It’s never before been so hard to pick the 10 best shows of the year, as streaming services deliver strong short series on a regular basis, and cable and network TV have mostly kept pace with the quality. Some staple entries have dropped out of my top 10 not because they got worse but simply because they were supplanted. Here are 10 shows worthy of special mention even in this age of Peak TV.
“The Simpsons” Season 13 (2001-02, Fox), episodes 1-12 — Matt Groening’s “The Simpsons” (7 p.m. Sunday, Fox) has been the funniest show on TV for every one of its 13 seasons (and yes, that’s including the years it competed with “Seinfeld”). But the show has evolved substantially. When it started, it focused on the title family. In the mid-‘90s, the lovable buffoon Homer became the breakout character, as the writers discovered he could symbolize either the post-modern American Moron or the unlucky Average Joe, depending on the goals of the episode. More recently, the show has become an unapologetic social and political satire, with the Simpson family (mostly Homer) as the lens through which the viewer experiences the story.
“The Simpsons Movie” – This mid-summer “Simpsons” fix is essentially an extra-long, extra-good episode that sends the family on the run to the snowy northwest (“Clap for Alaska!”) after Homer’s latest gaffe causes Springfield to be covered by a dome. Marge and Homer deal with the biggest bump in their marriage, and Homer and Bart feud, but you know everything’s going to work out in the end. As a bonus, we get new Homer classics like “Mmm … floor popcorn” and “Why does everyone I whip end up leaving me?”
– John Hansen, Brainerd Dispatch, Dec. 27, 2007
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:
In a double dose of weak sauce, Entertainment Weekly’s writers recently chose “Friends’ “ Ross and Rachel as the greatest TV couple of all time, and readers responded by choosing some random couple from “Glee” (which, research reveals, is actually still on the air). Over at his blog, my buddy Seth Stringer upped the standards by selecting Jim and Pam, from the American version of “The Office.” (Check out his full list here.)
For me, this was the year of “What’s going to happen next?” Who killed Rosie Larsen? Will Emily get revenge? How long can Bridget fool people into thinking she’s Siobhan? What would you do in a zombie apocalypse? And … how is Amber going to pay the rent?
Show: “The Simpsons” (Season 1, episode 1)
Airdate: Dec. 17, 1989
Overview: This is a classic not only because it’s a Christmas episode, but also because it’s the very first episode of “The Simpsons.” Sometimes when you go back and watch the first episode of a long-running series, it’s jarring how slow and boring it is. This episode is paced slowly but it’s not boring. We meet many major characters for the first time (although the Simpsons themselves were familiar to “Tracey Ullman Show” viewers), notably Santa’s Little Helper in the final act. When Homer brings home a free dog for Christmas, having failed to win any money at the dog track to buy presents, everyone is thrilled, and that wonderfully illustrates the spirit of Christmas.
Here’s what I’ll be watching for on my top 10 returning fall shows, listed in order of airdate. All times are Central.
Last week, “The Simpsons” was the clear winner in the laugh tally against “The Cleveland Show” and “Family Guy.” I can’t say that every week, but I can say it often enough to make a case that “The Simpsons” still has plenty of laughs left in the tank.