John’s top 10 TV shows of 2014

These were my 10 favorite shows of 2014:

1. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (Season 6, Netflix) – “The Clone Wars” saves the best for last with arcs delving into the Order 66 brainwashing, Palpatine’s manipulations to take over the galactic banking system, and Yoda’s surprising encounter with a dark avatar and his first communication with a beyond-the-grave Qui-Gon. Even the “Jar Jar in Love” arc works due to the Gungan’s odd-couple banter with Mace Windu. While Ahsoka is certainly missed in this straight-to-Netflix season, she nonetheless feels like the absent center of this canceled-too-soon series. We can only hope that the storylines will continue in books, comics or “Star Wars: Rebels.”

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Fall TV preview: ‘Gotham’ and a handful other shows worth checking out (Commentary)

A year ago, I announced that the lineup of new fall shows was the worst in two decades, and although I ended up liking (and now mourning, since they were canceled) “Almost Human” and “Super Fun Night,” I think my prognostication was accurate. Now I’m here to say that the fall of 2014 looks worse. The good news is that, aside from “Almost Human,” the networks’ axes fell lightly, so a decent number of favorites will return. Here are my picks for three new shows to check out, along with a few returning shows of note:

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Kristina Braverman ‘Won’t Back Down’ as ‘Parenthood’ bravely tackles school choice (TV commentary)

Mainstream TV dramas, most of which are produced in statist Hollywood, are still far from libertarian-leaning. But “Parenthood,” which as recently as last fall had Jasmine talking about how good she felt voting for Obama in 2008 (without any follow-up about her thoughts on his performance as president), is bucking the trend with a storyline that launched last week. Frustrated with Max being squeezed out of the education system (he’s too Aspergery for public school, too normal for special schools), Kristina is looking into starting her own school.

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John’s top 10 TV shows of 2013

These were my 10 favorite shows of 2013:

1. “Bunheads” (Season 1, ABC Family) — I know “Bunheads” was the best show on TV in 2013 because it appealed to both the heart and the mind. And also because — with its dance numbers that attempted to illustrate the mood of the story — it was a daring work of art unlike anything else. Even Amy-Sherman Palladino’s trademark show, “Gilmore Girls” — to which “Bunheads’ ” quirky small town and obscure references owe a debt — wasn’t this ambitious. I also know “Bunheads” was the best show of the year because it hurts like hell that we aren’t getting new episodes or even a DVD release.

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Fall TV preview: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ and 7 other shows worth checking out (Commentary)

Well, that came upon us in a hurry. Perhaps because there aren’t any major new shows to get excited about, the Fall 2013 TV season snuck up on me rather quickly this year. But while this is the thinnest lineup of new network shows (and returning shows for that matter, after last season’s cancellation spree) in at least 20 years, it’s not time to throw out your TV yet. Here are four new shows worth a peek (all times Central):

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John’s 10 favorite TV characters at the moment (Commentary)

As the 2012-13 season winds down, here are my top 10 TV characters, some of whom will be featured in season finales this month, and some of whom have already bid adieu for the summer:

10. Michelle Simms (Sutton Foster), “Bunheads” — Despite (or perhaps due to) coming from a theatrical background, Foster has joined “Gilmore Girls’ “ Lauren Graham in the exclusive club of leading ladies who can handle Amy Sherman-Palladino’s dialogue while also developing a character.

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John’s top 10 TV shows of 2012

Here are my top 10 TV shows of 2012:

1. “Parenthood” (Season 3-4, NBC) — I hate to have the same No. 1 two years in a row, but “Parenthood” — the only current series where having a Kleenex box nearby is a must — gives me no choice. During the run of “Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood” was “Jason Katims’ other show.” Now it is filling “FNL’s” niche as the major-network show that best captures the universal human experience even though parenthood, like football, isn’t universal. This fall has been dominated by Kristina’s cancer arc, but it’s the non-awards-baiting moments such as Max winning the student presidency or Julia finally connecting with Victor that really stand out.

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Fall TV 2012: New shows a huge letdown, but returning faves still deliver appointment television (Commentary)

Two years ago, I labeled Fall 2010 as the worst batch of new shows ever. The highlights were “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” which was hardly a new concept; “No Ordinary Family,” which was throwaway fun; and “The Walking Dead,” which wasn’t the show then that it is now.

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War — what is it good for? A few good plots, at least (TV commentary)

We’re in a curious situation right now where 94 percent of the country supports pro-war presidential candidates yet other polls show that the majority of people are against war (although most of Congress is pro-war). Of course, war is a complicated issue, and I don’t pretend to understand all of it (although I certainly respect soldiers’ views, which tend to lean anti-war, in my experience). But because of the mainstream media’s focus on the two major parties, the raw fact of our involvement in the Middle East is generally not questioned — rather, the questions are about the details of how to conduct the wars.

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