Monsters and Critics TV Drama picks for Fall 2010

Monsters and Critics loves grown-up, stylish yarns for scripted dramatic TV. Fall is approaching, and that means heartier fare for the eyes and the stomach.

We have a short list of dramas that we love and recommend for you to consider as Fall TV’s best in show for the category of DRAMA. What they all have in common are charismatic accomplished casts, top notch crews that bring the sets and characters to life, superb showrunners and compelling storylines.

Tuck in.

1. Sons of Anarchy
Starring: Katey Sagal, Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam, Kim Coates, Mark Boone Junior, Ryan Hurst, Theo Rossi, Maggie Siff, William Lucking, Dayton Callie, Ally Walker, Tommy Flanagan, Mitch Pileggi, Taryn Manning with season guest stars Titus Welliver, Hal Holbrook, Stephen King, Paula Malcomson, James Cosmos
Network: FX
Airs: Tuesdays at 9 PM ET/PT
Series Premiere: Sept, 7, 2010

M&C has selected this series as top TV drama for the last two years for good reason. The compelling storyline has matured and season three takes us to Ireland in frantic chase, as Jax’s (Hunnam) baby Abel is spirited away by I.R.A. terrorist Cameron, who hides the child and awaits his fate.

Gemma (Sagal) is on the lam and goes to her Father Nate’s home; he is played by Hal Holbrook in a four episode arc that has a resonating emotional core. Tara (Siff) is fighting to keep Jax close to her and Clay (Perlman) is wrestling with his failing health and strength to ride with SAMCRO.  Opie (Hurst) is torn with Lila’s career and his feelings for her.

Bobby (Boone) meets up with ex Precious, and their volatile relationship continues.  “Juice” (Rossi) is the hacker who with some outside help facilitates Jax with tracking and finding Abel. Chibs (Flanagan) has a history with the Irish, and we find out more of his story this season.

Cherry (Manning) is in Ireland and learns of Half Sac’s murder by the I.R.A.  Chief Unser (Callie) watches over Gemma and his old friends in SAMCRO, and Agent June Stahl (Walker) is waiting like a cat for her victim, Gemma, to pin a murder on her and break SAMCRO for good. White supremacist townie Darby (Pileggi) is still out there, as is Georgie Caruso (Tom Arnold) and Ethan Zoebelle (Adam Arkin).

The town of Charming is slowly being encroached by “progress” and its enemies that want to bust up the town’s muscle which has kept it safe for years.  Primal themes of family, loyalty, brotherhood, living off the grid, revenge and staking territory are told in Shakespearean sweeps by showrunner Kurt Sutter, who plays Otto, an incarcerated and blinded member of SAMCRO with a big score to settle still for the brutal murder of his old lady. 

If this show were meat, it would be one of those juicy, giant prime rib roasts you see at weddings or bar mitzvahs.  With a massive side of horseradish sauce and puffy crisp with soft buttery interior Yorkshire puddings to sop up the blood. 


2. Terriers
Starring: Donal Logue, Michael Raymond-James, Laura Allen, Rockmond Dunbar, Jamie Denbo
Network: FX
Airs: Wednesdays at 9 PM ET/PT
Series Premiere: Sept, 8, 2010

The Shield’s Shawn Ryan and “Ocean’s Eleven” writer Ted Griffin turned out a seaside melancholic buddy romp laced with enough off-kilter cleverness and humor that it defies genre labels.  The juice for this effort lay in the charisma that lead Donal Logue as Hank Dolworth has with a dodgy, sweet new partner, Brit (Michael Raymond-James).  

These guys are failures at many things, except sniffing out the truth of the matter when it comes to crime, you know, like a Terrier. 

Hank is a recovering drunk who has lost much, including a wife he loved, and finds himself biting off more than he can chew at times as he investigates a prominent member of the San Diego community.

This show is a creeper, low key, and utterly charming and addictive. Not your average procedural cop / detective show.

If this show were meat, it would be a savory Shepherd’s Pie with a flaky crust and a chaser of Guinness.



3. Boardwalk Empire
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Shannon, Michael Kenneth Williams, Kelly Macdonald, Gretchen Mol
Network: HBO
Airs: Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT
Series Premiere: Sept.19 2010

Scorsese brings excellence to every single aspect of storytelling, as well as the below the line crafts for this lush, wonderful historical drama that mesmerized a room full of teenagers at my house; kids who normally watch stupid reality crap on MTV. 

What kept them glued to their seats loving this series was the relatable context the series writers gave to gangster Al Capone, just starting out and nearly their age. We meet infamous legends Rothstein, Darmody and Lucky Luciano, and see the way it was before we were infected by technology and the warp speed of life that defines today.

The era is the roaring Twenties, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Prohibition was the wedge that broke unwillingness for women to legally have the vote in the USA, The women won this battle, and many fortunes were made during this “dry” time in America.

Steve Buscemi is Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, and for such a fine actor, it is heartwarming to see him cast in what is his due: A leading man with bite. This series is flat-out brilliant and hooks you immediately, and it will appeal to a wide audience. HBO needed this series badly.

If this show were meat, it would be Beef Wellington, in a glossy golden brown puff pastry crust with a big, fat goblet of Cabernet



4. Lone Star
Starring: James Wolk, Adrianne Palicki, Eloise Mumford, David Keith, Jon Voight
Network: FOX
Airs: Mondays at 9 PM ET/PT
Series Premiere: Sept. 20 2010

Bob Taylor (James Wolk), a con man is living a double life, one with a wife (Adrianne Palicki) whose father (Jon Voight) an oil tycoon and the other in a small town, with a sweet girlfriend (Eloise Mumford), whose inner circle have all invested in Bob’s business opportunity. Can Bob maintain his two identities? Like “Big Love”, the duplicity edge makes for good TV.

Powerfully good acting and writing in the premiere episode keep this from feeling soap opera. Can it continue is the question.

If this show were meat, it would be shaved Beef Brisket piled high with the right amount of barbecue sauce, crisped on the edges in a toasted Kaiser bun with a side of crunchy ice cold coleslaw and an iced down Sierra Nevada.


5. Hawaii Five-0
Starring Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Grace Park, Daniel Dae Kim
Network: CBS
Airs: Mondays at 10 PM ET/PT                                                             
Premiere: Sept. 20, 2010

As a young kid, the original Hawaii Five-0’s theme song could be heard from anywhere in my house, and like Pavlov’s dogs, the sound of it made me drop whatever I was doing and run to my TV to see a part of the world that was as foreign to me as remote China.  New England is a cold, grey, place to grow up, and Hawaii looked like heaven. The series meant a great deal to me, and after seeing the pilot, I am relieved that the show has not been sacrificed to the Hawaiian God Ku-ka-ili-moku.

This version is cinematic, lush, well written, acted and is a contemporary take on the classic series about a new elite federalized task force featuring the fit Detective Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), a decorated Naval officer turned cop, returns to Oahu to investigate his father’s murder and stays after Hawaii’s governor persuades him to head up the new team: his rules, her backing, no red tape and full blanket immunity to hunt down the biggest “game” in town.

What makes this series hum is the chemistry he has with costar Detective Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan), a divorced, newly relocated ex-New Jersey cop who prefers skyscrapers to the coastline but is committed to keeping the Islands safe for his 8-year-old daughter. Rounding out an excellent ensemble is Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim), an ex-Honolulu Police Detective wrongly accused of corruption and relegated to a federal security patrol, who is also a former protégé of McGarrett’s father, and his cousin Kono Kalakaua, played by Grace Park.

If this show were meat, it would be spit roasted Kalua Pig, served up in banana leaves with a big fat Mai Tai chaser.


6. Luther
Starring Idris Elba, Ruth Wilson, Steven Mackintosh, Indira Varma, Paul McGann
Network: BBC America
Airs: Sundays at 10 PM ET/PT                                                            
Premiere: Oct. 17, 2010

I would remiss not to mention this new drama on BBC America, just finishing three episodes. Idris Elba owns this role, his steely gaze and presence are scene stealers. Idris is Stringer Bell in this new BBC/BBC America co-production “Luther.”
Bell is a genius, but emotionally impulsive murder detective who has met his match in a female killer who he is strangely drawn to.  Alice (Ruth Wilson), a multiple-murdress, plays the femme fatale to the hilt. Themes of human depravity, the complexity of love and attraction and taut psychological thriller pacing makes this effort worthy of your fall drama queue.
Luther, like Terriers, defies genre labels and feels mostly a thriller. The storylines are intelligent, stylishly shot and grip you from the get-go.

If this show were meat, it would be Beef Roulades stuffed with Bleu Cheese and Walnuts chop grilled to perfection served with a Pinot Noir and Trifle for dessert. 



7. Sherlock
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman
Network: PBS
Airs: Sundays at 9 PM ET/PT
Series Premiere: Oct. 27 2010
Submitted by M&C contributor Ian Cullen, of

As a kid I have fond memories of watching Basil Rathbone as the great detective Sherlock Holmes. Every Friday at 6pm in the evening during the early eighties my older sister and I would watch Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson solve seemingly impossible crimes while waiting for my older brother to return home from boarding school. This was back in an England caught in the mist of recession, and strikes were rampant. So in a way it seems fitting for Sherlock to make his return now, and in October, US viewers will get to enjoy Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the iconic pairing of Holmes and Watson.

‘Sherlock’ is a modern interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, and all the action takes place in modern day London.

Written and created by self confessed Sherlock Holmes enthusiast Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) and Mark Gatiss (League Of Gentlemen and Doctor Who) this three part series is the modern day answer to the Sherlock Holmes, which was portrayed by Basil Rathbone.

Many of Rathbone’s adventures as Holmes took place in the 1940’s and have until recently been the most successful movies to have brought Sherlock Holmes into contemporary times.

Now Rathbone’s Holmes movies are joined by this new slick BBC production, which will air on PBS in October, and is well worth the watch.

Benedict Cumberbatch is immediately authoritative as Sherlock Holmes the worlds only consulting detective. Cumberbatch takes the role by the horns and brings forth the arrogance, which was well documented in the Holmes of the books. Whereas Martin Freeman brings viewers into the world of Sherlock Holmes by being the representation of humanity, something which Sherlock feels he is beyond in his quest for absolute perfection.

The series, which is made up of three 90 minute television movies is full of drama and fast paced story telling, and the relationship between Holmes and Watson is played out beautifully by the shows two leads.

The three mysteries contained within the stories are of the sort that they’ll keep veiwers guessing to the end, but in the final analysis it is the evolving relationship between Holmes and new found friend Dr. John Watson that will keep most engaged.

Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law may well have been fairly creditable in the movie, but this television series has much more of a story and engages the more cerebral fans of Sherlock Holmes, and does so without excluding fans of action adventure.

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.