Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Top Ten: Best of 2008 TV (A Limited Perspective)

Tuesday Top Ten: For the listmaker in me and the listlover in you

First things first, this disclaimer: I watch so little television that I'm rather like a SAG and movie awards show voter voting on the best of the film year having only seen 15 movies or so... (oh, come on, you know that's how they do. How else to explain the tiny pool of films they award or their lack of imagination in what to honor within those same films?) so with a huge grain of salt... my ten favorite TV-amajigs of the year

biggest anxiety: Joss Whedon's Dollhouse comes out in 2009. I've spent too much time in 2008 thinking about it. The reports of trouble on set are not surprising. This is the pinpoint reason I can't invest in TV... it's not safe to love anything. It's too emotionally draining to love TV. Movies last forever but TV shows get cancelled immediately if they're at all different/interesting: see #2

biggest surprise:
the US version of Kath & Kim is not terrible. It's a little shaky but it's improving and Molly Shannon is still an underrated actor who exhibits range working from within very narrow characters (see also: The Year of the Dog). That said I heard from an LA friend who heard from a friend on set (unsubstantiated gossip. Wheeeee) that Molly & Selma Blair are most definitely not getting along: screaming matches!

Nathaniel's Top TV of 2008


10 Ronnie on Make Me a Super Model and Cody on Step It Up & Dance. Basically the only reason to watch reality television is to crush on cute boys (or girls depending on how you do). Don't you agree?

09 Rachel Maddow on MSNBC

08 Brothers & Sisters I didn't use to understand why so many people added the qualifier "guilty" to "pleasure" when talking about it. Now I see. It's hard to take seriously but I've never once been tempted to stop watching it.

07 The plot complications and expanding cast of The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
I have been a Terminator nut since -- for as long as I can remember. Despite that, I thought this show was a bad idea (how does one improve on Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day? The answer is that one does not. Though one wishes Lena Headey would at least try) and the first several episodes did nothing to change my mind. I still don't love any single performance or any episode in particular. But the longer it goes on, the more delicious nutty, overpopulated and convoluted it gets, the more I enjoy it despite all the things that aren't so good about it. Who'da thunk?

P.S. Good luck to Terminator Salvation trying to pretend that so many story threads from 3 Terminator movies and a tv series never happened and make sense of the ones they choose not to ignore.

06 Samantha Who? Hardly groundbreaking for a sitcom but still endearing. Extra bonus points: the trio of supporting actresses in Samantha's orbit (Jennifer Esposito, Melissa McCarthy and Emmy-winning Jean Smart) are totally invested in making with the funny: well done.

05 True Blood. I love vampires. I didn't use to have to qualify that but here it goes. I love vampires that are interesting, mean, bloodthirsty and/or horny --not the stupid asexual twinkle-in-the-sunshine kind that were so popular this year. Blargh!

04 30 Rock. The only show on television that literally makes me LOL each and every episode. Sometimes even LMFAO.

03 Battlestar Galactica -still breath-stoppingly brilliant all the way into its fourth and final daring season. It will go down in history as one of the fullest small screen experiences of all time. If you're still not watching, watch the video Catch the Frak Up before the final episodes air in early 2009.

02 Pushing Daisies -There's no show I look forward to seeing each week more. The second season has been an itty-bitty uneven but who cares. It's so rich: alternately amusing, bittersweet, wicked, morbid, musical, witty, eccentric and lovable. There's something to lose your fool mind and heart over in every damn episode. Just thinking about going without Olive, Ned, Chuck, Emerson and Aunts Vivian & Lily next year makes me need carbs. Lots and lots of them in pastry form --preferably with drops of anti-depressants added in the baking.


01 Mad Men - it wasn't really a contest.

What were your favorites this year?

p.s. 1 Next Week: The Top Ten Movies -- the countdown begins. The annual FiLM BiTCH Awards are on their way.

p.s. 2 A preview of Big Love coming back soon...

59 comments:

John T said...

I'd have the same top two-Mad Men and Pushing Daisies are my reason for having a television. Thank God I still will have one left next season.

E Dot said...

Agree agree agree on 'Samantha Who?'

Emma said...

Damages, gossip girl, Desperate Housewives and Pushing Daisies. Mad Men was always on too late at night for me. :(

oooh, and Mock the Week and The Apprentice and X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent!

NATHANIEL R said...

I watch DESPERATE due to the boyfriend but i don't think it's very good. i wish it were better because i have been watching it against my will for years

NOSE said...

Where is 'LOST'?

'LOST' is the greatest show on Earth. And we all know it.

1. Lost
2. Mad Men
3. The Simpsons
4. 30 rock
5. Family Guy
6. Gossip Girl
7. Pushing Daisies
8. Damages
9. Big Love
10. Weeds

Agustin said...

i'd add the office, it's always sunny in philadelphia and the biggest guilty pleasure of them all, Ugly Betty
i've yet to see beyond episode 2 of mad men, me like, me like

and what happened to pushing daisies is a travesty

Deborah said...

1. Mad Men. Obviously.

2. So You Think You Can Dance. Absolutely compelling TV and brilliant performance. An annoying judge CANNOT STOP ME!

3. Project Runway. Some TV writer who is smarter than me pointed out that both seasons 4 & 5 were in calendar year 2008. Which is good on account of how season 5 kinda sucked ass. Season 4 ruled.

4. Rachel Maddow. I always forget to list things like news shows, and I totally would have forgotten this is you hadn't listed it, but how very right you are. When all the male talking heads, including supposed liberals, turned to sexism to make their points, Rachel was a blessed relief. Plus, hot.

5. Life. This is a beautifully-constructed show. It took a painful hit from the writer's strike, and season 2 was mostly just very good until the last couple of episodes, which knocked it out of the park. It has the perfect combination of a compelling back-story/continuing arc, smart mystery-of-the-week stories, and great actors. I also love redheads. Damien Lewis, come home with me, honey. And now they have Donal Logue!

6. Saving Grace: Holly Hunter knocks my eyes right out of my head.

7. What Not to Wear: I just do whatever they tell me.

8. House hasn't really jumped the shark, but it kind of walks around him a little, y'know? Still great to watch, though.

Anonymous said...

Damages and Weeds, imo.

JorgeRodrigues said...

Top 10:

1. Mad Men
2. Grey's Anatomy
3. How I met your mother
4. Gossip Girl
5. The Simpsons
6. 30 Rock
7. Pushing Daisies
8. Damages
9. Lost
10.Weeds

Hayden said...

"The only show on television that literally makes me LOL each and every episode. Sometimes even LMFAO."

Last week someone asked me why I watched 30 Rock, and I promise you I gave that same exact answer. Like, it literally makes me burst out laughing, which is rare for primetime TV comedies.

NATHANIEL R said...

deborah Ask Holly to foot those medical bills! (kidding but i know exactly what you mean. I wish i liked the show a little better)

but are you sure HOUSE hasn't jumped the shark. I thought the thing with house was that it was always a water logged series while doing just that. Or maybe the constant over-the-top nature prevents real shark jumping? since the shark already jumped before the first episodes?

others i liked damages but I feel it's one of those shows that wouldn't hold up if you strung all the episodes together (what with the crazy plot twists in every episode)

and i LOVE weeds but i don't get to see it very much due to no showtime.

Actionman said...

Mad Men
The Shield
Entourage
The Office
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Lost
Tell Me You Love Me
Californication
South Park
30 Rock

Jer said...

Bill Compton & Don Draper were the only people that kept me from throwing my television away.

Dave said...

It's difficult to keep up because even when we do get American tv it's about six months behind. But YES on Samantha Who?: I know it's total fluff but it's well-acted and actually funny. And probably the best Christina Applegate has ever been. I'm actually surprised at how much I love it.

Mad Men, YES; BSG, YES (once I got caught up).

But you clearly haven't been watching How I Met Your Mother. *tuts* (Or The Big Bang Theory; but maybe that's just me.)

Big Love! *cries* That never came back after Series 1 here. (Why a drama about a polygamist family wasn't a gigantic hit I just don't know.)

Catherine said...

This years series of Strictly Come Dancing (the British, and original, version of Dancing With the Stars was phenomenal. I'm a ballroom dancing nut and I've watched it ever since the year Jill won, and I can honestly say this was the most engaging season. There was nobody I completely fell for as completely as Alesha Dixon last year, instead there were a good 5 or 6 people I was rooting for.

And although I've been moaning for years about how lacklustre and rubbish Desperate Housewives has turned out (and yet watch it, religiously) but this season is GREAT. The whole 5-year jump totally worked in their favour. They let Kyle McLachlan be hilarious again! And Lily Tomlin!

Catherine said...

Okay, my grammar was all over the place in that last post. And I forgot to close my brackets. I also neglected to mention America's Next Top Model. Is this Tyra punishing me?

seasondays said...

1. saturday night live
2. lost
3. the office
4. family guy
5. american dad
6. big bang theory
7. 30 rock
8. top chef
9. project runway
10. house

Anonymous said...

Battlestar Galactica all the way! There is no comparison.

adam k. said...

I'm surprised you have Pushing Daisies and Man Men over BSG. Although I guess BSG only really had 10 episodes all year, so that's not very much to go on. It really has been a small-screen miracle, though. Honestly, it made me love television again, after I'd been out of love for so long. That's quite a feat. I'd forgotten what it was like to just fall head over heels for a show again, and totally get lost in it.

Now of course I own all the eps on iTunes, own "Razor" in two formats, have watched all the webisodes (do watch the new Gaeta stuff, Nat), and am even considering buying the BSG board game, which is supposed to be good.

Honestly though, I tried to get into Pushing Daisies, but I just couldn't get past the first episode that I downloaded on iTunes. Just not my thing, I don't think. I can't handle the cutesiness. Love the production values and all the actors individually, though. Especially Lee Pace. I may try it again in a form that doesn't cost me money.

I'm pretty sure I'll love Mad Men when I get around to seeing it.

I already love 30 Rock, which is my other newly discovered treasure. And speaking of Tina, Nat, how is Tina Fey as Sarah Palin not among your top ten TV things??? She WAS 2008, in TV terms.

adam k. said...

Also, can I just say, I wouldn't wish "Catch The Frak Up" on anyone who actually needs to be caught up. As much as I love it as a fan of the show, no one deserves to have 3 long years of brilliant plotting all spoiled in one fell swoop. Even if the spoiler is super fun. Everyone deserves the chance to see it unfold for themselves. Everyone, start from the beginning! It'll be one of the greatest experiences of your life.

It really pains me that so few people are aware of this show, since it's all outside the mainstream of awarded/respected television that you see on the Emmys and whatnot. So sad.

jimmy said...

i don't know the exact name of the show - but it's on discovery - it's something like "medical miracles." the profile people with horrible horrible disorders.....there is a guy from indonesia who is covered with giant warts....and there are plants growing out of his warts. they call him "tree man." then there was another epidoes about a woman with gigantic legs - massive legs. she wants to get her legs amputated. you can't help but watch these shows. i LOVE these shows. also love "intervention" on a&e.

Eric Arvin said...

Pushing Daisies, definitely. LOST was great this year. The Olympics had me glued to the set.

Cengiz said...

1. Pushing Daisies- I LOVE the show. Everything about it.

2. Chuck- Another show that I really look forward to every week. Chuck is just soo adorable.

3. Battlestar Galactica- Great first 1/2 of season. It's going to be sad when it ends. But cant wait for Caprica.

4. LOST- AWESOME show with some OUTSTANDING performances.

5. Brothers and Sisters- The Walker Clan rocks!

6. 30 Rock- LOL but I want them to use more Elaine Stritch ("Exhibt C: 16-8=8")

7. The Closer- Another good ensemble show. Where is Kyra's Emmy already?

8. Samantha Who- Jennifer Esposito, Melissa McCarthy are the best sidekicks on TV and Christina Applegate really shines.

9. True Blood- What can I say? I got hooked.

10. How I Met You Mother- Still an amazing show with one of the best ensembles around.

Honorable Mentions:
Ugly Betty has gotten better this season, in large part to Amanda moving in with Betty;
Gossip Girl and Greek are my guilty pleasures;
The Ex-List I really liked
Fringe is getting better every week;
Eli Stone I just love.

Peter Chan said...

In not particular order, here are my favorite DVRed shows this year:

- Mad Men, Peggy Olsen is my hero.
- 30 Rock, I want to try out for synchronized running.
- How I Met Your Mother, where's my 4th slap?
- Big Bang Theory, Jim Parsons is an underrated comic genius.
- Brothers & Sisters, I want to be a Walker just so I can get my bitchiness on.

and finally, best show of the year to me:

- Friday Night Lights, this current third season has me in tears every. single. episode.

On the sidenote, here are the shows I've officially gave up on this year:

- Project Runway
- The Office
- Eli Stone
- Breaking Bad (after like the 4th episode)

Adam said...

"Mad Men" is hands down the best. Amazing. I also second your crushing on cute boys and was surprised/horrified to have made it through "Make Me a Supermodel" just for Ronnie.

My big disappointment of the year was actually "True Blood," which I think is diverting but stinks like a rotten corpse.

"Summer Heights High" was my great discovery of the year. Check it out from the beginning if you can, Thank god for "Big Love" and "Flight of the Conchords," which will soon help me through my weary winter months.

PIPER said...

30 Rock,

Mad Men,

The Venture Bros,

And The West Wing (I'm rewatching)

James Hansen said...

I admit to only watching two things on your list (MAD MEN and Rachel Maddow.) I don't think I could name 10 things, so you've got me beat there. And although MAD MEN is a clear #1, I'll chime in for the latest season of SOUTH PARK which is still just as funny, timely, and smart as it ever was. And I'll always love TOP CHEF. I've always meant to watch BATTLESTAR, but never have. Soon enough...

As far as some other shows that have been mentioned...the third season of WEEDS was bad bad bad so I didn't re-order Showtime for the fourth. Project Runway and Top Model were weak this season/cycle. I've seen quite a lot of Gossip Girl, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, House, 30 Rock, and The Office (it's all the gf's doing!) but just can't get into any of them. I guess I'm a TV snob of sorts. I keep trying to catch up on LOST since my friends are crazy for it...the 4th season has been good thus far (still not done) but I don't think its as amazing as everyone says. Maybe I'm too jaded. All that said, I plan on falling head over heels over crack addiction for THE WIRE quite soon...

Garen said...

My top shows of the year have got to be: 30 Rock, Sam Who?, Desperates, and the Biggest Loser... whoops on those last two.

I also got sucked into the Real Housewives franchise for Atlanta. Double whoops.

Iggy said...

Not to repeat the same titles mentioned before, I'll just mention one of those guilty pleasures: Dog Whisperer.

It's broadcast with a weird dubbing in Spanish (you can hear the original voices and the dubbing at the same time) and I don't know if it's Cesar's incredibly white teeth or that each story is a kind a doggy short reality show with a happy ending or what, but every time I catch it on TV I get hooked, like sailors listening to mermaids. And I have no dogs ;)

Barry, Milwaukee said...

My favorite moment from Samantha Who? (season one):

"If you don't look at it, it doesn't exist" (referring to their boss making out with their friend)

"Kind of like poverty."


And the best comedy on network TV right now is "The New Adventures of Old Christine." Sure, it's CBS. But give it a shot!

Bryan said...

Top Show Titles that scared me away from TV for 2008:

1. Britain's Hottest Grannies
2. Fox News' America's Newsroom
3. Keeping up with the Kardashians
4. Momma's Boys

You get the point!

Anonymous said...

*30 rock
*Mad Men
*Brothers and sisters
*Pushing Daisies
(Its so sad it got cancelled...$%#@!@#$)
*Ugly Betty
(only bcuz of Amanda and Mark)

used to love grey's anatomy....now I can't stand it!
same with desperate housewives

Krauthammer said...

1. Mad Men
2. Pushing Daisies
3. Daily Show/Colbert Report
4. News, just in general


That's really the extent of what I watch now, and that list is about to be one poorer now that Pushing Daisies is canceled.

Jack said...

LOST was the best show of the year by far, with the best episode of any show, "The Constant"
Best new show (that no one is talking about nearly enough) LIFE ON MARS!

PPO-10 said...

I am so glad I can count on Nathaniel to supply me with Cody updates and pictures. First the WSS news, now this...hallelujah.

theskyisthelimit said...

Í love Mad Men, Pushing Daises, Damages, The Simpsons, Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, and Brother Sisters.

Yet somehow it was this year that I discovered reality tv and I must say "The Amazing Race", "Top Chef", and "Project Runway" are entertaining good reality shows. I never thought I would enjoy reality tv, but it did. I rooted for Dallas and Toni in "TAR" (sob), I cannot wait for the chefs to return this January, and I hope Heidi Klum solves her legal woes with "PR".

Does anyone here think Desperate Housewives has a ridiculous plot? The coincidences are just way too much.

VInce said...

1. Mad Men
2. Battlestar Galactica
3. Lost
4. Pushing Daisies
5. 30 Rock
6. Damages
7. Desperate Housewives
8. Life on Mars
9. Breaking Bad
10. Brothers and Sisters

Rick said...

Can't wait for Big Love to return...

Keith said...

Yes yes yes to Mad Men, Pushing Daisies, Galactica, 30 Rock, Rachel Maddow. But also Stephen Colbert, who keeps getting better at what he does, and whose Christmas special was an instant classic; and The Big Bang Theory, where Jim Parsons gives a weekly master class in comic acting.

Anonymous said...

Itching to see Mad Man, and will be catching up via DVD over the festive season.

Damages was cracking fun too.

Also loved Make Me A Supermodel, with the addendum that Ronnie was pure evil, with Perry the show's resident god. However, I loathed it for its Project Runway 4 winner spoiler as I've always caught up on Project via DVD, and in previous years always avoided spoilers.

Rob

Anonymous said...

Mad Men, obviously.

Rob

Christine said...

Mad Men is obviously the best. True Blood is great if for no other reason than if my husband and I want to crack each other up, we just say "Sookie!" in a deep intense voice.

Daniel Armour said...

There's only four scripted shows I wish consistently and 24 didn't have a season this year, so:

1-Lost: Season four is the best season so far, IMHO.

2-Smallville: Season Seven ended weakly and Season Eight started weakly but overall the show has been consistently entertaining.

3-Heroes: Ummm... The show is all over the place in terms of plot but I'm entertained by it somehow.

Daniel Armour said...

I meant watch at the beginning.

gabrieloak said...

I'm an eclectic television watcher.
Some shows I watch regularly: Pushing Daisies, The Office, Torchwood, Brothers and Sisters, Ugly Betty, Burn Notice, Chuck, Life, In Plain Sight, Eli Stone, and occasionally Scrubs.

I am ashamed I have never seen Battlestar Galatica or The Wire. I will have to catch up someday with the DVDs.

I don't get HBO or Showtime but what I've seen of Flight of the Concords I've really liked.

I hate 30 Rock and I know I'm in the minority. I am so sick of hearing it's the funniest show on TV and it's a call back to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Tina Fey is no Mary.

I wish Everwood and Wonderfalls were still on TV.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? MMAS < ANTM, even if there aren't hot guys on ANTM.

dead man/flowers said...

Why does the name Dexter seem to be quite absent from this page?

gabrieloak said...

The House-Fringe combo also has possibilities.

But does anyone here watch The Mentalist? I don't.

Glenn said...

For me it's all about "The Closer" (as procedurals go it is much more enthralling than whatever "CSI" is being aired right now and Kyra Sedgwick is amazig), "Dexter" (wickedly funny), "Project Runway" (whenever I can catch it - usually on DVD) and "Ugly Betty", which week-in-week-out never ceases to put a smile on my face. Oh sure, nobody cares about Betty herself, but the rest of the cast are so charismatic and the action so delightfully off-centre (but not in a "look, we're being quirky" sort of way) that I can't get enough. I also have a big guilty pleasure for "America's Next Top Model" and the "Idol"/"Dance" franchises although they are indeed wearing thin.

I'm getting season one of "Mad Men" on DVD for Christmas so that's story is to be developed.

NATHANIEL R said...

dead man i don't have the station that airs DEXTER so i can't watch it.

anon i don't watch ANTM anymore. I had enough after 25 cycles or so (seriously how often does that show run?) i really don't like reality television so i only watch whatever my friends or boyfriend feel like watching and aside from project runway (which was sort of a dud this year) i almost never care past the first season since reality television is THE absolute worst genre in terms of repetition. If you've seen one season you've seen them all.

daniel you're still watching HEROES? i thought everyone gave up on that. tv shows dont' generally make me mad (i just don't watch if i don't like) but that show actively made me angry it was so dull/inconsequential and had such a great premise that it eagerly squandered over and over again

Anonymous said...

When it comes to shows like Heroes, I'm an eternal optimist. Also, I just don't think it's as godawful as it has been made out to be (the Bionic Woman was godawful).

Daniel Armour said...

The above post was me.

gabrieloak said...

I don't get The Closer. Every time I try to watch it, it seems to be able some half-baked crime and I'm so aware that Kyra is acting. But the show is very popular so I know I'm just not getting it.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Oh yeah, I watch "Heroes". Loved the first season, hated the second, but the third has moreorless gotten it's groove back. What I loved about the first was discovering all the new powers and having interesting storylines (not necessarily storylines that stretched throughout the entire season, ugh) involving them and this third season has done that.

Joanna said...

I'm so excited for Big Love! And I don't know why people bag on K&K so much. I think Blair and Shannon are hilarious.

Dom said...

Tough call...

1) 30 Rock: Simply the best...
2) Mad Men: The Peggy/Pete confession scene in the last episode alone made the season worthwhile (and it was a good season!)
3) Lost: I honestly feel sad for those who gave up on it after the second season (and I know A LOT who did).
4) Pushing Daisies: I heart Cheno
5) Gossip Girl: Because within a week of moving to NYC, I saw them shooting on my campus. Also because Chuck+Blair = Perfection, always.
6) Privileged: Easily the best new show you aren't watching.
7) Ugly Betty: Cause it's still funny.
8) The Office: See above.
9) Project Runway: Even when it sucks, it's good.
10) ANTM: Guilty pleasures die hard. Also, a young woman with actual potential won.

Waiting on season 3 of Friday Night Lights...

joy said...

Seriously, The true show that begs comparison to Seinfeld.Awesome show i also like how its made by a few buddies and then FX picked it up and it took off.
Download its always sunny in philadelphia
Try it, You'll LOVE IT

Anonymous said...

How could you not love Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles? I can't understand why it gets such poor ratings since it's the best show from the currently produced. Lost and BSG have cool ideas, but they suck, because they are soap operas. Something similar goes for Stargate Atlantis - cool idea, but a really bad way to make it happen - same plots each episode, same soaps, same illogical character acts. Pushing Daisies is idiotic at best. Dexter, although with a worse season, still rocks. Prison Break and Heroes are among the better ones. The best season of a show this year is Doctor Who's season 4. Its spin-offs are good too. So my top 5 for 2008 would be

1. Doctor Who
2. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
3. Dexter
4. Prison Break
5. Heroes

I can't make a top 10, because I don't like other shows enough.

Peter said...

I just wrote a long comment about all shows I've seen, but choosing the anonymous option deleted it. So I'll skip it - best shows this year were Doctor Who and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. Honestly, I can't understand all the people here not mentioning those two at all. Well, go watch your soapy Lost and BSG stuff.