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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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Mubarak ho, Mr. “Robot”-o

Though there’s been some bombshell television news today, it’s been a blissfully slow news 48 hours regarding the movie world. True, Mike Fleming had a couple of scoops yesterday. His short list of possible “Superman” directors is fun — I’ll take Duncan Jones please, though Matt Reeves would be okay, too.  Also, though I remain impressed by her work, having just seen another terrific performance by Chloe Moretz at a screening last night of “Let Me In,” the fact that she’s got another nice gig as “Emily the Strange” is interesting but not exactly earth shattering. So, I’ll forgo the end-of-week movie news dump.

Instead, we’ll spotlight what have to be the trailers of the day, if not the week. According to Anne Thompson, it apparently started from a tweet by the very busy former “Lost” showrunner Damon Lindelof, who’s heading to India and will be checking out what has to be one of the most lavish Bollywood films ever in terms of effects. It’s a superheroic science fiction tale involving, well, a robot, a giant snake thing, an enormous number of guns, and, of course, big time musical numbers! Here’s the short trailer and some brief TV spots Thompson ran.

Also, just about the time Thompson put up her post, I was alerted by friend-of-the-blog-and-blogger Randy R. to a another, slightly more musical comedy oriented trailer that was running on the site of Ms. Thompson’s comics counterpart, Heidi MacDonald.

Gotta love Bollywood: something for everyone.

Just for the record, “Robot” is directed by Shankar (though it’s such a common name I’m not 100% sure if this is the same Shankar who crafted the hugely popular  “3 Idiots,” though it seems like a reasonable bet) and stars Aishwarya Rai and Rajnikanth who I gather is known as simply Rajni and is a superstar. The music is by A.R. Rahman who is easily the best known composer of Bollywood music here in the West for his terrific work on “Lagaan” and also as the double-Oscar winning composer of the music for “Slumdog Millionaire.”

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TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 5

Mercifully, there were no panels to attend on Day 5 of the TCA Press Tour, thereby allowing me a brief chance to breathe…and, more importantly, to spend some time with my lovely wife Jenn, who arrived from Virginia in the wee hours of Day 4. Although I ducked out to attend the TCA business meeting that morning, I passed on a chance to visit the set of “Big Brother” in order for Jenn and I to have lunch at the South Beverly Grill with my friend Dileep Rao, who I knew way back when he was just a member of the Trashcan Sinatras mailing list. Now, of course, he’s a big shot movie actor who can’t even finish his lunch without having someone come up and say, “I loved you in ‘Inception.’” Either way, it was still good to see him again.

After that, it was back to the hotel to get ready for the TCA Awards, an evening which always proves to be one of the most enjoyable evenings of the tour. It’s the opportunity for the members of the organization to pay tribute to our favorite programs and performances of the previous year, and it’s also a chance for us to interact with the individuals responsible, but we do so with our tape recorders put away for the evening. There’s no red carpet. There’s no video document of the proceedings. It’s just us, the stars, and the night…or does that sound too pretentious? Yeah, it probably does, especially when you’re talking about a night that’s hosted by Dax Shepherd.

Given that the first two TCA Awards ceremonies that I attended were hosted by John Oliver (“The Daily Show”) and the Smothers Brothers, respectively, you’d think that Dax Shepherd would feel like a step down…but then you factor in how awful Chelsea Handler was as last year’s host, and darned if Dax doesn’t seem like a decent choice. Indeed, he proved to be extremely funny, much funnier than I think a lot of us were expecting him to be. He kicked things off by pretending he was addressing a group of HerbalLife salespeople, claimed that he was only hosting because Dog the Bounty Hunter dropped out, then acknowledged he was a little hurt by the fact that just about every review of “Parenthood” that mentioned his performance invariably began with some semblance of the phrase, “You’re never going to believe this, but he’s actually pretty good.” There was also a funny story about how he’s a god at CostCo, thanks to having co-starred in “Employee of the Month” with Dane Cook, and he did a spot-on impression of Owen Wilson calling his brother Luke and mocking him for his telephone commercials. Really, the only disappointing thing about Dax’s appearance was that I didn’t realize he’d brought his fiancee, Kristen Bell, until after she’d already gone. DAMN!

From there, we entered the awards portion of the evening.

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: “Glee” (FOX)
OUTSTANDING NEW PROGRAM: “Glee” (FOX).
INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY: Jane Lynch, “Glee” (FOX).

Alas, Jane Lynch was suffering from laryngitis and was unable to attend, but Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan accepted the award in her stead, offering as solace a list of four things we’ll hear Sue Sylvester say in Season 2.

4. “A female football coach is like a male nurse, Will: it’s a sin against nature.”
3. “I secretly hope you’re in the middle of a midlife crisis, William, as that means you’re halfway to an early death, affording me a blissful demented convalescence spent peeing on your grave.”
2. “Don’t go soft on me, Will. I realize you’re mourning the loss of that bony little redhead you’re in love with, and I understand. It’s not just a loss for you. As she appears to be the link between early hominids and man, it’s also a loss for science.”
1. “Should’ve taken the poop cookies, Will.”

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The Island is on the toenail of a giant…

Okay, so Fred Armisen was just a bit off, but while everyone continues to digest and debate the “Lost” series finale, it’s fun to look back on this old “Saturday Night Live” bit where several “Lost” fans share their early theories about the show while they share an elevator with Matthew Fox.

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“Lost” finale leaves a lot to be desired

There’s an old adage in show business — leave ‘em wanting more. With last night’s finale, “Lost” showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof took that line a little too far, offering up one big, metaphysical argument while leaving many questions unanswered.

Slate’s Laura Miller argues that the show’s fans might be to blame:

Could it be that in resisting the geekiest, nitpickingest, most Aspergerian demands of their audience they swung too far in the opposite direction, dismissing as trivial everything but the cosmic (the tedious and largely unnecessary Jacob-Smokey background) and the sentimental (making sure that every character receives his or her designated soul mate or therapeutic closure of the most banal Dr. Phil variety)?

If so, “Lost” may be the quintessential example of a pop masterpiece ruined by its own fans. The comic-book paraphernalia and texture of the island — its secret bunkers with their code names, Jacob’s migrating cabin with its creepy paintings, the ersatz normality of the Others’ compound ringed by those sonic pylons and the fantastically mechanical grinding and dragging sounds that used to accompany the appearance of the smoke monster — were not peripheral to the heart of “Lost.” They were the very essence of its appeal, what that show did better than any other. If I want to contemplate the nature of good and evil, I’ll turn to Nietzsche or Hannah Arendt (or, for that matter, Joss Whedon), and if I want ruminations on love, give me Emily Brontë or John Updike (or “Big Love”). From “Lost” I wanted less profundity and more fun. And I still want to know what the deal was with those numbers.

Ree Hines of MSNBC had a problem with the actual ending:

Sometime after his “Hey, kiddo!” and Jack’s understandable “What-the-what?” reaction, the silver fox explained precisely what the alternate reality was — a place Jack and his past pals created to have one giant, post-mortem meet up.

That’s right. It wasn’t a different thread of reality created by the time-changing blast Daniel Faraday suggested. That makes too much sense. Instead, it was all just some oddly plotted excuse for everyone (minus Michael, Walt and loads of other characters) to get together after their respective deaths but before they moved on to whatever follows.

What was the point of everything before that? What about all that alt-action? The alt-escapes? The alt-killings? The alt-family members who don’t really exist? (Sorry, David! And sorry anyone else who paid attention to your now meaningless story.) There weren’t any.

The end.

Really this time.

Those who spent the better part of the last six seasons wondering where in the heck the sometimes frustrating, almost always entertaining mystery could possibly go finally got their answer. If they can make sense of it, that is.

In the end, the electromagnetically charged mystery island gave way to a hug-filled waiting room leading to a pan-spiritual afterlife, led by the aptly named Christian Shephard. Whew!

It’s a daring way to end “Lost” — leaving plenty of questions unanswered and winking out on what has to be its least satisfying twist to date.

At least no one can say they saw that coming.

In other words, the ending was a surprise, and not a good one.

In terms of opinion, I fall more in line with Hines than Miller. While I see Miller’s point, the time to answer many of the questions that plagued her — the meaning of the numbers, why children were being abducted, how the island came to be, etc. — was not the finale. Those should have somehow been answered earlier. Within the context of the finale, it didn’t make sense for Jack to stop Ben and say, “Hey, why did you kidnap Walt anyway?” or “What’s the deal with the numbers?”

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