FEATURE: Lackie’s Season Postmortem

Every season has shows that exceed expectations, and shows that disappoint, and the 2009-2010 season was no different. Notable shifts this year include the rise of a new generation of first-year comedies and, surprisingly, the fall of the traditional network drama. Intrigued? This covers anything that started in June 2009 to anything that started in May 2010. Follow along with this season postmortem after the jump…

Network: FX (Season 1, 10 episodes)
How Did it Do?: Excellently. This animated spy comedy is a fantastic, raunchy-yet-enjoyable send-up of the spy genre, with an amusingly-deplorable main character and a strong supporting cast. Also a perfect round of casting, here, especially Jessica Walter as Archer’s mother Mallory.
Grade: A-
Notable Episodes: “Diversity Hire” (1.03), “The Rock” (1.08)

Breaking Bad
Network: AMC (Season 3, 13 episodes)
How Did it Do?: Very well. Less thrilling than season 2, but that’s the point. Walter is lost, domesticated or powerless for much of the season, which makes the thrilling final hour all the more powerful. Meanwhile Aaron Paul is still showing ’em how this whole acting thing is done, alongside a cast of amazing actors doing their best work.
Grade: A
Notable Episodes: “One Minute” (1.07), “Fly” (1.10), “Full Measure” (1.13)

Network: NBC (Season 3, 19 episodes)
How Did it Do?: Very well, though this was the season the shippers almost upset the boat. The core three of Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski and Adam Baldwin is still one of the strongest comedramatic trios on TV, and the show is still utterly bonkers fun, while still carrying some strong arcs as Chuck begins to become a ‘real spy’. The arc of Shaw, a goodie/baddie played by Superman Brandon Routh, lumbered a bit awkwardly but I thought he largely worked with what he was given. Rarely as good as season 2 at its best, but still the most fun hour of the week.

Notable Episodes: “Chuck Versus the Nacho Sampler” (3.06), “Chuck Versus the Honeymooners” (3.14)

Network: NBC (Season 1, 25 episodes)
How Did it  Do?: The best comedic ensemble on TV, this show managed to find a group of characters where any grouping of the seven can earn laughter, a rarity in television. Brilliant use of pop culture, college culture and racism humour (as opposed to racism-as-humour). My favourite series of the fall, and that’s a tight race.

Notable Episodes: “Introduction to Statistics” (1.07), “Environmental Science” (1.10), “Physical Education” (1.17), “Modern Warfare” (1.23)

Cougar Town
Network: ABC (Season 1, 24 episodes)
How Did it Do: The evolution from ‘cougar stories featuring Courtney Cox going as broad as possible’ to ‘quirky cul-de-sac comedy about life after you’re supposed to have grown up’ improved this show immensely. Brian van Holt and Dan Byrd, in particular, are highlights in a very good cast. Hoping they can keep Ryan Devlin around fulltime next year, as his role as Smith Frank, paramour of Busy Phillips‘ Laurie, adds a nice brevity to counterpoint the delightful crazy of the crew. No episode on its own is especially great, but every episode is consistently a fun time.

Notable Episodes: “Two Gunslingers” (1.08), “Counting on You” (1.17)

Dan For Mayor
Network: CTV (Season 1, 13 episodes)
How Did it Do?: Not very well. Not very funny and not emotionally engaging, Dan For Mayor occasionally stumbled upon effective comedic bits but spent most of the season wasting its viewers’ time. The occasional sparks of promise and the talented-yet-wasted cast made viewing it only more frustrating.
Grade: D+
Notable Episodes: “Revenge is Swifty” (1.10)

Doctor Who
Network: BBC (Series 5, 13 episodes)
How Did it Do?: Fantastic. Matt Smith grew on me much quicker than David Tennant did, and has brought an old soul to the young-seeming body he’s stuck in. Karen Gillan has created a delightful companion, brash and bold and actively sexy without any of the pining or angst of some of her forebears. And the two main supporters, Arthur Darvill and Alex Kingston, are folks you’ll want to see every episode; the former is adorable, and the second magnificent.
Grade: A-
Notable Episodes: “The Eleventh Hour” (5.01), “The Beast Below” (5.02), “Amy’s Choice” (5.07)

Network: Fox (Season 2, 13 episodes)
How Did it Do?: A massive step forward from its awkward first season, mainly due to better use of its cast and more complex stories from its crew. Joss Whedon finally starts picking away at some of the complications of the Dolhouse tech. Very interesting, worthwhile stuff, wrapped in some great characters.

Notable Episodes: “Belonging” (2.04), “The Attic” (2.10), “Epitaph 2: Return” (2.13)

Drop Dead Diva
Network: Lifetime (Season 1, 13 episodes)
How Did it Do?: Very fun, very breezy, with a great lead performance by Brooke Elliott. I give a full review of the season here.

Notable Episodes: “Do Over” (1.03), “Make Me a Match” (1.10)

Network: Fox (Season 1, 22 episodes)
How Did it Do: I don’t know how I feel about the show. Every episode is fun to watch, the musical numbers are stirring, and a few of the characters are very well-developed. Unfortunately, half the cast and most of the stories ring hollow, but only in the way that you don’t realise until an hour after you’re done watching. That said, some great performances, acting and musical, and lots of potential.

Notable Episodes: “Showmance” (1.02), “The Rhodes Not Taken” (1.05), “Dream On” (1.19)

Gossip Girl
Network: Fox (Season 1, 22 episodes)
How Did it Do: It did as every Gossip Girl season does: its very good at what it does. This season, no knock on the show itself, I began to find it hollow and kind of boring. Might not come back next year.
Grade: C+
Notable Episodes: “The Freshmen” (3.02), “The Debarted” (3.12), “Last Tango, Then Paris” (3.22)

The Good Wife
Network: CBS (Season 1, 23 episodes)
How Did it Do?: It’s a legal procedural that managed to win my favour. How do you think it did? Perfect casting, a very strong heroine, and a love triangle I actually think makes the show smarter rather than brainless. Very good stuff.

Notable Episodes: “Fleas” (1.16), “Boom” (1.19), “Running” (1.23)

Grey’s Anatomy
Network: ABC (Season 6, 24 episodes)
How Did it Do?: After its very weak third season, the show earned a lot of emnity from critics that stayed with it through its shaky fourth. The back half of the fifth season showed a remarkable upswing, one that continued through its current and sixth season, bringing the show back to the standard of ‘quite good’. Opening with a 2-parter to send off the first of the original interns to exit, George O’Mally (T.R. Knight), the show got down to business, offering some very worthy stories that wrapped characters in the medical story, rather than medical stories that were thinly-veiled metaphors for the unceasing romantic drama. That romantic drama remains, but often allows itself to be an undercurrent for much stronger segments, and leading up to a rollicking finale that does justice to the show’s reputation in its earlier years.

Notable Episodes: “I Saw What I Saw” (6.06), “Invest In Love” (6.08), “Sanctuary”/”Death and All His Friends” (6.23/6.24)

How I Met Your Mother
Network: CBS (Season 5, 24 episodes)
How Did it Do?: A mix of popularity and the writers getting tired has seen this latest season of what was once my favourite televised comedy become a mere shadow of itself. The mismanaged Robin and Barney arc set things off badly, and things just kept going in that direction. Examples: “Zoo or False” (5.19), in which the characters merely yell “He got mugged by a monkey!” and fake laugh for 21 straight minutes. No thanks.
Grade: C
Notable Episodes: “The Window” (5.10), “Last Cigarette Ever” (5.11)

Network: HBO (Season 1, 10 episodes)
How Did it Do?: A show that’s hard to love, but hard to properly dislike as well. Also, a show that makes any possible double entendres in one’s writing immediately obvious. Centred by a great pair in Thomas Jane and Jane Adams as the unlikely prostitute and pimp, the season felt like it didn’t know what it was, though it told some fun stories in the meantime.
Grade: C
Notable Episodes: “The Pickle Jar” (1.04), “Doris Is Dead or Are We Rich or Are We Poor?” (1.06), “Thith ith a Prothetic or You Come Just Right” (1.08)

In Treatment
Network: HBO (Season 2, 35 episodes)
How Did it Do?: This show is utterly unique, and it draws me in tighter than any other show I know of. Watching these people, including the protagonist, slowly unfurl over weeks of just talking is utterly amazing. Gabriel Byrne adds a thousand layers to his work, and every patient, from Alison Pill to John Mahoney to Hope Davis to even the Aaron Shaw/Sherri Saum.Russell Hornsby craziness, offer something praiseworthy and wonderful.

Notable Episodes: “April: Week Three” (2.12), “Mia: Week Four” (2.16), “Walter: Week Five” (2.24)

Network: ABC (Season 6, 18 episodes)
How Did it Do?: This show is impossible to criticise, because it does its own thing – the question is whether or not you like what exactly it does. The show’s been rather hollow to me for the last three years, only worthwhile for various character threads. Some will love it, some will hate it; Lost, either way, doesn’t particularly care.

Notable Episodes: “The Substitute” (6.04), “Lighthouse” (6.05), “Across the Sea” (6.15)

Mad Men
Network: AMC (Season 3, 13 episodes)
How Did it Do?: The theme of this season was malaise, of being unhappy with your life and not knowing how to fix it, and they succeeded beautifully. This meant that the finale, giving our beloved, trapped characters a way out, was a rollicking good time. It also meant that sometimes it was pretty depressing, as everything our characters wanted was slowly taken away from them, meaning that before that finale, ‘entertainment’ wasn’t exactly the word one would use to describe the show. Still, moreso a necessity of the story being told than a flaw in that story, and the show continues as strong as ever.

Notable Episodes: “My Old Kentucky Home” (3.03), “Seven Twenty Three” (3.07), “The Gypsy and the Hobo” (3.11), “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” (3.13)

The Middle
Network: ABC (Season 1, 24 episodes)
How Did it Do?: Patricia Heaton and Mike Flynn anchor a competent and enjoyable family sitcom where the family actually resembles one you might encounter in real life. This gang buy slightly-expired food, fight for their jobs and try to find a future for their unmotivated(or underachieving) children.

Notable Episodes: “Christmas” (1.10), “The Bee” (1.16), “Mother’s Day” (1.22)

Network: HBO (Season 1, 10 episodes)
How Did It Do?: It’s hard to judge a David Simon series, as they are more a beast of their own than anything else. 10 episodes in, though, it accomplishes what it sets out to: It makes the world of post-Katrina New Orleans hauntingly real, creates characters whose journeys you connect to, and offers the most realistic TV out there. It often seems aimless, but only because real life is that way; there’s an ultimate path for each of these characters we may not be able to see just yet. Great work is done by Kim Dickens in particular, though the cast is full of standouts.
Grade:  B+

Modern Family
Network: ABC (Season 1, 24 episodes)
How Did it Do?: With such a large ensemble cast, you’d expect an utter jumble. That’s what this is, but with every mashup, there’s more fun. The show that heralded what some consider the revival of the network comedy, it’s a very-worthy leader of some stronger series into battle against drama and, especially, reality series.
Grade: B+
Notable Episodes: “Fizbo” (1.09), “My Funky Valentine” (1.15), “Truth Be Told” (1.17), “Hawaii” (1.23)

Parks and Recreation
Network: NBC (Season 2, 24 episodes)
How Did it Do?: After an opening pod of four lacklustre episodes and a strong ending pair, the show came back knowing what it wanted to do and how to pull it off. This was the season Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt revealed a before-unseen brilliance that anchored a strong cast in one of TV’s best comedies.
Grade: A
Notable Episodes: “The Stakeout” (2.02), “Ron and Tammy” (2.08), “Hunting Trip” (2.10), “94 Meetings” (2.21)

Network: ABC (Season 9, 13 episodes)
How Did it Do?: The show, when it first came back with the reboot, made one grave mistake: bringing back Zach Braff‘s JD and shoehorning him into lead spot, taking away vital time from new lead Lucy (
Kerry Bishé), while also reverting him to his most obnoxious phase. Once JD was gone, though, the show settled into a potentially fantastic rhythm, with Michael Mosley the breakout.

Notable Episodes: “Our White Coats” (9.07), “Our Dear Leaders” (9.11)

Network: The CW (Season 5, 22 episodes)
How Did it Do?: A very competent end to the five-season arc preceding it, complicating and expanding the Christian mythology that’s put itself at the centre of the show’s storylines. A good mix of standalone and arc, held together by an excellent cast.

Notable Episodes: “The End” (5.04), “Dark Side of the Moon” (5.16), “Hammer of the Gods” (5.19)

United States of Tara
Network: Showtime (Season 2, 12 episodes)
How Did it Do?: As a comedy, the second season of United States of Tara is an utter failure. There is nothing funny about the events of the second season, despite the show’s attempts to wring laughter out of Kate’s constant encounters with “quirky” characters. However, as a picture of a family imploding, partially due to the mental illness of its leading lady, it’s fascinating and worthwhile. But, a warning: You won’t laugh, but the show’s format as a comedy means you won’t get a chance to cry or feel anything too deeply either.

Notable Episodes: “Dept. of F’d Up Family Services” (2.07)

Network: Showtime (Season 5, 13 epis0des)
How Did it Do?: The dance between Nancy Botwin and Esteban Reyes is fascinating and horrifying as the two struggle for power. An appearance from Nancy’s sister finally lays out some real details about who Nancy is, and gives some sense of why she constantly tosses herself into the tornado. Also, Alanis Morissette is surprisingly excellent as Andy’s love-interest, Dr. Audra Kitson.
Grade: B-
Notable Episodes: “Super Lucky Happy” (5.04), “Where the Sidewalk Ends” (5.07)

Now, this obviously isn’t a comprehensive list of everything that aired, or even everything worth seeing. I am but one man, consuming television at a man’s pace. Here’s why others didn’t make the list…

I Haven’t Finished Watching The Season: Better Off Ted Season 2 (ABC), Dexter Season 4 (SHO), Durham County Season 2 (TMN), Living In Your Car (HBO CAN), Party Down Season 2 (STARZ), and The Office Season 7 (NBC).

I’ll Probably Someday Watch…: Castle Season 2 (ABC), V Season 1 (ABC), Desperate Housewives Season 6 (ABC), Medium Season 6 (CBS), CSI Season 10 (CBS), The Mentalist Season 2 (CBS), The Big Bang Theory Season 3 (CBS), Mercy Season 1 (NBC), Trauma Season 1 (NBC), 30 Rock Season 4 (NBC), Fringe Season 2 (FOX), Lie to Me Season 2 (FOX), Human Target Season 1 (FOX), Bones Season 5 (FOX), House Season 6 (FOX), The BEautiful Life: TBL Season 1 (The CW), Melrose Place 2009 Season 1 (The CW), Life Unexpected Season 1 (The CW), The Vampire Diaries Season 1 (The CW), Sons of Anarchy Season 2 (FX), and Nurse Jackie Season 2 (SHO).

I Likely Won’t Be Watching: The Deep End Season 1 (ABC), Hank Season 1 (ABC), The Forgotten Season 1 (ABC), Eastwick Season 1 (ABC), Happy Town Season 1 (ABC), Flashforward Season 1 (ABC), Romantically Challenged Season 1 (ABC), Brothers & Sisters Season 4 (ABC), Private Practice Season 3 (ABC), Miami Medical Season 1 (CBS), Cold Case Season 7 (CBS), Three Rivers Season 1 (CBS), Numb3rs Season 6 (CBS), Accidentally On Purpose Season 1 (CBS), Ghost Whisperer Season 5 (CBS), The New Adventures of Old Christine Season 5 (CBS), Gary Unmarried Season 2 (CBS), CSI: New York Season 6 (CBS), CSI: Miami Season 8 (CBS), Criminal Minds Season 5 (CBS), Rules of Engagement Season 4 (CBS), NCIS Season 7 (CBS), NCIS: Los Angeles Season 1 (CBS), Two and a Half Men Season 7 (CBS), Law and Order Season 20 (NBC), Heroes Season 4 (NBC), Law and Order: Special Victims Unit Season 11 (NBC), Brothers Season 1 (FOX), ‘Til Death Season 4 (FOX), Sons of Tucson Season 1 (FOX), Past Life Season 1 (FOX), American Dad Season 5 (FOX), The Celeveland Show Season 1 (FOX), The Simpsons Season 21 (FOX), Family Guy Season 8 (FOX), 90210 Season 2 (The CW), One Tree Hill Season 7 (The CW), or Smallville Season 9 (The CW).

What do you think? Did I forget any shows from the season that deserve to be mentioned? And what did you watch this season?


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