Tuesday 22 December 2009

Serien des Jahres

This feels like such a big year for television. Part of the reason is that I caught up with a lot of (old, cancelled or still ongoing) shows, but there was also a lot of fantastic new stuff on. Still - it feels like the end of a decade.

Best Overall Show:


There is nothing else on that has me scribbling down pages of notes, that feels so driven by an idea, that is so ambitious in its premise and good at the execution. And I say this as someone who had a really hard time getting into the show, even after the much talked about "game-changer" that was "Men on the Street". But all these episodes that felt like fillers make sense now. This show also features some of the greatest performances this year.  

Friday Night Lights

I caught up with this show this summer, before I would have never thought that I could enjoy a show about high school football. But the performances, the many other issues the show touches, the performances, and the tabula rasa that started the fourth season all make this the show that is easiest to love. 

The Caprica Pilot

This helped my disappointment over the final episode of Battlestar Galactica. I fell for the teenage drama instead of the family saga, but we'll see what happens in the story next January. Jane Espenson was replaced as showrunner by Kevin Murphy so she could concentrate on the writing.We'll see how it goes, but I am certainly intrigued.

Torchwood: Children of Earth

Fabulous, heart-wrenching. I have a special place in my heart reserved for shows that don't hesitate to brutally slaughter beloved characters because you never CAN BE SURE. Also, Captain Jack Harkness is one of those special characters that, not unlike Malcolm Reynold, the Tenth Doctor and Cameron from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, define why Sci Fi has been so great over the past years.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

This is one truly bittersweet example for a premature ending that still felt like it was the perfect finale for the show, especially in the context of the entire Terminator-universe. The best proof for the quality of the series is the comparison to that awful movie nobody will talk about in the future.

Anyone But Me

This is a beautifully made short web series about a girl who moves from New York City to a suburb and tries to find a way to combine her old life (and her girlfriend) with integrating into her new school. If this is television shows without actual television, I think I can handle the future.


I had no idea where to put this show. Last year I filed it under "jumped the shark": The plot did not interest me and the show actually achieved the ultimate sin of serialized television - I did not care what would happen to the characters. It's still on "jumping the shark"-territory, and I am waiting to be disappointed to no end (it must happen any minute now!), but so far, I found the villain appealing, they are dangling the possibility of Claire having a girlfriend and it's not really a plot to draw in teenage boys (if it was, it's not working), and even though I have to try really hard not to point out the gazillion plot holes in my recaps, the underlying current of "Redemption" is working for me.


Skins would probably be higher up the list if I had seen more of next season than the teaser. While I love Naomi and Emily, the second season will be hard to top. I remember watching this back in … March I think, and being completely blown away by how intense it was - and how different it felt to have a show about teenagers where drugs and sex weren't just used for "issues of the week" episodes but integral parts (I vaguely remember that this is how it actually is, yes?).  The premise to only have one set of characters around for two years and then replace them completely is certainly challenging (Friday Night Lights likes to keep characters who have graduated around for a while to allow the new people to settle in slowly).

Mad Men

Another show I only caught up with this year (in winter, if I remember correctly). The first few episodes of the third season didn't spark the need for eleborate discussion (I did enjoy them, don't get me wrong, but this is something completely different than Dollhouse or Battlestar Galactica) - but there were some outstanding moments, as I will discuss in the "outstanding performances and scenes" section.


Inconsistent, but still good. I guess I am just too much of a fan of teenage drama to really get television for grown-ups. John Lithgow made for a perfect villain this season, but this season around, the finale really did change the game for the future. The thing I least expected to happen did actually happen.


I caught up with this show because after Madeline Zima assumed her role as Gretchen in Heroes, I was curious what exactly that previous engagement was for which she got all those "I can't believe it's little Gracie from The Nanny" comments. The idea of a show centered around the idea of David Duchovny's character jumping from bed to bed didn't sound like something I'd like to see (but it turned out to be about David Duchovny's character Hank Moody desperately trying to lead the good life with the love of his life). Any other actor in this role would be unbearable, but somehow, Duchovny pulls off the philandering, the regular punching of people who say the wrong thing (more than that: You usually feel like they deserve to get punched), the arrogance of a writer who has not written a new novel in many years and now spends his days drinking and smoking and sleeping around. The show is also so good because the main cast is perfect (especially Natasha McElhone and Madeleine Martin as the deadpan teenage daughter Becca), and the third season finale was pitch perfect when the "original sin" of the show came to hunt down Hank Moody just as he was about to finally maybe be happy.

The Office

Last year I put it in the "jumped the shark" category but now I'm starting to get used to the idea that this show is just going to be around for a really long time (a little bit like The Simpsons). It is reassuring to think that it will just continue until eternity. Some things really work very well this season: the idea that Michael is actually pretty good as his job which was unconceivable in the past but now they sell it really well without taking any of the incredible cluelessness away from his character. The discussion of the economy in the show (as the CEOs of the company are about to get fired), which is after all a series about the work place, so it's the perfect venue to show the constant fear of losing your job. The idea of finally have Jim and Pam marry also worked for me, if only because the show turned its attention elsewhere in the wake of the wedding (and I really love the hilariously complicated Erin-Andy stuff). The other employees besides the shiny stars were always the heart of the show, and I feel like they finally get a chance in the spotlight this season.
I also like 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother, but couldn't write a paragraph about either show.

The Big Bang Theory

This is really close to the disappointments-category because... sometimes the show feels like it only lives off the idea of showing how ridiculous those socially inept geeks are, for the viewers who are supposed to identify with Penny (who is a loveable character). Jim Parsons alone is reason enough to watch the show nevertheless especially because his Sheldon Cooper is unapologetically different and probably the only character who can pull off this arrogance about how he is always the smartest person in the room (which he is, you know). This year also brought geek darling guest stars such as Summer Glau (not used very well), Wil Wheaton (he's EVIL!) and Katee Sackhoff.

Disappointments / stuff I thought I'd like but really didn't:

The BSG-Finale

Battlestar Galactica will always have a special place in my heart, but the Finale... yes, there were some great heartbreaking moments (mostly Roslin/Bill Adama moments), but I can not forgive a show that has tackled so many interesting issues to reduce all the effort put into portraying religious fanaticism, politics and the question of the free will and what it means to be human to a Faustian exchange that de-evaluated all the individual decisions our beloved (and be-hated) characters made over four seasons. Can we pretend that never happened?


This is complicated. Ryan Murphy used to write for a little show called Popular that I loved very, very much. That show ran on the concept of featuring an extremely stereotypical cast (essentially The Popular Ones / The Outsiders / The truly weird geeks) and fleshing them out as the show progressed - until they were lovable and complex enough to tell stories about cancer, race, alcoholism, eating disorders and the true spirit of Christmas. And there was even a musical episode.
So when Glee started out with an extremely stereotypical cast, I thought great, they're going to do the same thing here. And they tried, but somehow failed entirely, and part of the reason was that the young, conventionally attractive, white male character was always portrayed as that one guy who is surrounded by this weird people he loves so much but really, look how normal he is compared to the loud black girl, the boy in the wheelchair, the female teacher with the funny obsessive compulsive disorder, the sassy, superficial and bitchy gay guy, the Tracy Flickesque single-minded over-achiever, the jock with the good heart who isn't very smart, the rebellious guy with the rebellious haircut, and the dumb cheerleader. It doesn't help that all the women on the show are extremely manipulative.
I do see the appeal of the show, and all the singing and dancing sure is fun, and Joss Whedon loves the show and is going to direct an episode when it returns next April, but still... Jane Lynch can only do so much to redeem the show. 


Elizabeth Mitchell? Alan Tudyk? Morena Baccarin? What could possibly go wrong? The truth is, I watched two episodes, and then decided that... I could not care any less what the evil pretty aliens intended to do, and if that ennerving rebellious teenager shows up one more time, I will.... well, stop watching.


OK, so this is a show that lives and dies with its mythology. And if that doesn't interest me, PLUS the wooden acting by a famous actor makes my heart shrivel and my brain hurt everytime I try to give it another chance, and I can actually compare it to a show with an equally challenging premise that actually succeeds in the prosecution of said premise, then I will just stop watching.

White Collar

I LOVED the pilot. I loved the leading characters, their interaction, the pacing of the show, the quirky music. It seemed like the perfect, character-driven, smart, kind-of-procedural-show to watch. When I found out that Natalie Morales (Wendy Watson! From The Middleman!) would join, I really thought that this could become for me what Chuck is for so many other people (yes, I like Chuck, but... just not that much). And then the magic wore off and I decided that rewatching The Middleman and giving Chuck another shot would be the easier option. And I don't even know what exactly happened. We didn't click.

Bored to Death

This show, on the other hand, lives or dies with its characters. I enjoyed Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore but that doesn't mean that I would love to see his character every week. I enjoyed Ted Danson in Becker but if I want to see him I can always rewatch that show, plus have the additional bonus of Terry Farrell and Shawnee Smith. I did tune in for the season finale because Sarah Vowell had a guest stint, but that was like two minutes of an episode that otherwise left me completely cold. Also. Bored.

Stuff I enjoy from time to time:

Warehouse 13

Stuff I only watched this year:

The Middleman 
The Inbetweeners
Doctor Who

Performances, Scenes:

Amy Acker in the Omega and Vows (Dollhouse). We already knew the incredible range of Amy Acker from the Angel-episode A Hole in the World - but the scene in which it is finally revealed that Doctor Saunders is an Active was just breathtaking, and so was the fall-out of the discover in Vows.

Enver Gjokaj in Belle Chose and The Left Hand (Dollhouse). I think this actor could pull pretty much anything off. In Belle Chose, he accidentally gets Echo's imprint of a party girl and provides us with the funniest scenes ever. Funniest scenes ever, until Topher imprints him as himself in "The Left Hand" and Gjokaj copies his mannerism and speech pattern perfectly. Maybe he's a doll?

Tyra's college essay in The Underdogs (Friday Night Lights). The penultimate episode of the third season summed up all the desire for change finally happening and life to start that drives most of the teenagers who so desperately try to get out of Dillon.

Zach Gilford in The Son (Friday Night Lights). From the long scene in the previous episode in which Matt Serecen returns from a hunting trip and we see the military pull up in front of his house, set over over the beautiful José Gonzalez cover of Teardrops (originally by Massive Attack), over the actual episode in which Matt's reserve finally crumbled at the Taylor's dinner table and he gave a heartbreaking speech how he concentrated all the hatred he had on his dad so he could become a decent person, and the scene where we only saw what Matt saw in his dad's casket from the reaction of his friends, watching him, and finally the last scene of the episode after, in which a little smile spread over his face as he was finally driving out of the devil town that is Dillon, Texas.

The final scene in The Getaway (Dexter). For the most unexpected thing to happen in a season that was all about Dexter trying to figure out whether he could combine family life, work and his dark passenger and not fall apart. Just as he had finally hunted down the monster, everything falls apart.

The freak-accident scene in Guy Walks Into an Advertisement Agency (Mad Men). There were actually a lot of memorable scenes in Mad Men this year (the "My name is Peggy Olsen and I'd like to smoke some Marijuana" is just a small rewarding line among many), but seeing the lawn-mower scene in a show that is usually so slowly paced and calm - was like Tyler Durden from Fight Club had just spliced the show we know with raunchy scenes from somewhere else. The joking afterwards was also very welcome. I also realize that my two favourite scenes of Mad Men this year frame the absence of Joan (Christina Hendricks) - her smashing her rapist husband over the head with a vase and the glorious return in the final episode ("Joan! What a good idea!") also rank pretty high.

All the rogue stealing of clients happening in "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." (Mad Men). It reminded me of why I love the ensemble of the show so much and how I missed seeing all the ad men/women working together - in this case, building something new by stealing from the evil corporate empire. And Don Draper kicking down the door to the filing room has to be one of the funniest moments of the show.

Alanis Morissette as Dr. Audra Kitson in Weeds. I hated Weeds this season, although I still love the characters, but I could not get over that Esteban creep, and Nancy's decision to marry him. The character of Audra Kitson and how she inspired Andy to finally grow up on the other hand truly surprised me (in an "Alanis Morissette can act?" kinda way). She felt so out of place in a cast of crazy, irrational people. Like an anchor.

David Tennant in The Waters of Mars (Doctor Who). The time of the tenth doctor is almost up and in this two-hour-special we saw him come apart completely - after losing Donna, he finally decided to no longer accept the boundaries of his powers (his "code", if you will), that there are fixed moments in history that he can not change. He did so in a maniacal, creepy manner, that reminded us of the fact how dangerous he could be if he ever decided to misuse his powers. In the end, after a beautiful speech (in which the "lonely god" was referred to as "time lord victorious"), he had his heart got broken once again.

probably also worth a mention:

the awkward talk between Claire and Gretchen after the kiss attack in Strange Attractors (Heroes). Perfectly executed.

Sylar at the Petrelli Thanksgiving dinner table in Thanksgiving ("You have raised the evil incarnate bar to an entirely new level. Thank you for giving me something to strive for.")

Allison from Palmdale walks in at the end of Born to Run (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and brings with her all the remorse for never actually being told all these stories. Damn you, FOX!

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