With the announcements from television networks about their upcoming seasons, it is the official end to the 2011-2012 TV season. And thank the baby Jesus that it’s over. This TV season was one of the most underwhelming and frustrating seasons in years. Shows that were to be the next big thing (Terra Nova, Alcatraz) fizzled. Shows that were to redefine TV (Smash) ended up being been-there-done-that melodrama. Yes, there were a few bright spots (New Girl) and pleasant surprises (Suburgatory). But many shows felt like networks’ desperate attempts to fill time (¡Rob!, How to be a Gentleman).
As we look back over the season, here are my picks for the winners and losers.
Winners of the 2011-2012 TV Season
New Girl’s Schmidt
When Fox began promo-ing New Girl, it was all Zooey Deschanel, all the time. But as the show progressed, another character started getting the attention: the forever douchey yet equally charming Schmidt, played by Max Greenfield. With great writing and great acting, Schmidt has become one of the breakout characters of the TV season. (“We built this Schmidty on Tootsie Rolls.”)
Parks and Recreation
The smartest, sweetest, funniest, most consistent comedy on TV. Period.
Say what you will about Whitney Cumming’s critically lambasted Whitney (NBC) and the not-funny-enough 2 Broke Girls (CBS); both shows were just picked up for second seasons.
It was a stressful year for the fans of Cougar Town (ABC). Not on the fall schedule and not initially announced for spring, the quirky, low-rated show finally returned in February—but cancellation still seemed imminent. Thankfully, the show will move to TBS and air its 4th season in early 2013.
This past month of HBO programming has (almost) made us forget about the luckless series Luck—which saw low ratings and the death of three horses on set—from earlier this season. The nerdtastic Game of Thrones (or as a friend calls it, Game of Boobies), the much-ballyhooed Girls, and the uncomfortably hilarious Veep, keep many away from network TV on Sunday late nights.
ABC Wednesday comedy line-up
The Middle. Suburgatory. Modern Family. Happy Endings. Four very different shows, but a very funny night of television.
Losers of the 2011-2012 TV Season
Mad Men Wannabes
They tried as hard as they could. But Pan Am (ABC) and The Playboy Club (NBC) were all style, but no substance. (Both were cancelled.)
Why certain shows are picked up and supported, while others are left to flail is a mystery to me. Take the atrocious Whitney, for example, which just got renewed for a second season. Why did this subpar show receive full support from NBC, while the charming Bent and Best Friends Forever were left to wither on the vine? We’ll never know.
Perhaps GCB didn’t get out of the gate nearly as fast as ABC had hoped, but in its short run, it had already amassed a fervent following. With pitch perfect performances (especially from Annie Potts and Kirstin Chenoweth) and over-the-top, campy situations, it was a show that many talked about (and quoted). Too bad ABC decided to cancel. With time, it could have been a hit.
It was a disastrous year for Fox. Of eight new shows, six were cancelled. (Only New Girl and Touch will see a second season.) What makes this even more devastating is the pedigree of these failed shows: Terra Nova (Steven Spielberg), Alcatraz (J. J. Abrams), and the cartoons Allen Gregory (Jonah Hill) and Napoleon Dynamite.
Toss-Ups of the 2011-2012 TV Season
Smash could be a great, behind-the-scenes look at the New York theater world. Instead, it is often mediocre soap opera that focuses more on overwrought plotlines than theatrical artistry. It also gave us the most annoying, obnoxious, poorly developed character of this and many other TV seasons: Ellis.
There is no denying the continued staying power of the reality brand (each week still brings millions of viewers). But with The Voice and other voice competitions, how much longer can Idol remain relevant?
The Walking Dead
For a show about zombies, it was one boring season.