As 2010 comes to a close, many writers take the time to write about the best shows of 2010. They often write about the popular and well received shows, categorizing them into the “best” field, but more often than not, it’s the shows that are NOT being watched that deserve words of praise and encouragement.
So in light of this fact, I bring you my list of the top 5 shows that you didn’t watch in 2010 in the hopes that you will make them part of your 2011 watching resolutions. The following shows are “on the bubble” are all severely underrated and could use a little bit of love.
5. Good Guys (Canceled)
Starting off with a somber already canceled note, The Good Guys was an amazing cop drama parody staring Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) and Collin Hanks (Roswell, and son of Tom Hanks). The show revolved around the cliche but actually works paring of by the book detective Jack Bailey (Hanks) and as far from the book old school detective Dan Stark (Whitford). While their relationship was often stressed, with Jack often wondering why he is stuck at a dead end assignment with a renegade cop, throughout the show the chemistry and respect between Jack and Dan grew to a point where you could not imagine them ever not being partners.
While the show itself centered around the antics of Jack and Dan, supporting characters ADA Liz Townsend (Jenny Wade, Reaper) and Lt. Ana Ruiz (Diana Maria Riva, The West Wing) provide great additional ensemble chemistry and act as a balance to Jack and Dan. Liz, Jack’s on again off again girlfriend, always has her work cut out for her as she reluctantly provides the legal cover for Dan while she works out her relationship with Jack. Lt. Ruiz always seems to be ready to strangle Dan despite the fact that while unorthodox, Dan is one of the best detectives she has.
The show as a whole is a great tribute to the action cop dramas of 70s and 80s, with plenty of action, great characters, and silly but fun plots that revolve around some small property crime leading into a bust that defines careers. My favorite part of the show (and what I lament most about it’s passing) is the fact they actually filmed in Dallas-Fort Worth, used local talent, and often featured real local establishments. The Dallas City Hall backdrop is a great reminder that we are not just about cowboys and rodeos (which isn’t even Dallas at all).
4. No Ordinary Family
Often billed as a dramatic version of Pixar’s The Incredibles, No Ordinary Family revolves around an ordinary American family gifted with extra-ordinary super powers. After an errant trip to South America, the Powell family ends up crashed in a lake that gifts them with super-human powers that combined with their own regular issues, leads to a new angle of the family drama and the dynamic parents and children have with each other.
Michael Chiklis (The Shield) plays the father Jim Powell, a police sketch artist who longs to do more with his life for his family. Julie Benz (Dexter), plays the mother Stephanie, a workaholic scientist who rushes though life so fast she often doesn’t see her family and children suffer despite her professional success. Kay Panabaker (Summerland, Phil of the Future) plays Daphne, the typical smart but conflicted teenage girl trying to get though horrors of high school when not on the popular list. Newcomer Jimmy Bennett plays JJ, the underachieving son who tries to make his parents proud despite all his failures. The family as a whole has a great dynamic and chemistry together, especially when supported by their friends Dr. Katie Andrews (Autumn Reeser, The O.C.) and ADA George St. Cloud (Romany Malco, Weeds).
Fortunately, unlike some superhero shows of the past, No Ordinary Family does not revolve around the “super villain of the week” motif, but rather revolves around the concept of how these new found superpowers affect the family bonds themselves as they discover their own limits and abilities and the moral implications of using them. While there are limited run-ins with other super powered opponents, the show is deeply rooted in the concept of a family drama and provides a refreshing twist to the common show themes of the past.
3. Human Target
Human Target to me, is nothing more than a weekly hour long action show that brings the most fun aspects of blockbuster action movies without extensive plots and character development weighing it down. Human Target follows Christopher Chance (Mark Valley, Boston Legal) on his mission to protect client’s lives by putting himself in the line of fire making himself a “human target.” Supported by his partner Winston (Chi McBride, Boston Public) and honorable mercenary Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley), Chance finds himself traveling the world protecting those who come to him out of a sense of atonement for his past sins as an ex-assassin.
There is not a lot to the plots of the show as a whole. Someone comes to Chance needing help. Chance spends a lot of time discovering the motifs and methodologies behind the enemy. Chance may reveal a little bit about his storied history. Chance finds himself in some of the highest budget action sequences of any TV show on the air while completing his mission. What makes this show great, though, is the last part. Human Target employs some of the best in the special effects industry to provide a solid action pact hour of blockbuster fun. Disappointingly a bit toned down so far in the second season, the first season was a fun game of guessing what movie a certain sequence originated. From a handcuffed motorcycle getaway to an amazing close quarters fight in the craw-spaces of an airplane, Human Target delivers on it’s action pact premise while also providing a great cast with good chemistry between them.
Often deemed as a new X-Files for a new generation, Fringe is an amazingly weird and twisted show that follows an FBI team around as they solve inexplicable mysteries involving the fringes of known science. FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv, Young Lions, The Secret Life of Us) partners with renegade Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson, Dawson’s Creek), and his father Walter (John Noble, All Saints) as they go out solving the strangest FBI crimes since the X-Files.
Fortunately, the show itself does not revolve around the concept of aliens, but rather the concept of what happens when we push the boundaries of known science and the discovery of the motives behind the crimes. There is a healthy mix of season long story arcs segments, one off freak of the week episodes, and strong character development episodes that provides a little bit for everyone who’s a fan of the old sci-fi dramas of the past.
The ensemble cast itself, supported by Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) and FBI Agent Astrid (Jasika Nicole), has amazingly good chemistry toped by a quality performance of the eccentric Dr. Bishop (Noble). While having a shaky start, Fringe has grown into a great cult classic with a tight knit team. Season three features the amazing performance of Anna Torv and is likely the highlight of the series as a whole.
Viewers, though, have to love more than just the cast itself. Rather, the starting members of the show has to be the special effects teams that bring us the weirdest and grossest scenes ever scene on television every week. The show writers have come up with some very freaky concepts, and the special effects team as more than stepped up to that challenge. From people merged together though a teleportation accident, to shape-shifters born out of giant embryos, the effects team easily the best and most creative of the industry on the air.
With its excellent cast, great writing, and amazing visuals, Fringe is easily the trifecta of great programing.
Finally, helmed by Emmy winning directors Joe and Anthony Russo (Arrested Development), Community is the least known, but mostly highly regarded, comedy on NBC’s Thursday lineup. It stars an well knit ensemble cast of misfit students at Greendale Community College lead by former lawyer and current hipster Jeff Wigner (Joel McHale) as they discover more about themselves.
Well, to say that Jeff is the leader of the group is a gross misstatement though, as the show itself lives by the fact that it is a true ensemble show with equal participation by all characters. Gillian Jacobs plays the activist Britta, while Dani Pudi plays the shy and eccentric film buff Abed. Donald Glover plays fallen high school football star Troy, and Alison Brie plays the high strung fallen high school braniac Annie. Yvette Nicole Brown plays the homemaker Shirley, and Chevy Chase rounds out the politically incorrect Pierce.
The show’s strongpoint is the the fact that the group dynamic is so strong, despite their varied and conflicting backgrounds. This dynamic cohesion is best shown in their recent claymation Christmas episode where all the characters are represented as misfit toys, an analogy that just works in the context.
A further high point is the fact that the show has some of the best writing of any thematic comedy on the air right now (rivaling my personal favorite How I Met Your Mother). From “Modern Warfare” the amazing paintball episode mocking every action movie ever made, to the recent Halloween zombie apocalypse, Community has had consistently great story lines and is constantly aware of the films and culture it’s mocking.
The show’s comedic timing, writing, and insight into the dynamics of what makes people become friends and how groups form is easily one of the best on the air right now, and it’s disappointing that this show is completely overshadowed by long running but much weaker series such as 30 Rock and The Office.
Don’t let these shows die!
While you can still save four of these shows from the chopping block next year, it’s up to you the viewer to make it happen. If these shows are new to you, check them out on your favorite rental service. If you have been fans of these shows, be sure to tell your friends and spam your feeds asking them to watch (especially if they are part of a certain family)! While I always hope that good shows survive to have long runs, the reality of the matter is that networks only care about the flawed rating system and these shows are on the bottom of the pile, despite their quality.
Numbers bring advertisers, and advertisers pay the bills. Some shows have been saved by sheer force of will of their fans (like Chuck), but it’s up to the fan’s enthusiasm to entice viewers from their long standing tastes of the familiar into the world of high level quality television. Make it your resolution to convert your friends into fans of your favorite shows in 2011!
Bonus: Better off Ted (Canceled January 2010)
As a quick epilogue to this list, I wanted to take a moment to mention the passing of the best and funniest television show ever created ever. Better Off Ted was a completely forgotten and non-promoted show on ABC from the 2009-2010. Led by Jay Harrington as slick businessman Ted Crisp, Better Off Ted follows an ensemble cast of employees of a stereotypically shady corporation Veridan Dynamics. Andrea Anders as innocent Linda, the amazingly funny Portia de Rossi as boss Veronica, and the dynamic duo of Malcolm Barrett as Lem and Jonathan Slavin as Phil round out the excellent cast.
Better Off Ted was a super satirical business comedy that took every cliche you could imagine in business and amplified it a hundred fold. From mistyped memos becoming company policy, to converting malfunctioning toasters into weapons, Better Off Ted was the highlight of deadpan humor and dialog. Unfortunately, ABC never promoted this show, and often times, when I talk of it, my friends tell me they’ve never heard of it. But upon watching one episode, every single one of them loves it as much as I do.
It’s hard to pinpoint the highlight cast member as they are all incredibly strong and work well together. Some enjoy the insanity of the unknowingly evil scientists Phil and Lem, while others enjoy the completely emotionless, driven, and terrifyingly insane Veronica. While the cast overall is a lot insane, it’s their bond towards each other that makes it work so well.
If you enjoyed deadpan satire in the same vein as the early years of Scrubs, you will definitely love this show. The two best episodes “The Impertence of Communicationizing” and “It’s My Party and I’ll Lie if I Want To” are prime examples of the shows amazing writing. Even so, the shows weakest episode, the Pilot, is easily still stronger than most shows on the air today.