Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Help me write my column, part 793

Thanks for all the Festivus suggestions, folks. That story's going to run on Friday (though Festivus doesn't officially begin until Saturday). Now I'm moving on to the flip side: my year-end Top 10 list, which will run late next week.

Because there were so many good new programs this year (series, miniseries, even movies), and because so many Top 10 perennials had their best seasons to date, I decided to do two lists to spread the wealth, one for returning shows, one for stuff that was new in '06.

I feel quite confident in the returning shows list, even though I had to cheat and include 12 shows on it (it'll seem less like cheating when you read it), but I can't shake the nagging feeling that I'm leaving something or somethings off the new list. I've talked to a few other critics, but we're all in that late December burn-out stage where we can barely remember what we wrote about for November sweeps, let alone going all the way back to January. (I definitely understand why so many Oscar nominees get released in late fall/early winter.)

So I want to open up the floor to see if anyone can jog my memory on something obviously deserving. What were some of your favorite newbies of 2006, be they show, mini, movie, special, what have you? I'm sure you can guess a few of my picks based on the contents of this blog, but I'll leave it vague beyond that for now.


Anonymous said...

I'm guessing these are already on your list, but among new series, my picks'd be "Friday Night Lights," "Dexter," "Ugly Betty," "Heroes" and, increasingly, "30 Rock." It seems to have improved more than those others (which, granted, were all good out of the box). Perhaps "Big Love" too, and (new to these shores, anyway) "Life on Mars."

In the movie/miniseries category, you gotta have "When the Levees Broke" in there. And maybe the final "Prime Suspect" and the "Cracker" movie.

Eric said...

Two of my favorite new shows of the year aren't available in the US yet- The IT Crowd and Torchwood.

As for possibly overlooked in the States - Eureka.

Toby O'B said...

I'll second 'Eureka'. I'm thinking 'The Lost Room' is recent enough to already be in consideration for mini-series. And I'll suggest 'Kyle XY' in case it was too far back to be remembered.

SJ said...

1) The Wire
2) Dexter
3) Deadwood
4) Battlestar Galactica
5) The Shield
6) The Sopranos
7) Sleeper Cell
8) Rescue Me (somewhat disappointing season, though still massively entertaining at itmes)

1) The Office
2) Weeds
3) Scrubs
4) 30 Rock
5) Earl
6) Robot Chicken

R.A. Porter said...

I'll third Eureka. I also liked Psych as a light-hearted companion piece for Monk. A good Canadian pilot (that the foolish networks up north passed on) that came down here as a movie on the USA Network was Underfunded.

Anonymous said...

I commented earlier this morning in the SNL post. I mentioned "Campus Ladies" which recently saw season two start on Oxygen. Season one was a pretty short season, but don't let the lack of episodes stop anyone from watching this show. I use the dreaded line "laugh out loud funny" to describe the show, but it fits.

There are too many guest stars (every episode now!) but they don't get in the way of the comedy, which always features three or four really hearty laughs for every 22 minutes.

When describing it to friends I've gone out on a limb and said it's as funny as "The Office." They look at me quizically and I convince them I'm not joking. I've yet to really read any serious mentions of "Campus Ladies" when talking about the past year in TV, and I have no idea why it's below everyone's radar.

Anonymous said...

Favorites of the new-in-2006 are definitely "FNL" and the sweet-natured "Ugly Betty."

My interest in "Big Love" waned about halfway through, although points for Chloe Sevigny's performance and the character herself. Nikki is not someone I've met on TV before;everybody else on that show pretty much is. Also points to "Big Love" for using "God Only Knows" as the theme song. Is that song's refrain-to-fadeout absolutely THE most gorgeous slice of 60's pop music? Just lovely.

This is not a best necessarily, but for me it was notable: The launch of The Discovery Channel's big, glossy "ATLAS" series, which was not so much a travelogue as a snapshot of cultures. It was nice to see that network attempting to retake an educational mission.

Anonymous said...

Please don't forget The Brotherhood. I second the vote for The lost Room.

Old favorites: Rescue Me, Entourage and Weeds.

and show some love for The Sopranos, Grey's Anatomy and Law and Order:CI

Sara Anne said...

I'd also go with 'Big Love' and maybe 'Dexter' as well for new ones...

Returning: The Wire, Deadwood, Lost, 24, Weeds, Rescue Me...

Anonymous said...

New: FNL, 30 ROCK, Heroes, DEXTER and Happy Hour (kidding).

Returning: BSG, Deadwood, Wire, Sopranos, HIMYM, OFFICE and the OC (for comeback).

No to Grey's, LOST, and VM which slipped this season.

And definite NO to STUDIO 60 ugh.

rukrusher said...

My Best of the year




Rescue Me

The Closer


South Park


Colbert Report

Anonymous said...

How about 'life on mars'? definitely one of my favourite new shows this year.

Anonymous said...

Heroes is definetely the best new show of the season, with Ugly Betty a close second.

Are you going to do another column for the worst shows of 2006? Because I can think of a lot of those as well.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I don't do a traditional worst-of list, just the Festivus thing.

And don't forget: this isn't just a Best of Fall 2006 list, but something for the entire year. The Loop, for instance, keeps dancing on and off the tail end of the list, and that premiered back in March.

SJ said...

"Heroes is definitely the best new show of the season."

I recommend watching Dexter...I have a feeling that you'll change your opinion. Heroes is ok so far, but I don't think I'll watch a 2nd season if it keeps on going like this. More Hiro please!

And thanks for reminding me about South Park and Brotherhood. How could I forget those?? Great year for Showtime wasn't it?

dark tyler said...

High School Musical! Or should I say... Emmy Award-winning High School Musical? (LOL)

For those keeping score at home, that's, yes, yes, that's HSM 2 Emmy wins, The Wire none. It never gets old. Sigh.

My top-5 for 2006 would be something like (in that order) The Shield, Deadwood, The Wire, Battlestar Galactica and Grey's Anatomy. The next 5 would be 24, Scrubs, The Office and Veronica Mars (definitely) and probably Gilmore Girls on the strength of the much-reviled back half of Season 6, which I loved.

For best new show, I'm gonna go with Ugly Betty, Friday Night Lights and Studio 60 in no particular order. If I include miniseries, specials and tvmovies, then Spike Lee's Levees definately make the top-5, with Lost Room or HSM joining them. Eureka would probably be in the 10, also. Sadly no Dexter as I've yet to find some time for it, but I'm sure it'll be up there as soon as I do.

Remember last year? With no Wire and Deadwood? And with the only worthwile new shows being midseason replacements from 2004-2005? I think that 2006 was a far better year for TV in every possible way.

Anonymous said...

i'm currently into my boys, ugly betty and 30 rock for new series...

the office, the oc, desperate housewives for returning shows.

grey's and lost have been completely meh.

R.A. Porter said...

Alan, thanks for the love for The Loop. I'd almost forgotten "The Rusty Trombone"! Back on the air in a few short weeks too, I see.

At least some of us love it. Not so much Paul Shirley and his sour grapes:

I've seen one of those shows -- "The Loop." It is [insert curse word ending in -ing] awful. The primer I would give to those who have never watched it -- which is most everyone -- would be that the show has no real continuity, point of view or plot line. Instead, it provides sensory overload in a manner reminiscent of how one would use television to stimulate great apes to attack one another. It is not much more advanced than random flashing lights on a TV screen.

Toby O'B said...

Thanks for jogging my memory on 'The Loop', and I really am slipping to have forgotten 'Psych'. And I'll join Manuel in praising 'Life On Mars'.

I think 'Murder City' was first run in America this year, but I could be wrong on that. A pretty good procedural.

And for movies, the two-part "Casanova" which showed up on 'Masterpiece Theatre' gets my vote. (I hope the fact that it premiered in England last year doesn't disqualify it from consideration.)

Anonymous said...

Favorite new shows of the year? The Loop and Heroes. The Loop gave me some of the biggest belly laughs I've had in years. Bret Harrison's facial expressions send me into stitches every time, as does Philip Baker Hall's wizened CEO schtick. Added props to Joy Osmanski as the deadpan secretary.

Heroes is a difficult beast; on the one hand, it's got writers I normally shy away from- Tim Kring, Bryan Fuller, Jeph Loeb- but on the other, it's fun. It's got a great cast who really throw themselves into the work, and it made Jack Coleman cool again. Who knew? They might drop the ball, but I'm counting the days till January, so it must have worked. Studio 60 I've enjoyed, more for what it could be than what it is.

Psych took a premise that sounds incredibly annoying and turned it into a fun, lighthearted, yet well executed detective series. Underfunded was a flawed but deeply weird pilot about the Canadian Secret Service ("Yes, WE DO HAVE ONE!") that deserves a shot at a series.

Best not new shows? Deadwood, of course.

I'm also going to break with the conventional wisdom and give some love to The Sopranos this year. The meandering, character focused plots this season didn't really tell us anything about Christopher, Artie, Tony et al that we don't already completely know, but they've stuck with me these past few months and grown richer in my mind. Chase is obviously spinning his wheels, yeah, but... I liked it alot overall. So many memorable moments, like Artie's war with Benny. Dream Tony sitting on the bed while the opening strings of "When it's Cold I'd Like to Die" start playing. Tony Blundetto at the Finnerty family reunion. "We could have it all, Phil." The shocking cliffhanger to the season premiere. Christopher's serious backsliding, with a lingerie clad Julianna Margulies no less. Tony smashing the windshield with the football helmet to get A.J. to step in line. The horrific murder of Rusty. Phil coming out of the closet- literally. Johnny Sack's wedding breakdown and Tony's brutal response to it. The parts definitely exceed the whole, but what a meal it was.

The Office continues to be funny and insightful in a way the BBC version never quite could be. Nearly every episode there's a scene where I say to myself, "Whoa, did that just really happen?"

Robot Chicken's second season didn't quite have the shock of the new that season 1 did, but still had some powerfully funny stuff. The animated version of "Weasel Stomping Day", Fidel Castro playing Dance Dance Revolution, Mario and Luigi go to Vice City, and so many moments where I was gobsmacked that they actually got the actor to do the voice of the thing they're making fun of.

And the sketch about Emperor Palpatine getting a call from Darth Vader about the Death Star exploding is incredible. "Do you have ANY IDEA what this is going to do to my credit???"

Mapeel said...

A dark horse candidate: AMC's Hustle. I love its spirit and cast.

Anonymous said...

For me, it was Kidnapped. *This* is how to write one of those shows, folks. It's also a textbook on how to act and how to pace a scene.

The show was, of course, savagely screwed by the network. I refused to watch those final 8 streamed into a small box on my monitor while I sat at my desk. I eagerly await the release of the DVD set, which I will snap up on the day of release.

Besides its deserving quality, its presence on a published ten best list would be a small kick in the 'nads to the network.


Anonymous said...

SONS & DAUGHTERS was improving greatly and had a terrific cast.
If it's considered this year

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the "Bleak House" miniseries from back in February.

Looking at 2006 as a whole, top 5 returning shows (w/o HBO and Showtime in my case):
1. Veronica Mars
2. Invasion
3. 24
4. How I Met Your Mother
5. Grey's Anatomy

If you just want this season, add in The O.C. and House.

Top 5 new shows:
1. Heroes
2. Ugly Betty
3. 30 Rock
4. Psych
5. My Boys

I liked Eureka at first, but I lost track of it when the new season started and never went back. It seemed to have more potential than it actually delivered on.

Anonymous said...

I know you don't watch, but Project Runway is honestly one of the best reality shows ever. Of course, the fact that this season's villain was also the winner is more appropriate for the Festivus list, but it's a great show nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

I know this is a longshot for the list, but how about The View with Rosie O'Donnell? Love her or hate her, she's breathed new life into a dying show. And the fact that she helped get Star Jones off of tv and out of the public eye is cause for celebration.

Adam said...

I'll just throw in some seconds to ones you might not be listing -- to Project Runway, The Colbert Report, and, because it really is *that* good, High School Musical. Get your head in the game, Alan.

Anonymous said...

I second eyebrown's nomination of "Kidnapped," and you know I love "Dexter," "Ugly Betty" and "Heroes."

For old shows, how about this season of "Survivor"? It was by far one of the best ever, IMHO, and deserves a slot on your list (but after "The Wire," "24" and "Deadwood," of course). I'll also throw in votes for HIMYM and "Robot Chicken" (though "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" remains my favorite Adult Swim entry) :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, and I also second the nomination for "Kyle XY" for Top 10 best new shows. I loved it and I can hardly wait until the second season (er, there will be a second season, right?).

Taleena said...

I'll say it since no one else will:

Survivor exceeded all expectations this last go around.

Heroes for being entertaining and not too serious.

Rome from away back in January.

BSG, Torchwood, Doctor Who, House.

Anonymous said...

Here are some shows I haven't seen mentioned that were also good (or at least good for what they were):

The 4400
The Book of Daniel
Brothers & Sisters
Men in Trees
Love Monkey
So Notorious

Anonymous said...

Arrested Development actually aired this year too. Sure, it was only five total episodes, four on one night, but they were still funnier than almost anything else on TV.

My final (top 11) list:
1. The Wire
2. Deadwood
3. The Office
4. Arrested Development
5. The Sopranos
6. America's Next Top Model
7. Friday Night Lights
8. Veronica Mars
9. House
10. Gilmore Girls
11. Survivor