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Shows that surprise you, pleasantly

A reader named Mark pointed out yesterday on the OTB Facebook page that it doesn’t seem like I’m enjoying much on TV at the moment, and I can understand why he would think so, given the spate of negative reviews of The Big C, Terra Nova, The Walking Dead and Luck.So, to make up for a bout of negativity, allow me to tell you about the most pleasantly surprising show of the new season: Last Man Standing.I know! I’m surprised too! An abundance of low expectations meant that I was ready to hate the new Tim Allen sitcom, and had armed myself with many snarky comments about the terrible laugh track*, its reliance on masculine clichés, and the so-one-dimensional-they’re-like-paper-cutout characters.I’d even planned to do a review where I only referred to the show as Home Improvement: Daughters Edition and added “[indecipherable grunting noises]” to the end of some paragraphs.Instead, I’ve found myself tuning in week after week and having a good laugh at the antics of Tim Allen and his new TV family, even if the likeable Allen is playing the domesticated twin brother of Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. It’s easy to watch and completely unobtrusive – good clean fun for the whole family. A little predictable and tending toward the easy joke, sure, but not in the same groan-inducing way as something like Mike & Molly.Last Man Standing even manages to get good mileage out of its supporting cast: Nancy Travis has managed to make wife Vanessa more than a stereotypical American suburban mum, while Alexandra Krosney and Kaitlyn Dever (currently also appearing on Justified as Loretta McCready) make the most of limited screen time.Anyway, Last Man Standing got me thinking about other shows that I’ve found surprisingly enjoyable to watch, shows which I’d written off for one reason or another but found myself watching regularly some time later.The first show that comes to mind is Modern Family. I avoided the first season in early 2010 on the grounds that it looked like a silly suburban comedy; it wasn’t until TV3 repeated it over the 2010 Christmas holidays that I gave it a chance and found it was a lot funnier than I’d been expecting.The same thing happened with the US version of The Office, which I wrote off as a cheap knockoff the far -superior British original. Steve Carell eventually won me over when I caught a few episodes on local TV, finding that the show has actually taken steps to avoid those kinds of comparisons. Shame on me, I guess.True Blood is another. I didn’t get straight into the show because the first person to recommend it was my mum – my logic being “well, Mum and I like different things, so I probably won’t like this show.” However, Mum (and later Dad) were so insistent that I eventually gave True Blood a shot, and loved it.In my defence, all three of these surprises happened before OTB launched in late 2010. In fact, Last Man Standing might be the first genuinely surprising show I’ve seen in years; the blog has made thorough investigation of new shows an absolute must, so I guess there is less chance of it happening these days.Still, it’s nice to know that I can be genuinely surprised by a new show, especially one like Home Improvement: Daughters Edition … oops, I mean Last Man Standing. An occasional pleasant surprise is part of the joy of TV.So what shows have you been pleasantly surprised by, either this year or in the past? Have you ever written off a show before you saw it and then changed your mind later?(*) Okay, that hollow-sounding laugh track is pretty bad. It’s like the audience are being electro-shocked into submission inside a wind tunnel, inside an empty warehouse.Make sure you like On the Box on Facebook and add Chris on Twitter. Or, feel free to email Chris at .  This is a spoiler-free blog – please comment responsibly. Maybe a lesson for you then Chris – actually WATCH things before reviewing/critisizing them :) ‘Last Man Standing’ isn’t too bad – and a nice deviation from life. Caught a bit last night, and while I wasn’t splitting my sides with laughter, it was good value.

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