TELEVISION

MAD MEN

MAD MEN 5×03: "TEA LEAVES"

"When is everything going to get back to normal?" Roger asks Don towards the end of this episode. The answer, of course, is never. Normal, as Roger understands it, is officially a thing of the past.

MAD MEN

MAD MEN 5×01-02: "A LITTLE KISS"

The white men have ruled the world of Mad Men all along, and their entire way of life has been built on racial injustice and the subjugation of women. Change won't come quickly, but it is coming.

TELEVISION

THE WALKING DEAD 2×08: "NEBRASKA"

Though the first forty minutes of "Nebraska" just offered us more of the same, the last ten minutes felt like a breath of fresh air blasting through the lingering stench of burning corpses and stagnant dialogue.

DEADWOOD

DEADWOOD ABBEY

What Downton Abbey needs is someone to shake things up a bit. A video mash-up of two great tastes that taste great together.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

AMERICAN HORROR STORY 1×12: "AFTERBIRTH"

’Twas the season finale, and throughout Murder House,
not a creature was living (except Ben the louse).
This critic was watching in doubtful suspense,
In hopes that this season would somehow make sense…

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

AMERICAN HORROR STORY 1×11: "BIRTH"

"Birth" follows in the example of last week's "Smoldering Children" by being…well, not bad, really. "Birth" has an actual structure (rare for this show), it ties its threads together logically and with purpose (ditto), and—by American Horror Story standards, at least—is downright tasteful and restrained. (Granted, a gigantic antichrist baby kills its mother on the way out of the womb—but, you know, tastefully.)

BOSS

BOSS 1×08: "CHOOSE"

Starz apparently has faith in Boss, and so do I—but the show needs to have a little more faith in itself. What the show needs to do now is to trust itself, and trust its actors, and give us room and reasons to truly invest in these characters.

BOSS

BOSS 1×07: "STASIS"

The penultimate episode of the first season of Boss feels like a siege story: Kane is holed up in his office—beaten, bleeding, and running low on ammo—while an unbeatable army waits outside.

TELEVISION

THE WALKING DEAD 2×07: "PRETTY MUCH DEAD ALREADY"

Season 2.1 of The Walking Dead has all been leading up to this moment, making it just one long shaggy dog story: a padded, drawn-out set up for a staggeringly cruel—and thematically essential—punchline. And it was almost worth it.

BOSS

BOSS 1×06: "SPIT"

Kane is the Grand Inquisitor; he sees himself as one of the rare breed of men who can make the decisions other people aren't willing to make, who can take care of his people even if he has to enslave them, and even if he himself needs to become a monster to do it.

BOSS

BOSS 1×05: "REMEMBERED"

Finally, Boss lives up to its potential. With a strong premise and a clear narrative throughline—focusing on the staff's attempt to control a bad news story—“Remembered” is a tight, tense, breathless hour of television.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

AMERICAN HORROR STORY 1×07: "OPEN HOUSE"

"Open House," written by co-creator Brad Falchuk, is by far the weakest episode of American Horror Story so far, and demonstrates the show's fundamental flaws all too clearly.

BOSS

BOSS 1×04: "SLIP"

Four episodes in, and I'm starting to feel that the problem with "Boss" may be its main character. Because there's actually a really good show struggling to come together in the space around Thomas Kane.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

AMERICAN HORROR STORY 1×06: "PIGGY, PIGGY"

I guess it was inevitable. When you start a show at the absolute border of tastelessness, believability, and cable network standards, it's hard to keep upping the ante week after week. Yeah, yeah, raw brain. What have you done for me lately, American Horror Story?

BOSS

BOSS 1×03: "SWALLOW"

I like to imagine the writers' room at Boss as a constant negotiation between the side of the room that wants to do serious political drama and the side of the room that just wants lots and lots of gratuitous sex. In short, the battle for this show's soul is being fought between Team Wonk and Team Wank.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

AMERICAN HORROR STORY 1×05: "HALLOWEEN, PART 2"

Violet’s in the kitchen, worryin’ bout the 'sitch she’s in:
Rubberman’s behind her, but doesn’t seem to mind her.
The man with the burned face, hands out, pissed off,
Wants for Ben to pay him off for knockin’ little Hayden off…

TELEVISION

THE WALKING DEAD 2×03: "SAVE THE LAST ONE"

I don't want to sound too much like a college sophomore trying to get laid here, but it's amusing me this week to think of The Walking Dead as a modern, ultra-violent version of Albert Camus' 1948 existentialist novel The Plague.

BOSS

BOSS 1×02: "REFLEX"

I ended my review of the first episode of Boss saying that this show's success would depend on its willingness to balance its more sophisticated elements with its more sensationalistic ones. I'm already worried that Boss is not really interested in fighting that battle, as "Reflex" hews much closer to the sleazier side of the street than the pilot did.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

AMERICAN HORROR STORY 1×04: "HALLOWEEN, PART 1"

Two gay ghosts; two ginger ghosts; two appearances by a homicidal Rubberman; one ex-mistress returned from the grave; one dead woman euthanizing her elderly mama; one woman with Down's syndrome getting struck by a car while wearing a "pretty-girl" costume; one burned man pounding on the door; one doctor sewing his dismembered baby back together with animal parts; and a sonogram so frightening it makes medical professionals faint. What can I say? It was a slow week at the old Murder House.

TELEVISION

THE WALKING DEAD 2×02: "BLOODLETTING"

Am I asking too much? Is The Walking Dead really just well-made zombie porn, and should I just give up on anything resembling plot or character development?

BOSS

BOSS 1×01: "LISTEN"

In its pilot episode, "Boss" is doing many very ambitious things right, and has the potential to be one of the best new shows of the year.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

AMERICAN HORROR STORY 1×03: "MURDER HOUSE"

If you put a group of horny 12-year old boys in a room, kept them awake for three straight weeks on pixie sticks, Mountain Dew, and methamphetamines, showed them every horror movie ever made, and then asked them to free-associate a TV show, they still wouldn't come up with the turgid, tortured mess that is American Horror Story.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

AMERICAN HORROR STORY 1×01-02: "PILOT" & "HOME INVASION"

Stupidly pretentious, embarrassingly unrestrained, and chaotically unfocused, this is a basic cable Hell for good actors who have made bad choices. It's a fiasco, but it's kind of fascinating, and way, way more fun that it has any right to be.

DOCTOR WHO

DOCTOR WHO 6×13: "THE WEDDING OF RIVER SONG"

Sometimes, the most surprising place we can find ourselves is exactly where we expected to be. "The Wedding of River Song," the grand finale of the 2011 season of Doctor Who, is long on spectacle, but short on revelation. By its conclusion, however, we are well-positioned to move forward towards something very different indeed.

DOCTOR WHO

DOCTOR WHO 6×12: "CLOSING TIME"

"Closing Time" provides a turning point for the season: instead of piling still more guilt on the Doctor, Moffat and Co. begin to shake off the cumulative darkness of the previous few episodes, and start moving us back towards a more joyous, edifying vision of the Doctor we know and love.

FIRST LOOK/LAST LOOK

TERRA NOVA

I had big hopes for "Terra Nova," which promised excellent production values, a decent cast, and a potentially-intriguing sci-fi premise. Unfortunately, the pilot episode spends two banal hours dumbing its potential down into lowest-common-demoninator television pap. It's not horrible: it's just not good.

DOCTOR WHO

DOCTOR WHO 6×11: "THE GOD COMPLEX"

This is the Doctor's fear: the people he likes that he cannot save; the people he loves but can't protect; the confrontation with his own limitations; the reminder that he is better off alone.

FIRST LOOK/LAST LOOK

THE SECRET CIRCLE

There's a reason so many of these supernatural shows center around teen characters: though no one since has worked the metaphors with the sophistication or wit that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" did, the intense drama of high school politics, adolescent longing, and burgeoning sexual power lends itself naturally to stories of good-and-evil, magic, and mythical destiny.

FIRST LOOK/LAST LOOK

RINGER

"Overly complicated" and "dumb" is a deadly adjectival combination for any show, and Ringer is about as dumb as television gets.

DOCTOR WHO

DOCTOR WHO 6×10: "THE GIRL WHO WAITED"

Make no mistake, "The Girl Who Waited" is essential Doctor Who, and its themes echo and ripple throughout the past and future of this entire franchise in dark and troubling ways.

DOCTOR WHO

DOCTOR WHO 6×09: "NIGHT TERRORS"

We might recognize "Night Terrors" as something of a filler episode, but I have a feeling that children who watch it from behind their sofas may remember it as an absolute classic: an episode that scared them, and comforted them, and told them exactly what they needed to hear.

DEADWOOD

DEADWOOD 1×07: "BULLOCK RETURNS TO CAMP"

"Bullock Returns to Camp" is structured around pairings, as individual characters interact with old friends, encounter kindred spirits, and recognize slightly distorted reflections of themselves.

TELEVISION

TORCHWOOD 4X05: "CATEGORIES OF LIFE"

By all the laws of nature, by everything that is holy, by any reasonable assessment of quality of life, Miracle Day should be put to rest. Let's stick a red clothespin on it, throw a blanket over its pathetic carcass, and roll it gently over to the incinerator to be put out of its misery.

DEADWOOD

DEADWOOD 1×06: "PLAGUE"

This incredibly foul-mouthed, frequently violent, sex- and greed-driven show is one of the most deeply religious programs ever produced for television.

TELEVISION

TORCHWOOD 4X04: "ESCAPE TO L.A."

"Dead is dead," and that just about describes my interest and patience. Torchwood: Miracle Day is too stupid to take seriously, and too self-serious to be fun.

TELEVISION

TORCHWOOD 4X03: "DEAD OF NIGHT"

I have to be honest: I'm losing my patience with this show. There is a limit to the number of programs I can watch every week—let alone write about—and unless things get better quickly, the (slowly evaporating) affection I have for Russell T Davies and the Torchwood brand isn't going to be enough to justify keeping Miracle Day in the rotation much longer.

DEADWOOD

DEADWOOD 1×05: "THE TRIAL OF JACK MCCALL"

Throughout this episode—and from this point forward—we'll see that, in the absence of the law, there is just the hope of grace, manifesting itself through the actions of human beings. In this way—through random acts of kindness, and individual acts of justice—Deadwood will begin to become a community

TELEVISION

TORCHWOOD 4X02: "RENDITION"

I'm starting to worry that Torchwood: Miracle Day might have been far better without the "Torchwood."

TELEVISION

TORCHWOOD 4X01: "THE NEW WORLD"

Like Torchwood: Children of Earth, Miracle Day has a big, global concept at its center: what if, one day, everyone on Earth simply stopped dying?

DEADWOOD

DEADWOOD 1×03-04: "RECONNOITERING THE RIM" & "HERE WAS A MAN"

Few movies or TV shows capture history as flux in quite the way that Deadwood does. Deadwood provides a microcosm of American history that seems to develop before our eyes like time-lapse photography, in a time when the Old West is disappearing, and "progress" is coming on a daily—even hourly—basis.

GAME OF THRONES

GAME OF THRONES 1×10: "FIRE AND BLOOD"

"Fire and Blood," the 2011 finale of GAME OF THRONES, gives us a brutal dividing line between the prologue of history and an uncertain future.

GAME OF THRONES

GAME OF THRONES 1×09: "BAELOR"

Given a choice between love and honor, wouldn’t we pick love every time? And, by that logic, can something be dishonorable and still be right?

DOCTOR WHO

DOCTOR WHO 6×06: "THE ALMOST PEOPLE"

Since Episode Two I had been bracing myself for the discovery that this whole season was either an alternate reality or a dream, either of which I would have hated. But this is so much better: a huge twist that somehow doesn't invalidate what has come before.

GAME OF THRONES

GAME OF THRONES 1×06: "A GOLDEN CROWN"

"A Golden Crown" is all about justice; it's filled with characters all protesting, "It's not fair!" But justice, as we see this week, is very much a work-in-progress in GAME OF THRONES.

DOCTOR WHO

DOCTOR WHO 6×05: "THE REBEL FLESH"

"The Rebel Flesh" certainly looks like a classic, stand-alone Doctor Who story, but there are definitely clues here that this story may be much more important than it appears.

GAME OF THRONES

GAME OF THRONES 1×05: "THE WOLF AND THE LION"

Of all the shows that could feature a guy getting a knife through the eyeball, a bludgeoning dwarf, a breast-feeding 7-year-old, a spontaneous equine decapitation, and a discussion of the economics of cadaver fucking, GAME OF THRONES has definitely become my favorite.

DOCTOR WHO

DOCTOR WHO 6×04: "THE DOCTOR'S WIFE"

Since 1963 we've seen this mysterious blue box that promised to be the gateway to all the stories to come. And last night, after more than 47 years, we finally met her.

DOCTOR WHO

DOCTOR WHO 6×03: "THE CURSE OF THE BLACK SPOT"

"The Curse of the Black Spot" isn't even going fun to crap all over. It's not horrible, it's just not much of anything at all. It's a filler episode, a budget-controlling episode, a go-do-this-while-we're-over-here-working-on-the-ones-that-matter episode.

DOCTOR WHO

DOCTOR WHO – An Introduction

I doubt anyone involved in the creation of Doctor Who would have predicted that the show would be thriving well into the new millennium, but—whether by accident or intention—there's no denying that they built this show to last.