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Elementary

Cast: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Aidan Quinn, Jon Michael Hill

(CBS)

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Elementary
CBS


The 2010’s have become suffuse with Sherlock mania. You have the films and the acclaimed BBC series and this year CBS offered up another take, this one set in New York with a Brit Jonny Lee Miller in the lead and Lucy Liu as Holmes’ faithful sidekick, Dr. Watson. It’s not Sherlock, but Elementary has it’s own unique appeal with perhaps the grittiest portrayal of Sherlock Holmes to date. This Sherlock is a recovering drug addict with Dr. Watson as his live-in addiction counselor. Where other shows have hinted at Holmes’ drug use, Elementary shows Holmes to be both an addictive personality and a highly obsessive one. So obsessive and full of constant kinetic energy and high-level brain activity that he can only be satisfied when involved in a high stakes murder case. It’s the only thing that gives his mind any “peace”. Hence, the viewer understands why he previously self-medicated. Elementary‘s approach to the character is arguably the most human in the long history of Sherlock Holmes depictions.
Sarah Zupko


 

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Archer

Cast: H. Jon Benjamin, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walter, George Coe, Adam Reed, Lucky Yates

(FX)

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Archer
FX


Love it or loathe it, Archer stubbornly refuses to adapt its successful model of mockery, misogyny, and meandering because… well, why would it? Fans adore the heavy-drinking non-secret agent for his inflexible mentality (and flexibility in the boudoir). Last year saw Archer meet his hero Burt Reynolds, travel to space, and even more dangerously, travel to the south. Nothing was quite as risqué as last year’s cancer scare, but creator Adam Reed continued to push the boundaries of P.C. behavior in more subtle ways—particularly the sly, off the cuff comments each character specializes in. Fan or foe, no one can deny Archer is good at what it does. Ben Travers


 

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The Mindy Project

Cast: Mindy Kaling, Chris Messina, Ed Weeks, Anna Camp, Zoe Jarman, Amanda Setton, Stephen Tobolowsky

(FOX)

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The Mindy Project
FOX


A decade ago, this would have been the most daring comedy ever—a sitcom centering on a lovesick Southeast Asian girl, her culture clash backdrop leading to overly harsh criticism from those who would enjoy bashing its multicultural, post-PC bent. Instead, with creator/star Mindy Kaling (she of The Office fame) at the center, we see how race becomes little more than a telling talking point among the many other humorous elements. As with any new sitcom, the developmental material tends to overplay its import, robbing the show of some of its spontaneity. But just as it bends stereotypes, The Mindy Project makes room for the laughs—and there’s plenty to be found. Bill Gibron


 

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Sons of Anarchy

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Dayton Callie, 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


If there was a central concept at the heart of the fifth season of Kurt Sutter’s “Hamlet on Harleys” series, it was that one missing life can make all the difference, and every character felt it in their own specific way. A best friend, a daughter, a sister, the individual life is the most important thing in a world full of “clubs”, “organizations” and government agencies. Even as Jax (an unleashed Charlie Hunnam), Damon Pope (a superlative Harold Perrineau), Tig (Kim Coates) and others attempt to cope with the most personal of familial losses, one can almost see a black hole of vengeance threatening to suck the entire cast in all at once, the way Shakespeare would have wanted it. Kevin Brettauer


 

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Doctor Who

Cast: Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman

(BBC America)

Review [12.Apr.2006]

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Doctor Who
BBC America


The first half of the seventh season of Doctor Who (the second half will air in 2013) has also been one of its most emotional ones to date. The final season with Amy and Rory as the Doctor’s companions brought back such classic Who adversaries as the Daleks and the Angels, while also doing a lighter, fun episode that featured dinosaurs on a spaceship, all moving a little closer to the Pond’s departure. The reboot of Doctor Who has seen the show straddle the line between campy humor and effects, and darker story arcs with real emotional payoff. The introduction of the new companion in the Christmas special shows the Doctor moving forward and continuing Matt Smith’s brilliant portrayal of the Doctor’s unique approach to exploring the universe, past and present, setting up an exciting end to the season. Jessica Suarez


 

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Fringe

Cast: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Kirk Acevedo, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole, Seth Gabel, Mark Valley

(FOX)

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Fringe
FOX


Aimee Mann, in her song “Wise Up”, claims that “It’s not what you thought / When you first began it.” She is, of course, referring to emotional entanglements, but she could easily have been referring to Fringe. What started out masquerading as an X-Files reboot sans aliens has, with three hours left to broadcast at the time of this writing, revealed itself as a powerful meditation on basic human attributes such as love and hate, hope and fear, success and failure, et al, all the while examining how we handle ourselves in the most perilous of situations, ranging from a colossal Trojan War allegory to a sci-fi reworking of Casablanca. 2012’s episodes proved this, with moments like Nina’s (Blair Brown) death nearly cracking the fandom in twain. Kevin Brettauer


 

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American Horror Story: Asylum

Cast: Zachary Quinto, Joseph Fiennes, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Lizzie Brocheré, James Cromwell, Jessica Lange

(FX)

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American Horror Story: Asylum
FX


Part of what makes American Horror Story so engrossing is that it never lingers very long in one spot. Each season is an anthology unto itself, featuring the same talented ensemble cast taking on different roles within a brand new setting and storyline. This year, the action takes place at a Massachusetts insane asylum, circa 1964. Interwoven with the mélange of serial killers, possessed nuns, Nazis, and aliens residing at the asylum, are equally terrifying subjects of a less supernatural nature. Scarier and more original than most theatrical horror releases, American Horror Story does not shy away from social horrors of the not-so-distant past whose specter still haunts, including discrimination and dehumanization based on race, gender, and sexuality. Lana Cooper


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