Road to the Emmys 2012: Drama
Strengths: The original mind-bending dual-reality concept is compelling, and British import Jason Isaacs really sells it as the protagonist.
Weaknesses: Knowing one investigation would help Issacs’ Det. Britten solve the other got old by the third episode.
Best days ahead or behind? Couching a strong conceit within a police procedural might have worked in another era or on another network, but viewers mostly stayed away from the Peacock, which did not renew the show.
— Paula Hendrickson
Strengths: Kelsey Grammer looms large on the screen like no one since perhaps James Gandolfini on “The Sopranos.” Martin Donovan shined in his supporting role.
Weaknesses: Hey, it’s Starz, so you’re not expecting a G rating — but some of the sex and violence was so gratuitous as to be laughable/horrific.
Best days ahead or behind? If an honest evaluation of the show’s ups and downs took place after its freshman year, there’s every possibility for improvement.
— Jon Weisman
“Falling Skies” (TNT)
Strengths: A sci-fi drama with heart, bolstered by Noah Wyle in a strong role — an American history professor pressed into service as an insurgent leader after Earth is invaded by nasty lizard-like aliens — that allows him to move on in viewers’ eyes from youthful “ER” doc John Carter.
Weaknesses: Monsters, spaceships et al can grow old over time, and sci-fi shows have a history of burning out fast.
Best days ahead or behind? The show’s foundation is sturdy enough to allow producers to mine plenty of family and romantic relationship material against the dramatic backdrop of plucky survivors try to stave off an occupying force.
— Cynthia Littleton
Strengths: Blends mythological creatures and procedural crime into a new type of drama. Portland detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) switches between he old and new lives with the perfect amount of seriousness and humor.
Weaknesses: The audience takes weekly leaps of faith when it comes to backstories and magical herbal healings.
Best days ahead or behind: “Grimm” found a core audience on Friday nights, and season two offers the propsect that Nick’s two worlds won’t be so black and white with Hank (Russell Hornsby) and girlfriend Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) on the brink of discovering his secret identity.
— Denise Smaldino
“Hell on Wheels” (AMC)
Strengths: Transporting atmosphere and strong lead acting from Anson Mount and Colm Meaney. The show worked whenever it focused on their two well-drawn characters.
Weaknesses: Didn’t rethink the genre along the lines of “Deadwood” or go much beyond its old-school premise of a man seeking revenge. Adherence to convention proved frustrating as season unfolded.
Best days ahead or behind? A second season offers the opportunity to reload and refocus. Promise remains, but fulfillment could prove elusive.
– Glenn Whipp
Strengths: Anchored by riveting performances by Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, “Homeland” unveiled an enthralling and emotionally complex mystery that rarely disappointed.
Weaknesses: The hurdles in telling a story of international terrorism are many, and naturally, you could find moments that didn’t quite resonate.
Best days ahead or behind? As strong as its first year was, “Homeland” could benefit from having established its world and hitting the ground running in season two.
— Jon Weisman
Strengths: A formidable stable of talent including David Milch, Michael Mann and Dustin Hoffman. From the thrilling action on the track to its authentically drawn band of underdogs, the drama gave viewers an inside look into a mesmerizing, morally ambiguous world.
Weaknesses: Maybe too inside. Detractors contended that the pay cable net’s mane event was frustratingly opaque and that its slow-burn stories needed to pick up the pace.
Best days ahead or behind? With its abrupt, controversy-plagued cancellation, “Luck” was fated to last one brief season. But you can bet those who were drawn in by this uncompromising series won’t soon forget it.
— Shawna Malcom
“Magic City” (Starz)
Strengths: Beautifully stylized, old-school morality play full of dark shadows and a host of characters who became more and more interesting as the series progressed.
Weaknesses: The show’s plot twists could be a tad predictable, and there were times when all those gorgeous shadows had a lulling effect on its viewers.
Best days ahead or behind? Creator Mitch Glazer brought enough of a personal voice to the familiar genre to encourage the belief that the show’s magic can be sustained and further developed.
— Glenn Whipp
“Once Upon a Time” (ABC)
Strengths: A surprising twist on familiar and much-adored fairy tale characters, from the writing team behind “Lost.” offered fodder for complex and infinite storytelling.
Weaknesses: Falling for “Once” during some of their snoozy stand-alone episodes equaled the early romance potential between Beauty and the Beast: Just. Not. Happening.
Best days ahead or behind? After rewarding fans with closure on Season 1’s mysteries and an intriguing new beginning, “Once” gets at least a second chance at Happily Ever After.
— Carita Rizzo
“Person of Interest” (CBS)
Strengths: The sophisticated crime drama, created by J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan, is elevated above the average “tie-it-with-a-neat-bow” procedural due to the performances by Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson as the show’s post-9/11 Batman and Alfred.
Weaknesses: The slow-moving serialized plotline, with complex flashback sequences delving into Reese and Finch’s pasts, risked losing fans anxiously awaiting big picture resolutions. Best days ahead or behind? With a cliffhanger putting more at stake than ever, this is only the beginning for Finch and Reese’s mission.
— Carita Rizzo
Strengths: The show has delivered on its pilot’s promise of becoming primetime’s next true guilty pleasure. A great cast fronted by Emily VanCamp and Madeleine Stowe plows through storylines that move at a brisker pace than soaps of yesteryear.
Weaknesses : The believability index s
ometimes gets a workout, and keeping the eye-rolling to a minimum, while also allowing Emily some plausible escape routes, could be a delicate balancing act. Also, the storylines of the younger characters should be beefed up.
Best days ahead or behind? Coming off a finale that seemed to please most fans while also opening up other paths of revenge, there’s no reason to think a second season can’t deliver the goods. And with a high-profile Sunday timeslot, ratings should grow in season two.
— Rick Kissell
Strengths: Great original music, a talented cast and the glittering world of Broadway.
Weaknesses: Disjointed plotlines, occasionally stilted dialogue and a number of unlikable characters make some scenes more laughable than believable.
Best days ahead or behind? If new showrunner Josh Safran can strike the right balance between backstage shenanigans and the show-within-the-show, the second act should be better than the first.
— Paula Hendrickson
Strengths: This odd couple dramedy disguised as a procedural follows the “Blue Sky” formula perfected by the cable network, but the quick and witty legal banter combined with sterner subject matters have made both critics and viewers take notice.
Weaknesses: The premise that a high-profile lawyer would risk his entire career to hire a scam artist as his associate requires a suspension of disbelief that not everyone possesses.
Best days ahead or behind? “Suits” is likely to follow in the footsteps of “White Collar,” “Royal Pains” and “Psych,” delivering cliffhangers, red herrings and near-misses for years to come.
— Carita Rizzo
Strengths: This global race against time offers an extravagance of locations, characters and intellectual stimulation, but it’s the subtle performances by Kiefer Sutherland and David Mazouz as father and son that speak the loudest.
Weaknesses: Sutherland repeatedly saving the day without the safety of the entire world at stake might eventually become repetitious.
Best days ahead or behind? With (Fox) in need of a working procedural, “Touch” is here to stay.
— Carita Rizzo