This Is Us
People were excited about This Is Us before it even started. The show’s first trailer had over 15 million Facebook views within 48 hours of its release, which was a new record for the social media site, and it’s easy to understand why. It appeared to be the type of “real life” drama that had been somewhat replaced by superhero and cop shows on TV, and people were clearly craving it. This Is Us became the most popular show of the 2016-17 TV season and it partially had the huge twist at the end of the pilot to thank. What started out as a group of regular people who shared the same birthday turned into a beautiful family drama that was weaving through the decades, satisfying the hole that shows such as Parenthood and Friday Night Lights had left.
What made the first season so fantastic was its ability to flawless cover different timelines, plots and characters without overwhelming the viewers or feeling rushed. They were dealing with real problems that TV hadn’t given much of its full attention to, such as adoption, mixed families, and weight. People instantly found pieces of themselves in the storytelling and not to mention the out of this world performances from powerhouses like Sterling K. Brown, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore and Chrissy Metz. The first season of This Is Us was poignant, emotional and a beautiful stepping stone for seasons to come.
Everyone was watching Lost when it premiered and it still has a cult following today. The first season’s premise was completely addicting and a great example of a character drama within a bigger and mysterious plot. Its plot was unique, enigmatic, and the reason that it became the cultural phenomenon it remains today. Show anyone the pilot episode of Lost and I guarantee you they will be texting you at 4 am after skipping sleep in order to binge it – it’s that good.
The entire first season is character driven, introducing you to this vast array of characters on the island. That alone was interesting enough, but then they took it one step further and started showing you flashbacks and how that affected who they were on the island and sometimes how they were even connected to each other. They did all of this while the show’s mythology was gradually evolving at an endearing pace. Every episode left compelling questions that allowed for viewers to make their own interpretations. The show eventually got way too ahead of itself, but Lost’s first season is still one of the greatest to have been on TV in some time.
This may seem like an odd pick, but it is totally true. The first season of The O.C. was absolutely brilliant and completely changed the dynamic of the “teen dramas” that had previously been on television. When it first premiered back in 2003 teens, adults, and kids that were probably a little bit too young to watch (me) tuned in to follow the wild ride of these Orange County residents for its massive and unprecedented 27-episode first season. It was marketed as a teen drama, but it was so much deeper than that. At its core, The O.C. was a show about family, touching on your real family, step-families, chosen families, and more.
One of the unique features of the teen soap was its focus on male relationships, such as the budding brotherhood of Ryan Atwood and Seth Cohen and their relationship with Cohen Patriarch, Sandy. However, its attention to high school romance with beloved couples such as Seth and Summer and Ryan and Marissa really balanced out the more mature elements. The first season packed so much story into it’s supersized season that did suffer in seasons after, but that quick narrative and all of its jaw dropping twists are what put this show on the list.
One thing that The Flash had going for it prior to its first season was a built in audience. When Grant Gustin first guest-starred on Arrow as Barry Allen in what was intended to be a potential backdoor pilot, he stole the show. He was funny and awkward yet kind and smart. He was the perfect Barry and had just enough charisma to carry an entire series. So, The CW decided to go ahead with their plans for The Flash.
The show was quite a juxtaposition to the world that Arrow had built. While Arrow was darker and more mature, The Flash had a youthful tone, was much lighter and had a lot more humor and comedic beats. Gustin has often been praised for his emotional performances, really digging into the heart and complicated soul of Allen as well as his performances of other variations of Barry. The heart and soul of The Flash were the relationships that Barry was building with the people around him and how that affected the life that he used to know when he was a child. Its first season was the perfect start for the show and acts as a perfect example for it to look back at when it loses its way.
Veronica Mars was a short-lived show on The WB and then VPN, but if 2014’s crowdfunded feature film tells you anything it’s that the show’s fanbase was dedicated. The modern noir mystery drama immediately resonated with viewers of all ages due to its sharp writing, stellar cast, and poignant subject matter.
The first season of Heroes was a smashing hit for NBC. When it came down to the major network rankings, NBC was about far down as you could get, but this 2006 comic book style drama about regular people who developed super powers completely enthralled the nation. It was an exhilarating thrill ride throughout its freshman season with a great cast of newbies and well-known actors. The show had a way of handling all of the complicated, fast paced plot lines successfully and bringing them to succinct and satisfying endings. Not to mention that it did so with an ensemble cast that often times didn’t even know each other.
The Handmaid’s Tale
The first season of Handmaid’s was some of the most timely and topical content to come out within the current political climate. It was adapted for TV from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian cautionary novel of the same name and followed Offred (a career best for Elizabeth Moss), who along with other fertile women are forced to become concubines in a near-future theocracy.
Topical correlations aside, what made The Handmaid’s Tale‘s first season so magnificent was that it was a feminist story, putting many strong and powerful female characters front and center. It had a succint pacing that drove the story blazing forward but also balanced flashbacks prior to the governmental shift very well. The show’s costumes and set designs can easily make it feel like a historical piece in another time period, but the show’s use of music and other devices immediately remind you that this is a present day story. It’s a powerful tale that is completely worth and deserving all of the hype surrounding it.
Another newbie that swept the nation with its freshman season was Stranger Things. The show appeared on Netflix one day and then the next everyone was talking about it and binging it. So, what made Stranger Things such an immediate bonafide hit? It gave people a dose of perfectly executed nostalgia that had been sufficiently missing on TV as of late. Yes, it was set in 1983, but it followed a bunch of kids in 1983, which was reminiscent of so many people’s youths and a beautiful love letter to all of ’80s classics that captivated the generation. Add in a little supernatural and horror elements and you have yourself an Emmy nominated show that’s already been renewed for two more seasons.
It’s young and youthful cast of newbies carried a show that was adored by viewers of all ages. It was delightful, playfully spooky, gripping, charming and full of wistfulness and familiarity without beating the audiences over the head with the fact that this show “should” make you remember your youth, it just does it naturally.
Back when Glee premiered no one believed that a musical comedy would work on network television, but boy were they wrong. The show’s pilot episode about a glee club in Lima, OH was immediately a phenomenon, shooting some not very well known actors and Broadway stars straight into the spotlight. The first season provided a stage and safe space for a lot of groups that weren’t often the stars of their own shows. It’s central message of accepting and celebrating all of the things that make you different resonated with so many people, and it’s utter camp, humor, and initial plot lines were brilliant.
Not to mention the music and the musical numbers of Season 1 were unmatched in the seasons after it. Glee eventually overwhelmed itself with too many plot lines, mixed in with forgotten and ignored ones, and the craving to book big guest stars, that it eventually lost the heart that made it so beloved in the first place. However, season one was a wild ride of cute, colorful and exciting musical television that was hard not to adore.
While it only lasted for two seasons in the 90’s, everyone has at least heard of Twin Peaks. It has one of the biggest cult followings of any series in a long time, so big that Showtime recently brought it back for a limited series event. It was a mysterious and mystical drama that followed the investigation of the murder of a high-school homecoming queen in a dark and beautiful Pacific Northwestern town. It’s awe-inspiring cinematography, music and odd stilted dialogue made Twin Peaks was one of the most popular shows in 1990. The first season completely shook the network landscape, distinguishing itself as a show that many had never encountered before and that reputation has really stood the test of time.
The first season of The Newsroom was so good because it literally sucked you in from the first scene of the pilot. Throughout the first season, the dialogue and pacing of the scenes felt spot-on. It took real world circumstances and gave you a glimpse as to how these journalists had to fight against the voyeurism and sexiness of reporting whatever would capture the public’s attention (and ratings) because they made the vow to report real, honest news regardless of whether it fell in line with what the network execs wanted them to do.
-Submitted by Fan Fest writer, Jen Ryan
Chasing Life was one of those shows that made a genuine impact on your life. It dared you to face some fears and hardships of your own as you watched April fight her battle against cancer. We’ve all known someone, lost someone, or maybe are that someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, so the series was relatable to all of us.
Season 1 laid the important groundwork that reminded viewers to seize life, to make it the very best it could be and to try, even when the odds are stacked against you. Yes, April had cancer but she was also a young adult with her dream job, love interest, and imperfect family unit. It wasn’t just cancer, she struggled through a lot of things, and sometimes she failed – seeing that play out is important because it can’t all be sunshine and rainbows all the time. She fought back from the broken places too.
-Submitted by Fan Fest writer, Ashley Dye
Having studied Media & Writing at James Madison University, I always knew that I wanted to do some type of creative writing, but being able to write about zombies, Starks, and superheroes on a daily basis for Fan Fest is my actual dream. While I probably shouldn’t be as proud as I am to be so similar to Nick Miller, I do hope to one day write my own “Pepperwood Chronicles’.