2008 has seen its share of terrible tv shows, most of them from the reality genre. Thankfully, there has been plenty of good TV to choose from, and here are five of the best scripted shows from the major networks. Fox, a network known for taking chances, can lay claim to three of the top five, while NBC has the other two spots. With past hits now only a shell of their former selves (hello, Grey’s Anatomy), the list may include a few surprises.
The show you should be watching instead of that soul-sucking Dancing with the Stars. Part Alias and part Get Smart, but with a personality all its own. Zachary Levi plays Chuck, a college dropout whose brain has been implanted with all of the nation’s secrets. Yvonne Strahovsky plays Sarah, the CIA agent assigned to protect him as he tries to live a normal life. Adam Baldwin plays a gun-loving spy who also watches over Chuck, who spends most of his time working at a Best Buy clone and saving the world each week.
The show is incredibly funny, with Chuck’s loveable nerd managing to accomplish each episode’s mission without being too Rambo or too video game nerd. A strong supporting cast, especially Chuck’s loveable loser co-workers at the Buy More, make it worthwhile.
Ratings for this J.J. Abrams creation have been so-so, but the show not only lives up to the hype, it has gotten better with each succeeding episode. Anna Torv plays FBI Agent Olivia Dunham, who finds herself in a complex investigation involving “The Pattern,” a series of unusual events that seem to be tied to a large, mysterious corporation. She is assisted by a possibly insane doctor, played flawlessly by John Noble (Lord of the Rings), whose scientific work seems to be connected to The Pattern.
Each episode presents a new scientific mystery and a deeper conspiracy, and the fear that Agent Dunham herself may be nothing but a pawn in a much larger game. Always intriguing and always entertaining, Fringe is more accessible than Lost and in many ways, much more entertaining. It is one of the few TV shows that does require you to pay attention and think.
OK, it isn’t Shakespeare, and yes, there hasn’t been an actual prison break in awhile, but that doesn’t mean that this show isn’t a big hunk of campy fun. With season four now underway, the main characters defy logic and common sense, and you don’t care a bit. Just around the corner is another pitfall, another mini-cliffhanger, another crisis which Michael and his brother Lincoln (Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell) must survive.
While the show often rides the line between improbable and ludicrous, it is the actors that keep you watching. William Finctner’s tortured character Mahone has developed from bad guy to sympathetic hero, something only a great actor can do. Robert Knepper’s T-Bag character chews up the screen and steals every scene he is in. Jodi Lyn O’Keefe’s Gretchen is deliciously evil and holds her own with the mostly male cast.
I could try to explain the plot this season to you, but it probably wouldn’t make sense. Just sit back and enjoy the show. Hey, Stephen King loves it, and that should count for something.
TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNER CHRONICLES
Forget the Arnold movies. Lena Headey takes on the iconic role of Sarah Connor, with Thomas Dekker on board as John Connor, and the two have created a universe that is different from the movies yet co-exists with them.
Set after the events of Terminator 2, the plot involves Sarah teaching a teen John Connor how to be a leader, all the while dodging more Terminators sent from the future to kill him, and possibly, hasten the arrival of Judgment Day. Summer Glau is terrific as a young female Terminator helping the Connors, and the plot for season two has thickened, erasing concerns after the series’ shaky start.
Even with a new Terminator movie on the horizon, The Sarah Connor Chronicles has filled a satisfying niche between the movies, giving us a backstory that makes the movies much richer.
It seemed that a short time ago, Heroes was the toast of network TV; a totally entertaining, engrossing show that constantly surprised viewers and critics alike. Last year’s season two, and indeed, the opening of season three has been largely, and rightfully, maligned as being to convoluted, too dark, too broad to enjoy. It has become a bloated victim of its own success.
Fans need not worry anymore. Season three seems to have quickly righted itself, getting the plot going and not leaving some characters in development limbo. There are still faults, and the recent firing of some producers may not be a good thing, but there are still plenty of great things here. Even bad Heroes is better than most of the stuff on TV right now.