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2010 Year End TV Review: Scott Malchus

2010 was another great year of television, despite the fact that most of the new fall network shows were forgettable. While the big four seem to have a handle on coming up with new comedies, they still can’t develop innovative dramas to compete with the cable channels. Fox made an attempt with their excellent “Lone Star,” but viewers stayed away and the series was quickly cancelled (despite support from the network president). With Lost leaving the airwaves, it seems that if you want to watch something other than a procedural, you’ll have to tune to AMC, FX or HBO. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great cop, lawyer or medical shows (“The Good Wife” immediately jumps to mind), but the TV landscape is wide open enough that stories about all walks of life should be able to survive.

Best Drama: Friday Night Lights (Direct TV/NBC)

There was a lot of great drama on television this year (“Southland” was exceptional, “Lost” went out in glorious fashion, “Men of a Certain Age” was moving and effective), but I would be remiss if I didn’t place “FNL” at the top of my list, just where it has been since the show premiered in 2006. It’s hard to believe that this will be its last season. No other show has me cheering and laughing and crying week in and week out. Even during the cringe worthy moments (Julie’s affair with the TA) I can’t bring myself to raise the remote and fast forward through them. I’ve stated time and again on Popdose that this show is the most realistic portrayal of small town life I’ve ever seen on television, with beautifully written and acted characters, smart direction, and perfect music selections to create the mood of each scene (not to mention W.G. Snuffy’s poignant score). I love the Taylors; I love the community of Dillon, Texas; and I love Friday Night Lights.

Best Comedy: Modern Family (ABC)

A tough category. There are so many strong comedies on television right now, including NBC’s Thursday night lineup and ABC’s Wednesday shows. Of all of them, “Modern Family” makes me laugh the hardest; so hard that my wife and I have to rewind to hear the second and third jokes of each scene. With a great cast and insightful writing, “Modern Family” is a modern classic.

Best Reality: The Biggest Loser (NBC)

I generally hate reality shows on network television, however there is something truly inspiring about “The Biggest Loser” that grabs me every week. Here is a series about people seriously having to take back their lives otherwise they could die. The money at the end never seems to be as important as the health benefits they receive. Unlike most of the reality competitions shows, the inspiration that comes from watching “The Biggest Loser” occurs from watching every contestant, not just a select few. Obesity has overtaken our country and the men and women of “The Biggest Loser” prove that you can take back your life and that you are in control of it.

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The Return of Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings

Ever since the writers’ strike, the television industry has been in a state of flux. Most networks still can’t figure out what works from what doesn’t, while the current economic climate has forced others to simply give up. Whether or not “The Jay Leno Show” is a success for NBC is debatable, but by surrendering the 10 p.m. time slot, they’ve greatly decreased their chances of bringing in new viewers. We would be exaggerating if we said the decision affected Bullz-Eye’s latest edition of the TV Power Rankings, but our Winter 2009 list does seem suspiciously familiar. Still, it isn’t without its surprises, as a longtime favorite returned from an extended hiatus to claim the top spot, while buzzworthy rookies like “Glee” and “FlashForward” also made impressive Top 10 debuts. At the end of the day, however, the real winner is HBO, who walked away with three of the four top spots, thus reestablishing themselves as the best network around.

A few examples from the piece:


5. Glee (Fox): There isn’t a show on this list that we love and hate with the same enthusiasm that we have for “Glee.” It contains some of the best-drawn characters in Fox’s history (aspiring diva Rachel Berry, adorable germaphobe Emma Pillsbury, cantankerous alpha female Sue Sylvester), and the iTunes chart-burning musical numbers, lip synching aside, are deliriously fun. Imagine, then, if they didn’t make these characters jump through such ridiculous hoops. Will’s wife is actually going to take her fake pregnancy to term? Emma agrees to marry Ken, but only as long as they never tell a soul? (Those plot threads brought to you by Bad Idea Jeans.) Yet for each blunder the show makes, they come up with something as brilliantly funny as Finn’s technique for not climaxing (he thinks about the time when he hit the mailman with his car), or the drama queen freak show that is Sandy Ryerson (a pitch-perfect Stephen Tobolowsky). Getting Josh Groban to do a cameo as a horndog version of himself, meanwhile – and hit on Will’s drunk mother – was a moment of “Arrested Development”-style genius. Yes, it’s made mistakes, but “Glee” gets a spot in our Top Five because no other show on TV sports dialogue like “mentally ill ginger pygmy with eyes like a bush baby.” But man, it would be a wonderful world if they did.David Medsker

15. Dexter (Showtime): Like “The Sopranos,” Dexter always has a theme that is explored within a season as a backdrop to the episodic progression of the show. Last season, it examined friendship within the context of Dexter’s secret world, and Jimmy Smits was brilliant as his first and only pal. This year explores the facets of intimate relationships, and balancing work and the rest of your life as it relates to it. Dexter (played with brilliant sincerity and conviction by Michael C. Hall) is struggling to find balance between his work as a blood splatter analyst, a new dad of an infant, stepfather to his wife’s kids, and his hobby of killing and dismembering other bad guys, while his entertainingly foul-mouthed sister Deb implodes the most stable relationship of her life when she sleeps with returning lover and retired FBI agent Frank Lundy. John Lithgow is also scary good as the Trinity Killer, the latest object of Dexter’s attention. When Trinity kills Lundy and wounds Deb while making it look like another killer’s signature, Dex is commanded by the ghost of Harry to seek revenge, making this season as entertaining as any in the past – no easy feat considering how consistently good this show has been.R. David Smola

Honorable MentionCougar Town (ABC): Yeah, yeah, we know: the title’s a bit dodgy. But Bill Lawrence, who co-created the show with Kevin Biegel, has said, “The roll of the dice I’ve made is that the title is noisy and that people will be aware of this show.” True enough, though the fact that the series stars Courtney Cox would’ve probably done a pretty decent job of putting it on people’s radar, anyway. The pilot alone was strong enough to suggest that “Cougar Town” could prove to be the perfect series for female viewers who’ve outgrown “Sex and the City,” but with enough of a dysfunctional family element to fit perfectly into the closing slot in ABC’s new Wednesday night comedy line-up. Although the show continues to hone its comedic formula, the trio of Cox, Christa Miller and Busy Philipps clicked immediately (particularly the latter two, with their characters’ diametrically opposed personalities), and the relationship between the teenaged Travis and his man-child of a father rings true with its blend of unconditional love and complete embarrassment. Now that Jules’s fling with Josh is over, however, we’re curious to see who’ll be next on her slate to date — and how long this one will last.Will Harris

Returning in 2010Lost (ABC): Here we are, folks. After five seasons of confusing viewers with one of the most elaborate mythologies on television, “Lost” is finally in the home stretch. Want to know what the heck that smoke monster really is? How about the weird statue? Heck, what about the Dharma Initiative itself? All will supposedly be revealed in the sixth and final season of one of the smartest, most fearless shows network television has ever bothered to offer. Of course, this being “Lost,” we still have something to bitch about – namely, that the goddamn Olympics will interrupt the show’s final 18 episodes – but if we’ve waited this long to determine the ultimate fate of our favorite island castaways, what’s a few weeks of curling and cross-country skiing? We’ve all had our issues with the way “Lost” has unfolded over the years, and the show isn’t the phenomenon it was in its first couple of seasons. To cop one of the fall’s most popular phrases, though, this is it – and if there’s ever been a serialized drama with the guts to stick the landing and make its finale truly count, we’re betting it’s “Lost.”Jeff Giles

Check out Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings in their entirety by clicking here or on the big-arse graphic you see before you. Also, be sure to check out the accompanying interviews with folks associated with the various shows, including David Goyer (“FlashForward”), Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”), Jonathan Ames (“Bored to Death”), and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”).

Did any of your favorite shows miss the cut? Let us know by replying below!

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Please, won’t you lend a television critic a hand?

The Television Critics Association has officially begun the gearing-up process for its 25th annual awards, which will honor the finest work of the 2008-09 season as selected by the association’s 200-plus member critics and journalists. One of those members is yours truly, and I figured I’d see what the readers of Premium Hollywood had to say about the nominations and who they’d like to see win the various categories. I’ll have to submit my votes by June 10th, but since the winners won’t be announced until August 1st (the ceremony takes place at The Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, CA, with Chelsea Handler opening the ceremony), so speak up quickly. There are a couple of things I’m on the fence about, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts before I make my final selections.

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR

* “Battlestar Galactica” (SciFi Channel)
* “Lost” (ABC)
* “Mad Men” (AMC)
* “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
* “The Shield” (FX)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY

* “30 Rock” (NBC)
* “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
* “The Daily Show” (Comedy Central)
* “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS)
* “The Office” (NBC)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA

* “Breaking Bad” (AMC)
* “Friday Night Lights” (NBC/DirecTV)
* “Lost” (ABC)
* “Mad Men” (AMC)
* “The Shield” (FX)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT MOVIES, MINI-SERIES AND SPECIALS

* Summer Olympic Coverage (NBC)
* “24: Redemption” (Fox)
* “Generation Kill” (HBO)
* “Grey Gardens” (HBO)
* “Taking Chance” (HBO)

OUTSTANDING NEW PROGRAM OF THE YEAR

“Fringe” (Fox)
“The Mentalist” (CBS)
“No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” (HBO)
“True Blood” (HBO)
“United States of Tara” (Showtime)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY

* Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”)
* Steve Carell (“The Office”)
* Tina Fey (“30 Rock”)
* Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”)
* Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA

* Glenn Close (“Damages”)
* Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”)
* Walton Goggins (“The Shield”)
* Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”)
* Hugh Laurie (“House”)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING

* “Camp Rock” (The Disney Channel)
* “The Electric Company” (PBS)
* “Nick News” (Nickelodeon)
* “Sid the Science Kid” (PBS)
* “Yo Gabba Gabba” (Nickelodeon)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NEWS & INFORMATION

* “60 Minutes” (CBS)
* “The Alzheimer’s Project” (HBO)
* “Frontline” (PBS)
* “The Rachel Maddow Show” (MSNBC)
* “We Shall Remain” (PBS)

HERITAGE AWARD

* “ER” (NBC)
* “M*A*S*H” (CBS)
* “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
* “The Shield” (FX)
* “Star Trek” (NBC)

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“Lost” time warps its way to #1 spot on Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings

With the writers’ strike finally behind us, the television industry has sprung back remarkably well. Granted, it isn’t all puppy dogs and ice cream for all of our favorite shows, but after the strike forced us to cancel the spring edition of our semi-annual TV Power Rankings, it’s nice to be able to show some love for those series that had been gone for far too long. A quick look at our Winter 2008 list may suggest that a major shakeup has occurred in our new Top 20 below, but seven of the shows from last November are either on hiatus or cancelled. Likewise, nearly every eligible show previously on hiatus has snuck its way back into the Top 20, while five new shows have also cracked the list. Most of these are experiencing some of their best seasons ever, and though “Heroes” continues its mighty fall, the return of “24″ only further cements the notion that TV is back and better than ever.

Below you’ll find a few entries, but be sure to check out the full list, where we’ve also included links to DVD reviews and interviews, as well as a host of Honorable Mentions and our list of favorite shows currently on hiatus.

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“Friday Night Lights” gets two-season pickup!

It’s probably uncouth to use an exclamation point in the title of a blog post, but I don’t really care. DirecTV and NBC came to terms on an agreement that will give “Friday Night Lights” two more 13-episode seasons.

DirecTV will get the first window on the episodes, to run commercial-free as the marquee property on its 101 Network channel, which is rapidly adding new and library product with appeal to TV aficionados from Hollywood’s majors (Daily Variety, March 23). This season, DirecTV ran the 13 episodes comprising “FNL’s” third season in the fall, while NBC’s run began in January.

Although the show has a loyal core aud, “FNL” has had a hard time drawing a broadcast net-sized aud. But the license fee NBC receives from DirecTV makes it financially feasible for the Peacock to continue with the show, which lends an aura of quality to the net’s sked at a time when NBC is struggling to rebuild its roster of scripted series.

It’s understood that DirecTV’s license fee covers just under half of “FNL’s” weekly production budget of a little more than $2 million per hour, which is modest by broadcast net standards.

I’ve been a die-hard “FNL” fan from the beginning and I figured that the show would probably be canceled after this season, but the ratings (while not strong for broadcast television) haven’t sunk below 3.8 million all season. It may not be huge, but the “FNL” fan base is loyal.

I was a little suspicious of this DirecTV/NBC relationship, but now it’s given one of my favorite shows a three-season extension. I also prefer the 13-episode season because, generally speaking, the shorter the season, the tighter the storylines.

No regrets.

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