Monday, January 23, 2006

TV I Saw in 2005:
Part two of my irregular (and irrelevant) "Best of 2005" series here on the blog. I continued to co-run The Fourth Rail, one of the biggest comic review sites, throughout 2005, and one of the many, many reasons that I retired was that I realized that I was more interested in what was on TV than what was in comics, as a majority rule. It seemed like some of the more unusual and original projects were breaking through and surviving in a way that they usually don't in any entertainment medium, with the success of weird genre TV like Lost being a prime example.

So, below, my list of my top five shows that were on TV this year. Coming... well, later, is my top five TV DVD sets for the year and then the rest, stuff I rented or bought. I bought a lot more TV on DVD than I did movies on DVD.

My Top Five TV Shows:
Once again... I'm not judging on objective quality, but which TV I watched this year that I really enjoyed the most. There's one quality in common with all of them, and that's the ability to get better as they go along. There wasn't one new show this year that makes it to my top five list, but there are three from last year and two that were on their third and fourth seasons, respectively, and not one of them fell prey to the common season drift of quality.

1. Arrested Development (FOX) - If I had to choose only one show to watch, this would be it. Year three, and the show still gets funnier, more complex and more bizarre in its plots and character arcs. Tobias with hair implants that could kill him? Mr. F, and all that goes with it? George Bluth under house arrest, and using a surrogate to chime in at family meetings? This show is absolutely brilliant comedy, and quite possibly the funniest show ever put on the air. NBC generally rules the comedy roost, with Seinfeld, Cheers, Newsradio, and Scrubs all ranking in my favorites, but Arrested Development is my favorite of all time. Here's hoping Showtime picks it up.

2. The Shield (F/X) - I have to admit, I was worried. Glenn Close sounded suspiciously like stunt-casting. But she was amazing. She deserves an Emmy for best supporting actress. Her character was tough, smart, a perfect foil and ally for Vic Mackie by turns. And the story of Vic and the strike team continues to deepen, with Shane coming off as the bad guy for much of the early part of the season and the team coming back together after their disastrous explosion at the end of season three. That's not even mentioning Anthony Anderson in an Emmy-worthy role as Antwone Miller, probably the scariest and smartest bad guy the show has offered up yet. The Shield is a cop drama, but it's a cop drama that is so different from all the other cop shows out there that it doesn't deserve to be lumped in with them. Even the best of them, like Homicide or NYPD Blue (in its early years), can't hold a candle to The Shield.

3. Lost (ABC) - Complex mythology, plenty of mysteries and a terrific ensemble cast. That alone would make Lost a great show. But it's the writing that elevates the show beyond genre and into the realm of just plain great drama. The X-Files spectre looms above this show, with the worrying "can they possibly answer all the questions and mysteries in a satisfying way?" The great thing is, I'm so wrapped up in the characters and their week-to-week stories, that I ultimately don't even care if they drop the ball a little on this at the end. And season two, with the introduction of the hatch, the tailies and more of The Others, picks up nicely from where season one left off and continues to roll along.

4. Veronica Mars (UPN) - This is how great TV has been this season... this is the kind of show that could easily have been my number one choice, but I don't have a spot for it until number four. Veronica Mars turns for me on the smart father-daughter dynamic of Kristen Bell and Enrico Colantoni, but the key to making the show work in season two was to come up with a compelling central mystery equal to that of "Who killed Lily Kane?" from season one. And the writers managed it, with a multiple path story involving a crashed bus, the fallout of last year's Kane murder and the confrontation on the bridge that weaves in and out nicely, with plenty of room for further revelations. There were some missteps, like the introduction of bitchy girlfriend Jackie, and damn did I miss Wallace for the eternity it seemed like he was gone, but mostly, Veronica Mars is as good as it was during the first season.

5. Entourage (HBO) - While the first short season of Entourage provided some great laughs and memorable moments, season two is where the show clicked and became a favorite. The long-running Aquaman story was great geek candy, but the meat of the show, as always, was the interactions of four lifelong friends surrounded by shocking numbers of hot girls. The Mandy Moore issue, the use of Malcolm McDowell as Ari's boss, James Cameron in a great guest acting role, the show had great standalone episodes and a great plot throughline as well. And while every actor on the show is great, it's Kevin Dillon in particular who steals the show, with a blend of pathetic has-been and prideful star that is just dead-on perfect.

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