Feb 1, 2011

AonTV's Best & Worst of 2010 – The Hour Longs

You know how it goes.  The best laid plans…  Why do today what you can put off…  Honest, I ran out of gas. I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD.

Anyway, it’s a little late, but here is part two of my Best and Worst of 2010, the Hour Long Shows.

Best Hour
Fringe-castFringe (Fox) – With Lost now gone, Fringe has become the best source for mystery, confusion and otherworldly intrigue. In its second season, it is hitting its stride. Much like its uncle, The X Files, Fringe provides a satisfying blend of standalone episodes and mythology episodes. The outstanding scripts are made all the better by a terrific cast (More to come on that below.)  I’d write more about it, but I’m still not sure if I understand it all. And therein lies the fun.
Runner Up
Glee (Fox) – I’ll admit it, I’m a Gleek. My family watches this together and my wife and kid buy all the glee_castsongs on iTunes. Others have complained about this second season being all over the map, but I’ve found it fun and entertaining. The Rocky Horror episode was pure fun and the wedding episode was pitch perfect. The increased use of the ancillary characters, like Brittany, Santana and Mike Chang, has added to the show, distracting from the weekly “Rachel has a complaint” lines of the first season. The music has been outstanding, too. And while Chris Colfer has received much praise for his positive portrayal of a gay teen, I believe equal kudos should go to Mike O’Malley for his honest and tender presentation of a gay teen’s father.

Best New Hour
Men of a Certain Age (TNT) – Maybe it’s because I’ve reached a certain age as well, but this show is tremendously entertaining. The story of three late-middle-age friends at varying landmark points in life MEN OF A CERTAIN AGEis at times very funny and at times sobering in its depiction of the curveballs life throws at you. There is great acting all around (more to come below), but the biggest revelation is certainly Ray Romano, playing Joe Tranelli. Romano brings this middle-aged small business owner to life, showing the weight of his recent separation and his gambling addiction in every crease of his hang-dog eyes. It’s not that we didn’t know Ray could act, but who knew he could act serious, and here he does. Andre Braugher is equally superb as Owen Thoreau Jr. (emphasis on the Jr.), a family man trying to step up from car salesman to running his Father’s dealership. The triad is completed with Scott Bakula in full Peter Pan Syndrome as Terry Elliott, a small time actor finally facing up to the career that isn’t going to happen. While these guys are facing emotional times in their lives, the show also offers its share of laughs. Many of these come around the diner table as the guys meet for lunch each day.  Well worth your time.
Runners Up

TheWalkingDeadThe Walking Dead (AMC) & Human Target (Fox) – By now, you’ve surely heard and probably seen AMC’s The Walking Dead. It’s gotten a huge amount of publicity and it is all well deserved. It paints a sobering, disturbing picture of a world destroyed by a Zombie virus. A small band of “survivors” group together to make their way through the chaos, avoiding the fate of the Walkers.
If you like you action shows a little lighter, Fox’s Human Target may be the show for you, if it hasn’thuman_target_cast been canceled before I finish writing this. Based on a comic book of the same name, Human Target is the adventures of Christopher Chance, a blend of bodyguard and detective, who is hired by clients whose lives may be in danger. His method is to put them into situations where the attempt is made, drawing the bad guy out into the open. His team includes his business manager, former cop Winston (Chi McBride) and the mysterious Guerrero, an electronics, fire arms and torture specialist played perfectly by Jackie Earle Haley. Give it a watch if you can find it.

Best Hour Episode
Jack-dying-in-the-lost-finaleLost, “The End” (Finale) – OK, best two and a half hours, but my site, my rules. I know others have criticized the finale as not giving up enough answers; to them I say, tough luck. I’ve always believed the artist tells the story they want to tell and if they start writing to the fans desires, you end up with Snakes on a Plane.  The final hours of Lost fed my brain and my emotions perfectly and left me sobbing and cheering. It could not have been any more perfect for me. And added kudos for the alternate endings that were shown on Jimmy Kimmel after the show.
Runner Up
Sherlock (BBC/PBS), “A Study in Pink” (Pilot) – This reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterSherlock sleuth for the modern world is simply superb. For readers of the books, they will recognize his character’s traits and idiosyncrasies as faithful to canon, but the accommodations for the technology of 2010 are spot on. Trading the Internet for stacks of books, text messaging for classified ads, and more, help retain the flavor of the books for a whole new generation. And the use of on-screen text to show how Holmes’ mind is processing details is sheer genius, taking the place of written descriptions on the page. Benedict Cumberbatch is perfect as Sherlock Holmes, and, as a final olive branch to fans of the books, Martin Freeman makes an affable and accurate Dr. John Watson. Watson is along for the ride, constantly amazed, but equally intelligent, unlike the befuddled old fool often portrayed in the black and white films. A true gem from the BBC, available on DVD, with more episodes coming in production.

Best Hour Gone Too Soon
Tie: Stargate Universe & Caprica (SyFy) – Honestly, I’m about done with the entire SyFy Channel. They will show any piece of shit creature feature that 3 guys with an HD camera put together, or leave Sanctuary in front of its green screen for 4 seasons, but two smart and well produced science fiction shows get the axe way before their time, as best I can figure to make room for wrestling. The first two SGU TeamStargate series were mildly entertaining science fiction shows, if a little too clean and tidy. But with Stargate Universe, they reinvented themselves. Moving the cast onto an ancient starship traveling the wrong direction in a faraway galaxy created a sense of isolation and a realization that there would not be a rescue coming every week just after the last commercial break. The wonderful cast worked with exceptional scripts to explore morality, ethics, loyalty, hopelessness, etc. all set in one of the coolest fan-boy spaceships in recent memory.
Caprica was billed as a prequel series to the near-perfect Battlestar Galactica reboot, taking place 50caprica years previous during the “birth” of the Cylons. Even given that setup, this show was surprisingly un-science fiction. It focused more on politics, religion, zealotry, humanity and other deep topics, with very little action. I suppose the high level of talking and thinking in the show disappointed a certain segment of the fan base, and SyFy unceremoniously yanked it at the end of the year, burning off the last five episodes on a weeknight marathon. Again, replaced with a different kind of fiction, pro wrestling.  Shame on SyFy.

Best Hour Actor
fringe-nobleJohn Noble, Fringe – Watching John Noble portray Dr. Walter Bishop is a constant journey of discovery. Dr. Bishop is a scientific genius, but his genius has been suppressed by a theft of a portion of his brain, trips to an alternate universe and 16 years in an insane asylum.  Released to help solve some of the more bizarre occurrences facing the Fringe Division of the FBI, he swings from a child-like fascination with strawberry milkshakes to an advanced understanding of the effects of gamma rays on the hormones of the brain.  Australian-born Noble achieves this without missing a beat, bringing to life one of the most layered characters on television. This was made even more apparent during the episodes featuring him as Walternate, the perfectly sane and slightly ominous version of Walter in the other universe. Seeing this no nonsense version made us appreciate the acting job done by Noble every week in this universe. The man is due an Emmy in either universe.
Runners Up
men-certain-age-rayRay Romano & Andre Braugher, Men of a Certain Age -- I’ll just reiterate what I said before, Men features some superb acting, but Ray Romano is the real surprise.  He still shows that mischievous twinkle in his eye when being funny or inappropriate, but his face shows a seriousness that we’re just not used to.  On the other hand, we’ve seen Andre Braugher in men-certain-age-andreserious roles many times and he is just as good here as in previous roles, and does well with the humor, too. Best are the scenes between Owen Jr. and Owen Sr., who is constantly reminding his son how successful he (the dad) is and how far he (the son) needs to go to catch up. Their relationship is clearly defined by one word; Owen still calls his father, “Daddy,” and it makes me cringe every time. I hope for an episode to deal with that as a rite of passage.  Scott Bakula is good as well, but these two shine.


Best Hour Actress
anna torv fringeAnna Torv, Fringe – As FBI Fringe Division Agent Olivia Dunham, Anna Torv has to be icy cool as she investigates strange goings on to which she has a special relationship. In Season One, this came off as aloof and distant. This lightened up in Season Two, as she became more familiar with the weirdness she had to deal with and with her team. In Season Three, we got to understand just how good an actress Australian Torv is, as she played both Olivia in this Universe, then Alt-Livia in the alternate Universe. Alt-Livia is different from Olivia. She’s lighter, happier, knows how to have fun, is in love. Torv plays this so well that just by seeing her face, you know which one we’re seeing.  This acting got even better when the two switched Universes, and icy Olivia had to pretend to be more relaxed Alt-Livia, and Alt-Livia played Olivia, but started allowing others in.  Torv brings a level of believability to the role, as well as a sort of stern sexiness. Friday nights are a real treat.
Runner Up
Juliana Margulies, The Good Wife (CBS – I’m not a regular viewer of this show, usually catching it when I’m kissing up to my wife, but it is enjoyable if only to see Nurse Carol Hathaway again. Margulies has long been one of my favorite television actresses, and not just because her beauty never fails to make my heart skip a beat. In the role of wife and mother Alicia Florrick, publicly wronged by her husband and forced to return to the workforce as an attorney, Marguilies brings her gravitas and sincerity to what could easily have slipped into soapy melodrama. 

Worst Hour
-No-Ordinary-FamilyNo Ordinary Family (ABC) – I will freely admit that I didn’t give this show much of a chance, but even as a science fiction fan, I just couldn’t get past it’s live action Incredibles plot.  Maybe it’s a lingering effect from how bad Heroes got in the second season, but nothing in the first two episodes of this show gave me any promise that it was going to be engaging or fun. Michael Chiklis can be either amazing (The Shield) or syrupy sweet (The Commish).  Maybe because I’m borderline diabetic, I’m not a fan of him here.

Best Guest Actor
Don’t have one for a 60 minute show, so I’ll give two for a 30 minute show.

30-Rock-Damon-Fey_320hamm_30rock_225Tie: Jon Hamm & Matt Damon, 30 Rock – One of the funniest shows on TV found a way to introduce a little class to the joint by using two great leading men as boyfriends of Liz Lemon. Jon Hamm played a guy who was quite successful until Liz pointed out that he lived in a beautiful person bubble, which then pops. He ends up with hooks for hands.  Matt Damon became a recurring character as Liz’s airline pilot boyfriend. He brought a goofiness to the role that was on the other end of the spectrum from Jason Bourne. One forgets he starred in a movie as a conjoined twin, but it’s this side of Damon that came to play at 30 Rock.

Best Guest Actress
glee-paltrow_320Gwyneth Paltrow, Glee – In any given week, an episode of Glee full of energy, fun and moments of joy. The episode “The Substitute” made them all look like Greek tragedy, thanks to the exuberant work of Gwyneth Paltrow.  Paltrow’s Holly Holliday is a character in love with life and she infects everyone she meets with a similar enthusiasm. Her rendition of Cee-Lo’s Forget You out did the original and showed a side of Paltrow that few knew existed.



Best Talk or Reality Show
late lateThe Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (CBS) – If the “Late Late” part of the show makes it hard for you to catch Craigyferg, then set your DVR. What you’ll discover is a silly Scotsman who loves America, a Robot Skeleton sidekick, a group of potty mouthed puppets, and a dancing Secretariat. What you’ll also find is the best late night host of them all, Craig Ferguson. His self-aware brand of goofiness is infectious. His interviews range from ridiculously scattershot, as with The Office’s Mindy Kaling, to deeply interesting and reverent, as with his Peabody Award winning interview of Bishop Desmond Tutu. Unlike his peers, Ferguson’s opening monologues are stream of consciousness rambles on a theme that take on their own life.  And nothing funnier exists on TV than Craig’s cold open dance routines, where he and his cast of players lip synch and dance to an array of tunes. Stay up late or record, it’s your choice, but discover the world of Craig Ferguson. I look forward to your letters. IN YOUR PANTS!
Runners Up
teach-tony-danzaTeach: Tony Danza (A&E) and Tosh.0 (Comedy Central) – Two completely different shows here, but both are worth your time.  The premise of Teach: Tony Danza sounded like a comedy in itself: Taxi and Who’s the Boss star Tony Danza becomes a 10th Grade English teacher in Philly. The truth is this was an engaging and sometimes heartbreaking look at a hell of a nice guy trying to make a difference in the world.  On the other hand, Tosh.0 is a show of absolutely no redeeming value that makes me laughtosh0 so hard my eyes feel like they’re going to burst. Daniel Tosh hosts a review of the week’s viral Internet videos and adds insult to insult and injury. His comments not only cross the line, they go so far past it the line disappears from view. One of his best bits is the Web Redemption, where he brings a YouTube “star” to Hollywood to try to do whatever it was that their asshole friends filmed them doing wrong all over again. Watching Tosh.0 should qualify as aerobic exercise.

Worst Talk or Reality Show
conan-obrien-and-jay-lenoTie: The Jay Leno Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (NBC) – About once a year, I tune in to Leno to see if anything has changed. Still blending two completely different topics to make a lame joke, check (seriously, Jay, give the Bill Clinton sex jokes a rest already, won‘t you?). Still forcing members of the audience to “rush” forward to show he is a man of the people, check.  Still kissing stars asses, check.  It doesn’t matter what time he’s on, Jay Leno is not funny.
Real-HousewivesRunner Up
Real Housewives of Anytown (Bravo) – Honestly, doesn’t watching these shows make Huey Long’s wealth redistribution theories seem all the more reasonable? Honestly, wealth and fame are wasted on the wrong people.

Best 2010 Moment on TV That I Could Watch a Hundred Times Over and Still Laugh

So there you have my list. What’s on your list that I missed?  Comment below to let me know.

And even though we’re a month in already, may you have a wonderful 2011, filled with more bests than worsts.

More to Come.

5 comments:

  1. Image of Mr. Adams cheering thru tears during the last Lost = wish I'd been a fly on the wall.

    Gwenyth Paltrow's sub in Glee = Me in the alternate Universe, (I'm taller over there)

    Silly Craig Furguson = My silly crush

    Watermelon in the kisser = OUCH!

    Anne Hathaway as Kurt's aunt on upcoming Glee = I can't wait!!!

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  2. Oh...almost forgot = What? No Sons of Anarchy?

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  3. Nice work with the apatow twitter nudge, but I thought this was going to be Adamson Television. I have no idea what that would be and I have to admit, Adams on television does make a lot more sense.

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  4. @Tony Adamson Adams on TV was my first choice, but there was already an AdamsonTV twitter feed. So I went long form. BTW, my brother is Tony Adams. Will get really confusing for you if he starts a blog on a topic.

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Questions? Comments? Scathing rebuttals? Amusing Anecdotes?