the best show of the year is…
1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
- Breaking Bad (AMC)
- It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX)
- Damages (FX)
- Archer (FX)
- Caprica (SyFy)
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim)
- Doctor Who (BBC)
- Lost (ABC)
- Dexter (Showtime)
- Party Down (Starz)
- Justified (FX)
- Fringe (Fox)
- Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
- True Blood (HBO)
- Code Geass: R2 (uh, the Internet)
- Venture Brothers (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim)
- 24 (FOX)
- Chuck (NBC)
- Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim)
- Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job! (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim)
- The IT Crowd (BBC)
- Mad Men (AMC)
- Smallville (CW)
- Vampire Diaries (CW)
- Human Target (FOX)
long winded thoughts…
- Breaking Bad season 3–
Season one of “Breaking Bad” set the tone for the series but did little else. This was a show that was not only cut in half due to a crippling writer’s strike but lacked elegance and narrative refinement. Season two needs to be recognized for taking a decent cult show and elevating it into something of a critical breakthrough. An uncompromising drama that could be poignant yet totally irreverent and wacky. Season three however is when a lot more of us started thinking about “Breaking Bad” not in terms of how good it is but, rather, how much better it is than everything else. While season two brought a crucial element of gritty and goofy storytelling to the forefront this season managed to do that but with a more artful purpose.
Basically “Breaking Bad” is about the corrupt soul of Walter White (Bryan Cranston). It is about the disease that exists not only within him but the one he puts out into the world. Building on that simple theme season three loads up on awesome like it’s going out of style. The season began with aftermath of that fateful, “Lost”-ish season two ending where, as an indirect result of Walter’s corruption, a plane almost magically up and crashed over his goddamned house. Freaky. And it gets even more freaky. From Walter acting all crazy during school speeches and principal meetings (is his tumor back?) to getting fired and taking over an industrial sized meth lab to trying to win back a wife that clearly hates him to that pesky fly that turned Walter into a full blown caricature of Wiley E. Coyote, caused him to go into a full lockdown for an entire episode (the best of the series in my opinion) to the surprise car attack to the final twisted reversal of power… more seemed to be going on this season than in the previous two combined! As the bald meth cooker would say ” its not quantity, it’s quality.” It’s a good thing, then, that “Breaking Bad” has both locked up.
“Breaking Bad” is so full of irony (dramatic, tragic and just plain funny) that it gives Shakespeare a run for his money. What started out a dying High School science teacher’s (almost) noble goal to provide for his poor family by cooking Meth on the side with a former student of his (Aaron Paul, yo) turned into a saga of greed that, three years later, obscures all moral lines to a point of tortured allegiance. We side with Walter but at a cost. Walter’s Godfather-like arc manages to feel epic even as the show wisely remains as myopic and focused and as ever. During season three “Breaking Bad” fully began to trust in its strange brew of a formula, its characters and its sense of the strange and surreal and is poised to become the best thing on television next year too.
- It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (season 5)–
Not just the funniest show on television but the funniest show since “Arrested Development!” By sticking to a simple formula where every episodes starts with”the gang…” followed by some ridiculous plot that is guaranteed to end in anarchy (and maybe some rape), everything about “Sunny,” from the dialogue to the plotting, is forced and unnatural. But in a good way; sometimes comedy needs to be stylized, laid on thick then forced down our throats. This show challenges the viewer and even challenges norms (bothcultural and within television itself) but rarely comes off as being contrived and never takes itself too seriously or, for that matter, seriously at all. Unlike most comedies shows “Sunny” gets better with every passing year. All five personalities that exist in this bar-set shows (a long, long way from “Cheers”) have been perfected to an essence of “Stooge”-like stupidity and the storylines move with such enjoyable momentum that I always find myself amazed that a half hour just passed. I could make the case that the fifth season of this sharp but never serious show is not only funny in its own right but brilliantly set its sights on various cultural issues such as racism, alcoholism, the economy, gas shortages, the mortgage crisis, lawyers, skinny jeans, obsessed sports fans, straight male break-ups, um, ass hole cyclists who hog the road, abortion, glamor muscles, homeless people, homeless wrestlers played by Roddy Roddy Piper and of course cat mittens. As it gets meaner and meaner, “Sunny” attains a level of blissful savagery that nothing on television matches. As a final indication of how awesome “IASIP” is, if you hear someone say “Phili” the chances are very good they’re talking about this show and not the city.
- Damages (season 3)—
On the surface, this season of “Damages” was not sexy or thrilling or easy to sell to people who didn’t already know how great it was (which is about three people). For a season three show on the bubble, opting for quiet and often reflective drama punctuated by moments of deep seeded anger and raw violence proved to be a big gamble that failed on one really big hand (FX canceled it) but succeeded in almost every other aspect. This slow but dense season took all the time in the world to get going but in its final episodes paid off with more emphatic drama, top notch acting (Close, Byrneand Martin Short all earned their Emmy nods) and smart but never glib writing than anything else out there and that includes movies. What’s most amazing is how all the story threads and characters (from all three seasons!!!) are either wrapped up, resolved, destroyed or come together in a way that left me breathless. There’s so much more to this shows than lawyers that to even call it a “lawyer show” seems wildly unfair yet totally appropriate. I don’t care how un-cool it is to like “Damages,” it’s a classic and anyone not watching it is missing the best drama on TV.
- Archer (season 1)—
Picking up where the perverse animated action comedy “Frisky Dingo” left off (which, sadly, never let back on), Matt Reed has created another wildly inappropriate masterpiece. It’s hard to describe a Reed show to a non-Reed fan. It’s irreverent. It’s funny. It’s sick. It’s mean. It’s goofy. It’s arrogant. It’s even full of action… that usually ends very badly for everybody but the sociopathic lead character. As voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, secret agent Archer is the biggest douche bag on earth. And the most lovable one too. He is sex crazed, lazy, rude, insensitive, plagued with major Oedipal mother issues (try not to laugh when he gets half a boner after his mother’s life is threatened–“the other half really wanted you to live” he said) and has given himself a license to kill. AND an unlimited budget. Archer almost always saves the day but almost never on purpose. Archer’s self interest, self preservation and self centeredness is a thing of horrific beauty. This is the best animated show on Television right now.
- Caprica (season 1)—
What a debut! Go ahead and call it boring but this is real sci-fi or, as Roman DeBeers on “Party Down” would say, “hard sci-fi.” ‘Star Trek”/”Battlestar” vet Ronald Moore’s (how’s that for nerd cred?) new show on the Syfy Channel is the stuff of pure cyberpunk storytelling full of noir heroes/antiheroes, ambiguous corporations, virtual reality nightmares, pagan cults, sexual Epicureanism and the dualistic hope/fear that technology can makes us more than human but at the same time reduce us to our savage cores. Advertised as a prequel series to “Battlestar,” “Caprica” distinguishes itself from its predecessor in almost every way possible. First off, instead of space, the show dives us into cyberspace. The show is set in a deceptive utopia (aren’t they all) and follows many charactersbut is, at its core, about two men struggling with loss. One (Eric Stoltz) is the most powerful man in the country (an ass-holier version of Bill Gates) and the other is a detective (Esai Morales). Both lose their children in a terrorist attack (curse you, one-true-God-ers!) and turn to the dark side. Oh, and there’s robots!
This show is not for the adventure seeking or, for that matter, the low-end of the “Battlestar Galactica” fan base that just want to see stuff blow up. While we all know the robots will eventually nuke the frack out of Caprica, this show of the same name posits the fascinating notion that Capricawasdestroying itself well before that apocalyptic end point. It also opens some really gritty philosophical questions relating to human memories. If a person’s essence can be downloaded, are they real? Do they have a soul? The show plays with such notions as Stoltz’s “dead” daughter exists as memories that inhabit the clunky form of a Cylon prototype while Morales’ equally dead daughter (Bill Adama’s sister by the way) becomes the Neo of Caprica’s virtual world. As much as I would love to blab on I’ll just say that an ambiguous and smart sci-fi show like this is real treasure because it usually never makes it out of the novel stage. “Caprica” is for viewers who prefer something like “Blade Runner” to “Star Wars.” Both are great in their own way but we tend to get way more of one than the other and I hope “Caprica” gets a fair shake even though I fear it won’t make it past season 1.5 which is set to air in January. Long live the new flesh.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force(season apple chin fur neck tie)–
“ATHF” saw a much welcomed resurgence in quality and to some degree did that by going back to basics. And by basics I mean random-ass shiz. The season’s meta friendly premiere episode was a gooey love letter to fans ejaculated out of Master Shake’s mighty phallic straw. That is his own super power after all. And it only got better from there culminating in a 100th episode celebration that is very much in keeping with the vibe of the show. I’ll just quote the synopsis “Shake tries to collect syndication money for completing the 100th episode. The Aqua Teens are forced to start a new series of episodes after they are threatened by the “100” monster.” Perfect. Nothing else needs to be said really.
- Doctor Who (series 6)–
Matt Smith is a bit of a creep. It doesn’t help that Smith, the tenth incarnation of The Doctor just replaced the best incarnation of the Doctor of all time played by, well, he whom I shall not name for I can’t bear the thought of him not being the Doctor. The upside to a lesser Doctor though is, first, THEY ARE ALL LESSER after all and, second, Smith actually got a lot better as the 13 episode season progressed and the lack of expectation is what freed the show up, allowing it to do its own thing in it’s own way. Smith’s Doctor grows on you through a playful mix of youthful mania, razor sharp intellect, scatter brained actions and, to counteract that, a touch of exhaustion and tiredness (he is 900 years old after all). The Doctor was not the only thing to improve. The overall plotting reached new heights. The show runner this season is of course Steven Moffat who I would argue is real genus behind the show all these years (Russell T. Davies is a huge wanker at times). Moffat scaled the scope down a notch while brilliantly adding more complexities and was wise to do so because in the past the series keep trying to one up itself and only tripping over its grandiose gestures in the process.
This season is more about ideas and characters (Amy Pond and her boyfriend are awesome companions) and even science. Erm, just try to forget the embarrassing Churchill/Dalek episode and underground Lizard people two parter when factoring in that compliment. Another cool aspect to this “new” “Who” is that we are given more implicit insights into the Doctor’s intelligence and problem solving abilities–when he uses the Tardis (which feels like a character at this point), for instance, he explains how and why he’s using it and it almost makes sense! Even the historical episodes proved to be a win for the show as it engages in far more than the usual self amusement “hey, look, it’s so-and-so, aren’t we clever.” Film director Richard Curtis wrote one of the series best historical episodes, a heartwarming van Gogh centered plot that playfully twists are notion of history and uses art to do so. It’s also a very touching episode. Oh, and the final episodes, a true past/present/future time travel juggling act, have more fun with the oddities of time travel than any other episode to date. I won’t spoil the fun except to say we finally begin to understand what it must be like to move through and change the nature of time. And it’s madness! As good as the show became, the best thing this season of “Who” did is ease my fears that the show could not go on without David Tennant. Ah!!!!!!!, see, he’s not even he who I shall not name anymore!
- Lost (season 6)—
I had not been this excited/scared about a show ending since the good old days of “Buffy” season 7–full reactions/favorite episodes HERE. By the time “Lost” ended for good though I, like many, had… mixed feelings. The show ultimately played it safe and even sentimental (the all-religion church is just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen; strangely enough, “Lost” has always been the most spiritual show with the least spiritual fan-base) but playing it safe also means not totally sucking and, thankfully, the show was able to ensure its legacy. Six was a good but far from great season that wasted a lot of time on unessential and/or underdeveloped plots (the temple episodes and “Across the Sea” are among the series’ worst ideas) and characters (more agonizing Kate episodes, the mythology wrecking ball that is Zoe, and what was the point of Ilana?) only to scramble in the last quarter of the season to resolve/reconcile the complex mythology surrounding the stuff we actually care about. Still, I think when it ended we all learned the lesson that it’s not about the answers but the journey and, frankly, I’m kinda burned out on decoding “Lost.” Teaching me to let go was the best gift this show could have given me after so many years. Leading up to this final season, seasons four and five were not just great but a perfect blend/execution/evolution of sci-fi, drama and mystery (it was my number one show last year) and I was sad to see the final season stop way short of that level of twisty genre sophistication. Still, I give season six credit because, again, I feel it kept the legacy intact without blowing it apart in a Jughead-like fashion. In The End this is a show that finally earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as “Twin Peaks,” “X-Files” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and regardless of how much or little you or I liked/disliked its final moments, season six had a big part to play in sealing “Lost’s” legacy. A show like this.
- Dexter (season 4)–The most improved show of the year! I ranked “Dexter” season 3 and the early parts of season 4 quite low last year. And for good reason: it was not very good. Well, when season 4 finished I thought to myself “wow.” Then thought “Wowey, wow, wow, wow!” All my issues withdomestic Dexter (both the character and show) being dragged down and tamed by the “normal life” (children, wife, baby seats, BBQs ugh) was addressed with a blood curdling vengeance. With the prospect of a darker, angrier and single(er) Dexter Morgan (the great Michael C. Hall) I want season 5 to air so bad I can smell the blood. The season long arc of serial killer John Lighgow that Dexter clings on to (probably due to daddy issues) is far and away the series’ best long-form plot to date and even manages to surpass that little Ice Truck Killer incident. Lithgow gave what was the best performance of the year while reminding me in the process of his killer De Palma performances of the 80s and 90s. replaced.
- Party Down (season 1 and 2)—
While it just bit the dust I have a feeling that history will be kinder to “Party Down” than almost any comedy on TV right now. While aesthetically similar to “The Office”, “Party Down” does what that show does not. It’s funny. Consistently so. It knows exactly how to utilize awkward-social-situation-at-work humor without constantly having to show-off at how clever it is to its audience. More reasons to love this show are, #1, it’s waaaaaaaaay better than any network sitcom shot in a similar style and that includes the overrated Emmy winner “Modern Family.” Reason #2: lead by Adam Scott and Ken Marino this is an ensemble show without a single weak link (even Megan Mullally, taking over for Jane Lynch, is a total gem of a character). Reason #3: if 80s movies taught us anything it’s that drug use in comedies is actually funny. Reason #4: this is a show about a work (a catering service) where no work gets down and that reminds me of “NewsRadio”; being reminded of “NewsRadio” is always a good thing. Reason # 5: Never has nerd rage been as vividly captured on film as by Martin Starr in this show. His use of the term “hard sci-fi” has become a running gag with me. For instance, is someone mentions “Avatar” I can now shoot back with a dismissive “Avatar sucks…. I’m all about HARD sci-fi.” As the embittered writer, Starr (“Freaks and Geeks,” “Adventureland”) was without a doubt the most entertaining character on television last season. He will be missed. So will this show.
- Justified (season 1)—
Every week a U.S. Marshal played by Timothy Olyphant (reunited withhis “Deadwood” cowboy hat) tracks down a criminal, chats with them, gets shot at and throws them in jail (or a morgue). His interactions withcriminals, more than his colleagues girlfriend, is what makes the show special. What’s so remarkable is how vividly these criminals are written and how cool the protagonist is. He respects them, you see, more than he does himself in a lot of ways. When faced with ambiguities, and there are a lot, he just smiles, keeps his opinions to himself and presses on. He is a classic western hero in that sense. The answer to how show runner Graham Yost pulls this all this off is simple: his show is adapted from an Elmore Leonard story and as we all know (or not), Leonard is the best dialogue writer on earth. Not just that but the writing team lead by Yost retains Leondard’s unique voice that is funny, humanizing and, while utilizing many cop conventions, is never conventional in its approach or execution. So, yeah, for those reasons as well as Walter Goggins as a born again criminal, “Justified” is the coolest show on TV. It also gets points for revitalizing the Western on Television, something that has not happened since “Firefly.”
- Fringe (Season 2)–
After I finished “Lost” I wiped my tears and cleaned up the apartment I destroyed out non-denominational church season six rage. Two minutes later I missed the hell out of “Lost” and not too long after that I scrambled to find a new sci-fi mythology-ish type show to fill the void or as I like to call it the cork in the middle of my island. Hum, there’s that “Fringe” show that looks almost good and rips off “X-Files” so okay, why not, game on. So I the watched two full seasons of “Fringe” this summer and… the show sucks. But its a delightfully fun suck that sucks in more ways that one: it sucked up my time! First off, the flaws prevent it from ever really taking off above many of the above and shows I’m listing. “Fringe” is a slave to its formula. The show is full of annoyingly predictable plot beats: a death or murder that’s paranormal in nature, then some small talk, them some detective work followed by thirty seconds of character development and/or banter (if we’re lucky, usually it’s only a few seconds), then action, then Michael Giacchino’s recycled “Alias” music, and finally a brisk resolution that usually ends with “and he did it with the power of his mind!” The character speaking that line is the best version of a modern of a mad scientist that we’ll ever get (John Noble) and he makes “Fringe” worth watching every week. You never know what he’s going to do even though you kinda always know what the show is. Noble’s son is played by Joshua Jackson who is also good but in a stoically charming, measured delivery Pacey from “Dawson’s Creek” sort of way. As for the lead character played by Anna Torv… well, she’s no Skully. She’s down right square in fact and posses so little charm and charisma that she practically vanishes before our eyes every time she’s on screen. But Torv’s blandness has a side effect in that it allows the two best characters on the show to feel all the more quirky and interesting. The episode titled “Peter” in which we finally get to see into Walter’s past tragedy involving his sick son and eventual dimension hopping betrayal of, well, himself (Walternate he is called, hehe) remains a highlight of television in 2010 and proves that this show is best when it doesn’t follow a formula. Even as it’s stuck in the fun-suck mode though “Fringe” is nothing less than the best procedural on TV (not saying much) because it’s comes up withgenuinely fun ways of mashing up the mystery formula with paranormal science.
- Curb Your Enthusiasm (season 7)–
Look, this show is good enough to be ranked much, much higher on this list (at least up in the top ten if not top five) but after so many years I wanted to give some other shows a chance. The “Seinfeld” reunion was a near perfect season long story arc (it ranks up there with the Larry death and “Producers” season). I am amazed at how this comedy show has not even come close to wearing out its welcome. Every season is as fresh and funny as the last. Not even “Seinfeld” achieved that!
- True Blood (season 3)–
This show is about the only thing keeping Vampires cool these days. Season three is almost over and half of it hasn’t as good as what I’ve come to expect from this deliberately trashy vampire show. The other half is brilliant trash. Sometimes I love the anything-goes feel of “True Blood” more than the given episode I may be watching. The camp, the sex, the goofy writing and of course the series the regulars are all decent but dodgy plotting (Merlot’s dog fighting family, that werewolf guy and his skank, Lafayette and Jesus romance plot etc.) in the early episodes and too many boring new characters brought this season down to a low even season two didn’t reach. And let’s face it, Bill and Sookie have become TV’s most predictable couple. For three seasons the two interspecies lovers have been stuck in a mindless triple-B pattern of bickering, banging and being apart. Over and over. And over. It’s really time for Sookie and Eric to give it a go because couples that hate each other are way hotter than whatever Bill and “Sukkkaaaaa” are into. Also, they are the new Buffy/Spike after all. But, yeah, “Blood” redeemed itself big time in the season’s later episodes, proving it was still capable of offering up genuine surprises. Most of that is thanks to biggest bad ass-eist big bad of of all time, The King, played by character actor Dennis O’Hare. What happens when an infinitely powerful –and very gay– 3,000-year-old vampire snaps? “Blood” has an answer for that and it’s a really good one.
- Code Geass: R2 (season 1)—
“Code Geass” was a great mech/messiah show because the human element was never lost amidst all the super cool (and strange) tactical robot battles. It’s sci-fi allthe way with a story about a British Empire taking over the world and a band of Japanese rebels lead by a powerful teen fighting back. While this kind of lingering post-war Japanese revisionist (future) history is hardly original, it kept the story alive with its imagination and use of action. R2, a second season/series of sorts improves almost everything that was great about the first series of episodes. It’s got enough tension, action, freaky Japanese sex stuff to keep Anime fanswell fed and the plot has showed a surprising increase in complexity and depth. It dosen’t hurtthat the series also borrowed from the best of “Death Note” (the #1 Anime show of all time) to tell its story about a bombastic protagonist (student by day, blah, blah, blah by night) slowly growing mad with power while balancing the burdens of the world on his shoulders.
- Venture Brothers (season 4)–
GO TEAM VENTURE! “Venture Brothers” is really the most ambitious show on Cartoon Network. While I love all the postmodern head games that shows like “Aqua Teen,” “Robot Chicken” and “Metalocolypse” throw at us, “Venture” is so consistent in its storytelling bravado and so consistently funny to boot that it will go down as one of the greats. Yes, I’m ranking this show way too low this year but I do not do so out of any decrease in quality but purely because I am sad to admit that I missed most season 4 episodes when they aired. As usual Cartoon Network is asleep at the wheel when it comes to releasing DVD/Blu-Ray sets. Grr.
- 24 (season 8)–
The ups and downs in the life of poor Jack Bauer continue… for the last time. After a strong seventh season (gotta love the African terrorists that scuba dive their way into the White House) the show is going out on a down note but, once again, I’ve only seen about half the season and if I know anything about “24” it’s that even though I kinda know what it’s going to do, I NEVER know how well it’s going to do what its going to do. At any rate “24” was smart to shift the setting to D.C. and New York in its final two seasons. And a special mention should go out to Keefer Sutherland who, year after year, doggidlychased after bad guys without ever appearing tired with the role. A man of action and regret, the barking Jack Bauer was often stuck on one note but, damn, what a great note to be stuck on. It’s just sad that the end of “Lost” stole so much thunder from the end of “24.” Across all mediums “24” was able to carve out a remarkable benchmark for the action genre. It’s influence can even be felt in action movies. May the clank sound of “24’s” digital clock never be silenced.
- Chuck (season 3)–
Season three sucked compared to one and two. Like, a major step down but I’m not sure if I can blame that on the Super Chuck plotlines which are usually exciting and as a bonus give Neo Chuck more to do than squeal in wimpy horror. Still, I kinda like the Chuck that couldn’t fight. Hell, I even liked the not-so-popular Brandon Routh. So why is this the worst season to date? To be honest I think it’s fatigue from the dragged out sexual tension between Chuck and Agent Walker. Is this show not aware of the “Moonlighting” curse? And am I the only one that wishes “Chuck” bring back the unfairly shafted (literally) Kristen Kreuk? Now that I got that out of the way, yes, I LOVE CHUCK. Despite a lot of action it is by far the most fun and innocent show on television and I can’t wait to see Chuck vs. Season 4!
- Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood (season 1)–
Nowhere near the golden era of FMA but a solid and fascinating anime show that reenvisions the previous series had it not diverged from the Manga. It’s such a rare thing too. A show that’s a remake of itself! Is it necessary? No. Am I glad to be treated to new(ish) episode from one of my favorite animated series of all time? Hell yeah! If only more Anime shows did the same.
- Tim and Eric Awesome Show (season 4)
- The IT Crowd (season 3)—
Have you tried restarting your computer?
- Mad Men (season 3)–
Yeah, okay, I suck for not liking “Mad Men” more. Whatever. While season three is wonderfully crafted it is wonderfully crafted (acting, cinematography, production design etc.) in a way that is predictiable and a bit dull. Hum, that makes no sense but for some reason I think this is a show that has never really added anything to the near perfect first season. Same thing happened to “Six Feet Under.” So why am I still watching every episode? It’s like porn for smart people and while I am not smart I do love porn! There were many great moments like the final break-up in Don’s professional and personal life but also so much wasteful pretentions and indulgences that go nowhere. As an update, season four is looking to be, surprise, good but not earth shattering or worthy of all the gushing.
- Smallville (season 9!)–
I’ll admit to missing the hell out of the show’s Doomsday season. That was among the best of the best of 2008/2009 television and I was not ashamed to admit that at the time, ranking the show as high as number 3 on my list last year. This season… was not. Not even close. “Smallville” has always been a hit or miss affair and it’s neo-Zod plot (he’s a clone, I think… I don’t even care to be honest) is decent but far from original as armies, alliances, frenemieswith Clark have all been done and done better in the past. The writing and season long plotting was very, very, VERY weak in a lot of places but the season performed the mini miracle of not making Clark and Lois a boring couple like the ones above (“Chuck,” “True Blood”). That’s especially amazing considering how irritating Lois has been all these years. Filler episodes in this series have always ranged between the bad and the unwatchable (good god, did they really make a haunted hotel episode this season?) but what disappointed me was that the usually strong key episodes (usually occurring during the opening of the season, sweeps an final episodes) were lacking the power that I have come to rely on. I’m still a fan and, even better than that, an optimistic fan. I have a really good feeling about the final “Smallville” season coming up but the beauty of this show is that even if it’s not very good, it’s still worth watching.
- Vampire Diaries (season 1)—
At times better than “True Blood.” At other times worse than “Twilight.” This is one of the few instances where being the second best vampire show on TV isn’t a bad thing.
- Human Target (season 1)–
For some reason action shows that don’t involve Jack Bauer don’t get much attention on mainstream television. Human Target looks to change that. Here’s hoping season two finds an audience.
- I Watch Too Much TV I Need To Get A Life (season 1)
Not a show. Just talking about myself.
Not quite this season but had to mention: Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles—
I have to mention “Terminator: SCC” because this is the year I finally finished the series and because I ranked it wayyyyyyy too low last year, having only seen a few season two episodes. If it came out this year it would have been the number one or two ranked show. Season two in its entirety is (…or, ugh, was) brilliant in an unexpected way and in a way that’s hard to figure out in terms of how could a show so middling turn out so heart wrenching tragic and action packed. I never could have guessed how good season two of this sadly canceled show would be. Yeah, it surpasses the first season sure but here’s the amazing thing: season two of this show is better than any “Terminator” movie! I’ve never truly connected with or loved the “Terminator” mythology until I finished the last season of this show which, along with “Party Down” is now officially the most tragically cut short series since “Firefly.” “I love you, John” is the final line of the show and couldn’t have said it better myself.
Most Improved in 2009/2010: Dexter
Most Un-Improved in 2009/2010:Smallville and Mad Men (the last time these two shows will ever be compared by anyone, anywhere)
Best New Show: Archer, Caprica and Party Down. Don’t make me pick just one. So many good new shows!
Show I Could Not Bring Myself To Watch That Might Be Good: Dollhouse. I’m the biggest Joss fan in the world but I have avoided this show. I knew it was going to fail and I knew it would not be anywhere close to his former glory. Maybe I’m wrong.
Show I Can’t Believe I Have No Interest In Given How Big Of A Nerd I Am: V
Best Talk Show: The Charley Rose Show
Best Reality Show: Hoarders, Mythbusters and Man vs. Food
Best Ensemble Cast: Damages followed very closely by Lost and Party Down.
Most Likable Actor in the Most Meh Show: Nathan Fillion in Castle.
Most Underrated Character: Chris Bauer (Det. Bellefleur) in True Blood.
Most Overrated Sitcom: Modern Family. I saw the first five episodes. So-so. Not sure how a show with very broad and “edgy” family humor won a best writing and best comedy Emmy. This show has tricked a lot of people into watching a freaking family comedy. It may be mildly amusing but it’s still a family comedy. It’s no “Arrested Development” that’s for sure.
Best Miniseries: Torchwood: Children of Earth.
Best Network: FX. Damages, Archer, It’s Always Sunny, Sons of Anarchy and Justified. You can’t beat that line up! Even though FX passed on Damages it’s the best network around and that’s not going to change next season (the new show “Terriers” looks great!).
Best Show of Next Season: I’m calling it… Walking Dead. It’s the best graphic novel around and there’s no way the show’s not going to be good.
Best Individual Episodes:
- Lost, “Ab Aeterno” (the most important episode of Lost ever. It remains the best TV retcon episode ever.)
- Breaking Bad, “Fly”
- Archer “Honeypot” (the gay episode)
- Dexter “The Getaway” (season finale)
- Fringe, “Peter”
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force, “Rabbit Redux”
- It’s Always Sunny, “Paddy’s Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens”
- Justified, “Pilot”
- Doctor Who, “Vincent and the Doctor”
- Party Down, (tie) “Nick DiCintio’s Orgy Night” and “Guttenberg’s Birthday”
- Damages, “The Next One’s Gonna Go in Your Throat”
- Torchwood, “Children of Earth” (didn’t include above b/c it’s not a full season).
- Lost, “The Candidate”
- Lost “Happily Ever After”
- And of course the final two Doctor Who episodes.
The Worst Shows of 2009/2010:
- Family Guy–I watch FG from time to time and am always surprised at how much it sucks. The 150th episode finds Brian and Stewey trapped in a bank and… yeah, that’s about as funny as it gets. This show sucks. It was once good. A long, long time ago. It is now bad. Very bad. The worst show on TV bad. I hate Family Guy!
- American Idol
- The Jay Leno Show (late night and primetime)
- Jersey Shore
- The Office
- Two and a Half Men
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
- Grey’s Anatomy
- The Hills
Top TV Performances:
- John Lithgow, Dexter
- Terry O’Quinn, Lost
- John “I have an erection” Noble, Fringe
- Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
- Glenn Close, Damages
- John Hamm, Mad Men
- Martin Starr, Party Down
- Denis O’Hare (The King!), True Blood
- Danny DeVito, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
- Martin Short, Damages
- Michael C. Hall, Dexter
- H. Jon Benjman, Archer (voice performance)
- Timothy Olyphant, Justified
- Michael Emmerson, Lost
- Eric Stoltz, Caprica
- Dana Snyder, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies (voice)
- Jared Harris, Mad Men
- Elizabeth Moss, Mad Men
- Nestor Carbonel, Lost
- Alexander Skarsgård, True Blood (not a great actor, just really cool)
- Megan Mallally, Party Down
- Chris Bauer (Det. Bellefleur), True Blood
- Ken Marino, Party Down
- (real life) Cow, Fringe
- Jesus, this list is a sausage fest.
Worst TV Performances:
- Allison Janney as Zoe on Lost. More of a bad character than a bad performance. Still, never has a on-off character appearance come this close to ruining an entire show.
- Evangeline Lilly on Lost
- That Eggs guy form season two of True Blood.
- Reality show actors–and, yes, they are all actors!
- Julie Benz on Dexter (never been happier to see a loved one offed. Now about those kids…)
- Blake Lively on Gossip Girl (can’t wait to see her suck at movies too! still, though, those boobs get an A++)
Shows I’ve Ranked #1 From the Last 10 Years:
- (2000) Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 4/5
- (2001) Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 6
- (2002) Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 7
- (2003) Angel season 5
- (2004) Arrested Development season 1
- (2005) Battlestar Galactica season 2.5
- (2006) Aqua Teen Hunger Force season 5
- (2007) Frisky Dingo season 2
- (2008) Lost season 5
- (2009/20010) B R E A K I N G B A D
Why Damages Should Have Won The Emmy For Best Drama: While watching the last episode of “Damages” it occurred to me that there has never been and may never will be again a lawyer show like “Damages.” It is, at its core, a show more about relationships than lawyers. It is also a brilliantly crafted thriller, yes, but more than that it’s all about tightly knit and wound and sometimes even choking connections lawyers make with themselves, with their lovers and with their clients. With a clenched intensity “Damages” has the and ability to move past lawyer movie/show tropes and expose the people of this profession in the most illuminating and dramatically interesting ways possible. Sure, a unique lawyer movie such as Sidney Lumet’s “Night Falls on Manhattan” or TV show like “Murder One” and of course the original (and only good version of…) “Law & Order” are examples of the best this genre has to offer but I feel this is a genre that has never been as good as we’ve made it out to be. Until now.
The third season of “Damages” took a long, long time to get interesting but that’s why cable shows are often so much better. Where else could a show spend 9 episodes setting everything up? This show is afforded the luxury to buld like a movie rather than a show that needs to worry about high ratings on every episode and, lets face it, “Damages” never needs to worry about how many people are watching because the answer is always the same. None, and that’s a shame. The show, along with it’s now iconic protagonist Patty Hughes (Emmy winner Glen Close), oozed tension and venom. Taking a page from “Law and Order’s” “ripped from the headlines” playbook and crossing it with “Murder One’s” season long arc dealing with a single case this season of “Damages,” about the legal/political/personal aftermath of Bernie Maddoff pnozi scheme where a disgraced family continues to hide all those billions they stole, came together in ways that no other show, lawyer or otherwise, has before it. There are so many sins of the past, shadowy discresions and time jumps at play at any given moment that “Damages” managed to give “Lost” a real run for its money.
Unlike “Lost” this series ended on a high note rather than a safe one. Season three did not simply resolve its own inherently great and un-contrived topical plot, but those of season one and two that I forgot about such as Ellen Parson’s (always underplayed by Rose Byrne) husband’s deathand Patty’s true relationship withEllen! Same goes for Timothy Olyphant’s character from season two (he has since moved over to FX’s great “Justified”). Even Ted Danson’s character got to reprise his once central role in a handful of great episodes. By the end, this show’s ability to weave together all the plot points of seasons past and present and, here’s the key, organically pay off these many threads and stories withlogic, intensity and a lot of dramatic schadenfreude is astounding. All the characters get, more or less, what they’ve deserved and thaks to a last minute renewal and network shift (DirectTV) they will live to go through it all again.