2008 was a little rough for the tube. I’m hoping for good things in 2009 — the return of many favorites, and maybe even some new shows to get behind!
My Favorite Thing of the Year, and Also The Only Good New Thing
The writers’ strike was a depressing time for everyone: no work for writers, no TV for us. And it had long-term repercussions, including the current dearth of high-quality new programming. But the writers’ strike did bring us one amazing thing: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. With Neil Patrick Harris as a geeky singing evil-do-er, Nathan Fillion as a smarmy strongman, Felicia Day charming us all, and the funniest script of the year, Joss Whedon & Family have made the internet work the way it’s supposed to.
Let’s do the math: The entire musical (42 minutes, the length of your average one-hour TV show) is available online for free. I watch it repeatedly (free for me, indeterminate ad revenue for them). I buy it on iTunes to carry around on my iPhone ($5.99). I (maybe someday) buy the soundtrack on iTunes ($9.99). I get the DVD — featuring a WHOLE NEW musical commentary track, Commentary! The Musical — for Christmas ($14.99). One day I hope to buy Commentary! The Musical on iTunes, in which case they’ll get another $9.99 out of me. Basically, they hooked me with their awesome free entertainment, and subsequently I will buy whatever they want me to. Creatively and business-wise, excellent job all-around.
Also thank you for NPH’s delivery of the line “Emails!” which is how I say that word now.
Best Episode That Everyone Else Likes, Too
There’s not a lot of “event” TV any more; we’re all off in our little corners, watching TV on our laptops and twittering about facebook videos or something. So it was a rare feeling, watching Lost’s “The Constant,” and knowing in your gut that lots of other people saw it and liked it all at the same time. (You can watch it via ABC’s extremely annoying propriety video player here.) I like Lost episodes that play with the form (I admit to being a fan of the Nikki and Paolo episode), and this one played it up while finding an emotionally resonant story that built tension in the best possible way. It’s the only time this year that I was literally on the edge of my seat.
Best TV Show to Help You Deal With Your Crazy Family
The BBC America import Gavin and Stacey follows the courtship and marriage of geographically diverse Gavin and Stacey, but it’s really about their bizarre collection of relatives and friends. There’s the sincere to the point of madness Uncle Brin, the sensitive and emotional best friend Smithy, the panicked mother Pam, the dry and shock-proof best friend Nessa — this is a group of people that should not get along. They have absolutely nothing in common. And yet, for the sake of Gav and Stace, they willingly place themselves in the same room over and over again. And they end up having a pretty good time.
Diamond in the Rough Award
I’ve already talked a lot about how under-appreciated Greek is, but it’s worth saying again. This year, it was a show that I never felt hesitant about switching on — it was always going to be a treat. I don’t know if their writers aren’t in the union (it is on ABC Family, after all) or if it’s a quirk of scheduling, but they managed to put out great shows in even this year’s darkest strike-dimmed months. Yes, it is an hour-long dramedy about the running of fraternities and sororities at a fake college. But it’s also surprisingly funny and sweet. This is a show about young people that doesn’t take itself too seriously (cough-GOSSIP GIRL!-cough) and so manages to make us actually care about what happens to the characters.
Runner up: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I don’t think we need to apologize for this show. But I’ll do it anyway: sure, it’s sometimes a little on the nose, and I wish there weren’t such a steady stream of time-travelers (otherwise why not just overwhelm us with them?), but overall it’s weird and dramatic and I like it. So there.
The Wish-for-More-Wishes Award: Five Amazing Performances
And five words to sum them up.
Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother: Scheming sleaze hides sensitive heart.
Kristin Chenowith in Pushing Daisies: Itty Bitty has big voice.
Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock: Every line delivery absolutely perfect.
Stephen Colbert in The Colbert Report: Crazy person bends truth, reality.
Jennifer Carpenter in Dexter: Duped foul-mouth best sister ever.