TV's 10 Best of 2008
Nielsen ratings show that the most popular programs for 2008 included a singing duel between The Davids, Cloris Leachman pretending to dance, various teams of crime scene investigators investigating crime scenes and a group of doctors who are willing to have sex with ghosts when they can't bang each other.
None of those shows made my Top 10 list.
But this isn't some snobby list of cable shows that nobody but critics watch. Confession time: I just didn't have the time and patience for "In Treatment," so even though I have trusted friends who tell me it's the best thing going, it didn't make my list.
I also didn't include shows like "House," "The Office," "Dexter" and "Weeds," which have had featured places in my Top 10 in previous years.
No network has more than two shows on my list, but ABC, NBC and HBO all have two apiece.
Without any further ado... My Top 10...
10)"Survivor: Micronesia - Fan vs. Favorites" (CBS) - The 16th installment of CBS' Cadillac of reality shows had a cumbersome title and some truly questionable "favorites" (Sorry, Cirie and Eliza). It also had an odd-ball winner in former foxy-boxer Parvati "My Last Name Isn't An Accident" Shallow. But it also delivered some of the franchise's finest moments, including Jonny Fairplay's abrupt bailout, a pair of doctor-mandated surrenders, Ozzie getting blindsided, plus Erik making the stupidest move in series history. Best of all, it had comely Amanda making an unlikely run to the Top Three only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at the final Tribal Council for the second consecutive season.
9)"The Life and Times of Tim" (HBO)- From the first twang Hank Williams' "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" over its opening credits, HBO's low-buzz slacker animated series was one of the fall's most pleasant surprises, regularly providing laughs and genuine insight into day-to-day life in the white collar salt mines. Steve Dildarian's hero Tim just wants to get ahead at work and spend time with his long-suffering girlfriend. Is it his fault his boss asks him to pretend to be Hispanic, his friends ask him to pretend he was raped by a bum and he enjoys the company of an uncouth neighborhood streetwalker? Tim's problems are truly universal.
8)"Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" - As you may have heard, there was a little strike in the spring. It was bad, especially for television, which was crippled for months. Joss Whedon's musical story of a villain trying to save the world from its own corruption and a hero trying to get laid may be the best thing to come out of that time. It's on the list for that reason, but also for another: With the opportunities for scripted television shrinking on the network landscape, "Dr Horrible" showcased a different way of doing business, a different way of promoting and marketing and distributing the most creative material available. I doubt it's a business model many people who aren't Joss Whedon are capable of making work, but if Ben Silverman wants to turn NBC's primetime schedule over to Jay Leno, gladiators, weight-losers and briefcase babes, it's worth it to find out.
7)"Lost" (ABC) - Credit Damon Lindelof and Carleton Cuse for realizing that viewers were only going to tolerate so many flashbacks that told us repeatedly that poor Dr. Jack has daddy issues. The introduction of flash-forwards rejuvenated the storytelling on the ABC drama's fourth season and while there was still plenty of time to learn more about Jack's daddy issues, we also got emotionally stunning episodes like "The Constant." "Lost" may not be as hot as it was when it launched, but the fourth season reassured fans they were sticking around for a reason, even if we're probably never going to get an answer for that four-toed foot.
6)"Pushing Daisies" (ABC)- Is it really the fault of "Pushing Daisies" that the series "Pie-lette" was an impossible act to live up to? When the show premiered last fall, I'd have expected Bryan Fuller's whimsical fairy tale to be cancelled after four or five episodes. The fact that it will have survived 26 episodes is a minor miracle. I'm going to miss Emerson Cod and Olive Snook and Digby and Pigby and Chuck and the Piemaker. More than the individual characters, though, I'm going to miss the love of language that Fuller and his writing team brought to every episode, infusing each 44 minutes with more double-entendres, antiquated vocabulary, twisted syntax and delirious wordplay than any show since Fuller's "Wonderfalls." The show was just too special for mainstream television.
5)"Chuck" (NBC)- Operating in one of TV's more brutal timeslots, "Chuck" has very quietly found its creative rhythm in its second season, delivering a string of fall episodes combining energetic stunts, geeky humor, well-ultized guest stars (as different as Nicole Richie and John Larroquette) and more hints of romance than ever before. In Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski, "Chuck" has a great central pairing, but the show's regular universe has expanded beyond that duo and with Adam Baldwin, Josh Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Ryan McPartlin, Vik Sahay, Scott Krinsky, Mark Christopher Lawrence and Julia Ling, there's a whole ensemble capable of carrying episodes and a crack writing team capable of giving them those opportunities. At its best, "Chuck" may be the most purely entertaining show on TV at the moment.
4)"30 Rock" (NBC)- MILF Island. The mysterious Teamster sandwiches. Cooter. Jenna in black-face. Suck it, monkeys, I'm going corporate! Tracy with a claw. Cooter. A "Night Court" reunion. Kenneth experiences TV. Liz gets out of jury duty by dressing as Princess Leia. Tracy makes a pornographic video game. I'm snitting next to Borpo.
3)"Mad Men" (AMC)- The first season of "Mad Men" was "The Don Draper Show," as Jon Hamm's ultra-confident ad-man dodged mysteries from his past and rarely broke a sweat. In the second season, Don unravelled. For some viewers that was an uncomfortable experience, but in the world of the series, Draper's erratic behavior opened the door for the supporting characters to step up. In particular, the second season of "Mad Men" could almost have been subtitled "Mad Women," with Elisabeth Moss, January Jones and Christina Hendricks rising to equal status with Hamm.
2)"The Wire" (HBO)- Alas, the fifth and final season was probably the weakest of the landmark HBO series' run. That's why it finds itself only at No. 2 on this list. David Simon's analysis of the plight of contemporary journalism was, at times, a bit on-the-nose. That doesn't mean he didn't rip the newspaper world to shreds in biting, dramatic and accurate fashion. Conscious that the end of near, Simon worked to sculpt resolutions (not endings) for the residents of Baltimore viewers have grown to love and fear over the years. Some characters were redeemed. Others let us down. Some found validation and success, while others knew only tragedy. Oh and in case it never comes up again, the lifetime Emmy nomination tally stands with "The Wire" and "According to Jim" having two apiece.
1)The Election - Cop-out or catch-all? I'm saying this choice is the latter, because with only one new network show breaking out this fall (CBS' derivative but totally serviceable "The Mentalist"), August-to-November was dominated by election coverage as in no other year previously. There was an election night where only The CW (airing new episodes of "90210" and "Privileged") was immune to the excitement at hand, two extensively covered conventions and a trio of Presidential debates and one VP debate that trumped them all. But the television and the election discourse went together in unexpected ways, like Katie Couric's endlessly rehashed interview with Sarah Palin, plus Tina Fey's profile boosting impression of the Alaska governor. The Comedy Central late night hosts had their usual field day. "Saturday Night Live" enjoyed months of renewed relevance. Barack Obama bought out a primetime block across networks and cable. Maybe the reason why so many scripted shows failed this fall was because the unscripted drama was so much better.
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
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