Monday, December 08, 2008

I like things that are great. Good things are fantastic.

'Tis the season for critics of every stripe to start pumping out their annual best and worst lists. (James Poniewozik is way ahead of the curve with his lists of the top 10 shows and top 10 episodes). The Star-Ledger usually runs my list very late in the month (last year's lists of best shows and best episodes were published Dec. 28, and I don't think we have a firm date for this year's yet), so that gives me extra time to ruminate, and to accept outside input.

Feel free to suggest either a series, or a special, or an episode of something. You may not be able to convince me to include, say, "Kath & Kim," but you might jog my memory on something that I had forgotten or overlooked.


Anonymous said...

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin deserves major props.

And so does Lost for letting us actually see them get off of the island with 2 whole seasons left in the series. I know everyone thought we wouldn't see an actual rescue until the finale, but watching them trying to get back to the island opens up a lot more story possibilities.

Kaitlin said...

My favorite summer show this year was Middleman, I had forgotten it until it made "The Watcher's" honorable mentioned and I think it might have been the best comedy of the year.
I think How I Met Your Mother came back from the strike strong and has been strong this fall as well. (glad its also up in the ratings.)
And suprisingly the best show of the new season for me was Life on Mars. I expected it to be horrible after what I had heard from the leaked pilot and all the back stage issues. But I think it holds up next to the original and was the one show that I was really looking forward to every week.

Bobman said...

Wow, the Time "Top 10 Shows" is actually surprisingly solid, close to what mine would be for this year (if I watched the Shield and/or Wire... I know, I know).

Chuck and Mad Men are definitely my standouts, both of whom took what should have been a major sophomore slump and somehow elevated their respective games.

Jack said...

Yesyesyes! I completely agree with Mr. James Poniewozik. The Constant is the single greatest hour of television in 2008.

Gladly said...

I'm glad that TIME included an episode of 30 Rock on their list, but I would have picked "Succession" over "Cooter." The whole Mozart/Salieri B-story, Liz going corporate, Dr. Spaceman calling 411 for "I don't know . . . Diabetes repair?" That might be the best episode of the entire series so far.

Anonymous said...

UGH, the Time Top 10 Episode list gives a summary of the final episode, without any spoiler warnings.

Maybe I should have known better than to look at the list but I hadn't watched the season yet!

Nicole said...

No Dexter on the Time list? Granted, season two wasn't as good as season 1, but the next-to-last episode (because Doakes is way more interesting than Lilah) was phenomenal.

Nicole said...

Also, can I nominate Parking Wars? That sh** is funny!

dez said...

If you don't put "Middleman" on your list, I'll sic Ida on you. Don't forget "Breaking Bad," either :-)

I'd nominate "Kyle XY," but I know y'all will just laugh at me.

Amanda said...

I'd like to nominate something that I know you haven't watched, but you should - Episode 4.03 of Supernatural, "In The Beginning." Every actor in that episode, from the regulars to the guest stars, was at the top of his or her game. The two actors cast as the young parents were cast particularly well, and Mitch Pileggi rocked the house as the show's main antagonist, the Yellow-Eyed Demon. Supernatural often comes up in lists of "The Best Show(s) Nobody's Watching" for a reason. I know it's a genre show on the CW with two pretty-boy actors and a hot car, but that doesn't mean it can't have moments of artistic excellence.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to say ditto on Amanda's nomination.

Susan said...

My best series of 2008:

Mad Men
30 Rock
Lost (wow, what a comeback from the awful first 3/4 of season three!)
Army Wives (a guilty pleasure, but there's no better one on tv right now.)

Bix said...

Law & Order deserves mention for finally turning things around and becoming a good show again thanks to an overhauled cast, a switch to relatively low-key writing, and some minor production changes like the new camera angles and cold opening format where we see the victim before the murder.

Hyde said...

Nicole, season two of Dexter ended in December 2007.

I hope The Middleman gets some love in these season-ending lists, since it is doomed to be forgotten otherwise.

I agreed with much in Poniewozik's lists, but if I had to single out one Mad Men episode from this past season, it would be "Six Month Leave."

Anonymous said...

Best of 2008:

Battlestar Galactica
Burn Notice
Friday Night Lights (not sure if this counts for 2008 or 2009 because of the loopy airing schedules)
& Life and Times of Tim (check this out on HBO. Definitely the best new comedy of the year)

Anonymous said...

Any list that doesn't have "Late Editions" (The Wire) or "Family Meeting" (The Shield) numbers 1 & 2is list that isn't worth reading.

Bobman said...

I hope The Middleman gets some love in these season-ending lists, since it is doomed to be forgotten otherwise.

Ah, great call. That show was so bloody clever. I actually got a few people to start watching that show just in time for it to be canceled. Hooray useless word of mouth campaigning.

Pamela Jaye said...

Wow! people signed up to to comment on last years. That's impressive.

Grey's was getting better till Denny came along. Sadly, with the demise of Boston Legal, there will only remain one Denny on TV to be a joke.

Chuck, as you mentioned last year, and Mad Men are awesome. And I really like The Big Bang Theory

i think you also really liked Amy Poehler rapping (still holding on the DVR)

Anonymous said...

whoops. Can't believe I forgot the Wire. Seems like last year already.

Pamela Jaye said...

Also, I'M REALLY OOPS liking Life on Mars. After the pre-req "Oh it's the 70s!" they did some of the running into my mother/long lost father stories that I found touching. Of course I'm a sap.

you could probably say that seeing far less of Meredith whining over Derek is good ;-)

In the new Scrubs promos, they've found a way to skewer NBC with "better" without saying it's "gone to a better place"
alas, it's not there yet.

The ep of Chuck where he wins the arcade game was really good, as I recall.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I should say, by the way, that, unlike Poniewozik, I'm going to try to avoid overlap between the Best Shows and Best Episodes lists, just to bring in more variety, and because I'll likely be alluding to the best moments of the best series within their own list. It's a different way to deal with the "best of the rest," I suppose, but it worked out pretty well last year.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a difficult viewer, I give a chance to everything to make it's mark on me. This last year, I really enjoy trying to figure out Generation Kill and feeling the frustration of the men in combat.

Anonymous said...


Poniewozik's list includes several web-only products. I'm just curious how much time you've spent looking at web based series stuff. Not just one-offs like Dr. Horrible, but stuff that's vaguely series-like -- like Felicia Day's _The Guild_, David Wain's _Wainy Days_, or anything from the folks and _Channel 101_ or _Channel 101:NY_. Regardless of whether or not you ever write about it, I was just wondering if you watch any of it.

Synner_man said...

I think Doctor Who's 4th season was pretty strong, managing to tie up all of the previous seasons in a great finale.

LA said...

For me, the best episode of Mad Men was The Mountain King. I loved seeing Don under the tutelage of a nurturing woman; hell, I loved seeing Don be Dick Whitman. Peggy winning the Popsicle account and getting her own office. The stockholders meeting of Sterling Cooper voting to sell the company to PPL. Pete throwing a turkey off his balcony. It's all good.

aimee said...

I nominate Chuck for best show and HIMYM's "The Naked Man" for best episode.

dez said...

For a miniseries, how about "Jekyll"? Or does it not count because it aired in the UK first?

"Burn Notice" came back with a very strong second season (and Jeffrey Donovan continues his man-of-many-accents bit in "Changeling"). Plus, it has Bruce Campbell. What's not to like? :-)

Elena said...

I think you should consider Ugly Betty, as this season is much improved over last year when they seemed to go off the cliff with Wilhemina gone from Mode, Betty with the baby drama, and murdering Mama Meade on the run. This year its back to sweet basics, poignant and funny.

Fav Mad Men episode this year has to be the last episode, with the Cuban Missile Crisis, the SP takeover, and the bittersweet reconciliation between Don and Betty.

dave s said...

I assume this is a calendar year list, so the Wire has to be at or near the top.

My dark horse would be Chuck for #1 and the Venture Bros. for inclusion. TVB is one of the smartest, most creative shows on television, and it rarely gets its due. It's quite a few steps above other Cartoon Network/Adult Swim nonsense (fun nonsense, but TVB shouldn't be lumped in with its brethren).

Alan Sepinwall said...

I assume this is a calendar year list, so the Wire has to be at or near the top.

Calendar year, yes, and I suspect I'll find room for "The Wire" somewhere in there.

Grunt said...

Although it is winding down (Boooo!) I think Pushing Daisies should get a shout-out. It's a beautifully filmed, terrifically acted piece which I will truly miss.

Anonymous said...

The Wire- has to be 1. Everyone is jockin The Shield, but The Wire has to be 1.

2 The Shield

3 Mad Men

4 Lost

5 Brotherhood- so slept on its pitiful

6 The Office

7 30 Rock


9 Sons of Anarchy

10 True Blood

anna said...

My favorite episode(s)of anything this year were "House's Head/Wilson's Heart" on House. Pity the show became unwatchable in season 5 (I finally gave up last week). Best series: Mad Men.

Anonymous said...

the shield. the shield. the shield.

Master Prudent said...

I thought the doctor was hugely uneven again but could probably make the best of the rest with the very low key but chilling "Midnight".

btw I thought the finale, outside of Donna's heartbreaking fate, was the very worst of the season.

Anonymous said...

It's not technically a "series," but the best reason for keeping HBO this year was its twelve-week summer run of documentaries.

Films like "The Recruiter," "Ganja Queen," and "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" were powerful and provocative. Several times, I went online after the movies to learn more.

Nicole said...

In Treatment was on the list and should be brought up here. I also agree with the Middleman, Chuck, Mad Men and BSG.

I think the second Season of the Tudors was also better than the first, but I don't know if I would put it top 10.

bill said...

Other than "30 Rock," the only other show that makes me laugh out loud on a consistent basis is "Whatever, Martha" on the Fine Living Channel. Hysterical.

belinda said...

Best shows (I think):

Mad Men
The Shield
The Wire
30 Rock
Battlestar Galactica
Pushing Daisies
Flight of the Conchords
Friday Night Lights (does it count for season 3 given it's only on direct TV, and that I didn't think season 2 would deserve to be on the list?)
The Office

Awesome moments: (hard not to overlap though...!)

Mad Men: Peggy and Pete's confession to each other in the finale. Though, obviously, lots to choose from this season.

Lost: Desmond finding his constant.

Breaking Bad: Bad Ass Walter moment when he negotiated/blew up with the bad guys and got back his money.

Pushing Daisies : Olive's rendition of Eternal Flame. I found the scene to be breathtakingly perfect.

BSG: Earth. Beautiful and poignant shot.

Flight of the Conchords: Their first break into song moment with the most beautiful girl in the room. Sets up the tone for the rest of the series.

The Shield: Vic in the finale.

Late Night with Conan: Stewart, Colbert and O'Brien's faux fight during the strike. Kind of awesome.

The Wire: I'm still trying to decide. :)

SNL: OK, perhaps not one of the best moments on TV this year, but I could not stop laughing at last weekend's J*** in my pants digital short.

Dr. Horrible: Dr. Horrible.

Some possible considerations not as show related, but probably had a ton of viewers:
-Phelps winning his gezillion gold medals during the olympics
-Election night
-incessant watching of CNBC/Bloomberg as Bear Stearns, then Lehman, AIG, and the rest of Wall street come crashing down.

Hyde said...

My favorite moment of the year was from The Wire: the look that came over McNulty's face when he realized that the FBI profile of the fake serial killer was in fact a profile of HIM.

belinda said...

I just realized that Flight of the Conchords didn't air this year. So scracth those off the list. :D

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

Seriously, and this is not a political statement, the most awesome moment on television this year was when the networks called Obama's victory and went live to Grant Park.

Ben Silverman and his ilk can only dream of creating television that real and exciting.

Anthony Foglia said...

Again, my memory tends to blur together, but I'd have to say Conan during the strike. Like Letterman during the '80's strike, Conan was forced to do looser comedy bits, interacting with the public, like taking the audience on a tour of the studio, or annoying NBC pages leading tour groups around, etc. And it lead into one of the best "series" of the year, the war over who "made" Mike Huckabee, and a two channel, three show no-holds-barred showdown.

Other possibilities:
"Mad Men" "The Mountain King"
"The Shield", the final episodes. Either Shane trying to leave the Barn as Vic finds out he ordered the hit on Ronnie, or (even better) Vic owning up to all his crimes in exchange for immunity.
The two minute date from "How I Met Your Mother"
"House M.D.": "Frozen". Great episode seeing House almost admit to feeling emotions for someone despite (or more likely because of) the distance between them. Much better House-in-love than the recent junior-high antics with Cuddy. Plus it brought back Cutthroat Bitch as Wilson's girlfriend, and started a run of great episodes to end the season.

Rachel said...

Top Shows:
Mad Men
30 Rock
The Office
The Middleman
The Wire
Daily Show - Stewart was on a whole new level through the endless primary and general election.
SNL - for its unique relevancy, if not it's consistency.

Top "Episodes":
* SNL hosted by Anne Hathaway -- had the VP debate sketch and several other memorable ones.
* HIMYM - The Naked Man -- the Man, the maneuver, and the 50 reasons list. Perfection in 22 minutes.
* Lost - The Constant
* Olympics (tie) -- the night of the 4 x 100 relay when US had that amazing comeback, and Michael Phelps' equally thrilling and improbable comeback in the 100 butterfly.
* FNL - Leave No One Behind (though from what I hear, FNL may have even stronger episodes this year)
* The Colbert Christmas Special
* BSG - Revelations
* Mad Men - Mediations in an Emergency. The Peggy/Pete scene is still with me.
* Letterman that night John McCain skipped out on his show. The anger was palpable. The comedy was gold.
* I will echo the suggestions for Obama's amazing election night speech. It was clearly the most memorable TV moment in 2008. Obama's speech really delivered.

Elena said...

A nomination for best episode--Boston Legal's Thanksgiving epi. It had drama, Denny's emerging Alzheimer's, pathos-Denny's in vain love for Shirley and Jerry's realization that no matter what he achieves, people will still view him as a freak. Also of course, comedy, as in the whole gang watching the marriage proposal, and the constantly interupted dinner. And poignant, as in the Shirley, Denny, Alan moment about the Alzheimer's, Shirley missing her dad, and Alan saying this was the Thanksgiving (big squabbling family) he'd always dreamed of.

Matthew L said...

...I'd have to say Conan during the strike. ... And it lead into one of the best "series" of the year, the war over who "made" Mike Huckabee, and a two channel, three show no-holds-barred showdown.

I had forgotten about that, but you're absolutely right. The Colbert/Stewart/Conan conflict was really great television. In fact, as a viewer, it almost made the strike worth it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Late Night with Conan: Stewart, Colbert and O'Brien's faux fight during the strike. Kind of awesome.

Now this is why I do posts like this. Because while I remembered Conan's ring-spinning escapades, I had completely forgotten about the "I made Mike Huckabee" feud.

cgeye said...

Megadittoes on THE MIDDLEMAN (esp. the mirror universe one); TVB (solid from SHADOWMAN 9 onward, but plain awesome with ORB and the Brock's in trouble arc); MAD MEN (Mountain King, yes, but also the episodes when Jimmy Barrett tore Betty's playhouse down, and she dealt at last with the truth of her marriage) -- well, should I be guilty that so few of these episodes I like were on network?

cgeye said...

Oh, and Grant Park was meh to me. Obama's good at staging things.

What rocked me? the You Tubed gathering at the White House that night, with people singing 'na na na na, hey hey hey, GOODBYE' outside the gates and not getting hosed or shot or arrested or anything. Now *that's* change I can believe in.

Oh, and Walter's new crystals in BREAKING BAD? That's a killer change of a man, and I hope next year brings more.

Mara said...

Super Bowl XLII - it was exciting, the half time show was pretty entertaining and oh yeah, the good guys won in the end.

Andrew said...

For series:
1. The Wire
2. Lost
3. BSG
4. Mad Men
5. The Daily Show & The Colbert Report
6. Chuck
7. The Office
8. 30 Rock
9. The Olympics

For moments:
1. Tina Fey as Gov. Palin with Amy Poehler as Hilary Clinton on SNL
2. Giants winning the Super Bowl
3. Conan/Colbert/Stewart making Huckabee during the strike (overlap with TDS/Colbert on the series list wold be acceptable since these were essentially different shows during the strike)
4. HIMYM, "The Naked Man"
5. House, "House's Head/Wilson's Heart"

Anonymous said...

Alan, have you ever thought of a best TV non-episode/series column - Peyton Manning commercials, the entire Giants superbowl run (starting with the loss to the Patriots), the election...