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Sons of Anarchy

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst, Johnny Lewis, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman

(FX)

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Sons of Anarchy
FX


In its second season, Kurt Sutter’s brave and brilliant Sons of Anarchy still follows a Shakespearean-esque plot structure and picks up a few weeks after the first season finale. Straight away, viewers meet the scummiest of all possible villains in Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin), the secretive head of a “white separatist” movement called the League of Aryan Nationalists, who set up in shop in Charming to stir up trouble for the titular bikers. When members of the League gang-rape the Sons’ matriarch, Gemma Teller-Morrow (the astonishing Katey Sagal), at the end of the premiere, Sutter lets viewers know exactly what to expect for the rest of the season, and he delivers in a way unseen since Deadwood concluded. This year’s scripts were without compare on any network, and Sagal deserves dozens of awards for playing the best character on television in the year’s greatest performance on one of the year’s finest programs. Kevin Brettauer


 

 



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V

Cast: Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Joel Gretsch, Logan Huffman, Lourdes Benedicto, Laura Vandervoort, Morena Baccarin, Scott Wolf

(ABC)

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V
ABC


Twenty-five years from now, we may think the visual effects in this year’s V are as cheesy as the special effects in the 1984 miniseries now appear to be. Even if that is the case, the fast-paced and intriguing storyline will still be able to hook viewers. While the original played off the Reagan-era cold war rhetoric, the new version emphasizes our recent realization that we are more vulnerable to attack than we believed. Looming ominously overhead, the hovering spaceships of V are a physical representation of the constant threat of attack we now live with. That the leader of the alien forces is both beautiful and charming underlines the message: trust no one. The series’ relevance is heightened by its focus on the various conflicts that arise in individuals, families, and societies as the threat of alien domination increases. Plus, the special effects are great, even by today’s standards. Michael Abernethy


 

 



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Supernatural

Cast: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

(WB)

Review [20.Sep.2005]
Review [1.Jan.1995]

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Supernatural
The CW


In a genre laden with “throwaway” episodes and eye-rolling plot points, Supernatural bypasses all that with consistently good writing and character development. Alternating “monster of the week” storylines (including the deliciously campy episodes lampooning fandom conventions and a guest appearance by Paris Hilton as an ancient demon addicted to fame) with a much heavier season-spanning story arc, the Apocalypse has already been done to death, but Supernatural adds a fresh spin.  Actors Jenson Ackles and Jared Padalecki have very believably fleshed out the demon-hunting Winchester brothers and their mercurial, protective-yet-love/hate relationship with each other. Pop culture parodies and self-admitted camp are regularly delivered alongside bleak storylines—namely the brothers thwarting otherworldly attempts to make them the vessels for eternally-warring, otherworldly brothers, Lucifer and Michael. Supernatural does its homework in regards to Biblical, occult, and pop culture lore, plus it gets bonus points for being the only CW show to feature a kick ass classic rock soundtrack and references in each episode in lieu of dreary emo-contempo. Lana Cooper


 

 



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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Cast: Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Richard T. Jones, Brian Austin Greene, Dean Winters, Shirley Manson

(FOX)

Review [8.Sep.2008]
Review [12.Jan.2008]

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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
FOX


The premature termination of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles robbed sci-fi fans of one of the best written, far searching explorations of the dangers of the abuse of technology that TV has seen. The show had its flaws—the pacing was sometimes slower than it should have been and Josh Friedman and his team irresponsibly ended the series on a massive cliffhanger even though they knew that cancellation was certain—but the overall story was outstanding. Sumer Glau’s Cameron is one of most complex Cyborgs in popular culture, perhaps the only one that comes across as more machine than human, while Lena Headey’s Sarah joins the list of the top kickass heroines of the decade. Robert Moore


 

 



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Better Off Ted

Cast: Jay Harrington, Portia de Rossi, Andrea Anders, Jonathan Slavin, Malcolm Barrett, Isabella Acres

(ABC)

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Better Off Ted
ABC


No show on TV combines the clever and ridiculous better than Ted right now. It’s a workplace comedy set in the research and development department of a huge corporation. This allows for all manner of gags involving science gone awry, but it also allows the series to satirize corporate bureaucracy and red tape. Which means that an episode can involve anything from mutant spiders to experimental missiles to children’s books to attempting to sell things for a kid’s school fundraiser, and it all works. Veridian Dynamics is such a massive, faceless entity that we buy almost R&D-related plotline. Jay Harrington is likable as the kind-hearted straight man Ted, but it’s Portia de Rossi as his severe, all-business boss that steals the show. Also worth mentioning are the frequently hilarious Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett, as Phil and Lem, the nervous, bickering scientists that develop most of Ted’s projects. Unfortunately, this is the kind of smart, sharp show that’s just a little too off-kilter in its premise to really draw in a big audience. The fact that ABC gave it a second season is a small miracle, so enjoy it while it’s on. Chris Conaton


 
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