Television – Best of 2009

TV continued its Renaissance providing entertainment superior to what can be found at the movies most weeks. Some veteran shows they continued to satisfyingly plug along (Lost, House, 24, Family Guy, Amazing Race, and Idol) while some faltered (Rescue Me, 30 Rock, Damages) and one excellent show, Battlestar Galactica, ended its run. All are available on DVD.

No real surprises here in my list:

Mad Men – I have written about this here—another great season, with a particularly outstanding performance by January Jones. Expect lots of Golden Globes.

Breaking Bad – I am still amazed how many have never heard of this show about a cancer-ridden high school chemistry teacher who cooks crystal meth on the side – what must have been the most incredible pitch session in TV history. Two Emmys for lead actor Bryan Cranston thus far. Cranston is unbelievable in this role alternating between rage and self-loathing – all portrayed in a way that lets the audience in. Start with season one ASAP, so you can all catch up for the season 3 premiere on AMC in March.

Friday Night Lights – No show has more heart than this high school drama that never hits a wrong note. This year it reinvents itself with new characters without losing momentum or authenticity. Another article about this show is here—time for some recognition of Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton.

Modern Family – Another Office-style hidden camera comedy, only this time with a stellar ensemble of vaguely familiar comedic actors infuse energy into the most worn comedic venue, the family comedy. No laugh track, and owing much to Arrested Development, this show is a clear winner and the only new show on my list. Here is to hoping they can maintain the quality next year.

Curb Your Enthusiasm – Here’s another show that, year after year, has been doing its very high-quality comedy thing, yet many who loved Seinfeld don’t even know it exists. With this season’s “Seinfeld reunion,” maybe some new people will learn what we fans have known for years – hands down, Curb is the most consistently funny show on TV. The Bare Midriff episode might be the best.

Everyone seems to be super nutty about Glee. While the dancing and mash-ups are fresh and energetic, and Lea Michele is a real find (she’s been on Broadway in some high-profile roles) – it’s all just too smug for me. You can tell the whole cast and crew are just delighted with themselves each week. And the fans are no better at being in love with themselves. I found a website with “the most memorable quotes from Glee!” You know it had every single line from every show! It’s not that good.

Also, another disappointing year for Saturday Night Live. One week there were 5 MacGruber sketches! One joke, and not a very funny one at that, done over and over. That has become the show’s tone, and it seems like it has become a MacGruber episode. Kristen Wigg is the only cast member who brings excitement to a scene. And only one episode of “What up with that?” in the whole season! What is up with that?

Maybe Leno could host permanently and solve all their problems?

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