Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Top Favorite 10 TV Shows of 2008

Unfortunately, 2008 was a sucky year for TV. It started with the 2nd half of the writers strike. Then, the 2007-2008 season ended with cancellations of several good or promising shows, including Beauty & the Geek, Jericho, Men In Trees, Moonlight, New Amsterdam, and Women’s Murder Club. Journeyman and The 4400, after half a season and four seasons, respectively, didn’t even make it to 2008, due to cancellation, and neither did Rescue Me, due to a strike-related delay.

In the 2008-2009 season, I couldn’t get enthused about new shows, I quickly grew tired of Ugly Betty and Fringe, Heroes had yet another disappointing volume, Boston Legal’s abbreviated fifth & final season did not quite live up to its bar-raising fourth season, and I didn’t even bother with any more of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and especially the gaudy & morbid Pushing Daisies.

But, there were some bright spots. Lost redeemed itself with a fairly impressive season four, Battlestar Galactica delivered some interesting moments, I continue to like House’s new team better than his old team, Chuck and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles continue to increase in quality, and The Shield concluded its six-year run with some compelling and satisfying episodes.

So, without ranking them (because that’s just too hard to pull off), here’s my list of top 10 TV shows of 2008 in alphabetical order:

Battlestar Galactica
Sometimes this show is a little bit too serious and depressing for me. So, I don’t love it as much as most people. But, the show still delivers good drama, Emmy-worthy performances, lots of mystery, and shocking revelations. It may not be the most well-rounded show on TV, but it’s still currently the best made sci-fi show.

So far, Chuck has not suffered from sophomore year slump. They continue to develop the characters’ relationships and backstories in a warm, comical, and intelligent way. It has a great mix of drama, comedy, action, and romance. And, the show has lots of potential directions it could take, such as the introduction of Chuck & Ellie’s long lost dad or Ellie learning about her brother’s secret life.

Some have criticized the new direction of the show with a new team and more focus on the support characters. But, I like it. Deep-thinking Taub and geeky Cutner are more interesting than Chase and Cameron. And, aside from House himself, Thirteen (a.k.a. Dr. Rema Hadley), the bisexual doctor dealing with a shortened life span due to her Huntington’s disease, has the best storyline of all. However, the budding romances between House & Cuddy and between Foreman & Thirteen might take further convincing.

Cancelled after season one but brought back for a brief 2nd season due to fan outcry, the show ended its overall story arc in a fast-paced, action-packed way. While I did miss the quiet moments of drama and character development, it was still rewarding to see the show wrap up the bulk of its apocalyptic storyline instead of leaving us all hanging.

I liked the concept of the Oceanic Six and enjoyed the flash-forwards. The show continues to introduce new questions but is also providing answers to mysteries at a more reasonable pace. In fact, the show’s overall pace feels better now that there are around half a dozen fewer episodes per season. Unlike Heroes, which continues to decline, Lost redeemed itself after a disappointing third season.

Men In Trees
I might have to turn in my man card for saying this, but to me, this show was the new Gilmore Girls (and, I’m referring to GG’s first five seasons, when it was still excellent). It had great writing, quirky characters, an interesting setting, and a perfect blend of drama & comedy. First, ABC cut the first season of Men In Trees short but redeemed itself by just adding those episodes to a full season two and giving the show a post-Grey’s Anatomy timeslot -- for a while. But, then it was moved again, put on a hiatus, and finally cancelled without warning, so the series ended on a cliffhanger of sorts. I felt the quality of the show was just as good, if not better, than in its first season with the exception of Patrick’s amnesia storyline which messed up the relationship between him and Annie. Had the show survived, I’d like to think their relationship would have repaired itself unlike the bad direction Luke & Lorelai took in season six of Gilmore Girls (which made its last two seasons painful to watch).

A vampire show in the age of vampire mania with a vampire leading man and human leading woman that were declared hottest TV couple by TV Guide... And CBS cancelled it. Moonlight was just getting really good too and, if I understand correctly, wasn’t getting horrible ratings. Since CBS also cancelled Jericho and didn’t give Kid Nation a 2nd season, I declare CBS to be the new Fox. Moonlight lasted 16 episodes. The show that took it’s time slot in fall 2008, The Ex List, was cancelled after only four episodes. Good move CBS.

Prison Break
In a way, this show doesn’t deserve a top 10 slot. It’s a sometimes ludicrous show. Because it should have only lasted one season (and, its first season *was* great), it constantly has to re-invent itself to have lasted to its current *fourth* season. And, three years later, it still depends on fake outs, redirection, coincidences, double crosses, and a hefty suspension of disbelief. But, somehow, it still works. I still find myself curious every week to see what crazy thing is going to happen next. It’s not a soap opera or a reality show, but it has that same guilty pleasure feel to it.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Just when I started to worry this show would be a one-trick pony, it finds new ways to explore the Terminator universe. More people and cyborgs traveling back in time, including a female liquid metal terminator, Derek’s girlfriend, and her undercover companion. There’s also a deepening exploration of character psyches, and who would have guessed that Derek would be such a cool character when played by Brian Austin Green -- who was David Silver on Beverly Hills 90210. Somehow, I actually believe he’s a soldier from the future.

The Shield
This was a rough show that was sometimes a little too violent or vulgar for my tastes. But, I held on because the underlying story was based on rich concepts like family, friendship, loyalty, general morality, justice, ends vs. means, sacrifice vs. self interest, etc. And, I just had to find out how it would all end. Unfortunately, the support characters had mundane and open-ended conclusions. But, the storylines for the three remaining Strike Team members, Vic, Shane, and Ronnie, were wrapped up quite nicely in the 90-minute series finale. The final episodes are full of shock, irony, tension, and desperation. Not being a fuzzy, feel-good show, that kind of ending was just right.

Honorable Mentions
- Boston Legal (just short of the top 10 due to a lackluster final season)
- Stargate: Atlantis
- Women’s Murder Club (cancelled)