Monday, December 27, 2010

Top 10 TV Shows for 2010

Man, does this year lend itself to alliteration.
A lot of people have complained that there was a certain lack of good TV this season, particularly how carved up the network fall season was. But the fact of the matter was that this season featured some truly majestic peaks of for the medium --- they just weren't in the most populated areas of the world.
So, starting from the bottom, here goes:

10. Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
It's official: this season Showtime has become the strongest cable network. Particularly as it has managed to create a new medium: the half-hour comedy-drama. Three of the shows are populated by formidable actresses, but this one is by far the strongest. Edie Falco has reached levels she never achieved on The Sopranos and an able supporting cast from Paul Schulze to Anna Deveare Smith more than ably supports her. Let's hope that the season finale's intervention doesn't do more than slow her down.

9. Damages (FX)
It may not draw the prestige that Rescue Me and Nip/Tuck did, but this was the most fascinating piece on a strong network. From extraordinary turns by Martin Short, Lily Tomlin, and the criminally ignored Campbell Scott, this show kept me guessing week after week. I'm still not sure about everything that happened (Keith Carradine's role was never quite clear) , but it was very satisfying to watch Patty Hewes goes after her biggest fish yet. I'm glad this show has a future, even if right now, it's means I won't be able to watch it.

8. Dexter (Showtime)
Considering how good Season 4 was I didn't think the writers could top themselves this season. They didn't, but they came damn close. We've seen some bloodthirsty killers on this show, but this season painted us a picture of what true evil might looklike. Add to that stunning character roles by Julia Stiles and Johnny Lee Miller --- neither of whom I would've thought would be capable of it before Season 5--- and the continuing growth of Julia Carpenter as Debra, and you've got an absolute stunner. I don't know how much of a future this show has, but this seasons end gave the first real hint that Dexter's future may nto end in blood.

7. Lost (ABC)
First of all, let's admit that no ending for this show would really have satisfied us. But even if the last episode left you feeling a little cold (like me), that doesn't change the fact that this series did some stunning work in its final season. Any show that is capable of creating episodes like 'Dr. Linus' and 'Ab Aeterno (where we finally learned who Richard Alpert was) is worthy of our respect. Maybe the show didn't give us all the closure that we thought we deserved. But if it had, would it have been true to Lost? It'll be missed, but not as much because ...

6. Fringe (FOX)
This show has been providing the goods for the last couple of season, but with the introduction into the alternate universe, Fringe has become spectacular. Anna Torv and John Noble's bifurcated performances over Season 3 have been Emmy-caliber, and watching us getting actual answers to questions that this show asks has made this the most thrilling show on TV. It's just a shame that so few people are watching. Maybe we should start a 'Save Our Show' style campaign in both universes?

5. 30 Rock (NBC)
Maybe it was a bit premature to give Tina Fey the Mark Twain Prize from the Kennedy Center. But it doesn't change the fact that five seasons in, this is still the biggest laugh riot on television. Only this show could use the utter collapse on NBC and turn it into a hysterical joke. Let's hope that they'll move it to a good time slot, and that it will stay there (and wish Tracy Morgan a speedy recovery from his surgery)

4. Parenthood (NBC)
OK, I'll admit that I was slow to climb aboard on this one. But after being stupendously disappointed by Brothers and Sisters, this show with realistic marriages, successful and borderline, realistic children with some really strong actors playing them, and some issues that have some particular relevance in both being a parent and a child, this show is
is that utter rarity--- an adult network drama. Why is it that nobody's watching it? Oh, that's right....

3. The Good Wife (CBS)
Is it a legal drama? A political drama? A family show? A show about relationships when you're in your forties? The fact that this series does all of these things is a marvel. That it does them so spectacularly is incredible. As long as networks continue to turn out programs like The Good Wife, there will be a future for them. And as to that acting--- Alan Cumming, Best Supporting Actor. The race starts here.

2. Mad Men (AMC)
I'm still not convinced that it deserved three Emmys in a row. But that doesn't change the fact that this may be the most searing dramas in TV history. Watch Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price struggle for survival was stunning. Watching Don Draper come to terms with his battle with drinking mesmerizing. Watching Betty confirm that no matter who she marries, she'll never be happy--- that was astounding. And as good as Jon Ham is (The Suitcase was a stunner), this show is really all about the women. I'm convinced that by the end of the series run, Peggy and Christina will be running the agency. But then again, that might be a demotion for them.

1. Glee (Fox)
Most of the shows on this list would be considered dark and depressing. This show has moments of that (it is high school, after all) but for most of the time, it is filled with sheer joy and energy. Featuring one of the most talented ensembles television has ever assembled, this show is funny, heartbreaking, powerful and joyous hours of TV ever created. Chris Coifer and Jane Lynch are two of the best actors currently working in the medium, and the guest cast (who would've thought that Gwyneth Paltrow had such a voice?!) has been next to flawless. Never has their been a show where the title perfectly describes the experience of watching it.

With this, we look ever forward into the new year. Maybe there's more great TV in our future.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Nominees Are...

Well, I know that's it's been a very long time since I made any additions to this blog, and my few but faithful followers may have thought that I've abandoned it all together. My only excuse is that there has been a lot going on in my life, and that while I've been able to spend a fair amount of time watching TV, I have not had enough time to write about it.

But now, the holiday season is upon us, and there are two things that are sure to come with the arrival of December: the supposed 'War on Christmas (which because this is not a political forum, I've not going to take a side on) and the coming of award nominations. A lot of the major critics groups in this country, most of them having to do with films have announced nominations, but a few deal with TV. I've seen more than my fair share of films this year, so I might be able to comment with some degree of wisdom about the films that will be in this years Oscar race. I may even do that a little later on. However, for the moment, I will stay within the borders of TV, which has also been getting recognition.

I will focus on the Golden Globes, which on occasion will right some of the more obscure wrongs that the Emmys often make, and sometimes will demonstrate that the Hollywood Foreign Press can live on Mars.

First the good things. While admit that this has been a piss-poor year for new network TV offerings, the Globes has seen fit to recognize two of the stronger shows: Boardwalk Empire, HBO's best new drama since Big Love, and AMC's The Walking Dead, which has become the most popular series on AMC---- ever. They also recognized Dexter, Good Wife, and Mad Men, three of the best shows currently on TV.

I've got no problem with the Best Actor noiminees. I'm glad to see Bryan Cranston finally getting some love (after three straight Emmys, it would be surreal to be ignored in favor of Simon Baker again). But Piper Perabo for Best Actress? I'm not even sure Covert Affairs was renewed for a second season. Glenn Close caught shunted aside for her?

And Damages being completely shut out after one of its finest years? Martin Short, having given one of the finest performances I've seen on TV last year ignored? There are always problems in the Supporting categories, but come on, Scott Caan for Hawaii Five-0? Alan Cumming or Aaron Paul would make sense, but Scott Caan? I'm pretty sure even his father wouldn't vote for him, given the opportunity.

I'm similarly baffled by Thomas Jane getting a best actor nod for Hung. It didn't make any sense last year, and it makes even less sense this year. The only explanation I can come up with is the shortage of candiates for Best Actor in a comedy, but David Duchovny's work in Californication was superior, and seen by a larger audience. What bizarro world mentality does this fit? Here's hoping there are more candidates with the coming of 2011.

Nurse Jackie deserved to be nominated for Best Comedy, so they got that right. I'm less certain about The Big C. At times, it was very funny, but it's behavior was erratic. Still, Laura Linney deserved her nomination, and now it's becoming clear that Showtime has a lock on comedies centered around fascinating woman with big problems. Without question Showtime is the real winner of the Globes this year, and continues to demonstrate that it is the real powerhouse in the pay cable world.

Nods that just made me feel good: Chris Colfer's for Glee. He is without question one of the best actors of a very strong cast, and watching him is probably the most enjoyment on one of TV's best rides. I was also glad to see Chris Noth and Julia Stiles nominated in the Supporting categories and I hope that when the Emmy judges get around to honoring them (and trust me, they will) they'll remember where they were. And though I still don't watch it loyally, it's good to know that the Foreign Press has finally recognized the superb Big Bang Theory as one of the Best Comedies of the year. I don't pay as much attention to the TV movie side of this, but I was glad to see Idris Elba nominated for his work in Luther, not just because it was just good work, but because I'm glad to see any alumni of The Wire getting recognized for something. (Hint, hint)

One last thing Foreign press, you might want to consider creating a whole new categories for Supporting Actors and Actress in TV movies. Yeah, it might add a few extra minutes to your show, and it was just be another category for HBO to dominate... you know what, forget I mentioned it. Few years, they'll all be gone anyway. Such is the balance of power in the TV industry.

That's enough for the Golden Globes. I'd try and run through the SAG awards as well, but the sad truth is, considering how wide a base they use, and how leads and supportings get shunted into the same category, I've given up getting worked up or excited by them. Besides, how seriously can you take a group that considers Hot in Cleveland one of the Best comedies of the year?

Stay tuned to this spot for my ten best list for 2010. But first, some classic antidotes for the Christmas themed episodes.