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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SEASON IN REVIEW: 2011-12 Dramas

This was the "year of the sitcom" but I think broadcast TV had a great year with new dramas. Last year, the only dramas I enjoyed (Detroit 1-8-7, Lone Star, Chase, The Event) were all cancelled but this year there were many new hit dramas full of quality storytelling and production. In fact, when it comes to new shows, I think the dramas were easily better. If interested, check out my season in review for comedies as well as last year's dramas recap.

Person of Interest (CBS) - Before Person of Interest debuted, it was touted as being the highest testing pilot at CBS in over a decade and that has turned into the most thrilling drama on TV. Each week is so full of action and suspense, it is an edge of your seat thriller each week. The show has done a masterful job of painting a grim view of post-9/11 NYC and blending case-of-the-week stories with a fascinating overall story. Each individual case has so many twists and turns and sometimes at the end, you find out that its linked to some other part of the overall story. Basically, it's like watching a mini-movie each week. It is without a doubt the show I look forward to the most every week and it's just getting started.

The Runners-Up
Revenge (ABC) - I was skeptical of Revenge because the plot sounded convoluted and then I wondered how they could sustain it but it has pleasantly surprised me in a season full of backstabbing in the Hamptons. The modern day soap about the filthy rich has kept audiences guessing and made plot turns that make the story much more engrossing. The only problem this show had was selling out in the big "reveal" episode by having enemy Tyler die instead of beloved Daniel. But the show has rebounded from that and had a strong second half of the season.

Scandal (ABC) - The new midseason ABC drama is an interesting mix of political thriller and procedural drama. The show doesn't quite seem to know what it wants to be yet but I like both avenues they are taking. The procedural element is fun because you get to see a team solving a major problem in very creative ways while the political story arc involving the President is equally engrossing. I'm excited to see what season 2 looks like for this show.

Worth Mentioning: Smash (NBC), Once Upon a Time (ABC)

Jim Caveizel, Person of Interest (CBS) - As the presumed dead former CIA agent John Reese, Jim Caveizel delivers a thrilling performance each week. As understated as he is when he's talking with anyone, he has done some pretty serious damage to the bad guys each week. But that wouldn't be enough to get him at the top of this list. His character development and back story have been very interesting to watch. He doesn't always have complete control and he's so hardened to the world because of what he has experienced. It's a very dynamic performance given by a great actor.

The Runners-Up
Michael Emerson, Person of Interest (CBS) - John Reese's counterpart Mr. Finch played by Michael Emerson is equally essential to the success of Person of Interest. While Reese is taking care of any thug that comes his way, Mr. Finch is at the controls behind it all. He has a brilliant mind and his back-story has only been touched on a bit. Michael Emerson is completely convincing in this role.

Jack Davenport, Smash (NBC) - Oh Smash, what is there to say about you? This show has been one of the more uneven in recent memory but one character who continues to elevate the sometimes mediocre material is Jack Davenport as hotheaded director Derek Wills. His demands and temper are what you might expect from a Broadway director and I always look forward to his scenes on the show.

Worth Mentioning: Sam Neill (Alcatraz, FOX), Kiefer Sutherland (Touch, FOX)

Kerry Washington, Scandal (ABC) - Kerry Washington absolutely makes Scandal work. Without her, I don't know what I would think of the show. But with her, it's engrossing and compelling at every turn. In just a few episodes, she has created a very dynamic character - one who is in complete control professionally but very vulnerable in her personal life. Seeing her at work when they're trying to solve a problem has been one of the more fun things to watch this season but seeing her personal struggle with the President gives us more connection to the character. All in all, a brilliant performance.

The Runners-Up
Emily Van Camp (Revenge, ABC) - As the vengeful Amanda Clarke/Emily Thorne, all roads in Revenge lead back to Emily Van Camp. It's a tall order for a young actress to carry a show like this but she has done a great job. You never quite know if she's going to be cold-hearted and determined or compassionate and sometimes it seems like the character herself struggles with that. You wouldn't care about Revenge if you didn't care about Van Camp's character and she has won me over.

Katharine McPhee (Smash, NBC) - I struggled with this one and almost moved her down a spot but there's enough good things about Katharine McPhee to get her in the runner-up spot. In a series full of cheaters and hotheads, McPhee's Karen Cartwright is a character that we can actually root for because she's just trying to make it in a world she loves. The only downside to McPhee's performance has been, in my opinion, her scenes with boyfriend Dev where she (or maybe the writing) haven't been that believable.

Worth Mentioning: Lana Parrilla (Once Upon a Time, ABC), Amber Heard (The Playboy Club, NBC)

Henry Czerny, Revenge (ABC) - Revenge is full of completely unlikable characters who you want to root against and Henry Czerny's Conrad Grayson is one of those. While you occasionally see a softer side of him, most times you see a spoiled CEO whose done very sinister things to keep his empire going. Czerny delivers a great performance that's completely believable. His scenes with estranged wife Victoria are some of the best in the entire series and you just want to see him get his comeuppance. Sometimes shows need characters with no redeeming values.

The Runners-Up
Tony Goldwyn (Scandal, ABC) - As President Fitzgerald Grant, Tony Goldwyn has given a very interesting performance. I'm not sure whether I can understand where his character is coming from or whether I think he's just a sleaze and that means he's giving an interesting performance that can be interpreted in multiple ways. It will be interesting to see where this character goes.

Gabriel Mann, Revenge (ABC) - As Nolan Ross, a young multi-millionaire with some serious hacking skills, Gabriel Mann has been a real interesting confidante to Emily Van Camp's character. He started a little shaky but over the year, his character has grown on me a lot. Aside from all the cool tech stuff he can do, I still am not quite sure of his motives all the time which makes him continually interesting.

Worth Mentioning: Kevin Chapman (Person of Interest, CBS), Nick Wechsler, (Revenge, ABC)

Madeleine Stowe, Revenge (ABC) - One of the single best performances of the year on any show, Madeleine Stowe is a scene stealer as Ice Queen Matriarch Victoria Grayson. Sinister to her core, Stowe's character has delivered some of the most memorable lines of the season with a great deal of bite. Just when you think she might have some redeeming qualities, she turns things around and manipulates others. And everything she does is with a sickly sweet smile that you might imagine would come from a society queen who has had the world go exactly the way she wanted it to until Amanda/Emily busted it up.

The Runners-Up
Megan Hilty (Smash, NBC) - Smash was highly touted for its premiere for its all start cast including film and TV veterans Debra Messing and Anjelica Huston but it is real-life Broadway star Megan Hilty who has delivered the best performance on the show as Ivy Lynn. Not only does she give the best musical performances, she also has portrayed a complicated character whose back story makes her the way she is.

Taraji P. Henson (Person of Interest, CBS) - As Detective Carter, Taraji P. Henson had very little to do in the first part of the season while she tried to hunt down John Reese. But since she joined forces with Reese and Mr. Finch (after they saved her life), her character has become much more interesting. This was never more apparent than in the season finale as she secretly helped Reese escape with the feds watching her. I'm interested to see where her character goes next.

Worth Mentioning: Karine Vanasse (Pan Am, ABC), Laura Benanti (The Playboy Club, NBC)

The River (ABC) - Truth be told, I don't think any drama was as bad as some of last year's stinkers such as My Generation. But this was the worst of the bunch because the story was much lamer than you'd expect and the performances left a lot to be desired. On top of that, the thrills were less than thrilling which is why a horror show is hard to sustain on network TV. The River could have been fascinating and I was excited for it to debut but I was very disappointed by the end product. There was nothing to enjoy.

The Runners-Up
The Firm (NBC) - I didn't expect this show to be as good as the awesome movie with Tom Cruise but I also didn't expect it to be so boring. The Firm held my interest during the two hour pilot for the most part but I turned it off midway through episode two because I realized I wasn't paying attention at all. A show like this can only go so far especially when the production is cheap and the performances are mediocre.

Unforgettable (CBS) - What an ironic title for this show which was easily the most forgettable of the season. CBS proved with Person of Interest that they can develop really interesting shows but with Unforgettable, they got themselves a cookie-cutter procedural with a twist that wore off after about 20 minutes.

Worth Mentioning: Charlie's Angels (ABC), Missing (ABC)

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