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The 5 Best Shows You Didn't Watch Over the Summer (And the Season's Biggest Disappointments)

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | September 10, 2012 | Comments ()


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NBC gets an early start on the fall television season this week, introducing several new comedies, as well as bringing back "The Voice" tonight and "Parenthood" (yay!) tomorrow night (along with "Sons of Anarchy" on FX, which I'll be recapping over on WG this fall), and even "Saturday Night Live" this weekend (with three new additions). I am torn about the return of fall television, as I've enjoyed reducing my television viewing schedule from around 25-30 shows a week to around 10-12 (plus catching up on a few of last year's shows). However, writing for Pajiba and Warming Glow, I'm also excited about the opportunity to be able to write about more shows than basically the three I've spent most of summer discussing: "Breaking Bad" (the best show on television), "Newsroom" (which I've enjoyed defending, despite its innumerable flaws) and "Louie," which has had something of an enjoyably quiet year.

The Internet may not want you to believe it, but there were other shows on over the summer, as well. So, before we dive head first into the fall season, it's worth looking back at the best five shows you probably didn't watch over the summer because maybe you have a life. Or a Netflix account.

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"Awkward": Yes, it's on MTV, but don't let that dissuade you from looking into it. The second season of this coming-of-age comedy starring one of the best young actresses around, Ashley Rickards, boasts sharp writing, delightfully humiliating high-school sequences, and even a convoluted love triangle (that has, admittedly, grown a little stale). Most coming-of-age shows focus on male protagonists, but it's nice to finally see one centered on a female and her often troubled sex life, even moreso that it happens to be one as fantastically funny and intimate as "Awkward."

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"Suits": I'm always immediately skeptical of anything that airs on the USA Network, which is great at what it does -- that is to say, breezy forgettable procedural-like shows -- and I actually checked out of this show three episodes into the first season. However, readers here at Pajiba encouraged me to return to it, and it's a good thing: The first season found a nice groove by the middle, and the second season was flat-out fantastic, meriting this title for my review: The Best Show This Summer Smart People Aren't Talking About. The second season brought in David Costabile (Gale from "Breaking Bad") as the main antagonist, and "Suits" took a page out of "The Good Wife," playbook, playing down the legal cases of the week and focusing more on law firm politics, which helped to make the outstanding casts (which includes Gina Torres) more than just vessels for a layman's idea of what courtrooms should look like; they became characters we were invested in. It was a strong season, and kind of the perfect summer television show: Compelling, but not too heavy.

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"Damages": The fifth and final season of Glenn Close and Rose Byrne's "Damages," is mostly hidden away from most viewers on DirectTV's Audience Network (it's hard to remember that "Damages" was once on FX). It's a shame that such a well-acted drama is available to so few people, but it was given the shaft a couple of seasons ago because the actual storytelling hit a sloggy rut. I stuck it out because of the fine performances, because I'm a completist, and because -- despite the interminable middle episodes -- like "Dexter," the seasons are usually bookended by some solid episodes. "Damages" doesn't end its run until Wednesday, but I liked and disliked this season for the same reasons I've liked and disliked previous seasons: They set up great storylines, but they're not so good at executing them. In fact, subplots are often abandoned, narratives change course just as we get interested, and I'm terrified that the flash forward from the opening episode of the season -- Rose Byrne's character lying dead -- is going to be some ridiculous fake out. Nevertheless, "Damages" has been a compelling enough show to stick with, especially now that it nears the end.

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"Bunheads": Amy Sherman-Palladino ABC Family series began as a very promising "Gilmore Girls" redux: Similar characters in a similarly charming town speaking in a similarly fast-paced and quirky manner, and it almost didn't matter that nothing ever happened on the show. Almost. The show was immensely frustrating for the way it seemed to set something in motion with the pilot episode, but it never actually took off. Yes, the witty dialogue was fun, the characters were delightful, and the performances were great, but the show never really picked up on any narrative threads. There were no storylines. I guess you could call it a successful slice-of-life show, assuming you understand that it's a slice of no real person's life, but I was confounded by how plotless the entire season was, ending not with a resolution, but with yet another amusing but ultimately empty pop-culture allusion.

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"Longmire": This was a show I'd have only given a shot during the summer, because it's the antithesis of what I typically like watching, which is to say: It was a police procedural. I loathe police procedurals. There wasn't even much of a twist on this one, save for the fact that it features a weary, beaten down old man as a small-town sheriff solving more homicides than could've actually happened in a town of that size. Nevertheless, there was a dusty homeyness to "Longmire"; it was slow-moving, but I can't say I didn't find some comfort in the lazy beats of the show. Each episode seemed to drift on forever, but I didn't mind watching the mysteries solved with the same urgency as watching tumbleweeds rolling through a dusty town. I'm not sure I'll check back in for season two, but I'm not sure I won't, either. I'd be more inclined, however, if Katee Sackhoff got a lot more screentime.

Disappointments

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This summer, as most summers are, was also met with an array of disappointments, shows that I was initially excited about that revealed themselves to be appropriately forgettable for the season: BBC's first original series, "Copper" is chock full of ham-handed cliches (I haven't been able to bring myself to watch the last six minutes of last week's show for going on eight days), and seems to want to be great show but doesn't want to put in the effort to be one. USA Network's six-part "Political Animals" had a rough start, but found a shred of soapy momentum near the end, making it a show I didn't completely hate. The final season of "Weeds" has been awful from the get go, and it seems that this season will never, ever end. I didn't think it would be possible, but I miss the awful, nihilistic Nancy Botwin because at least she was interesting (that said, the "Little Boxes" covers have been fantastic all season long). I quit "Episodes" two episodes into the second season after it demonstrated it wouldn't be an improvement on the first: A meandering, unfunny waste of Matt LeBlanc. I didn't watch "True Blood", but I could tell from status updates on Facebook and Twitter that even the show's most ardent defenders were ready to bail. I have no idea why I stuck with "Dallas" all season as that time could've been better spent plucking out my leg hairs. I could've watched the first and last five minutes of each episode and known everything I needed to know about the show. Finally, the new show I was perhaps most excited about, "Bullet in the Face" -- touted as the most violent comedy in the history of television -- was daffy, unfunny, and so uninteresting that I got up to do something midway through the third of four episodes and never got around to finishing it.







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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Kelly

    I kind of totally LOVED Bullet in the Face. I thought it was hysterical, and brilliant in it's utter idiocy.
    It didn't try to be something it wasn't, sheer ridiculousness. Camp for the love of it. And Eddie Izzard was unfailingly funny.

  • dizzylucy

    Surprised by the criticism of Episodes, I think it's pretty good. This summer I enjoyed that and Web Therapy, Breaking Bad, and Louie, of course.
    Tried Longmire after it was recommended for my Justified withdrawal, but it didn't grab my interest. Maybe I'll go back to it, I do like Katee a lot, but the in the meantime, I've just been rewatching my Justified DVDs.
    Bunheads was pretty empty, and felt like an amateur Gilmore knock off. Needs a lot of work to improve.
    True Blood stunk all season, but darn if that finale didn't make me want to tune in next year. But it definitely went from must see to oh yeah that's on tonight.

  • Guest

    Ooh, haven't heard of a few of these--thanks for the heads up. I love Damages, warts and all, and could happily extoll its virtues at length. I haven't felt this way about a legal show since Murder One (S1).

    The biggest surprise for me this year was Hell on Wheels, which I was sure would eat itself up, as cheesy as it is. But we Spartacus-love it in our household.

  • Steve R

    The best show of the summer that no one watches is WIlfred. It's brillian.

  • i enjoyed Longmire. i think it is only technically a procedural. the driving force of the show is character and relationships. sheriff and the bar owner, sheriff and daughter, sheriff and rival deputy, sackoff and the town, the town and the res. the crimes seem there only to give them something to do while their stories unfold. and it is laconic, which is rare for tv. so not a procedural like castle, csi or law and order.

  • snapnhiss

    And the scenery is amazing.

  • Stellamaris2012

    Also, for the record, I thought Political Animals was excellent. I know it's probably treasonous around these here parts, but I never really liked Sigourney Weaver, having never seen Alien (and not wanting to, ever, thanks). I ADORE her in Political Animals. I didn't think I'd like Ciaran Hinds' character - he's fantastic. Some of the story lines are cliched, but goddam if the hubs and I weren't on our butts in front of the telly every Sunday night when it was on. Can't wait for Season 2.

  • Stellamaris2012

    The hubs and I love Suits; we loved it from the very first episode, which is a hard thing for a pilot to do. I actually thought this season started weaker than last season, but it quickly gained momentum. I liked how Season 1 established Harvey as the alpha dog, but then spent Season 2 slowing taking him apart. And I appreciate the writers NOT explaining everything about the characters' pasts. ONE DAY I will understand the Can Opener & Thumb Tacks - but I'm ok learning about it slowly. Also, I love Gina Torres in everything and wish she got more screen time. Even Luis Litt's character grew on me during the whole Donna mock-trial business. I'm less impressed with Mike (although I admit I got verklempt when G-ma kicked it) and his storyline, yes, enough with the Rachel/Mike will they /won't they... it's the only part I hated.

  • John W

    Wouldn't that guy from Bullet in the Face make a good Joker?

  • Masterpiece

    I thought the 2nd season of 'Episodes' was AWESOME. Not sure what you were watching.

    Bullet in the Face was violent and fun also.

    DISAGREEMENT!!!

  • no one

    I've been watching "Longmire" and enjoying the show for the reasons you describe. But I have zero interest in what ever this big story arc is, that Longmire maybe killed someone. I guess it's something from the books but I just don't care.

  • snapnhiss

    Is Katee's character romantically interested in her boss? That nasty little conversation she had with the sheriff's potential love interest was strange.

  • i read it as protective, because she is aware of how damaged he is. but it seemed out of character. we might have have expected her to be positive in an adolescent way about it.

  • snapnhiss

    Her unhappy glance at her wedding ring made it seem like more.

  • i remember the scene. I wasn't sure how to interpret it. her character has been so poorly fleshed out that i was trying to think of what her circumstances were that she was alone in this small town. her ring reflecting was just too vague for me to read anything, other than perhaps a burgeoning romance making her feel something about her failed(?) romance.

    the writer's haven't given her (or us) much to go on, in an otherwise thoughtfully written show.

  • Siege

    I agree that it felt ham-handedly protective. I sort of think that Vic sees Longmire as a father-figure, particularly now that he's estranged from his daughter.

  • as an arc, it seemed so underplayed yet blatantly telegraphed, it would be surprising if anyone cared

  • no one

    <spoilers ...="" maybe="">
    From what we've seen so far, if it's anything other than Longmire trackng down who ever killed his wife and bringing down the wrath of god I will eat Longmire's hat. Just a guess but that seems to be where it's going.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I don't know about Copper. The pilot was pretty bad (too many things cramped into it), but the other three episodes are solid, if only for the supporting cast. Weston-Jones is only hit and miss.

  • RilesSD

    Agree on the positive Longmire comments. Happened to catch it during a marathon and really liked it. Also spoiler alert, Katee is on a stripper pole in one ep.

  • i don't think they know what to do with her character except vacillate between adorable and inappropriate. i started watching because of her, but i hate to admit, she seems out of place (and not cuz her character is a city slicker)

  • See L.A Complex! Much better than it should be. Summer's hidden gem.

  • Wōđanaz Óðinn

    Even though it's only half-way through, Boss pisses all over this list. Except Louie, but I'm fairly certain it's illegal to compare Louie to other shows.

  • Ted Zancha

    Louie has been fantastic this year. I keep tuning in expecting a comedy and I am always pleasantly surprised to find that I am wrong. It is this weird mix of drama comedy, fantastic production, and just a dash of the surreal. I can not think of a way to describe the show other than one of the best show airing now.

  • Three_nineteen

    Longmire has confirmed something for me: If a character on a US TV show speaks in a particularly flat, emotionless, voice with no inflection, it's probably because the actor is trying to hide his/her Australian accent.

  • snapnhiss

    Over pronounces Rs is a giveaway as well.

  • hippyherb

    with the exception of Simon Baker, Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Toni Collete, Heath Ledger, Hugh Jackman, Anthony LaPaglia.

  • Three_nineteen

    I didn't say that people hiding Australian accents have flat, emotionless voices. The flat, emotionless voice people are a subset of those hiding Australian accents.

  • i often hear something similar with british actors, except they are usually dropping their voice an octave and speaking in their serious voices to attain a more american flavour

  • JenVegas

    Also overly-nasally as with the guy on The Glades.

  • oilybohunk7

    I'm not sure how I even ended up on MTV to catch Awkward but I happened upon a marathon towards the end of last season and fell in love, it earned a spot on my DVR queue.

  • Rooks

    Ooh, yay for Suits. Even though I would give a limb or two for that Rachel-Mike-on-off-thing to go away. Come on, Suits-people! Just give Gina Torres and Rick Hoffman more on-screen time and give Mike a proper girlfriend. Let's just all forget about Rachel. Please. That said: Excellent theme song choice. I've had it in my head the whole summer and may or may not have shimmied to it while on the bus.

  • Ley

    Gotta co-sign with Suits. Entertaining show. The women aren't hard on the eyes, either.

  • Finance_Nerd

    The women aren't met to be hard on "the eyes," but you should see a doctor if your eyes are hard for longer than four hours.

  • ed newman

    I never gave Hell On Wheels a chance after mostly lukewarm reviews, but a friend recommended it highly. Does anyone else here agree with him?

  • snapnhiss

    I was addicted to season 1 but season 2 is a bit slow. I'm still enjoying it though and there's a butcher shop scene that was surprisingly violent. The dirt and gruesome death scenes give it a unique take on usually sanitized American TV shows.

  • JenVegas

    I was convinced that my husband and I were the only people watching HoW last season. We enjoy it...it's mostly harmless and sometimes interesting but mostly only for the work of the character actors playing in the background and on to the side of the main arcs. I've begrudgingly watched a couple of this seasons eps but my interest has sort of died down....it's not offering anything new so far so it gets a meh rating, I guess.

  • Groundloop

    I don't. I bailed around episode 5 of season 1. It just never got it's hooks into me. The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl), was a great character, but they couldn't find enough for him to do, so I ended up spending the hour it was on reading.

  • Rocabarra

    I expected to loathe Longmire for being a poor man's Justified, but alas, I think it's a pretty damn good show. I hope it gets more popular and sticks around for another few seasons.

    I bailed on Bunheads after they killed off Cameron Frye in the first episode. Most misleading pilot episode EVER.

    I might be alone in this, and that's ok, I can let my freak flag fly, but I loved Political Animals from start to finish. I'd watch anything with Ciarán Hinds, and I was glad I did.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Agreed. I had much the same thoughts about Longmire (it and Damages are the only shows on the list I've seen), not to mention it airs on A&E. Though I've seen but a few episodes, it's really an alright show, and it doesn't feel like Justified beyond the setting and the main character wearing a hat. And really, there's a shortage of westerns (or at least pseudo-westerns) on TV these days anyway.
    Katee Sackhoff filling out a sheriff's uniform extremely well doesn't hurt either. Having never seen BSG, my only exposure to her previously was in the final season of 24...which was less than fulfilling.

  • mc-rox

    I have been debating posting this for a bit now but here goes...

    What 24 did with Katee Sackhoff's character on 24 was a travesty. The last straw for me of that season is when they killed off Callum Keith Rennie's character before his character and Katee's could meet. Humph! Damn you 24 for destroying my nerd-gasm! It was going to be soooo good. :(

    More on point though, Longmire is a good little show which Katee does well in. There is nice chemistry amongst all the players and some decently told mystery stories. Also, it strengthens my opinion that Lou Diamond Phillips (sp?) makes everything better. :)

  • $27019454

    After getting totally and completely hosed by this season, I have totally and forever bailed on True Blood. I'll never go there again. It sucked AND blew.

  • Even Stevens

    I'm now addicted to Awkward thanks to your glowing review when it debuted, it really is a great series.

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