This past year of television has introduced many shows, some that were cancelled within weeks and others that lived on to provide a very solid first season. The shows that survive are the ones that manage to combine good ratings with critical success. However, a few new comedies and dramas stood out as some of the most original and watchable shows on the air this season. Some of these shows are critical darlings that may not make it past season one, while others have huge ratings, but less original plotlines. These are some of the best new shows of the past year.
Girls (HBO) is one of the most original and jarring shows to come to television in a very long time. It has received a huge amount of press, either loving the show or hating it. The show centers on a group of girls, struggling to be happy and fulfilled in the cutthroat city of Manhattan. No, I’m not talking about Sex and the City. This show purports itself to be the opposite of Carrie’s gaggle of friends in that it depicts very normal girls who live very average lives and have very average problems.
The show focuses on Hannah, who is an English major trying to keep herself afloat in an industry that doesn’t exact produce a whole lot of money. In the pilot, her parents graciously decide to cut her off and she estimates that she can survive in New York City for about four days before she will starve to death. Meanwhile her friends are struggling with similar situations in their financial and personal lives and they seek to find their identities on their own for the first time in their lives.
It is easy to see why some people haven’t quite taken a liking to this show. It fits a very specific niche, that is, it really only applies to 20-something girls. However, this is what makes the show so fresh and original, because it doesn’t attempt to be some all-encompassing narrative that hits home with every person that sees it. It is a small, somewhat depressing look into the lives of girls, whose stories are glorified to the level of serialized television. The dialogue of the show is choppy and awkward, because surprisingly real people don’t talk in perfect flowing prose. It is the strange reality of this show that makes it one of best and least-funny comedies of this past season.
New Girl (FOX) has got to be my favorite new comedy of the last year. This show does something very rare; its comedic value doesn’t necessarily come from a string of jokes, but instead from the characters themselves as we get to know them over the course of the season. Zooey Deschanel stars as Jess who has recently broken up with her boyfriend and moved into a loft with three other guys. These three buffoons quickly become her quasi-family, each filing a different but essential role in her life.
Nick started out as the trusty, reliable roommate and has morphed into a strange, lonely, scruffy homebody that seems to have taken a fancy to Jess. They have the perfect sexual tension that manifests itself through playful banter and mutual admiration. He is one of those guys who constantly claims that he had a brilliant idea stolen by someone else…essentially an underdog. Ironically, that is the exact description of Jess’ perfect man.
Winston is the voice of reason in the apartment, although he seemingly has no discernible profession or purpose in life. He is probably the least funny of the three roommates but serves the important role of constantly reminding us how ridiculous the other three roommates are at all times.
Schmidt is the voice of lunacy in the group. He is without a doubt the strangest character to grace our television screens this season, and he simply could not have captured more hearts. He is a womanizing, flamboyant, fashionable, OCD, proudly Jewish optimist who managed to snag the Jess’ model best friend, Cece. They have maintained casual, sex-filled relationship for the last half of this season. Schmidt manages to fill any uncomfortable silence in this show with a witticism that raises the awkward level to new heights. Whoever writes this man’s punch lines deserves a gold medal. Or just an Emmy.
Don’t Trust the B—in Apt. 23 (ABC) has just been born into the comedy world about a month ago and is already holding its own against comedy greats. The show centers on the strained and horrifying relationship between June and her psychotic new roommate, Chloe. June has just moved to New York, only to find that her promising new job has been accused of fraud and she was kicked out of her company-owned apartment. In a bind, she decides to move in with Chloe, who seems nice but a little aloof and haughty. She soon wishes that those were the only two adjectives used to describe the maniac she moved in with. In the pilot, Chloe overcharged her for rent and then tried to drive her out of the apartment, thereby stealing from her. June manages to get through to her and they develop a slightly off-kilter mutual respect. That doesn’t stop Chloe from setting June up with her dad, and adopting a foster child to help her organize her life in later episodes.
The best element of his show is without a doubt, James Van Der Beek, who plays the role of a lifetime…himself. James is Chloe’s former lover and current best friend, who is struggling to remain relevant in world that will only ever see him as Dawson. I completely commend James Van Der Beek for willingly ridiculing himself week after week, because it makes for excellent television. Although he isn’t very well incorporated into the show, his subplots continue to stand out as the best part of each episode.