Saturday, December 27, 2008

Top 10 TV Shows of 2006

Very soon, my review of Valkyrie will be up here (I very much liked it, 3 1/2 stars).

In the meantime, this is a retread of an article that NBC4 published in 2006. They just redid their website so a lot of my material might be virtually unsearchable at this point. You will notice that all of these shows with the exception of Studio 60, is still on the air:
1. The Office, NBC It’s hard to understate how much the show has outgrown its original premise of an office drone with haphazard career ambitions, the girl who’s taken that he fawns over anyway, the annoying cubicle mate he quarrels with, and the socially inept boss who desperately wants to be Mr. Popular. In the show’s second season and the start of its third, the Pam-Jim chemistry has become a more realistic portrayal of modern day romance than practically any movie in the last decade, Steve Carrell has given Michael Scott endearing traits and even Dwight has been starting to come around. Even better, the show has promoted most of the recurring guest stars to cast members this season, adding a whole new layer of depth. Overgrown valley girl Kelly (Mindy Kaling), politically correct Human Recourses man Toby (Paul Liberstein), and creepy Creed (Creed Bratton) add even more neuroses to an already hilariously chaotic workplace.

2. Grey’s Anatomy, ABC It seems an inescapable fact that there’s always going to be a medical TV show that’s going to be the source of water cooler talk everywhere you go, and as medical dramas go, none have a more well-rounded cast. Accomplished actors Isiah Washington (Hollywood Homicide) and Sandrah Oh (Sideways) along with comedic actress Kate Walsh (Kicking and Screaming, Showbiz Show) play meaty supporting roles, and Chandra Wilson as the resident disciplinarian is excellent. Contrary to popular perception, the show doesn’t ignore the hospital setting in favor of juicy romance stories, but it does effectively make the stories human by focusing less on the medical jargon.

3. America ’s Got Talent While it was clear that the answer to the question “Does America have talent?” would be an obvious yes because it is a big country, you would still be pretty amazed by the quality of the acts that chose to answer this reality show’s call. Some of the acts worth tuning into included the homemade hiphop-acapella group At Last, the tap-dancing-and-fiddling family act Celtic Spring, a rapping Granny, and the bluesy Millers Brothers among so many others. Combined with a vaudeville-meets-reality-TV atmosphere and a panel of judges that includes a Brit that actually makes sense when he talks in Piers Morgan and nitpicky star David Hasselhoff on a career rebound, and this was THE reality show of the year.

4. American Idol On second thought, don’t forget American Idol. This season, the show had one of its most talented from top-to-bottom and uniquely diverse casts. Despite Cowell’s insults to the contrary, Ryan Seacrest’s star power continues to grow and Paula, Simon, and Randy all still are prevalent icons in pop culture today. How much longer until this show runs out of talented singers is a mystery, but this season the show was as strong a facet of pop culture as ever.

5. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, FX The dialogue doesn’t skip a beat and underneath all the bickering, there really is a lot of love between the lifelong friends who own a bar in Philly and share a common narcissistic outlook on life. The addition of Danny De Vitto to the emsemble is pitch-perfect casting.

6. 30 Rock/Studio 60, NBC Each show, about the fascinating topic of backstage comedy, has something the other half doesn’t, so put together they make one excellent TV show. Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 tackles serious issues with insight, and it offers very fleshed out characters except for the fact that none of them have a sense of humor. Unfortunately, that is kind of vital to a show about comedy. On the other hand, 30 Rock doesn’t have as much depth, but its characters convincingly belong on a comedy show. It also boasts two of today’s most appealing comic actors in Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey. If only one can learn from the other, NBC would have a hit.

7. Ugly Betty, ABC James Poniewozik of Time Magazine had a good point in his November 20th article that Ugly Betty really is the new face of the American dream. “Smart and sweet-hearted, she embodies the Puritan-Shaker-Quaker principle of valuing inner good over outer appearance. She's as Norman Rockwell as a chestnut-stuffed turkey,” he writes. For those not wanting to look that deep under the surface, the show is a fairly entertaining dramedy about a fish-out-of-water that exudes a lot of charm.

8. Heroes, NBC At a point when the entire superhero genre in films and TV is pretty much made of recycled comics material, part of the appeal of Heroes is that it’s fresh, completely original, and entirely unpredictable. Played out as a serial like Lost was last year, the show grounds the world of superheroes firmly in everyday reality, revolving around a group of people scattered across the globe who are slowly discovering and coming to terms with their supernatural powers. The episode plays out through multiple storylines being weaved together and more often than not each individual one is interesting enough to be able to sustain itself. The show is also becoming known for the character Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka), the Japanese computer programmer who possesses childlike giddiness over his ability to teleport.

9. 30 Days, FX Morgan Spurlock’s shtick of investigative-reporting-by-experiencing is transferred from the movies (Supersize Me) to the TV screen with decidingly interesting results. Morgan Spurlock spends 30 days in a Richmond prison, and various other people spend a month outside their comfort zone. An abortion clinic director moves into a pastor’s motherhood clinic, a conservative moves into San Fransisco’s gay community, and an anti-immigration advocate moves into a bordertown with a family of illegal immigrants. This is one of the few reality shows to escape the sensationalistic clich├ęs of the format: people don’t lose or win, they just get enlightened and by watching them, we do as well.

10. Best Week Ever, VH1 Possibly the only good thing VH1 has ever done, the show works as an offbeat alternative to the now more mainstream Daily Show where clips of news events, celebrity shenanigans and the highlights of the week are shown and a collection of comedians take turns sounding off on them and as of late, they’ve gotten surprisingly good within their format. The quality is far better than commercialized nostalgia-fests of VH1’s Best Week Ever.