Top 5 Television Shows


  1. Fringe (Fox)Fringe

Synopsis: An FBI agent is forced to work with an institutionalized scientist and his son in order to rationalize a brewing storm of unexplained phenomena (From IMDb).

Starring: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Seth Gabel

Air Date: September 9, 2008 – January 18, 2013

Review: Oh Fringe, you wonderfully weird and perfect television show. Developed by JJ Abrams, Fringe is a television love letter to fans of science fiction and speculative fiction. In the end, Fringe fulfilled nearly every promise Abrams made to the audience over the course of five seasons. It remained true to its core values: the importance of family, the sacredness of trust, the fun of a good joke, the thrill of intellectual inquiry, the saving power of love, and the fun of science fiction. Fringe combined some of my favorite elements: a fantastical science fiction narrative wrapped around a thriller about the lengths a parent will go to save a child. Season 1 and 4 were a little difficult to swallow; season 1 because the show was still trying to find its rhythm and seas 4 because the “new” timeline changed the character dynamics. However, season 5 nicely tied up all the loose ends and gave the perfect ending to such an engaging show. Also, this show has one of the executions of the alternative-universe storyline. While I am sad that the show ended, it is a perfect example of how to do a science fiction television show.

2. Sherlock (BBC)Sherlock

Synopsis: A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London (From IMDb).

Starring:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves

Air Date: October 24, 2010-Present

Review: Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite literary characters. He is the perfect literary detective: snarky, intelligent, eccentric, uncompromising, awkward, insightful, and slightly crazy. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle probably had no idea that his roguish detective would remain such a popular character long after his own death. Several movies and television shows have been made exploring the adventures of Holmes and Watson. This version brings Holmes and Watson into the 21st century, without ruining the integrity of the characters. It is enjoyable watching the series unfold and catching all the references to the original source material. Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent in his portrayal of a socially abrasive and highly arrogant Sherlock. Martin Freeman is the perfect foil as the more socially normal Dr. Watson. I feel both portrayals are the perfect blending of modern day social norms and the original characteristics of the literary depictions.

3. Once Upon a Time (ABC)Once_Upon_a_Time_Key_art_Poster_embed

Synopsis: A young woman with a troubled past is drawn to a small town in Maine where fairy tales are to be believed (From IMDb).

Starring: Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Jared Gilmore, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, Robert Carlyle

Air Date: October 23, 2011 – Present

Review: Fairy tales are a wonderful storytelling medium, especially when jumbled all together to make a new kind of fantastical adventure. Once Upon a Time is unlike any other show on television at the moment. It takes traditional fairy tale characters and places them in the modern day world, where magic is slowly seeping back into the folds of reality. Emma Swan, the main character, is a bail bondsman with a troubled past. She grew up in foster care, gave up a child at eighteen, and has been looking for a meaningful connection ever since. Little does she know but she is actually the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, who are currently living in Storybrooke, Maine. However, their memories have been wiped and replaced because they are living under a curse that was administrated by Regina, the Evil Queen. This serves as the launch pad for six seasons of continual fantastical adventures. Season 1 was a little rocky, the acting was slightly wooden and the CGI verged on the laughable. However, this all improved with each successive season. My one complaint is the split-season approach the show takes. This is where both parts of the season involve two separate narratives that are loosely connected through the main story arc. Season 4 was the worst example of this technique. In an effort to stay current, the show runners blended together characters from Disney’s Frozen and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Frozen just did not have enough narrative substance to hold up during an eleven episode narrative arc. The second half of the season explored the origins of Cruella de vil, Ursula, and Maleficent, who all would have been more compelling as season long villains. Anyways, this is one of my favorite shows on television and I am anxiously awaiting season 6.

4.  Justified (FX)Justified

Synopsis: Old-school U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is reassigned from Miami to his childhood home in the poor, rural coal-mining towns in Eastern Kentucky (From IMDb).

Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter

Air Date: March 16, 2010 – April 14, 2015

Review: Guys in cowboy hats will always intrigue me. Developed by Graham Yost, Justified is based upon Elmore Leonard’s short story Fire in the Hole. Timothy Olyphant portrays the soft-talking but trigger happy Raylan Givens, a tough U.S. Marshal enforcing his own brand of justice in his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. The series is set in Lexington and in the Appalachian Mountains area of eastern Kentucky. As with most FX shows, Justified is a gritty and dark look at the drug riddled environment of rural small towns in Kentucky. The show explores such concepts as white supremacy, prostitution, family drug businesses, small town life, gangs, religion, father-son relationships, the gray zone between good and bad, and the definition of justice. Raylan Givens is one of the best ant-heroes on television. He is complicated, tormented, sarcastically witty, yet also honorable. However, his personal life manages to overly complicate his job as a US Marshall. Olyphant and Goggins play off of each other quite well. Olyphant’s Givens is the wild child that grew up to be a lawman. Goggins’ Boyd Crowder is the mirror opposite; a smart guy who decides to put his intelligence to use in the criminal economy. Former childhood friends, Givens and Crowder continually cross paths and complicate each other’s lives.  My one gripe is that Season 2 and Season 5 are a little too similar, though season 5 came across as the watered down version of Season 2. The Crowe family just was not as charismatic as the Bennett Clan. Season 6 did a great job tying up all the loose ends and brought the show to a satisfactory conclusion.


5. Agent Carter (ABC)Agent Carter

Synopsis: In 1946, Peggy Carter is relegated to secretarial duties in the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR). When Howard Stark is accused of treason, he secretly recruits Peggy to clear his name with the help of his butler, Edwin Jarvis (From IMDb).

Starring: Hayley Atwell, Enver Gjokaj, Chad Michal Murray, James D’Arcy, Dominic Cooper

Air Date: January 6, 2015 – March 1, 2016

Review: Agent Peggy Carter is the enigmatic British agent first introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). This television show is about how she helps to establish S.H.I.E.L.D. with Howard Stark. It is unlike most other comic book television shows. For starters, it is set in the 1940s and perfectly captures the tumultuous period that followed directly after the end of World War II. Peggy Carter is an independent and career driven woman who has to prove herself to be just as capable as her male contemporaries. Season 1 was television perfection, in my opinion. The narrative arc was well crafted and each episode built upon the previous one. All the actors meshed perfectly together and the character development was excellent. Unlike the Marvel movies and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show, Agent Carter moved at a slower pace and allowed the story to unfold slowly. However, season 2 slightly lost its focus. While the first season focused more on drama with a hint of comedy, season 2 was an odd mix of comic book style narration and 1940 screwball hijinks. The focus went off of Peggy’s professional life and instead examined her romantic life in more detail. I felt the writing was looser and the main narrative arc was not as compelling as the one in Season 1. However, I am very disappointed that there will not be a third season because a lot of threads were left dangling after the end of season 2. I need some resolution!

Honorable Mentions: Call the Midwife (BBC), The Flash (CW)Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (BBC), Downton Abbey (BBC), Mad Men (AMC), Parks & Recreation (NBC)

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