TV Year In Review: The Best, The Worst & The In Between
5. "SUMMER HEIGHTS HIGH" (HBO) - This Aussie import was the funniest new show of the year. It follows, in mockumentary style, the goings-on at the titular high school in true awkward fashion. The best thing about this show is its star, Chris Lilley, who plays an 11th-grade girl, a Polynesian 8th grader and the school's narcissist drama teacher with such precision you can scarcely tell it's the same actor. This is a perfect satire of high school life and it translates as well on this side of the globe as it must have down under.
4. "SOUTH PARK" (Comedy Central) - This is the best skewering of our society available in any media outlet. Trey Parker and Matt Stone continue to brilliantly skewer everything form the election to Oprah with their trademark crass intelligence set to a happy tune. This show may not have the cache it once did, but it still has all the good jokes and the ability to hold a satiric mirror to our society.
3. "THE OFFICE" (NBC) - Just when it seemed like this show would never get its head on straight, Michael breaks up with Jan and everything is right in Scranton. Amazingly, they've even managed to make the Jim and Pam relationship interesting when such a connection would normally spell doom for a sitcom.
"The Office" has found the perfect balance of stupidity and affableness with Michael's character, uses the imposing Dwight in just the right amount and sprinkles in the peripheral cast with the midas touch. Then there's Ryan Howard, played by B.J. Novak, never has a character gone from glorified wallpaper to guaranteed belly laughs so quickly. He's now the show's secret weapon.
Last year, "The Office" seemed destined for mediocrity and now it's back among TV's best.
2. "HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER" (CBS) - For years people were waiting for the next "Seinfeld", and in its fourth year, it's clear that "HIMYM" is the show about nothing for the next generation. It has all the same quality catchphrases with Barney's endless encyclopedia, the same incisive skewering of daily minutiae, and, most importantly, the same endless stream of humor and collection of great characters.
This year did bring the unfortunate Britney Spears fiasco and a decline in quality during the few episodes aired after the writer's strike, but the show rebounded in fine fashion after the hiatus, returning to the quality that has had it among TV's best for the majority of its run. This show is defining a generation in the funniest way possible.
1. "30 ROCK" (NBC) - TV's funniest show. TV's funniest show by a mile. TV's funniest show by a friggin' light year. Tina Fey has let the inmates take over the asylum on this show. What started as a series about a TV series has now become a show with absolutely no rules. One week we're watching Liz Lemon cavort with a reclusive billionaire and the next Jack Donaghy is taking over the department of homeland security. The only thing any of these episodes has in common is an avalanche of belly laughs.
But it's not just the writing. The acting on this show is sublime. We all know about Alec Baldwin's vacant brilliance and the fact that Tina Fey learned how to act in the last few years, but not enough is said about the supporting cast. Tracy Morgan
is utterly brilliant on this show. There's no telling how much of his character is acting and how much just Trace Morgan spilling into Tracy Jorday, but the result is always hilarious. The best actor on this show; however, is Jane Krakowski. Her Jenna is so perfectly crafted that her absurd shallowness and insecurity never seem far-fetched now matter what whopper the writers plunk on her each episode. Krakowski is a joy to watch on this show, and hopefully Emmy will wake up to that fact in 2009.
But here's the deal. "30 Rock" would make this list for one episode: Last season's finale that won Tina Fey a writing Emmy. It was the funniest half-hour on television since "Arrested Development" went off the air. It gave Matthew Broderick his funniest role since "Election". It simply was brilliant brilliant TV and even if the other 21 episodes of last season were nothing but Jack McBrayer prancing around in body glitter, this show would still top the list. Luckily, the entire year's worth of episode was nearly as good.
Honorable Mentions: "The Simpsons", "King Of The Hill", "The New Adventures of Old Christine", "Californication", "The Middleman", "Reaper", "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", "The Life and Times of Tim"
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