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Monday, December 29, 2008

The year's best telly

1. Lost
Many of you gave up on it around the start of season 3, but following an undoubted slump, JJ Abrams and the gang pulled it all back together and re-invigorated Lost with that staggering flash-forward twist that set up this year's fourth season as the most innovative, suspenseful, rewarding, infuriating, gripping, moving, mental, unmissable series of the show yet. Season 5 cannot come quick enough next month. 

2. 30 Rock
Before she became a global superstar for those Sarah Palin impersonations, I was one of the 14 people in the world who watched Tina Fey's ingenious office comedy/showbiz  satire 30 Rock. Brilliantly written and performed, it deserves a much bigger audience than it gets. Season 2 wobbled slightly after its post-writer's strike return, but it still was enough to win a shedload of Emmys this year, including three for Fey as producer, writer and star. 

3. Gavin and Stacey
So sweet, so romantic, so natural - and so side-splittingly, howlingly funny. Even AA Gill, the acerbic TV reviewer with the Sunday Times, had to admit that the Christmas special was the best thing on television over the whole festive period this year. Dig up the two series on DVD NOW!

4. Summer Heights High
Chris Lilley is a God. The Aussie comic wrote and played three different roles in this savage mockumentary set in an Australian public school. It's crass, tasteless, offensive and racist - and all the better for it. Think Mean Girls meets Nighty Night meets Home and Away.

5.  The Office
The US Office long ago stepped out of its British progenitor's shadow, and now in its fifth series, it continues to boast of the sharpest writing and most incisive characterisation in American comedy today. Its deftness in switching from high farce to quiet tragedy is mind-boggling. Plus, in Jim and Pam, The Office has the best couple and most satisfying romantic subplot on all of US television. 

6. Mad Men
Stylish, evocative, knowing, satirical, nostalgic, acerbic - just some of the ways to describe this 1960s-set drama that won the Emmy and Golden Globe for Best Drama this year. Season 2 went even deeper into the quiet, soul destroying desperation of its characters, particularly the fascinating females Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), Betty (January Jones) and Joan (Christina Hendricks). 

7. Battlestar Galactica
For me, season 4 suffered by dwelling a little too much on the clearly barking (?) Starbuck, back from the dead (?) to lead the dwindling human population back to Earth (?). Yet even at its weakest, BSG continues to stand out as the classiest, most intelligent, surprising and politically savvy sci-fi produced this decade so far.

8. Damages
I just caught this one over Christmas and I was instantly hooked. It's the 24 of legal thrillers, packed with mind-bending twists and great performances notably Glenn Close and the great character actor Zeljko Ivanek, both of whom won Emmys for their roles. 

9. In Treatment
This one took some time to warm to, but, by the halfway point, I was hooked on the 43 episodes from season 1, covering psychotherapist Gabriel Byrne's treatment of four different patients - plus his own sessions with his therapist (played by the great Dianne Wiest). Who wouldn't love eavesdropping on other people's therapy? This is engrossing stuff, given all the more oomph thanks to Byrne's own dark revelations in the documentary Stories from Home

10. Brothers and Sisters
Yes it's sudsy, glossy and sentimental - but it's also touching, funny and easy watching. Plus it has a great cast to paper over any cracks, especially the great Sally Field. Kevin and Scotty's wedding at the end of season 2 was a real weepie. 

Honorable mentions: Desperate Housewives (back from the dead after that five year time leap), Family Guy (still just about hitting the mark more than it misses), Secret Diary of a Call Girl (Billie Piper rocks). 

TV Emeritus: This was also the year I tackled all seven series of the glorious Gilmore Girls, which had finished on TV in 2007. Seriously, it's great stuff - so sassy, charming and full of crackling writing. Ditto for Veronica Mars which I also watched this year. 

Worst TV show of the year: Grey's Anatomy. Its descent into pure, unadulterated rubbish summed up in seven words: Izzie having sex with dead Denny's ghost. 
Dishonorable mentions: Privileged, 90210

TV projects for 2009: Friday Night Lights, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, True Blood, Breaking Bad, Dexter, The Wire (at last) plus Buffy the Vampire Slayer (at long last). 


Tom said...

Totally agree with you on 30 Rock, only discovered this gem recently.

joy said...

From all,i think that this show is tons better that the English ones you get. the story lines are always good unlike the ones you get on soaps over here. i love the whole story and have been watching it for the ages its great!!!Home and Away never stops bringing in eye candy for us girls or for the boys. it is a truly magnificent show. i wish i was part of it. LOL!!