TV 2009: Top 20 Shows & Network Analysis
As promised, yet another list!
At some point I will take a look back at the best television programs from the last ten years, but right now I am focusing on my favorite series’ of 2009. Similar to the caveat that I placed on my list of Favorite Films of the 2000′s, please note that these are not necessarily the most critically acclaimed or award-winning shows; the scripts, casts and production of these programs speak to me, week after week.
- Community (NBC)
- Damages (FX)
- Dexter (SHO)
- Dollhouse (FOX)
- FlashForward (ABC)
- Fringe (FOX)
- Glee (FOX)
- The Good Wife (CBS)
- House (FOX)
- Lost (ABC)
- Mad Men (AMC)
- Medium (CBS)
- Modern Family (ABC)
- Nurse Jackie (SHO)
- Parks and Recreation (NBC)
- Rescue Me (FX)
- Top Chef (BRAVO)
- True Blood (HBO)
- United States of Tara (SHO)
- V (ABC)
I am very encouraged on many levels. First of all, I am unable to recall a more successful year in recent television history for new series debuts; 9 out of the 20 are new shows! I also love that 8 out of the 20 shows above are on cable (basic or pay). Let’s face it, they have more freedom to take risks. With the exception of Lost, I found that most of the original, riveting and thought-provoking content this year to be on Showtime, FX and AMC.
This is the very first time that a CBS series has ever made my annual list of favorites. To me, Medium has improved since CBS made the excellent decision to pick up the show after NBC dropped it from their primetime lineup. And if you’re not already watching The Good Wife, I highly recommend it. Crime/law procedurals are not traditionally my cup of tea, but Julianna Margulies has finally landed the perfect fit, in a role that is Emmy-worthy.
I applaud both FOX and ABC for embracing and having faith in the sci-fi/supernatural genre. Of course FOX does not have the best reputation when it comes to this type of program; it is very disappointing that Dollhouse has been canceled, and I am hoping that more will jump on the Fringe bandwagon because it has improved tremendously in the second season. I long for the good old days when a series like The X-Files survived and endured, despite being moved around in the schedule and landing on Friday nights (which is no longer necessarily a dead zone).
One of the more obvious winners in my book is ABC. Although they are not quite on par with the quality and consistency of Lost, ABC took a leap of faith by offering up both FlashForward and V in the same year. In addition, they gifted us Modern Family - the most refreshing and brilliantly funny series since Arrested Development.
Showtime is THE network to beat, in my opinion. Not since the days of Deadwood, Sex & the City, Six Feet Under and The Sopranos has a cable network dominated with such unique, high quality programming. I am still waiting for HBO to offer up a slate of daring, stellar and provocative shows again. In the meantime, only True Blood has earned a season pass on our TiVO. Dexter speaks for itself – disturbing and phenomenal every single season. But Toni Collette in The United States of Tara and Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie are simply extraordinary. Clearly two of the finest actresses on television today, they anchor their shows with a vulnerable confidence rivaled only by Glenn Close on Damages.
As icing on an already amazing cake, Showtime has landed Laura Linney (one of my favorite actresses of all time) for a new series in 2010 called The C-Word. The show, a dark comedy about cancer, co-stars Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) and Oliver Platt. Linney reunites with Kinsey director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters), who is behind the lens for the pilot.
To be very frank, if it were not for 30 Rock, the resurgence of Parks and Recreation and the debut of Community, I would probably boycott and/or avoid NBC entirely. I will never understand their egregious, premature decision to cancel Kings, Life and Southland (not to mention my guilty pleasure show Lipstick Jungle), especially when the network chose to fill those prime 10pm slots every night with Jay Leno. I am thrilled that TNT rescued Southland from NBC’s discard pile – I will be tuning in every week when it returns on January 12.
In general, I do not love the reality television genre. As someone who is far more interested in the creative team of a particular show than the pretty faces in front of the camera, I prefer to support a smart series with an actual writer’s room. That being said, I do enjoy competition-based shows like The Amazing Race, The Biggest Loser, Project Runway and Survivor. This is the first year that a reality show made my list, and that is because the last season of Top Chef featured some of the most talented contestants on any reality series that I’ve ever seen.
They’re Every Woman
Defense Attorney Patty Hewes. Detective Debra Morgan. Coach Sue Sylvester. Special Agent Olivia Dunham. Copywriter Peggy Olson. Nurse Jackie Peyton. Deputy Director of Parks & Recreation Leslie Knope. FBI Counter Terrorism Agent Erica Evans. And an undercover kick-ass specialist named Echo. These women are all forces to be reckoned with, equally flawed and fabulous. If 2009 was any indication, it seems as if the 2000-teens (what the hell else are we going to call the next decade?) may feature more shows highlighting powerful, compelling women. I applaud and approve.
It is safe to say that I have great enthusiasm for what the next ten years of television has to offer. My hope is that the major networks exercise more patience, listen to and trust fan feedback (to a point), take risks with genre and continue to present unconventional programming.