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Thursday, Aug 11, 2011
This year Justified went from being a very good show to being a great one, while two of TV's most promising new series, Terriers and The Chicago Code, were gone too soon.

High Point Number 3: Justified Comes of Age


Justified, which debuted in 2010, was a good show straight out of the gate, with Timothy Olyphant as US Marshal Raylan Givens instantly one of the most appealing lead characters on TV, and Wayne Goggins as Appalachian petty criminal Boyd Crowder one of the most compelling and complex supporting characters. But as so often happens with shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Buffy, The X-Files, Farscape, and many others, it was in the second season that Justified became something extraordinary.


The American television industry has been notorious for focusing on the “haves” in American life rather than the “have nots”. Nearly every show on broadcast television deals with the lives of people who are a bit better off than the majority of Americans. And shows that focus on the lower middle class, like the recently ended Friday Night Lights or the comedy classic Freaks and Geeks, are exceptions to the rule. Justified is likewise an exception, in this case not merely focusing on the lower middle class but also on the poor in one of the most economically blighted areas of the United States, the coal mining region of Eastern Kentucky.


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Tuesday, Aug 9, 2011
The 2010-2011 season meant saying farewell to cult favorites Friday Night Lights and Smallville, as well as the ongoing mania surrounding one of TV's most mediocre shows, Glee.

High Point Number 4: A Fond Farewell to Friday Night Lights and Smallville


It may seem a tad eccentric to pair Friday Night Lights and Smallville. After all, Friday Night Lights was—despite being almost completely snubbed by both viewers and the Emmys during most of its run—one of the great series of the past decade, while Smallville was merely a competent reworking of the Superman story, focusing on his small town roots. But both shows had passionate if small fan bases and the departure of each leaves a gap that is not likely to be filled any time soon.


Friday Night Lights’s story is both tragic and triumphant. When I saw its first season, I was stunned by its quality, the brilliance of its camera work, the outstanding writing, and the astonishingly gifted cast. I told friends that it was one of the best shows on TV, and that it was going to win a huge number of Emmys. I believed Kyle Chandler (who played Coach Eric Taylor on the show) was a lock to win Best Actor and Connie Britton was equally certain to win Best Actress. And at bare minimum Taylor Kitsch, Zach Gilford, and Adrianne Palicki were certain to get Emmy noms for their supporting roles.


When the Emmys came around and the show failed to receive anynominations, I was flabbergasted. Today the results seem absurd. While The Sopranos deserved its Best Drama nomination, the other four—Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes, House M.D., and Boston Legal—were so clearly inferior to Friday Night Lights that its failure to receive a nomination is unfathomable.


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Thursday, Aug 4, 2011
Except for Parenthood, television is bereft of great family dramas. Just where have all the family dramas gone?

High Point Number 5: Parenthood Carries the Banner of Family Drama


Few people have commented on the recent demise of the family drama. It is, of course, a genre with a long and distinguished history, but unfortunately of late there have been far too few examples. I’ll hold off commenting further about the absence of great family drama until today’s lowpoint, but great television family dramas are almost nonexistent, these days.


There are, of course, several fine family comedies, including Modern Family, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and the recently cancelled United States of Tara, as well as perhaps the best new comedy of 2010-2011 season, Raising Hope. There’s also Desperate Housewives, which is several years past its prime (if indeed it ever was ‘prime’). Indeed, the family remains a ripe source of humor in both one hour and half hour increments, especially when the families are as delightfully dysfunctional as in Raising Hope.


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Monday, Aug 1, 2011
There was both good and bad news for the so-called geek and nerd audience, as Fringe survived its move to Friday night, but they were left with no Space Opera with the cancellation of Caprica and Stargate Universe.

High Point Number 6: Fringe Survives the Friday Night Death Slot


For the past three years Fringe has delivered some of the most interesting sci-fi on TV. So fans of the show learned late in 2010 that the series was being moved to Friday night, into what has become known more and more as The Death Slot (a designation so widely used that it has its own Wikipedia article).


For the past two decades Friday night on Fox TV has been the place where shows go to die. The Adventures of Briscoe County Jr., Brimstone, Dark Angel, Firefly, Tru Calling,Wonderfalls, M.A.N.T.I.S., Sliders, and Dollhouse were all cancelled after failing to attract a significant audience on Friday night. More disturbingly, Fox has had a tendency to shift shows it intends to cancel into the slot, including such shows nearing their end as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Malcolm in the Middle, and The Bernie Mac Show.


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Friday, Jul 29, 2011
In Season Four of Gossip Girl, the series featured both one of the healthiest and one the most abusive relationships between a man and a woman on television.

High Point Number 7: Dan and Blair on Gossip Girl


My favorite moment in the entire 2010-2011 television season came in the final seconds of the Gossip Girl episode “While You Were Not Sleeping”. Blair Waldorf has been driving herself to the limits of physical endurance throughout the episode, getting virtually no sleep, skipping meals, undertaking two or three difficult tasks at the same time, all in order to move her life to a new place where she would impress and win back her demon lover Chuck Bass. But unable to keep up the pace, she implodes and gets fired from her internship.


For solace, she goes not to the Upper Eastside where she lives, but to the apartment of her old enemy but new friend Dan Humphrey in Brooklyn, where they talk, order pizza, and watch The Philadelphia Story. The Blair we see here is unlike the Blair we’ve see the previous three years. Instead of being mean, tense, driven, and more than a little bitchy, she is relaxed, smiling, content, and very much at home with herself. The magic moment comes in the very last second: Dan and Blair, both asleep, her head resting on his shoulder.


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