Yesterday, we published my video essay on my favorite overall shows of 2011. Now it's time to present the first of two written lists, this one focusing on the best returning shows of the year. If you watched the video, you know that 9 of the 11 shows (there was a tie) were returning series, and that therefore there's not going to be much change to the returning shows list. Still, I add one show, get to expand a bit on my thoughts on some others, and also add a list of honorable mentions at the end.
Over the weekend, Louis CK released his latest stand-up comedy special, "Louis CK: Live at the Beacon Theater," an hour of all-new material in which he talks about parenting, sex, God, the environment and more. It is, unsurprisingly, a very funny hour of entertainment, as you might expect by the man who currently stands at the top of the stand-up pyramid.
Also unsurprisingly, given the circumstances behind the production of his great FX show "Louie," CK has used the special as an excuse to try out a new business model. "Live at the Beacon Theater" had no theatrical run, no DVD release, nor even a partnership with a large online media company. You simply go to CK's own website, spend the more-than-reasonable sum of 5 bucks, and you can download a copy of the special without any kind of restrictions as to what method you use to view it, how you want to copy it, or anything.
It's that time of year, everybody, where critics of every stripe have to break down the best things they covered over the last 12 months into a list of 10 (or thereabouts). Eventually, all the members of Team HitFix will be rolling out his or her top 10 list, but I get to be first up at bat this year. (Katie Hasty should be up next with some thoughts on the year in music.)
When "Enlightened" debuted back in October, I called it an awkward comedy that I had very little interest in watching any more. Since then, a number of critics I respect (including James Poniewozik, Tim Goodman and Dan Fienberg) have kept making passionate arguments for the show, and it made me curious to check back in to see if perhaps I had missed something the first time around. I caught up through last night's season finale, and I have a few thoughts coming up just as soon as I'm not a yoga instructor...
Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 106: 'Boardwalk Empire,' 'Sons of Anarchy,' 'Luck,' 'Boss' & more
It's a finale-heavy episode of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, as Dan and I discuss how "Boardwalk Empire," "Sons of Anarchy" and "Boss" wrapped up their seasons, briefly discuss HBO's "Luck" sneak preview, answer your mail and once again dip a toe into the waters of sports discussion (this time at the very end of the show, for the benefit of those of you who don't want sporting peanut butter mixed in with your TV chocolate) .
I have other work I should be getting to right now, but last night's "The Simpsons" was so tremendous that I want to take a couple of minutes to acknowledge it, with thoughts on the Christmas episode coming up just as soon as I get some mohawk gel and a can of dog food...
I'll admit up-front that "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" has always been my least favorite major entry in the franchise. No knock on Chris Meloni, Mariska Hargitay and company, but the subject matter was always a turn-off for me, and that was even before the show went through that period of casting beloved TV stars to play sick rapists for maximum shock value.
Though HBO aired the pilot of "Luck" last night, the David Milch/Michael Mann horse racing drama won't have its proper premiere until January 29, and the channel has treated last night's airing as a sneak preview to start preliminary conversation, and little more. Copies weren't set out to critics, though we're apparently going to get all 9 first season episodes later this month, and there aren't even publicity stills available yet. (The picture accompanying this review was taken off of HBO.com itself.)
Because I'll be getting more episodes soon, because the real premiere is so far away, and because a Milch show tends to take a few episodes to fully establish itself, I'd like to wait until late January to offer a proper review, but I have a few preliminary impressions of the pilot, coming up just as soon as I know what Jim Beam is for...