DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: TOP TEN TELEVISION OF 2008

Saturday, 31 January 2009

TOP TEN TELEVISION OF 2008


Guest commentary by Matt Reid

I started this annual TV summary a few years ago when I noticed a number of friends sending Top 10 Movies and/or Music lists at year end, so thought I'd throw my hat in the ring. Why so late? Well, it probably means I'm busier and/or lazier this year, but we won't dwell on that (hey, at least it's not February, right?)What qualifies me, you ask? I guess nothing more than the fact that maybe I watch too much TV.

First off, a couple notes & sub-categories for this year's list:

The programs on my list were ones that I (personally) watched in 2008 (some people may have seen them in 2007, but due to my lack of Pay TV, I may have watched later than some of you)

This also means there are shows that aired this year that I haven't seen yet (e.g. Season 3 of Dexter) so I can't put that on until next year's list

Another perennial favourite missing this year: Friday Night Lights (Season 2 was on the 2007 list and Season 3 just started, so it will have to wait for next year)

Best Use of PVR Award:
SNL - nothing is better than skipping through a too-long skit or terrible musical performance to find the truly funny nuggets hiding in there

2009 Top 10 Futures Award (for new shows with promise that aren't quite top 10 worthy yet):
Fringe, Life on Mars

Summer Guilty Pleasure Award:
Swingtown

Hoping That It Can Rebound Award:
Heroes (here's hoping the new volume starting next week will feel Bryan Fuller's returning influence sooner rather than later)

Getting More & More Ridiculous But I Just Can't Stop Watching Award:
Weeds

5-day-a-week Show Award:
Jeopardy

Canadian Shows I enjoyed this year:
jPod, The Rick Mercer Report

I've Been Watching So Long I Have To Give It An Honourable Mention:
Scrubs

Reality Shows That I've Started Watching Again Due To Some Unknown Influence:
The Amazing Race, Survivor

Now that's those are done, here's the actual Top 10:

10. HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER/BIG BANG THEORY
Two more traditional sitcoms that have found their way through my usual 'laugh track snobbery' armour. HIMYM is my favourite of the two and does a great job of providing a good dose of heart amongst all the great laughs (plus, Neil Patrick Harris's performance is 'legen....wait for it.....dary'). Big Bang is also worth the price of admission for Jim Parson's performance alone

9. DAILY SHOW/COLBERT REPORT
Sad as it is, this is the way I keep up on current U.S. events.....it is the best way to get them though: through a prism of sarcasm and mockery. This election year truly brought out the best in both shows and when they teamed up together for a live show on Election Night, the results were incredible....

8. PUSHING DAISIES
Obviously the last year this show will make the list (which is really too bad), but it's fantastical look, top notch cast and quirky murder mysteries made for a great mid-week pleasure. The upside of the cancellation is Bryan Fuller's return to Heroes. [By the same token, I quite enjoyed Eli Stone, which also was a breath of fresh air but not in the Top 10 as it just wasn't as good as Daisies]

7. THE OFFICE
A perennial Top 10 on my list, they've kept it fresh by shaking things up. Toby's shorter than planned vacation, Pam going to school, Ryan returning at the bottom. Amy Ryan's guest turn as Toby's replacement was a favourite of mine. Not as good: the hour long episodes, which feel a little stretched.....

6. EXTRAS
I watched all of Season 2 and the Finale all together at the start of this year. Ricky Gervais has created another classic character to go right up there with David Brent. The decision between selling out and sticking to your principles makes us all wonder what we'd do in that situation....while keeping us laughing, of course

5. BREAKING BAD
High school teacher dying of cancer sells meth to support his family? Come on, everyone will love that! It may sound like a ridiculous concept, but it's executed so well (most notably by Bryan Cranston, who deservedly won an Emmy for this role) that you can't help but be drawn in. I can't wait for a (full) Season 2 (Season 1 was cut short by the strike) to see what happens next....

4. 30 ROCK
My favourite weekly sitcom continues to win awards and critical praise, but can't quite find that broad audience. Maybe that's a good thing and they'll give up on the big-name guest stars, which is my only real complaint about the show. Just keep the focus on the core cast and you've got so much funny, I often need to watch twice

3. FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS
This is one that I'm sure a lot of you saw in 2007....well, I'm not quite lucky enough, so it was a DVD marathon for me. And, wow, I'm glad I did - the struggles of Bret & Jemaine only became funnier when put to music (Murray may just be my favourite though). Getting the album for my iPod allows me to drive along laughing as the Hiphopopotamus takes on the Rhymenoceros...

2. MAD MEN
Brilliant show that got even better in its second season. Now that all the characters have been set up, we're able to dive more into the stories about their fascinating lives. Top notch writing and performances are supported by the gorgeous look of the show and its meticulous attention to details. What's next for the Sterling Cooper group? I can't wait for July to find out.

1. LOST
Back on top again. After changing the entire game in 2007 with the switch to flash forwards, this year took us on an intense adrenaline ride. Mystery? Check. Compelling characters? Check. Action? Check. This show has it all and I can't wait to experience these final two seasons.....which, by the way, I've given up trying to solve all the mysteries. I'm just enjoying the ride now.....

Would love to hear your thoughts on my choices if you so wish to share.....and then we can end up in a vicious, no-holds-barred debate......

5 comments :

Anil Usumezbas said...

I was getting more and more curious about 30 Rock and this definitely did not help. I should start watching that show a.s.a.p.

Nice list by the way - I can't help but think how many hours a week you spend to be able to see so many shows. I love TV products just as much as I love movies (well, the good ones anyway) but lack of time to conveniently follow multiple shows always exasperates me.

Mark A. Fedeli said...

Alan, you are one of my favorite critics, I read you everyday without fail and I find myself agreeing with you 95% of the time. But, alas, you have asked for dissent, and so I will do my best to provide it. Here goes:

I will never ever understand how someone who loves a show like Mad Men or the best that HBO has had to offer, can even sit through 10 minutes of Lost.

That's all I got. Keep up the good work, and thanks for all the reports back from the festivals!

Matt Reid said...

Hey Mark - I acautllay guest wrote this TV review for the blog, so don't let my choice of TV reflect poorly on your view how you view Alan.....haha

To me, the reason Lost is at the top of my list is that it covers all the bases for me: I love how it makes you think, reason and try to make sense of it all; I love the thrill of the action sequences; I love the jaw dropping way it occasionally blindsides you; but, most of all, I love the characters - whether it's the ones we've been with from Day 1 or newer additions that I can't get enough of (Desmond, Faraday). That is what I think elevates it from being just a great genre show to one of the great shows on televison...

Mark A. Fedeli said...

Hi Matt, sorry I didn't see that you had written it, that's a silly mistake on my part, but thank you for replying nonetheless!

To each his own, of course. The last thing I would ever do is try to induce an argument over the merits or lackthereof of Lost, but I guess I'll clarify a bit. I know many fine people who absolutely love the show and some who even force me to watch it. There is something valuable going on here, I can admit that. But I suppose my first problem is more that I simply cannot look past the silly, melodramatic sci-fi/action hyper-seriousness to see that value. I take full responsibility for that. I have made many valiant efforts to hook myself onto the show, and maybe 15 years ago I would have been loving it as much as Laura Palmer...

But nowadays, A.H.B.O., it falls short for me. I'll try to explain how it makes me feel: it feels like an interactive board game or a product publicity stunt. It feels like I'm watching an overlong movie trailer or a "Next Week On..." that stretches for 1 or 2 hours. It's all hype and lead-up all the time; like a never-ending carrot-stick scenario, where you're constantly being teased for the sake of the tease because the teasing itself is entertaining. In other words, it preys on the worst of our urges to simply be entertained and stimulated.

If I were to be totally harsh, I guess I would also say that I cannot get past the underlying gimmick, which, regardless of the current flashbacks and such, is always present. Well, to me, at least. IMO, drama needs some sort of established human boundaries to be effective. I find Lost to have, more now than ever, a lack of that discipline or the high-stakes that naturally come along with it.

I often wonder what the point of the show is, if not just to keep people watching by whatever means necessary. It introduces chapters simply to close them and present the look of closure, while the lack of any real focus continues on and on. You could accuse The Sopranos of some of the same, but the Sopranos, each and every episode, contained some thought out, philosophical, and usually subtle commentary on the human condition. I just don't see that type of effort with Lost.

Anyway, not looking to spark any fires, though I'm sure I just did. I really appreciated you taking the time to respond and only wanted to follow-up with my thoughts. Thanks again!

Alan Bacchus said...

Thanks Mark for your comment (as always). I concur with Matt's choices here. I am a huge fan of Lost and Mad Men. If you give Lost a chance from the very beginning I promise you'll become addicted.

Thanks for reading and commenting though. Much appreciated.