The Best of 2009So, it’s on to television. All the usual caveats apply in addition to a reminder that this is for TV entertainment in the past calendar year, so the last half of last season and the first half of the current season in most cases. It’s kinda like judging your meal by lunch’s dessert and dinner’s appetizer but such is the system.List time…Honorable Mention:(in alphabetical order)30 Rock – I’m still enamored with Tina Fey’s comic sensibility and Alec Baldwin’s insane screen presence, but I think I’m growing a bit weary or the surrounding players and the constant destruction of the 4th wall. To be honest, the introduction of a couple other solid comedies to my playlist has brought to light that maybe this show isn’t really as funny as I thought it was. Still an easy 22 minutes to enjoy.
Chuck – I know I’m risking the wrath of the Wife O’ Dice for placing the lovable Chuck down so low, but I think the show is stumbling a bit trying to find it’s legs with a new plot device and trying hold on to the romantic tension between Sir Charles and Miss Sarah in the form of new love interests for both of them. However, Zachary Levi continues to bring it week after week, and I think once Chuck has flashed for the last time he will have an amazing movie career ahead of him.
Fringe – I still hold it against this show that it is such a blatant rip off of the X-Files, but man, I sure did love the X-Files. It’s likely those are the elements that are keeping me glued to Fringe. It’s certainly not the actors, who I find almost boring beyond comprehension (except for the father-son Mulder combo), and it’s certainly not the writing, which comes off as sterile and humorless even in the brief random moments of levity. But blast the Sci-Fi nerd in me, I’m hooked.
The Simpsons – Yep, still on the air…. and still funny…. and still on the list.
So You Think You Can Dance – Almost made the Top 10, but I was mixed on last season’s changes. I liked making Shankman a permanent judge, even though he was a bit too, how shall we say, flamboyant for me at times, but I really disliked the move to the bigger auditorium style staging with the recessed stage. The dancing lost a lot of intimacy in my opinion. Yikes, now who’s being…. flamboyant.
The Top 10:
10. Community – I’d been warned about how compellingly funny Joel McHale was on Talk Soup (or is it just “The Soup” now?), but now I really get it. The genius is that they formatted Community to mirror what he does in his day job, that being to make sarcastic commentary on the weird and surreal characters that surround his world. The result is that this cast of misfits feels both grounded and genuine despite the ridiculous quirks they each possess. Also Abed is perhaps the funniest, and most unique, character on TV.9. The Office – Like 30 Rock, this show may also be starting to wear thin. The difference is that I find many of these secondary characters to continue to be interesting and/or funny. Also I’d like to be on record as saying that I love how the show has allowed Jim and Pam to marry and have children, as opposed to trying to falsely maintain some sort of “sexual tension” (I’m looking at you Chuck).
8. Shark Tank – Yeah, I’m sure I’m the only one who would have the audacity to declare Shark Tank a better show than The Office, but I really dig this concept and the personalities they have in the Shark seats. Let’s just move on quickly before my credibility plummets too deeply to recover.
7. Lie to Me – I’m not sure how long they can make this gimmick work, but it’s working now, and Tim Roth’s lead performance is outstanding each and every week even if most of the surrounding characters fade into the background. One of two procedural dramas on TV still worth watching (Yes, I have given up on all things CSI, Numbers, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, NCIS, etc.) mostly because there is a wit and levity to it that the others have lost as they plumb the depths of the darkest moments of human nature.
6. The Mentalist – Uh… Cut and paste the above paragraph changing “Tim Roth” to “Simon Baker”. Thanks.
5. Doctor Who – Really only here for the stunning finale that forced me to say goodbye to Mr. David Tennant as the universe’s time travelling physician. An incredible performer in an incredible show. Here’s hoping Matt Smith can take up the mantle, slap a bow-tie on it, and make it his own.
4. Modern Family – The best comedy of the year and the funniest thing to hit the telly since we stole a show about a paper supply company from the Brits a few years back. What makes this show so special is the combination of an ensemble cast with seemingly no weak link, and a writing team that is apparently working on a different level than the rest of TV. The way these plots work themselves in and out of each other and continue to be funny and clever in the phrasing and resolution is astounding.
3. Survivor – Two words: Russell Hantz. And here’s a few more: I don’t care what you tell me I refuse to believe that Russell didn’t win his season of Survivor. The man found Idols without clues! The man was outnumbered for most of the game! So I would just like to congratulate him once again on his stellar Survivor win… Also, congrats to Butler on winning the NCAA tournament on that last second half court shot.
2. House – Hugh Laurie continues to knock it out of the park each week, even as his character goes through major adjustments and changes. His performance during the season premiere two parter “Broken” (and the entire episodes in general) were possibly the most impacting and compelling hours of TV in the calendar year 2009. Powerful stuff and game changing for a show that somehow manages to stay fresh, when other procedurals have grown tired and stale.
1. LOST – Yeah, and by a long shot. In it’s second to last season LOST took a major risk by upping the sci-fi element to new levels. But the way it intricately played with reality and time and space was not overshadowed by the way it deftly moved it’s players into place for a final drive. Whatever your experience with this show, it’s hard to argue that there has ever been anything like it before, or for that matter, that there will be ever again. I feel privileged to experience it on a week by week basis and am slack jawed waiting to see how the final blows will be landed.