With the fall season “officially” launching tomorrow — apologies to Fox, which aired a spate of new shows last week — it’s time to kick off Nadum’s Top Nine, a totally nonscientific, comprehensive, and pretty darn accurate list of the best shows of the new season. Don’t worry about missing Fancast’s more thorough coverage of fall shows; previews will appear in future posts. This guide is for those of you itching to program your DVR’s.
A quick note: Weeds, Californication, The Wire and Battlestar Galactica have been omitted because they aren’t classified as fall series. Okay, ready, set, program…
Tied with Bionic Woman for my favorite new show of the season (it gets the nod only because I’ve seen more of it), Chuck is smart, funny and charming. Zach Levi is solid as a geeky computer repairman who becomes the most valuable asset in the history of Global Intelligence, but it’s Adam Baldwin that puts the show over. As one of Chuck’s new handlers (the other is the smoking Yvonne Strzechowski) Baldwin plays a more civilized version (barely) of his Firefly character Jayne. Given more screen time, Baldwin plays the “I’m-a-serious character-but-I’m-actually-the-funniest-character-on-the-show” role to perfection.
8. How I Met Your Mother
It’s a hybrid comedy which takes the best aspects of Seinfeld (I’d say Friends if there was anything good to say about it) and the no laugh-track, single-camera comedies that have carried the torch since. Neil Patrick Harris’ Barney is one of the funniest characters on TV and the show manages the romantic comedy angle with the perfect amount of dysfunction, never falling into the trap of using it as a compensatory crutch.
7. Curb Your Enthusiasm
The premise has definitely lost steam over the series’ run and it probably would have benefited from Ricky Gervais’ “leave while you’re on top” philosophy but given the competition, it’s still one of the funniest shows on television. This season Larry, at the behest of his wife Cheryl, “adopts” ‘The Blacks,’ a family displaced by a fictitious hurricane. Despite the unrealistic premise (The prospect of being hosted by Larry might be worse than the hurricane itself), it’s still a good set up for Curb’s trademark cringe inducing humor.
Take The Sopranos (before it ‘Killed the Dolphin’) make the cast Irish, set it in Providence and you’ve got yourself Brotherhood. Jason Clarke and Jason Isaacs play two brothers on opposite sides of the law (one’s a gangster and one’s a politician). Clarke’s masterful ability to portray that despite all his rhetoric, he’s just as viscous as his “gangster” brother carries the show. Throw in Annabeth Gish (who should have been nominated for an Emmy along with Clarke) as his tormented wife and you’ve got a thing of beauty.
5. The Boondocks
One of the most daring, controversial and politically relevant shows on television. From Martin Luther King to R. Kelly, it pulls no punches, somehow managing to win the NAACP award and draw the ire of Al Sharpton in the same breath. For anyone that thinks South Park, Family Guy or The Simpsons are bold, watch one or two episodes of The Boondocks and you’ll reconsider your definition of bold.
4. 30 Rock
It started out slow but ended up blowing out the competition for best new show last season, winning an Emmy for its troubles. Headlined by Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan, it’s got a powerhouse cast (think New England Patriots). And while Fey and Baldwin get most of the pub, Morgan is what keeps the show going. If it wasn’t for Tracy, Grizz and Dot Com, would anyone even care? (About what, I don’t know.)
3. The Office
Despite concerns over the potential overkill of 30 episodes, five of which will be an hour long, I say bring it on. Anyone who’s seen the extras on the Season 3 DVD should know that the writers are more than capable of delivering content without skipping a beat. Hell, some if it’s funnier than what makes it onto the show. And who in their right mind would balk at the prospect of more Creed in their lives?
It’s a story about a forensics expert (those scientist cop guys) who moonlights as Robin Hoodesque serial killer. What’s not to like? And with Ian McShane out of the picture, Michael C. Hall is probably the best actor on TV. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor.
1. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
With all due respect to The Office and 30 Rock, Always Sunny is the best comedy on TV. It takes the best aspects of The Office (incompetent employees, poor business sense) and mixes them with the moral ambiguity of Arrested Development. Throw in Danny DeVito and it’s gold.
Hold out Hope
The season finale was absolutely horrible, but given the show was one of the best for the first twenty-two episodes, it can earn a reprieve if it starts out strong.
Friday Night Lights
It dropped the ball completely towards the second half of the season (bad pun, I know) and it’s unlikely that it’ll recover or survive the season, but it’s good to have faith.
Avoid at All Costs
If ever an allegory for race relations in America was more trite, I’d like to see it. The premise sorta-kinda worked in 30 second increments. It does not work as a full-time series. It’s not often a show can be both irrelevant and offensive, but Caveman somehow manages.