Best and Worst of 2006: Adam's list
You want a my personal picks for the best TV stuff of 2006? Sure, no problem. You also want my personal picks for the worst TV offered in 2006? Well, that's somewhat of a challenge. If I don't like something, I don't watch it, but I agreed to list my favorite and least favorite things about TV, so let's get the negative stuff out of the way first.
Show I still admire but personally got sick of: House
"Formulaic" isn't always synonymous with "bad," and House is one drama that proves it. I was hooked on the show during its second season while simultaneously burning through the first season on the USA Network. Sure, every episode stayed within the same template of Dr. Gregory House confounded by some mysterious disease until the end of the episode, but it was still compelling television, thanks to a great cast and Hugh Laurie's conflicting mix of abrasiveness and vulnerability. Nevertheless, by the time the third season came around I'd had enough. I might have been able to get around the show's formula and enjoyed it as a purely character-driven show, but two seasons of watching a guy behave like a selfish jerk was enough for me.
Great concept complicated by corporate overthinking: TV on the Web
One word: YouTube. Or is that two words? Well, whatever. The popular video sharing site was one of the most talked about sites both online and offline in 2006. It helped to convince networks that people want to see their favorite shows online, and many networks did just that. What so many failed to realize, however, is that people want easy access to videos. Faced with trying to figure out how to download their favorite show via Amazon's Unbox or instantly finding the same show on YouTube, your average viewer is going to go with the simpler option.
That isn't to say profit can't be made by offering shows online, and iTunes proved this by giving consumers a simple method of both downloading and paying for content. I'm optimistic that 2007 will be the year the networks and studios figure out how to really make this "TV on the Web" thing work.
Genre that just won't go away: Reality TV
Saying I hate reality TV is somewhat meaningless, because the genre is now split into several sub-genres, some not quite as annoying as others. My biggest beef with reality TV isn't so much the concept itself as what it has spawned: the idea that anyone can be a TV star no matter what. Call me an old crank, but I miss the days when watching TV meant seeing real actors in fictional roles providing viewers with a bit of escapism. I want to turn on the TV and see things I don't see in real life. I see enough real people already, and they ain't that interesting.
Shows that won me over: 12 Oz Mouse, Squidbillies and The Andy Griffith Show
I've said enough about 12 Oz Mouse already, so I won't repeat myself, except to say this is one series that turned out to be much more engaging and substantive than it first appeared. The minimalist quality may have turned some viewers away, but it only took a few episodes for me to become hooked.
I also checked out Squidbillies when it debuted, and wasn't that impressed, but the show got funnier and funnier, especially in the second season.
I know The Andy Griffith Show isn't a new program, but it was new to me in 2006. Just for the hell of it, I started to Tivo the show toward the end of the year. It's a simple show, but that doesn't mean it's dumb, and let's not fall for the idea that "complex" equals "quality television." This series is fondly remembered for a reason: it was fun to watch. Also, I really miss Don Knotts.
Most depressing cancellation: Wonder Showzen
God, I loved that show. Buried in the TV landscape on MTV2, this spoof of children's educational programming was one of the most hysterical, disturbing, obnoxious and surreal concepts to ever make it to the TV screen. I was sad to see it only last two seasons, but the fact that it even made it to the air in the first place was pretty amazing.
Late night show that deserves time to grow: TalkShow with Spike Feresten
Remember when Late Night with Conan O'Brien debuted, and we all hated him? Don't lie, you hated him, too. That's right, I'm looking at you. No, the guy behind you.
TV viewers seem conditioned to respond negatively to a talk show host they don't know, but Conan eventually won us over, and I hold out the same hope for Spike Feresten, former Seinfeld scribe who now hosts his own late night talk show Saturdays at midnight on FOX. His show isn't perfect, and some of his bits fall a little flat, but given time to work out the kinks I think this could easily become my new favorite late night show. I loved the "Walk the Line" tribute to Johnny Cash where Spike had an audience member follow a line on the floor that led outside -- and then locked her out for the rest of the show.
Show I'll probably enjoy once Netflix sends me the damn DVDs: Battlestar Galactica
Saw the miniseries and loved it. Wanted to catch up with the DVDs, but the first season has been in "Very Long Wait" status in my Netflix queue since, like, forever. Someday, though.
Network you should be watching instead of VH1: TV Land
VH1 claims to "love" pop culture of decades past, but it really doesn't. What it loves is having a bunch of comedians throwing out snarky comments. I can deal with snark, but the constant repetition of "boy, what a dumb decade that was" grows tiresome quickly. TV Land, though, manages to treat pop culture and television of the past with dignity while still realizing that, hey, it's just television.
Other personal faves of 2006, new and otherwise:
Perfect Hair Forever
Sitdown Comedy with David Steinberg
Comedians of Comedy