Fall is my favorite season for so many reasons: it's perfect running weather, it's the beginning of the academic year, it's got great holidays (Halloween and Thanksgiving), and of course, it's when the new TV season starts up.
I've periodically blogged about my favorite TV shows, and this time I've decided to do a college football-style ranking of my shows. I'll update throughout the TV year (but probably not weekly). Okay, to the line, with new shows in bold:
1. Once Upon a Time (ABC Sundays)
This has been my favorite show the past two years. I love the "Lost"-like storytelling structure with relevant flashbacks woven into a current storyline. It's serialized, but not like "24"; each episode has its own payoff. It's also rare to have a show that's driven primarily by female characters -- Snow White/Mary-Margaret, Emma Swan, and The Evil Queen/Regina Mills are each compelling and dynamic. It's hard to believe that I almost missed out on this show when I was drawing up my list of what to watch two years ago. Fortunately, my wife saw a promo for it and suggested giving it a try. I was hooked about 15 minutes into the pilot episode -- and unlike some other notable ABC disasters (i.e., "FlashForward") that had incredible pilots, "Once Upon a Time" has stayed really good.
2. Scandal (ABC Thursdays)
Ah, "Scandal." It has the same kind of hold on me that "24" did in its heyday; despite, or maybe because of its unabashed ridiculousness, "Scandal" is soooo watchable. It's not logical but it moves so fast and so smoothly that you're just caught up in the moment.
But . . . and this is a big caveat . . . my lofty ranking of it here assumes, based on where the storyline has gone, that we're going to be seeing mostly the "I'm in charge of dealing with political scandals/conspiracies" version of Olivia Pope, and not the "forbidden love affair with the President" version of Olivia Pope. It really is two shows in one, and I really like one of those shows, but I could do without the other one.
3. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (ABC Thursdays)
We've already seen Wonderland in "Once Upon a Time." This spin-off is supposedly going to be a one-season affair (but then again, that's what CBS said about "Under the Dome" before pulling the rug out from under us). I'm somewhat hopeful that this will in fact be the case, because if the spin-off does well, rather than stretch out the Alice in Wonderland storyline to multiple seasons, the "Once Upon a Time" producers can spin-off a different storyline for another one-season affair.
4. Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (ABC Tuesdays)
I wasn't wowed by The Avengers, but a team of specially trained people in a world of superheroes could capture an "X-Files" type of vibe. On the plus side, this has been getting a LOT of positive buzz. On the cautionary side, the buzz comes from critics who adore creator Joss Whedon's filmography, whereas I've been mostly underwhelmed. (Yes, I see why people love "Firefly," but it was just okay for me.)
5. Hostages (CBS Mondays)
Here's another show that "promises" to be just one season -- and a short, 15-episode one at that. The premise is pretty good: the doctor who's set to operate on the President finds her family kidnapped by a team led by a rogue FBI agent, and to save her family, she has to let the President die on the operating table. I'm excited largely because the FBI agent is played by Dylan McDermott, who is one of those great scene-chewers from his days on "The Practice."
6. Hawaii 5-O (CBS Fridays)
Keep in mind that I don't pretend to have high-brow tastes in my TV watching. There's a reason you don't see "Downton Abbey" or anything like that on my list.
Here's why I like "H5O": beautiful HD images of Hawaii; lots of Asian actors/characters with generous screen time; funny banter between Steve McGarrett and Danno.
7. Grimm (NBC Fridays)
I'll watch this to the end because it's set and filmed in Portland, but to its credit, its second season was stronger than the first. Shows where the main character sees supernatural things but keeps them from loved ones, friends, etc. can get away with that for only so long before suspension of disbelief becomes impossible. It's much better now that most of Nick Burkhardt's friends know about the wessen.
8. Survivor: Blood vs. Water (CBS Wednesdays)
"Survivor" usually starts off slowly for me, because there are so many players to get to know. This is another one of those veterans vs. newbies seasons, except that each newbie is related to a veteran. Unfortunately, the veterans are mostly not the most interesting returning players, and the one who sparks the most feeling is the incredibly loathsome Colbie -- he's not even fun to root against.
9. The Blacklist (NBC Mondays)
This has the potential to move up. The central plot is that James Spader's master criminal turns himself in to the FBI but will only speak to a female agent, to whom he'll divulge the "blacklist" -- the identity and location of America's most wanted. Neat idea, but I moved it down from where it would've been after seeing some previews where Spader seemed like he was just replaying Alan Shore.
10. White Collar (USA Tuesdays)
This buddy show with FBI agent and former con artist is basically a small screen version of Catch Me If You Can. It does the things that USA does well, which is light, character-driven dramas, but it's also reaching an age when USA shows start to fall apart (e.g., "Burn Notice," "The 4400").
(missing the cut) Person of Interest (CBS Tuesdays), Sleepy Hollow (Fox Mondays), Shark Tank (ABC Fridays), Revolution (NBC Wednesdays), The Voice (NBC Mondays/Tuesdays).
"Person of Interest," which is about a seemingly self-aware computer network that sends numbers to a computer nerd and former CIA oeprative pair to stop predicted crimes, got fairly repetitive in the first year, and I almost gave up on it. But the second season developed some longer arcs with good recurring characters, so I'm more psyched about its third season. "Sleepy Hollow" premeired already and I watched the first 10 minutes before pausing for something else. Looks interesting but also predictable with people doing stupid things. "Shark Tank" is still fun but it conflicts with two higher ranked shows right now, so it's relegated to reruns. Watching "Revolution" probably kills brain cells by the millions every hour, and I might well not last. "The Voice" will rank higher in the spring, when Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera are replaced by Usher and Shakira.