Saturday, 30 May 2009

the 10 best and 6 worst seasons of television of the 08/09 season

Another end of year celebration, except this is on television time so the end of the year is actually the middle of the year. It follows the school year quite closely so that is to be used as a template for the unfamiliar. I should also say that the worst on display here would be perhaps better described as the most disappointing, seeing as the actual worst shows have no business being watched by me.

The 6 worst

6) 30 Rock season 3
A beloved show by nerds and bloggers everywhere, but I can no longer keep my silence. I've tried, but every episode the comedy gets broader and lazier, relying on guest stars far to heavily to keep it afloat. Steve Martin, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Hamm, Oprah Winfrey and Salma Hayek to name but a few, all come and go making this 3rd year more about star-spotting and less about laughing. This show is beginning to tread water.

5) House season 5
Because anyone who uses the 'it was all a dream gimmick' with such regularity deserves to get roasted. Hugh Laurie is still great but poor plotting and an an increasingly bland supporting cast make this veteran show not quite the powerhouse it used to be. If it weren't for Laurie's greatness this show may well of have been dead long ago.

4) Reaper season 2
Its a shame, because this show was the closest in the running for successor for the Buffy Crown, but whereas that show established itself as something to be reckoned with in its stellar 2nd year. Reaper's slacker instincts backfired badly to create what was certainly lackluster season resulting in its deserved cancellation. Its only chance for survival was to have a barnstorming season, but it really didn't. Oh well.

3) 24 season 7
This year was the confirmation that this show is a spent force. Every second has the feeling of been there done that, with the show getting ever more ridiculous. Its resurrection of Tony Almeida was actually far from the most corny thing it did this year, and it actually was a good thing to have Carlos Bernard back, as 24's kill everyone policy over the last couple of years left there no-one to root for but Jack. Who is a pale imitation of the old Jack

2) Dexter season 3
This hurts me to put this here, The first year of Dexter was one of the best ever to grace television, the second was inconsistent but had enough quality to get by. This third year however, whilst not terrible, was painfully average. The supporting cast is probably the biggest and most ongoing failure of this show. Mediocre performances and mediocre storylines are like an anchor to this show. The writing isn't great, and for the second year in a row, Dexter's ongoing nemesis is a bit of a non-starter. Jimmy Smits OTT district attorney was not a great addition. Michael C Hall's terrific performance remains the only reason to watch this show, and they can't trade on that forever.

1) Heroes season 3
One of the worst seasons of television ever. How this show got any credibility to began with is increasingly beyond me. At its best it was a breezy guilty pleasure. At its worst its a turgid, eternally self-contradictory abyss of never ending mythology that never goes anywhere interesting. This year deserved a cancellation, but unless it has an epic 4th year, that will bes its last and deservedly so. Bollocks to this show.

The 10 Best

10) Scrubs season 8
As a long time fan of this show, I can't tell you what a great relief it was to see this show recover its shit to have a truly solid final season, or at least the final season of the Scrubs we know and love. The 6th year was shaky, the 7th a mess, but this year the show tuned down the ridiculousness for the most part and it worked for the better. A great victory lap year for a classic show.

9) Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles season 2
This final year of what was in the end a fatally sluggish show was good in places, excellent in others but never really knew how to step on the gas. An entertaining season that can legitimately be called a respectable failure. Its season premiere was a genuine contender for strongest episode of the year, because it was a tense, involving and even moving episode. But mid season when it tried to be intellectually engaging it missed by a long shot. Kudos for trying and we'll remember you with a guilty fondness.

8) How I met your Mother season 4
The end is in sight for this show I think, but its maintaining enough quality for now. Perhaps showing more creativity then genuine humor. Props to Cobie Smulders' Robin though who after three years of being the straight man, came close to stealing this year even from the great Neil Patrick Harris. Signs of laziness creeping in, but for the most part its holding it together.

7) Dollhouse season 1
Joss Whedon's new show was a slight disappointment with some iffy stand alone episodes and iffy casting decisions. Most of the critical dissing seemed leveled at Eliza Dushku, and while she isn't what you'd call outstanding, she's a lot more tolerable then bland cop Tahmoh Penikett or even computer genius Fran Kranz whose character should have been far greater success, but comes across as a sub-par Xander surrogate with half the wisecracking talent of Nicholas Brendon. Yet strong performances from 'dolls' Dichen Lachman, Enver Gjokaj and Miracle Laurie, a solid ice queen showing from Olivia Williams and a terrific small arc from Alan Tudyk helped to save the year. Similarly the writing vastly improved as it went along. Its second year needs to be a great one though. A really great one.

6) Chuck season 2
Its attempts at an over-arcing story aside, this was a great year from a show that has no other business in mind but to entertain. Its certainly air-headed, but whatever it may be the only show that entertains week in week out that can be watched casually. And its casual TV done well, which is infinitely more fun then serious TV done badly.

6) Battlestar Galactica, season 4
This would be much higher if it weren't for the slightly disappointing finale, But it was a good year nonetheless. Probably the weakest since the first, and as always any Lee Adama led story is an epic miss. But James Callis' Baltar is given an interesting re-invigoration and the for about 8 episodes mid-season the show finds its feet gloriously. It coasts to the finish line rather then sprints though, but it will definitely be missed. A show never short on ambition.

5) The Office, season 5
It continues to be funny, it continues to be popular and it perhaps contains some of the best comedic performances on TV. Steve Carell and John Krasinski in particular create fully rounded characters that make you laugh on a regular basis. It also uses its supporting cast/extras well and everyone gets their moment. Keep on doing what your doing please.

4) Burn Notice, season 2
Who'd have thought a show starring Bruce Campbell would be this good. He, Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar maintain a sparkling dynamic throughout the year and the show itself, well it entertains with a brain . Something rarely done well on TV, the plots, which are fellow spy show Chuck's greatest failing, are consistently enterprising and done to a higher standard then the norm.

3) Lost, Season 5
Actually a weaker year then the superlative season 4, which in all likeliness will remain the show's strongest but for the first year. But the first half of the year in particular is fantastic, in particular the Locke centric episode ' The life and death of Jeremy Bentham'. But sadly the Dharma set second half of the year is a bit of a snooze, focusing too much on love triangle or quadrangle of watch only half can act. Josh Holloway and Elizabeth Mitchell are excellent, while Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly remain the anchors to he show they have always been. It also unwisely sidelines its three strongest characters, Locke, Ben and Desmond. The finale is a slight disappointment also, with some truly bonkers character motivation. ( My girlfriend left me, so I'm gonna set off a nuclear bomb, coz you know I'm in pain). Still better then what else is out there for the most part.

2) The Shield, Season 7
The final year of the shield was a great as we've come to expect from what perhaps has quietly been one of the best shows on TV with the least recognition. Taking a cop show template and infusing it with enough genuine edginess and ambiguity it will make your head spin. The strike team gets its just desserts here, as the law finally closes in on our favorite bent cops. Great acting , great writing and a show that will be sorely missed.

1) Breaking Bad, Season 2
The first year was promising, occasionally brilliant vehicle for the award winning Bryan Cranston. This year, the show lives up to Cranston's performance and is without question the strongest, most subtle and best acted scripted show on television. The best season of drama in at least 3 years. This show is the shit.