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The Top Ten Shows on my Must Watch List for Fall 2013

September 4, 2013

"I'm going to start killing again. Often. Until you catch me, or I catch you."

     -Red John, The Mentalist

The pundits tell me that it's better to have a top ten list than, for example, a top seventeen. But I'm a TV Junkie, and narrowing the list down to ten proved challenging. I compromised by throwing in a few honorable mentions. I also did returning shows only, because there are some new shows that I'm excited about (The 100, The Blacklist, Resurrection,) but until I see them, I don't know whether they'll meet my expectations.

  1. The Mentalist. O.M.G., Red John on a murder spree! And probably going after people that are significant to Patrick Jane. The official teaser, below, seems to imply that Red John abducts Lisbon. If I were writing for the show (Oh, what a lovely fantasy!) I'd also eliminate one or two of the seven remaining suspects by giving them nice, grisly Red John ends, after setting them up as red herrings, although Bruno Heller, the show's creator, has assured fans the season will not turn into Ten Little Indians.

    Google "Who is Red John" and click on a few links, and you'll find yourself embroiled in a storm of passionate fans with strong opinions and theories. There's even a Vegas betting line, and that Robert Kirkland is NOT in last place (which he should be, because he's been depicted talking on the phone with Red John). If I were betting, I wouldn't choose the odds-on favorite, Bret Stiles, but that's admittedly at least partially because I like the character. Just 25 more days until the season starts. 25 long, long days.

  2. The Good Wife. Alicia's starting a new law firm with her former professional rival, and the philandering husband who provided the entire premise for the series (and who is now the governor of Illinois) is about to encounter the first serious temptation he's had since the series started. Yes, I'm looking forward to the inevitable blood bath when Lockhart /Gardner finds out that their hottest talent is jumping ship, but I mainly watch this show for the supporting cast. Alan Cumming as Eli Gold and, especially, Archie Panjabi as Kalinda steal the spotlight every time they're on screen, and the show's producers assure us that there are plot complications for both of these characters in season 5.
  3. Revolution. I'm a sucker for the post-apocalyptic, and if you can judge by the rising popularity of zombie culture, I'm not alone. That said, this show hasn't garnered the ratings that it (in my opinion) richly deserves. Maybe it's because in this show, the monsters are regular people. My favorite villain(among many) is Neville, played by Giancarlo Esposito in a characterization even more terrifying than his portrayal of Gus Fring on Breaking Bad. A global catastrophe was the best thing that ever happened to this former insurance adjuster, who we see in flashback as bullied by a demanding boss and ashamed of his inability to succeed for his much beloved family. Now that he's really grabbed the reins of power, who knows what kind of mayhem he'll perpetrate this season. If the world doesn't get blown up by the nukes launched in the final moments of the previous season's finale, that is.
  4. Homeland. I liked the first season. I loved the second season. The third season actually started this past weekend, and the recorded Episode #1 is calling my name. How are they going to top blowing up CIA headquarters? Don't tell me!
  5. Person of Interest. I initially wasn't all that interested in this show, although I was always intrigued by the cast. Then a friend browbeat me into going back to the beginning of the first season and watching the entire first two seasons in a Netflix binge. By the time I'd seen a few episodes, I was hooked. Now, as soon as I hear that opening line, "You are being watched” (fabulously creepy with Michael Emerson's deadpan delivery), I get a chill.
  6. The Walking Dead. I usually don't mind special effect grossness, but this show makes me cringe. Also, they keep killing off characters I like. But I watch it anyway—that's how good it is. I've had to learn not to make the mistake of putting on my most recently recorded episode while I'm eating dinner.
  7. Scandal. "Gladiators in suits.” If I ever get in real trouble, I want to hire Pope & Associates to get me out of it. Of course, having just been revealed as the woman whose been having an affair with the President of the United States, Olivia Pope is going to have to become her own biggest client this season. Unless her father, the head of a ruthless, off-the books, quasi-government organization can get her out of trouble. But as scary as Daddy is, the most frightening character on this show is the First Lady, played with poisonous saccharine by Bellamy Young. Terrifying!
  8. The Big Bang Theory. The only sitcom on my list, and the only show that you can watch out of order without (much) loss of enjoyment. I never get tired of these characters, all of whom are making nerd-hood cooler than ever.
  9. Blue Bloods. Finally a role worthy of Tom Selleck's moustache. He started off as a sex symbol (I'm talking about his 1980 aftershave commercial, not Magnum, P.I.) , but the bigger his jowls get, the bigger my crush on him. He's absolutely brilliant as NYC police commissioner Frank Reagan. If you prefer your heartthrobs a few years younger, Donnie Wahlberg and Will Estes both give standout performances as Regan's sons, also members of the police force.
  10. Boardwalk Empire. Since Steve Buscemi's character is based on a real person, Enoch Johnson, and since Johnson's reign over the government of Atlantic City lasted thirty years, the award winning show could be around for a while. Some of the real villains who inhabited Johnson's world have already appeared on the show (most notably Al Capone), although their actions have largely been fictionalized. Each season seems to start with the introduction of a new character to stand in Nucky's way and to end with that character's death. Who will arrive to challenge Nucky in the first episode this year?

    Honorable Mentions:

    • Grimm. A story about fairy tale creatures set in the Pacific Northwest. I thought I'd hate it. I was wrong.
    • Gray's Anatomy. I left most shows with over nine seasons off the list, usually because they lost me after season five or six. But I still look forward to this one every week.
    • Sons of Anarchy. I have acquaintances who consider themselves to be "real outlaw bikers." They all grouse about how inaccurately this show portrays them. They also never miss an episode.
    • Elementary. As a Sherlock Holmes fan, I have to watch this one. But I think Watson is the much more compelling character in this modern adaptation.
    • Chicago Fire. It took me a few episodes to get into it, and it was worth it. The ensemble cast is really starting to fit together, and the writing still manages to surprise me.

    Two questions for you...

    1. Did I leave off your favorite?
    2. Who is Red John?

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