The Year That Was: TV 2006-2007
I may very well be watching less television next season, not because TV is bad or the devil, but because in the next year I need to do more things for me. Watching TV and keeping up with all the new shows is actually a big commitment, regardless of whether you have Tivo and can watch TV on your own terms. It still requires your time.
This year, I realized what shows were must-watch and what shows I was just watching out of habit. Sometimes I would actually sigh when I started up the new episode of 24. I knew it wasn't going to be an hour I considered well spent. I gravitated more and more to comedy. Comedy is my favorite genre, even though my two favorite shows of the year were not. But I can watch comedies all day--The Sunday Fox animation block, yes, including American Dad which seemingly no one likes except me (of course, I was once one of those guys who watched Family Guy when no one liked it, too). The NBC Thursday shows are all winners, especially The Office and newcomer 30 Rock, which complemented returning seasons of Scrubs and My Name Is Earl nicely.
Despite my comedy fixation, this year's must-see shows narrowed down to two dramas that appeared on Wednesday night. Friday Night Lights and Lost were programs I felt like I needed to watch when they aired. There was no way my VCR was going to screw up these shows, however unlikely that was.
Friday Night Lights came with all sorts of critical acclaim before it aired, and this kind of praise many times backfires, as in the case of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was offered up as the can't-miss hit of the season. FNL was not only one of the best dramas of the season, it was one of the best you'll ever see. The issues the show tackled, with some of the best actors (newcomers and relative unknowns) performing in a jaw-droppingly real fashion, kept me rapt for its entire run. It's being renewed, but it's not like anyone (except me and a handful of others) gives a damn. Hopefully DVD will be kind to this show and people will make it a hit. We need more shows like it.
And a fine return to form for Lost, which had a decent Season 2 but followed up with this year's fastest hour, where the island dynamics changed, answers on top of answers (with more intriguing questions!), and one of the best season finales ever. It was actually a very historical moment in television, where the producers gave us one of the biggest answers the show could possibly give us, but then do it in such a way that we will be scratching our heads until February as to what it all means. With the end of the show in sight in three seasons, 16 episodes each, this show will not fall into the trap that the other serials in which it is always compared fell.
So, of those two shows, which did I prefer. I rank them, along with the other top shows, here:
2. Friday Night Lights
3. 30 Rock
4. The Office
Yeah, NBC was a big winner with me this year, and had a chance for more if Studio 60 could have delivered. At the beginning of its run, 30 Rock was pretty atrocious. An article in Entertainment Weekly suggested that with Tina Fey's pregnancy, her leaving Saturday Night Live, and all the commotion with the new show (like the, thank God, casting of Jane Krakowski over Rachel Dratch), that those first episodes suffered. But I kept giving it a chance, knowing the ability of Fey's writing chops to deliver, and boy did it ever. It became Arrested Development funny for most of the rest of the season. Having Alec Baldwin certainly upped the entertainment factor.
The Office didn't have its best season, but it still delivered consistent laughs. The show winningly opened up for the supporting cast to shine more, and added funny new regulars like Ed Helms and Rashida Jones. I think guys like Brian Baumgartner and Craig Robinson stole this season from most of the performers, while Rainn Wilson continues to be one of the funniest guys around.
Heroes wasn't a perfect season, and that finale was a little bit of a letdown (I repeat, a little). But in its first season it offered up many great moments, some cool action, and a new favorite: Masi Oka as Hiro Nakamura, who was destined to be the show's mascot since before it aired. The show had way too many characters, though. And yeah, no matter how "important" they were, Ali Larter, her split personality, and her family situation dragged the show down anytime it appeared. But with the finale's revelations, it looks like the show is ready to hit top gear, and this season was always a fun ride no matter the flaws.
How I Met Your Mother continued to be one of the funniest shows no one was watching, and it would fit neatly into a sixth place. Neil Patrick Harris might be the funniest person on TV; his Barney character is perfect. Josh Radnor finally had some funny lines and wasn't moping about. More I think about it, it probably should go in the top 5, tied with Heroes.
With a seventh place, I would have put House in that spot. The show delved deeper into House's addiction to drugs and how it affects his staff, and I thought it had a nice payoff in the end. Still, they need to get out of the rut of sameness and start playing with the format like they did a couple of times in the first two seasons.
Hotties. You know I can't stop talking about the hotties. Every year I mention all of the new ones that I fell for, but this year I'm going to pick one from each show and live with the decision. I could go on and on about every babe in Friday Night Lights, but I'm going to have to make a decision. Here we go, in no particular order:
Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights.
I fell absolutely, totally in love with Connie Britton this year. The 39-year-old actress has been sorely misused over her career, especially in last season's first few episodes of 24. She had FNL's best scenes, is just a radiant presence, and I choose her over every single other hottie that the show has to offer.
Melora Hardin, The Office.
The Office gave Melora Hardin more to do this year by becoming the unlikely girlfriend of Steve Carell's Michael Scott. She's super funny and pretty. Another 39-year-old (soon to be 40). I guess I likes 'em seasoned, especially this year. She barely beat out Rashida Jones. But hey, I had to make the tough pick.Tina Fey, 30 Rock.
I've always found Fey gorgeous and absolutely dead-on hilarious. Her writing is sharp, playing with the big boys. Hell, she's better than most of the big boys. One of the funniest moments on TV this year was on 30 Rock when she "dolled up" for her writing staff, looking absolutely stunning, but the writers didn't react the way she thought...Judah Friedlander made the winning quip: You're makin' me gay! She's 37. Do I have any younger gals I like?
She wasn't on very long, but the shape-shifting Candice Wilmer, played by 24-year-old Missy Peregrym, was a fascinating character who was, of course, super hot. Peregrym's most-known work before this was the little-seen Stick It, but I'm sure we'll see more of her in the future.
Marisol Nichols, 24.
Marisol Nichols, 33, was one of the best reasons to watch 24 this year. Her character was fairly strong, and she did a decent job with it, but I'm afraid it's merely hotness here that is responsible for getting her on the list. Which brings me to:
Haley Scarnato, American Idol.
Yep, as the saying goes, "Use 'em if you got 'em." In this case, thems be the legs, which helped the 24-year-old to make it fairly far into the competition bad performance after bad performance. After awhile, a great many of these performers when they hit the top 12 somehow make you forget how they got there in the first place.
24 absolutely had its worst season this year, and there are very few fans of the show who would argue. Just one hour of boring sameness every week. The producers of the show say a format change is coming up, but considering my wish for more time in the next year, it may not make the cut to be a must-see show.
Prison Break fell hard after a great season premiere. And it just got into whatever-ville as it progressed (regressed). The season finale left with some sort of odd cliffhanger that suggests some sort of Fight Club-esque new challenge. Welcome to Whatever-Ville. It won't make the cut.
American Idol, now that contestants have five seasons of do's and don'ts to use as a guide, becomes more boring every year. Many applauded the risks runner-up Blake Lewis took, but notice how the focus was on the risks rather than the singing, which was always just, "eh." I think singers should play to win every single week, and even the best singer of the competition, Melinda Doolittle, was so uniformly excellent she never really stood out enough as someone trying to win both a singing and a popularity contest. This almost didn't make the cut this year, but it most definitely won't next year.
Shows not making the cut this year:
Jericho started off intriguing, seemed destined to be a growing hit for CBS, but well before its long hiatus which many point to as the death of the show, I left it. Not because it wasn't quality, but because my time, I felt, was being wasted. Yeah, realistically, people who live in a small town after most of the country's big cities have apparently been nuked will have to go through a lot of the stuff the people in this show did: searching for supplies, wondering what's going on in the world, dealing with criminals, etc. But I just wanted the show to proceed to the "What the hell happened?" part, giving us little by little and having us beg for more by the end.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip had a good shot of being a great new show. It's just when you put two protagonists who are supposed to be the savior of an institution much like Saturday Night Live, you expect them to come up with some funny stuff. But as is, Aaron Sorkin couldn't come up with much funnier stuff than most sketch shows can come up with, and so our heroes didn't look as great as they were being told they were in the show. That wasn't my only problem. The characters weren't all that interesting, the relationships just got to be boring, and it never intrigued.
The Nine, before it was cancelled, was actually asking viewers to wait for answers of something that occurred over 48 hours during a bank heist. Intriguing movie premise, but certainly not something anyone could possibly expect to watch for a duration of seasons.
I watched Fox's The Winner, starring Rob Corddry, and it was decent. But will we ever see it again? Well, I don't care if I don't see it again, but if it came back and was thrown into the middle of the Sunday lineup, I wouldn't protest. Same thing with CBS's The Class. Never super-funny, but hit a stride towards the end and was a decent time-waster. And Numbers I still watch, but it probably won't make the cut next year. It had a fairly shocking season finale, but with all the themes it brought up and didn't pay off, I'm a little weary of it.
Didn't watch once:
Ugly Betty, or Desperate Housewives, or Grey's Anatomy, or any incarnation of CSI or Law & Order. And I've probably said that several times over the years. They compete with other shows that I find much better. After American Idol loses its place as a must-see show next season, I may not have any "reality" shows on my radar. Reality shows just piss me off nowadays.
So what of my TV-watching next year? I have to wait for Lost until February, and several of the shows that I watch are going to be in limbo or may not even return: Friday Night Lights, Scrubs, How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock are all on the chopping block either for their potential return next season or, should ratings not improve, be gone by midseason. I almost have to think Scrubs, now showing in syndication, will get a return for a final season next year, since NBC is making money in that area of a show that is consistently low-rated. We know FNL has been renewed, but how long it stays on the air will be another thing.
Meanwhile, I do have solid return shows: Lost, Heroes, The Office, and I'll still make time for all the other Sunday and Thursday comedies, too. By the way, The Simpsons, after a slow start to its 17th season, finished strong during the spring. It still can be very funny at times. I think I'm kissing goodbye to 24, American Idol, Numbers, and maybe House. I'm on the fence about it right now.
Anyway, a pretty good year of watching TV, and here's hoping the shows only get better.