Best and Worst of 2006: Jay's List

by Jay Black, posted Jan 3rd 2007 2:30PM
This is how I feel after a full day of watching and writing about television...Here's my opinion on best/worst lists of any given year: I love reading them and I hate writing them. It's been a lot of fun looking at what my colleagues here at TV Squad have had to say about the newly ended year, but it's been a slow walk through hell trying to actually make my own list. I'm not sure why, exactly, I had so many problems with the list. Maybe it's because I'm afraid that some sort of cosmic force is going to hold me accountable for what I say here. Like, I'll die and meet the God of TV and he (or she) is going to be waiting for me with my 2006 best of picks and be angry that I left Two and a Half Men off the list (note, in this scenario, the God of TV is related to Charlie Sheen).

My dislike of having to write this list is part of the reason why I'm posting it in early January and not in the Christmas-New Years corridor like I wanted to. Every time I sat down to write it I suddenly found something I had to do around the house (like take a nap or eat some cheese). Today, though, I finally forced the words out of my fingers. I'm looking forward to hearing how wrong I am about all of these choices!

My best and worst 2006 after the jump...


Best Comedy: South Park

When I was in college, I took a course on satire called "Swift and Shaw" focusing on the two greatest satirists of the last 300 odd years or so. I suspect that in the far future they'll have to call it "Swift and Shaw and South Park" because Matt and Trey's creation certainly deserves a seat at that table. This show has gotten better each year it's been on and the 10th season has been a glorious mash-up between absurdity (Towlie as James Frey up against a plot masterminded by Oprah's minge) and pitch perfect satire ("Cartoon Wars", "Go God Go").

Honorable Mention: The Office

Best Drama: The Sopranos

Okay, okay, okay, I'm expecting nine thousand comments telling me how stupid I am. I'm expecting nine thousand more comments pointing me towards The Wire or Battlestar Galactica. Here's my criteria on this one -- how excited do I get when I hear there are new episodes coming out. If the scale is 1 (a drunken hookup with an ugly girl at closing time) to 10 (a romantic weekend with Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston who have decided to work out their problems over margaritas and me), then new Sopranos episodes rate about an 8.3. No other show cracks above a 7.

I've never been one of those "it was better in the earlier seasons" people. (In fact, a large part of me thinks that the driving force behind those people was that the show felt like it was a secret among fans for those first few seasons and when it exploded into the general consciousness people got mad the same way hipsters get mad when their favorite bands get famous. I've always been of the opinion if you love something, you should be happy to share it with everybody. Note to creepy emailers: this belief does not extend to my wife).

I think Tony and his crew have only gotten better with age and season 5 had some of the series' best moments to date: Tony's dream (don't tell me you didn't get chills when Buscemi showed up and asked him to leave his briefcase and join him in the house), the low-level soldier hanging himself, AJ finding a job (and a lady), and the phrase that will be a euphemism for homosexuality for decades to come, "I love you Johnny Cakes." I can't wait until March (or did they push the new shows to June? Or September 2014?)

Honorable Mention: Lost

Best Reality Show: American Idol/Girls Next Door

These shows both occupy an important place in the TiVo ecosystem: my wife and I both enjoy them equally and that's a rare and precious thing (I will never, ever like The Bachelor the way she does, and she will never, ever enjoy hardcore pornography the way I do).

American Idol is dumb and flaky (and you have to deal with Seacrest's plastic psychopath smile), but it's got that certain something. Its cheesiness is undercut by the fact that a lot of those people can really sing and you wind up rooting for them whether you want to or not.

In all honesty, I don't understand what it is about The Girls Next Door that my wife likes. She's not a feminist or anything, but I find it surprising that she reacts so well to the idea of being a "kept" woman. Since it's E!'s top show, I suppose there are a lot of women like my wife (take THAT Betty Friedan). It's great for me, because I love the show too. Hef is my hero and 22 minutes of beautiful Playboy girls walking around in tiny little outfits isn't a bad way to spend an afternoon. (And if you're wondering if the only reason I chose this show is because the girls are hot and my wife lets me watch it without giving me grief the answer is yes.)

Honorable Mention: True Life

Best New Show: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Again, I expect to hear all sorts of people complaining about this choice. (I tried The Nine, but I think that one former Party of Fiver in a serialized thriller on ABC Wednesdays is enough for me.) Listen, I get that this show has warts -- it's self-important, self-righteous, left-leaning, myopic, unrealistic, and not all that funny where it needs to be -- but I don't care; I love it anyway.

I liken this show to that super-hot crazy poetry chick you dated in your freshman lit class. You recognize the fact that she's crazy (after all she cried when you mentioned her father and she's carved Sylvia Plath's name into her forearm), but it doesn't matter because she's always saying interesting things and she's just so much damn fun to look at. At this point, my relationship with Studio 60 could go either way -- it _might_ go into therapy to fix its daddy issues or it might break up with me in front of the entire student center by stabbing me in the eye with a metal compass. I'm still having too much fun with it to worry where the relationship is headed.

Best moment so far this season: with the New Orlean's muscians playing Christmas music, Danny tells Jordan that he loves her. Instead of beating around the sitcom bush and hemming and hawing, he tells her, "You better start running, because I'm coming for you!" I thought it was a pretty cool move; my wife nearly exploded from the amount of estrogen it generated in her body.

Honorable mention: Jericho

Best Comeback: The Simpsons

I'm not a hater, but I thought there were some dark years there for the show. 2006 -- both the latter half of last season and the first few episodes of this season -- have shown that the show is still funny and relevant (kudos for the Simpsons for tackling the war. Maybe the competition from South Park got them going again). Watching the DVDs of the classic era of the show, I'm not sure that they'll ever consistently produce genius like they did throughout the first eight seasons, but it's good to know that after 19 years, the show is still worth watching.

Honorable Mention: American Dad (Though, to be fair, it's not really coming back from anything -- it's just a lot better now than it was when it started.)


In no particular order or genre:

The War at Home

When I heard about this show, I was excited because I like Michael Rapaport and I thought that his decision to bring the old 70's Brady Bunch perm into the 21st century TV landscape was a bold one. But having watched a few episodes, I can only wonder what other shows Fox has in development that are bad enough that this show gets the slot over them. "Ice Fishing: The Series"? "Marshlands of Maryland"? "OJ: If I Killed People On A Weekly Basis, Here's How I Would Do It"? Fox, if you're that hard up for programming, just show reruns of Futurama until that series comes back next year.

Next/Parental Control/Laguna Beach/Made

I think that if any of you out there in readerland are approached to be on the MTV show Made you should say that you want to be made into someone who has enough self esteem and dignity that they no longer want to be on Made. Then watch as the universe implodes in on itself.

Also, MTV needs to either make these shows REALITY SHOWS or hire REAL ACTORS to read the lines the producers are feeding them. The hybrid formula they're using now just isn't working. If I wanted to see teenagers giving awkward line readings, I'd go to a community theater.

Bill O'Reilly

This is not a political statement, just a friendly question - does he realize he's a joke? When someone (Colbert) creates a comedy show simply by acting exactly like you, how can you look at yourself in the mirror every day and take yourself seriously? Is he that disconnected from reality? Or is he secretly getting a cut of the Colbert money? Explain to me what I'm missing here.

Attack of the Show

How many times are they going to revamp this show before they give up on it? It seems like every six months they have new sets and hosts and it never quite gels. It'd be like if things weren't working out between my wife and me, we decided that instead of seeking counseling or getting a divorce, we'd just change the furniture in our living room.

Local News

Did you hear? There's a fire. Also, someone was shot. Also, there's some weather moving in. Also, there's a new health risk that we're only going to tell you about after the second commercial break. Also, there's our wacky guy out doing something wacky. Also, there's a big traffic jam (we'll let you know by issuing a "beep" sound -- you know, like a car beeps!) Please, America... please, stop watching this. Please.

Other Categories and Awards:

Worst nudity from a former teen star: Britney Spears

Not sure how many of you saw the pictures of this, but after I saw it, all I wanted to do was travel back in time to 1999 and tell my younger self: Be very careful what you wish for. Remember when she danced with that snake at the MTV movie awards? Right now, that snake has more heat on its career.

Best example that the universe has changed completely regarding news and gossip: Michael Richards

As the old proverb goes: if you're going to do something tremendously stupid and offensive, make sure that no one with a cell phone camera is around. On a related note, why hasn't the company that made that camera phone jumped on this event? They should be marketing the hell out of it. "The Motorola: Enough clarity to completely destroy a career." I'd buy that phone.

Achievement Award for the continued stupidity of an entire industry: Movie Studios

Please guys, let people rip movies easily and legally. We already do it with music and, uh, guess what? We already do it with movies, just illegally. I buy a lot of movies and TV shows on DVD. I also travel quite a bit. I'd love to be able to stick a DVD in, let itunes rip it, then watch it on the go. Instead I have to go through a whole bunch of baloney (and like Wyatt's grandfather in Weird Science, I don't stand for baloney).

HD and Blue-Ray need to be mentioned, but really they're a column unto themselves. How is it that every single person in the world remembers VHS and BETA, but the people who lost millions of dollars fighting that pointless format war seem to have forgotten. Is there some kind of military-industrial complex that stands to profit from a format war? At least then it'd make a kind of sense to fight it.

And finally, the biggest winner of them all this year: YOU! Well, not really, but I figure if Time magazine can cheese out, so can I.

As always, let me know where I goofed up in the comments.

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Love JERICHO, but where's HOUSE????

January 18 2007 at 7:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kevin Chase

Best comedy- The Office, My name is Earl, Two & a Half Men, How I met your Mother, House

Best Drama- House

Best New Show- The Class

Best Reality- American Idol

Best Show ever- Married With Children

January 13 2007 at 7:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Had Enough

Here's a reality check for EVERYONE
Turn off your TV's and spend time with something or someone worthy of all this excitement.

News: Sucks
Evening TV: Sucks
Daytime TV: Sucks
Cable: Sucks

The only thing worse than the TV is the constant mention of every Howdy Do in the entertainment business. Have Americans really lost their minds to this dribble, heros and idols my butt, when was the last time anyone gave a rat's ass for anything other than themselves? When was the last time anyone had an original opinion? It's all dribble.

TV's "Blow em up"

January 10 2007 at 7:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree on South Park. I watch it faithfully several times a week. Also love The Colbert Report...funny, funny guy. I loved the show with Dan Rather. Stephen has an incredible sense of humor. So does Dan. I am also a "Desparate Housewives" addict. The writing is uneven (sometimes great, other times so-so)but I don't know of any show were you can see five more gorgeous gals at one time on the same program.

January 10 2007 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Monkey Wrench

"Veronica Mars" stills entertains with its hip, witty banter.

And what the hell is "BSG"?

January 10 2007 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JoAnne Boyle

I can't believe they pay you to review, someone's getting robbed.

January 10 2007 at 3:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Venture Bros. was the year's best comedy & The Wire the best drama....In fact, the only two shows I would go out of my way to watch consistently....

January 06 2007 at 1:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Parker and Stone? Comparable to Swift? I mean, really? REALLY? I don't even have an argument set. I'm just wondering.

January 05 2007 at 12:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I too like Studio 60.

I get where the hate stems from: expectations.

Some shows you don't expect much if anything from so however they go for you as a viewer, it's fine.

But if you expect already have an idea of what you want and need from the show and you don't settle for less.

I got that with Lost for instance. It hasn't lived up to its hype since mid season one for me.

But Studio 60? I only expected solid acting performance, fast dialogue and pedeconferencing and I got it.

I don't care about the preaching and all, I mean it entertains me. It's not the best thing (or show) ever but I enjoy it nonetheless.

I also didn't expect to find the sketches funny so no bitching from me on that front either.

Studio 60 is a good series that can get better and I think the cast and crew have everything to improve it.

Lost however is a lost cause.

One tiny quibble on your list (not an actual critic): no Battlestar Galactica, Dexter or The Shield?



Here's to having a great TV year! :)

January 05 2007 at 12:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here's my list:
"Regular TV Genre"
Best New Show - Heroes
Best Drama - BSG
Best Comedy - My Name Is Earl

"Reality Genre"
Best Competition Show - American Idol
Best Unscripted Show - Mythbusters
Nagged Unrelentingly by Friend until I watched - Dog Whisperer

Without a doubt, hands down has to be 7th Heaven. My kids love it, but makes me want to blow chunks.

January 04 2007 at 11:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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