My Top Anticipated TV Events of 2007

January 10, 2007

I was reading this week’s Entertainment Weekly (the bible for pop culture junkies like me) and they had an article on their 20 big events of 2007 as well as a Winter TV preview and it got me thinking of what TV events I’m most looking forward to in 2007. So here, they are:

1. The final season of The Sopranos – After 5 1/2 seasons of therapy Tony and his two families are heading off into the sunset (or more likely for some the morgue and others witness protection). These final 9 episodes starting in April are surely going to cap off a series run that made a TV network the place to bring interesting projects but also cemented the difference between network television and cable. 3 months and counting.

2. Season 8 of Buffy – I’ve written about this before but in March Joss Whedon continues his epic show in comics. It’s been 4 years since we’ve spent time with our old friends from Sunnydale and I can’t wait to find out what’s happened to Xander, Willow, Giles and of course Buffy. If this isn’t enough here’s a summary of part 2:

The destruction of Buffy’s hometown, plus covert and powerful slayer “cells” around the world, add up to a new label for the Scoobies: Terrorist threat. Speaking of Sunnydale, the crater formerly known as, has opened to reveal the witch Amy, and boy is she pissed. Now: Giles, smoochies, a knife to the heart, and a big sleep. Season Eight continues.

Visit your comic store to reserve your copy today.

3. The return of The Shield – It’s been a long year waiting to see the aftermath of last season’s insane finale which killed off the conscience of the Strike Team. What’s going to happen when Shane learns that Lem wasn’t going to turn them in and even more important what’s going to happen when Vic finds out what Shane did.

4. New Babylon 5 on DVD – Just like with Buffy I’m looking forward to a return visit to the B5 universe. Read my earlier posting for details on Babylon 5: The Lost Tales scheduled for release in July.

5. The Simpsons Movie – The last few seasons have been generally forgettable. I still watch every week but there have been very few classics unlike the early days of the show. Still, advance buzz on this one is pretty good so I have high hopes that Groening will make the most of the bigger canvas to make The Simpsons movie the event we expect it to be.

6. Shows finally coming to DVD – As the publishers reach into their catalogues to release more classics TV on DVD here are some of my favourites scheduled to come out in 2007: Picket Fences (Feb), Twin Peaks (April) and WKRP in Cincinnati albeit with music changes (April).

Let me know what your most anticipated TV events for 2007 are.

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Top 10 TV Shows of 2006

January 1, 2007

 It’s been a great TV year.  I’ve spent the last few days making my list, watching the episodes twice all in preparation to give you my top 10 TV shows of 2006.  So without further ado…

1. The Wire – When this show completes its 5 year run after the next season, it will likely be the best show to ever air on television.  This doesn’t mean it will be my favourite – after all it’s not an easy or even particular entertaining show to watch compared to the typical TV fare.  It is, however, the most fascinating, compelling, best acted show ever and this season exceeded even the high bar set by past seasons with its examination of the Baltimore school system, the rise of the next generation corner boys and their leaders and a study of the politics of being mayor.  The thing I find most amazing about this show is its ability to juggle multiple storylines, a cast of 30+ actors – all leads and supporting at the same time – and the way it doesn’t force feed the viewer with simple, pat resolutions to complex situations.  This show is frequently compared to a great book in terms of its pace and complexity but for me The Wire would not be as brilliant in any other medium where the quick cut scenes and the power of the actors transcend any printed page.  I have to give a special shout out to the 4 actors playing Michael, Naymond, Duquan and Randy.  Their performances gave their stories the gravity and heart that made this season one of the best.  It’s going to be a long wait to find out what happens next.

2. The Shield – I’m shocked that I haven’t seen this show on that many best of lists from this year.  In its fifth season, The Shield was at its best, using the unbelievable Forrest Whitaker to paint our Strike Team into a corner from which they did not emerge unscathed.  Bringing to a head all of the storylines from the previous 4 seasons, including the amazing pilot episode, the season concluded with a moment that I saw coming and couldn’t believe was happening at the same time, changing the show forever and setting the groundwork for the new season.  What more could a viewer ask for!

3. The Office – It’s blasphamy to say this in many TV circles but the US version of The Office has now surpassed the original in my books.  I could mention the obvious moment of the past year – the season ending kiss between Jim and Pam which was the best season finale of last year.  I could mention the amazing Steve Carell who brilliantly can be an incompetent buffoon one minute and an effective regional manager who has the loyalty of his staff the next.  I could talk about all of the great episodes from the past year balancing laughs, cringe-worthy moments and emotional scenes simultaneously.  Instead I’m going to focus on what truly has made this show unique from its British counterpart – the amazing work that has been done to make the supporting characters integral parts of the show.  This show would not be as great as it is without Stanley, Kevin, Angela, Creed, Phyllis, Kelly, Oscar, Toby, Roy and new additions Ed Helms and Rashida Jones.  Every week this is my favourite show to watch and I’m sure this won’t change in 2007.

4. Battlestar Galactica – I watched the entire series since the summer and all I have to say is wow!!!  It’s hard not to agree with the mainstream critics who say that this isn’t just great sci-fi but great drama that should appeal to everyone.  2006 saw some brilliant moments for this show including the introduction of Pegasus, the birth of the first Cylon-Human baby and the truly game changing season 2.5 finale which jumped ahead a year in the settlement and Cylon occupation of New Caprica.  I love how the show is able to paint its characters into difficult situations that seem to have no solution and no easy answers, often forcing them to make hard decisions.   Unfortunately this means sometimes the show has to take an easy way out sometimes (Roslin’s cancer, death of Admiral Cain for example).  Still week after week the show is excellent, character driven, action packed TV.

5. Heroes – Although we’re only 11 episodes in, I have high hopes for this show.  As I’ve written before I’m a comic fan so I was somewhat predisposed to either love the show or hate it with nothing in between.  I’m glad it turned out to be the former with great characters, fun mysteries with forward momentum every single week, great villains and cliffhangers galore.  It’s still a little early to know if this show will have the staying power to be great in its 2nd and 3rd seasons but for now I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

6.  Everwood – An unfortunate casualty of the WB-UPN merger (One Tree Hill and 7th Heaven, don’t make me laugh), Everwood was able to wrap up its storylines in a way that not only pleased fans of the show but was consistent with the way we expect the characters we’ve come to love over the show’s 5 seasons to behave.  It also served as an amazing bookend to the first season with Andy talking to his wife, Amy’s grand gesture to win back Ephram, Nina and Andy getting together, Ephram finding his calling in Everwood and the Brown family at peace with their past and future.  Here’s hoping the rest of the series makes its way to DVD very soon.

7.  Friday Night Lights – It’s appropriate that this show follows my previous favourite family drama on this list.  Friday Night Lights has a richness in its stories of the people who make up the Dillon Panthers and the community that worships them, that doesn’t exist on any other show today.  The characters are 3 dimensional with the actors who play them transcending their archetypes of the dumb jock, the arrogant jock, the tough coach, the newbie quarterback and the hot cheerleader.  Like Everwood, this is a show about a town and the families in it.  Jason Street is a definite standout in the cast and I also have to acknowledge the show’s matter of fact integration of religion into its fabric which contrasts with the heavy handed portrayal in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. 

8. The Sopranos – After starting with a bang, the show kind of meandered a bit as it ended the first 1/2 of the 6th season.  Still, The Sopranos remains event television and Edie Falco truly did the work of her career this season as her character finally acknowledged the life she’s led with Tony.  Gandolfini also had amazing moments especially his interactions with AJ.  Those who thought it wasn’t violent enough or moved a little too slow don’t hold much weight with me.  I have high hopes that Chase and company will bring this show to the conclusion it justly deserves.

9. Veronica Mars – I’m not sure if I’m crazy yet about the new format of shorter story arcs but Veronica Mars continues to uniquely mix teenage angst with family drama and film noir each and every week.  Last May’s finale was one of the best edge of your seat episodes ever wrapping up old storylines and showing why the characters on this show have us tuning in. 

10. Lost – I worry about Lost and season 3 to date hasn’t made me feel more confident that the show knows where its going or will be brought to any form of resolution.  However, as long as Abrams, Cuse et al continue to include jaw dropping moments like Michael shooting Ana Lucia and Libby, the destruction of the hatch and the introduction of the Others I can forgive some of the weaker moments and the limited story momentum.  Concept wise I still love the show including the formula that mixes flashbacks with life on the island and I’m glad ABC decided to run it uninterrupted for the duration of the season since the frequent reruns last year didn’t help with momentum issues.  It remains true escapist TV entertainment and I hope the remainder of season 3 is as good as the fantastic back half of season 2.

Honourable Mentions: I’m going to give an honourable mention to Entourage, How I Met Your Mother, Scrubs and Dexter.  All were great this year but making a list is about drawing lines and this is where drew it.


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.


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.

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.