While Thanksgiving is an American holiday and perhaps not celebrated globally, this seemed like an opportune time to give a warm shout-out to 10 television shows for which I am thankful this year.
One caveat, with the Year End 2011 Top 10 lists about to be unleashed from every corner of the TV blog-o-sphere which will trumpet and laud TV shows that are proclaimed to be the best-of-the-best, these are just a some of shows that consistently bring a smile to my face and make me glad that they created these glorious fictional worlds for us to enjoy.
While other children were perhaps raised on the likes of SESAME STREET, THE MUPPETS or some other childhood staple, in my family, we were raised amongst the wondrous world of DOCTOR WHO. To this day, nothing makes me feel more nostalgic and thrilled to be a television viewer than watching an episode of DOCTOR WHO. Even amidst the frequent transitions of lead actors and supporting characters, there is something truly engaging and addictive about a man simply known as The Doctor who pops up to invite everyday people to explore the universe with him. The latest incarnation has introduced us to The 11th Doctor (magnificently portrayed by Matt Smith) and his companions Amy Pond, Rory and River Song (just as delightfully portrayed by Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Alex Kingston). This year toyed with our affections by daring to kill The Doctor and then invite us on a journey to solve the mystery of his death. By the end of the season, the journey left us breathless and clamoring for more.
Another British television series that managed to capture my heart is MERLIN. The innocence and joy in which it tells the legendary tale of a young wizard and the boy-who-would-one-day-be-king just captivates. The characters are brought to life by the talents of Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Anthony Head, Katie McGrath, Angel Coulby and Richard Wilson. The ensemble shines with affection and revelry. Even amongst the darker-side of the rift arising as each embraces their epic destinies cannot quite eclipse all the fun the actors are clearly having in their roles. The series offers everything you hope for and more in the retelling of such a classic tale. It offers adventure, danger, romance all blended together with fun humor. It makes for an awesome concoction that dazzles with each episode.
The Stephen King-inspired supernatural series nearly defies categorizing. It is not quite a sci-fi series and yet not a horror series either. It is a careful construction of supernatural infused with just enough mystery to make sure that viewers are glued to their TV’s on Friday nights. The stories are mind-boggling as each addresses afflictions that are sympathetic and yet very destructive. Seeking to explore the mysteries of what brought upon the “troubles” in the sleepy town of Haven, the intrepid trio of heroes, Audrey Parker, Nathan Wuornos and Duke Crocker (wonderfully portrayed by Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant and Eric Balfour) track down each person to either help mitigate their affliction or stop their deadly rampage. The addictiveness lies within the hearts of the characters, and the appealing chemistry of the actors who bring them to life. The series also offers both a dash of star-crossed romance and warm camaraderie woven through this dark tale of destiny. It makes the diehard fans count down every minute between episodes wondering what the next chapter will reveal.
HART OF DIXIE
A surprisingly addictive newcomer to the television landscape is a little known dramedy that is slowly amassing a loyal following on Monday nights. Spearheaded by the charming Rachel Bilson, as the lead character Dr. Zoe Hart, the fish-out-of-water tale of a New York surgeon who inherits a country medical practice from the father she never knew, is capturing hearts both on and off screen. On-screen, the many men of Zoe Hart are enthralling viewers and the battlelines are being drawn for Team Wade (Wilson Bethel) and Team George (Scott Porter) – as the two primary love interests are being sized up. It never hurts to add another hunky guy into the mix, namely in the form of Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams), ex-football pro and town mayor and sometime confidante of Zoe. The warmth, humor and charm of the stories and characters make it a must-see TV show and one that more fans shall soon be discovering.
THE VAMPIRE DIARIES
There is one thing THE VAMPIRE DIARIES does best and it is surprising viewers on a weekly basis. The shocks and surprises never stop. The show feeds on adrenaline and offers up a roller-coaster ride of jaw-dropping cliffhangers. It also knows how to take its most villainous characters and make them redeemable – despite the fact that they kill without remorse and no desire to reform. It relishes in the fact that its core characters are vampires and they are supposed to be bad and do shocking things. But somehow we love them for it and ask for more. Plus, it offers some of the most unabashedly romantic storylines amidst its high-octane and gorishly fiendish storylines. What’s not to love? It’s got vampires, werewolves, witches and a healthy does of teen angst intertwined with sly humor – and it is very cleverly done. Kudos to the entire creative ensemble!
Speaking of guilty-pleasures, who has not raved about the other newcomer on the block, REVENGE? Helmed by the luminous Emily Van Camp as the determinedly black-hearted villainous Emily Thorne seeking her revenge on those who destroyed her family, the show invites us to take the dastardly journey with her and love every minute of it. Smart casting is the secret of this new show’s success. As much as we want to hate the Graysons for their principal part in the evil deeds, it is hard to want to punish the likable characters with a softer-side, as deliciously portrayed by Madeline Stowe, Henry Czerny, Christa Allen, and Josh Bowman. Then there are the Porter brothers, Jack and Declan who we feel for as they are caught in the cross-hairs. Plus, as a longtime fan of the series ROSWELL, it is awesome to see Nick Wechsler in a leading man role. So as hiatus approaches, it will be a long, cold winter break as we wait anxiously for our favorite dose of treachery to return.
ONCE UPON A TIME
Another series that completely stole our hearts and simultaneously makes them sing is the enchanting tale of Emma Swan, her long-lost son Henry and the magical world of Storybrooke, Maine. It offers not just a plethora of heroes to root for, but even a few villains as well. Like each of the shows listed above, casting is the secret ingredient. Brought to life by the likes of Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas and Robert Carlyle, we fell in love with the fairytales of our youth all over again. But in this fantastic reimagining, we get two for the price of one: we get all our favorite fairytale characters and their real-world counterparts (well, as real as you can get in television). The heart of the story lies in the complex dichotomy between the fairytale character and the real-world version. Without the mirrored relationship, the Evil Queen would just be evil; but with the real-world persona of Mayor Regina Mills, the adoptive mother of Henry, thrown into the mix, the story becomes murkier and more intriguing. Likewise with the mirroring of Snow White and Mary-Margaret, and Prince Charming and John Doe. The show comes to life as we sit enthralled by the rich tapestry of stories and character and the dual lives unfolding before our eyes. It is magical and we are hooked!
The Canadian drama about a young woman who embarks on unorthodox therapy through the use of time-travel is a well-known hit north of the U.S. border. For the few of us who discovered this gem hidden away on American television, BEING ERICA is a treasured find. Starring the appealing Erin Karpluk, the series scintillates with warm-hearted lessons on how to embrace the life we want and how we are not bound by the choices of our past. The misadventures and many loves of Erica Strange are a fun confection of humor and life lessons. Aided by her wise mentor Dr. Tom (Michael Riley), the time-traveling adventures backdrop an earnest story of a young woman persuaded to pursue her dreams, not matter how impossible and unattainable they may seem. The exuberance and joy for life with which the show tackles thorny and sensitive subjects makes the show compelling and heart-warming. If we all were so lucky to have such a chance to relive our own lives again. But in the meantime, we celebrate Erica’s chance to live the life she chooses, bending fate to her will.
The dark, somber series about fractured timelines and alternate universes is unbelievably complex and mind-bending. It has also slowly seduced viewers over the past 3 seasons into believing that such things are possible. After all, how can we possibly live in a world without such wondrous people as Walter Bishop and Olivia Dunham? The talents of Anna Torv and John Noble have been nothing short of extraordinary as we watched them seamlessly slip into the dual personas of their characters: Walter and Walternate, Olivia and Fauxlivia. The heart-wrenching agony of the decisions they are forced to make and future dilemmas they must confront as the one man they love could bring about the destruction of two universes. Walter’s son and Olivia’s love Peter Bishop (deftly portrayed by Josh Jackson) is the one person who should never have existed. Yet in the course of this 4th season, he has managed to slip through the cracks in time and reappeared. Similarly, the entire show has slipped into our hearts and found a home there. We love spending time with these characters and are just as heart-broken over the choices they are forced to make. When a show begins to feel this real, is it a wonder that the line between television and reality blurs?
HELL ON WHEELS
Last, but not least, the tenth show television show I am thankful this year is a sneaky one. With some brilliant casting, some devilish characters, and an age-old story with which we all can relate, HELL ON WHEELS challenges us to embrace the Wild West once again. But with only a handful of episodes under its belt, it has drawn us into a world where we care excruciatingly what happens next. Will Colin Bohannon (Anson Mount) get his revenge against those who murdered his wife? Will Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott) find a new home amongst the uncouth men forging the future? Will Doc Durant (Colm Meaney) get his railroad built in time to make his mark in history? Will Elam (Common) find the equality he so desires as laws change faster than the hearts of men? It only sounds like a familiar story, but with such enticing characters fleshing out the stories, we cannot help but be riveted. We desperately care about each and every character and want to see that they get their heart’s desires. If only all television shows were so quick to capture our attention and our hearts!
Television is all about entertainment. A TV show doesn’t have to be the best show on television to be highly entertaining. Each year award and accolades are heaped upon shows for their superior craftsmanship, but rarely do we single out the shows that simply invite us into a world, for which we are thankful to be a part of. These 10 shows created worlds that I am incredibly grateful for and felt privileged to watch this past year. From the TARDIS to Camelot and all the way to Storybrooke, all these worlds have been my home-away-from-home and I have loved every second of it!
(NOTE: Special mention should be made for the following shows: CASTLE, THE GOOD WIFE, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, JUSTIFIED, THE CLOSER, LUTHER, SHERLOCK, DOWNTON ABBEY, DROP DEAD DIVA, GRIMM, THE WALKING DEAD, HOUSE, RAISING HOPE, COVERT AFFAIRS, SUITS, TEEN WOLF and AWKWARD. – all which deserve to be recognize for their addictiveness this past year as well. They too graced our screens and gave us something to be thankful for!)
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).