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Monday, May 21, 2012

SEASON IN REVIEW: 2011-12 Sitcoms

It's time for my Season in Review! If you visit this site regularly, you know that I primarily focus on the new shows each year so here are my awards for the new comedies. Tomorrow will be new dramas while Wednesday will have a mix of awards for old and new shows!

This season has been dubbed the "year of the comedy" as they were all the rage. Many sitcoms are coming back for a second year and paired with the most new sitcoms on the networks in several years. But overall, I think this was a mixed class in terms of quality. There were certainly better sitcoms than last year's bland bunch but there were also some new stinkers to go with some good ones. Overall, I think the best new shows this year were dramas. More on that tomorrow but for now here is my rundown of the sitcoms!

New Girl (FOX) - I was not a fan of New Girl from the start. There were parts I liked but it was all a little too quirky for me at first, particularly Zooey Deschanel in the lead role. I ended up sticking with it longer than I usually do with shows that I'm ho-hum on and I am sure glad I did. The show really found its voice and now I'm a huge fan. I look forward each week to seeing Jess and her roommates and the show has already created its own pop culture references (the douchebag jar, True American). The writers realized early on that this show was about so much more than Deschanel and have really catered to the talents of the strong ensemble. In some ways, it's Friends for a new generation and there is such chemistry. It is, in my opinion, the best new sitcom since Modern Family. I think and hope New Girl will be around for a long time. Plus, it has a catchy theme song!

The Runners-Up
Up All Night (NBC) - I think this show actually went in the opposite direction of New Girl but it was still good enough to land in second on the list. At its best, it was a really funny show with a sweet undertone. It was wildly inconsistent in season one but I'm glad its renewed even if the ratings didn't merit it. It has the talent to be an awesome show, it just needs to put it all together.

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 (ABC) - ABC's dark comedy didn't capture me from week one but I have grown to enjoy it even if I don't love it. I think I have to get used to the fact that nothing on this sitcom quite adds up and I think that's the intention of the writers. It's edgy but not because of its title or content, it's edgy because you don't feel all that safe or comfortable watching it and maybe some sitcoms need that.

Worth Mentioning: Last Man Standing (ABC), Bent (NBC)

Jake Johnson, New Girl (FOX) - Much of the discussion revolving around New Girl has been about Zooey Deschanel and breakout Max Greenfield. Both are warranted but to me, the single best performance in the show comes from Jake Johnson as Nick Miller. He has been responsible for many of the biggest laughs on the show all season from his drunk scenes (honestly, he plays one of the best drunks I've ever seen going back to the legendary Bob Newhart and Dick Van Dyke) to his constant attempts to make relationships or inventions and innovations work. He has a sweet side and a real connection with Deschanel's Jess but the writers would be wise to keep them from hooking up for a long time, if ever.

The Runners-Up
Will Arnett, Up All Night (NBC) - Will Arnett made a great career choice in doing Up All Night. After his breakout performance as Gob in the beloved Arrested Development, he's spent much of his time since then playing very similar characters and it was running real thin. But in Up All Night, he shows a softer, subtler side and it works for him.

Max Greenfield, New Girl (FOX) - Max Greenfield's Schmidt has already undergone quite a transformation in the first season and the result has been a more layered character. In the beginning, he was the roommate who constantly had to add to the douchebag jar. Now he's shown a sentimental side in his relationship with Cece and a fat side in flashbacks.

Worth Mentioning: Tim Allen (Last Man Standing, ABC), Lamorne Morris (New Girl, FOX)

Zooey Deschanel, New Girl (FOX) - As the season was getting started, Deschanel was TV's "adorkable" breakout star and it worked at first for a lot of people but not me. The writers still seemed to make a decision (maybe based on viewer response) to tone down some elements of Deschanel's Jess and I think it has worked like a charm. She is still funny and unique but she's not annoying and that makes her such a better character. The strength of the ensemble has allowed her to be one of five rather than the stand alone star and that seems to suit her better too. What started as annoying for me has turned endearing and I am officially on the Zooey Deschanel bandwagon long after everyone else joined. Don't be surprised to see her get an Emmy nomination for this role.

The Runners-Up
Dreama Walker, Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 (ABC) - More people are probably talking about Krysten Ritter than Dreama Walker in this show but I think Walker has done a stellar job in a role that doesn't have too many dimensions yet. She could just play the wide-eyed blonde to Ritter's dark roommate but I think she put some bite behind the role which made it much more interesting.

Christina Applegate, Up All Night (NBC) - I think Christina Applegate has followed the same trajectory as the show for me. If I had done this list in December, she would have won. She's very good and enjoyable to watch but I sometimes find myself getting bored with her and the show. Still, she deserves to be on this list for a consistent, if not spectacular, performance.

Worth Mentioning: Krysten Ritter (Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, ABC), Amanda Peet (Bent, NBC)

James Van Der Beek, Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 (ABC) - This category wasn't the easiest to come up with a list of superlatives but James Van Der Beek deserves to be on top for playing a much more conceited and much more unlikable version of himself. It takes a confident actor with a good sense of humor to make fun of himself, much less being a teen idol who hasn't done nearly as much as recent years. But Van Der Beek doesn't just go along with that, he goes after it with gusto and an over the top attitude that fits this over the top show. If Apartment 23 can stay afloat next season, a teen heartthrob may indeed experience a career renaissance.

The Runners-Up
Garrett Morris, 2 Broke Girls (CBS) - 2 Broke Girls was the breakout hit of the season for network comedies but I honestly don't get it. I watched it for awhile and found it increasingly unfunny. But because this is a weaker category, a runner up slot goes to arguably the best part of the show, Garrett Morris who has several scene-stealing moments as the wise old cashier.

Hector Elizondo, Last Man Standing (ABC) - In a better year for supporting actors, Elizondo may not have cracked the Top 5. But he's serviceable enough as Tim Allen's boss in the painfully generic Last Man Standing. Traditional comedies are all about playing it safe and Elizondo does so it works for the most part.

Worth Mentioning: Dan Fogler (Man Up!, ABC), Cheech Marin (Rob, CBS)

Cheryl Hines, Suburgatory (ABC) - I really wanted to like Suburgatory and watched it for several weeks but ultimately felt it was a bland show. The only reason I stuck with it as long as I did was to watch Cheryl Hines whose scene-stealing Dallas was by far the best part of the show. As the larger than life suburban mom, Hines is simply a hoot. As I mentioned in my original pilot review, she's taken a character that is largely a caricature and somehow made her believable. If she and onscreen daughter Dalia has their own show, I'd probably watch each and every week.

The Runners-Up:
Hannah Simone, New Girl (FOX) - Simone's Cece didn't even start the year as a regular but she went from being Jess' hot friend to being a member of the best new ensemble on TV. Her Cece is a great female foil for Jess and her relationship with Schmidt has elevated both characters from being one dimensional.

Maya Rudolph, Up All Night (NBC) - As the Oprah-flavored Ava, Maya Rudolph is doing her usual shtick on Up All Night. She lands in third on this list because sometimes its funny and other times its way too out of control. But when she is being funny, she can really steal a scene or an entire episode. It's all about balance.

Worth Mentioning: Kristin Chenoweth (GCB, ABC), Allie Grant (Suburgatory, ABC)

Work It (ABC) - In some ways this was a tough category because there were several sitcom clunkers this year. But in other ways, it was so simple because ABC gave us Work It this year. The juvenile attempt at recreating Bosom Buddies was so horrendous, it's hard to imagine what made ABC want to greenlight the show in the first place. This show would have been a sitcom bomb ten years ago even when multicamera sitcoms were grasping for straws. But in today's day of witty, smart sitcoms, it stuck out like even more of a sore thumb. It was arguably one of the worst sitcoms in the last decade, not just the 2011-12 season. Again, what was ABC thinking here? It was so obviously not going to work on any level.

The Runners-Up
How to Be a Gentleman (CBS) - Remember this show that only lasted two episodes in the fall? I barely do either but I remember hating the pilot because it was so formulaic and full of bad acting that it was hard to sit through a 22 minute episode. Again, you have to wonder what the shows that these networks passed on looked like if this got through.

I Hate My Teenage Daughter (FOX) - FOX got another multicamera stinker with this one and that may be part of the reason they went all single camera for next season. Jamie Pressley and Kate Finneran were so horribly unbelievable as the moms of bratty teenagers. The best part about this show by a mile was its clever title.

Worth Mentioning: Free Agents (NBC), Best Friends Forever (NBC)

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