Thursday, February 9, 2012

What's worth watching?

Shortly after watching the latest episode of Justified, which is already hitting its stride early its new season,  I realized that not enough people are mentioning the Kentucky set FX drama among TV's best. The thought also made me realize that I didn't share my Best of 2011's TV. Better late than never? Here are my top 11 shows of 2011:

Parenthood on NBC (via)
11) Parenthood
Pure and simple my feel good TV show. Although it won't fill the void left by the #3 show on this list, it consistently reminds me of it (which makes sense because they're both run by Jason Katims). It's one of the more expansive casts on this list, and I'm on record saying I love my own family very much, but if I had to choose another - I'd choose the Bravermans. If NBC wants a hit, they should consider spinning off a show with the oldest granddaughter away at a college (Felicity 2 anybody?)

Shameless on Showtime (via)
10) Shameless 
Emmy Rossum is a star. Yes, William H. Macy is at the top of this show's call sheet - but Shameless is nothing without Rossum. I first fell in love with Rossum as the cause for one of the cheesiest movie smiles of all time (Dennis Quaid's reaction to her head on Jake Gyllenhaal's shoulder - watch it, trust me, it's awesome). But she is not playing some sweet young smarty pants in this Showtime TV-MA Drama - she's one of the strongest, sexiest, characters on TV today that is also vulnerable and caring.

The Walking Dead on AMC (via)
9) The Walking Dead
I don't read comic books and I don't watch zombie movies, but I really like The Walking Dead. It's a perfect show for me in a post-Lost world. Lost was a show about survival, and living with what you have left - only to have a bunch of unexplained craziness introduced later. The Walking Dead is right up front with its insanity: A Global Apocalyptic Event occurred, there are now zombies, that's what's happening - deal.

Game of Thrones on HBO (via)
8) Game of Thrones
Similar to what I wrote about zombies - I feel the same way with the fantasy genre. I went into the show with a cynical preconceived review of "Lord of the Rings with Boobs" but it's much better that that. Its season finale was remarkable. It's been a long time since a show was as daft at finishing loose storylines while also setting up a next season arc without resorting to hack cliffhangers. I can't wait for the new season.

Louie on FX (via)
7) Louie
Louis C.K. is a stand-up-auteur. Louie is a lighthouse of creativity that is the perfect example of how a Network should exhibit trust to their talent. Of course I've never literally stood up off my couch and given a scene a standing ovation - but I've never come as close than after the below embedded scene. This show is  a comedy, but this example shows how Louie is not afraid to show excruciating real life

Justified on FX (via)
6) Justified
I enjoyed Justified's first season, but it's second was leaps and bounds better. Thankfully the Emmys got it right giving Margo Martindale the award for Best Supporting Actress, because she was brilliant. The show is fantastically written - it's able to have stand alone episodes work as well as season long arc builders. It's lead character is easily the most likeable character in recent FX history. The Network, starting with The Shield, seems hell bent at placing flawed and wrong minded people at the head of its dramas. But U.S. Marshall Givens is a good man and awesome.

[We interrupt the countdown to point out a program that didn't make the cut]
Sons of Anarchy on FX (via)
This list was initially posted as a Facebook Status Update with no further explanation - just the show titles. Friends quickly commented that I should check out Sons of Anarchy on FX. I've seen every episode of SOA, I've been with it from the start. The show wouldn't even make my top 15 (I'd place Boss, Check It Out with Steve Brule, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The League ahead of it. It's Sons of Lower Class Sopranos at best and Nip/Tuck with Tattoos at worst. I have problems with how storylines get dragged out and how its characters are immune from consequences. But, I will continue to watch this show until it's finish.

Boardwalk Empire on HBO (via)
5) Boardwalk Empire
My friend recently described Boardwalk Empire's beauty as, "There are scenes that you just want to hang up on your wall as art." The show is a technical marvel, and a cinematic masterpiece. It's a full meal of a show, with thick character development and strategic plotting. I'm not ashamed to admit that I love reading episode recaps of this show - I study it like I'm going to be tested on it.

Homeland on Showtime (via)
4) Homeland
This show is 24 for grown ups, and I mean that in the nicest and most Jack Bauer complimentary way possible. Ten years ago I bought in on 24 and it became one of my all-time favorite shows. But I'm no longer in my early 20s ready to fist pump during action scenes. Homeland is a real slow burn pressure cooker that builds suspense better than any show not named Breaking Bad. I don't know how the characters will work in season two, but they've more than earned my trust.

Friday Night Lights on NBC (via)
3) Friday Night Lights
FNL is one of the best examples at showing people wanting to be better, and the struggles inherit in such a choice. For some, it means fighting against what they consider their fate or circumstance. For others it means a long journey to figure out what aspects of their life are most important to them (self-worth / inner-potential, family obligation, purpose and love to name some but not all).

At the show’s heart is a family. By no means a perfect family, it’s a working family – one that bends but never breaks. It’s a study of what we want America to be, especially in an America in which we realize what it is not.

It is the perfect flipside to Breaking Bad. BB is a show that must be watched after the sun sets – a show that makes you face the ramifications of indirect and direct evil. However, FNL can be a beautiful thing to watch on your couch any Saturday afternoon – and it will make you step out into the world and finish strong. Breaking Bad shows you what you can lose and Friday Night Lights shows you what you can gain.

Parks and Recreation on NBC (via)
2) Parks and Recreation

Three words: Ron F'n Swanson

Breaking Bad on AMC (via)
1) Breaking Bad
Every time I convince someone new to undertake watching Breaking Bad (FROM THE START) I take great pride and consider it a personal victory. It must be what preachers feel like when they convert people to a new religion. 

If you're not watching this show, I earlier wrote three reasons to start. All the seasons are available on NetFlix Instant and I suggest you hurry. The show has a definite end point - exactly 16 more episodes that AMC will likely split into two mini seasons. You will want to catch up to be "live" with all of us when it returns in the summer. At the very least - it's the best way to save yourself from spoilers because your social network will explode with us vocal fans after it's finale.

Dishonorable Mentions, Footnotes & Loose Thoughts:
In 2011 I stopped watching Jersey Shore. In my mind, it is an accomplishment that I stopped before the Italy Season. I had cleaned some of my DVR series recordings before leaving for Sri Lanka (mainly to insure that nothing would prevent Breaking Bad, and thankfully also Louie, from recording). I've never looked back and regretted quitting Snooki & Co.

Dexter is not a good show [anymore]. The most recent season ended where it should've began, but instead we got a full season with twice the number of cartoonish villains providing zero suspense along with every character not named Dexter without a reason to be on camera.

To a lesser extent, Modern Family is nearing its end in my DVR. Its first season was great, but ever since then it has been a poor copy of itself and is no longer a must-watch-within-24-hours. If NBC put Up All Night against it, I would choose Pappa Bluth and Mamma Bundy.

The Bachelor continues to make me laugh while The Bachelorette will always make me furious.

Sadly, the entire initial seasons of Hell On Wheels and The New Girl were lost in a DVR death. Through no fault of their own, I will probably never see an episode of either (nor will I make an attempt to give them a shot).

I don't watch Mad Men, but I will most likely try again (which would now be a third attempt).

I don't watch Community (very long story), but have changed my mind and need access to all its episodes (same goes for Happy Endings)

There is no scientific reason why someone with my tastes would not love 30 Rock, but I don't watch it and have very little desire to start.

Finally, I don't watch Fringe, Chuck, House,  or any show on Bravo, TLC, or CBS.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Who will see what with me when?

M83 @ Lincoln Hall. December 2011
This past weekend someone asked me what upcoming shows I was planning on attending. The answer was disappointing because it only consisted of the M83 show, which isn't until the first Friday in May. Typically the first few months of a year are concert-free as I'm focused more on either going to college basketball games (or rather watching them on TV). Meanwhile, it usually takes me a couple months to thoroughly sift through various Best Of Lists from the prior year.  Essentially, I'm scouting for which acts I want to target as they visit Chicago.

Here are some examples of acts about to come to town that I have not yet purchased tickets, but am strongly considering attending. Please let me know if any of these hit your ear well and want to make next year's spreadsheet.

Miniature Tigers @ Schubas Friday March 30 ($14)
(with opening act: The Chain Gang of 1974)

Neon Indian @ Metro Friday April 6 ($20)

Metronomy @ Lincoln Hall Wednesday April 4 ($15)

I Break Horses@ Lincoln Hall Tuesday May 29 ($14)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What's that sound?

I've fallen deeper and deeper into the genre I lovingly call "techno pop." It's a label that nobody else would self apply, because it's a reference to how Maude Lebowski described a music group comprised of three Nihilists. But I see you're anxious for me to get to the point...

"EDM" seems to be the preferred nomenclature. Standing for "Electronic Dance Music" it can be applied to a vast array of music. For a while I've enjoyed Cut Copy - and most recently Holy Ghost and Washed Out, but Spotify has steered me further into this genre. Here are three examples:

Bag Raiders

Toro Y Moi

Miami Horror

Finally, I can't post without mentioning M83. By far, the most listened artist since joining Spotify on December 1. This is a party that's not too late to join! The breakout "Midnight City" track will easily make its way onto my Decade's Best list. (For the record - I would've made this statement even if Victoria's Secret didn't use it for a recent ad campaign).  Thankfully I was able to get tickets to their early May concert after the sold out show was moved to a larger venue. I recommend everyone also check out "Couleurs" but I will instead post the closing track from the recent Hurry Up, We're Dreaming double album because it was recently set to an amazing time lapse video shot at Yosemite National Park:

Yosemite HD from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.