Monday, June 09, 2008

Report Cards '08, Bonus: Cable

With 6,000 networks now available, I'm not giving every one of them a grade, especially since I don't watch them all.

But here are a few highlights:

FX: "The Shield" is coming off a typically terrific season, but this is the network that also renewed the likes of "Dirt." In addition, "Rescue Me" and "It's Always Sunny..." had inconsistent years. Grade: C+

AMC: The Jay Bruce of networks, in that this was the first year AMC produced original TV programming, and had a hit every time. Both of AMC's shows, "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" should be on every critic's Top 10 list and will make noise come Emmy time. Grade: A+

USA: I've found both "Monk" and "Psych" to have become tiresome, but the network deserves points for the very clever "Burn Notice," which returns next month, and the solid "In Plain Sight." The experiment of moving "Law & Order: CI" over to USA for the first-run episodes seems to have translated well. Grade: B

Bravo: Bravo has gone from arts programming to reality heaven, but the transition has been a good one with the likes of "Top Chef" and "Project Runway," which Bravo is about to lose to Lifetime. Grade: B-

Sci-Fi: "Battlestar Galactica" is still the network's flagship (but really, guys, do we have to wait SO long between seasons?) and Mary McDonnell would have sewn up an Emmy after last week's episode if the Emmy voters ever watched. "Eureka" has turned out to be a sleeper, but "Dresden Files" fizzled despite showing some promise, as did "Painkiller Jane" and "Flash Gordon." Grade: C

BBC America: The king of the cult hits, with the likes of "Robin Hood," "Life on Mars" and "Torchwood," plus the fantastic miniseries "Jekyll," no network out there may provide more pure fun programming. Grade: A-

Lifetime: It's quietly putting together a solid roster of programming, led by "Army Wives," and grabbing "Project Runway" will be a big boost next season. Grade: B

TBS: It's starting to find a niche with "The Bill Engvall Show," "My Boys" and a few other sitcoms. Grade: B-

TNT: "The Closer" is still one of cable's highest-rated and critically acclaimed shows, but "Saving Grace" and "Heartland" didn't work out so well. Grade: C+

MTV: You know, back when I was young, this network actually played music. Now it litters the airwaves with the likes of "Tila Tequila." Grade: F

And, for Pay TV:

HBO: This is the network that once gave us the likes of "Larry Sanders" and "The Sopranos." While "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Entourage" turned in solid years, "Tell Me You Love Me" and "John From Cincinnati" didn't pan out. But the TV movie "Recount" deserves Emmy consideration. Grade: C-

Showtime: With "The Tudors" and "Dexter," Showtime has surpassed HBO creatively, and "Weeds" and "Californication" still draw good numbers. Grade: B

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Well, "The Mole" (ABC, 10 p.m.) has produced one of the most irritating contestants in the history of reality programming after just one episode. That the woman doctor's behavior earned her immunity ultimately hopefully means her karmic payback will be that much the sweeter. It follows a new "Bachelorette."

It must be cross-promotions week: CBS airs a rerun of "Bill Engvall" at 8 p.m., teasing the season 2 premiere Thursday on TBS. Meanwhile, Lou Forrigno makes an appearance on "American Gladiators" (NBC, 8 p.m.) just before the movie premiere of "The Incredible Hulk" this weekend.

The documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" (HBO, 9 p.m.) earned a lot of kudos on the independent film circuit and may be worth checking out.


Jonathan said...

Could that woman have been trying harder to be Omarosa? Ugh! Don't like many reality shows, but I always found "The Mole" intriguing, so I'll probably stick around to see where it's going.

zodin2008 said...

I'm pleased you chose to do a Cable report card. There's so much (good) original programming now on Cable, it needed it's own column.

"Mad Men", "Battlestar" and "The Shield" were easily 3 of the 4 best shows I have watched on Television within the last year. (The other being ABC's "Lost"). So, bravo to Cable.

The flipside as you said is a ton of dreck like "Tile Tequila" or even vastly overrated shows with vastly overrated acting like "The Riches" and "The Closer" (I am looking at YOU TWO, Kyra Sedgewick and Minnie Driver for worst acting of the year).

(My problem with Sedgewick is that I am a southerner and her 'Georgia accent' is straight out of "Gone with the Wind" and insultingly retarded to modern day southerners.)

But I agree 100% on the A+ for AMC. Two shows, two home runs. (although "Breaking Bad" had a bit more ratings trouble).

On HBO, the network is down and needs another "Sopranos" to return to prominence, but don't underestimate "Big Love" by not mentioning it. It's a very good show with Emmy-worthy acting. The show's first season was an A grade, although season 2 (IMHO) fell to a B.

Still, the show that fell the furtherst is not "Monk" which has been tiresome for about 4 years now, but "Rescue Me" which went from an A+, Top 5 show on TV, to a show that completely mis-fired in its fourth season and I would now put around a C+.

Phillip Ramati said...

Jonathan, she may actually top Omarosa if she sticks around a few more episodes.

Zod, cable for years has produced some great shows, so much so that I think it's forced the networks to raise their game, which is why the quality of programming has improved.

Also, you can get away with lower ratings on cable, which is why I'm not worried about a show like Breaking Bad (although I would encourage everyone out there to see it).

Coastbunny said...

MTV used to play music?

Kidding. I remember that, too!