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.
It’s not as bad as the case of the old “Doctor Who” episodes that were intentionally destroyed after their broadcast, but in this age where it’s easy for a streaming service to make something available to its subscribers, there are still a lot of TV shows you simply can’t see.
“I Feel Bad” meets my first requirement for a modern sitcom: It doesn’t have a laugh track. Unfortunately, I wasn’t supplying many laughs of my own during the first two episodes, which are available on NBC.com. (The series returns Oct. 4 when it takes its regular NBC timeslot at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Thursdays.) It has some smile-worthy moments, and Sarayu Blue of “No Tomorrow” and “Blockers” is game for the lead role of Emet, but it’s ultimately not funny enough.
My TV-watching buddy Shaune says of “This Is Us”: “Even when it’s happy, it’s sad.” That contradictory statement perfectly sums up TV’s most emotionally draining show, which is up to its usual tricks in this week’s Season 3 premiere, “Nine Bucks.” Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) sit in his car after a horrible first date in 1972, but Rebecca is won over because of the way he looks at her. It’s the definition of a happy romantic scene.
“Manifest” (10 p.m. Eastern Mondays on NBC) isn’t quite the “What does it all mean?” “Lost”-style mystery I thought it would be. Then again, it’s not exactly original, either. It’s just that the TV shows it reminds me of are different ones than I had assumed.
There are more good shows on TV than ever, but the traditional fall season has become the dumping ground for the least exciting new series – perhaps because they need the extra buzz of Fall TV Previews more than something with the cachet of an “Atlanta” or a “Fargo.” Still, some quality series rise to the surface: Recent years have given us “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “This Is Us,” along with glitzy franchise entries like “The Gifted” and assorted MCU efforts (“Iron Fist” and “Daredevil” boast new seasons this fall).
I was never involved in theater in school, but I learned to appreciate it during my years covering arts and entertainment for newspapers (even if my love of music, movies and TV was why I initially sought those jobs). Not to discount the pleasure of seeing a well-performed play or musical, but what I most remember is the theaters themselves and the groups of high school or college students or community members who performed in them.
Although it’s still technically the same show, just with a new name, the 10 episodes known as “James at 16” (1978, NBC) divert from the 11 previous episodes known as “James at 15” enough to be analyzed separately.
If not for “Dawson’s Creek,” I might not know “James at 15” (1977-78, NBC) existed. Somewhat obsessed with “DC” at its inception, I picked up Andy Mangels’ unauthorized Kevin Williamson biography “From Scream to Dawson’s Creek” (2000). In it, Williamson reveals he was heavily influenced by the show and wanted to make a “James at 15” for the 1990s.
Having already been renewed through its third season, “This Is Us” is a show we’ll be talking about for a while. After last Tuesday’s Season 1 finale, I Facebooked that it successfully made me cry in 18 out of 18 episodes, and that it’s the #bestshowontv. That hashtag was mostly used by other “This Is Us” fans that night, which is to be expected. But it’s worth noting that “This Is Us” (which tallies an 8.9 on IMDB) still garners the most #bestshowontv labels a week later – and this ain’t exactly the vast wasteland era of TV.