Thursday, December 25, 2008

You're the Best Around! No One's Ever Goin' To Bring Ya Down! (TV Edition!)

I've always been one for the obligatory best of list. I don't know why I do it. Hell, I don't even know why I publish half of my soap-box standing, college-literate spewing, rolling-eyes inducing rhetoric. I think it might be because no one else really wants to hear what I think is the best of the best in the past year accept myself (i.e. this blog, serving as a technological mirror image of myself). So without further ado, and in the spirit of the holiday season (happy birthday Jesus!), I bring to you:

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple studels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geeze that fly with the moon their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

2008 was a special year. It marked the end of the Second Golden Age of Television, a period that proved that television can, in fact, say just as much, and arguably more succinctly, than its more culturally accepted big brother: films. With shows like The Sopranos and The Wire ending their respective grand opus', future classics like Pushing Daisies cancelled due to the pervasive ignorance of the American viewing public, and once promising epics like Heroes turning out to be nothing but a massive clusterfuck, we're now in a new age of mediocrity; a new hybrid of "reality" game shows and middle aged-women and/or hyphy-esque Asians dancing for glorified recognition by the dumbest of the American public. Despite this grim outlook, there was some pretty damn good shows this year, all of which I spent countless hours locked in my room eating flaming hot cheetos with a bucket next to my bed, just in case.

10. The Daily Show/The Colbert Report
It's a one-two punch. Stewart comes on and does what any great comedian does, restates an event or news story exactly as it happens with some dry wit that people can easily see through the barriers and fully realize how ridiculous said event/news story is. Colbert comes on, full fledged with his arsenal of satirical weapons, restating the same events but with the intent of defending it. The critique comes full circle. Point out what they see as unjust and ridiculous, then refute the inevitable refutation by offering a pseudo-refutation. All this proves to be points that are both poignant and thought provoking all while hilarity ensues. When the nation's best pundits come from a network that is preceded by Sarah Silverman, there is something horribly wrong with the media.

10. The Office
Still consistently one of the funniest shows on network television. However, this season, with an equal amount of hit and misses, has fallen flat and so inconsistent that when asked about what the show is about, the answer "A bunch of idiots in an office..with one normal couple" is actually more than pertinent now. With that said, it's quite telling to say that this show still makes me laugh.

9. Weeds

Almost forgot about this one until i saw an advertisement with Mary Louise Parker and suddenly remembered that she is my ideal woman. This is Showtime's 'Sopranos', a story about family set in an arbitrary backdrop with the standard prerequisites of violence, conflict, hypocrisy, and crime. While some shows fall into this pit of television cliche, Weeds has consistently highlighted the fine line between drama and comedy. One second, Kevin Nealon is trying to get laid by an illegal immigrant, the next, Mary Louise Parker is making a heart wrenching phone call to her son, who she feels she has failed. Here's where I want to use my obligatory marijuana joke. I have a couple. For example, "Finally, a show about marijuana that doesn't require you to get high to relate to it." That one is pretty good, no?

8. The 2008 Election

I've only been on this dying Earth for 22 years, which is old enough to remember the days of Reagan and welfare queens, Clinton and his blow job, and a stolen election, and already I can't wait to see all of the respective biopics. Despite a plethora of political controversy to look back fondly upon, the 2008 election was the MOST FUN a political junkie can ever have. From McCain's "That One" to Sarah Palin entering the public discourse of American culture, there was nothing but entertainment on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC or any news/media outlet. With more twist and turns than an episode of Gossip Girl, viewers across the states were on the edge of their seats all wondering what ridiculous thing Palin was going to say next (she said a lot of things), or if Joey the Shark was going to school her in the debates (he didn't really), or if McCain was actually as dumb as he lets on to be (he really isn't; Joe the Plumber is, but not Joe the McCain). Furthermore, we had a variety of other shows that benefited from taking fodder at the election: Tina Fey, SNL, The Daily Show, The View, and CNN's magic hologram wall. All the drama culminated on election night, November 4th, 2008, where McCain spoke to what seemed like a private party conceding that his party was out of touch, and Obama, a man that seemingly came out of nowhere with more charisma in his finger than Shirley Fucking Temple, spoke to a crowd of multiple thousands, reiterating the one overarching theme that now serves as our nation's current zeitgeist: hope.

7. Dexter

Not my favorite season, by any means, but every time I see Michael C. Hall in his light green henley with black leather gloves, I get a mental hard-on. There's nothing more exhilarating than to see Dexter performing a coup de gras on one of his finely researched victims, pontificating about the fine balance of life and death, justice and virtue, or whatever other contrived, played-out dichotomies modern entertainment has endlessly endured. What makes Dexter so special is that you can forgive the errors that make it such a normal television show; the qualities that can transform the show into just another CBS buzz-kill for TV-watchers aged 64 and younger. At the end of the show, you still have Dexter towering over his victim wielding a giant knife and all is forgiven.

6. 30 Rock

NBC doesn't do a lot that is considered successful, laudable, or even marketable. Their flagship drama is full of holes so large Arnold can drive his hummers through it. Their summer replacement program consisted a callback to nostalgia that was too soon, too plenty. And they have a knack for making a big deal about shows that no one really cares about anymore (i.e. Shane West is coming back to the ER? I'm so there). With that being said, kudos to NBC for sticking with the only show that still makes them relevant: 30 Rock. Smart, snarky, creative, and paradoxically sophisticated, Tina Fey, along with a terrific supporting cast consisting of Alec Baldwin, has built a live action version of 'The Simpsons', comprised of vital information for our everyday lives, such as: 'Live every week like it's shark week'. Thank you Tina Fey. I sure will.

5. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

The most offensive and abrasive show on television today; containing no semblance of political correctness and constantly crossing lines. The plots are juvenile, but oddly elaborate and well thought out, subsequently, and accidentally, projecting a statement on a material-based culture that is too concerned with its relative cultural standards, norms and mores. A mix between Arrested Development and Seinfeld, It's Always Sunny banks on that timeless comedy credo: If something makes us uncomfortable, make fun of it.

4. Mad Men

The last great hope for the Second Golden Age of Television. If you need any proof, that at one point in our culture, television was the one great American contribution to the arts, all you need to do is watch the production value, picturesque cinematography, intricately plotted stories, and superb acting caliber of the already mercilessly lauded, Mad Men. Don Draper remains one of the most intriguing and enigmatic characters of his time, Matthew Weiner's obsessive attention to detail sets the tone for authenticity, and the women of Mad Men (although continually ignored by the award season's accolades) are three of the most talented actresses working today, measuring the female archtypes that define our modern epochs of time. Mad Men is simply "The Godfather" of television.

3. Pushing Daisies

I've always wanted to see a major network develop some sort of subsidiary station called "Cancelled TV". Think about it. Some of our most beloved, important, culturally relevant, and "classic" television were ones that were cut off too soon due to the pervasive ignorance of the American viewing public (Damn yous reality TV!). Imagine the programming. It would be cheap to secure the rights and they'll have constant reruns of Arrested Development, Firefly, Veronica Mars, Wonderfalls, Freaks and Geeks, Dead Like Me, My So Called Life, Twin Peaks, etc. This idea proves to be more pertinent more than ever due to the recent, and unjust, cancellation of critic favorite Pushing Daisies, one of the most intelligent, hilarious, and blissfully joyful shows ever created in recent memory. I defy you to find another show that elicits a smile from your face for all of the 42 minutes of showtime. Daisies premiered to about 15 million viewers and had a steady 8-10 million average throughout its first season. ABC, in their infinite wisdom, decided, in lieu of the recent writer's strike, not to bring back the show to finish off its first season. After a whole year of being off air, Daisies returned for its second season, better and funnier than ever, with a lack of advertising, a lack of press, and a huge lack of ratings. The show became the new lost cause for fanboys and geeks across the states, pushing for "Save Daisies" campaigns and sending bouquets of daisies, slices of pies, and (most effectively) hives of bees to ABC execs. Despite the lavish campaign, ABC pulled the plug on the show and the last three episodes are to be aired after the new year. Brainchild Bryan Fuller has returned to Heroes, a show he made relevant, to rescue it from middling reviews and ratings. Left in the dust is 23 episodes of hilarity, warm hearts, hugs and kisses, romantic whimsy, chocolate covered pies, and cleavage baring ladies singing to their hearts content. I'm raising a glass to you pie maker. Thanks for the good pie.

2. The Wire

'nuff said.

1. Lost

Hands down, one of the most important pieces of cultural work in American culture. Along with The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and The Wire, Lost was among one of the first born in the beginning of the Second Golden Age of Television. Television shows that refused to fall into the pitfalls of major network programming cliches. Now was an era with no more laugh tracks, no more cues to elicit a predigested feeling, no more stereotypes and overused archetypes; but, instead, more of a focus on the grey areas of life -- an analytical observation of a world saturated in a postmodern construct. What is the difference between good and evil? What are the intricacies of the post-9/11 definition of humanity? We've always had cultural works to speak to said issues, but never before had television been so influential in the American consciousness. Lost serves to be a unique example, being that it is one of the last sons of the Second Golden Age, and the only show, in the history of television, that has planned an end date (presenting a more mature outlook on television, one that puts quality over ratings and profit). The show continues to be more thrilling than ever. Aesthetically, the show shot in Hawaii provides a natural palate that has stayed consistent since the show's inception. The actors, and their respective characters, are more like players from an elaborate stage play of a masterfully epic film. The involuted weaving of scientific, literary, and historical influence continue to incorporate the kind of esoteric enjoyment that was once only reserved for pretentious snobs or fanboys, but has since relinquished to the mainstream. Moreover, what makes the show hit all strides is the pure excitement it provokes. Surprising, resonant, action-packed and exhilarating. Each episode gives us a piece of a puzzle we've all been yearning to finish, and that same piece changes the picture from what we once thought it was. Lastly, the show is filled with emotionally-charged cathartic moments, the kind that raise the tiniest of hairs and stirs up the heaviest of tears. Like the scene below, where Desmond, after eight years of separation from his long-lost love, Penny, finally makes contact with her via phone. The results are nothing short of breathtaking.

1 comment:

Kevin Wada said...

i agree with 40% of this post. love daisies and lost. and a few others. but the crap.