season prison raid were among the best the show has ever done. I am glad the WALKING DEAD has righted a lot of its past season’s wrongs and there is still some room to go, but we still owe a lot to THE WALKING DEAD and what it continues to do for genre TV. I know that Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple, and the show’s creating team have taken a liking to how far they have deviated from the comic’s original storylines, but there’s a lot of great source material there that is worth adapting. I hope we get to see some of it on the small screen.
BEST – TOY HUNTER (TRAVEL) I love watching TOY HUNTER every week. I know a lot of it is staged, like many “American Pickers”-style shows, but it just awesome to see how much so much of the stuff I played with as a kid is worth in today’s collector market. Jordan Hembrough is a great personality and his celebrity clients (like Gene Simmons) and real-life former toy makers all make this show worth watching. Plus, TOY HUNTER inspired me to dig out my old Milton Bradley HERO QUEST board game and score more than $200 for it on ebay. Thanks TOY HUNTER!
REST – COMIC BOOK MEN (AMC) Most people would say the Kevin Smith-View Askewniverse thing is over. Jay and Silent Bob are passé. They may be right, but I enjoy watching Walt Flanagan and posse hang out at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash buying and selling collectible things. The problem? The show is too much staged crap. I feel like I’m watching some random bad reality show rather than a “PICKERS”-style show with comics. The show needs to dial back the stupid staged adventures like buying stuff out of storage lockers and Lou Ferrigno training Bryan Johnson and focus more on genre or comic related stuff. The episodes with Ming putting together the U.S.S. Flagg and even the guys putting together their own comic were good stuff. AMC has buried this one on Sunday nights at midnight on the East Coast, so I’m sure this is a DVR show for most. This one is a “REST” but just barely. YOU TELL ‘EM, STEVE DAVE!
BEST – SLEEPY HOLLOW (FOX) Much like the creators of this show, I cannot believe I am putting this on here. SLEEPY HOLLOW is simply preposterous. Created by our webmaster’s favorite writing team of Orci and Kurtzman, Ichabod Crane wakes up after a few hundred years from a magically induced coma to fight the Headless Horsemen and the forces of evil with the help of police department of modern-day Sleepy Hollow, NY? WHAT?!?!?!? Nuts, I know, but I’ll be damned, it’s a great show! Tom Mison is the breakout star of the year as Ichabod Crane (LEFTENANT!) and with co-star Nicole Beharie as Abby Mills, they could be an all-time great genre TV duo. Much like ARROW, they have found a nice mix of weekly procedural elements and ongoing storyline that keep me engaged and excited to find out what happens next. It’s worth checking out if you’re looking for something fun and completely unexpected.
BEST – STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS (Cartoon Network) Farewell, CLONE WARS. We hardly knew ye’! After 108 episodes, we bid farewell to this excellent animated series. Over the course of five seasons (and some HORRIBLE episodes here and there), we are left with a fine piece of Star Wars canon that gave us back Darth Maul and introduced countless other characters into the Star Wars universe. I like to believe, however, that Dave Filoni and the team that worked on the show demonstrated to the world one thing clear as day: STAR WARS in hands other than those of George Lucas can still be awesome (and maybe even a little more awesome). We didn’t get a conclusion as the Disney/Star Wars merger ended this one prematurely, so we are due for the final season (or what’s left of it) at some point in 2014. At least we have STAR WARS REBELS to look forward to!
REST –AVENGERS ASSEMBLE / ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN (DISNEY XD) Oh, Marvel. AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES was such a great show. From what I’ve heard, SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN was great too. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE is designed, apparently to bring the characters and their designs, but not necessarily their continuity, in line with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN deals with a high school aged Spider-Man encountering most of his villains for the first time, become a member of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s high-school hero division (with Luke Cage, Nova, Iron Fist, and White Tiger) backed by undercover Principal Coulson and an order-barking Nick Fury. Sound bad? Well, they kind of are. The new Avengers cartoon is absolutely soulless. Every episode is as hollow as the one before it. I like ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN a lot more, but it’s still very childish in a lot of ways. That seems to be Marvel’s aim now: these shows are for kids and kids only. Adults won’t get a lot out of Marvel’s newest animated efforts and I HIGHLY doubt they will change that.
WORST – HULK AGENTS OF SMASH (Disney XD) You have got to be shitting me, Marvel. Of all of the characters in your stable, THIS IS YOUR IDEA FOR YOUR THIRD ANIMATED SERIES running right now? Hulk and a band of Hulk variations? I want to smash this show.