Best Shows of the Season on CBS

Photos by Margie Barron

Pauley Perette.

There’s a new year of programming ahead of us, but let’s take a look back at the shows that amused, confused, and thrilled us last year on the CBS network.

It’s Vegas, baby! For me, the best new drama of the fall season is Vegas on CBS because it has everything I enjoy. It has great stars with Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis, plus old-fashioned storytelling in an attention-grabbing setting, Las Vegas in the early ’60s. The show’s executive producer and show runner Greg Walker gives credit to the Chicago mob guys who came to town and helped it grow as the basis for the show’s storylines. “They changed its culture, going from sawdust on the floor to carpets in the casinos. From cowboys singing to first class entertainers. They organized things, but they also brought violence to Vegas.” That adds the action to the show which is filled with great characters I might have bumped into in days gone by.

Okay, another couple of shows that are continuously at the top of the rating heap thanks to their special brand of action and storytelling are NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, also on CBS.

Although Mark Harmon is the star of NCIS, one of my favorite performers is Pauley Perette as the tattooed lab-rat Abby. Perette describes her quirky character as “a brainiac-maniac,” and she has some wonderful stories about people who tell her that her role has “inspired people to join the scientific field.” Perette reports, “I get people’s parents who write to me and say, ‘My daughter suddenly wants to be a chemist.’ That’s fantastic, especially when parents or grandparents say, ‘The kids got piercing and tattoos and we thought they were going to hell, and now they’re going to college.’ I think it’s great that we can make the scientific realm cool. I’m a science nerd myself, so it makes me really happy.”

Photos by Margie Barron

Tom Selleck.

Blue Bloods has been a great show over the past couple of seasons on CBS, and it has settled into a familiar but entertaining cops and lawyers format. But it’s the central family headed by Tom Selleck playing the New York City Police Commissioner that gives the show its heart. Most people first tuned in to see Selleck because they enjoyed him in Magnum P.I., but he’s not that guy anymore. As NYC’s top cop he’s a stickler for the rules, very different from him playing fast-and-loose with the rules as Thomas Magnum sporting those Aloha shirts.

It’s Donnie Wahlberg, playing Selleck’s police detective son, who steals the show in every episode. The family aspect of Blue Bloods is featured best during the dinner scenes that wrap up most episodes. Wahlberg says those are his favorite scenes because, “It’s really the place where you see how everyone is connected, how all the characters are ultimately intertwined.”

How can you go wrong setting a show in Hawaii? The island scenery alone would be enjoyable even with the sound off. But you need the sound to fully appreciate CBS’ Hawaii Five-O and the chemistry between the stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan. The banter between them gives the show something extra and makes them very different from the original that had Jack Lord playing the stoic Steve McGarrett first snapping “Book ’em Danno” about 50 years ago.

O’Loughlin likes that the show has had the current reboot and has gone in a different direction. “In the old show, you didn’t know much about McGarrett. I remember it from when I was a kid, and there’s been a lot of changes in the style of acting, stylistically, and what we can do with technology, stunts, special effects, and the rest of it.” Another change from the original was the relationship with Danno and McGarrett. Danno has gone from a sidekick to a good buddy who is McGarrett’s right-hand man.

Homeland on Showtime (part of the Viacom-CBS family) has a lot of buzz. It won six Emmys thanks to the riveting performances by Claire Danes as CIA agent Carrie Mathison and Damian Lewis as the soldier-politician she thinks is a threat to U.S. national security. Danes describes her character as “incredibly bright, at times dangerously bright, and formidable and focused, even compulsive, even myopic. But she’s also very sensitive and vulnerable. That juxtaposition is interesting and it’s why I was attracted to the role.” The very attractive Morena Baccarin, who plays Lewis’ wife, has also emerged as a very interesting character to watch.

Finally, for a reality check, The Amazing Race is as good as it gets for a reality competition series. It also doubles as a travelogue with high drama thanks to the personalities of the eclectic bunch of contestants. Last year there were heroes, villains, and underdogs to root for as they traversed the globe in the hopes of winning a million dollars and big ratings for CBS.

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