Every TV season there are a select group of people that really stand out above the rest. People that really push their shows to a place that no one expects. People that take the medium of television and spin it on its head. And that’s why sometimes they need the love that the Emmys just refuse to give.
And with that, I bring you The Top 10 TV Big Shots of 2010-2011.
Let’s celebrate these creative minds and their teams in no particular order.
Craig Silverstein (Nikita)
Nikita is one of those surprises that comes around every TV season. Before premiere day you look at a show like Nikita and think, “Eh, it’ll be okay. But nothing special.” I was guilty of that thought process as well. And then the show premiered and blew away all doubters. And all of its success can be attributed to the man that developed the series, Craig Silverstein.
Unlike the 90s series, Silverstein took the Nikita of the famous Besson film and put her in a much grander situation. And then he pulled the greatest trick of all by pushing the title character to the side and gave us a newer, better story. One with a teenage girl whose life was taken from her. The real story of Nikita has nothing to do with Nikita. The real story of the series lies withing the eyes of Alex. Always has been, always will be.
Shawn Ryan (Terriers, The Chicago Code)
Often considered the man that pushed basic cable to the limit, Shawn Ryan is no slouch when it comes to the small screen. And this year he came out of the gate with not one, but two brand new shows. Sadly only one of them has succeeded sort of okay in the ratings. But as the life of nerd-dom will tell us, it ain’t always about the numbers.
Terriers was a very FXy take on the detective show. And honestly, it worked. Now would I hold it as high as some others? No, but it was a solid show. Full of wit, drama and enjoyment. If I was doing a list of the top new TV characters from this season, Hank Dalworth would be on it.
And then there’s The Chicago Code, Ryan’s first attempt at a more traditional type of procedural. Now, would I put up against some more established names like NCIS, Law & Order, CSI or Criminal Minds? No, I would not. But it’s a solid attempt a police procedural, and I’ll be dammed if it doesn’t have one of the best opening theme songs I’ve ever heard.
Jason Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights)
Many consider Friday Night Lights to be one of the finest dramas on television which is why many were heart broken when the series came to a close at the end of its fifth season. But fear not my TV nerds! For you see, while FNL was closing up the football field for the final time, Katims was busy on one of the best sophomore seasons of any series out there.
It’s no secret I have fallen deeply in love with the writing on Parenthood. Quick, clean, and full of heart.
Parenthood is what dramedy is all about, and Katims swung for the fences in season 2. With a season 3 pick up a damn near certainty, September can’t came around again fast enough.
Warren Leight (Lights Out)
Following the unfortunate cancellation of Terriers, FX’s next step was to try and appeal to their core demographic. And when I say core, I mean CORE demographic. That appeal came in the form of Lights Out from former Law & Order: Criminal Intent show runner, Warren Leight.
Every week under the direction of Leight, Lights Out took us into a dark, seedy underbelly that not many people understand when they think about the sport of boxing. The journey of Patrick “Lights” Leary was a compelling and dramatic one. Filling us with hope, and then taking it away a week later. And while the show ended up suffering the same fate as Terriers, it ended in a way that everyone can be happy with, and I truly hope it sees new life on DVD in the future.
Jeff Eastin (White Collar)
When White Collar broke on the scene in the summer of 2009, it was a wild card to say the least. A procedural about art theft? I mean, sure there is the Thomas Crown Affair, but how many other really good white collar driven stories can you name? Well thanks to show runner/creator Jeff Eastin, that answer came in the form of one of TV’s most down to earth characters, Neal Caffrey.
And after the amazing first season, many questioned if Eastin could maintain the beautiful, comical wit that we saw. Well the answer we got was an astounding, “YES,” during season 2. What made season 2 of White Collar so awesome was that the characters really began to gel. Peter and Neal’s banter became a must-watch every week. And while a twitter war would have you believe otherwise, Eastin is the superior show runner in the procedural game. Luckily, season 3 starts this Summer.
Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy)
Obviously when it came to quality, FX was the big winner this season. And as much as I dig Terriers and Lights Out, nothing topped the masterful bait and switch we saw with this season 3 finale on Sons of Anarchy. And all of it is thanks to one man: Kurt Sutter.
Ireland aside, season 3 of SOA took everyone for a loop during the ninety minute finale.
It’s the kind of finale that changes the perspective of EVERYTHING you thought you knew about the story, the characters, the world. It all does a 180, and that’s when you realize you’ve been taken on an amazing ride, and fills you with glee as you desperately hold on to your sanity till next season.
Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (Hawaii Five-0)
I’ve seen the original Hawaii Five-0 series (even before it was all put on Netflix streaming), and as classic seventies style television (yes, I know it started in ’68) it’s a testament to how the television medium was pushed to its limits. And then pushed even harder. Which is why the new version of the series produced by writing gods Kurtzman & Orci is such a worthy successor.
One of the original’s draws was that, at its time, it was one of the best looking shows on television, and it remained that way until a little show called Miami Vice came along. Well guess what, so is this new version. I defy you to find a brighter, more colorful, better looking show than Hawaii Five-0.
And to make things even better, the versions of McGarrett, Danno, Kono (despite the gender change) and Chin we get in this new version are human. It was a classic move in seventies television to make your characters something more than human. And while the new McGarrett can jump through plate glass windows unharmed, these updated versions have real problems and real relationships and emotions. This new Five-0 is not only a worthy successor to the original, it tops it.
Steven Levitan & Christopher Lloyd (Modern Family)
Another year, another season, another crazy adventure for Jay, Gloria, Phil, Claire, Mitchell, Cameron and all the kids that fall in between. Like Parenthood, Modern Family not only delivered on the bar it set in season 1, it raised that bar to a level no one thought possible.
Arguably the funniest show on television, week after week Modern Family delivered, all thanks to the tireless efforts by Levitan and Lloyd. These two understand the psychotic nature of families, both big and small. And every week they apply that understanding to a new journey for everyone on the show. If you have a funny bone and haven’t checked out Modern Family yet, then I don’t know if we can continue to be friends.
Jonathan E. Steinberg (Human Target)
Guns, explosions, greased up woman in their underwear, if you love any of that and more then you’re probably already watching Human Target which finished up season 2 this year. Like everyone else on this list, thanks to the amazing efforts of Steinberg, the show achieves the kind of thrilling action usually reserved for a summer blockbuster.
And that’s what Human Target is at its core. A summer blockbuster ever freaking week.
And unlike some other shows from this year *cough*The Good Guys*cough* the addition of more female leads not only didn’t hurt the show, it improved it. Because now the team has a resident hot chick for missions that require seduction. Always a good time for all.
Josh Schwartz & Chris Fefak (CHUCK)
It’s really hard to maintain quality when you get to season 4 of a series, but CHUCK not only maintained it’s quality, it surpassed it this year. Because this was the first time Chuck has been fully integrated into the spy world and the intersect in his brain. And no one can deny that we have Schwartz and Fedak to thank for that.
Every season before now Chuck has been a lovable, but bit of a whiny bitch. Even in season 3 when he first gained is awesome spy powers, he still just cried a lot. This season took Chuck to a new place, a more professional, spy-worthy place. Chuck is not only going on missions now, he’s leading them. He reached his potential, as did Schwartz and Fedak.
To listen to the latest episode of Merrill’s TV Podcast, The Idiot Boxers with Kevin Carr, head over to Fat Guys at the Movies.