Putting together my annual list of top 10 shows is never easy. Some years, it’s because there are just too darn many choices. Others, too few. So how did 2008 fare? Let’s just say that THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA made the list and leave it at that.
The problem isn’t necessarily that the season was necessarily bad so much as it was mediocre. Shows that have been fantastic in the past were average at best (GREY’S ANATOMY, UGLY BETTY) and nearly unwatchable at worst (HEROES). So this year, I’m going with the 10 shows that gave me the most bang for my buck. In some cases, they might not have been MENSA worthy, but they brought me a whole lot of pleasure. So while you won’t find MAD MEN on my list, it’s mainly because I haven’t seen it yet. (No, not even season one. Hey, I’m only now starting to watch BIG LOVE!) Without further ado — and while fully aware of the slings and arrows sure to be launched my way by the peanut gallery — I present to you, in no particular order, CT’s Top 10 Shows of 2008.
THE BIG BANG THEORY
Newsflash, folks: Comedy isn’t dead. And if it were, these guys would probably be able to reanimate it in their lab. Yes, everyone and their mother is heaping praise on Jim Parsons for his role as Sheldon, but take him out of the equation and this cast would still keep me coming back for more. In fact, they might wanna be careful not to become too Sheldon-centric. My hope? That in the coming year, we’ll see a whole lot more of supporting players Howard and Rajesh.
I was tempted to lump this show and DEXTER together if only because they only give us 12 episodes a season. But each deserves separate recognition because of what they do best. With TRUE BLOOD, it’s a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I’m not a particularly huge fan of the show’s supposed root-for couple, Sookie and Bill. But the secondary characters — especially Rutina Wesley’s heartbreaking Tara and Ryan Kwanten’s comically self-destructive Jason — are the true lifeblood of this seductive series.
Although this series is, in essence, a one-man show, the writers have done an amazing job of fleshing out the people in our anti-hero’s life. This season, Dexter’s efforts to achieve normalcy in both his relationship with Rita and his ill-fated-from-the-start “friendship” with Miguel allowed us to see not only much-needed growth on the part of our favorite serial killer, but also, in an ironic and tragic twist, just how difficult it will be for him to expand his universe.
THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS
When 2008 began, this show was as lethargic as Victoria, who was slumbering away in an endless coma. Over the next few months, fans became restless as Sabrina and Victor’s blah romance and the ridiculous antics of the Restless Style gang took over. But a funny thing happened on the way back from Sabrina’s funeral: Unlike most soaps, the execs at Y&R actually listened to fans and got the show back on track. Since then, the show has proven that when you have a great story, you don’t need tornados, weekly shootouts or guest psychos. Now if only the other soaps — each slowly limping their way toward cancellation — would take a page from the show that’s been perched atop the ratings for five years and get their acts together!
I’m willing to bet 95 percent of you never caught this VH-1 reality show focused on the search for a young actress who would win a “featured role” in the upcoming flick Saw VI. Sure, we can debate on just how big a break that really is, but what made this limited-run series work was, in part, the fact that it felt like a special event. (Why it wasn’t timed to run around Halloween, I’ll never know.) Plus, the winner — Tanedra — was the girl you actually wanted to see come out on top. If the chops she showed during the course of this series are any indication, this girl’s going to go a whole lot further than just being some random victim of Jigsaw.
LIFE ON MARS
This show’s main hook — how did modern-day cop Sam wind up being thrown into the year 1973, and will he be able to find a way back — is actually the least interesting thing about MARS as far as I’m concerned. This is a great ensemble cast on a genre-defying series that deserves to be a lot more popular than it is.
ONE TREE HILL
They had me at Crazy-Nanny Carrie. And while I still think Lucas should have picked Brooke, (Am I the only one who wouldn’t be crushed if P. Sawyer was fatally felled by the cancer she may-or-may-not have?) this show seems finally to have come into its own. It ain’t easy balancing drama, laughs, romance and melodrama, but OTH somehow manages to make it look simple. As for that whole 1920’s episode? Let’s just hope Chad now knows that while he character’s a scribe, he is not.
AKA “The Show That Made A Believer Out Of CT”, this series easily could have continued telling Monster-Of-The-Week tales and had a long, successful run. Instead, the show has continued expanding upon its own mythology, introducing the devilishly confounding angel Castiel. While many BUFFY fans thought her round-trip ticket to hell was the beginning of the end for that series, Dean’s sojourn to the underworld gave this show new life.
It’s been a long, long time since television has offered up a great farce. Perhaps not since the days of FRASIER. And it’s easy to see why, given the complexity of this subgenre of comedy: On the one hand, the audience has to be able to see the joke coming a mile away. On the other, when finally it arrives, the moment must still inspire genuine laughter. Thanks to a wildly appealing and talented cast — headed by Kyle Bornheimer, one of the most naturally-gifted comedic talents to hit television in a decade — WORST WEEK manages to pull off this difficult task nine out of 10 times. Week after week, WORST proves itself to be among the best shows on the airwaves.
THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA
Look, I warned you right up front this was a list based on quantity of enjoyment as opposed to quality of content. And let’s face it, love it or hate it, this was one wildly entertaining show. From Sheree’s laughable “launch” of her clothing line to Nene’s over-the-top persona, this reality show is about as fake as… um, everything about Kim. Yet somehow, this train wreck was so absorbing that I can’t for next season’s derailment.
The “Close But No Cigar” Awards go to…
THE OFFICE: Sorry, but between axing Holly, that painful intervention and a serious dirth of Pam and Jim, I’m just not feelin’ it.
GREY’S ANATOMY: The second half of the 2007-2008 season was pretty awful. And while so far, the 2008-2009 season has vastly improved, the mishandling of the whole Callie/Erica romance and near back-burnering of Bailey has left me kinda cold.
GOSSIP GIRL: Season two has been much better than season one. But I’m just not feelin’ the whole Aaron Rose thing, and, proving that I’m getting old, I just wanna pull Jenny over my knee and give that twit a spanking.
LIPSTICK JUNGLE: I kid, I kid. Even the ever-naked Robert Buckley (Kirby) couldn’t drag me back after having suffered through the first season.
Missed the TV Addict’s Top 10 of 2008? Click here to check them out.