With college basketball fans just starting to contemplate their picks for March Madness this year, Hulu is kicking off its own version of bracketology, Best in Show. We’re looking for the best show on television today — and you get to cast your vote. But to help us determine the ultimate champion, we turned to an expert, a TV bracketologist, if you will. We think we found a natural: Iconic TV reviewer and HitFix Senior Editor Alan Sepinwall.
He’s seen all of these shows, written about most of them, and fell in love with a few, too. This year, he’ll provide some expert insight and historical context for Hulu throughout the tournament, and we’re giving him a vote that counts five percent toward the total vote for each matchup. Each set of winners will advance to the next round on Mondays throughout the month of March, with the champion announced April 1.
To kick things off this year, we asked Sepinwall about some possible Cinderella shows and the most agonizing early tournament dilemmas.
Hulu: What were the hardest cuts among those shows that failed to make it off the bubble into the field of 32?
Alan Sepinwall: The good people at Hulu had final say on the list, but most of what I would have pushed for got in. If you leave out shows that have already been canceled like “Terriers” and “Rubicon,” and shows that might be too new to properly rate, like “The Chicago Code” and “Lights Out,” then the show I like the most that’s not on the list is HBO’s “Treme,” the drama about post-Katrina New Orleans from “The Wire” team. It started off slowly, but few shows have ever done a better job a capturing the spirit and pulse of an American city.
Looking at the draw, what are some of the niche shows that have rabid audiences and could surprise us with an upset in round one and go far in the tourney?
AS: I’m going to be very curious to see how that “Parks and Recreation”/”Office” matchup goes. “The Office” is the older, more popular show, but among the people I know who watch both on Thursday nights, the consensus seems to be that “Parks and Rec” is having the much better year. Of course, even if it upsets “The Office,” it’d have to face vampires in round two. As far as an unlikely deep run, then? Maybe “The Walking Dead.” Only six episodes so far, but people love their zombies.
What are some shows whose most recent season has been so much stronger than previous seasons that they’re peaking going into the tourney?
AS: “Grey’s Anatomy” is having its best year in a long time thanks to downplaying some of its sillier aspects. “Fringe” is having its best season yet. And though it aired a while ago now, the most recent season of “Breaking Bad” took the show from the ranks of the very good to knocking on the door of the all-time pantheon.
Which show do you think will do the best job of energizing its fan base to vote?
AS: “Supernatural.” Those fans love that show, they love it hard (and keep making me feel guilty for not watching), and the creative team knows how to work social media for challenges like this.
Looking over this field of 32, do you think TV is in the best shape it’s ever been in terms of breadth and depth of show quality?
AS: My initial impulse would be to say no, that the best ever period was when HBO was airing “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood,” and “The Wire” at the same time and “Lost” was still on ABC. But of course, back then AMC wasn’t making scripted shows on the level of “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” FX’s output wasn’t as big as it is now, TV comedy wasn’t nearly as strong and diverse as it is these days with the NBC and ABC comedies, etc. So the top of the top might not be the strongest ever, but in terms of overall depth, things are pretty darned good these days.
Cast your votes for Best in Show and see which shows made it through the first round on Friday.