It is said that we are in the golden age of television. We can all name the top tier shows of this era: The Wire, Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Lost, The Shield, The West Wing, and many others.
What I'm interested in is the shows that maybe slipped through the cracks, that deserve a second look, that no one watched when they aired. On one hand I can sit back and say that the top tier shows, some of which are named above, represent some of the top artistic achievements of the medium. But on the other hand some of the shows that I'm going to name below are my favorites.
So in honor of the recent Olympics I'm going to hand out the Gold, Silver and Bronze Fustercluck Awards (plus two honorable mentions).
Bronze Medal - Heroes Season 1
I've watched the first season of Heroes three times, when it originally aired, a couple of years ago, and just this past summer with the kids, and I think that the first season is worthy of reconsideration. The legacy of Heroes will forever be marred by the second and third seasons where the wheels just came off.
The first season is filled with great moments, fleshed out characters, a large and diverse cast, true WTF moments, and a season long story. In other words, a solid model of serial TV story telling.
Are there quibbles? Of course there are. But Heroes' good moments far outweigh its clunky ones and is, in the end, a solid B to B+ show.
Silver Medal - Brotherhood
Brotherhood was a brilliant and under-viewed, under-appreciated, and quite frankly just plain old unknown TV show from just a couple of years ago that ran on Showtime.
It takes place in Providence Rhode Island and is about two brothers, one a politician and the other a criminal. The characters are complex. You see the effects of actions on a range of characters. There is true moral ambiguity and emotional and motivational complexity. They are both dirty in their own way and both good men in their own way. They are flip sides of the same coin but refuse to admit it.
All of the characters are from The Neighborhood so there are a ton of overlapping relationships. For example one of the cops grew up with the brothers and practically lived at their house because his own home situation was so bad.
It only lasted three seasons before Showtime canceled it due to low ratings. But the creators knew that the end was coming so they were able to wrap up the series with echoes to the first episode.
Brotherhood is also responsible for one of my favorite TV death scenes; Freddie Cork (the head of the crime organization in Brotherhood) choking to death his dead gay son's lover. What makes this such a great death scene is that it is ultimately an act of emotional impotence and not aggression. Outside of Breaking Bad I've never seen a death scene in a TV show so devastating.
Speaking of Breaking Bad, the first season of Brotherhood ends with one of those patented bat shit crazy Breaking Bad moments where anything is possible.
Gold Medal - Terriers
(As if you couldn't tell by the name of the award)
Whatever gushing praise that can be written about Terriers is deserving because it is that good. Terriers is like Woodstock, more people say they watched then actually did.
Terriers was and is the dark horse underdog show of the golden age. It's probably one of the best shows in recent memory but no one watched the damn thing.
Terriers managed the tricky feat of having great episodic story lines mixed in with long story lines. In this age of either/or effectively managing both was a joy to behold.
The laundry list of goodness is almost too long. This is a show filled with nuanced grace and explosive violence. This is a show filled with great characters and great interactions. This is a show where the chemistry between the actors was palpable. This is a show that will, over and over again, break your heart. Not by killing a major character under the guise of a cheap stunt but in small tragic and human moments.
This, this, this, this is.....a show you need to go watch.
Terriers is destined to become our Firefly.
Honorable Mention #1: The first episode of The Black Donnely's
I recently watched the first episode of The Black Donnely's and it was riveting hour of television. Then the second episode seemed to squander the promise of what came before. I think that Black Donnely's was an ambitious show that wasn't able to keep itself from wobbling. But that first episode is worth tracking down. Plus, look at that damned cast!
Honorable Mention #2: The Chicago Code
The Chicago Code was an ambitious network cop show that tried to take some of the elements that have been successful on cable TV and port them to a network show. And here's the thing. It mostly worked. I've put it here in the honorable mention category simply because I haven't watched it since it aired. I've got it in my Netflix queue and am looking forward to a re-watch.
Everyone knows the obvious TV shows that are touted as being great. Any good shows that more people should know about.