Top Ten Most Anticipated Returning Fall Television Shows
(For an explanation of how we at BuddyTV came across these rankings, check out our 2006 Fall Television Anticipation Rankings. It's pretty darn cool.)
10 Most Anticipated New Shows
#1: Survivor: Cook Islands
This year, Mark Burnett has decided to create a media firestorm and divide the tribes by race (white, black, Hispanic, and Asian). Some advertisers (including Coke) have dropped their ads for ridiculous PC reasons. Here's the rub: this is obviously a PR move by Survivor, but need we all forget that these initial tribes rarely last more than a couple episodes? It's not like the racially divided tribes will be competing throughout the entire run of the season.
Anyway, I love Survivor; it's undoubtedly the ultimate reality show, the producers know what they're doing, and host Jeff Probst brings more to the table than any other host alive. Survivor: Cook Islands boasts the show's largest cast ever, presumably in order to accommodate the racial divide. Survivor remains a great contest and an entertaining ride even into it's 13th season.
#2: The Office
The Office is the smartest comedy I've ever seen. It also might be the most unique. There is no laugh track. The jokes stay away from the usual trappings of half-hour comedy (relationships, sex). The cast improvises much of the dialogue. The mockumentary aspect allows for the observational humor to pervade without dialogue. The whole vibe is just different, and it's this freshness that leads to The Office's appeal. That, and how funny it is.
The cast on The Office is full of original comedic talent and their ability to improvise improves upon already great writing. The dynamic between receptionist Pam and salesman Jim is unique and engrossing. Rainn Wilson as Dwight has created a ridiculous and unbelievable character that works as a perfect comic foil for every other member of the cast. Steve Carrell pulls off the impossible role of Michael Scott with aplomb, at once annoying the hell out of everyone in The Office and somehow remaining sympathetic. The characters on The Office all have layers, are all three-dimensional, and it is this depth that allows for such sophisticated comedy to occur. The Office is going strong into it's third season, and should keep doing well for a long time.
I have absolutely nothing bad to say about The Office.
Lost has broken boundaries in television. It may be end up being universally regarded as both the best show in the history of television and the single most important show in the history of television. It has ushered in what some have dubbed the “Golden Age of Television”. I think this is a fair assessment. Lost has not only spawned knockoffs, it has allowed the networks to see that outside-the-box concepts aren't just commercially viable; they're actually preferred to the exhausted ideas of television's old guard.
The second season of Lost is not as well regarded as it's first. We could all see that coming. Any show with a spectacular premier season will suffer from accusations of declining quality in it's second season, regardless of how good that season actually is. In fact, the second season of Lost was still incredible. And I'm sure the third will be too.
#4: The Amazing Race
The Amazing Race is my favorite reality show on TV. Really, it's the best. Here's the reason: no “scheming”. There's no strategy other than “beat the other teams to the finish line”. It's mostly a race. Of all the reality shows out there, The Amazing Race relies the least on “confessional” interviews. There is too much action. Perhaps I'm biased; I love traveling. Maybe some people would gain more pleasure from dancing with b-list celebrities than traveling the world, but I can't think of anything I'd rather do than compete on The Amazing Race. I love flying. I love airports. I love random countries. It'd be perfect.
The Amazing Race is the best produced, best cast, best conceived, and most exciting reality show ever created. That's why it won the Emmy, and that's why I can't wait till Sunday.
#5: Gilmore Girls
Dudes aren't supposed to really admit this, but I like Gilmore Girls. A lot. What's so wrong with that? I find that most males my age unfairly disregard any female-centric piece of art. No guys can admit to liking Joni Mitchell or Heart or Fiona Apple without fear of ridicule. Is this sexist? Probably, but it's the way it is. Gilmore Girls is a show starring two females that was also created by a female (Amy Sherman-Palladino, who was the creative force behind the first six seasons). Thus, the show is decidedly feminine. It is also witty, engrossing, and expertly acted.
Men should feel no shame in watching Gilmore Girls. It is funny and the two leads (Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham) are both very attractive. Story-wise, there have been some suspect decisions (especially late in season 6), but that won't stop me from watching.
I'm not a fan of CSI. I'm sorry, I just can't do it.
I can totally understand people who are fans of CSI, though. It's glossy, interesting, mysterious, surprising, graphic. All good things. But it's a procedural and, basically, the same thing happens every episode.
CSI, as you know, has spurned two lesser sequels and propelled Jerry Bruckheimer into the troposphere of TV producers. Neither of these are good trends.
#7: Family Guy
During it's 9th season, South Park ran a two-part episode entitled “Cartoon Wars”. The Premise of the story was that Cartman despised the cartoon Family Guy, so he Power Wheel-ed out to Hollywood to destroy it. The story was actually about censorship, but South Park took some pretty brutal digs at Family Guy (the FG writing staff turned out to be a group of trained Manatees). Their complaint about Family Guy was that their jokes are totally random and rarely have anything to do with the story. If you've ever seen an episode of Family Guy, you know about these jokes. A character will finish a sentence with a line that resembles, “..like the time when ____.” Then, we will flashback to what the character was reminiscing about.
There are two things we know about these flashbacks (if you can call them that): 1) They have nothing to do with that episode's story, and 2) They are (usually) funny, at least to me and the people I know. South Park iterated that all of their comedy arises organically from the story. This is, more or less, completely true and it begs an important question about comedy: Is it important for laughs to be organic? Or is a laugh a laugh, doesn't matter how apt it is to the plot? Comparing South Park and Family Guy in this regard probably isn't fair; South Park is the far better show. However, at times, Family Guy may seem like a funnier show. The reason for this is that Family Guy simply has more jokes per episode, a result of their format, which relies on random, plot-free jokes. South Park, while attempting less jokes per episode, succeeds at a far greater percentage. Where laughs come from is important, but a show like Family Guy serves a different purpose than South Park. All Family Guy wants to do is make you laugh for a half-hour every week, and has no agenda. You may not remember any of the jokes an hour later, but you will remember that you laughed your ass off.
#8: Prison Break
The serial drama format has made a resurgence in the last couple of years, in part because of the success of Lost and 24. Prison Break takes great advantage of television medium, taking it's time to unfurl it's epic, complicated story. On TV, there is no rush for the ultimate “reveal”. Taking an entire season of a show to mastermind a Prison Break turned out to be an ingenious idea, but, in theory, it may have sounded a little boring. Who wants all that set-up for a pay off that you know is coming the moment you heard the title of the show? But it worked, and Prison Break helped spawn it's share of copycat new shows this season.
The second season of Prison Break (informally subtitled “Manhunt”) is off to a great start, with an especially great new addition to the cast in the the form of William Fichtner. Prison Break has a few more years before it's lack of plausibility becomes too much too handle. Until then, I'll keep suspending my disbelief and enjoying it.
#9: The OC
It seems The OC may be coming to an end quite soon. Mischa Barton is gone. Rachel Bilson has recently made it known that she thinks this season will be her last. Adam Brody likely has myriad film offers. It's quite possible that the momentum The OC had after their first season was simply impossible to match. The second and third seasons certainly had sparkling moments, but those were hidden deep within muddled plot lines and boring new characters. With High School over, I'm interested to see the direction The OC takes. I've stayed away from the spoilers on purpose; I want to go into the 4th season fresh.
What saddens me about the state of The OC is how prolific we all assumed it would be while we watched that initial season. Watching that first campaign, The OC looked like the heir apparent to "Beverly Hills 90210". It wasn't difficult to envision The OC going 8-9 seasons. Now, we'll be lucky to get through this one. Whatever.
#10: South Park
Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the best comedy writers in TV. They are inventive, ruthless, willing to take down anyone and, most of all, ingeniously funny. Ten seasons in, South Park might be getting better, which is a scary thought. Amazingly, South Park is still dismissed in some circles as juvenile and crass. These people are hopelessly ignorant (but first impressions are hard to break, you know?).
The freedom they are given by Comedy Central is more than admirable for a basic cable network. Parker and Stone stretch the boundaries of what's accepted, and it's likely that this push and pull between Parker, Stone and the network is what keeps South Park so edgy. Had South Park been on HBO, I don't think it would have been as good. More vulgar, sure, but being on basic cable forces Parker and Stone to reel it in and focus on story and character, rather than shock value. The tenth season of South Park starts in October, close to the mid-term elections. So, that should be fun.
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