Friday, December 19, 2008

My Best of TV 2008

1. LOST (ABC) - The flash-forward twist was awesome, revitalizing the show to its best since Season 1. New cast members like Jeff Fahey and Jeremy Davies added interesting constants to the formula, and the show seems more focussed now that they have an endgame. The best acting moment of the year for me was when Sun watched Jin die in the ship's explosion. It's been years since I've hoped a character isn't really dead, but I'm crossing my fingers Jin somehow got off that boat in time. I love a show that makes me care like that.

2. DEXTER (Showtime) - I can't believe Michael C. Hall hasn't won an Award for this yet. Maybe once Boston Legal is finally gone, James Spader will stop blocking Hall from winning for his intriguing anti-hero, the Serial Killer with a Moral Code. Jimmy Smits is sure to get some Emmy love this summer for his district attorney who goes from righteous to scary.

3. THE OFFICE (NBC) - Probably the only show on TV where I'll watch the reruns again.

4. MAD MEN (AMC) - Personally I like the restraint of basic cable that Sopranos vet Matthew Weiner has on him. I think adding nudity and profanity to this would subtract from its power in the moments of quiet devastation. For the rape scene, it's most effective when all we see is the shocked, deadened look on Joanie's face as she just tries to bear what's happening.

5. HBO MOVIES - History comes to life in fine form in John Adams, with Paul Giamatti breathing life into our second president, the most underrated one we've had until author David McCullough gave him his due. Bonus points for Tom Wilkinson's wily Ben Franklin, but there was also Wilkinson as James Baker in Recount. Baker may have been cast as the villain, but his scene where he reveals why he became a Republican makes it all okay. It made history suspenseful, which is hard to do. And House of Saddam was really good, too. So yeah, hard to choose just one.

6. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (Sci-Fi) - All good things must come to an end too soon. I can't wait to see what the crew does now that they've found Earth, and found her to be a barren, radioactive planet. And then in a handful of episodes, it'll be gone.

7. SUMMER HEIGHTS HIGH (HBO) - Wisely, HBO didn't remake this show; they're airing it as it originally was in Australia, and I can't imagine anyone trying to do what Chris Lilley does so well in embodying three awful people (a self-absorbed drama teacher, a mean girl, and a Polynesian bully) week after week and making the next episode funnier than the previous. Sadly this was its only season.

8. LIFE ON MARS (ABC) - Jason O'Mara's a break-out star who holds his own with Harvey Kietel each week. I just hope this show is able to find an audience and stick around.

9. SURVIVOR (CBS) - Two good seasons in a row. The spring Fans vs. Favorites had some great twists and staggeringly stupid moves, each dumber than the week before. It was only marred by having a harpy like Parvati win it all, but that's what happens when idiots like Eric and Jason are all that stand in their way. The fall season had Marcus's Foursome look like an immovable force, but the underdogs overthrew it, and Sugar single-handedly made sure it was mixed up each week, to her own peril, but to the credit that a nice guy like Bob could win it all.

10. THE 2008 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (Bunch o' networks) - Endless entertainment. The drama of Obama overthrowing the Clinton machine. John McCain emerging from the ashes. Sunday-news round-tables becoming must-see spin rooms. Romney vs. Huckabee. John Edwards revealed to be a total scumbag. Fox News vs. MSNBC and the winner is CNN's Campbell Brown. Saturday Night Live becoming significant again. Daily Show & Colbert Report with mounds of material. And so on.

Honorable Mentions:

PRISON BREAK (FOX) - Season 4 is the best since the first. The action's always amped, and the twists and turns don't feel desperate or made up on the fly anymore.

BREAKING BAD (AMC) - Bryan Cranston's wrenching protrayal of a dying man going to the dark side to financially secure his family has had its darkly funny moments, but it makes Weeds look silly by comparison.

DAN on BIG BROTHER 10 (CBS) - Sometimes when you watch a weekly-elimination reality show, it is so dang entertaining to watch a nice-guy underdog brilliantly outplay his housemates and come out on top.

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