There were a few shows that came out in the fall of 2009 that have remained with us — and deservedly so. There are also a couple of shows that came out in the spring of 2009, saw a limited run, and were picked up again — one of which almost never saw another day of filming. But these shows may be among the best on television — and for vastly different reasons.
“Castle” premiered in the spring of 2009 (March) as a replacement series. Starring Nathan Fillion as the “ruggedly handsome” (his words) Richard Castle and Stana Katic as the cop-turned-muse, “Castle” worked on the premise that a mystery novelist, Castle, pulled some political strings to tag along with New York City detectives for background on a novel he was writing. Stana Katic plays the professional and often annoyed Kate Beckett, who grows fond of having the imaginative and smitten (with her) Castle helping solve some of the city’s murders. Often humorous, “Castle” works — and there’s the bonus of seeing real mystery writers on the show, like Michael Connelly (the Harry Bosch series) and Stephen J. Cannell (the Shane Scully series and television’s “The Rockford Files,” “21 Jump Street,” “Wiseguy,” etc.) as Castle’s poker buddies. One thing to change: the horrible intro.
You know there’s hope for a network when they can get you to watch something other than their reality shows. ABC’s “Modern Family” joins “Castle” as the network’s entries into the “Get My Network Out Of The Basement” ratings game. TV.com describes “Modern Family” as “the next best thing to ‘Arrested Development’ being brought back from the dead.” Starring Ed O’Neill (“Married With Children”), who is married to a much younger Sofia Vergara, Ty Burrell (son-in-law), Julie Bowen (the daughter), and Jesse Tyler Ferguson (the gay son who has adopted a Vietnamese child), the show follows the dysfunctional Pritchett family. Critically acclaimed and funny, the show has garnered great ratings and should be around for some time.
CBS, the nation’s #1-rated network, debuted a new Julianna Margulies drama in September. Not only did it showcase the acting skills of the sultry Margulies (our dear Nurse Hathaway from “ER”), which brought the series critical praise, but it captured good ratings as well. And then Julianna Margulies captured both a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role as the wife, Alicia Florrick, of a Chicago politician (played by Christopher Noth), a powerful man brought down by his political enemies amid sex allegations. She’s doing her best to raise her teenaged children and resurrect her legal career while helping her husband — and trying to cope with his infidelity. Margulies slipped into the role easily from the failed 2008 Fox drama “Canterbury’s Law,” where she played a tough, justice-seeking lawyer.
Perhaps the best show to appear in the fall of 2009 was ABC’s (yet another ABC series) suspenseful speculative future drama, “Flash Forward.” Starring Joseph Fiennes, “Flash Forward” was based on the novel by Robert J. Sawyer, wherein a scientific experiment gone wrong caused a worldwide human blackout for three minutes. In that time, people saw their future, but just the three minutes within which they blacked out. “Flash Forward” is a tense, well-written series that asks thousands of questions, such as what would you do if you knew the future? Would you try to alter it? Could it be altered? And if so, how much of it could be altered? It is an emotional and psychological thrill-ride that literally keeps you guessing not only about the future of the characters but about what they know of the future and how they let it influence their lives in the present.
By far the best show to premiere in the year 2009 was the NBC drama “Southland.” Dark, dangerous, and gritty, “Southland” explored the lives of its characters (played ably by Kevin Alejandro, Regina King, Michael Cudlitz, Tom Everett Scott, C. Thomas Howell, and others) as they came to grips with their personal lives and their jobs as detectives and cops on the streets of Los Angeles. If you had wondered where Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) of “The O.C.” had gone, “Southland” is where he ended up. And then NBC canceled the show, a decision which might just point to why NBC is dead last in the ratings wars among the major networks. However, TNT picked the series up and began airing them in January. Pending ratings, the show could be renewed. Regardless, this is a series that should be renewed.
Of all the regular network shows that debuted in 2009, the five aforementioned seem to be the best. In fact, they may be the best, with the exception of the very popular Fox’ musical/comedy/drama “Glee,” of which this writer withholds an opinion until he has witnessed more than one full episode. With NBC giving up on real programming and switching to “The Jay Leno Show” for an hour each night and most new shows contending with competitors that have established audiences, new shows came and disappeared quickly, the few that came at all. If they weren’t reality shows, like “Shark Tank,” or poorly fleshed-out and sappy but somehow popular derivatives like “The Forgotten,” or even more popular poorly made remakes like “V,” they came and went without anyone noticing — or apparently caring.
Such is the landscape of modern television, where new shows war with series that have been around for a decade (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”) or two (“Law & Order”), not to mention all the myriad cable shows that seem to garner most of the critical acclaim (“Mad Men”) these days. But there are still a few good television shows on regular television. Some are fairly new…
“Modern Family,” IMDb.com
“The Good Wife,” IMDb.com
“Flash Forward,” IMDb.com