The writer's strike may have screwed up the first half of the year, but there was still a lot of great stuff to watch on TV. Here's my picks for the Best of Television for 2008
(With the ranking from the two previous lists (Best of TV - Fall 2007/ Winter 2008 Season, Best of TV 2007) in parenthesis.)
1. Friday Night Lights - NBC/DirecTV (3, 1)
They may have taken a misstep in Season 2 but the second half (that aired at the beginning of 2008) was great and all I can say about Season 3 (currently only showing on DirecTV), especially for those of you who will finally get to see it on NBC in the new year, is that it is PERFECT. I can't wait for y'all to see it because the show has never been better, never been more emotional, more fascinating, more thrilling and more soulful. The continuing growth of the characters living in small town Dillon, Texas, along with Tami's new career, a new star player and his overbearing father, the goodbyes to Smash and Jason Street (make sure you have hankies in hand to mop up the tears), Tim Riggins new hidden maturity, Tyra's attempts to redirect her life, Landry's new band, Matt Saracen's new homelife, Buddy Garrity's new situation, Lyla's future at stake and much much more, is all just astoundingly astute and amazingly profound. All the intertwining lives and the little details of regular life are what make this show the most affecting show on TV.
2. Lost - ABC (1, 4)
Honestly, at this point, I have NO IDEA what's going on. But boy it sure is a fun and emotional roller coaster ride. What makes this big puzzle mystery work is that at its core, it is still about the lives and humanity of the people trapped in this netherworld.
3. Pushing Daisies - ABC (2, 2)
From the zippy dialogue, the cast that can pull it off with charm to spare, within sets and camerawork that dazzles the eyes, all the senses are working on full drive when you're watching Pushing Daisies that you can almost smell that pie baking in the oven. The mysteries are constantly surprising, the sight gags hilarious, the lines are a hoot and yet it's still romantic to boot.
4. Gavin & Stacey - BBCAmerica (New)
A romantic comedy set in a dryly depressing reality of British life. The sarcasm and the realism balance out the fantasy like romance in a show that shouldn't work but totally does. Much of the credit goes to the charming leads and hilarious sidekicks (who in real life wrote the script) and some crazy (yet strangely realistic) family characters that surround Gavin and Stacey as they make their whirlwind romance move through the paces at lightning speed.
5. 30 Rock - NBC (4, 5)
No amount of crazy can help describe how crazy 30 Rock has become and how funny it all is. The ensemble is fantastic and Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin have become an unlikely great comic duo and all the crazy stunt guest star casting has only helped enhance their rapport.
6. Mad Men - AMC (5, 10)
A deceptively intricate series that slowly reveals the layers beneath all those 1950's styles. While the men may rule the office, the women have become the heart of the show, with Peggy slowly inserting herself into the boys club, Joan (who would be ruling the office if it were present day) trying to keep her dignity and image up, and Betty finding out that the perfect picket-fenced life at home isn't all that perfect, and it all slowly pulls in the shattering effects society has managed to twist their way on everyones lives.
7. Ugly Betty - ABC (9, 3)
Sometimes the story threads meander and get too loose and they seem to throw outrageous ideas out to see what sticks, but when it does, the show sparkles with a vividly colourful energy much to the credit of some zany one-liners and a fab cast that can deliver them with pizzazz (and sometimes with jazz hands).
8. Privileged - The CW (New)
Cute and charming can usually only buy you so much respect but this show manages to outcharm everything else with a darling cast (led by the superadorablycharming JoAnna Garcia) that mixes frothy soapy stories with moral lessons that avoids condescension and banality. It may look silly and vapid on the outside, but it's deceptively clever and witty and even with all the hot cast members around, strangely wholesome in a heartwarming way.
9. So You Think You Can Dance/So You Think You Can Dance Canada - FOX/CTV (8, 11/New)
New choreographers on the American version (especially Napoleon and Tabitha) and some great guest judges/choreographers (Adam Shaknman, Andy Blankenbuehler) managed to keep things interesting as the level of dancing reached a plateau that it became hard to pick a favorite from the talented bunch. The Canadian edition surprised as well with an amazing array of dancers that were so strong that every cut was painful.
10. Chuck - NBC (12, 9)
A smart alec take on the spy show that feels fresh and fun. The spy games always have neat twists and turns, the jokes are spot on (including some great visuals including my favorite of the year: the new fro-yo store "Orange Orange") but they keep the emotions somewhere within it all so that we actually care about the characters and care about each missions outcome.
11. Gossip Girl - The CW (17, 18)
Never has watching pretty people doing very bad things felt oh so good. And in fancy smashing outfits no less!
12. Aliens in America - The CW (11, 9)
Sadly no one really bit into this biting satire of both American politics and American society and the truly underrated cast seriously milked the comedic gold from its witty and intelligent scripts. Here's hoping the show finds itself a new life on DVD and people get to discover this gem that only lasted one hilarious season.
13. Desperate Housewives - ABC (18, 20)
Even before jumping ahead 5 years, the show was getting back on track with the balance between suburban satire, black comedy and soap opera antics but the leap ahead gave the show a clean slate to play with the desperate women of Wisteria Lane and gave us a fresh new look on a show that once seemed destined for the dustbin. Maybe a little housecleaning IS all that is needed and this show proved it can be done!
14. Top Chef/Project Runway - Bravo (Not ranked/13, 14)
The drama never ends when creative types compete to be the "best" in a qualitative field. While the end of the "Christian" season might have been the end of Project Runway's high, Kenley-withstanding, I liked the recent season that may have had less "characters" but still offered up actual practical creative people to root for (go Leanne!). Meanwhile, I finally fell in love with Top Chef.
15. Bones - FOX (15, 15)
The Gorgamon twist that was rushed through because of the shortened writers-strike-affected season didn't totally gel but it didn't matter because despite the over-arching mystery that fell apart and the individual mysterious in the procedural series, the ongoing moments with the cast of characters we've grown to love on the show is what keeps this show humorous and humane.
16. The Office - NBC (14, 10)
Inconsistent at times, but when it started to come back together at the end of last season and the addition of guest Amy Ryan this season, the series was on a high again. They need to be careful with some of the crazier more unbelievable antics and remind us again that this is just a typical office in middle America so that we can relate again to our favorite office folks but at its core, they've built up enough of a base for us to love that even when the show goes off kilter, it still can be pretty funny.
17. Burn Notice - USA (7, New)
While season 2 didn't seem to have the cohesion the first season did, as Michael looked further into his own burn notice, the general light vacationy feel and sarcastic overtones makes this the sunnier male version of Veronica Mars.
18. The New Adventures of Old Christine - CBS (Not ranked, 17)
And they said the four-camera sitcom was dead. Not when they cast like this show! And not when they write funny scripts like this show!
19. Weeds - Showtime (6, 6)
The Botwins moved to the beach and got in some even bigger trouble. While the series felt a little dry at first (with no help from guest Albert Brooks who bogged down the light yet edgy feel to the show), they recovered with some help from a Mexican kingpin and his really long tunnel (what did you think I was going to say?).
20. The Big Bang Theory - CBS (Not ranked)
It may be the Sheldon show but at some point, his rapport with Penny gave the show its biggest boost in coalescing into an actual worthy comedy series. The fact that Howard and Rajesh seemed to become sidekicks of their own, and that Sheldon and Penny seemed to move onto greener pastures as friends are all bonuses.
Almost on the list (in no particular order): How I Met Your Mother, Greek, My Boys, Entourage, The Amazing Race, Everybody Hates Chris, Worst Week, The Mentalist, Eli Stone, Survivor, Men In Trees, Supernatural, Brothers & Sisters, Corner Gas
Best Mini-Series or Made for TV Movie: Britz
Best TV Mini-Series or Made for TV Movie That Wasn't Actually On TV: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
I Know I Should Have Be Watching (My bad): Battlestar Galactica, Dexter, Skins, Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Tudors, Big Love, Leverage, True Blood, The Paper, Architecture School
New Shows That Didn't Quite Hit My High Expectations At First But Was Slowly Building Its Way There:
New Shows That Turned Out Better Than Expected:
The Secret Life of An American Teenager
The Secret Diary of a Call Girl
Raising the Bar
New Shows That Turned Out Worse Than Expected:
My Own Worst Enemy
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Welcome to the Captain
New Shows That Land Right In The Middle (Shows I like but sometimes I don't know why):
The Starter Wife
Kath & Kim
Life on Mars
High School Musical: Get In The Picture
Do Not Disturb
New Shows I Didn't Even Bother Giving A Chance:
Shows That Deserved Better Deaths:
Men In Trees
Aliens In America
Back To You
Notes From The Underbelly
Shows That Might Deserve Death:
Dancing with the Stars
America's Next Top Model
Shows That Don't Deserve Death But Have Seen Better Days:
My Name Is Earl
Best of 2008 Lists:
Best of Music 2008
Best of Television 2008
Best of Stage 2008
Best of Movies 2008
Best of 2008 (The Final Wrap Up)
Best of Television Fall '07 - Winter '08 List
Previous Best-of Lists:
Best of 2007 Lists:
Best of Music 2007
Best of Television 2007
Best of Movies 2007
Best of Stage 2007
Best of 2007 (The Final Wrap Up)
Best of Television Fall '06 - Winter '07 List
Best of 2006 Lists:
Best of Music 2006
Best of Television 2006
Best of Movies 2006
Best of 2006
Best of Television Fall '05 - Winter '06 List
Best of 2005 Lists:
Best of Television 2005
Best of Movies 2005
More After the Jump...