Dec 26, 2010

AonTV's Best & Worst of 2010

Virtually every media outlet is presenting their best and worst of 2010, so here is mine (not that I’m a “media outlet” mind you). As with everything on this site, this is my opinion, based upon what I’ve watched this year. There may have been better and worse on TV this year, but if I don’t watch them, they don’t make the list (sorry Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad). Do you have a differing point of view? There’s a comment box down below, or head over to Blogger and set up your own site.

I’ll start with the Half Hour shows now and get to Hour shows in a day or so.

And away we go…

Best Half-Hourmodern-family

Modern Family (ABC) – From the very first episode, MF found its comedic voice and was rewarded with an Emmy in its first season. It never came close to a sophomore slump. The three branches of this family consistently deliver laughs.  The entire cast is spot on, from the kids all the way up the Modern Family tree.
Runners Up
Cougar Town (ABC), How I Met Your Mother (CBS), Community (NBC), The Big Bang Theory (CBS), The Office (NBC), 30 Rock (NBC), The League (FX), East Bound & Down (HBO).  What can I say, a lot of good comedies out there these days, many of which could have taken the top spot.

Best New Half Hourraising hope

Raising Hope (Fox) – Hope takes this prize coming out of a weak pack of new shows, but that doesn’t  diminish how good the show is. The first half season has been reliably funny, introducing some of the funniest characters since, well, Modern Family. Worth a run over to Fox.com just to see Maw-Maw dancing and playing hoarder Jenga to Istanbul (Not Constantinople). All 11 episodes are currently online.
Runner UpFX_shows_louie
Louie (FX) – This show from the mind of stand-up comedian Louis CK was a true surprise. I’d watched  Life with Louie on HBO and thought this would be similar, but he really took it to the next level. Louis CK found a way to move seamlessly from gut busting humor (a stoned weekend without the kids) to frank and insightful (a discussion with a gay friend during poker), all wrapped in his unique stand-up.

Best Half Hour Episodejoel-mchale-community-paintball-episode-nbc-560x250

Community, "Modern Warfare" – The best ensemble cast in TV pushes the boundaries of the genre  every week. This episode, featuring a campus-wide paintball tournament, spoofed action movies from 28 Days Later to Die Hard to Platoon to Terminator.  Best line, from Abed, “Come with me if you don't want to get paint on you.”
Runner Upnoonan
Louie, “God” – This was a surreal episode with Louie flashing back to a traumatic period in his Catholic  education. The Stern Nun, frustrated with her class of 9 year olds, calls in a creepy FBI doctor (brilliantly played by
Tom Noonan) to give them a blow by blow demonstration of how Christ died for their sins. Only Louis CK could make this disturbingly hilarious.

Best Half Hour, Gone Too Soon

Better Off Ted (ABC) – Although it was only on for two seasons, Ted set a standard for bizarre comedy. ban[188] Set at Veridian Dynamics, a research corporation that will invent anything for a profit, such as cow-less meat and an office chair so uncomfortable it makes people work harder, Ted was a pitch perfect view of what happens when greed meets innovation.  Most episodes featured a corporate commercial that sounded just different enough from ADM not to get sued. "Veridian Dynamics: Right and Wrong. It means something. We just don't know what."

Best Half Hour Actor

Pic_1Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother – When lothario Barney Stinson suits up, he may be one of  the funniest characters on TV. NPH plays him with bravado and confidence. Especially fun are the episodes where Barney is not the coolest guy on the show, as when he’s in fear of a power slap on Slapsgiving. Harris is simply legen… wait for it …dary!
Runner Up
g1 Garret Dillahunt, Raising Hope – Dillahunt shines as Burt Chance, the patriarch of an un-smart family that has suddenly grown by an unexpected grandbaby. Mostly known for serious and creepy roles, including
Deadwood and The 4400, Dillahunt brings innocence and sincerity, if not intellect, to the role.

Best Half Hour Actress

julie-bowen-modern-family-funny-231x300 Julie Bowen, Modern Family – While co-star Sofía Vergara gets more press due to her accent and her curves (I happen to think she is the third best looking woman on the show, since I found out that Sarah Hyland just turned 20), Julie Bowen is the highlight of the show. She is the link between the three family units and she says more with a blank stare and and a wide open mouth than most actresses say in a hundred words. Bowen’s Claire Dunphy is the perfect foil and mate to husband Phil.
Runners Up
BusyPhilipps01 Tie: Busy Phillips, Cougar Town and Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope -- Busy 101018-RaisingHope-MarthaPlimpton Phillips, in addition to being just about as cute as can be, brings a sparkle to her role as Laurie Keller. She plays a blonde that knows her dingy-ness is part of her charm. Luckily, they’ve toned down her trampiness this season. Martha Plimpton plays Virginia Chance, a grandmother way before her time, as a pugnacious, exasperated mom who is trying to make as normal a life as possible. Great acting is in the eyes, and Plimpton’s eyes speak volumes.

Worst Half Hour

Tie: Running Wilde & $#*! My Dad Says – I started two episodes of Running Wilde and turned them both off within 15 minutes. It wasn’t just that they weren’t funny, they sucked any residual funny out of the room. And $MDS started with the hilarious comments from the Twitter feed, but forgot that they needed to write funny stuff to fill in between.  In my opinion, William Shatner was horribly miscast; I’d have much rather seen someone like Judd Hirsch take the role.  As my friend Todd said, “ $#*! My Dad Says? They should have just called it $#*! ”
Runners Up
The Marriage Ref & Two and A Half Men – Bottom line, the people on The Marriage Ref were never as clever as they had convinced themselves they were and Tom Papa came off like a bad used car salesman. And I know I’m in the minority on Two and a Half, but I’ve just never found it all that funny with way too much reliance on set-up and punch-line comedy. I do like Charlie’s bowling shirts, though.

So that’s my list of half-hour shows. If you don’t like my list, substitute “favorite” for “best”, or suggest your alternatives in the comments.

I’ll post Hour shows soon. Until then, as always…

More to Come.

Dec 21, 2010

RIP, Detective Dietrich

steve land Sometimes a celebrity death strikes you in a way you don’t expect. Such it is with me on the news of the death of Steve Landesberg; I feel like I’ve lost a childhood friend. I have been a fan of TV all my life, and I like to think that I developed a taste for quality shows very early on. I was six or seven when I convinced my parents that they had to watch this new show called All in the Family. I watched Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart and M*A*S*H and many other shows that were probably a little advanced for my age.

Chief among these excellent shows that I found both funny and intelligent, was barney miller castBarney Miller, which premiered in 1974 when I was 10. Each episode played like a stage play, starting with one of the best theme songs ever, with the steady Capt. Miller guiding his team of idiosyncratic detectives as they booked and processed the week’s complement of two-bit petty thieves, hookers, johns, embezzlers—you name it, the crime passed through the Twelfth Precinct.  The cast of this show was overfilled with comedic talent, including Abe Vigoda, who must have steve land 2 been born old, and every character actor who ever worked on TV in the 70’s. But for some reason, the one that I always looked forward to was Det. Arthur Dietrich as brought to irreverent life by Steve Landesberg. He joined the show full time in the 3rd season. His slow dry wit as he added an intellectual and philosophical perspective to the lunacy at hand always struck me as the essence of humor. That Dietrich could find something completely off kilter to say even in the most tense moments struck me as a healthy way to13536BARNEY9A deal with stress. He was so known for adding to irreverence to a situation, that often he  didn’t have to speak to make the joke;  other characters would look at him expecting something, and he’d just shrug, as if to say, “I got nothin’.”  Bit of trivia: Landesberg originally appeared on Barney Miller as “Father Paul;” he was so good a role was quickly created for him.

I also remember Landesberg in a great HBO standup special. He did a long riff on reporters interviewing football players. Observing that Kickers were often South American soccer stars who didn’t really understand the game, the only response you could get from them was, “Keek bawl, geet check.” He noted that you rarely saw interviews from the losing locker room, saying (in a deep voice), “If we’da won dat game, I was gonna get a Mersadees Bents; now I gotta getta got-damm Pinto!”

LandesbergSteve Landesberg had spent the last couple of decades doing small parts in movies and TV and  voice-over work on some animated shows including Adult Swim, including a memorable cameo in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  He died of cancer on December 20, 2010 at age 65. He is credited with the quote, “Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defense.” And a funnier one.

RIP, Steve Landesberg, November 23, 1945 - December 20, 2010

More to Come.

Nov 28, 2010

RIP, Leslie Nielsen

Actor Leslie Nielson has died at age 84 from complications fromyoung-Leslie-Nielsen--leslie-nielsen-254217_288_219 pneumonia. Canadian born Nielsen got his start as a serious actor, appearing on TV in the 1950’s in at least 150 live dramas and in movie classics such as Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure.  But his greatest success came with a switch to comedy, beginning with the 1980 classic, Airplane! He continued the dead-pan style used in that film playing Detective Frank Drebin in the short lived but leslie_nielsencritically acclaimed 1982 TV show Police Squad. In 1988, Nielsen took Frank Drebin to the big screen for the very successful Naked Gun series. He continued to make spoof movies and to work in movies and TV until his death. Planning for a fourth Naked Gun film was underway. 

Surely Leslie Nielsen will be missed. He will be missed, and don’t call him Shirley.

RIP, Leslie Nielsen, February 11, 1926 – November 28, 2010

More to Come.

Nov 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Prayer

 

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;

When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;

When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;

When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,

And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.

Amen.

- Samuel F. Pugh

 

Happy Thanksgiving to All. There’s parades and football on TV, but don’t forget to tune in to the ones you love.  Wm. Adams, Adams on Television.

Nov 22, 2010

TV Net Work, 11/22

I work the Net so you don’t have to

Not Lost Anymore, Part 1: “Hurley” does a guest spot on HIMYM tonight.  http://goo.gl/3ZfUL

What, Mel Brooks didn’t get it right?  OK, that’s one opinion.  http://goo.gl/SeIft

It had to be her dancing right? Nothing else about her would lead to such emotion.  http://goo.gl/USfs1

Not Lost Anymore, Part 2: “Hurley” to go to a different island.  http://goo.gl/Z54IM

Remington Bond is returning to TV playing a real life investigator.  http://goo.gl/bm0nK

A Lost producer and the producer of Pearl Harbor are teaming up to produce a drama set during the Civil Warhttp://goo.gl/YokLD

More to Come.

Nov 20, 2010

Don‘t You Like to Laugh? (Part 2)

The second of a short series focusing on three shows that I enjoy a lot that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

Keep Hope Alive!

So over on Fox TV, there’s this new sit-com called Raising Hope that you’reraising-hope-6-10-10-kc probably not watching. What’s it about? Well, at its core, it’s about a young single dad raising his infant daughter with the help of his parents and great grandmother. Sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Like there’d be lots of sweet little “aww” moments and learning and growth and stuff, like a 30 minute version of 7th Heaven or something?  And pretty much unwatchable, right?

Well it would be, except that this situation is run through the filters of the creative team that brought us My Name is Earl, so it’s not quite as tidy and wholesome as it sounds.  Let me recap how we got to the basic situation of the show.

Twenty-three year old Jimmy Chance, played by Lucas Neff (The Beast), lives with his parents and works as a landscaper and pool cleaner for his dad Burt, wonderfully played by Garret Dillahunt (Deadwood, The 4400).  Jimmy is good natured and likable, if a little simple, and is starting to wonder if he should want more out of life. He then has a chance meeting and one-night stand with a hot blond in the back of the family van. The next day, the family sees a news report identifying her as a serial killer. She is captured and sent to Death Row.  Eight months later, Jimmy learns that she is pregnant.  Cut to Jimmy, holding his infant daughter in the viewing gallery of the baby-mama’s execution in the electric chair.  Jimmy now has to raise his daughter, christened Princess Beyoncé (“…but I think I may change that.”) and needs his family’s help in figuring it all out. And all this occurred before the first commercial break.b39b4_101101mag-raising-hope1

Trouble is, Burt and Jimmy’s mom Virginia, a housecleaner, were never the best at childrearing themselves, as we see in frequent flashbacks.  Virginia is played by Martha Plimpton (The Goonies, Running on Empty) as both exasperated and overwhelmed (her first thought is to drop Hope at the fire station. But you have to hand it to someone, the box out front is for canned goods and puppies). Possibly the smartest member of the bunch, she isn’t without her eccentricities, including hoarding all of the items she’s collected from the trash piles of her clients.

raising-hope-halloween-twoRounding out the family is Maw Maw, Jimmy’s great grandmother. Maw Maw is played with award-worthy enthusiasm by comedy legend Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein, The Mary Tyler Moore Show), as a very old woman who has lost most of her mind. Generally having only 5 lucid minutes a day, she frequently imagines she’s 9 or believes that Jimmy is her dead husband (including giving him a kiss so hard, Jimmy exhaled her cigarette smoke) and is often seen in only her bra and some stretch pants.  Leachman has long since given up on any sense of vanity and takes Maw Maw to the brink.  She’s rarely the focus of the show, but her scenes are priceless.

Also on the scene is Jimmy’s new found friend, Sabrina, played by Shannon Woodward (The Riches, Grounded for Life). Sabrina works at the local grocery store because she has nothing better to do. Jimmy is smitten with her, but she has a boyfriend away at college and doesn’t seem to notice Jimmy in that way.

This dysfunctional group does their best to care for Hope, as she was thankfully renamed. Hope is played by two sets of twins, and they are some dang cute babies. The expressions they milk out of the baby actors are priceless.51296410001_602793821001_ari-origin29-arc-185-1283551819985

The comedy in Raising Hope comes from the tension of wondering if Hope is in safe hands, and in watching this blue collar family stumble through life doing the best that they can.  These aren’t bad people, just un-smart people working to make it through life, now even more challenging with a baby in their midst.  The comedy is broad and both verbal and physical. There was a nice meta reference to Earl Hickey in the pilot. One of the biggest laughs I’ve had in a while was when Hope RollVirginia and Jimmy were driving little Hope home in the very old car seat Jimmy picked up at the pawn shop (Sabrina: Nice car seat.  Jimmy: Oh yeah, thanks, it's a used one.  Sabrina: I can see that. Who used it, baby Jesus?)  Virginia points out that the van doesn’t have a seatbelt, so how are you going to strap it in. “What do you mean ‘strap it in‘?” Cue the sight gag of Virginia making a turn, and baby Hope, in car seat, rolling across the back seat.

Raising Hope is easily the best new comedy of the season. Of course it didn’traising-hope-s1e5-Family-Secrets-01-550x365 have a lot of competition for that title (I’m talking to you, Running Wilde [good riddance]).  Fox is running two episodes a week for a while, one new and one repeat so you can catch up, plus you can watch complete episodes here.  So tune in to one of the funniest shows you’re not watching and see if Princess Beyoncé, err… Hope will survive the Chance family. I’m betting she does OK.  Her name is in the title, after all.

Raising Hope on Fox TV, Tuesdays at 9:00|8:00c

More to Come.