EIGHINGER: Original cable TV programming highlights 'The Stevies'

Posted: Sep. 14, 2011 8:11 am Updated: Nov. 29, 2014 5:15 am


Each year about this time I like to make reference in this space to how overrated the fall season actually is -- you know, the falling leaves that will need raked and all that kind of stuff.

Well, for all of you autumn warriors who always enjoy browbeating me over those thoughts, this column is for you. I am going to say something nice about the fall.

It dawned on me the other day that with the coming of September also comes the new television season. Next to football, that's about the best autumn can offer, but the new TV season is always welcome. But before we get attached to any of the new programs let's hand out awards for the best shows from the previous year. For lack of a better name, we'll call them the "The Stevies." I kind of like the ring to that.

Let me warn you in advance, you will not find any network programs among my top 10. There are two reasons for that. I am not including "American Idol" because we all know the only question would be who is in the running for No. 2. Secondly, the cable shows have emerged in the past three or four years as far superior.

Cable ventures such as USA, TNT, AMC and others have struck gold with crisp, well-written series packaged into 12-to-15-episode "seasons." The mini-seasons have been well received by today's viewers, who simply don't have the time, for the most part, to be tied into the nine-month viewing ordeals the networks still try and throw at us. The mini-seasons also offer far fewer reruns.

In some cases, the cable networks even give us two mini-seasons within a 12-month period, allowing us a few months off in between our favorite show(s).

The ultimate bottom line, however, is that most -- not all, but most -- of these leading cable fares are written at an adult level and are more entertaining with their stronger character definitions. Think it's just me? Check the Nielsen viewership numbers.

Here's my top 10 programs for the past year, plus my picks for top actors and actresses.

1. Suits (USA): Gabriel Macht steals the show as lawyer Harvey Specter. This is arguably the best-written show on television. There's also a great chemistry among all the leading characters, thanks mostly to presence of Macht/Specter.

2. Breaking Bad (AMC): The premise of the high school chemistry teacher with lung cancer turning meth maker is impossible to believe -- on paper. But it works. Oh my, does it work. Bryan Cranston is phenomenal as Walter White, and the supporting cast is the best of any program.

3. The Walking Dead (AMC): Not for the squeamish, this zombiefest returns in October. While there is great character development, there is also plenty of jumping out of your recliner fun. This was an unexpected megahit last fall with a six-show trial run. This time around, we'll get more of a good thing.

4. White Collar (USA): Matt Bomer as reformed (well, sort of) con man Neal Caffery steals the show every week. Lighthearted and quirky, many lines are delivered with a well-intended wink.

5. Hardcore Pawn (truTV): Family members Les, Seth and Ashley run a pawn shop in the battle zone known as Detroit. Sixty seconds and you'll be hooked. I promise.

6. Pawn Stars (History Channel): This is the PG version of "Hardcore Pawn" and features the antics of Rick, The Old Man, Big Hoss and Chumlee. This show is actually educational with the way it is presented.

7. Rizzoli and Isles (TNT): The program's at its best when focusing on detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon), who in this program's second season has emerged as a genuine cable star.

8. Leverage (TNT): There's an obvious Robin Hood theme of taking from the bad guys, but it works with a team of reformed crooks that includes a hacker, hitter, grifter and brainiac. The weakest link in the show is actually its star, Timothy Hutton.

9. Burn Notice (USA): The spy thriller is losing a little steam, but Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona keeps this program in the top 10.

10. The Glades: This police show, in its second season, gets better each week. Matt Passmore is a rising star.

Best actor: Macht. Best supporting actor: Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad."

Best actress: Harmon. Best supporting actress: Beth Riesgraf, "Leverage."




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