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As the seventh season of Dexter unfolds on Showtime, with an eighth and final season scheduled for late 2013, it seems like as good a time as any to look back at each season of the series. Since this is the internet, and since rank-order is the best way I know to organize my opinions about most things, I present below my tour through Dexter’s first six seasons. Of course this is entirely my opinion, and I encourage vocal disagreement. It’s hard not to want to just start talking about the quality of season seven and where it might end up ranking in this list… but let’s try our best not to.

Fair warning: There will be some spoilers. But, then again, if you’re reading a comprehensive list like this, you should have watched them all by now…

Like Prop Joe in his last moments, I found myself at a loss for words as the static shot of the Baltimore city skyline faded into black at the end of “—30—”, the series finale of The Wire. (Or as I prefer to call it, in the parlance of Isaiah Whitlock Jr.‘s hilarious meta turn in Cedar Rapids, “The HBO program The Wire.”) I won’t expound on my wordlessness too much here, as scores of critics have said what I’d say. Just this year, after a long, bracketed competition, the show was declared yet again the best TV drama ever made, ousting its narrative-forming progenitor The Sopranos for the spot. Anyone who knows anything about TV in the last decade knows the program’s high status. Even if it isn’t the best TV show ever, and I’d like to think it is, it’s at least one of the greatest TV shows ever.

Love it or hate it, American Horror Story has our attention. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s latest twisted television show to air on FX has drawn in solid ratings, mostly positive reviews, and even a national magazine cover story. It’s the season’s hottest show, sexiest show, darkest show, best show, or worst show, but it’s making an appearance on lists everywhere (citations certainly helped by its pre-Halloween arrival). The only thing talked about more than the show are the ever-growing number of questions surrounding its shocking plot lines. The pilot alone packed enough twists to last a whole season (maybe even a series), but Murphy and Falchuk just keep piling them on every week.

Read on, but prepare for quite a few SPOILERS.

Congratulations, newly-fledged TV executive vice-president of programming! You’ve got the corner office, an assistant to take your calls from eager supplicants whilst you lunch with the hottest new faces in town, hot wannabes now approaching you at parties.

And sometimes, when you’re left alone with your Firefly promotional stress grips, you sit and dream of being the visionary who greenlights the next Simpsons—or maybe Mad Men—depending on how long it took you to get here. At any rate, you envisage the fond mentions from grateful auteurs in retrospectives years later, the Lifetime Achievement honours.

The thing is, Padawan, to achieve this pinnacle one must ever be alert to the Dark Side of your newfound power. Trend-spotting holds full as many pitfalls as it does rewards. Come with us now [rattles chains, Marley-style] as we take a cautionary look back at the 10 most spectacular mistakes of TV executives past…

Highpoint Number 1: Game of Thrones and the Shows of April

On 31 March 2011, if asked to grade the 2010-2011 television season, I would have been hard-pressed to give it much above a C.  Perhaps a C+ at best. The season hitherto had not been without some highpoints, many enumerated in previous installments in this countdown. But all in all, it had been a fairly undistinguished season. Most of the new shows were not successful and several had been out and out disappointments. A couple had been outstanding newcomers, like The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, and Raising Hope, while one of the very best new shows, Terrierson F/X, had been a ratings bomb of the first order. All things considered, on the eve of April’s Fools Day, the 2010-2011 season was more bust than boom.

Then came April. Several shows returned to start their new seasons (Treme and Doctor Who), which helped improve things a bit. Above all, though, it was a string of outstanding new series that elevated the television landscape: HBO’s Game of Thrones, Starz’s The Borgias, AMC’s The Killing, and HBO’s miniseries Mildred Pierce. As a group these shows raised the season’s grade up to at least a B+. Rarely have so many outstanding series debuted so late in a television season.

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