If you’ve been following along with Cultural Learnings’ 2008 Television Time Capsule [Full links available at the intro post], you will have surely noticed that there are shows I watch that didn’t make the list. I could have just ignored this fact, but in writing the various pieces that comprise this epic journey through the year in television I had to, for my own benefit, justify my decisions.
Here are my reasons for not including various shows on the list, and feel free to comment with any shows you think I unfairly left out of the time capsule for one reason or another.
The Shield (FX)
Last year, it was The Sopranos that had me left behind as the rest of the world of television criticism discussed its ending and the show’s role in shaping a decade of television. This year, I missed out on The Wire and The Shield both, and at a certain point I had to make a decision about which one I wanted to rectify first. The Wire won, which leaves the Shield’s highly acclaimed seventh season, and the six which came before it, on my catchup list for 2009. I reserve the right to dig up the time capsule, should its genius not be overstated.
Breaking Bad (AMC)
I fell behind on a fair few shows last year, but Breaking Bad is the one that feels like the biggest mistake: I could take not finishing off the first season runs of Reaper or Eli Stone, but this is a show that won Bryan Cranston an Emmy, had a really compelling pilot, and has earned a great deal of critical acclaim. The show is returning in 2009, and I do hope that I’ll find time to watch the shortened first season in time to see if season two might find a spot in 2009’s time capsule.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
After starting out with a great deal of promise, Grey’s Anatomy’s fifth season quickly devolved into a bizarre experiment on how far Shonda Rhimes could push her audience. It wasn’t just the scandalous departure of Brooke Smith, or even Denny’s ghost rising to bring Izzie to a point of emotional breakdown, but rather that the show has at the same time introduced some elements (like the arrival of Kevin McKidd to the cast, or the guest appearance by Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)) that should have made a difference and have been either squandered or terribly conceived. I’m willing to put a show that shows potential but doesn’t live up to it in the time capsule as a lesson, but right now I don’t want anyone following Rhimes’ example.
Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
I have room in my Sunday lineup for a soapy series, and the sheer level of acting talent on Brothers & Sisters has kept me watching into its third season, but I am both growing tired of the antics of this dysfunctional family and perpetually lacking an emotional drive to write about the show. I might look to it as an example of fine actors finding solid employment, which is certainly a good development, but I don’t know if I’m really going to remember this show five years from now.
At a certain point, this list became extremely long, and I felt like I was adding shows because I had something to say about them, not because they were particularly good or eventful. I realized at a certain point that having something to say was probably a decent sign of whether it was good or eventful. However, I liked the fourth season of Weeds when it aired, so I was kind of surprised when I couldn’t put together three paragraphs on why. Perhaps I was just too scarred by Shane and Silas’ sexual escapades, and didn’t feel like writing another paragraph lamenting the former’s oedipal desires.
Privileged (The CW) and Greek (ABC Family)
The CW’s newest show aimed at young females, and ABC Family’s increasingly popular show about life at a fictional college, these two shows are guilty pleasures for me, and I wanted to make room for one of them on my list. But at a certain point I realized that I’m falling out of love with the former, despite some of its more charming elements, and that the latter didn’t feel like it had a standout episode. I still feel like people who enjoy The O.C. or Veronica Mars should give these shows a chance, both highly capable of witticism and charm within teen settings, but they don’t quite make it into the Time Capsule yet.
Gossip Girl (The CW)
If I could just separate Chuck and Blair from the rest of the show, perhaps we might see Josh Schwartz’ other currently airing series on this list. But when the show chose to put the spotlight on Jenny, and turn her into an even less interesting character by fabricating an attitude with bangs and copious amounts of eyeshadow, forgive me for not wanting other shows to follow its example. I think that this show has potential, so when it takes the wrong path at every fork in the road I can’t help but hold it accountable.
Ugly Betty (ABC)
There is something very comfortable about Ugly Betty, a show that could cheer up just about anyone with its set design alone sometimes. But the show itself has been struggling to keep my interest: the show has to stretch to find reasons for Betty to be a victim within her workplace, and while Vanessa L. Williams continues to bring it as Wilhelmina Slater I don’t feel like the show’s storylines are keeping up with her. The show has never quite delivered a knockout episode outside of its first season finale and perhaps the show’s pilot, so I will be curious to see if it can rise to the occasion in 2009.
The show’s seventh season was so across the board awful that any attempt to memorialize it should be avoided at all costs: best plan is to ignore it entirely and hope that, as reports show, the show’s debut on ABC on January 6th will rinse away the pain. [Survey shows that the show was quite good in its return, even if I still have my reservations – Review to be found here].
Life on Mars (ABC)
Perhaps the toughest cut to make from the list (both for its quality and the ability to play into the time travel elements of the series with a few puns), ABC’s remake of the British series has impressed me enough to keep me watching and in its fall finale made a strong case for inclusion with an episode that seemed to jolt the show’s mythology into high gear. I still feel like the show operates a little bit too much like a standard crime procedural at points, but strong acting and some unique touches have the show in contention for next year’s time capsule.
Skins (BBC America)
BBC America’s airing of this British show captured a lot of my attention, but burning through two seasons extremely quickly has made it difficult to decide which episode I would ever include here. I feel as if Skins needs more time to digest for me: the show is so individualistic with some of its episodes, some feeling eerily centered on a single character and others seeming like its central focus is wasted on a peripheral one. The show was simultaneously very focused and often erratic in its plotting, and as a result picking a single episode seems like a fool’s errand. Either that, or I had already written so many of these things that I needed an excuse. You be the judge.
John Adams (HBO)
Emmy-award winning miniseries, critical praise, extremely impressive cast, and the historical drama aspect I quite enjoy: these are all the qualities that I’ve had to suppress in order to justify not watching HBO’s miniseries over the past year. I’ll get to it eventually, I swear.
Got any better ideas of which ones deserved a spot in the Time Capsule? I likely don’t watch them if they’re not listed here, but offer ’em up anyways in the comments below!