December 29, 2007

Best and Worst 2007: Television

I hope everyone had a nice holiday and enjoyed some great Christmas tunes. We’re back at 77 Santas with our annual year-end lists. Always fun and sure to spark arguments, we cover television, movies, and music. Let’s kick it off with television.

Best Television of 2007

12. Countdown with Keith Olbermann (MSNBC)
This show should be essential viewing every American. With a mix of wit, snark, and intelligence, Olbermann never forgets to keep the viewer entertained with this mix of news and opinion. While his special comments sometimes verge into over-the-top parody, it’s impossible not to agree with his impassioned pleas to our incompetent and corrupt government.

11. The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
Earlier this year, Colbert, the fictional, blustery, self-obsessed right-wing nut case, interviewed Bill O’Reilly, a real, blustery, self-obsessed right-wing nut case. Surreal, meta, and brilliant, the Colbert is the perfect antidote to the real-life blowhards like Glenn Beck, whom too many people take seriously.

10. The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
John Stewart continues his brilliant run as host, though sadly hasn’t been seen in months due to the writers strike. It’s a shame, because this season of political campaigns seems apt for humor, especially with a buffoon like Mike Huckabee taking the Republican lead and Hillary Clinton’s camp criticizing Obama’s kindergarten essays.

9. Flight of the Conchords (HBO)
Low-budget, low-concept, and low-key, no show made me smile or enjoy myself as much as Conchords. Two New Zealand musicians struggle to make it in New York City with the help of their manager, who also happens to work at the New Zealand Consulate. Each episode features an inspired and spot-on music video.

8. The Office (NBC)
The once solid stalwart saw its status fall this year. The hour-longs felt forced, uninspired, and long. Plus, Michael Scott has gone from a decent boss who makes impulsive, stupid decisions to an impulsive, stupid boss who occasionally makes a decent decision. He’s no longer believable or the least bit realistic. Still, for all the show has done wrong this year, it continues to provide solid laughs. And PB&J finally got together.

7. South Park (Comedy Central)
Somehow this show only becomes more relevant and painfully funny with each passing season. Nothing proves that more than October’s brilliant three episode “Imaginationland” arc. South Park casts its net wide, satirizing nearly everything imaginable. Smart, irreverent, and inventive television like this doesn’t happen often.

6. Lost (ABC)
Okay, so I’m cheating on this one—I’m only ten episodes into the third season on DVD. But Lost is hands-down the most entertaining show on network television. Some fans complain that the answers don’t come fast enough—perhaps I’m in the minority in feeling totally at ease with what’s been revealed thus far. Dense, complex, and wholly original, Lost is unlike anything that’s ever been on television.

5. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Maybe it was Larry David’s real-life divorce that injected the latest season of Curb with some much needed vigor. Past seasons had always felt a bit dark but this season spewed bile—while the ever-paranoid Larry always believed everyone was against him, this season they actually were. The resulting ten episodes were equal parts hilarity and pain.

4. 30 Rock (NBC)
30 Rock has grown from a show providing slight laughs to the funniest show on television. Tiny Fey and her brilliant writers keep the pop culture references coming at rapid-fire pace—but the show is deeper than that. Fey satirizes liberals, conservatives, corporations, and entertainment with flawless ease. And the talented supporting cast, lead by a hilarious Alec Baldwin, is the best on television. While no show has proven itself a worthy successor to Arrested Development, 30 Rock has come the closest to taking over that pedestal.

3. The Sopranos (HBO)
Tony and company had suffered through a slow and meandering season five and season six—part one. Thankfully creator David Chase steered his show back to what it made so great—the family, whether that be the Bada Bing crew or Carmella and the kids. The final nine episodes rivaled the show’s perfect first season. And that final smash-cut to black is an ending for the ages.

2. The War (PBS)
Ken Burns proves yet again why he is an American treasure. This six-part series explores America’s relations to World War II via residents of four towns—an original take on something that’s been done countless times. While the information within might be old-hat to the hardcore WWII buff, it is invaluable to the casual viewer who believes that World War II was a “good war.” No war is good, but some are necessary.

1. Mad Men (AMC)
No other show was as well-crafted, intriguing, and entertaining as AMC’s freshman drama Mad Men. Set in an advertising agency circa 1960, the show nails down smoky and boozy period details yet is only a microcosm for the same societal issues we still face today. It has the ambition to take on sweeping topics such as the 1960 presidential election, yet its true brilliance lies in the quiet and subtle relationships of its deeply flawed yet undeniably compelling characters.

Worst Television of 2007

1. Family Guy (FOX)
Tired and predictable, the fact that Family Guy remains ever-popular isn’t just a statement on the laziness of television writers, it’s proof that our society might have plummeted into a free-fall.

2. 24 (FOX)
How do you follow up your show’s best season? With its worst. Uninspired and boring, 24 lacked all relevance and tension this season. Here’s hoping the producers can get the show back on track next year—and by next year, I mean 2009, since it likely won’t return in 2008.

3. Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader Who Didn’t Forget the Lyrics and Can Dance with the Stars? (Every Network)
Picking one of these seemingly endless game shows is like picking which way you’d like to die.


Anonymous said...

Just my opinion.

10, 11, 12 should have been 1, 2, and 3. I'll allow 2, 3 and 4 to give Ken Burns the top nod. That series was his best yet.

And "Family Guy" is just flat out funny--same way "The Simpsons" is. Neither one is particularly clever anymore. People are tired of either/or. But, gun to my head, I can only choose a Family Guy marathon or a South Park marathon? I'm going with Family Guy. Episode by episode, it might be South Park--but that show really is like waterboarding in large doses......which is to say clearly torture that should clearly be illegal.

Anonymous said...

PS--A nod has to go out to K-Ville. It's smartly and crisply written, exceedingly well acted, and all too relevant. I know the critics say its too dark and the critics say its a formulaic buddy cop drama, but the critics are just wrong. K-Ville was my favorite new show of the season and the one for which I'm most likely to buy the DVD.

A lot of us don't get the pay channels, you know and, honestly, not getting them, could care less what's on them. (I'd say something like fuggedaboutit Sopranos, but I'm afraid I'd end up in a landfill tomorrow). ;-)