For 392 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 45% higher than the average critic
  • 1% same as the average critic
  • 54% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 13 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

Tom Shales' Scores

Average review score: 52
Highest review score: 100 Sports Night: Season 1
Lowest review score: 0 Head Cases: Season 1
Score distribution:
392 tv reviews
    • 97 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    The story's a good one, all right, and beautifully related--but there's a lot more going on in "The Sopranos" than good storytelling. This is one of the most unpretentiously profound and troubling dramas in the history of American television. [16 Jan 2000]
    • Washington Post
    • 66 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    An outstanding crime drama. It has all the trappings of a good show and then, of course, one staple of a great one: An absolutely terrific star in the lead role. Kathryn Morris can go through my files anytime. [27 Sept 2003, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 75 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    The most electrifying new main character to hit television in years. [16 Nov 2004, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 97 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    The show is as darkly gleeful as ever, shrewdly and even elegantly put together and, in a way that perhaps no other TV drama series has ever been, troublingly seductive and irresistible. [3 Mar 2001]
    • Washington Post
    • 100 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    A series that started out merely good and has now become, like NBC's "Cheers," a comedy essential, a good reason to stay home and laugh. [18 Sep 1989]
    • Washington Post
    • 96 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    A captivating blend of the existential and the pulpy, the surreal and the neo-real, the grim and the farcical, Twin Peaks is new age music for the eyes, a show that careens off the wall and out into left field and yet supplies some of the basic satisfactions we humans have demanded of our storytellers since we first wriggled out of primordial goop.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    The Corner is strong, solid storytelling, but it's more than that. It's an act of enlightenment, raw and shattering and strangely, inexplicably, beautiful. [15 Apr 2000, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    Arrested Development is very animated but it is not a cartoon. Cartoonish, perhaps, but it is filled with real actors playing surreal people, all of whom have frighteningly identifiable traits and tics. Together they are the Bluths, the latest and at this moment greatest of TV's dysfunctional families. Dysfunctionalism has rarely been as ingratiating or, certainly, as hilarious.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    The show truly teeters on wonderful. This is probably TV's most poignant half-hour comedy in years, a masterfully modulated combination of shrewd satire and a tender, even tearful, central story. [5 June 2005, p.N01]
    • Washington Post
    • 91 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    "The Larry Sanders Show" is brilliantly brilliant, wonderfully wonderful and hilariously hilarious, the next step in the evolution of the television talk show and a contribution to the betterment of viewerkind. [14 Aug 1992]
    • Washington Post
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    Even if the new season's shows weren't the blah, bland blanks that most of them are, Ed would stand out. For one thing, it isn't often that the season's best new comedy is also its best new drama. Ed is. [8 Oct 2000, p.G01]
    • Washington Post
    • 96 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    Television's greatest drama series has only gotten greater.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    "Larry Sanders" seems to be continuing waspishly along on track, blurring the line between reality and fantasy in wry, inventive ways, using a show biz milieu to comment on a lot more than just show biz. [2 Jun 1993]
    • Washington Post
    • 84 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    You needn't be the least bit interested in sports to enjoy Sports Night, the best new ABC sitcom of the season. [22 Sept 1998, p.E01]
    • Washington Post
    • 88 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    Arrested Development is, in fact, "Dynasty" as it might be rewritten for the Three Stooges if there were a dozen of them...Sly, wild, clever and just plain nuts, Arrested Development makes you think as it makes you laugh, and one of the things it makes you think is, "Why the hell am I laughing?" Deep in your subconscious, you know. You've slipped on the appeal of a frozen banana. [6 Nov 2004, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 80 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    Wright says. "After the Vietnam War ended, the onus of shame largely fell on the veterans. This time around, if shame is to be had when the Iraq conflict ends--and all indications are there will be plenty of it--the veterans are the last people in America to deserve it." Generation Kill makes that point so powerfully as to stand among the truest and most trenchant war movies of all time.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    A compelling and sometimes harrowing hour of high-tension urban trauma, different from Bochco's "Hill Street Blues" and at least as good as any other drama series now on the air. It delivers a good, stiff shock now and then, and what's wrong with that? It's surely preferable to shows that lull you into numbness. [21 Sept 1993, p.D1]
    • Washington Post
    • 93 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    Each episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" flies by in a dizzying blur of neurotic delight. [14 Sep 2002]
    • Washington Post
    • 98 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    So is "The Wire" as good as ever? Perhaps even better.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    Six Feet Under establishes from the start that it will be unflinching and brazen and, as it happens, scorchingly brilliant. [3 June 2001, p.G01]
    • Washington Post
    • 99 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    This brilliant and aching and achingly brilliant series is the best original sitcom in the history of cable TV. [15 Mar 1998]
    • Washington Post
    • 79 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    Even though Scrubs is the best of the season's new comedies, it may not have the most laughs. But oh mama, it has the most heart. Scrubs is to the average sitcom as a steak at the Palm is to a Big Mac. We are talking an entirely different, and superior, species. [2 Oct 2001, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 72 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    Brings new energy and respectability to the "reality" genre popularized by the same network's "Survivor" -- and surpasses it in spectacle and human drama. Great TV lives. ... There is so much more to this show than there is to most of its ilk. [5 Sep 2001]
    • Washington Post
    • 83 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    So rousingly well done that it seems to come from a different solar system than most contemporary episodic television shows, and yet too many rapturous panegyrics could spoil some of the fun. The two-hour pilot for the series...is so terribly and industriously entertaining that you hate to see the program lumped in with things that are supposedly "good for you." This isn't a John Chancellor commentary. This is living, breathing matter -- clever, thoughtful, ribald and hard-boiled. [15 Sept 1986, p.B1]
    • Washington Post
    • 99 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    Calling Steven Bochco's Murder One the best new series of the season is too easy and over-understated. The episode airing tonight on ABC is one of the classiest, best-written and most assured dramatic pilots ever seen on television, and next week's installment, "Chapter Two," is nearly as good. This is super-gripping, diamond-bright, edge-of-your-couch TV.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    My love for Undeclared is unconditional... There are many different kinds of funny, and Apatow aims for one of the hardest kinds -- the humor of rueful recognition. You may not laugh till it hurts, but it'll hurt a little when you laugh, because you may recall your own awkward moments of defeat, embarrassment or disillusion. Undeclared is shrewdly observant and richly detailed, and the fact that it's funny, too, is the icing on the cake. Great cake! [25 Sept 2001, p.C01]
    • 68 Metascore
    • 100 Tom Shales
    Sparse, tough, nuts-and-bolts, hit-and-run TV. You'd need a magnifying glass to find a nuance. But it works, and grippingly.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Southland is a show of high caliber and riveting brilliance, instantly one of the finest hours of TiVo-worthy drama anywhere on the tube.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    You know you will laugh, but you know you will cringe. You know you will guffaw, but you'll also likely wince. It's hard to imagine comedy that's any edgier, without being topical, than this.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Beyond its gimmicky concept and fantasy angle, Quantum Leap -- from "Magnum, P.I." creator Donald P. Bellisario -- touches on forms of alienation that grip everybody at one time or another. For Sam, it's one time or several others...The premise holds out a prospect even more attractive in the late '80s than it would be in many other eras: escape from the present. [25 Mar 1989, p.D1]
    • Washington Post
    • 78 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    John Adams is the kind of classily intelligent production that can be happily recommended to everybody. The filmmakers, including executive producer Tom Hanks, have attempted to re-create and enliven history--and they succeed grandly.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    As much as any other Western town in any other Western, Deadwood -- which is really a camp hoping to be a town hoping to be part of the United States -- seems really to exist, so vivid are the characters and so rich the texture. [5 Mar 2005, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 79 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    In visual style, witty language, borderline surrealism and overall mad attitude, "Desperate Housewives" stands on a mountaintop all its own, the best new drama of the season and perhaps the best new comedy, too. [3 Oct 2004]
    • Washington Post
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    "Extras" lives up to expectations and to its own lunatic traditions.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    "Malcolm" immediately, instantly, explosively achieves an identity all its own--a little bit like a live-action "Simpsons," but with a Bart who's a genius, not an underachiever. [8 Jan 2000]
    • Washington Post
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    The reason it works so well is that performers and script are ideally matched; they join forces to obliterate resistance. [14 Sept 1985, p.C1]
    • Washington Post
    • 58 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    You may groan at the premise -- a young woman helps the police solve crimes through use of her psychic intuition -- but it's brought off with so much storytelling skill and so few voguish gimmicks that it might as well be the first show of its kind. [3 Jan 2005]
    • Washington Post
    • 61 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Working something of a miracle, Danny McBride, who plays Kenny and is one of the creative talents behind the show premiering tomorrow on HBO--the most recklessly funny comedy of the year--makes us kind of like Kenny Powers.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    A stand-up, standout piece of work, one that works wonders on a seemingly tired genre.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Queer as Folk gets off to a triumphantly provocative start. The least that can be said is that there's nothing else like it anywhere on the air. [2 Dec 2000, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 80 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    No one could maintain that the show deals in grueling realism. But the characters and their time do seem affectionately and thoughtfully portrayed, and genuineness along these lines is rare in TV. The Wonder Years is first-class time travel. [15 Mar 1998, p.1]
    • Washington Post
    • 80 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    It's a grim, evocative look at some of this country's ruggedest but most disreputable roots -- a meticulously detailed portrait of a time, place and people that makes even today, with its punishing headlines about suicide bombs and other terrorist atrocities, seem almost safe and sane.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    The caliber is very, very high, a gangbusters idea executed with skill and sensitivity. [26 Sep 2002]
    • Washington Post
    • 78 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Extraordinary in just about every conceivable way.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    It's got edge galore, but it's the kind that sneaks up on you and proves again that Gervais has the subtlest kind of brilliance, hard to categorize but easy to enjoy.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    The absence of gimmickry and the presence of respect for the story and the audience give The Wire organic advantages over nearly all other TV dramas, whether they deal with cops and crime or birds and bees. Which is to say: If you want to see the television of tomorrow, it's on HBO tonight.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    It's to the network's credit that it undertakes projects that aren't necessarily big crowd-pleasers but have a palpable artistic integrity and social significance. [1 June 2002, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 80 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Gripping ... It sure gets off to a spine-tingling, heart-pounding start. [19 Sep 1994]
    • Washington Post
    • 66 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Although Recount is a smashing success on almost every level, it's also a brutally disheartening experience for the story it tells.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Lost actually gives every sign of knowing where it's going and what it's doing. It's solid, suspenseful and fraught with frights. The Big Scary Monster may be a corny touch, but who's to say what does and doesn't exist on those mysterious uncharted islands where, for example, King Kong once holed up. Lost has the capacity to bring out the kid in adults and the adult in kids. [22 Sept 2004, p.C.01]
    • Washington Post
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    It's the most savory new series of the season, the one most likely to engage the emotions, stir the heart, touch the soul -- a comedy with tears that celebrates family and memory and the rich ingredients that make up the American melting pot. [20 Sep 1991]
    • Washington Post
    • 97 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Even though this is not the strongest season opener in the history of the series, it still makes most of the sitcoms on the broadcast networks look weak of knee and soft of head. [13 Nov 1996]
    • Washington Post
    • 64 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Lie to Me seems an unusually meaty, thoughtful and thought-provoking crime drama--another police procedural, yes, but one with a dramatic and mesmerizing difference. The strength of the premise combined with first-class production make this easily one of the season's best new shows.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Cleverly constructed and invigoratingly ambitious in design ... '24' has tension and density that set it well apart from the pack. [6 Nov 2001]
    • Washington Post
    • 79 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    The fact that Barr's show seems cut so authentically out of middle-class experience gives it a solid familiarity from first encounter. ... "Roseanne" is really different and really funny. [18 Oct 1988]
    • Washington Post
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    So much in the Freaks and Geeks premiere is shrewdly, tenderly and sagaciously observed that one wonders whether there'll be enough material left for additional episodes. Probably. [25 Sept 1999, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Dharma & Greg goes beyond merely funny all the way to enchanting. There's nothing momentous or groundbreaking about the new ABC sitcom, but it's good-hearted, lightheaded and delightful, a kind of miracle cure for the blues -- especially the blues you might get from most of the other new sitcoms this season. [24 Sept 1997, p.D01]
    • Washington Post
    • 98 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Mike Judge, creator of "Beavis and Butt-head," made a darn good try at a seriously funny workplace comedy with his 1999 film "Office Space," but Gervais and Merchant have even greater success. "The Office" is hilarious in a very hip and flippant way. [30 Jan 2003]
    • Washington Post
    • 92 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    As full of wit and mischief as it was last year. [11 Oct 1990]
    • Washington Post
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    The lovingly and imaginatively produced pilot has to be the most gorgeous piece of television airing anywhere tonight.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Great Migrations lets us be amazed rather than telling us to be, and the amazement quotient is, yes, amazingly high.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Another satiric triumph from Matt Groening. [27 Mar 1999]
    • Washington Post
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Former fans of "Twin Peaks" who feel that show has become too ridiculous to bear may find the snowy terrain of Northern Exposure a pleasing substitute. The series seems to have struck a happy balance: just ridiculous enough. [8 Apr 1991, p.C2]
    • Washington Post
    • 57 Metascore
    • 90 Tom Shales
    Big Bang is the funniest new sitcom of the season.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    "The Knights of Prosperity" is knee-slappingly and side-splittingly funny stuff, or as close to that as TV gets these days.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    It is a happy, sweet surprise, much more humane than almost any of the teen-age comedies that have broken out like acne on the movie screens of the nation during what seems like an interminable cinematic puberty. [5 Mar 1986, p.D1]
    • Washington Post
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    A new limited-run series from HBO that is engaging, charming and intoxicating entirely on its own.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    The film is made skillfully enough that it could conceivably captivate both the most obsessive baseball fan and somebody who doesn't give a hoot but has a healthy curiosity--and the gratuitous extra minutes aren't by any means intolerable.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    The casting, like the writing and direction, is impeccable, and includes Eve Best as Jackie's doctor friend Eleanor; Peter Facinelli as cute but semi-competent ER physician Fitch "Coop" Cooper; Merritt Wever as a bleeding-heart novice; and Haaz Sleiman as a gay Muslim orderly.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    It isn't high literature nor even perhaps high television, but In Treatment does have a welcome, and occasionally riveting, pulpy streak, perhaps inevitable with its promise of peeks behind doors that usually remain closed.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Nothing if not serious, and nothing if not good, NBC's Law & Order nevertheless seems a victim of one particular TV tyranny. Its stories are too long for the one-hour format into which they are stuffed. Otherwise the series... has all the ingredients associated with quality television: strong scripts, relevant themes and a cast that qualifies as first-rate-plus. [13 Sept 1990, p.D1]
    • Washington Post
    • 67 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Lilley's script and performances are rife with recognizable personalities, neuroses and human absurdities.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    An enticingly screwy and potentially addictive new crime series from the USA Network, normally not a hotbed of brilliance.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Tell Me You Love Me is not only more provocative than any of the broadcast networks' new fall shows, but also more sophisticated--even than those shows that aspire to be "adult."
    • 57 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    NBC's lavish and splashy new version of Bionic Woman, is not, as one might fear, a BW stripped of everything that fans loved about the '70s original.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    "Murphy Brown" crackles, flashes and scintillates. [14 Nov 1988]
    • Washington Post
    • 54 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    The best thing about the show is that its cast is so overqualified for it. Vincent D'Onofrio is one of the most inspired and versatile young actors of our time. He was unforgettable in an episode of "Homicide: Life on the Street" in which he barely moved; he spent most of it trapped under a subway car.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    A chilling and riveting essay on the evils that men do and continue doing, year after year, century after century, millennium after millennium.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    The character and the show sneak up on you in clever, unexpected ways and prove a gratifying surprise. [25 Sept 2001, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 63 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    The L Word may in its way do some sort of good, in addition to being wickedly provocative drama and undeniably seductive TV.
    • 35 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    As superbly superior as Shannon is (a comparison to Lucille Ball, while inevitable, would not be overreaching), the whole cast shines, and not just in refracted glory.
    • 53 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Woodward seems destined to become the season's most seasoned heartthrob. Women will adore him, men admire him. He gives his character an affecting worldly disenchantment, but at the same time brings out all the allure in the wish-fulfillment aspects of the role. [18 Sept 1985, p.D1]
    • Washington Post
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    An adventurous, whimsical and spectacular space series. ... "Farscape" doesn't plumb mysteries of the cosmos or boldly go into profound allegorical realms. But it is fun, and beautifully produced. [8 Jul 1999]
    • Washington Post
    • 86 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    [The mockumentary style is] used not to excess but to success, which is just what this wise, clever and bighearted comedy ought to be.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    It's sweet, touching and deliriously cheerful -- the best new show of the year and a great big blast of happiness.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    What it lacks in edge, it makes up for in charm.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    One of the most endearing new comedies of the year.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Unlike a raft of recent adult-themed cartoons, Ugly Americans offers surprising laughs with its premise, and it is profanely whip-smart in a way that recalls the network's much-missed "Drawn Together" series.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Factory is the network's first try at a situation comedy and, surprisingly enough, it's neither perfunctory nor primitive. It is, in fact, one of the few pleasant surprises of the summer.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Full of snap and sass -- and actual laughs, too -- and one wonders whether it's safe to become attached to it. [9 Sept 1996, p.]
    • Washington Post
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    "Entourage" returns with feathers fully unfurled, zooming and soaring across the Sunday-night sky and elevating escapism to dizzy new altitudes and basically untroubled new attitudes.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Angel abounds in the kinds of frills, luxuries and extras that make it a cheerfully guilty pleasure--and also, on occasion, a very bloody mess. [5 Oct 1999, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Nearly everything is done right, most conspicuously in the casting of Glenn Close as Patty Hewes.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    The show seems weightless in the good sense, breezy and airborne, with a brisk and flippant style that's instantly attractive. [12 Sep 1992]
    • Washington Post
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Men of a Certain Age proves a powerful yet mercifully amusing experience--bittersweet, poignant and wise. It's not just a series, but something of a tonic.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    The fact is, Harper's Island is a cunningly constructed, habit-forming mystery that makes for an intriguing departure from normal episodic television.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    One weak link is fellow stand-up comic Michael Richards as Seinfeld's wacky neighbor. He isn't wacky or neighborly enough; it just doesn't work. But he's in the minority where "Seinfeld" is concerned. You may not convulsively guffaw, but you're bound to convincingly smile. Here's one that worked out just right.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    True Blood isn't meant to be an exercise in good taste. Just a romp and a wallow--and a bloody good one.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Grey Gardens is tragicomedy of a very rare and rarefied kind--priceless, precious and, thanks largely to Lange, potentially unforgettable.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 80 Tom Shales
    Here and there, The Company is so evocatively dark and creepy it approaches the artistry of a John le Carré thriller, at least as adapted for TV back in the '80s and '90s.

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