Following last week’s column, here are five more noteworthy series from 2011 that aren’t going to turn up on very many (if any) Top 10 lists.
“The Glee Project” (Oxygen) -- After a really terrible second season, Fox’s once uplifting musical comedy “Glee” has almost flat-lined in its third year. What a waste. The only new life this year in this prematurely feeble franchise was its companion reality series on Oxygen, a bright and breezy competition program judged by “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy, among others. The grand prize was a seven-episode guest stint on the mother ship, but so many of the “Project” kids were so ingratiating that Murphy ended up offering extended roles on the show to four of them. Crazy as it sounds I think “Glee Project” could easily find a way to continue even if Fox pulls the plug on “Glee” in another year or two.
“All in the Family” (TV Land and Antenna TV) -- The economy is in crisis. The nation is at war. The rich are getting richer at the expense of the working class. Inflation is soaring, unemployment lines are getting longer, the banks aren’t helping anyone, and Washington is a complete mess. Meanwhile, young people seem to be living in a world that is totally foreign to their parents’ generation. Those are the issues the Bunker family is coping with in the most topical situation comedy on television today: the surprisingly timeless ‘70s gem “All in the Family.” It’s so much more than “that show about the bigot,” as I have heard it described by many 20- and 30-something television critics and reporters who have never bothered to watch a single episode. (Shouldn’t that be a requirement?) It’s a show about all of us -- then, and unfortunately, now. The difference is, thanks to the Bunkers we could laugh at ourselves back then.
“The Soup”/”Fashion Police” -- E! had the perfect Friday night comedy combo in “The Soup” and “Fashion Police,” so what did it do? Send new installments of “The Soup” off to Wednesday, that’s what. How the heck is a show supposed to recap events of the week when it debuts in the middle of the week? Ah, well, at least we still have a Friday night rerun. I’ve been raving about “The Soup” for so long that I have nothing new to say about it, except that I’m darn glad that Joel McHale stayed even after he landed a starring role on NBC’s brilliant but struggling “Community” three years ago. (I’m sure McHale is happy too, now that “Community” appears to be teetering on the brink of cancellation.) Meanwhile, my compliments to the crew on “Fashion Police” and especially its host, the indefatigable Joan Rivers, for lighting up Friday night with a half-hour of comedy that fits so well with the special brand of madness that McHale and his team have perfected over the years.
“Attack of the Show” (G4) -- G4’s daily live comedy-information talk show “Attack of the Show” remains one of the liveliest and most engaging series on television despite a very modest budget and very limited resources. It’s a thoroughly engaging and unique blend of entertainment news, tech reviews, celebrity interviews and viral videos, delivered with a delightful nerdist humor that is impossible to resist. Shouldn’t MTV be doing something like this? As I’ve said many times before, the “AOTS” team does so much with so little it puts to shame the many television productions that do so little with so much. Give much of the credit to the effortless charm of co-hosts (and Comic-Con superstars) Kevin Pereira and Candace Bailey and “AOTS” contributors Alison Haislip, Blair Butler, Chris Gore, Chris Hardwick, Sara Jean Underwood and Blair Herter.
“Pretty Little Liars” (ABC Family) -- What’s all this talk about serialized scripted series falling out of favor with television audiences? Don’t tell the millions of teenage girls and young women who can’t get enough of ABC Family’s contemporary dramas -- each one a serial that isn’t afraid to draw out storylines, tease its viewers and grow its cast with plenty of supporting characters to keep things fresh and interesting. There is no better example than ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars,” a mesmerizing mystery about four teenage girls haunted by intimate and potentially explosive messages seemingly sent from their dead frenemy. It continues to prove that a good mythology can keep even the increasingly fickle tween and teen audience enthralled.