The first round matchups in the "Active Shows" bracket (which includes play-in game winners) are as follows:
1 - Curb Your Enthusiasm vs. 16 - (play in winner) 3rd Rock from the Sun
8 - True Blood vs. 9 - Modern Family
There hasn't been as much voting for these shows (perhaps because the original post came out on a Friday) so the results are basically going to be up to me. In this first matchup, Curb goes up against 3rd Rock, a quality show that had a nice run to get into the main bracket but it will be no match for the Curb, which I watched on the plane on my way to Norfolk, in pain from my foot and high on Percocet, and Larry David made me briefly happy for the first and last time of the day. That's good enough. The second matchup is a very tough and very close battle between a comedy and a supernatural "drama", a show at the height of its powers in season 3 and a show definitely on the downslide in season 4 or 5? -- is that what it's up to now? Not sure. The first two seasons of Sookie and the gang were pretty unstoppably great but the show's plotlines have gotten increasingly outrageous (is there anyone who doesn't have a superpower?) and minor characters that don't really interest me have taken way too much time away from the main Sookie story. So it's difficult. Meanwhile, Modern Family was a breath of comedic fresh air when it premiered and has remained quite strong. It's not as good as Parks & Recreation -- few shows on TV are -- but it's probably the second best comedy on a network right now and its incredible ratings has revived network comedies from a very moribund state. And that's a good enough thing to push it through to the second round.
Winners: 1 - Curb Your Enthusiasm vs. 9- Modern Family (vote below)
5 - Nurse Jackie vs. 12 - Louie
Speaking of Parks & Rec, it's definitely the funniest network TV show that has appeared in years, and in its 4th season it's about as good as ever. So many perfect characters were created by the writers and these talented actors -- I mean, any show would be proud to create Ron Swanson, but this one also has April Ludgate and Tom Haverford and "Donna" and Andy (Andy!) in addition to the wonderfully hilarious Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope. Rob Lowe and Adam Scott were really great additions to the cast. Just a great show. I don't remember Night Court enough to think it has any shot to beat Parks. Again, it's good for them to just be invited. In the 2nd matchup is the warped drama with comedic moments that has had three brilliant seasons on Showtime vs. the even newer warped comedy with dramatic moments that has had two awkward but often brilliant seasons on FX. I love love love Louis CK and his stand-up act is just perfect. And when this show works I really can't stop laughing (and it usually works). But at this early point in its career, it can't beat Nurse Jackie.
Winners: 4 - Parks and Recreation vs. 5 - Nurse Jackie (vote below)
Moving on to the bottom of the bracket:
3 - The Office vs. 14 - The O.C. (play in winner)
6 - Weeds vs. 11 - 30 Rock
The Office is deep into its run -- its 8th season or so and first without Steve Carell as Michael Scott and I'll be honest, despite the best efforts of Ed Helms as Andy Bernard, the new manager of Dunder-Mifflin, this show is almost unwatchable at this point. It's actually been on a downward slide for years and as a result, it's possibly overseeded here but those seasons 2 & 3 were so good, and the other seasons good enough ("The Michael Scott Paper Company" came pretty late in the run) that it at least survives a first round matchup with the overwrought teen soap. In the other matchup, we have another show that has faded fast -- Weeds -- after a brilliant first season, but I think it stabilized into a good if not great show for several years now. 30 Rock isn't a show I've ever loved and although it's really ridiculous, I would probably say it's nearly as good now as it's ever been, so it might even be better than Weeds. But Weeds did have better highs over the years so that gives it the narrow victory to move on to the 2nd round.
Winners: 3 - The Office vs. 6 - Weeds (vote below)
2 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia vs. 15. Big Love (play in winner)
7 - The Amazing Race vs. 10- Shameless
Always Sunny is easily one of my favorite shows of all-time. I had a lot of trouble deciding between that and Curb for the #1 seed and at this point, I'd say that both of them are strongly in the running to win this whole thing out of the Active Shows bracket. So it's going to easily get past Big Love into the 2nd round. Not that I didn't love the show about Mormons which took constant shots at the insidious influence of religious faith over any kind of reason, but it's just too tough a matchup. Which brings us to the 2nd game, probably the closest matchup in all of round 1. On the one hand we have a show that I have consistently watched for close to a decade that has for some time been the best "quality" reality competition show, at least as evidenced by the string of Emmys it's received. It's a really great setup and it's executed well and it's largely devoid of rude and horrible personalities that populate other reality shows. So it should probably move on against a show that hasn't yet finished its second season. But oh what a second season it is. If I had the energy, I would have written an entire post about this week's Shameless episode, which was not only the highlight of the season but probably of the series and definitely of all TV this year. Not that anything great or shocking happened, but "mom" Monica's return to the Gallagher family brought to a head all the wonderful storylines percolating throughout the series and showed how well these characters have come together. And seeing Frank and Monica interacting in their drunken fashion just drives home the why of prodigy Lip's collapse into self-destructive oblivion this season, as well as the anger that boils beneath every decision he, Fiona, and Ian make in life -- hardened by their parents complete disregard for parenting or caring, they've had to fend for themselves and care for themselves and while Ian has largely avoided truly destructive behavior (although fucking the town thug who used to bully him is not exactly "wise" behavior), Fiona and Lip have definitely had their share of falling apart the past 2 seasons, despite being the moral center of the Gallagher household. That kind of complex characterization is not something you see everyday, and yet you see it every week on this show. Even Frank -- with the death of his mother -- has become a more rounded character this season, and is no longer the weakest part of the show. Hell, I don't even know if it has a weak part any more. I even like the re-emergence of Steve/Jimmy. And the current Fiona/Lip feud is so well-earned and being played so perfectly... Yeah I know it's only in its second season and it probably doesn't deserve it over such a stalwart veteran like Amazing Race, but Shameless is (spoiler alert) going to be the 2011-12 Vague Space TV Show of the Year, and it's moving on here.
Winners: 2 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia vs. 10 - Shameless (voting below)