Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 in Television: My Picks

2008 wasn’t exactly television’s best year ever. The writer’s guild strike shut down television for a few months, and the ripples were felt all the way into the fall season, which had little in the way of interesting new fare to offer, and promising 2007 shows lost either their audience (Pushing Daisies), their creative drive (Dirty Sexy Money), or both (...Dirty Sexy Money) in the downtime and never recovered. But a few episodes did manage to stand out in this rocky year. Here are my picks:

30 Rock: “Believe in the Stars”
Oprah’s guest turn was everything I wanted it to be and more. As hilarious as the first twenty minutes are (Tracey in whiteface! Leia Liz!), it’s the final reveal that makes this episode a classic.

Entourage: “The All Out Fall Out”
In a season that was hit or miss creatively and stuffed to the mercury-laden-gills with filler, this episode, which featured Ari throwing down against his rival Adam Davies with hilarious results, stood out.

Fringe: “Same Old Story”
The creepy giant baby medical mystery that showed just how intriguing – and gross – this new show could be.

Gossip Girl: “Woman on the Verge”
I was torn between this episode, “New Haven Can Wait” (for alma mater pride – no, not Yale, Columbia! Which played the part of Yale! Unconvincingly, for anyone remotely familiar with the look of either campus!) and “It’s A Wonderful Lie” (for delicious Chuck/Blair sniping), but I finally settled on this episode from the end of Season 1, for the wonderful, “less judgey Breakfast Club” rare show of camaraderie among the Upper East Siders.

House: “House’s Head”/“Wilson’s Heart”
I haven’t been a fan of other House episodes that made a cast member into a patient (like the Foreman episode from a few seasons ago), but this one works beautifully, and the ending makes me cry every time. Farewell, Cutthroat Bitch, you will be missed.

Lost: “The Constant”
If this episode – featuring Des and his long lost love Penny in a head tripping time travel love story – didn’t make you tear up even a little, you have a heart of stone, my friend.

One Tree Hill: “Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.”
One Tree Hill, against all odds, has actually gotten better as each season goes on. (Then again, most of Season 1 left it with nowhere to go but up.) This completes the trifecta of television episodes that wrenched my heart out this year as the OTH gang dealt with the senseless shooting death of one of their friends.

The Office: “The Surplus”
This was the first episode in two seasons that reminded me how effing funny this show can be. Pam’s passive-aggressive notes were classic.

Pushing Daisies: “Comfort Food”
I had a hard time narrowing it down to one episode of the dear, delectable, dead-as-a-doornail Daisies, but I settled on this one because it featured an appearance from Beth Grant as Marianne Marie Beetle, reprising her role from Daisies creator Bryan Fuller’s other tragically-cancelled-before-its-time show, Wonderfalls.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: "Samson & Delilah"
The second season started with a bang - a lot of them, in fact, as the Connors fled from Cameron gone rogue. Also, John lost his loopy locks, and Shirley Manson made her debut as the freakiest urinal/robot to date.

Weeds: “Lady’s A Charm”
Nancy makes her first, hilarious run down to Mexico. A great ep in an uneven season.

So that’s it! My best and worst movie lists will be delayed until 2009 because I want to see a few more of the recent releases before I finalize my picks (though I doubt anything will knock Cloverfield off the #1 spot), which, by the way, my 2009 movie wish list includes fewer studios packing all the good stuff into the last two weeks of the year. As for my 2009 television wishlist, I’d love for some miracle to save Pushing Daisies. I’d love for 30 Rock, The Office, and Gossip Girl to remain as strong as their past few episodes have been. And I truly hope that Dollhouse isn’t a complete mess.

Have a safe and happy New Year, drink too much, and sleep it off tomorrow!


Sex Mahoney for President said...

A few of the shows I regularly watch had a good start, but it appears that the ability to write a decent ending has been lost to the ages.

Sex Mahoney for President

smd said...

I think the problem is that shows can get cancelled at any time, or the network can ask you to extend past the point of sanity, so you end up with a lot of untied loose ends, or waffling, or what have you. And unlike movies, TV shows have to accomodate for actors coming and going, which changes the actual story they set out to tell. I think it wouldn't be a bad idea for more American TV shows to start adopting the British model of doing a set amount of episodes and having the arc planned out from beginning to end. That's why Lost was smart to pick an end date so they can start working towards a final überstory, rather than the crappy water treading they were doing in s2 and s3.