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Wednesday, November 21, 2012
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The Top 10 TV Blessings For Which To Be Thankful This Year

By Rachel Bennett
Television Editor & Columnist

***

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving, readers!

As you all are counting your blessings — which probably include your family, friends and health — tomorrow, don’t forget to also count your under-appreciated TV blessings. They may not seem like much, but life really wouldn’t be the same without them.

To help get you started, here are the top 10 TV blessings for which I’m thankful:

10. The primetime soap is alive and well

We really have ABC to thank for this one, as its series Revenge and Nashville are proof that primetime soaps can be borderline ridiculous yet critically acclaimed. These shows may not be up for an Emmy anytime soon, but boy, are they fun to watch. The main performers for each (Emily VanCamp and Madeleine Stowe on Revenge, and Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere on Nashville) are excellent as backstabbing foes, and the twisty plots keep viewers coming back week after week. The return of NBC’s Smash in February as well as the continuing popularity of The CW’s The Vampire Diaries should help keep soaps relevant and popular on TV (though I’d argue The Vampire Diaries includes more action and gore than the usual soap). After watching such intense dramas as HBO’s Game of Thrones and AMC’s Breaking Bad, I know I like a break every once and a while.

9. TBS saved Cougar Town

I know I wasn’t the only fan of ABC’s Cougar Town to break out a glass of wine when I heard TBS picked up the low-rated comedy for a fourth season. At the alphabet network, Cougar Town attracted a weekly average of just 5.3 million viewers and an adult demo rating of 1.9, but if the comedy can bring those results to TBS, it will be a success for the cable network. The series’ bubbly and silly tone should be a perfect fit with TBS, the home of the equally wacky Conan. The agreement will also keep the hilarious cast, which includes Courteney Cox, Busy Philipps and Dan Byrd, together for at least a few more rounds of Penny Can. Let’s just hope that with Bill Lawrence no longer acting as showrunner, the cul-de-sac will remain the same when it returns Feb. 14.

8. NBC is bouncing back

After being in fourth place in the adult demo (18-49) for the past decade, NBC is surprisingly No. 1 this fall. The network’s coverage of the London Olympics as well as its hits The Voice and Revolution are the major catalysts of this ratings jump, but new comedies Go On and The New Normal are also helping bring in viewers. NBC is additionally the home of one of the best comedies on TV: Parks and Recreation. The show is in its fifth season and is just as funny and sweet as its ever been, featuring wonderful performances all around. Finally, no matter how confusing the network’s treatment of Community has been, the show finally has a season four premiere date: Feb. 7. Although we have to wait until next year, at least the comedy will air on Thursdays as opposed to Fridays — fingers crossed for six seasons and a movie.

7. The power of Netflix Instant

The original purpose of Netflix may have been to watch movies, but the streaming site is, for me, all about catching up on TV. I think I love it even more, though, for giving attention to little-watched programs. For instance, the first three seasons of NBC’s Parenthood are available on Netflix Instant, which could help explain why the bubble show is pulling in stronger ratings this season. Netflix also gives critically acclaimed cable shows more viewers, as Breaking Bad and AMC’s Mad Men are on the site and saw series high ratings this summer. With the return of Arrested Development in the spring and the debut of the highly anticipated original series House of Cards in February, Netflix is a force to be reckoned with. If you don’t have a subscription, it’s time to sign up.

6. Louis C.K.

C.K. may be having the best year of any TV actor. His comedy, FX’s Louie, continued to see rave reviews this summer during its third season, but it also drew more viewers than ever. The actor, creator, writer, director and producer also witnessed his work being recognized at the 2012 Emmy Awards, where he took home two statuettes for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special (for his standup special Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon Theater). My favorite C.K. moment in 2012, however, is his hosting of NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Not only did he deliver one of the best opening monologues in recent memory, but he also penned a heartfelt letter about how excited he was to host even amid the chaos of Hurricane Sandy. Even if you don’t like C.K.’s comedy, you have to agree his success has been a long time coming and is much deserved.

5. Monica Potter’s performance on NBC’s Parenthood

Of Parenthood‘s three seasons prior to its current fourth, Potter has never been my favorite. She’s a good actress, but she can come off a little cold — other performers in the cast previously tended to outshine her. But that’s certainly not the case this year. The cancer diagnosis of Kristina Braverman has been the focal point of this season, and Potter’s tough yet vulnerable and scared performance has knocked me off of my feet every week. Camille Braverman (Bonnie Bedelia) said of Kristina this week, “I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong about anyone,” and I feel the exact same way about Potter. If she doesn’t receive an Emmy nomination next year, there is no justice.

4. AMC’s The Walking Dead is  good again

When AMC announced that The Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont was fired during the production of season two, fans went into a panic. Although the drama hadn’t lived up to the potential it exhibited in the pilot, any hope that was left for it seemed to reside in Darabont. Season three has proved us wrong. Showrunner Glen Mazzara has overseen a fantastic turnaround for the zombie series, which no longer stalls but gives audiences the twists and gore they’ve always wanted. New characters, including Michonne (Danai Gurira) and The Governor (David Morrissey), have also aided in breathing new life into the program. The season is not yet over, so it may be too soon to call it a complete comeback, but season three is definitely looking like one.

3. Any scene between Claire Danes and Damian Lewis on Showtime’s Homeland

Season two of Homeland continues to show why it’s one of the best dramas on TV, as its pacing and twists outmatch every other program on the air. What particularly keeps me glued to the TV screen are the performances of Danes and Lewis — especially when they share that screen. The relationship of Carrie Mathison (Danes) and Nicholas Brody (Lewis) is amazingly complicated, at times mentally abusive and at others incredibly loving, but these actors pull it off. “Q&A,” the best episode of the season (and in my opinion the series), capitalized on their relationship perfectly and provided such an amazing showcase for Danes and Lewis that it seems they already have next year’s Emmys in the bag.

2. There are eight more episodes of Breaking Bad

This fact actually makes me sad because I never want Breaking Bad to end, but at least we have that many left before the series finale next summer. The first eight of the fifth season, which aired this summer, saw Walter White (Bryan Cranston) seemingly leave his former life behind to fully inhabit his alter ego, Heisenberg. The results were terrifying, with even a simple dinner conversation constantly being undermined by a sense of inescapable dread. The finale, however, made it appear that Walt decided to give up on the business to spend his last living days with his family, but it was too little, too late, as Hank (Dean Norris) put the pieces of Walt’s shady past together in the final few seconds. Whatever creator Vince Gilligan has in store for us next year, I can’t wait — or then again, maybe I can.

1. TV presidential election coverage is over

Enough said, even if I’ve already heard discussion of 2016 (I’m just ignoring it for now).

What are your TV blessings this year? Let me know, and Happy Thanksgiving!

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  • collback

    Yes science!! (Cool list, again!)

    • Rachel

      Haha thanks! :)

  • james

    I’m glad to see NBC is being revitalized, but I disagree
    that Netflix is on the rebound. I switched from Netflix to DISH last
    year, and have been much happier with my movie options etc. A DISH
    coworker convinced me to get the Hopper DVR, and with PrimeTime Anytime, i can
    automatically record every primetime show on all four major networks! I
    come home after a long day, and can pick and choose what show/network/time slot
    I want to watch. Plus, with AutoHop, if I watch my PTAT recordings the
    next day, I can save time by watching without commercials!