When (Season) two is better than one

With the new season of Mad Men just around the corner, I also start my annual “convert everyone to good TV” mission. I have good intentions, really. People still watch 2 1/2 Men and until that ends, my mission will continue.

As I gush about my favorite episodes and my borderline obsession with Peggy, I was reminded that my favorite season is still No. 2. But it isn’t just for Mad Men. A lot of my current and past favorite shows had amazing second seasons. Everyone always touts the freshman standout or loves to name the exact moment a series “jumped the shark.” This post is praise for the shows that hit the sweet spot while still managing to up the stakes for the storyline.

The Office
I am still the loser that watches this every week because of two people – Jim and Pam. I’m not usually one to be a ‘shipper, but they are the reason I stuck it out past the so-so Season 1 and then went into full-on swoon mode by the finale of Season 2.

The writers also had an all-star lineup of classic TV in the making: The Injury [WATCH THIS!], The Dundies, Christmas Party, Booze Cruise, and of course Casino Night. There isn’t an episode in that season that I haven’t rewatched at least five times. The writers also managed to flesh Dwight out as the sympathetic guy who just needed love from the office ninny, Angela. Both the Jim+Pam and Dwight+Angela relationships could have floundered – and did – later in the series. However, the set up made me feel uncomfortable, happy, annoyed, dismayed, and all kinds of other emotions – exactly what good writing and acting should make you feel.

This is still one of my favorite moments from the series:

Mad Men
As I’m trying to convert everyone to this sometimes slow, but always beautiful show, I’m always reminded that most of my favorite episodes come from Season 2. I loved the bookended story of Anna in Don’s life, I love how Peggy and Pete have to deal with their past relationships and I love how Don’s aging starts to catch up with him as the hip, new ’60s generation starts to move in. The only thing I didn’t love was the Bobby Barrett storyline, but I’m not going to lie, I still love the scenes where Don does what he does best – treats a woman like men tend to treat a woman. But the scenes were just so well-played, it’s hard to still hate him.

My favorite moment is from the episode “Maidenform.” By this point, Peggy’s gone through a back-and-forth with her family and her co-workers about if she can still be the cute, nice, Catholic girl with the ponytail, or if she has to shed that in order to become a modern lady. I think knowing how to be a woman in the working world and Peggy’s issues were relatable, even if it was 50 years ago. From the opening montage of all the “Men” ladies getting dressed to the closing sequence of Peggy deciding to play in the boys club, but bringing her assets to the table, too, it was just perfect. Plus, it was soundtracked by The Decemberists. It really doesn’t get much better.

Happy Endings
What I love about this show is that it takes a common saying or TV que – like crickets to a dead statement – and kicks it up a notch – but having an actual cricket infestation in said room where the statement dropped like hot potato.

So much happens in this show so quickly that I can rewatch it and still not catch everything. Some people don’t like that. I say those people aren’t smart.

Part of what made Season 2 great was the writers put the initial draw of Alex and Dave’s break up on the back burner and kicked Penny and Max’s hapless life to the front. Hangout comedies should make you want to be with that group of friends. I’m pretty sure I’m in denial and think that I actually already hang out with these folks.

Ex. 1 of awesomeness: Max is a bear. He literally hibernates in the winter. That’s my life.

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Ex. 2 of awesome: Hold your horses. No, really.

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Cougar Town
This show has people with botoxed faces. This show is just people drinking wine. This show isn’t about cougars or cougar ladies.

To you, I say shut your face. I would love to live in a world where Laurie Keller was my side kick and I had friends that had a never-ending budget for a never-ending drink supplies.

What made Season 2 amazing was how the show actually dealt with their characters that didn’t really have plans. And the characters that had plans, well they grew up a bit, too. I particularly enjoyed their trek to Hawaii to save the youngest member of the Cul-de-Sac crew, Travis. He had a broken heart, bombed out of college, and was kicked out of the house by his mom. And what great show hasn’t had a Hawaii moment? (Full House, Modern Family, My Wife and Kids….well….maybe not.) But! there are terrific moments where Laurie shows why she’s the best side kick.

Laurie: “I’m gonna say something now that Meredith Baxter Birney has said in every TV movie I have ever seen: “I…will not give up on that boy.”

There’s also Penny Can, Big Carl (May he RIP), and snarky Ellie.

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Grey’s Anatomy
I don’t even know what this show is these days, but there was once upon a time where this was must watch TV for most college women I knew. Season 2 brought us Addison, Mark “McSteamy” Sloan, Callie + George, and Izzie + Denny.

Other than the overuse of “LVAD,” even pathetic moments like Meredith’s, “Pick me, love me, choose me” speech was gold.

One of my favorite moments was from the “It’s the end of the world episode.” Christina Ricci and Kyle Chandler guest starred in the epic post-Super Bowl episode where a bomb comes into the hospital. Below is a compilation overlaid with the sappy Snow Patrol. Stroll down guilty pleasure memory lane.

Breaking Bad
I don’t know how this show just. gets. better. Season 2 was definitely not the peak for Walter White & Co. However, knowing so many promising series flounder their golden opportunities, Season 2 can be seen as the season that set up the momentum for the rest of the series. The season starts with black and white shots of an eyeball floating in the White’s pool, thus beginning a season of flash backs and loose ends.

There was also another beloved show that did this over 6 seasons – LOST – and they didn’t really deliver on all those loose ends.

Thankfully, Breaking Bad delivered. The eyeball continues to roll around in kitchen drawers and act as a reminder to Walt about a series of events that took away any hint of a good guy.

My favorite episode that season was “Four days out” where Jesse and Walter are out in the desert cooking. It’s one of the last times that RV heads out to the desert with Walt and Jesse on the same team. They’ve always had their issues, but now Jesse works out of fear, not trying to prove he is a better man. There’s also those lovely sweeping visuals of New Mexico.

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What are some of your favorite seasons of TV?

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