2010 Year End TV Review: Jason Zingale

It was an especially transformative year of television, at least for me, as my TV viewing diet underwent a bit of restructuring. Once-favorite shows began collecting dust on the DVR (sorry “Burn Notice,” but you’re losing your sizzle), and in the case of a few (like “Chuck”), were deleted altogether. Consequently, NBC’s “Community,” which spent most of its freshman season on the fringe of receiving similar treatment, is now the highlight of my Thursday nights. That’s because while shows like “Burn Notice” and “Chuck” are pretty much running on dead fumes at this point, “Community” has just begun to hit its groove. “How I Met Your Mother” also bounced back from an off-year with some of its funniest episodes to date, “Glee” and “Castle” continue to be as guilty as they are pleasurable, and the new season of “Top Chef” might just be the best yet. But none were able to crack my Top 5, which goes to prove that while there might have been a few misses this year, the hits were a lot more memorable.

year_end_terriers

1. Terriers

Clever, funny, dark and provocative, “Terriers” may have wowed critics with its flawed characters and rich storytelling, but that didn’t change John Landgraf’s recent decision not to renew it for a second season. I don’t blame the FX President for the low ratings (most networks would have given up after only a few weeks), but I do blame the rest of America for failing to tune in to the best new show of the season. Yes, you heard right. Although I enjoyed “The Walking Dead” and the overrated “Boardwalk Empire,” the buddy detective drama delivered better acting and writing week in and week out. Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James had unparalleled chemistry as the scrappy private investigators (the titular terriers, if you will) caught in the middle of the case of a lifetime, so it’s a shame that we won’t get to tag along on any of their further adventures – especially since the season finale left things wide open. Another brilliant but cancelled television show that, ten years from now, will still be missed.

year_end_modern_family

2. Modern Family

It hasn’t even completed its second season, but “Modern Family” already seems destined to become a comedy classic. It’s that good, and anyone who says otherwise should get an X-ray to see if their funny bone is broken. Of course, considering that it’s one of the most-watched shows on TV, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t agree. But for those who still haven’t experienced the funniest half-hour of television, it’s about time that you do, because there isn’t a single show that even comes close to matching the number of laughs in an average episode. And although the writing staff certainly deserves some credit, it’s cast members like Ty Burrell, Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara who make every joke that much funnier. Even the kids are funny, and that’s saying a lot from someone who isn’t particularly fond of child actors. It’s almost unbelievable the way the show fires on all cylinders so consistently, but that’s what separates a great show from a good one, and “Modern Family” is nothing if not that.

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3. Sons of Anarchy

The third season of FX’s outlaw biker drama may not have been its best, but after a sluggish start, the series redeemed itself by getting back to the kind of top-notch storytelling that fans have come to expect. Many of those fans were quick to criticize the ambitious Ireland subplot that dominated most of the season, but along with fleshing out some of the club’s back story, it also set the stage for what turned out to be a killer finale. Many of the supporting players got lost in the background this year, but Charlie Hunnam gave the performance of his career, guest stars Paula Malcomson and James Cosmo proved themselves worthy additions to the cast, and Ally Walker put the finishing touches on what might just be the best TV villain in quite some time. The show may have stumbled a bit along the way, but no matter how you felt about the season as a whole, those who stuck around for the long haul were given plenty of incentive to come back next fall.

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The 2010 Primetime Emmy nominations are in!

Bright and early this morning…by which we mean 8:40 AM EST / 5:40 AM PST…the nominees for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards were announced by Joel McHale (“Community,” “The Soup”) and Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”). It ended up being a worthwhile gig for one of them, at least, with Vergara pulling in a Supporting Actress nod for “Modern Family.” Maybe that’s why McHale seemed so stone-faced. (Seriously, did someone tell McHale that he wasn’t getting paid if he didn’t keep his smart-assery in line ’til after the nominees were read? The only time he cracked anything approaching a joke was when he preempted Vergara’s mangling of Mariska Hargitay’s last name.) Anyway, here’s a list of who got the glory…and, in the case of Best Actress in a Drama, who got the shaft.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

* Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
* Glee (Fox)
* Modern Family (ABC)
* Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
* The Office (NBC)
* 30 Rock (NBC)

My Pick: “Modern Family.” There’s no question that “Glee” is award-worthy, but not necessarily as a comedy, which is also where “Nurse Jackie” falters in this category. I feel like “The Office” and “30 Rock” coasted in on their past merits this year, but “Curb” got a huge boost from the “Seinfeld” storyline, so it’s the only real competition here. Still, the buzz on “Modern Family” is all over the place. I can’t imagine it won’t bring home the glory.

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My Name Is Bruce

Bruce Campbell has never received the attention he deserves as a character actor. After two failed TV series and a lifetime of riding on Sam Raimi’s coattails, you’d think that he’d run into a bit of luck eventually, but the closest that he’s come to success is a supporting role on the USA drama “Burn Notice.” Sometimes, when you need something done, you’ve got to do it yourself, and though Campbell’s first trip behind the camera (the Sci-Fi Channel movie, “The Man with the Screaming Brain”) was ultra-campy, his latest effort is a big improvement. A self-proclaimed Bob Hope movie with decapitations, “My Name Is Bruce” isn’t the actor’s finest hour, but it’s a nice bit of fan service that will please his loyal following.

My Name Is Bruce

In it, Campbell stars as a fictional version of himself, a B-movie action star who’s recruited by a small mining town to stop the recently resurrected Chinese God of War, Guan-di. What follows is the kind of goofy, slapstick comedy that fans have come to expect from the actor over the years, and it’s littered with familiar faces like Ellen Sandweiss (“The Evil Dead”), Dan Hicks (“Evil Dead 2”), Timothy Patrick Quill (“Army of Darkness”), and Ted Raimi. Those expecting anything other than B-movie quality are bound to be disappointed, but if that’s the case, they’re probably not real Bruce Campbell fans either. “My Name Is Bruce” is the ultimate fan experience, and though it will probably never rank among the actor’s best work, it’s still a must-see. In fact, the vast collection of extras included on the Blu-ray release (like the audio commentary by Campbell and the making-of featurette, “Heart of Dorkness”) is worth the price of admission alone.

Click to buy “My Name Is Bruce”

  

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Fiona Glenanne of “Burn Notice,” dissected

Look, I like Gabrielle Anwar’s character, the gun-toting Fionia Glenanne, as much as the next red-blooded American male, but I never thought someone (other than maybe a few of the “Burn Notice” writers) could put together 650+ words on what she represents in a post-feminist world. But Ginia Bellafante of the New York Times did just that.

Fiona is a character with no memorable precedent: a genius joke-take on girls with gun lust, the joke being that above all else she is every woman who needs to be sent a copy of “He’s Just Not That Into You,” next-day delivery. In the show’s back story Michael broke up with Fiona years ago, disappearing without explanation. (I imagine this to have been like Berger dumping Carrie with a Post-it note on “Sex and the City,” except it occurred three feet from a terrorist cell.)

Fiona has never been able to get over Michael despite his persistent and explicit reminders that he is not made of the ordinary stuff of human need. Still, she keeps pushing for the dream, dating other people solely to try to make Michael jealous, interrupting stakeouts and shooting sprees and manhunts to ask for a key to his apartment or to tell him that what she would really like for her birthday is a teddy.

While reading the piece, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop — for Bellafante to criticize Anwar’s character for continuing to pine over her ex-boyfriend even after all these years. But that shoe never dropped. Bellafante genuinely admires Fiona and what she represents. Good stuff.

On a side note, anyone else remember the pilot episode where Fiona spoke with an Irish accent (which made sense because she used to be a member of the Irish Republican Army)? I thought they should have stuck with it, though the creators apparently thought otherwise.

  

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It’s time to set your TiVos… (part 2)

A couple of weeks ago, we provided a list of shows that were debuting soon so that you’d have a chance to set your TiVos. Well, 14 days have past and, since that’s the amount of program data that TiVo can carry, it’s time to do it again.

Here is a list of the scripted shows that premiere in the next two weeks (through Feb. 2):

LOST (ABC)
1/21/09 at 9:00 PM
Two-hour 5th season premiere

LIE TO ME (FOX)
1/21/09 at 9:03 PM
(from FOX’s press release, September 2008) FOX has given a series commitment to LIE TO ME, a compelling new drama from Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox Television. Tim Roth (“The Incredible Hulk”) and Kelli Williams (“The Practice”) star in this fascinating character drama inspired by a real-life specialist who can read clues embedded in the human face, body and voice to expose the truth behind the lies in criminal investigations. LIE TO ME is scheduled to premiere midseason. When you scratch your chin, wring your hands, wrinkle your nose or swallow too much, Dr. Cal Lightman (Roth) knows you’re lying. He doesn’t just think so he knows so. As the foremost deception expert in the country, Dr. Lightman can uncover the deepest secrets and crack the hardest cases. More accurate than any polygraph, he knows whether those in front of him be they family, friends, criminals or complete strangers are honest or not. Dr. Lightman heads up The Lightman Group, a private agency contracted by the FBI, local police, law firms, corporations and private individuals when they hit roadblocks in their searches for the truth. Joining him at the agency are a variety of experts in the field of behavioral evaluation: Dr. Gillian Foster (Williams) is a gifted psychologist and Lightman’s professional partner, a woman whose guidance he needs whether he knows it or not; Will Loker (Brendan Hines) is Lightman’s lead researcher who practices “radical honesty” at all times; and Ria Torres (Monica Raymund) is the newest member of the team, selected for her innate ability to read body language and catch certain clues that her colleagues may miss.


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