Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Best of the 2009-2010 Television Season: The Performances

Naturally, I couldn’t list every performance I loved from this season. This article would be a hundred pages long if I did that. So I cut it down to my very favorites.

Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder, Justified

Boyd Crowder was supposed to be a one-off character, meant to die at the end of the first episode. But Walton Goggins did such masterful work making his genius racist criminal so engaging and charismatic that test audiences wanted to see more, and Boyd was kept alive. Boyd became the main antagonist of the season, though not quite the villain. After his near death, he claimed to have “seen the light”, starting a church and vowing to clean Harlan of meth. But throughout the entire season, we’re never really sure if Boyd’s conversion is genuine or not. But either way, Goggins managed to make Boyd both sympathetic and compelling. At the end of the season, we discover that his conversion was genuine, but the things that happen to him reveal this are so heartbreaking we almost wish that it wasn’t. I can’t wait to see what happens with Boyd next season. With his father dead, the entire Harlan crime empire could be his for the taking.

The cast of Community

It really would be wrong to single out one or two actors from Community. While they all give excellent performances that are worthy of individual recognition, the show is as wonderful as it is because of the chemistry between the actors and how well they work as a group. Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Chevy Chase, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover, and Yvette Nicole Brown create brilliant group dynamic, and the show is funnier for them being able to play off of each other. Each character is wonderfully drawn as their own person, with their own consistent habits and quirks, but it’s the way those habits and quirks clash and interact that makes the show so funny.

Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica Hamby, True Blood

True Blood has a large cast, and for the most part the show is really well acted. But in season two the real stand out was Deborah Ann Woll as the newborn vampire Jessica.  There was something surprisingly human about Jessica adjusting to living as a vampire. It’s a double edged sword for Jessica. She loves the power and the strength, but misses her family, and with Bill taking care of her, she feels almost as trapped as she did back home with her firmly religious family. It’s also adorable and kind of heartbreaking watching her fall in love for the first time, having to deal with these new feelings not just as a 17 year old girl, but also as a vampire. Woll is wonderful in the role, hilarious as the bratty teen, menacing as the vampire who can’t yet control her impulses, and heartbreaking as the young woman who has no idea who she is.

Jordana Spiro as PJ Franklin, My Boys

My Boys isn’t a well loved show. Which is sad, because it’s really, really funny. It has a great cast, but the best of the cast is the show’s lady, Jordana Spiro. I can say this as someone as a girl who grew up with mostly guy friends – television hasn’t done the best job at capturing the girl whose friends are all men. They so often fall into the stereotype of tomboy, or they’re trying desperately to prove themselves as a girl. Jordana Spiro gives PJ a beautiful middle ground – she’s a tomboy all right, who can spout sports stats like a second language, but that’s combined with her struggle to assert some kind of femininity, even when she has no idea how to do that. She also gives PJ a special, unique relationship with each of her boys, making the group dynamic feel so completely honest.

The cast of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

You probably won’t find five people on television more horrible than Mac, Dennis, Charlie, Frank, and Sweet Dee. But there’s something so lovable about that horribleness, thanks to its talented cast. They’re awesome on their own, but they’re at their best when they all end up together, scheming and hating each other just a little bit and trying so hard to be cooler than they are. No other cast makes being pathetic so funny.

Matthew Fox as Jack Shepherd, Lost

Matthew Fox has done solid work on Lost for six seasons, but since the end of season three, his work has been flat out stellar, and in the show’s final season, he did his best work. After so many seasons of denying his destiny, Jack became a man of faith, a man who comes to embrace that destiny, if for no other reason than the idea of that destiny is the only thing he has left. It was almost cathartic to see Jack finally find and accept his purpose, and the show’s final moment was both heartbreaking and uplifting because of it.

Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, Justified

Natalie Zea’s character Winona said it best in the show’s series premiere – “You do a good job of hiding it, and I suppose most folks don’t see it, but honestly… you’re the angriest man I have ever known.” Raylan Givens is a quiet cowboy, a man with a strong sense of decency and what’s right. But lurking beneath all that is a layer of anger – an anger that, as the season goes on, we come to find out mostly comes from his upbringing – that he tries to stifle. It frequently comes out, but that’s usually in the line of duty and can be explained away as doing his job (he does seem to shoot people an awful lot). The balance between the two sides of Raylan, and especially the quiet anger just simmering beneath, might be completely misinterpreted and misplayed by anyone but Olyphant, who manages to not just portray those aspects of Raylan beautifully, but who also manages to make him so damn charming while doing it.

Michael Sheen as Wesley Snipes, 30 Rock

This year’s biggest Emmy injustice is Michael Sheen being totally snubbed for his work as Liz Lemmon’s love interest/nemesis on this season of 30 Rock. Overall, the season was really uneven. But Sheen’s storyline and performance managed to make the it worth something. This completely baffling man (“Popcorn? At the cinema?”) who is basically the polar opposite of Liz Lemmon being pared with her, and her HATING it, was so brilliant. It was so amazing, in fact, that the season finale kind of sucked because they shucked it. The idea of Liz ending up with this guy is jut so this show, so the fact that she found someone else is just disappointing.

Lea Michele as Rachel Berry, Glee

Those of us familiar with the popular and brilliant musical Spring Awakening were already familiar with Lea Michele before Glee made her a huge star. We knew she was talented, but I don’t think most people realized what a gift she had with comedy. Some have said she’s so good at the role because Michele basically is Rachel, but there’s an absurdity to the character, certain lines and body movements, that don’t come just from being like a character, they come from a very special and natural sense of comedic timing.

John Noble as Walter Bishop, Fringe

Fringe is getting a lot more recognition than it did in its first season. However, it’s mostly for its crazy sci-fi-ness and nutso storyline. But the very best part of the show is John Nobel and his performance as Dr. Walter Bishop, the insane genius who’s just barely hanging on to the sanity he has by a thread (a thread that looks suspiciously like his son, Peter). The second season gave Walter more reason to be emotional, not just nuts, and Noble more than rose to the occasion, being both hilarious in his crazy moments, and completely heartbreaking. I don’t think any actor on television has managed to be more expressive with their face, and the look in Walter’s eyes, the feeling that haunts him, it all Noble.

Jackie Earl Haley as Guerrero, Human Target

Yeah, the whole cast of Human Target is awesome. Mark Valley is jut flat out charming, and Chi McBride is funny as always. But Jackie Earl Haley steals the show. He’s just so charismatic as Guerrero. He has the loosest morals, is the least friendly of the team, and yet he’s the one you constantly want to see more of. Haley plays to role with so much nonchalance that it’s almost a situation of wanting what you can’t have. But we did get a few moments to look into Guerrero’s life and emotions, and Haley play the moments so well, doing just enough to let the viewer know he’s affected, but not overreacting and chewing the scenery.

The Braverman Siblings, Parenthood

I am a sucker for sibling relationships, so Parenthood is kind of like catnip to me. And while Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia are excellent, the strength of the show lies in the four actors playing their children – Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepherd, and Erica Christensen – that make the show as good as it is. And there wasn’t even an adjustment period to get used to these actors together. They just clicked automatically, and jumping right into the action, we get the sense that these four people have an entire lifetime of history between them.

Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation

There’s a moment in the episode of before the season finale where anti-government government employess Ron Swanson is told that the government of Pawnee is about to be shut down. A look of complete glee crosses his face. The simple moment, just a quirk of the lip and a brightening of the eyes, was one of the funniest moments of the series, and that’s thanks to Offerman’s performance. Ron Swanson is a quiet, serious man, who tends to find himself in ridiculous situations, like refusing to seek treatment for a hernia. But throughout the show’s second season we’ve gotten a chance to see Ron Swanson’s soft side, both in his growing soft spot for Leslie (it’s gotten to the point where he’ll do just about anything for her) and in his mentor role to Aubrey Plaza’s April.

January Jones as Betty Draper, Mad Men

When Mad Men first started, I had huge problems with Betty. She seemed whiney. She wasn’t a very good mother. But all those things I disliked about her grew into this fascinatingly complex character, a woman who feels stifled but doesn’t understand why, a wife who finally decides it time to stand up for herself. Like all the characters on the show, some of Betty’s actions are infuriatingly frustrating, but Jones is able to so quietly and subtly show us the reasons behind her character’s actions, and she always reminds us of how truly confused Betty really is.

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Waugh-gust. Get ready.

That’s Evelyn Waugh August, for those of you not getting my clever word play.

It’s coming. Get ready.

Hopefully, this will go better than Faulkner February did. For one thing, I’ve decided not to read my entire Waugh library. Because doing that in a month is impossible. I’ve also decided not to make myself watch movies I hate. Which means I will not be watching The Loved One. Because that is the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Way to miss the point, Hollywood. Or England. I can’t remember if this was an English or an American production.

Anyhoo, I’ve narrowed it down to four books. And those books are Vile Bodies, The Loved One, A Handful of Dust, and Scoop. I will be watching Bright Young Things and Brideshead Revisited (the new one). Because I own them.

So, get ready for Waugh-gust. It’s coming.

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This Year’s Comic Con Has Brought Tears of Joy

This might be the best Comic Con ever. It’s like… the perfect storm of nerdom. There’s just so much good happening right now. Between now and next summer there’s just so much stuff happening, not to mention the fact that there was a panel for the AVENGERS MOVIE. THE MOST IMPORTANT MOVIE EVER IN THE HISTORY OF FOREVER AND ALL TIME.

But The Avengers isn’t out for two more years, so I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I’m going to try to keep some kind of chronology to this, but I will probably fail the more excited about things I get.

Which I guess means I’m going to start with the True Blood stuff. We got a trailer for the second half of season three ( I seriously can’t believe the season is already nearly half over) which you can see here. It looks like things are going to start deviating from the books quite a bit, which both pleases and frustrates me. I kind of wish they would just go off book completely, because this whole “kind of knowing what’s going on, but not really” thing is… like I said, frustrating. But from the looks of it, we’ll be seeing Claudine by the end of the season, which is really, really awesome. I love Claudine, and I can only hope she brings her asshole twin brother with her. Claude is delightful.

Unfortunately, they revealed a few things about the coming season which make me none too excited, mainly the tidbit about how they will be following the amnesia storyline from the fourth book, which most likely means we’ll be seeing amnesiac pussy boy Eric. Don’t get me wrong, I think it worked pretty well in the books, but I don’t see it working on screen. At all. Unless all their silly coyness about it maybe not being Eric (yeah right) is true, and it ends up being Bill. Which would be even worse. But even worse than THAT is this bullshit about Bill and Sookie being soulmates. What. The. Fuck. No. Just no.

Next up, chronologically speaking, is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which… yeah. I can barely contain my excitement about it, and I didn’t need Comic Con to feel that way. Comic Con has pretty much just made the three week wait unbearable. Other than a terribly amusing panel, there really wasn’t much for those of us who didn’t get to attend Comic Con. Those who attended the panel got to see an advanced screening. Lucky bastards.

Tron: Legacy released a new, full trailer, which looks even cooler than the first one. I’m a fan of the original from way back in my childhood, so I’m having a hard time being objective about the whole thing, and I’m not sure how people who are unfamiliar with the first film will feel about this one, but all I know is that I’m pretty excited. I also didn’t know before now that Michael Sheen is in it. And I really, really adore Michael Sheen. The new trailer is here.

AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead is the only new series of the new television season that I’m looking forward to, and I’m really looking forward to it. I love the comics very much, a sometimes grim look at human nature in the face of one of the most horrific things imaginable. We found out via the panel that the music is likely to kick ass – Battlestar Galactica‘s Bear McCreary is composing. There were some scenes screened, but I haven’t been able to find any recordings or releases of them or anything. I’ll post them if I do. If you happen to find some, please let me know. English dreamboat Andrew Lincoln (he was the guy with the signs in Love Actually) is heading up the cast, and it was announced that Michael Rooker will also be on the show (you saw his butt in Mallrats).

I often feel alone amongst my friends and fellow Rotten Tomatoes posters, but I totally love Zack Snyder. I have yet to dislike a film I’ve seen from him, and have loved two of them. So I’m pretty damn stoked for Sucker Punch. Zack Snyder, doing a “chicks kick ass” movie with Abbie Cornish in it? Holy hell, I can’t wait. The footage they showed at the panel was apparently COMPLETELY FRACKING AMAZING. Though, once again, I have yet to find it. The film will be in the theaters in March.

Green Hornet continues to look great.

Movies that look good that hadn’t really been on my radar before now: Red, Super, Drive Angry 3D

In some “Well, yeah, duh” news: Robert Rodriguez says Predators 2 is likely (and I’m trying to decide if I care about a Predators movie without Walton Goggins in it) and Brad Pitt is officially attached to the World War Z movie. I guess the past two or so years of him being attached to it were completely unofficial.

It’s time to sleep, so I’ll update with the rest tomorrow.

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Nikola Tesla is Better Than You – Here’s Why

Nowadays, when people think about the most important inventors of modern history, minds automatically go to Thomas Edison, when they should in fact go to Nikola Tesla. It’s understandable why this is so. We weren’t exactly taught about Tesla in school, which makes sense considering that, in the two most famous pictures of these men, one is sitting austerely and with tons of dignity, while the other is holding a pair of glowing balls, his handlebar mustache looking like it just can’t wait to command the body it’s taken over to go tie a poor girl to the train tracks. So the education system has decided to teach us all about the sane guy, rather than the one who comes as close to the definition of ‘mad scientist’ as a man whose inventions were actually successful can get. We learn all about Edison pretty much creating mass electricity all on his own, without anyone even mentioning that it was Tesla who created alternating current, the very thing that makes electricity as we know it work. Not only did Tesla invent it, but Edison did his best to destroy it, along with pretty much every other awesome thing that Tesla did. The man did have an awful lot of time on his hands considering a huge amount of the inventions that came out of his workshop came his underlings. He merely slapped his name on them and said, “Look how smart I am.”

It does make sense that we weren’t taught a whole lot about Tesla when you realize that, outside of the incredible contributions he made to the study of electricity and electromagnetism, he truly was a mad scientist, devoting a fair amount of time to studies and experiments that would probably make him look quite a bit like one of the scarier comic book villains. Among the inventions he planned (but never quite got to work) are an anti-gravity air ship and a “memory beam” that could look into your mind and take pictures of the things you’re thinking of. His successful inventions include an EARTHQUAKE MACHINE that even totally-out-of-his-mind Tesla realized was probably a bad idea – after it had already caused an earthquake that nearly destroyed Fifth Avenue, and frakking ROBOTS. He’s also frequently attributed to the 1908 Tunguska Event – a mysterious and still unexplained explosion in Russia that was 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb. Tesla had a workshop nearby and was said to be testing a death ray, a particle beam that he claimed could shoot down “10,000 enemy planes at a distance of 200 miles”. He also looked into the future and predicted the internet. He said that, “The household’s daily newspaper will be printed wirelessly in the home during the night.” The FBI and J. Edgar Hoover were so afraid of his inventions that, after Tesla’s death, they took all of his personal belongings, terrified that someone might get their hands on his work and use it to take over the world. Literally.

Tesla’s eccentricities went beyond just the weird stuff he created. He likely suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, with a crippling fear of dirt and germs and a fixation on the number three (he would only stay in hotel rooms that were divisible by three). He didn’t like round objects, and found fat people and pearls disgusting (kind of tying in with that whole ‘not liking round objects’ thing). The germ fear was probably the thing that kept him celibate for his whole life (so, basically, Tesla was like George from that one episode of Seinfeld). Tesla was not, however, agoraphobic, like some have said. He actually quite enjoyed giving presentations, but only if his electricity machine was with him. Basically, he liked talking to people, but only if he was allowed to look like the coolest mofo on the planet while he did it.

The rivalry between Tesla and Edison wasn’t just because Edison was mean and jealous. It actually started when Tesla came to America from Croatia. He went to work for the already-established Edison (this was obviously before it was common knowledge that the people working for Edison were the ones inventing things, while Edison sat in his office reading Garfield while his soul and heart grew blacker and blacker, until he was basically Lionel Barrymore in It’s a Wonderful Life). Tesla and Edison had many arguments about how inefficient Edison electricity technique was, and that he could fix it and save Edison, and everyone else once it went into mass market, money. Edison told Tesla that if he truly could improve it, that he’d reward him $50,000. Then he undoubtedly returned to his office, laughing in the way your grandfather probably did when he bet you $10 that you couldn’t  climb to the top of the highest tree in the yard, before he realized you were a six year old with a death wish. Tesla completed his task without breaking a sweat, and then asked Edison for his money. Edison then earned the title of Biggest Jerk of the 1880s when he responded with, “You don’t understand American humor.” Yes. He actually said that.

Tesla then went to work for Edison’s rival, Westinghouse. Unlike Edison, Westinghouse wasn’t a dick, and was open to Tesla’s suggestions and was willing to allow him a fair amount of credit. Thus started the War of the Currents, which isn’t as exciting as it sounds. Basically, Edison supported the Direct Current idea, which would basically mean that we’d need a few thousand more power plants than we have now, and that our electric bill would probably be a few hundred dollars more than it currently is. Tesla’s Alternating Current (i.e. the correct one, the one we use today) would make power more efficient and, more importantly, cheaper. Edison’s resistance now had little to do with actually thinking he was right. He just didn’t want to lose all those sweet, sweet patent loyalties that he generally used to light his cigars with. Edison, being the dickwad he was, showed Tesla that he wasn’t the only crazy showman in New York City. Except that while Tesla’s idea of showmanship meant really badass electricity beams, Edison’s meant MURDERING ANIMALS IN PUBLIC. That’s right. To demonstrate the dangers of AC, Edison publicly killed animals to show the possible fatal use of Tesla’s current. He also secretly had the electric chair invented to show that alternating current was more dangerous than direct current. Of course, the plan kind of backfired when the executioners miscalculated on their first execution, and the prisoner was only injured and not killed. So those of you out there who oppose capital punishment can blame the electric chair on Edison and the fact that he was greedy and hated Tesla. Eventually, after proving the Alternating Current’s success after managing to generate an impressive amount of energy from Niagara Falls, it was proven that AC wasn’t just more efficient than DC, but also safer.

And that’s not the only thing we can attribute to Tesla. You’re able to watch television and listen the radio thanks to the Tesla Coil. The doctors at the emergency room are able to tell whether or not that hooker broke your nose thanks to Tesla’s work on X-ray technology. You’re able to drive to the nearest gas station for cheese puffs because Tesla invented spark plugs. And those are only the projects that were successful. Basically, if Tesla had been given the resources and support that Edison had, we’d probably be able to travel through time now. Yeah, did I not mention that Tesla was deep into the study of time travel? Because he was. But then some idiot would probably go back and time and mess something up so that Tesla was never born, causing a crack in time and space. Don’t worry, I know what I’m talking about. I watch Doctor Who.

And even then, that’s only the stuff we know about. Most of Tesla’s work was lost in a fire at his lab on Fifth Avenue. The fire was of “mysterious origins” (meaning: Edison probably set it). He lost more than half of his life’s work, including the conclusions he came to about his Unified Field Theory, something scientists can’t figure out to this day.

He was also BFFs with Mark Twain. And Mark Twain was delightful.

Sadly, today only hardcore nerds know who Tesla is. Most people think that guy David Bowie played in The Prestige was a made up character and that Chris Nolan stole the name from a crappy rock band, while assuming that Edison invented pretty much everything. But on the Batman Villains Scale of Badness, Edison would probably get a 2 (making him slightly more competent than Humpty Dumpty), while they’d have to up the scale to 11 for Tesla (making him just as scary as The Joker, but with better results).

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The Best of the 2009-2010 Television Season – The Shows

Emmy nominations are out this week, which means its time for the final wrap-up of the television season. I’m doing mine in several parts. This one is the shows. I watch A LOT of shows. I don’t think all of them are good. And of the ones I think are good, I don’t think they’re all great. So I’ve singled out the 11 shows I do think are great.

11. Archer

FX keeps putting out good television, but with the exception of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, it hasn’t had the best luck with comedy (Testees was embarassingly bad). Thankfully, this season they put out the filthy animated comedy Archer. This one’s not for kids, folks. It’s raunchy humor and spy antics blend together so perfectly. And its stellar voice cast (including Jessica Walter, H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, and Judy Greer) are all flat out perfect. Running jokes and serialized storytelling make regular viewing a treat.
Best Episode Skytanic
It doesn’t really do anything better than any other episode. The narrative picks up a little as the relationship between Cyril and Lana starts to become troubled,  but other than that, it’s not unlike every other episode. Except for the fact that it’s HYSTERICAL. From Archer’s inability to understand the way the zeppelin works, to the constant Hindenberg references, and so on, it’s the funniest episode of the series. “Yay metaphor!”

10. Parks and Recreation

Parks and Rec had a really rough first season. So rough that I wasn’t actually interested in watching the second season. But I did, for lack of anything better to do. I’m glad I did, because the improvement was huge, and Parks and Rec quickly became one of the funniest shows on television. It comes from the same idea of The Office, but its heart is much bigger and it lacks the snarky cynicism. It’s a show about dreams, no matter how great or small, and about friendship. Even its douchiest characters (I’m looking at you, Tom Haverford) are lovable and have their moments of sweetness.
Best Episode: Telethon
I’m not sure why I feel this episode is the best of the season, but I didn’t even have to think about my choice. It’s just a great episode. There’s Ron/Leslie goodness, Amy Poehler gets to let loose and be really funny the more tired and then hopped up on sugar she gets, and the relationship between Anne and Mark crumbles (come on, you can’t tell me I’m the only one who hates this pairing)

09. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is one of the most absurd, ridiculous, and un-PC shows on television. And that’s a good thing. A very, very, very good thing. The comedy faltered a bit in its fourth season, not quite as gut bustingly hilarious as its first three seasons, tending more toward the “everybody yelling at each other at loud volumes” type of comedy over the seemingly stupid but actually quite clever satire it had perfected through seasons one, two, and three. Thankfully the gang returned to form in their fifth season (and I seriously can’t believe it’s been on for five years), trading their constant yelling for dysfunctional team scheming. From Kitten Mittens, to Birds of Prey, to the DENNIS system (that’s Demonstrate your value, Engage physically, Nurturing Dependence, Neglect Emotionally, Inspire hope, Separate entirely), the season was back to its ludicrous brilliance.
Best Episode: The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention
It starts out with a brilliant concept, the gang drinking wine out of Coke cans, and snowballs into pure hilarity from there. The gang giving Frank an intervention while drunk is one of the funniest and most horrible things the gang has ever done.

08. Glee

The season’s biggest sensation is pretty damn good, despite the annoying fangirls who inevitably make any show that could be remotely appealing to teens look completely unappealing to the rest of the world. It’s not perfect. Both it’s first thirteen episodes and the back nine had their problems (Teri and her fake pregnancy in the first thirteen, lack of cohesion and Quinn’s magically disappearing baby bump in the back nine, not to mention the character assisination of Jesse St. James), but in the end it’s still something of a small miracle: a television musical that’s actually good (suck it, Cop Rock), managing to be both hysterically funny and completely heartbreaking in the same hour-long time slot. And not only does in manage drama and comedy, but week after week it produces amazing musical numbers with the most talented young cast on television.
Best Episode: Bad Reputation
In the last episode before the actually continuity of relationships between characters started to get fuzzy, Bad Reputation produced two of the show’s very best numbers, Total Eclipse of the Heart and Run, Joey, Run. There was something for all three Rachel-shipper groups (Rachel/Finn, Rachel/Puck, Rachel/Jesse). And, best of all, we got a glimpse into the heart of softening mean girl Quinn Fabray, who was really underused for much of the back nine episodes, but who’s shaping up to be one of the best characters on the show.

07. Fringe

Fringe has never received the attention it deserves, but people have really started to take notice with the show’s second season, which takes the ideas that started in season one and begins to really tell a whole, complete story with them. We now have a better idea of what’s going on, and it’s becoming a glorious piece of serialized storytelling. While most episodes of the season seem to be one-shots, the all in some way, be it narratively or emotionally, tie into the overall arc of the season and the show. While there’s a lot of big science going on, a lot of talk about universes collapsing which will all be even more important next season, I’m sure, at its heart Fringe is a show about family, both the ones we’re born with and the ones we make, and how far we’re willing to go to keep them safe.
Best Episode: White Tulip
While most people are calling this season’s Peter the series’ best episode (and it is pretty damn good), I found White Tulip more emotionally satisfying and important. And, you know, it deals with time travel. Which is awesome. And it has Peter Weller. The science of the episode is just cool, and while it may not fit into the scientific narrative, it’s extremely important to the emotional narrative, and helps us to understand even more where Walter is coming from, and why he’s done the things he’s done.

06. Mad Men

I keep waiting for Mad Men to fall apart. Shows aren’t supposed to be this good for this long. It’s going into its fourth season this month, and unless the writing staff drank a large keg of stupid over the winter, it looks like it’s going to be just as good as previous seasons. Mad Men is a slow build. Unlike shows like Glee and Community, whose storylines and character relationships can evolve and change a dramatic amount in just one episode, Mad Men has been slowly building the tension in its storylines throughout the season. And it works. The failing marriage between Don and Betty finally came to a head this season with Betty discovering her husband’s secrets and planning to divorce him. And the tension at the office finally broke with the season finale. Through all this, there were also bizarrely hilarious moments (oh, guy who lost his foot to a lawnmower, we hardly knew ye).
Best Episode: Shut the Door, Have a Seat
This season’s finale left more questions than any season finale before it, which is a good thing. The fate of pretty much every major character is left in question. And for the first time, there’s the possibility for completely new storylines. January Jones was passed over for an Emmy nod last year, but it would be a crime for that to happen this year. The scenes between Betty and Don were the most emotionally charged of the episode, and despite Jon Hamm’s amazing performance, that was all thanks for Jones.

05. Human Target

So this is easily the “one of these things is not like the other” of the list. Yeah, on the surface it looks like nothing more than a fun action series. And it is that. Every single episode offers wonderful action scenes where our charming hero gets to beat the bad guy, and make a quip while doing it. While the first few episodes weren’t much more than that, the show quickly became something more – a show about a haunted man and the things he’s haunted by. Past sins, lost love, and the way those thing tie together and effect the way he works. Add to that the ridiculously likable cast – Mark Valley, with just the right amount of charm and sadness; Chi McBride, hilarious as the high strung boss with a past of his own and a complete devotion to his business partner; and Jackie Earl Haley, easily the stand out, snarky all over the place, but with just as much devotion to Chance as anyone. It’s one hell of a fun show, with all kinds of potential. Thank god Fox was smart enough to pick it up for a second season.
Best Episode: Corner Man
While the storyline culminator Christopher Chance was an amazing season finale, the episode Corner Man is an example of the best parts of this show. While it’s a standalone episode, it still ties into Chance’s emotional conflict. It has an awesome bad guy, a hot lady (and a BSG alum as well, something this show likes), a lovably goofy client. It’s funny, it’s action is amazing, and the interaction between its three main cast members is perfect.

04. True Blood

So, yeah. Vampire are big now, thanks to crap like Twilight. But, let’s make sure one thing is clear. True Blood ain’t Twilight. For one thing, True Blood‘s vampires are actually vampires. They feed on humans, kill people, and have crazy sex. And, oh yeah, they don’t fucking sparkle. True Blood also lack the earnestness that Twilight has in abundance. And that’s a good thing. It recognizes the ridiculousness of its story and characters and relishes it. It’s camp, intentionally so. The second season wasn’t quite as intimate as the first, with two different storylines happening in two different cities, but the vampire mythology became more in depth and cohesive. And of course, there were the characters. This season had lots more Eric, who is easily the coolest and sexiest vampire on the show. Michelle Forbes popped up (as she does often in shows I enjoy) as the season’s real big bad, Eric’s maker Godric’s appearance was too brief, but still mesmerizing (and allowed for deeper insight into Eric), Evan Rachel Wood was delightfully crazy as the Vampire Queen of Luisiana, and Debrah Ann Woll extended her role as the newborn vampire Jessica. And then of course there was the teaming up of Jason and Andy. Season two provided great gore, amazing hilarity, and moments of startling emotional honesty.
Best Episode: I Will Rise Up
While the infiltration of the Fellowship of the Sun was the better of the season’s two storylines, it’s aftermath was even better (and no, not just because it had Sookie sucking on Eric’s chest, resulting in a really hot dream scene). The sibling relationship between Jason and Sookie was re-established and solidified, we got a nice look into the workings of the vampire PR machine, and we finally got to see deep into Eric’s heart, with the moving death scene of Godric. And things finally started happening in the Bon Temps set Marianne storyline. You know, besides Tara and Eggs acting crazy.

03. Justified

I was pretty sure I was going to at least like Justified. FX has been putting out a lot of quality television, and being based on Elmore Leonard character’s is a pretty good sign. I wasn’t really prepared for how much I love it, but I suspect the writers weren’t really prepared for the course the first season took. What started out as an insanely entertaining and funny show about a quiet cowboy who shoots people turned into an amazing study of the difference between right and wrong, an exploration about where we come from and how that shapes who we are, and, most importantly, a story of fathers and sons. Timothy Olyphant did award worthy work this season, but the real scene stealer was Walton Goggins, whose best work of the series is, unfortunately, not eligible for Emmy consideration due to air dates. Goggins made Boyd Crowder develop believably from the worst of the worst to sympathetic, confused, and sympathetic Woobie. The most fascinating part of the show quickly became the relationship between Boyd and Raylan, the antagonism and camaraderie that exists between them.
Best Episode: Bulletville
It really sucks that the season finale Bulletville is ineligible for Emmy consideration this year due to its airdate, because it was easily the best finale of the season. First of all, with a body count of about 16, it appeals to one of the things that drew me to the show in the first place. It was tense and violent in the best possible way. But, most importantly, it was about the relationships that became the centerpiece of the series, those between the boys – Raylan and Boyd – and their fathers – Arlo and Bo. And, of course, the relationship between Raylan and Boyd. We also finally get an answer to the question of whether or not Boyd’s conversion is genuine, and the conclusion is heartbreaking. The final ten minutes of the episode are just amazing, and the final moment is perfect.

02. Community

I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, and I was wrong about Community. After watching the first two episode I was unimpressed, thinking that it tried too hard. Then, several weeks later, I caught up with the rest of the episodes when I was home sick one day, and discovered that the more it went on, the better it got, and it really didn’t take long to become the best comedy on television. It’s a very self aware show, which is one of its greatest strengths. Not just because of the meta humor that provides, but because it allows the writers to be hyper aware of the viewers and what they think, and lets them tweak and play with characters and storylines accordingly. Thankfully, it strikes the perfect balance between fan service and doing its own thing. Its most valuable asset is easily it cast, who have tremendous chemistry together, so that every character can interact with every other character in their own storylines and nothing is lost.
Best Episode: Romantic Expressionism
Modern Warfare is probably the flat out funniest (and most ambitious) episode. And as a Jeff/Annie fangirl, I might lean a bit toward Debate or even the finale Pascals Triangle Revisited (which plays better on rewatch). But I think Romantic Expressionism is the the best example at all the wonderful things Community can be. It has two hilarious storylines (Pierce trying to be funny at Troy and Abed’s movie night, and Jeff and Britta meddling in Annie’s relationship with Vaughn), amazing group dynamic, awesome meta humor (the EPIC sexual prospects stare down), and, yes, a Jeff/Annie moment that’s pretty epic in its own right. And, you know, an incredibly random and amazing line. (“Thanks for eating all the macaroni!” “Shut up, Leonard, nobody even knows what you’re talking about!…… I did eat all the macaroni. It’s messed up that he knows.”) This was also the episode when I completely fell in love with Britta and her glorious dorkiness.

01. Lost

I won’t lie, the fact that this was the last season certainly figured into Lost being placed at the top of the list. But I really did love the season. I actually really liked the flashsideways and its resolution. I wasn’t bothered by not getting the answers to every single question (because I never thought we would. We got the most important answers, that’s what counts.) The show, for me, has always been about the characters and their journey, and I’m just really happy that the writers chose to focus on that. There were some excellent mythology based episodes, but as the series wound down and came to an end, the moments that have stuck with me most have been the ones about the characters: the reunions and the laughs and the deaths and choices made. Lost has always been one of the most emotionally involving shows for me, and its ending didn’t disappoint.
Best Episode: The End
Is there even any question? Yeah, the long awaited Ab Aeterno was awesome, and The Candidate was absolutely amazing, but the series finale was the show’s most emotional episode by far. Like I’ve already said, I was completely emotionally satisfied by the ending, and I’m really glad that they were able to make it a relatively happy ending. This episode produced scenes that I will never forget, not the least of which is Jack’s beautiful death scene, his eye closing, signaling the end. But there was also the reunion of my favorite ship of the show, Charlie and Claire, which is probably my favorite moment of the entire series.

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