Monday, December 29, 2008

LQ's Best Television Shows of 2008 [All Things Fangirl List!]

And now presenting my very first personal top ten list of the year - my favorite TV shows from 2008. Two of them were canceled for no good reason, one of them is a British import you probably haven't heard of, and the rest you'd probably expect from a genre obsessed soap opera fan who needs Don Draper to call her. So it begins!

(Warning - this post is not entirely without spoilers)

10. Middleman

This delightful show from genuine fan and creator (and ex-writer of Lost!), Javier Grillo-Marxuach had it all. A random website I came across described the show like this:

It’s three parts Austin Powers [or Get Smart], two parts Men In Black [or Ghostbusters], one part X-Files all mixed together with just a touch of Gilmore Girls.

and I gotta say - that pretty much gets it right. It was witty, fun, wacky, smart and a geek's heaven, as every episode not only dealt in the Sci-Fi genre, but referenced other genre works in the process. It's rare that we see a science fiction universe familiar with science fiction and it was quite refreshing. The show focused on a sassy art student, master of all things dry wit who gets recruited to work for The Middleman Organization - a secret group that does their best to keep the world thinking that vampires, aliens, monsters et al don't actually exist. Still not convinced this show is geek heaven? In one episode, Wendy rattles off her favorite comics which include Mouse Guard, Powers, The Spirit, Astro City & The Flash. Okay, still not convinced? Watch the trailer below and the vid beneath it for an example of the pop culture references dropped in every episode and pick up some Middleman graphic novels to call your own. Head over to the Middleblog for the complete reference rundown for the final few episodes and be sure to check out the DVD when its released. Then you can mourn Middleman's fate along with me. Sigh.


Back to the Future references in episode three

Crap, if I'm this enthusiastic about #10, we're gonna have a problem.

9. Swingtown

My other favorite show of the summer...and also the other show on my list not coming back for a second season, Swingtown was the sexiest show of the year, second only perhaps to Mad Men. It was about a group of married couples in 1976 seeing love & sex in a new light and their kids who are discovering those elements for the very first time. We had the regularly swinging couple, Tom & Trina, who know how to handle it, the newly swinging couple, Bruce & Susan, who are letting the doors its opened destroy their marriage, and the conservative, tightly wound couple, Roger & Janet, who realize they haven't lived enough. My favorite storyline of the season's first half was brilliant, free spirited high school student, Laurie and her young, political activist teacher falling for each other and of the second half, Roger & Susan realizing they're in love.

Besides the great writing, spot on production design and intriguing storylines, the show was perfectly cast in every way. Grant Show & Lana Parilla oozed sexuality, Molly Parker was absolutely luminous, making it easy for Roger & the audience to fall in love with her and all the kids on the show actually looked their age. It's a shame more people didn't check out this show when it aired, but I encourage everyone to pick up the DVD, which came out earlier this month.

Below, the clips of the adorable Josh Hopkins as Roger from episode 11, whererin he admits to a marriage counsler that he's falling for Susan and later encounters her...and things occur :)

Oh damnit, I'm so pissed this storyline will never be resolved. Muh.

Numbers 8 through 1 after the jump!

8. How I Met Your Mother

Oh yeah...spoiler alert! But you totally wanna watch the show more now, don't you? Wait, where was I? Ah yes. How I Met Your Mother is one of three comedies (the other two to appear later on this list) that consistently makes me laugh out loud. I'm actually surprised that more people I know aren't obsessed with this show considering it stars not only the glorious NPH, but also Willow & Nick Alyson Hannigan & Jason Segal! This show really just gets better and better with every season. The writing is crafty and fun and sometimes absurd, just the way I like it. 2008 was a good year for HIMYM - we finally saw a human side to Barney as he fell for Robin, got treated to a whole episode detailing why New Jersey sucks (sorry boyfriend...and all my friends...who are from New Jersey...but it was so funny! I still love New Jersey. LA is what sucks. The end.), got to see Robin Sparkles' follow up to Let's Go To The Mall, learned that whoever marries Ted will need to love Star Wars and were witness to a real time two minute date all done in one shot that was just as adorable as it sounds. Here's hoping more people check out the show in 2009.

7. True Blood

For some reason the first two words that just popped into my head whilst thinking about True Blood were lush & juicy. Hrm. Well hey, just add scary, fun, trippy & sexy to that description and you've got yourself a show. I'm not sure what I just wrote. Anywhoville, True Blood was definitely one of the highlights of 2008 television. It took me a while to decide how I felt about it as I watched the first couple episodes stoned out of my mind (shut up) and couldn't tell a. if it was too scary or b. what was going on, ever (I had a similar experience with Fringe) but then I figured it out and got to bask in the awesomeness. The look & tone of the show is enough to pull you in and the insanity that is the actual story combined with some stellar performances keep you glued to your television. I, like the characters on the show, never knew what to believe or who to trust. Discovering Sam's secret was like a wave of relief and discovering Rene's truly felt like a betrayal (even though it became fairly obvious towards the end who he really was).
Nelsan Ellis & Rutina Wesley as Lafayette & Tara, respectively, do Julliard proud with their pitch perfect intensity. Anna Paquin, I can take or leave, but I definitely like her more on this show that I ever have before. And Ryan Kwanten delivered week after week some of the most difficult shit I've seen an actor have to do all year. Lizzy Caplan shined in her all too brief role as the mysterious and potentially sociopathic Amy.

Most of all, I love vampire stories, especially ones I haven't seen before. Between this and Let the Right One In (and Twilight for some...), vampires are rocking pretty hard this year.

P.S. I need to own the score right now. As in this moment. So...get on that

6. Gossip Girl

Le sigh. Oh Chuck & Blair. And Dan & Serena. And Rufus & Lily. This show is just plain soap opera-y deliciousness. I always knew I loved the show as a guilty pleasure, but season 2 has cemented its quality with its well rounded characters, carefully built relationships, well kept secrets and the balls to get as creative & juicy as they want. Sure, Aaron was a low point, but he's gone forever now, off to Argentina never to return. Hooray! Also helping highlight GG's quality? The stinker that is 90210. Just watch one episode of each and you'll know what I mean. Gossip Girl has real looking beautiful people who can act as opposed to 90210's fake looking fake people who can't act. Sure the women are slim on Gossip Girl, but they still have their womanly curves and look like they are in the bodies meant for them. None of this can be said for anyone on 90210. Moving on.

In 2008, Gossip Girl showcased the evil Georgina Sparks (and the whole group coming together to destroy her), Jenny's downfall and ultimate crash, badgirl Serena, Chuck & Blair falling in love - for real, Wallace Shawn, Rufus & Lily's multiple attempts at reuniting & Dan and Serena's beautiful moment upon realizing the other was about to sleep with someone else for the first time. This show is entertaining every second it's on screen, which is more than I can say for a lot of television, but it also has wit & heart and it's not afraid to make fun of itself. It's been a great year and a great sophomore season for the upper east siders. And to all the haters - at least don't knock it til you've tried it.

5. The IT Crowd

Literally just thinking about this show makes me laugh. The British import about the strange folk working in a London IT department brings me to tears with laughter during every episode. I don't know how the Brits do it, I really don't. Are they just smarter than us? I'm planning on writing a more comprehensive post on why you need to be watching this show right now on IFC, so I'll be keeping this particular paragraph short. But if you like laughing and you don't like not laughing, then this is the show for you. More to come soon on the matter.

4. Lost

Everyone's favorite time jumping mystery really pulled it together in season four, raising the bar to a whole new level of awesome. At the end of season three we were introduced to our very first flash forward, an element that went on to dominate the 2008 episodes, and they did not disappoint. We discovered who the Oceanic 6 were, witnessed Locke's eventual fate and saw the island DISAPPEAR. Sun & Jin, characters who I never really cared about before, stood out with a heartbreaking flashback/flashforward episode & Sun's devestating scream to her lost husband in the finale. Don't even get me started on The Constant, one of Lost's best episodes to date, that had me in tears for the better part of 44 minutes. This season, as usual, many questions were answered, but many more were raised. In season five we'll discover how the characters end up where they are in the future we've seen and hopefully watch them make it back to the island. Oh Lost, you so crazy! Only a few weeks to go to the premiere!

3. 30 Rock

The final comedy that makes me laugh out loud with every episode, 30 Rock is the best American comedy on television and I'm THRILLED the Emmys actually agree with me. 2008 brought us instant classics in MILF Island where Liz takes after the manipulative MILFs and tries to hide the fact that she called Jack a "Class A Moron" and Subway Hero, in which Liz's smarmy ex Dennis saves someone in the Subway and uses his fifteen minutes of fame very unwisely, but didn't forget to also bring us important development in story as Tracy creates a porn video game to secure his legacy & Don Geiss names Jack the new CEO...right before slipping into a coma, leaving his slightly off daughter (who happens to be married to Devon Banks) in charge of the company. That was a long sentence. Then season three started off just as strong with one great episode after another - the highlights of which were Believe in the Stars where Liz "sits next to Oprah" on a plane and Reunion, where we learn what Liz was really like in high school. This show is filled with surreal and absurd moments and Tina Fey is the perfect straight (wo)man to the cast of wacky characters around her, as she's pretty damn hilarious herself. Be sure to always stay on the look out for Frank's different hats, the times Liz uses sounds instead of words to express herself (including but limited to "blurg") and if her favorite Mexican cheesy snack, Sabor de Soledad, ever makes a comeback. This show has great rewatchability and is the kind you'll wanna force all your friends to watch once you fall in love with it, so the DVD is a worthy investment.

And now a clip of some of season 2's best moments for your enjoyment.

2. Mad Men

Holy crap what a good show. Artful, delicate, beautiful, shocking, and totally unique. You could get away with mindlessly watching the show and probably still enjoy it, but the true magic of Mad Men comes in how deep it pulls you in to these characters in that era. Especially fascinating is the woman's struggle, represented in three very different forms, all of whom took a giant step this year, forwards (Peggy), backwards (Joan) and a little bit of both (Betty). I cried when Peggy told Pete the truth, gasped when Joan was raped by her own husband in Don's office and could barely breathe in every scene between Betty & Don after she found out about Don's affair. It's amazing to see these antiquated gender roles play out and wonder how much of them still remain. I'm pretty sure that I can speak for anyone who is attracted to anyone when I say that despite Don Draper's misogyny and tendency to lie & cheat, I'd let him take me any day of the week. Remember "The Benefactor"? How Don put Bobbi Barrett in her place? It was crude, terrible, demeaning, and yet we cheered him on and in my case, found it kind of sexy. How do you do that, Don Draper?! To write any more about Mad Men would be to enter into a critical analysis on the art of story telling and filmmaking, so I'm afraid the buck stops here. But holy eff this show is good.

P.S. In case you didn't already know, Don Draper Jon Hamm is GUEST STARRING ON 30 ROCK playing a love interest for Liz Lemon. When worlds collide I am happy!

1. Battlestar Galactica

What were you expecting?

Starbuck returned, a cylon civil war broke out, Gaeta parted with a leg and everyone finally made it to Earth...though it's not exactly what they were expecting. And because we, along with the fleet, have spent years waiting for them to find Earth, the final scene in 2008's finale was just as devestating to us as it was for them. All of that hope, all of that faith - and for what?

Battlestar continued to go above and beyond this year as the four known final cylons tried to figure out who they really were, Starbuck lost her shit and Roslin's cancer began to get the best of her. While the first half of season four didn't reach the level of greatness that the end of season three did, let's keep in mind that the first half of season three wasn't better than the second half either...though it was pretty damn good...Unfinished Business remains one of my top three episodes. Anyway.

The beginning of season four was a game changer in every sense. The fleet now has an entire army of rebel cylons on their side and oh yeah, these new allies - they can now be killed. Raising the stakes in a huge way, the show did away with the Resurrection Hub, leaving cylons just as vulnerable as humans. It's also been fascinating to watch Tory, Tigh, Tyrol & Anders deal with their new identities, struggling to find a balance and not go off the deep end. Didn't work so well for Tory, as we all know. Or Tigh, for that matter. Yikes.

One of my favorite moments in 2008 was Adama realizing just how much he loved and trusted Starbuck, even when everyone else was suspicious, in "Six of One". Here's a little something to remind you of how moving this episode was -

Kara Thrace: So you think I'm right?
William Adama: Maybe. Maybe not. But I know she is. The president. She's been right all along. I'm tired of losing. I'm tired of turning away from the things I want to believe in, and I believe you when you say, that you'll die before you stop trying. And I won't lose you again.

Also just as moving - Adama refusing to give up hope in the search for Roslin. We're coming to realize just how much Adama & Roslin love each other and it's beautiful. In fact, everything about this show is beautiful. I'm looking forward to rewatching the first ten episodes of season four in preparation for 4.5's premiere on January 16th.

Honorable Mentions: Chuck, Fringe, Project Runway, Entourage


Anonymous said...

What about The Big Bang Theory??
It makes me laugh out loud every time and is the ultimate in smart, socially challenged geekdom.
I think it should be a top 11!

Unknown said...

Stop treading on my dreams by calling the Middleman cancelled! YOUR TREADING. CEASE IT.

Isn't it still in the limbo of hiatus?

...which is basically cancelled. And now I'm depressed.

TxGowan said...

I didn't know that Middleman was cance....oh, sorry, Scott. I mean, uh, I didn't know that thing about Middleman. It never felt like a good fit on that network, but SciFi is so clueless at this point, I can't imagine they'd realize how perfect it is for them.

Do you have the DVD of Swingtown? Do you know if it includes all the original music? I recorded them off to DVD when it aired and if they made music substitutions, I'm gonna keep my copies.

Garrett said...

Middleman is, unfortunately, cancelled. My friend Jordan ( was a staff writer on it and now he's on to greener (or, well, paying) pastures.

And because I can't resist an opportunity to self promote, I made my own best-of TV '08 list the other day:

And then when I was at work today (bored because my boss is gone and none of our shows are in production--but make sure to watch 24 and Dollhouse on 1/11 and 2/13, respectively!) I updated it:

LoquaciousMuse said...

Garrett, why did not I know you had a blog?! Also, tell your friend Jordan he is funny. In addition - do you work for Fox? What's happening? Also - love your best of 2008 list! Hah, we have a lot of shows in common. I've never gotten on the Friday Night Lights train, but have been meaning to. One day!

And TxGowan, I don't have Swingtown yet, but I hope to own it soon! I hope all the music is the same, but I have no idea. Will let you know!

r.i.p. middleman :(

Garrett said...


Yeah, I work for Fox -- specifically Kevin Reilly (for the last four months or so). It is, in a word, pretty sweet.

LoquaciousMuse said...

what department?!?! will i be seeing you at comic con?!?!