Where does the year go? This one is almost over so it’s time to start doing some wrap-ups. Thanks to TiVo I have gotten to watch a ton of the tube this year, and there has been some excellent stuff to see. Here’s my picks for the top ten shows of 2006. Feel free to argue, but remember that I’m always right.
Wife Swap / Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Don’t vomit just yet. If you haven’t given either of these shows a chance, I’m telling you that you’re missing some of the best “scream at the television” action there is. Both shows are essentially hour-long exercises in watching women act like complete and total retards. There has not been a Wife Swap yet that didn’t have me at some point shaking my head and wondering seriously about the viability of our species. Are there really moms this stupid on our planet? And I am completely done with any Terry Hatcher plotline they can throw at me, but otherwise Desperate Housewives is seriously embarrassing, addictive fun. It’s a bummer that they killed the slutty-hot ex-lover in the supermarket fiasco.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
Now that E.R. has finally gone off the … what? It’s still on? When will that show die? Good Lord! It jumped the shark ten years ago! Grey’s Anatomy may never achieve the excellence of the first two seasons of E.R., but McDreamy and McSteamy and the gang are way more fun than even the Clooney days of NBC’s doctor show were. The writers got us to care about Meredith’s slutty little existence and — with the exception of one exploding-man episode — have been able to avoid the repeated helicopter-train-earthquake-stuck-in-Africa “must see” hijinks of E.R. We all feel bad about Denny, but Alex is a good guy at heart, right?
Poor Adrian. He can’t seem to catch a break. Every time things seem to start going well, it’s back into a pool of despair. He’s funny and lovable and the show is smart and tricky. It may follow the same formula every week, but Law & Order’s been doing that for almost two decades and nobody seems to be complaining. It also was somehow able to survive the transition from one snarky blonde costar to the next with no problem. Bonus: The official site has a “phobia of the day”. And how can you not love an obsessive-compulsive detective?
Now that the Sopranos has finally gone off the … what? It’s still on? Okay, okay. HBO has done it again with this terrific tale of a guy and his buddies trying to take Tinseltown. The show might not have huge appeal outside of Hollywood because it seems like it’s chock full of references and insider jokes about LA, but if you are lucky enough (or cursed enough, depending on your point of view) to live here, you can’t help but love it. Piven makes the show, of course.
Zach Braff & Co. somehow manage to reach new heights (depths) of comedic genius with every new show. It is absurd and sublime. Scrubs is everything that the Simpsons used to be and Family Guy strives to be. There are more borderline dirty jokes and reminders of 7th grade humor in this show than any other I can remember. (“I’m carryin’ underwood right now.”) This show is also the current leader in memorable one-liners. Dr. Cox, the guy from Office Space, frequently calls the local ESPN affiliate to talk about sports, too, which is just awesome.
Big Love (HBO)
Take a totally taboo subject, toss it into suburbia, add the freedom of cable and writers not afraid to take chances, and you get good drama. Watching poor Paxton and his three (or more) crazy women to handle makes you wonder how any sane man could not choose monogamy.
When it first aired I said it was the best show on television, but I’ve had to change my stance on it. The producers have guts, I’ll give them that. But the first season’s not even finished and already Bradley‘s falling for Peet? Couldn’t they have let that build for another ten episodes or so? Chandler’s not Chandler, but he is Chandler. The black guy smokes weed. Everything has gotten predictable — of course he wrote his number on the ball — so quickly. The concept of “behind the scenes at SNL” is terrific and Sorkin is the absolute master of witty dialogue, but to have so many obvious results happen in the first season is untenable. There’s already a “save Studio 60” site, which is not good. West Wing had a good run and they ended it at just the right time. Let’s hope that Studio 60 can keep us emotionally involved long enough to make it past season two. I really do love this show, it’s just that I love the next three even more.
Rescue Me (FX)
Denis Leary is a good actor. Let me repeat that: Denis Leary is a good actor. If you’re not watching Rescue Me, you’re missing some of the best pure acting on television. It helps that it’s got the nation’s collective 9/11 pain as a constant background, but that’s not really what makes this show. It’s the fact that Denis Leary is so inconceivably good as a recovering alcoholic womanizer father hero rebel leader. I could do without the Susan Sarandon subplot, but that’s a minor gripe. The show gets better constantly and that’s what counts.
Friday Night Lights (NBC)
ESPN’s Playmakers was the highest-rated show on the network. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it was canceled for any other reason than the NFL being protective of its brand. Football is America’s favorite form of entertainment and this show makes it even more accessible to women. It’s got just enough pigskin in it to keep guys interested and just enough small-town drama to keep girls watching. If they can write their way around half the team — and therefore many of the stars — graduating in a season, then they’ll be able to keep it on the air for a while. It deserves to last, too. Every week you get the production quality of a big-budget blockbuster. Just filming all the on-field action must cost a fortune. It’s the off-field stories that keep you hooked, though. Dude. The fullback has got to pull it together. You can’t nail your
quadriplegic paraplegic (Thanks, Josh!) best friend’s girl and not expect your life to go to hell.
Heroes is by far the best show on television. Every episode has been brilliant and makes for endless water-cooler discussion on Tuesday morning. The character development is extraordinary. The plot is fabulous. The show is an expert adaptation of the comic book genre; even the fonts used in the titles and captions are incredibly well done. Each episode has a cliffhanger — with none of the bad taste of a soap opera cliffhanger — that guarantees you’ll be watching the next. Hiro the hero is my favorite: “I must find that sword.” I know where I’ll be on January 22, 2007.
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