Best of TV 2006 – Cancelled Long Running Show I Miss the Most

December 21, 2006

In May 2006 a whole bunch of long running shows concluded their runs, some voluntarily, others not so much. Here are my nominations for the ones I miss the most:

  • Alias (ABC)
  • Arrested Development (Fox)
  • Everwood (WB)
  • That 70’s Show (Fox)
  • The West Wing (NBC)

When I read the description of Alias in the 2001 Fall TV Preview Edition I passed. The concept of college girl by day, butt kicking spy by night didn’t resonate with me. Then I read way too many reviews at sites like Aint It Cool News that loved the show so I decided give it a try. For 2 years, this show was at the top of my favourites list. I still remember the exhilaration watching the season 2 game changing post-Super Bowl episode that brought down SD-6 and even better the season 2 finale where Sidney woke up to find that 2 years had gone by and Vaughn was married. Maybe JJ Abrams was too busy developing Lost but after that season the show began to meander and lose focus in particular with its increasingly complex Rambaldi mystery. I still liked it from episode to episode but it was no longer a show I rushed to see every week. When the show ended last season after 5 seasons with big deaths and a happy ending for Sydney and Vaughn, I felt the show had run its course.

Arrested Development will be remembered as one of the most unique shows ever to air on TV with more laughs per minute then any show I can remember. Watching episodes repeatedly was the only way to not miss the rapid fire and often subtle jokes. Arrested Development also had one of the greatest ensemble casts ever assembled and if we don’t see Jason Bateman back on TV next fall I will be very, very bitter. Truth be told, I’m shocked it even lasted 3 seasons but am glad it will live on forever on DVD.

Everwood may be my favourite family drama ever. It’s a show that’s in my TV Hall of Fame for its amazing and realistic portrayal of the family dynamic with some of the best characters ever on TV. A show that never shied away from having its characters make the wrong decisions or took the easy way out in the aftermath of their mistakes. From the first episode of the second season where they killed off Colin to the finale of the third season where Andy paid a pregnant Madison to leave Everwood to the aftermath of that decision mid-way through the 4th season in some of the most heartwrenching TV I’ve ever watched – this was a show that didn’t play by the same rule book as other family dramas. Watching an episode of Everwood, you were as likely to laugh as you were to cry and it was truly a perfect series from start to finish.

Over its 8 year run, That 70’s Show had a lot of funny episodes and created some big stars in Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace. But let’s face it, these guys have real careers to get on with. I would rather see Topher in another In Good Company then have this show continue past its prime. I’m glad he was back to wrap up the series but in the last year this show was horrible. It will live on in syndication forever but no new episodes are required.

Before The West Wing I never would have thought a debate over an agricultural bill would be compelling TV. Sure I loved Aaron Sorkin’s style from the criminally underwatched Sports Night but The West Wing took us inside the mundane aspects of a government and made it interesting. Sorkin stacked his White House with great characters, amazing actors and an idealistic view of politics that we don’t see in our own governments. The first 3 seasons were brilliant in particular the final few episodes of season 2 where the staff discover the President’s MS and the fantastic finale with Sheen’s tirade in the church after Mrs. Lanningham dies followed by his walk in the rain to declare whether he was running again with Brothers in Arms playing. Seasons 4, 5 and the first half of 6 had a significant dip in quality. Still a good show but the episodes were much more hit and miss as the characters started to become unlikable. The show started to hit its stride again in the second half of season 6 and throughout season 7 with the election campaign and the addition of Jimmy Smits and the amazing Alan Alda. I want to give a shout out also to the memory of John Spencer who died midway through the final season. I waffled on whether this show should continue but in the end I agree with the decision that the show was about the Bartlet administration and needed to end with it.

And the winner is: Everwood – beating Arrested Development just by a nose.

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Best of TV 2006 – Best Show Cancelled Before its Time

December 20, 2006

This category is to honour shows that the networks didn’t give a fair shake to find an audience and was cancelled in advance of completing a full season.

The nominees are:

  • Day Break
  • Kidnapped
  • The Nine
  • Smith
  • Vanished

The season started so promising with all sorts of new serialized dramas, a welcome change from the glut of procedurals, reality shows and game shows that have invaded the airways.  Now here we are part way through the new season and there have been lots of casualties.

I only watched the first few episodes of Day Break but I liked the premise, I liked Taye Diggs and even more important I liked that the show was finite – 13 episodes and it was going to be over.  The perfect way to fill in the time until Lost returns.  Still ABC couldn’t even commit to running the show for that time frame and ABC has no plans to air the remaining episodes.   It will air much better on DVD.

Kidnapped was also a great show with a finite premise.  I give credit to NBC for committing to finishing the show even after it was cancelled to provide its audience with closure.  After being exiled from Wednesday to Saturday night the show was taken off the air.  The remaining episodes are airing on NBC.com.

The Nine was selected by many critics as the best show of the year.  I liked the concept of a bank robbery which bound hostages together after the crisis was over and a mystery as to what really happened in the bank.  The show was supported by a great cast of TV actors including Scott Wolf, Chi McBride and Tim Daly.  It was also given the perfect timeslot after Lost.  The problem I had was in the execution of the premise which was frankly kind of boring.  Still, I would have liked to see how the show resolved itself.

Smith was a great show on the wrong network.  CBS doesn’t have patience for non-procedurals (the relatively mediocre Jericho being the exception) and this show was as far as possible from the standard fare that fits the CBS demographic.  With name actors, amoral characters and slick filming this show had great potential.  Unfortunately it got pulled after 3 episodes.  CBS put the unaired episodes on its web site and published the synopsis of the next dozen or so episodes but seeing what could have been only made the disappointment worse.

Vanished had some of the worst dialogue on TV, and acting by its lead that could at best be called wooden.  Still there was something that made me watch this conspiracy show week after week.  Just as they killed off the main character and replaced him with Eddie Cibrian who I like, the show got pulled.  The remaining episodes are airing on MySpace.

The winner is:  Kidnapped (NBC).


Best of TV 2006 – Best New Show

December 20, 2006

Here are my nominees for the Best New Show of 2006.  Remember the nominees are my picks based on my favourite shows of the year, hence the omission of Ugly Betty which despite it getting lots of love from critics is likely going to make my worst of list.  Also, the show must have actually be on for the full season so ones that have been cancelled are ineligible.

Now on with the nominees:

  • 30 Rock (NBC)
  • Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
  • Friday Night Lights (NBC)
  • Heroes (NBC)
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC)

30 Rock is one of those shows that has grown on me as the season has progressed.  I watched the first couple of episodes and found them okay but not great.  But all of a sudden something started to click with me in particular the brilliance of Alec Baldwin, the over the top a little goes a long way Tracey Morgan and the sarcasticly hysterical Tina Fey.  Throw in Dean Winters as Tina Fey’s girl friend and we’re nearing perfection.  Now that it’s been added to probably the best Thursday night comedy lineup ever it’s drawing power is compounded.  Only place it loses marks is the annoying Jane Krakowski.

Brothers & Sisters started off horribly.  I liked the cast generally (especially the amazing Sally Field) but just found that after the first few weeks I really didn’t care about their stories.  Then something changed and his name is Greg Berlanti fresh off the fantastic and still missed Everwood.  He took over and suddenly the show seemed to have some soul as the relationships between the characters started to matter and their interactions took centre stage.  Still, as much as I’ve come to enjoy the series when I watch, I don’t particularly miss it between episodes.

I’ve written multiple times about my love for Friday Night Lights.  I can tell you right now that this show will be on my best of the year list.  It’s as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking often in the same episode.  Kyle Chandler’s performance is dynamic and understated and I need to highlight the actor playing Jason Street as truly the best find of the year.

Heroes is also a shoo in for my best of the year list.   I’m a comic book geek so I came into this show with high expectations that were greatly exceeded.  11 weeks in and the originally separated and unbelievably interesting characters (with Hiro as the breakout) are starting to intertwine around interesting mysteries (Save the Cheerleader, Are you on the List) with weekly cliffhangers that leave you anxious for the next episode.  This show is going to be a huge hit on DVD and will likely result in many viewing marathons.  After this year’s lackluster and meandering Lost season, this show has become the must see serialized drama.  I can’t believe it’s another month until it starts again.

I’ve put Studio 60 on the list because I think it still holds promise.  Still, it’s my disappointment of the year.  I loved the pilot but the episodes since haven’t lived up to the premise.  There have been many moments of brilliance and the few episodes before the break (since the John Goodman episodes) have started to pick up steam.  I still detest the Harriet character and the show’s preachy approach to religion that seems to be a talking point in every episode.  (Contrast this heavy handed approach with the intelligent integration of religion as a backdrop in Friday Night Lights.)  As I write this I need to acknowledge that maybe this show shouldn’t be on my list.  If I had time to watch Dexter perhaps this show would have been replaced with what I hear is a great program.

And the winner is:

  • Heroes (NBC) with Friday Night Lights being a close runner up.

It’s Official: Day Break is Cancelled

December 18, 2006

In an earlier posting I wrote that it looked like Day Break was going to be cancelled and now it’s official.  ABC announced on Friday that Day Break was cancelled and that they had no plans to air the remaining episodes.

It’s unfortunate because I liked the premise and even more important liked that the show was finite and that we would see an ending for the show.  I’m sure the DVD will be released later next year and will try and catch it then.


Best of TV 2006 – Best Reality Show

December 18, 2006

In order to be nominated on Avi’s TV Ramblings blog there are some simple criteria – I had to have watched the show at least twice over the course of the season.

So, here are the nominations for the Best Reality Show of 2006:

  • The Amazing Race (CBS)
  • American Idol (Fox)
  • Big Brother All Stars (CBS)
  • Canadian Idol (CTV)
  • Rockstar: Supernova (CBS)
  • Survivor (CBS)

As the panel of one responsible for the decision I’m going to deliberate in real time. Let me first say that 2006 is the year I’ve dropped almost all reality shows from my viewing list. When reality TV first started there was something novel and interesting in watching how human dynamics played out within what essentially is a game show. As the years have gone on, they have started to fall into comfortable patterns where they are not only no longer novel but the human dynamics part also seems to have fallen by the wayside.

Let’s start from the top. I like The Amazing Race as a concept with its race around the world through exotic locations that most people can only dream of visiting. Of all the reality shows this is the only one I could ever see myself competing in. Maybe twice a year is too often to air the show because watching the second round that started in September I just felt like I’ve seen it all before and decided to stop midway through this most reason season.

For both American Idol and Canadian Idol I’ve stopped watching the audition parts of the season. Talk about repetition – finding the worst singers who just want to be TV and then giving them that gift in exchange for being able to berate them and embarrass them.   Sure I laughed the first couple of times but now it’s as painful for me to watch as it is for them to be on it.  For American Idol I think it was one of the worst crops of singers in the shows history and there is almost nothing that could get me to buy a Taylor Hicks album.  For Canadian Idol there were a few great singers but as the show progressed I seemed to lose interest.

Big Brother: All Stars was perhaps the best season of the show since the 2nd one.  How could anyone not root for Will who truly is the master of this game.  You only had to see his speech telling the other housemates how much he loathed them while they kept him in the game to see how great he is.  I also loved Janelle and how she can dominate a game and make it as far as she did when every person in the house was gunning for her from the beginning.  My one complaint was Boogie winning over either of them.  It’s not that he didn’t play well but he rode Will’s coattails.  Still better him than Erika.

This season of Rockstar: Supernova wasn’t as good as the first one.  The talent was a mixed bag especially compared to the stellar first season (Jordis I want to buy your album).  The band, let’s face it, isn’t a real band and won’t likely last through 2007.  The show also suffered from the same repetition of song choices that the Idols shows do, it’s just better music.  Finally Lukas winning – maybe a good fit but he just wasn’t that good compared to some of the alternatives.  Hopefully next year they’ll find a better band choice.

Finally, Survivor started off the last round with a renewed focus on the human dynamics of the show but after 6 weeks it returned to 40 minutes of reward and immunity challenges that were repetitive and uninspiring compared to 20 minutes of interaction.  Too out of balance for me.

And the winner is:

Big Brother: All Stars (CBS)


Best of TV 2006 – The Countdown

December 18, 2006

As I mentioned in an earlier posting I’m working on my Best of TV 2006 Wrap-up.  As I began to think about what shows would make the cut and wouldn’t I also started to highlight various categories that I wanted to address. 

Rather than release it all in a super posting and given the reduced number of new shows on for the next few weeks, I’ve decided to post a category every day or so and list the nominees and my pick for the winner.   Feel free to debate my choices in the comments. 

All of this is building to my Top Shows of 2006 list sometime towards the end of the month.  I look forward to your thoughts.


The Office – Season 3, Episode 10 – A Benihana Christmas – TV Revivew

December 15, 2006

After last year’s brilliant Christmas episode where The Office played Yankee Swap and also seeing online the following said about tonight’s episode: “is one of the best, funniest, sharpest, saddest ‘Office’ episodes in the show’s history — a masterpiece, I had very high expectations.

Well once again this show exceeded those expectations.

Here are some of the things I learned from tonight’s masterpiece:

  • Roadkill can be a Christmas miracle
  • Molten goose grease can be kept in the fridge to save a trip to the store
  • Mmmm, Christmas Pam
  • Nothing says boldness like photoshopping yourself into a picture of your girlfriend, her kids and her ex-husband.
  • If Christmas gets cancelled, Rudolph may get cancelled too.
  • Pam is the best gift giver in the world.
  • Just when you think green is whorish, orange becomes the new green
  • Not knowing what Benihana’s is its good Michael can explain things so concisely as Asian Hooters
  • I too should keep my excuses in my PDA so I can rattle off 8 excuses in one 30 second run on sentence
  • Stanley the Manley is the trendsetter who sets the tone in Scranton
  • Kevin is really Alanis Morrisette in disguise and You Oughta Know is the sing along song of the holidays.
  • Nothing says I love you like Bridget Jones Diary or putting a mark on an arm
  • Dwight does the best Dennis De Young impression since Eric Segal on Freaks & Geeks

I recently watched the full run of the original UK Office and this may be blasphemy but I find the US one to be superior.  It’s not that the original isn’t brilliant, it truly, truly is, but the US one over its 40-odd episode run (or almost 3 times the run of the original) has been able to do a lot of things the British one didn’t.  It made Michael a buffoon who can be at times competent and sympathetic.  It’s made the relationship between Jim and Pam one of the best TV “will they or won’t they” relationships ever.  Even more interesting is how it has made its supporting cast so prominent and critical to the show as demonstrated in almost every scene in this week’s episode.

It’s going to be a long few weeks until this show returns in January.

Avi’s Episode Rating: A+