As the slow period before the big summer movies draws to a close, and most TV shows begin entering their final few episodes, it seems an appropriate time for me to share my thoughts on this season of TV. I don’t watch an enormous variety of TV shows– between movies and theater, it’s hard to find the time– but that having been said, here are my thoughts.
Best New TV Show: Eastbound and Down
Remember how I said I hated Observe and Report? These are the same people responsible, giving me 3-dimensional characters, an anti-hero you still reluctantly root for, and a supporting cast of hilarious actors who all get the tone. With all-star directors like David Gordon Green and Adam McKay lending a hand, Jody Hill, Ben Best, and Danny McBride have given HBO a mini-classic– a six-episode season of blissfully uncomfortable comedy, resulting in a pitch-perfect conclusion. HBO has announced an eight-episode second season that will wrap everything up. I can’t wait– this is the best new comedy on TV since the first season of Fight of the Conchords June 2007.
Best Character on TV: (tie) John Locke and Ben Linus, Lost
For three seasons running, they win the award. Lost is probably my favorite show on TV, and whenever I get caught up in some of the nonsensical things that go on in that show, Locke and Ben bring me back. Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson have simply been in the zone– they just GET IT. Every turn of phrase, every decision as an actor that they’ve made for the past three years have never failed to be spot on. I could probably say that Locke has been the best character on TV for five years running. All of the stuff with Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and everyone else are simply the human elements that carry the plot forward. Locke and Ben get into the spiritual and mysterious sides of the island, the sides that you can tell the writers have loved most since Day 1. Out of the Top 25 Lost moments of all time (sounds like a good idea for a future article), I can guarantee at least 15 belong to Ben or Locke or both.
Best Addition to a TV Show: (tie) Charles Miner and Holly Flax, The Office
Last season of the Office hit a major speedbump. At times it was like a silly soap opera– Michael and Jan issues, Dwight, Angela and Andy love triangle, and Jim and Pam dating. The minor characters got very little shine, and the comedic potential of these relationships were rarely exploited to the fullest (“The Dinner Party” was one of two shining moments in the season), instead giving way to making the characters broader and less sympathetic.
However, the season finale introduced a brilliant comic device, Holly Flax, the replacement HR rep who was beautiful and (bizarrely enough) uncannily like Michael. Portrayed by Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan, she never played the character for laughs, which is how the series is when it works best– more grounded, toeing the line between believable and outrageous. She injected serious life into the show at season’s beginning. Now, nearing season’s end, Idris Elba’s character Charles Miner has shaken the cast dynamic to its core. No longer is Michael forgiven for his terrible boss tactics– he’s out the door. No longer is Jim excused for his lazy behavior and pranks– he’s now on Miner’s bad side and having to work hard to save his job. No longer is Andy simply pathetic– he’s now back to sucking up to his superiors and feuding/bonding with Dwight, the two things Andy is best at. Finally, a character who would run a REAL WORLD business has come to Dunder Mifflin, and the entire company doesn’t know how to respond. Another terrific turn by The Office team, a turn that has saved the show from its downward spiral.
Best Subtraction from a TV Show: Stella, How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother has been constantly trying over the past two seasons to live up to the magic created at the beginning. Due to its hard work putting on celebs and creating big character changes, it’s been able to rise up in the ratings enough that it hopefully doesn’t require any more gimmicks to survive on CBS. And thank the Lord, they got rid of the worst gimmick of all, Stella. Stella’s introduction into Ted’s life was fantastic, but after that, the show draaaaaagged. Another lame conflict with Stella, and, even worse, they clipped Barney’s wings and made him fall in love with Robin. Although they quickly realized that Barney needed to stay as bawdy and despicable as ever, the Stella plotline sunk downward and took the show with it. Finally, Stella went back to her daughter’s father, and the show has since been working its way back into the realm of the funny.
Best Reality TV Show: American Idol
Yep. It’s still Idol. At this point, it’s like comfort food. You know how the judges will react, you know they’re emotionally manipulating you into liking certain people, but you don’t care because it’s so much fun. Woe betide the show if Simon Cowell actually leaves after next season like he’s hinted.
Best Reality TV Moment: The After The Final Rose special for ABC’s The Bachelor
Who would’ve thought the nicest guy in Bachelor history, Jason Mesnick, with his adorable son Ty and genial persona, would propose to Melissa at 9:55 PM on my TV screen, and at 10:05 PM tell host Chris Harrison that months have passed and he can’t stop thinking about runner-up Molly… so he will be dumping Melissa and asking out Molly in the next hour? You always think The Bachelor is dead, but it keeps finding ways to top itself. Well done, Bachelor. Well done.
Best Underrated TV Show: The Big Bang Theory
It’s a very simple premise: some nerds live in an apartment across from a hot girl. But what distinctive and unique characters this show has, and how smart and funny the writing is. It’s never going to be an emotionally deep show, but it will always be the equivalent of cotton candy– light, free of substance, but a very satisfying quick eat.
TV Show that Fell Off The Hardest: Heroes
Season 1 of Heroes was engaging, pulpy, suspenseful and terrific. Season 2 was boring and suspenseless, but introduces some interesting characters, giving me hope for Season 3. Too bad that despite the introduction of some cool villains, it took forever to get going, was filled with even more logic problems than before, and was never able to suck me in. I gave up halfway through the season, and have never really regretted it. That’s the sign that a show that has truly fallen off– you don’t even wish it was back to being good, you’re just glad it’s gone.
Season Finale to Look Forward To the Most? Lost
Although I’m very curious to see how Michael inevitably regains his job at Dunder Mifflin, the number of things I’m curious about on Lost far outweigh that. I could list the things I want the answers to here in this post, but I don’t have the time. That’s the beauty of Lost– it gives you enough to satisfy you on a weekly basis, but never fails to leave you wanting more. Parts of Season 3 left me wanting… but this season has kicked along at a rapid pace, heading towards what is sure to be an explosive finale.