The best and worst of 2009
Torchwood: Children of Earth—BBC America has become a far more reliable source for fine science fiction than SyFy Channel. Look no further than the invigorated and chart-topping run of “Doctor Who.” (R.I.P. David Tennant, we’ll miss you something awful.) The only reason I’m not putting the good Doctor on “The Best” list is because the “Doctor Who” spin-off “Torchwood” gave us this unforgettable mini-series in 2009. It posited an alien invasion of Earth—but in a way I’ve never seen before. This invasion wasn’t some explosion-filled War of the Worlds story, but rather a frighteningly realistic diplomatic scenario in which Earthly politicians willingly struck a Faustian bargain with some creeeepy alien overlords.
“Glee”—There are times when the song choices on “Glee” are waaay too on the nose. (“Papa Don’t Preach” for a pregnant teen scared to inform her father?) But no narrative has so succinctly captured what karaoke, “American Idol” and the red-hot video game Rock Band have hinted at: the ongoing democratization of music. There’s great comfort in hearing your emotions reflected in a familiar song. The creators of “Glee” have done a brilliant (and frequently quite funny) job of crafting “anyone can be a star” storylines that revolve around belt-’em-out songs.
Discovery Channel’s “The World Is Just Awesome” Commercials—Sure, there’s a ton of great programming on Discovery Channel, but this infectious ad campaign captures it all in one minute flat. From its familiar earworm chorus (“boom-de-yadda, boom-de-yadda”) to its nerdy love of all things sciencey (shout-outs to lemurs’ eyes, Dean Kamen, Transformers, the Space Shuttle and the Large Hadron Collider), this little gem makes a convincing argument that our planet kicks ass. Brings a little tear to my eye every time I see it.
“Modern Family”—If there’s proof positive that the traditional, studio-bound, three-camera sitcom is dead, it’s anything FOX tries to air (“Do Not Disturb,” “Brothers,” “ ’Til Death”). If you need further proof, check out ABC’s “Modern Family,” an expertly constructed sitcom that borrows some of the “mockumentary” style of “The Office” to spin a seriously funny yarn about three interlocking families. The cast is great, the writing is great, the characters are great. See what a little attention to detail gets you, TV?
“True Blood”—Sure, sure, we’ve all had our fill of vampires lately, but HBO’s bloody supernatural series gets the win for this last season’s nutty, go-for-broke storylines—which introduced everything from shapeshifters to ancient Greek maenads. The sexy, frequently unclothed cast and the wicked sense of humor are just icing on the cake. Supernatural monsters haven’t been this much fun since “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” abandoned us.
Also Great: “Lost,” “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “30 Rock,” “Better Off Ted.”
“Jon & Kate Plus 8” (Please get off our TV now.); “The Jay Leno Show” (Mark my words: This has killed network TV.); “Secret Girlfriend” (The aggressively unfunny beer commercial that never ends.); “The Osbournes: Reloaded” (Your reality show was terrific. Your variety show, not so much.); unending Michael Jackson coverage (We get it: He’s dead. Now move on.)