Saturday, December 18, 2010
But this year, I thought I'd mix it up and do a best quotes of 2010 list. I asked for suggestions and got almost nothing from you people. So, I was left to my own devices to come up with a list of the verbal highlights of 2010. I tried my best, but I know there are many things I forgot (my failure to come up with a single memorable line from either "The League" or "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" shames me to no end).
Still, here is my sure-to-be-imperfect-but-complete-to-the-best-of-my-abilities list of the best quotes of 2010.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Along with all the new shows starting this week, a bunch of returning shows are also making their season premieres, including Fox's bright musical comedy "Glee." The new season debuts Tuesday at 8 p.m. and, while it's not quite as good as last season's best episodes, it's a solid start.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
I think we can all agree that this year's Emmy nominations, while overlooking a lot of great shows and performers, were a bit better than normal. After all, the academy finally gave nods to eternally snubbed "Friday Night Lights" leads Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler, and gave lots of love to some promising newbies, like "Glee" and "Modern Family."
But, no matter what they say, it's the win that matters. When the awards are handed out on Aug. 29, who will win? Here are my predictions on who will win in the major categories -- and my thoughts on who SHOULD win in the major categories.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Given that Fox aired a "sneak preview" of the perky musical comedy nearly a year ago, and that the show's cast has been everywhere from the White House to "Oprah," the series feels like it's been on forever. Yet we're merely in the middle of its freshman year.
Considering how overexposed the show has been, you'd think enthusiasm for it would have waned, but the show's fans seem to be hotly anticipating the second half of the season, which begins Tuesday at 9:28 p.m. To them I say -- you won't be disappointed. I've see the first three new episodes and, so far, the show's mix of musical numbers and teen angst remains fresh.
When we last left the singin', dancin' kids of New Directions, they had just won Sectionals and things were looking up. Coach Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) was leaving his odious wife and falling into the arms of loving guidance counselor Emma (Jayma Mays). Evil cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (the hilarious Jane Lynch) had been exposed for the malicious manipulator she is and ousted from her job.
When the show returns, it loses no time in making things crazy again. Having won Sectionals, the kids must now win Regionals to keep their club. Oh, and without spoiling too much, let me just say that Sue Sylvester can't be sidelined for long.
The musical numbers come even faster and more furious this time around and, while Tuesday's episode has few showstopper's (save Cory Montheith's Finn wailing the heck out of The Doors's "Hello, I Love You"), the next episode is an instant classic. Called "The Power of Madonna," it features the Glee kids tearing it up to some of the Material Girl's best number. I won't spoil the episode's highlight, except to say it involves a reworking of the iconic video for "Vogue." Oh, and it's the reigning champ for my favorite TV moment of the year.
"Glee" isn't perfect. Cohesive plotting and character development is often tossed aside for showmanship. And the show's stories often fall into a predictable pattern: Glee team encounters obstacle. They struggle, then they overcome.
But really, it's hard to quibble with a show that's just so entertaining. No, "Glee" isn't perfect, but it is super-fun.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Putting together a list of this year's top 10 shows proved harder than I anticipated. While last year was a relatively spotty year for TV (with the exception of excellent final seasons for "The Shield" and "The Wire"), 2009 offered a lot of reasons to love the boob tube. Several returning shows had particularly strong seasons and there were some truly smart and imaginative new offerings.
To accommodate all the year's notable programming, I present not only the traditional top 10 list, but also an honorable mention and a list of runners up. Do you have a problem with that?
I didn't think so. On to the list.
1. "Breaking Bad," AMC: After a strong, but uneven, first season, AMC's wrenching drama "Breaking Bad" blossomed into a devastating, much-watch series in its sophomore outing. With the initial exposition out of the way, the tale of drug-dealing chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston, whose brilliance goes without saying at this point) and his slightly more seasoned sidekick Jesse (Aaron Paul) went into overdrive. The guys got deeper and deeper into the drug biz. They built up a crew, acquired a lawyer (the excellent Bob Odenkirk) and unleashed a whole lot of hell. At its best, "Breaking Bad" is smart, darkly funny and deeply unsettling. It's the year's best show and, along with "Mad Men," cements AMC's reputation as the new home for great drama.
2. "Lost," ABC: Yes, I know the new conventional wisdom is that cable is king and broadcast is yesterday's news. But this year, the networks offered a lot of top-notch programming, including the best season yet of ABC's fascinating sci-fi drama "Lost." This was the show's penultimate season, and it was a doozy. We had time travel, the surprisingly touching romance of Juliet and Sawyer and perhaps the year's most shocking finale. What if, it proposed, everything we'd been watching these five seasons could be undone? The show's final season will, presumably, provide the answer. I can't wait. In the meantime, check out one of the season's funniest moments here.
3. "Big Love," HBO: How does "Big Love" do it? How does it manage to make a drama about a polygamist family seem like just another family drama (albeit an incredibly well-acted and well-written one)? Three seasons in and I'm more hooked than ever on the story of Bill Hendrickson (Bill Paxton) and his three wives, played wonderfully by Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin. This season, everyone shone but Sevigny was a particular highlight as her increasingly unstable Nikki Grant battled her daddy issues, her insecurities and a host of secrets.
4. "Mad Men," AMC: Granted, this season of the period drama "Mad Men" was a little slow. There were too many episodes focusing on adman Don Draper's (Jon Hamm) home life, particularly his increasingly dreary wife Betty (January Jones). But the season's best episodes were so phenomenal, they made up for any lags. How can you deny the brilliance of "My Old Kentucky Home," which includes the now-classic line "My name is Peggy Olson, and I want to smoke some marijuana?" Or the visceral shock of the lawn mower scene from "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency?" Or the devastating genius of this scene, in which Don finally reveals the truth about his past?
It all led up to the unforgettable, game-changing finale, "Shut the Door, Have a Seat," in which the "Mad Men" world we knew unraveled, and morphed into something new and exciting. Truth is, I'm willing to put up with this show's slow spots, because it delivers the goods more often than not. And when it delivers the goods, few shows are better.
5. "Friday Night Lights," NBC/DirecTV 101 network: Sadly, many people still haven't seen any of the fourth season of the wonderful drama "Friday Night Lights." That's because you can only watch it on DirecTV's 101 channel. The season won't air on the show's other home, NBC, until the summer. That's a shame, because this is possibly the show's best season since its first. The series reinvigorated itself with a brilliant story about Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) being forced to helm the football team at East Dillon High, a hardscrabble school far less well-off than his former home, Dillon High. The show has also successfully introduced new characters and started to close out stories for some of its returning characters. These include tortured good guy Matt (Zach Gilford), whose character has been through the ringer this season. It's disappointing that this series has to fight to be noticed (to even be seen, in fact), because it's easily one of the most moving, intelligent shows on TV.
6."The Good Wife," CBS: 2009 presented a bunch of promising candidates for best new show, but CBS's "The Good Wife" gets my vote. "ER" vet Julianna Margulies plays a familiar type -- the betrayed wife of a scandalized politician. Left behind to raise her family after a dalliance with a prostitute lands hubby in jail, Margulies's Alicia Florrick returns to her legal career -- as a junior associate. Turns out, she's pretty good at her job. The show manages to be both procedural and compelling character drama, with Margulies giving a brave, powerful performance. Bonus: the husband, played by Chris Noth, is portrayed not as a complete jerk, but as a flawed guy who still loves his angry wife. Good, adult entertainment.
7. "Nurse Jackie," Showtime: The next best new show of the season, "Nurse Jackie" stars Edie Falco as the title character, an excellent nurse who is also a philanderer, drug addict and general rule-breaker. But you kind of love her anyway, thanks to Falco's spot-on performance. Bonus: Merritt Wever's performance as newbie nurse Zoe, maybe the year's funniest new character.
8. "True Blood," HBO: A surprise hit in its first season, HBO's vampire soap "True Blood" got even better in its second season, thanks to some truly insane plotlines, the deepening of several characters and LOTS of sex. Yes, the storyline involving Michelle Forbes's quasi-demoness Maryann was uneven, but it was never boring. And all the show's supporting characters were in top form this season, especially Alexander Skarsgard's Eric, Ryan Kwanten's Jason and Chris Bauer's hilarious Andy Bellefleur (I chuckle every time I think of Bauer's reading of the word "pizazz"). With so many elements clicking, there's only one thing I can say: bloody good show!
9. "Modern Family," ABC: Imagine if the Bluth family of "Arrested Development" was made entirely of well-meaning, decent people instead of self-centered brats. It sounds awful, doesn't it? Well, ABC's new sitcom "Modern Family" isn't awful. Not even a little bit. The show has the dry wit, wacky characters and mockumentary format of "Arrested," but has something else, too: a heart. This family isn't stabbing each other in the back. They love each other. And you know what? Loving families can be funny, too. Especially if the family members are played by deft performers like Ed O'Neill, Sofia Vergara, Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet. Don't believe me? Take a look at this.
10. "Dollhouse," Fox: Yes, I know that Geek Nation is up in arms because Fox didn't renew its challenging sci-fi series "Dollhouse" for a third season. But come on! It's a show that deals with heady topics such as personal identity, exploitation and our culture's growing dependence on technology. We should be happy it even got two seasons. Particularly since the show's second season has been nothing short of excellent. The show centers on a company that imprints mind-wiped humans, or "dolls," with new identities to meet the needs of clients. This season, doll Echo (Eliza Dushku), has developed a personality and free will. Other characters have deepened as well, including Dollhouse tech Topher (Fran Kranz) who has gone from a smarmy geek to a truly complex, compelling part of the show. So yeah, I'm sad this is the last season. But I'm glad we got to see "Dollhouse" at all.
Honorable Mention -- ESPN's "30 for 30": Technically, this isn't a TV series but a series of occasional specials ESPN is running to celebrate the network's 30th year on the air. But it's too good not to mention. Each special focuses on a different story or personality in sports history. Each is helmed by a different director (Peter Berg and Barry Levinson are among the contributors). And each provides a truly fascinating look at the world of sports. Well-worth watching.
1. "Dexter," Showtime: For John Lithgow's awesome performance as the season's chief villain, Arthur Mitchell.
2. "White Collar," USA: For being one of TV's most entertaining new shows, and providing a star-making role for the charming Matthew Bomer.
3. "The Closer," TNT: For being one of the few procedural dramas with a sense of humor that goes beyond darkly comic puns about body parts.
4. "30 Rock," NBC: For Alec Baldwin's continually great performance as Jack Donaghy
5. "Glee," Fox: For proving that a scripted series with musical numbers can work (take that, "Cop Rock!"). Also for Jane Lynch.
Friday, December 11, 2009
This week, FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "The League" both had their season finales, and Fox's bright new musical comedy "Glee" had a mid-season finale (it returns April 13).
Instead of having individual recaps for each, I've decided to mesh them all together into one mega-recap in the interest of time. Because what goes together better than showtunes, poisoned beer and fantasy football?
Away we go...
* Glee, "Sectionals": Though I'd probably classify "Glee" as the most breezily entertaining new show of the season, it's been pretty inconsistent for the first half of its freshman season. Terri's fake pregnancy was probably the worst TV subplot since Landry Clarke's impromptu killing spree in season two of "Friday Night Lights." Plus, I grew tired of the whole Quinn-Finn-Puck story. Come on -- even Finn isn't dumb enough to believe you can get a girl pregnant WITHOUT HAVING SEX! But the show's zesty musical numbers, witty dialogue and excellent acting make it a must see. "Sectionals" took all the show's best elements and threw them into a single episode.
We had Mercedes belting out "And I'm Telling You," Rachel getting her Streisand on and the whole Glee crewing soulfully crooning The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
We saw evil cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester finally get a little payback, being stripped of her job with the Cheerios and suspended from McKinley. Of course, even in defeat, Sue was fierce and Jane Lynch milked every last drop out of Sue's final scene of the year: "Get ready to board the Sue Sylvester express. Destination: HORROR!" (Lynch's breathy, ominous reading of the word "horror" was, alone, worth the entire episode).
But the episode's best scene came when Will, after finally ditching his crazy wife, chased after a heartbroken Emma and planted one of the most satisfying TV kisses ever on her lips. Swoon!
April can't come fast enough.
"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "The Gang Reignites the Rivalry": Admittedly, this season of FX's nutty dark comedy "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" has been a bit spotty. Yes, as always, some episodes were brilliant, include the hilarious offering "The World Series Defense" (and, if you have a few spare bucks, I highly recommend renting or buying the DVD-only special "A Very Sunny Christmas"). But there were quite a few disappointments (am I the only one who expected more from that "kitten mittens" episode?).
However, the season five finale "The Gang Reignites the Rivalry" was pretty excellent, from the opening with Frank in his ill-advised skinny jeans to the gang's victory over the nasty frat brothers at the end. My favorite sequence has to be the one in which Dennis and Frank vandalize the home of poor Art Sloan, as Dennis pontificates about how kids today have no respect. And, by the way, "I'm a legend!" is my new battle cry.
"The League," "The Shiva Bowl": I haven't really written anything about FX's freshman comedy "The League," which was just renewed for a second season. That's unfortunate, because I found the show to be one of the season's biggest surprises. After a broad, coarse (but still funny) pilot, the series has settled into a nice groove as a laid-back comedy about a group of friends in a fantasy football league. I know nothing about fantasy football, so I can't attest to whether the show portrays that world accurately. However, I've spent enough time around guys to know that the show's depiction of male friendship is spot on. I love the easy chemistry among the actors, particularly in this season's finale, in which league outcast Andre finally beat perennial champion Pete. Of course, Andre did lose his girlfriend Shiva, who dumped him after learning the guys had named their league trophy after her. I loved the moment when Shiva saw the trophy, bearing her high school yearbook picture, in Ruxin's car, and Ruxin sheepishly told her "I can explain. But it isn't going to make you feel any better."
With its scatological humor and goofy characters, "The League" isn't a classy show, and I can see why a lot of critics didn't like. But it made me laugh, and it has a nice, familiar feel to it. I really look forward to future seasons.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
So, when Fox sent me the soundtrack for its new musical comedy series "Glee," I tried to be professional. I put it in, and listened to it critically. Being a technical moron, I hadn't downloaded the songs from iTunes like everyone else, so this was my first chance to weigh whether certain songs were more or less appealing when not accompanied by the choreography and spirited personalities of the show's winning cast (more in some cases, less in others). I pondered whether I preferred the CD's version of "Can't Fight This Feeling" to the show's version, which simply had Finn (Cory Monteith) singing the song in the shower (I prefer the latter -- but then, I'm a dirty old lady).
Then, I arrived at track three: "Gold Digger." That's when I stopped analyzing and started dancing. Like really dancing. I mean, butt-slapping was involved (what can I say? To quote another new series, that's how I make the horsey go).
This, friends, is the magic of "Glee." One second, you're cursing the stupidity of a husband who can't tell that his wife is faking a pregnancy. And the next, you're shaking your moneymaker as funky white boy Will (Matthew Morrison) croons "Bust a Move."
See, "Glee" is, at its heart, about the power of music to make people happy. Thus, so is the "Glee" soundtrack. True, some tracks are a bit of a drag. I honestly can't stomach that song "No Air," despite the always-fine vocal chops of Monteith and Lea Michele, who plays arrogant ingenue Rachel. But when these songs click, there's nothing quite like them. And there's plenty of click on this album, particularly the two tracks featuring diva Kristen Chenoweth, and those hip-hop inflected tracks sung by Morrison. I was a little disappointed that the soundtrack didn't feature the "Glee" version of "Push It," or the songs performed by rival choral group "Vocal Adrenaline" (or, for that matter, the songs sung by the series' short-lived male choral group, Acafellas).
But I'm confident that at least some of those tunes will be on "Glee: The Music, Volume 2," to be released Dec. 8. In the mean time, I plan to shake it "Gold Digger" as much as possible.
"Glee: The Music, Season One" is in stores now.
Monday, September 7, 2009
It would be easy to bust on "Glee," the new, hour-long Fox comedy that officially debuts on Wednesday. I mean, the pilot for the series -- about a bunch of misfits in a high school glee club -- premiered in May. May! How's that for a lead on the competition? You'd think a show that debuted that early would get lost in the shuffle by fall, but our friends at Fox would never let that happen, would they? All summer long, my e-mail inbox has been bombarded with messages about "Glee" promotions, including an upcoming cast album and a contest. There are posters for the series everywhere, and Fox seems intent on shoving "Glee"-mania down our throats. With all that, you'd think I'd be really resentful toward "Glee" and hate it out of spite. But I don't, for two reasons. 1) I'm a professional, and I try not to let external factors affect my judgment of a series and 2) It's just damn good.
Really. I mean, I loved the pilot, with its plucky characters, terrific song and dance numbers and hilarious dialogue ("You think this is hard? Try being waterboarded. THAT'S hard."). I loved the way it used the great comedic actress Jane Lynch, who plays an evil cheer-leading coach. I loved it soo much! But I did wonder -- could the show carry this spirit into subsequent episodes?
Well, I've seen two more episodes of "Glee," and the answer is a resounding "yes." "Glee" continues to stand out as the best new show I've seen so far (admittedly, I haven't seen them all yet, but it's definitely the show to beat). Watching it is such a pleasure.
Few shows can mix music with storytelling in a way that's both seamless and entertaining. But "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy pulls it off. That's kind of a surprise, as Murphy is also the man behind FX's garish, over-the-top plastic surgery drama "Nip/Tuck," which is as messy as "Glee" is well-structured.
"Glee" is also just so much nicer than "Nip/Tuck." The characters are so likable, particularly the strident yet vulnerable ingenue Rachel (Lea Michele) and the sweet yet obsessive choir instructor Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison). And Lynch continues to be hilarious as the horrible Sue Sylvester, who fears the glee club will start sucking money away from her cheer-leading program. With her searing eyes and devastatingly dry delivery, Lynch is a perfect comic villain, and meshes nicely with Morrison's sheepish good guy.
The only character on the show that doesn't work is that of Will's wife, Terri, played by "Nip/Tuck" regular Jessalyn Gilsig. She's mean-spirited and crazy, and not in a fun way, like Lynch's character. In an irritating way. It's just hard to believe Will married her.
But why carp about that when the show gets so much else right? It's funny and it has such an inspired mix of music, from showtunes and Celine Dion to Kayne West and Salt 'n' Pepa (wait until you see the glee kids take on "Push It." No, I'm not kidding.).
Watching it is, at its best, like being front and center at a top-notch Broadway show. And I hope it's the hit of the season.
"Glee" airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Fox.