With the writers’ strike finally behind us, the television industry has sprung back remarkably well. Granted, it isn’t all puppy dogs and ice cream for all of our favorite shows, but after the strike forced us to cancel the spring edition of our semi-annual TV Power Rankings, it’s nice to be able to show some love for those series that had been gone for far too long. A quick look at our Winter 2008 list may suggest that a major shakeup has occurred in our new Top 20 below, but seven of the shows from last November are either on hiatus or cancelled. Likewise, nearly every eligible show previously on hiatus has snuck its way back into the Top 20, while five new shows have also cracked the list. Most of these are experiencing some of their best seasons ever, and though “Heroes” continues its mighty fall, the return of “24” only further cements the notion that TV is back and better than ever.
Below you’ll find a few entries, but be sure to check out the full list, where we’ve also included links to DVD reviews and interviews, as well as a host of Honorable Mentions and our list of favorite shows currently on hiatus.
Just like the academically gifted student who’s perfectly happy getting Bs without doing any work, “Lost” has enjoyed a place in the middle of our TV Power Rankings each and every year. But after a tremendous return to form during last year’s game-changing season, the island drama has since risen to the top as the best show on TV. Delivering solid character development along with some pretty mind-bending plotlines, Season Five is fast becoming the show’s best year since its premiere. Curiously enough, its success comes down to the one thing that has severely damaged another Power Rankings finalist: time travel. Ever since introducing the high-risk storytelling device, “Lost” has become an even richer viewing experience – thanks in part to the writers’ decision to set certain ground rules so that the finer details don’t come back to bite them in the ass. Though a lot of the big reveals this year haven’t been that surprising (Jin’s survival, Locke’s rebirth, etc.), the show continues to move closer and closer to its endgame with remarkable confidence, and for good reason. “Lost” used to be the kind of show you looked forward to but were often disappointed by, but now it actually earns its title of must-see TV.
We were ready to delete “24” from our DVR queue after the soap opera shenanigans that mired Day 6 (our nickname for the show was “Dynasty of Terror,” and if you don’t get that joke, ask your parents), but a change of scenery – coupled with a little extra time to plan, courtesy of the writers’ strike – has produced the best season of “24” in years. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has spent this season battling an endless parade of villains on both sides of the law, from the FBI director who loathes his torture-happy methods and the senator on a mission to put him in jail, to the for-profit mercenary crew (which includes Jack’s longtime ally Tony Almeida) that’s working for an African dictator, who’s in league with an American military contractor. This season has sprinkled in some old favorites from seasons past (rest in peace, Bill Buchanan), but have introduced two great new characters in FBI Director Larry Moss (Jeffrey Nordling) and Agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), and Cherry Jones gives them their best President since David Palmer. Do the show’s conspiracy plots border on the ridiculous? Absolutely, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This may well be the first time that a series has ever been voted into the Bullz-Eye TV Power Rankings, only to be handed its walking papers by the network before the feature had even run. Granted, NBC hasn’t officially canceled “Kings,” but it has moved the show out of its spot on Sunday nights at 8 PM and stuck it on Saturday nights, which is the equivalent of a doctor saying, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing more we can do,” and removing life support. In short, it’s only a matter of time before we lose this series. Perhaps it was always inevitable, however. The scope of “Kings” was epic, often nearing Shakespearean proportions, with executive producers Michael Green, Francis Lawrence and Erwin Stoff creating a brand new world that provided them with the opportunity to offer tales of war and love without offending any existing countries. The characters had depth, and the actors portraying them – including Ian McShane (“Deadwood”), Dylan Baker, Christopher Egan, Eamonn Walker, Sebastian Stan and Susanna Thompson – offered performances which lived up to the show’s lofty goals. This could’ve been the next “Battlestar Galactica,” had it been given half a chance to catch on. The good news is that, per McShane’s appearance on “The Daily Show,” 14 episodes of the series were completed, so we’ll get to see some semblance of a conclusion. The regret, however, is that there was so much more than 14 episodes worth of material to be had from this concept.