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Top 10 shows of 2016 (overall and new)

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@unclebarkycom on Twitter
HitFix.com, now known as UpRoxx, has just released its fifth annual survey of the year’s Top 10 best new and overall TV programs.

Your friendly content provider again is among the 59 critics contributing this year. Our respective lists are fairly in sync, particularly among the new shows. But there’s one notable exception. I again listed HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher among my Top 10 overall best programs -- in the No. 10 spot. There seemed little doubt I’d be the only one. And I was.

The feeling here is that Maher just doesn’t get enough credit for being the pathfinder in this genre, dating back to his Politically Incorrect late nighter for ABC, which eventually got canceled because it became too politically incorrect. But TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is the flavor of 2016. And while I listed it among my Top 10 newcomers, I left it off the overall list in favor of Real Time.

Eight of my Top 10 new shows also made the consensus list. The only exceptions were FX’s Baskets, which placed 18th among all critics, and AMC’s The Night Manager, which was 28th.

On the overall Top 10 list, I had five series in common with fellow critics. Besides Real Time, the ones that didn’t make the national cut were HBO’s The Night Of (No. 13); ABC’s American Crime (No. 18); Netflix’s The Crown (No. 19); and Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black (No. 31 despite a very strong rebound season).

Curiously, one critic had four first-year series among his overall Top 10. But none of those four made his list of 10 best new series. That just doesn’t compute. Oh well, it’s an imprecise art.

By any measure, FX dominated the survey, with Atlanta ranking as the consensus best new program and The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story the top overall show. Again, it’s a little odd that Atlanta would outpoint O. J. in the new program category, but rank behind it in the No. 3 position on the overall Top 10 list.

OK, here are our respective choices.

Top 10 New Programs

My List:

1. The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story
2. The Crown (Netflix)
3. The Night Of (HBO)
4. This Is Us (NBC)
5. Atlanta (FX)
6. Westworld (HBO)
7. The Night Manager (AMC)
8. Stranger Things (Netflix)
9. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS)
10. Baskets (FX)

National List:

1. Atlanta (FX)
2. The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
3. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS)
4. Better Things (FX)
5. Stranger Things (Netflix)
6. Insecure (HBO)
7. This Is Us (NBC)
8. Westworld (HBO)
9. The Crown (Netfllx)
10. The Night Of (HBO)

Top 10 Overall Programs

My List:

1. Game of Thrones (HBO)
2. The Americans (FX)
3. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
4. Veep (HBO)
5. The Crown (Netflix)
6. Rectify (Sundance TV)
7. American Crime (ABC)
8. Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)
9. The Night Of (HBO)
10. Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)

National List

1. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
2. The Americans (FX)
3. Atlanta (FX)
4. 30 for 30 -- O.J.: Made in America (ESPN)
5. Game of Thrones (HBO)
6. Veep (HBO)
7. Bojack Horseman (Netflix)
8. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS)
9. Better Call Saul (AMC)
10. Rectify (Sundance TV)

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Top 10 TV shows of 2015 (overall and new)

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Better Call Saul and Season 2 of Fargo are my tree toppers.

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
HitFix.com’s fourth annual Television Critics poll is newly posted, with your friendly content provider again among the 53 know-it-alls asked to list their Top 10 overall and new programs for 2015.

This is an increasingly vexing task, given the wealth of drama and comedy series on broadcast, cable and streaming services. In the end, my No. 1 shows in both categories -- Season 2 of FX’s Fargo and AMC’s new Better Call Saul -- finished atop the aggregate list as well.

On the flip side, I was the only one to vote for BBC America’s The Last Kingdom as one of the year’s Top 10 newcomers. Two other picks barely missed, with HBO’s Show Me a Hero and ABC’s American Crime tying for 12th place on the freshman class list.

In all, 97 shows made at least one critic’s Top 10 list in the overall category and 63 received votes as newcomers.

One more caveat before posting both the unclebarky.com and national lists. I likely would have included Season 2 of Amazon Prime’s Transparent, which ranked 5th among my Top 10 new series last year. But Season 2 began streaming after HitFix’s deadline for submissions. And Amazon didn’t answer my request for early screeners, which is unusual for them.

OK, here are the lists.

Top 10 Overall Programs (my list)

1. Fargo, Season 2 (FX)
2. Game of Thrones (HBO)
3. Better Call Saul (AMC)
4. Mad Men (AMC)
5. Louie (FX)
6. Master of None (Netflix)
7. Show Me a Hero (HBO)
8. The Americans (FX)
9. Veep (HBO)
10. You’re the Worst (FXX)

Top 10 Overall Programs (HitFix list)

1. Fargo, Season 2
2. The Americans
3. Mad Men
4. Transparent (Amazon Prime)
5. Better Call Saul
6. Game of Thrones
7. The Leftovers (HBO)
8. Mr. Robot (USA)
9. The Jinx (HBO)
10. Veep

Top 10 New Programs (my list)

1. Better Call Saul
2. Master of None
3. Show Me a Hero
4. The Jinx
5. American Crime (ABC)
6. Jessica Jones (Netflix)
7. Empire (Fox)
8. Mr. Robot (USA)
9. The Last Kingdom (BBC America)
10. Supergirl (CBS)

Top 10 New Programs (HitFix list)

1. Better Call Saul
2. Master of None
3. Mr. Robot
4. Unreal (Lifetime)
5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
6. Jessica Jones
7. Catastrophe (Amazon Prime)
7. (tie) Empire
9. The Jinx
10. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW)

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Top 10 iconic TV characters whose portayers have never won an Emmy award

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
The 67th annual prime time Emmy nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 16th. Jon Hamm is likely to again be among the nominees for his portrayal of Don Draper on Mad Men.

This would be his last chance, though. And he’s never won. So where does Hamm fit among his acting peers who likewise have never won the big prize for what ended up being iconic roles? Here’s our Top 10 countdown, with the proviso that half of the snubbed are otherwise good enough to be members of the Academy of Television Arts & Science’s Hall of Fame. Members of the Academy also pick the annual Emmy winners.

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10. DESI ARNAZ -- He co-starred as Ricky Ricardo with real-life wife Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy, television’s first classic comedy series. She won just one acting Emmy in five tries while her second banana, Vivian Vance, ended up one for four. William Frawley, the other member of I Love Lucy’s featured foursome, received five nominations but came away empty-handed. As for Desi, not a single nomination during the show’s seven-season run. He is, however, in the TV Hall of Fame after being inducted in 1990. Ball was a member of 1984’s charter class. Vance and Frawley were both posthumously inducted in 2012.

9. ANGELA LANSBURY -- She starred as mystery novelist turned amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher for 12 seasons on CBS’ very popular Murder, She Wrote. Nominated in each of those seasons, she never won. Add nominations for six other performances and that’s 0 for 18 -- an all-time record for Emmy futility. But Lansbury also is a member of the TV Hall of Fame. She was inducted in 1996.

8. SHERMAN HEMSLEY -- His bombastic George Jefferson called the tunes and set the tone for CBS’ The Jeffersons. He received a lone nomination for the role in 1984 but didn’t leave a winner. Isabel Sanford, who played George’s long-suffering wife, Louise, received seven nominations for the role -- and won once. Unlike Sanford, though, Hemsley’s in the TV Hall of Fame after a 2012 induction.

7. DAVID JANSSEN -- His signature TV role, Dr. Richard Kimble in ABC’s The Fugitive, earned him three Emmy nominations but no wins. And it’s way too late now. Janssen died in 1980 at the age of 48. He’s yet to be anointed as a TV Hall of Famer.

6. JON HAMM -- As Mad Men’s Don Draper, he’s been nominated in all seven years of eligibility. Alas, Hamm also has lost as many times. An Emmy nod later this month would represent his last crack as one of TV’s all-time classic leading men. Be kind, Academy. Be kind.

5. JASON ALEXANDER -- He’s weathered seven nominations as Seinfeld second banana George Costanza. That’s more than any other member of the core cast, but Alexander never got a statue. He joins Jerry Seinfeld in that club, but the show’s namesake received fewer nominations and, in truth, wasn’t much of an actor. Alexander’s fellow supporting player, Michael Richards, has three acting Emmys for Seinfeld, while Julia Louis-Dreyfus won one. She’s the only one of the four in the TV Hall of Fame, though. That’s right -- ahead of Jerry.

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4. LARRY HAGMAN -- Dallas wasn’t an Emmy caliber series, but Hagman certainly was a classic character as J.R. Ewing. There simply would have been no show without him. But Hagman received just two acting nominations during the series’ initial long run on CBS and recent reprise on TNT. Nor is he in the TV Hall of Fame. Dallas’ only acting win, in 1980, went to Barbara Bel Geddes as J.R.’s mom, Miss Ellie.

3. ANDY GRIFFITH -- He was never even nominated as Sheriff Andy Taylor, mainstay of The Andy Griffith Show. But co-star Don Knotts, as bumbling deputy Barney Fife, won not one, not two, but five acting Emmys. At least Griffith deservedly is in the TV Hall of Fame, via the 1991 class of inductees. Knotts has yet to be enshrined, but deserves to be.

2. JACKIE GLEASON -- Loudmouth, short-tempered Ralph Kramden of The Honeymooners is one of TV’s all-time great physically comedic characters. But Gleason never won an Emmy for his pitch-perfect portrayal. As with The Andy Griffith Show, however, his principal second banana did. Art Carney hauled in five Emmys as loopy Ed Norton. And Audrey Meadows won a statue for her performance as Kramden’s put-upon wife, Alice. Both Gleason and Carney are in the TV Hall of Fame. Gleason got there first, back in 1986. Carney followed in 2004.

1. JAMES ARNESS -- Gunsmoke, the most popular and longest-running Western series in TV history, found Arness in the saddle and on the streets of Dodge City for 20 TV seasons as Marshal Matt Dillon. He received three acting nominations, but never won an Emmy. Supporting players Dennis Weaver, as deputy Chester Goode, and Milburn Stone, as Dr. Galen “Doc” Adams, each won one Emmy, though, while Amanda Blake (“Miss Kitty”) got a lone nomination. Gunsmoke, which ran from 1955 to 1975, ranked in prime-time’s Top 10 for 13 of its 20 seasons. But Arness, who died in 2011, never got a statue and is yet to be enshrined in the TV Hall of Fame. A shame on both counts.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Top 10 TV series of 2013 -- and Top 10 new ones

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@unclebarkycom on Twitter
It’s been a big year for high-quality TV series and an even bigger one for first-timers.

That’s why hitfix.com asked more than 50 of the nation’s TV writers, including your friendly content provider, to compile two Top 10 lists for the website’s second annual survey.

The categories are Top 10 shows for 2013 and the year’s 10 best new shows. Here are my lists, with the consensus hitfix.com choices posted below each compilation.


1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
2. Game of Thrones (HBO)
3. Masters of Sex (Showtime)
4. Mad Men (AMC)
5. Justified (FX)
6. The Americans (FX)
7. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
8. House of Cards (Netflix)
9. The Middle (ABC)
10. Homeland (Showime)

Hitfix Consensus List: 1. Breaking Bad; 2. Orange is the New Black; 3. Game of Thrones; 4. The Good Wife (CBS); 5. Masters of Sex; 6. Mad Men; 7. The Americans; 8. House of Cards; 9. Broadchurch (BBC America); 10. Top of the Lake (Sundance Channel

My Top 10 New Series

1. Masters of Sex
2. The Americans
3. Orange is the New Black
4. House of Cards
5. Broadchurch
6. Rectify (Sundance Channel)
7. The Returned (Sundance Channel)
8. Getting On (HBO)
9. Vikings (History)
10. Legit (FX)

Hitfix Consensus List: 1. Orange is the New Black; 2. Masters of Sex; 3. The Americans; 4. Broadchurch; 5. Orphan Black (BBC America); 6. House of Cards; 7. The Returned; 8. Rectify; 9. Top of the Lake; 10. Sleepy Hollow (Fox)

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Top 10 odd/intriguing facts from the original CBS Dallas series

My first summer in Dallas turned out to be blazing hot on two fronts -- the then record-setting string of 100 degree days and the worldwide guessing game over "Who Shot J.R.?" on the cliffhanger night of March 21, 1980.

Because of a Screen Actors Guild strike, the answer would have to wait until the night of Nov. 21, 1980, when Dallas set an all-time ratings record that held until the M*A*S*H finale broke it on Feb. 28, 1983.

But these are pretty well-known facts about the most popular serial drama in TV history. As TNT prepares to fire up its new Dallas series on Wednesday, June 13th, here's a top 10 list of odds and ends that you'll likely be reading about for the first time. Reference points are my personal experiences and the extraordinarily comprehensive 25 Years of Dallas book by Barbara A. Curran.

10. Victoria Principal is conspicuously absent from TNT's Dallas re-do, which marks the full-blown returns of Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy in addition to recurring cameos by Ken Kercheval, Charlene Tilton and Steve Kanaly.

In fact, Principal has made just one return to an official Dallas project since leaving the series after the May 15, 1987 episode. She participated in CBS' Nov. 7, 2004 Dallas Reunion: The Return to Southfork, made for the network by Henry "The Fonz" Winkler's production company.

In a telephone interview back then, Principal said she had distanced herself from Dallas because "I felt confined by the role of Pam Ewing . . . It was necessary for me to leave in order to have a career."

She hadn't returned to the city in 17 years. "I really did not fully appreciate what was going to happen to me emotionally when I agreed to do the reunion," she said. "When we landed, I wanted to drive through the city. And I was startled to find myself crying. I didn't know that I had missed Dallas. I didn't know that the skyline was so firmly imprinted in my heart . . . Most of the cast knows I'm not a weepy person, but I cried at the drop of a hat. It was just a flood of wonderment and memories. And finally for me, something I didn't know that I needed. Which was closure."

9. Jim Davis, who played patriarch Jock Ewing, died in his sleep on April 26, 1981 at age 65. Larry Hagman was unable to attend his beloved TV daddy's funeral when his plane was detained by a London airport strike.

8. Hagman's second liver is now more than 16 years old. Without a transplant he would have died. On location at Southfork Ranch in March 1996 for the CBS movie Dallas: J.R. Returns, he pronounced himself clean, sober and ready to celebrate the six-month anniversary of his $350,000 surgery.

"See those little white capsules? A hundred bucks apiece!" he exclaimed before downing another handful of his mandatory medication.

Hagman estimated that his pills alone cost $90,000 annually, and are paid for by the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild.

"But there are lots of little ancillary things that you have pick up," he noted. "I guess it costs me about 10 grand a year, tops. What do poor people do that don't have any coverage? I mean, they just die, I guess."

7. A then unknown Brad Pitt guest-starred in four episodes during Season 10 as frisky teenager Randy. Here's a clip of him getting a talking-to from ranch foreman Ray Krebbs:

6. Dallas, originally billed as a five-part miniseries, premiered on the night of April 2, 1978 opposite two Sunday night movies, Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter on ABC and Love's Dark Ride on NBC. The latter was a made-for-TV throwaway about an advertising advertiser who sought to rebuild his life after being blinded in a gun accident. The principal stars were Cliff Potts, Jane Seymour and Carrie Snodgress.

5. Hagman's strikingly candid 2001 autobiography, Hello Darlin', reveals that he took his first LSD trip with singer David Crosby. And he liked it very much.

"You lose your ego" while on acid, he told me during a stop in Dallas to promote the book. "It led me into having no fear of death, because you've been there, done that on LSD. And it ain't so bad. Matter of fact, it's wonderful."

4. Only two cast members stayed with the original Dallas series for its entire 356-episode run -- Hagman and Ken Kercheval, who has a recurring role in the TNT re-do as the oft-beaten but never bowed Cliff Barnes.

"Cliff loses, but Cliff is not a loser," Kercheval insisted during one of the show's two-month summer sojourns in Dallas. "He is the most resilient human being in the world. To take the punishment that this guy has taken, and be willing to come back and face the most formidable foe on television. That's not a loser -- not in my book!"

3. Linda Gray and Dallas' late executive producer, Leonard Katzman, often didn't see eye to eye on the show's treatment of women.

Katzman lamented the direction of the 1985-86 season, which he sat out because of creative differences with co-executive producer Philip Capice.

"J.R. was totally dominated by every woman in the show," he told me in an interview. "He walked around with his hat in his hand and said, 'Yes ma'am.' Strong men don't necessarily mean weak women, but I certainly don't think we can have any of our men dominated by the women."

Gray, whose Sue Ellen was a besotted mess in Dallas' formative seasons, returned fire when offered the chance.

"Dallas has always been a male-oriented show, and yes, I was dissatisfied when our producer said it was a show about strong men, " she said. "My problem with Sue Ellen was that she had become a victim. She drank, had an affair, sobered up and then drank and had another affair. Meanwhile, all of the women in the world were struggling to drop that image and get out of that perpetual hamster-in-a-cage role.

"Even though we were doing make-believe on Dallas, there came a time for me when I was bored with that role. I told them that, and I met with a little resistance. But they made some changes, and Sue Ellen was no longer a one-note character."

2. With filming pushed back by another actors' strike, the original Dallas shot its last on-location scene in Dallas at the Million Dollar Saloon in November, 1988. It was for Season 11, with the final two seasons shot entirely in Los Angeles.

Hagman's J.R. mostly was called on to ogle a topless dancer who shook her hardware in close proximity during multiple "takes." Duffy had the day off, but showed up anyway to twit his old pal from a balcony on what a "giving" actor he'd become for these particular scenes. Hagman seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself, as did the crew. Subtitled "The Switch," the episode eventually aired on Feb. 3, 1989.

1. In that crazy "Who Shot J.R.?" summer of 1980, Hagman and his wife Maj hosted a mega-gaggle of TV writers at their beachfront Malibu home. It proved to be a night for the ages, with Hagman rushing out to save a Texas flag from a close encounter with a fire pit during one of the rare times he could extricate himself from an air-tight circle of questioners.

Later in the evening, next door neighbor Burgess Meredith offered the use of his toilets after the Hagmans' commodes began suffering from over-use. It's now a long time ago, but still a very easy night to remember. "Who shot J.R.'s septic tank?" Sometimes those lead sentences just write themselves.