The new year is upon us. And now we’ve got the hangovers and gym memberships and debt-free living self-help books to prove it. But at TiFaux, we’ve got our priorities in line.
On that note, all this week we are going to look back at 2008 and examine the best of the year that was. And, in a cute little twist, we’re not doing our top five shows — we’re doing our top five anythings. This can be an entire year’s worth of one show, one actor’s performance, one funny joke, etc. We’re mixing it up so we don’t end up all saying that 30 Rock is amazing in different wordings.
I’m up first because I’m a control freak. So, here we go…
Glenn Close and Zeljko Ivanek win Emmys for Damages
This was a series whose first season ended in 2007, but I only watched it in 2008 — that’s why I’m including it on this list. It’s my blog so I can do what I want. But I will try to make it timely by saying that Close and Ivanek won well-deserved Emmys this year. Which is true.
It’s easy to single out the performances as the greatest thing about Damages’ first season — but I think that would be inaccurate. The great thing about Damages was not only the taut pacing and menacing tone, but just how uncommonly focused the storytelling was. This was essentially a season-long movie, intricately written and planned, and slowly rolled out bit by riveting bit.
Damages’ success is the result of several elements synergizing — the strength of the performances (Close’s venom, Rose Byrne’s sweet deadpan, Zeljko Ivanek’s anguished expressions), savvy directing and writing that packs both an intellectual and emotional punch. I have no idea what they’re going to do for the second season (starting Wednesday!!), but I’m totally on board.
SNL: Virgania Horsen’s Hot Air Balloon Rides
This was really a great year for women on SNL. Admittedly, there weren’t that many of them (a freakishly low number, in fact), but all of them emerged as stars. Amy Poehler came into her own as a playful and goofy sprite (see the Sarah Palin rap),Tina Fey re-emerged in her well-publicized star turn as the would-be veep and Kristen Wiig began to cement her status as the show’s rising star.
And my favorite thing Wiig has ever done remains this fake commercial from the (fabulous) Fey-hosted episode that was the first one following the strike. Virgania Horsen (who returned with a Pony Express commercial this season) is a mix of bizarre and oddly loveable, selling her hot air balloon rides with all the enthusiasm of an awkward fifth grader trying to give a rousing book report.
It’s all about delivery in this sketch (with some support from delightfully shoddy special effects), and Wiig nails it with the awful posture and stilted delivery.
The set design on Pushing Daisies
There’s a lot to love on Pushing Daisies — the tart dialogue, the adorableness of Kristin Chenowith and Lee Pace, and the fun storylines. But what ties everything together is the show’s wonderful technicolor aesthetic. The colors are bright and the sets aren’t restricted by realism. There’s so much packed into every shot — it’s truly a case of “more is more.” The look of the show (including the costuming) makes everything work — instantly allowing you to suspend your disbelief.
New horror series: Dead Set and True Blood
The two best series of 2008 (for my money) both had their flaws. Dead Set was a mini-series that didn’t even air on American TV (and I probably didn’t understand half the pop culture references). And True Blood revealed itself to be the slightly slow, sex-obsessed cousin of Six Feet Under.
But these two horror-inspired shows (zombies and vampires, respectively) were the best new series to emerge out of 2008 — a vast wasteland as far as new programming goes. Dead Set had a run of five episodes, but I’ll continue to watch True Blood for its campy sense of humor and the creepy mysteries of this alternate reality world (even though they killed off the only guy who had a good accent).
Lecherously watching men’s water polo during the Olympics
I mean, come on.