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My favorite TV of 2009

It's the end of the year, and year-end "best of" lists are cluttering up the internet. So I thought I'd add to the clutter. Here are my favorite television shows of 2009.

Supernatural

I'm probably getting repetitive in my praise for Supernatural, but it deserves it. It started out five years ago as a horror movie/urban legend/two-guys-in-a-muscle-car-fighting-monsters sort of thing, a bit derivative of Buffy and X-Files by way of Ghostbusters. Somewhere along the way, it turned into my favorite currently running show, with top-notch writing, a complex mythology and a darkly comic style. The turn to the biblical shouldn't have worked, but it did -- because of the clever way they did it. Supernatural just keeps surprising me. It's the highlight of my television week, and I'm dreading the possibility that this season might be its last... even while acknowledging that the heaven-and-hell brother-against-brother arc is obviously coming to a close, and the series should honor its accomplishment by going out on a creative high.

Lost

It's no secret that my chief love is science fiction. In season five, Lost finally took the plunge into real sci-fi with a time travel plot that rocked, and a finale that actually explained a lot of its core mysteries while leaving us with a cliffhanger to beat all cliffhangers. It was so explosive, pun intended, that it got me re-watching the entire series and seeing some of it in a whole new way; for months I've been posting my "re-watch" notes on Lost Reviews, and on my Lost page. The sixth and final season of Lost is, along with Supernatural, at the top of my 2010 must-see TV list.

Dexter

This fall, the producers of Dexter surprised us all with the best season since its superlative first, featuring a suspenseful and even controversial finale that may have just re-set the direction of the series. Yes, the subject matter can be upsetting for wusses like me, but the quality of the drama on Dexter is consistently excellent and the focus is always on the story and the characters, not the violence or gore (or frankly, I wouldn't be watching it). Dexter's sister Deb is probably my favorite female character on television, and Jennifer Carpenter deserves an Emmy for this season. And the brilliant Michael C. Hall has done the impossible: he's made me care about a serial killer. Dexter himself is probably the most complicated, alienated, fascinating character on television. I'm looking forward to season five next fall in a great big way, even while accepting that it's certain to freak me out.

Torchwood: Children of Earth

Torchwood has always spoken to me more than its iconic parent show, Doctor Who (although I enjoy both). I love the character of immortal, omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness, who saves the Earth from aliens while hitting on nearly everyone he meets. This summer, producer Russell T. Davies blew us away with an outstanding five-episode mini-series, Torchwood: Children of Earth. It's the best Torchwood they've ever done, dramatic science fiction at its best. An announcement about renewal is approaching. I don't know if they can ever improve on Children of Earth, but I'll be tuning into BBC America to find out.

Honorable mention

Dollhouse just aired a string of the best episodes of the series. I'm glad it got a second season and had a chance to fulfill its potential before it ends next month. Please, Joss Whedon -- don't give up on series television. Please.

Glee is consistently entertaining and so much fun to watch. I always look forward to seeing it, and I'm so pleased that it's a hit. Usually when I love something quirky, it is promptly canceled. Not this time.

I thought I'd had enough of the Stargate franchise, but apparently not. Stargate Universe has taken a leaf out of the Battlestar book: it's grittier, darker, more dramatic and a lot more unpredictable than the two previous series...eses, SG1 and Atlantis. It's been one of the highlights of 2009 for me, and I'm looking forward to its return in... why do we have to wait for April?

True Blood blew away the ratings this summer with a vampire story for adults featuring an offbeat blend of sex, humor and gore. Season two didn't do everything I wanted it to do, but it was, with only one exception, the best thing I saw on the tube this summer. (The exception was Torchwood: Children of Earth.) Alexander Skarsgard's Eric is my new favorite vampire, and season three can't come soon enough for me.

Enough, already

Battlestar Galactica was a milestone in science fiction and deserved every accolade it ever received... so I hate to say it, but I was ready for it to end. Yes, the finale was brilliant, and I agree with critics who say that it was impossible to end the series in a way that would satisfy all of the fans, but I was also disappointed; I couldn't help it. And I'm also sorry to say that I'm not looking forward to Caprica. I found the pilot pretentious and boring, impossible to relate to. I hope the series is better than the pilot, but I can feel myself not even wanting to try it. (Yes, I'll try it, mostly for Jane Espenson's sake.)

FlashForward started out (literally) with a bang, and then disappointed me by fizzling out. I think Josie was right on the money when she pointed out that FlashForward doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it a mystery, science fiction, a police procedural, a medical show, a love story? Actually, it's become a mish-mosh. I so wanted FlashForward to succeed, but it's already pretty much lost me. It'll have another chance to win me over in the spring, and I hope the show runner shuffling will improve it. But it may be too late.

Speaking of too late (yes, I'm going to bitch about Heroes and Smallville again) after a terrific first season of origin story, Heroes made the unfortunate error of screwing with their characters and not thinking through the story consequences of their plotlines. Even though this fall has been its best in a long time, I just can't get excited about Heroes any more. And even though I'm still watching and there have been some good episodes and interesting developments, Smallville will never be the same for me after the loss of my two favorite characters. It's limping along, painfully prolonging the moment when Clark will come into his own way past the time when it logically should have happened. I've heard rumors that Heroes and Smallville may both be renewed. If they are, it'll be without me; I won't commit to watching after the end of this season, no matter what happens to them, and I won't write about them any more.

So what's your favorite show of 2009? What are you most looking forward to in 2010? And check back before New Year's Day -- some of my terrific guest writers will also be posting their faves.

8 comments:

  1. The Good

    Battlestar Galactica made a few mistakes in the last hours, but it was a great ride. I can't complain when the show ends right when I want it to end. I haven't watched The Plan, as I don't think it's necessary. I will try out Caprica.

    Bones was as always, lots of fun. There's really nothing new this season. Just more horribly deaded bodies, clinical analysis and funny banter.

    Dexter was just excellent. I actually liked all seasons of Dexter; I wouldn't know which is the best. But this season was definitely up there. The child in the pool of blood is how I'll remember the season.

    Dollhouse is probably the most innovative show on TV right now in terms of subject matter. 10 years from now, if people look back, they will see that Dollhouse did stuff that no other show dared to do. It may be a commercial failure, but in my mind it will always be a success.

    Heroes had a bit of a comeback this season. It has still not recovered from the bad decision in the first season finale to drag the story arcs out, but if it ends this season, I'm OK with the show. If they want to continue next season, they will have to really follow through on the story arcs and end them when appropriate.

    Lost was a blast. I'm continually worrying that they will start screwing up the mythology, since they take a lot of risks. But isn't that why we love it?

    Pushing Daisies started the second season with a couple of bad episodes, but it really geared up towards the end. It was a good ending.

    Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles had its share of pacing problems, like Dollhouse. It focused a lot on character and showed too little plot development. But for the patient viewer, it was a magnificent experience.

    Torchwood was good, not great. It took some time to get to the interesting parts and I thought the ending was a little contrived. But it was definitely the biggest story they've done yet, and I was entertained.

    True Blood was great this season. I really liked the church story. The Maryann story went on a bit too long, but it still worked.

    Virtuality had a good pilot. The perpetual holodeck adventures were probably not going to work on a show, so maybe it's good that it never became one.

    The Bad

    24 didn't really have a bad season per se. It just wasn't very exciting either. It was just kind of there. The plot was ridiculous of course, but that's nothing new. I'm really hoping next season will be the end of it.

    I'm still watching FlashForward, but I was never quite sold on the show. Helmed by Brannon Braga, you know what you're getting. It certainly works a lot better than recent Star Trek, but I remain on the fence.

    When I look at January on my TV calendar, I see Knight Rider. What an awful show. No wonder I forgot about it.

    Prison Break had a great first season, then two average seasons. But the fourth season just fucked up everything. They introduced this stupid tech-plot about searching for a key to open a door (a cliché in computer games). None of the characters had any motivation to be there, except for Michael. The doctor inexplicably came back from the dead after dying off-screen last season. And half-way through the season they did a 180 on the Self character, which was the last straw for me. I did not watch the final episodes.

    The Comedies

    Californication has always been fun, and the conclusion has been a long time coming.

    The Big Bang Theory never stops telling the truth with the science geek jokes.

    Robot Chicken is just insane. Luckily episodes only last 15 minutes, or I would go insane too.

    Scrubs has been struggling towards the end last season, which was supposed to be the end of it. It's still been fun to watch, but I don't know if I'll watch the new season, especially when the old characters are leaving.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Good

    DEXTER- of course. Micheal C Hall is incredible- I think that the best female in it is Julie Bentz.

    Sons of Anarchy- Just love Katey Segal in this and Ron Perlman is nothing short of perfect. Could not believe that Charlie Hunam (Jax) is English!

    Medium- Patricia Arquette is wonderful. The kids are getting bigger roles and I love her tv husband Joe.

    The Bad

    V - I hate remakes.

    The Big Race- like who cares.
    Same for Big Brother etc.

    The Vampire Diaries- there isn't that much angst in the entire world. Never mind in the world of vampires.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I feel a little sorry for The Vampire Diaries. I have to keep reminding myself that LJ Smith wrote her books long before Meyer and Harris penned theirs. Yet Twilight and True Blood seem so much better. Twilight reinvented the mythology somewhat. And True Blood, as well as being well written and stuffed to overflowing with great characters, is ball bouncingly funny. The Vampire Diaries seems stale in comparison... and takes itself far too seriously.

    Dexter was simply sensational this season... and sensational's not a word I use often (apart for twice in one sentence, apparently). The last four episodes of season four stressed me out completely. TV just shouldn't be this traumatic. Yet I loved every minute of it. The characters are all wrong (we just shouldn't be rooting for such a mentalist), the violence often OTT, and the plotting bed-wettingly tense. But it's the one show that never seems to go on long enough. I'm always hungry for more.

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  4. I agree with a fair chunk of the stuff that you cited as good, except I have yet to see FlashForward because it hasn't started yet on Irish TV.

    True Blood was definitely one of the best new programmes over the summer for me and Lost had a run this season.

    Heroes needs to step up a few gears or else it will get scrapped.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Good!
    Supernatural! Repetative viewing, if just a tad annoying with its filler episodes, is outstanding. The acting is superb from everyone, the writing is fab every week and on the whole you just can't wait for it. I mean its the simplest premise ever; two brothers hunting ghosts in a car. To see what they have done with it over 5 years is incredible. I do think it should end this year properly and not get dragged out just to get axed later on.
    Lost. Brilliant from start to finish. Loved every second as always.
    24. It dragged on a bit towards the end but still adrenaline inducing and head and shoulders above its 6th season.
    Torchwood. I agree... superb this year. Truley chilling.

    The Baddddddddd
    Heroes. I only seem to watch it these days to write reviews on tv.com slating it. There are good aspects still; Sylar, Peter and the new Samuel, but volume 4 was woesome and 5 has been better but not so much. Am I alone in thinking Claire needs to die?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Billie, fist have to say that I’m not a big TV fan. So far I’m only following Supernatural, apart from that I occasionally watch Lost, Dexter, 24, Glee and The Big Bang Theory, and some other random things. Nevertheless I love the “Best shows of 2009” lists in your site. I can see the differences and coincidences between you and your contributors and yeah there is a trend, but it also shows how much your place has been growing since the time when I followed your reviews of La Femme Nikita, way to go!
    Anyway, my TV experience wouldn’t be worth without your reviews; actually that is the reason I became addicted to Supernatural. So thanks so much for another year of fun following TV!
    Love, Cecile.

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  7. BSG - Starbuck an angel? Come on that is perhaps the lamest resolution I have ever seen. Better they just not even try to resolve it. Moore is one of those guys who just throws things into a show just because they seem cool - no real idea of where it is going or how it pays off. That might be okay for crap like Flash Forward but BSG had more ambition (well maybe not but they sure liked to think they did). The Cylons had a plan - well not really. Hera was important - well not really. Head 6 and Baltar - also angels. I could go on and on but I did learn a few things: 1) Never ever buy the DVD's before the series is completed because you might end up with 3 1/2 seasons and then not be able to justify buying the 4.5 and 2) do not trust Ron Moore to actually finish what appears to be a compelling story. He joins David Milch as members of the Do not watch club.

    ReplyDelete

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