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 V.18 No.1 | January 1 - 7, 2009 

Idiot Box

Work Stoppage

Best and worst TV of 2008

The seemingly endless Writers Guild of America strike finally came to a halt in February, causing near-irreparable damage to this year’s television schedule. Most series ended up with truncated seasons (“Lost,” “Desperate Housewives”) or a complete delay until 2009 (“24,” “Battlestar Galactica”). Many of the shows that did manage to make it back on the air in the fall returned to double-digit drops in viewership courtesy of their nine-month hiatus.

Even so, we got to see some quality TV this year--much of it held over from 2007’s “Best” list. Still, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The 2008 Presidential Election—Like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” we were all sick of it by the time it went off the air. But what a thrilling run it was. The contentious debates, the endless “Daily Show” jokes, the vicious commercials, the Sarah Palin controversy, Joe the Plumber, Tina Fey’s game-changing impersonation, “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update in primetime--all of it capped off by President-elect Obama’s eloquent, inspiring victory speech. Think about it: This year’s election had humor, drama, pathos, several snappy catchphrases and a more diverse cast than most network shows.

“Lost”—Amazingly, that Writers Guild strike seemed to light a fire under what was an already red-hot season of “Lost.” All fat was trimmed away, leaving a taut season of mind-bending twists, reality-altering flashforwards and startling character developments. Extra points for introducing the phrase “frozen donkey wheel” into the pop cultural lexicon.

“Pushing Daisies”—Call this one an epitaph, because “Pushing Daisies” was certainly a victim of that strike hiatus. The critically acclaimed series just couldn’t attract the necessary numbers for Season Two. That’s a crying shame. Kudos to creator Bryan Fuller, his eclectic cast and his talented writers for creating what was undoubtedly the most original show on the 2008 schedule. Network TV is a more cliché-ridden place without it.

“The Shield”—TV’s roughest cop show went out with exactly the sort of bang longtime fans expected. It wasn’t easy putting the lid on seven seasons’ worth of corruption, murder and generally bad behavior, but this show did it in a number of completely logical yet thoroughly unexpected ways.

“30 Rock”—It’s shocking to see a show tweak its formula to attract a wider audience and still maintain everything that makes it good. Hands down the wittiest writing on TV. Hell, even the Sweeps Month guest stars were hilarious. Oprah Winfrey scoring laughs, Jennifer Aniston seeming relevant and Steve Martin being funny for the first time in two decades? Keep it up!

Also in the top 10—“Battlestar Galactica,” “Breaking Bad,” “Chuck,” “Mad Men,” “Primeval.”

The 10 worst—“Crash,” “Denise Richards: It’s Complicated,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Groomer Has It,” “Heroes,” “Human Wrecking Balls,” “Knight Rider,” “Rosie Live!” “The 65th Annual Golden Globes Press Conference,” those E-Trade Max commercials with the puking baby.

 
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