Friday, January 02, 2009

On The Seventh Day Of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love – Television – gave to year end lists (or at least year end lists from seven favourites of mine).

This was the supposed to be the one that got me caught up; an easy one, because all I'd be doing is inserting links. Yeah, right. Schedule still way out of whack thanks to shovelling snow and feeding little brother, not to mention watching the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl game. I'll share a secret – the Rose Parade was more exciting than the football game.

But let's get started with this. These are end of the year lists put out by various people, most of whom I have a certain amount of respect for, although there are some that are included for reasons like the fact that they're Canadians.

  • Alex Strachan, who writes for the Canwest newspapers has his "Naughty and Nice" list – five things he considered Naughty, and five that he considered nice. #1 on the Naughty list Farmer Takes A Wife: "This pig-in-a-poke, roll-in-the-mud dragged reality TV to a new low, and that's saying a lot. Is this really our reality?" #1 on the nice side was Canadian comedian and social and political satirist Rick Mercer: "Rick Mercer had himself a merry old year. An unnecessary fall election, and the nonsense that followed it, gave him a lifetime's worth of material to run with. And run with it he did."
  • Long time friend of the blog Jaime Weinman, in his Macleans Magazine blog has his Best on TV list. He has five categories including "Best non-romantic relationship," "Best appearance by a ghost," "Best use of a TV show for political purposes," Best speech," and "Best-looking Canadian on TV." In the latter category he writes, "This is almost as difficult as choosing the most depressing news story of 2008; there are so many beautiful Canadians on television that many U.S. message-board posters have become convinced that Canadians are all beautiful. Which we are." Setting that obvious truth aside he's really talking about Colbie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother, and while I have other choices I can't entirely disagree.
  • Alan Sepinwall of the Newark Star-Ledger has two lists here. One looks back at the best shows of 2008, while the other looks forward to the best episodes of 2008. His Best Series list is the traditional 10 best series of the year – although naturally there are eleven entries in his top ten list. Naturally most of his shows were on cable. #1 was of course The Shield: "It's been two months since I first saw the cop drama's final two episodes, and I still shiver at the memory of how uncompromising, how disturbing, how powerful and how devastating they were -- the best finale I've ever seen for an American TV drama. Unlike "The Sopranos" -- the show to which it was so often compared -- "The Shield" seemed determined to provide as much closure as possible, and yet there's a delicious ambiguity to the final fate of Vic Mackey (the brilliant Michael Chiklis) and what it means." In his Best Episodes list has fifteen entries with no apparent order. I particularly like his assessment of the CSI episode "19 Down": "The first half of William Petersen's farewell offered up Bill Irwin as a disturbing new villain, Laurence Fishburne as an intriguing new hero, and a reminder of just how much more potent the original "CSI" is than its various spin-offs and imitators."
  • Aaron Barnhart at and the Kansas City Star focussed his attention on what he called at one point, "TV's most thrilling reality show," the 2008 presidential election. In one concession to looking at entertainment he talks about the late night shows and in particular Tina Fey's version of Sarah Palin: "Her close encounter with Palin on one "SNL" episode was much commented-upon, but it was the QVC sketch -- with the fey-Sarah hawking "Palin in 2012" T-shirts while Real McCain, standing just off-camera, asked, "What are you doing over there?" -- that historians 100 years from now will write dissertations about."
  • Ed Bark in his Blog also made a point of discussing the election, with four or five of his ten entries focussing on either politics or TV as a venue for politics, making reference to the death of Tim Russert, and MSNBC embracing its status as a left-wing response to Fox News. For him Obama was the TV story of the year: "From the hard-fought, ice-encrusted primaries of January to December's still operative after-glow, Obama is by far the year's biggest TV story. Making history helps, too. And in the end, yes he did."
  • Tim Goodman of came up with a list of the twenty-five best shows of the year, although his number one was Mad Men: "This is a series that is brain candy as well as eye candy. Visually stunning and smartly nuanced, the full Don Draper character study is a thing of beauty. But this season, "Mad Men" fleshed out the surrounding characters as well (particularly Don's wife, Betty) while simultaneously ramping up the duality of Don, nailing cultural change and alluding to the onrush of chaos."
  • Maureen Ryan has a list of the Top Shows on TV in 2008 that is chock full of stuff besides her Ton Ten list (with twelve entries) that reminds me why she's one of my favourite professional critics. I really like her assessment of the second season of Mad Men: "Even when it confounded me, this rich, complicated drama about yearning, unpredictable men and women left me hungry for more. This year, the "Mad" men frequently yielded center stage to the show's frustrated, fascinating women, who turned in stunning performances, and to supporting characters such as the lovable but heartbreaking Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray)." And her writing on The Shield – "Few shows in the history of television have worked as hard to keep their fans' attention; only high-quality Swiss timepieces are more beautifully complex." – ain't bad either.

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