I have been told—by people who know much more than I do about these things—that television is experiencing a second golden age. Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, House of Cards, and Downton Abbey have all reminded their viewers that TV shows can be as much works of art as movies. These critically acclaimed shows showcase deep, evolving characters, complex plots, and good production values.
But—to be perfectly honest—I tend to get more excited about the fall return of my guilty pleasure shows—the overly dramatic, vaguely ridiculous ones that are the perfect excuse to turn your brain off for an hour after a long day at work. But each of them, under all the soap, has a nugget of greatness that sometimes pops up to remind you why you got hooked in the first place.
These are the shows I am most excited to indulge in this fall:
Nashville: The only reason I started to watch this show was because of Connie Britton. No matter how implausible a plot line might get, you can count on Connie Britton nailing her performance and giving her character—country star Rayna James—more layers than you thought possible. The show also boasts an amazing soundtrack for all types of country lovers—classic country, pop country, and indie country. The songs alone make it worth tuning in.
Grey’s Anatomy: I know—it’s been on forever. Like many people, I gave up on it for a few seasons during the middle of its run. But happily, the show has resurrected itself and is back in top form! Now that the Meredith-Derek will-they-won’t-they scenario has settled down, their relationship provides a nice stability to the whirlwind of drama surrounding them. There may be a new over the top situation in every episode, but that’s what makes it fun! And, let's face it, it is nice to watch a show that acknowledges the struggle of finding a balance between an all-consuming professional life and any semblance of a personal life. At the very least, I get weekly assurance that I am doing it slightly better than the doctors at Sloan-Grey Memorial Hospital.
Revenge: Despite some serious missteps in Season 2, I have continued to enjoy Revenge and I think—crossing fingers—my dedication is going to pay off. Season 3 literally started with a bang and the moral quicksand that Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke stands on seems to be getting more treacherous than ever. What devious plan will she come up with next? Plus, Revenge continues to be a master class in how to viciously insult someone while remaining polite and charming—which is much more fun to learn on TV than in real life.
Hostages: I don't know about you, but I have been craving a strong female lead in the fall TV line up—and Hostages delivers. Toni Colette's character, Dr. Ellen Sanders, is a cross between 24's Jack Bower—without the punch—and Homeland's Carrie Mathison, without the mood swings. Dr. Sanders has been asked to perform a surgical procedure on the President of the United States. But when taken hostage in her own home, Sanders is forced to choose between murder and her family's life. Colette reveals a refreshing take on the female heroine. Dr. Sanders is maternal, the breadwinner, fosters close female friendships, and—as I think future episodes will reveal—will prove to be a threatening adversary in a game of wits as she attempts to outsmart her captors.