For two people who don’t own basic cable, we watch a lot of TV. This year we got a Netflix membership, then we dumped a Netflix membership. (Three cheers for the Cincinnati Public Library system!) And while we watched a lot of “new” TV in 2008, we certainly didn’t watch enough to give you a Top Ten list. So we’re breaking our list into three parts: The Best of “New” TV (television that aired in real time in 2008), The Best of “Old” TV (shows we caught up on), and Our Favorite TV Moments.
THE BEST “NEW” TV OF 2008
4. SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. It was a sort of renaissance year for SNL, and the public face of that was Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. The real star, though, was Kristen Wiig, who could make virtually any sketch funny simply by appearing in it. (True to form, SNL is trying to beat a good thing into the ground: see the awful Josh Brolin sketch at a Japanese restaurant where the writers simply told Wiig, “Just play a psychotic, over-the-top woman who jumps through a wall at the end of the sketch.” Please, this is not necessary.) We also have a soft spot for the incredibly dumb MacGruber sketches, particulary the ones with guest star Shia LaBeouf. Of course, Amy Poehler will be missed. (“I’ve got one leg and it can go all night long. Jealous?”)
3. THE WIRE. The “live” part of “The Wire” in 2008 (Season 5) was — let’s be honest — the weakest of the show’s five seasons. But a weak season of “The Wire” is still light years better than almost anything else on TV. At the risk of Erin making Ben sleep on the couch, however, we will refrain from devoting any more space on this blog to “The Wire” than we already have.
2. LOST. A renaissance year for “Lost” as well, as the flash forward format reinvigorated the show and shifted our perpetual confusion from the question “Will they get off the island?” to “What on earth happened after they got off the island?” (And now, “What happened to the ones who didn’t get off the island?”) The quickest, thriftiest season yet, season four also delivered what has been the show’s finest hour to this point: The revelatory, game-changing “The Constant,” which finally (officially) put time travel on the table. We also loved that episode because it featured Desmond (or, as he is known around the Vore household, “Desmond!”, said in breathless, bosom-heaving fashion) and Penny, whose love story — while it appears to have a nice bow around it at the moment — has seemed to us like the through line of the show. Also, we love Benjamin Linus. Love him. You’re going to be rooting for him by show’s end, just you watch.
1. 30 ROCK. We’ve already called it the funniest show on television right now, and we don’t have much to add, except that Tracy Jordan says at least three things a week that we immediately appropriate as our own. If all you wanted were hugs from black people, why didn’t you become host of “The Price is Right”?
THE BEST “OLD” TV OF 2008
LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT at 11:30 p.m. on Channel 64. There was a two month stretch from early June to mid-August when we found ourselves setting everything aside at 11:30, crawling into bed, and watching Vincent D’Onofrio and Katherine Erbe (better known as Anna from What About Bob?) unriddle the latest whodunit perplexing the greater New York City area. “Law & Order” is the TV equivalent of comfort food. It is virtually the exact opposite of “The Wire.” Certain forms of it (especially SVU on Tuesday nights) are insufferably over-the-top. But we were strangely fascinated, possibly obsessed, with D’Onofrio’s Detective Bobby Goran, an uncannily brilliant detective with unmatched powers of reasoning and deduction who had a bit of Columbo in him and could deceive you into thinking he was just some Joe Shmoe in a suit. (He did have to deliver some truly awful bits of dialogue, which was also part of the charm.) We became so attached to Mr. D’Onofrio that we (Ben especially) would get extremely angry when that schmuck Chris Noth was on instead of our Vincent, even when the commercial teaser during the 11:20 “Friends” commercial break specifically featured D’Onofrio saying, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent: It’d be a crime to miss it.” That’s how it felt when D’Onofrio was replaced by a third-rate hothead like Noth: like we’d been robbed. Strangely, we have not watched a single episode for the last four months. But it was a good run, Vincent.
BIG LOVE. Erin disappeared into a Big Love-shaped abyss for about a two week stretch early this summer. You may remember her recommending this one when she resurfaced.
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA. We were late to the “Philadelphia” party, but it’s good to be here. Anne Evans also paid us a strangely flattering compliment the other day when she said to Erin, “If you didn’t like Ben so much and Ben had a drinking problem, you two would be just like Charlie and the Waitress.”* To which Erin responded, “I’m going to start liking him less immediately.” Yesterday we rewatched the Charlie freak-out scene in the season 2 episode “Hundred Dollar Baby,” when he seamlessly shifts from crying to laughing to violent rage to freakish paranoia and finally full-on wig out in the space of about 20 seconds, all while he is eating a plate of scrambled eggs. This, friends, is acting.
FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS. We have Bevin Beers to thank for introducing us to Bret and Jemaine, although we didn’t know at first if we liked their company. After two or three episodes though, everything clicked. Although Erin is freaked out by Jemaine’s lips, there’s really nothing to dislike about this show unless, like the fruit stand guy, you hate Australians and mistake Bret and Jemaine for Australians even though they’re actually New Zealanders. The “Flight of the Conchords” CD will also perk up any road trip with the bouncy French pop of “Foux du Fafa,” the freaky Bowie tribute “Bowie,” and the power ballad “Leggy Blonde” featuring the hapless Murray, who is the show’s secret treasure. If you haven’t seen the video to “Business Time,” do it now.
BEST TELEVISION MOMENTS OF 2008
Michael Phelps wins eight golds. One of the highlights of Voreblog’s year was when Michael Phelps personally wrote in and shared his favorite poop story. Also, did anyone else enter a weird time warp after Phelps finished swimming, as you got sucked in to watching beach volleyball and then water polo and then gymnastics and track and — whoa! — soon enough it was four-thirty in the morning?
The 2008 NCAA Finals. Every year since 2000, Ben calls Denys Lai (or vice versa) and we share the spine-tingling “One Shining Moment” video at the conclusion of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final. (This tradition started in 1996 in the Norton Hall lounge. It is amazing the range of sports- and culture-related commentary that we can fit into those two minutes.) This year, we actually had a great game to watch before Luther Vandross took center stage thanks to Mario Chalmers and the comeback Jayhawks.
Game Four Jazz win vs. Lakers in the Western Conference Semis. Utah let a 12-point lead slip away in the final four minutes, then shut down Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in OT to win 123-115. Ben had a heart attack late in the fourth quarter and Erin had to resuscitate him for overtime. He recovered just in time to watch Andrei Kirilenko stuff Bryant twice. (Bryant finished 13-for-33 for the game.) Utah lost games five and six, so this was really all Ben had to cling to until…
The Celtics blow out the Lakers in the Finals. We watched Game Six with the Cicaks. This was honestly the first time Ben could remember being happy about the way an NBA season finished. (He was pleased with the Pistons beating L.A. in 2004, but not this pleased.)
THE MOST DISAPPOINTING SHOW OF 2008
THE OFFICE. Watching the past two seasons has given us a renewed appreciation for the brevity of the British “Office.” Two seasons. Twelve episodes total. One special two-hour finale. Occasionally we dig those DVDs out and watch them again, and it’s still brilliant. The same cannot be said for its sagging American counterpart, which can still on occasion deliver a great line (Michael tasting wine at Jan’s dinner party: “It has sort of an oaky afterbirth”), a great episode (the season 4 finale, “Goodbye, Toby”), and a great guest star (Amy Ryan’s six episode run). But those moments are becoming fewer and farer between.
NEW SHOW WE COULD HAVE TOLD YOU WOULD CRASH AND BURN
MY OWN WORST ENEMY. Show of hands: who saw this show’s cancellation coming the moment they saw the first preview? What, everyone? Everyone except NBC and Christian Slater? Well, it looks like Slater’s hand is half-raised. The only way we can see how this show got green-lighted is if Jack Donaghy really was a network executive.
SHOWS WE’RE CONSIDERING SERIOUS RELATIONSHIPS WITH IN 2009
- “The Shield” (Ben)
- finishing “The Sopranos” (Ben & Erin)
- “The Wire” (again) (Ben)
- “Mad Men” (Ben & Erin)
- “Battlestar Galactica” (Ben!)
We’re open to your suggestions. Please steer us right.
Coming tomorrow: The Best & Worst of Music!
* = Did you know Charlie and the waitress are married in real life? As are Mac and Sweet Dee. And Dennis and Liam McPoyle.**
** = We made that last one up.