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Best and Worst TV of 2009: Joel's list

by Joel Keller, posted Dec 19th 2009 2:04PM
Breaking Bad
I don't think I did one of these lists last year, and I have no idea why. The election all by itself would have generated a pretty fun best/worst list. Maybe we were all suffering from information overload, and were just exhausted. Not sure.

But 2009 had a lot of interesting TV, too, just not all in one category. As I've done in the past, I'll dispense with the usual "best show" and "worst show" lists and just make up categories:


Best comeback from a shaky first season: Parks and Recreation. As I mentioned in my "return of the sitcom" story, Parks and Rec has made the biggest improvement from first season to second since... well, since The Office. It's no coincidence; Greg Daniels and Mike Schur's Office experience taught them that patience would be rewarded, both on the part of the writers and the viewers.

Just as The Office started to shine when Michael Scott became less like David Brent, Parks got better when Leslie Knope became less like Michael Scott. Also, the ensemble is starting to become the show's strongest point, just like we saw on The Office. The show ended 2009 with a string of excellent episodes that showed that Amy Poehler won't need to carry the show, even though she could if needed.

Best sign of intelligence on morning TV: ABC putting George Stephanopoulos in the Good Morning America anchor chair. I know he's only been on the job for a week, but I just hope he keeps his policy-wonk edge and brings some actual news onto a morning news show for a change. For instance, he seemed visibly uncomfortable interviewing Robert Downey, Jr., and I hope he remains that uncomfortable. Morning news shows -- coughTodaycough -- have moved way too far into covering fashion, cooking, and other fluff to be taken seriously.

Best season finale in years: Mad Men. We've talked about it a lot here at TV Squad, and for good reason: there aren't many season finales that not only tie up a lot of plot points but also completely shift show's reason for being. This one did. And, because the show that seems to be unrelentingly bleak, the hopeful last scene was extremely satisfying to watch. A great conclusion to a break-out season.

Best reason to root for wealthy actors: Bryan Cranston. His work on Breaking Bad was funny, tragic, and emotional. But it's the fact that he's finally getting Emmy recognition after a long career is what makes you want to root for him. And he's a nice guy, to boot.

Best game show comeback: Let's Make a Deal. Monty Hall finally has a good team to take the legacy of the show into the 21st century. Wayne Brady's improv skills are a good fit for the crazy energy of the show (you never know what costume will show up next, or how someone will react), and Joathathan Mangum makes for a good sidekick. It doesn't matter that the prizes are cheesy or that only one person gets to do The Big Deal; the show is fun to watch. It makes you wonder how Hall ever thought that Billy Bush was a good person to host the show.

Best thing that could have happened to David Letterman: Tiger Woods. Think Dave is sending Tiger a few new sets of Nike clubs right now?


Best reason to move to Delaware: Jersey Shore. I'm getting tired of defending my home state to people who continue to think that these lunkheads are the only ones who live here. Heck, most of the people on the show aren't even from New Jersey, they're the "bennies" that come down from New York to crowd the shore during the summer. Sure, the show is fun to watch, but you just feel a tiny bit dirty while watching it. If you really want to see what the Jersey Shore is like, go to Asbury Park or Cape May... or just about any other town but Seaside Heights.

Best waste of talent: Accidentally on Purpose. You'd think I'd say Hank here, but that was monumentally bad. Accidentally on Purpose, on the other hand, is just mediocre. And, considering the premise, the writing and directing talent behind the scenes, and good comic actresses like Jenna Elfman and Ashley Jensen in the mix, this show should have been so much better.

Best reason to watch cartoons instead of weekend news: Jenna Wolfe. She was fun as a local sports anchor here in New York, but she's annoying as hell on the Today show. She calls more attention to herself than even Kathie Lee Gifford does, and that's saying a lot.

Best reason to watch baseball in a sports bar: Chip Caray. He almost ruined the baseball playoffs for me with his way-too-excited calls, overuse of the term "fisted," and his ability to miss plays happening right in front of him. Luckily, TBS finally saw fit to dump him; hopefully whoever they select for 2010 will be more competent.

Best thing to happen to Tiger Woods: Nothing, yet. But I heard that Alex Rodriguez just broke up with Kate Hudson (who TBS and FOX showed way too much during the Yankees' playoff run), so a new A-Rod disaster should be right around the corner...

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Jonathan Mangum

Thanks for the shout out! (and in a good way)

December 20 2009 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Best finale ever: LOST

December 20 2009 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Consider Best Season Finale in Years... Friday Night Lights Season 3. If you haven't seen it I won't spoil it but the season ends with an event that changes the direction of the show. It could count as 09 cause that's when it aired on NBC.

I agree with you on Breaking Bad, Cranston kills it!

December 20 2009 at 3:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The first two seasons of prison break were great - season 1 was fantastic. But it went downhill from the end of season 2 at a very steep angle. Yes I saw the DVD "The Final Break" and that was just ridiculous. Prison Break kept getting more and more ridiculous at an exponential rate, until its level of incredulity reached such monumental proportions the show became a parody of insanity. They ended it because they were forced to. Heroes has been following the exact route of prison break - good first 2 seasons, no idea where to go, no idea who is good, who is bad, no idea what's going on, more and more insane plots, plot twists for the sake of having plot twists... I stopped watching heroes sometime towards the end of last season. I just couldn't take it anymore. Watching Heroes was like doing homework, an annoyance... a chore I'd rather not do. I felt I had enough invested in prison break that I owed it to myself to keep on watching to see how it ended. I don't feel the same about heroes - I stopped watching it and have not missed it one bit.

December 20 2009 at 12:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bruce's comment

T-Bag is on heroes now! I mean c'mon that makes the show a little better this year. :)

December 20 2009 at 10:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the final season of Prison Break should be on any listing of "worst" or "bad" or whatever negative attribute you're talking about vis a vis things that occurred on television in 2009.

December 19 2009 at 9:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bruce's comment

Did you get to see the real ending (The Final Break) on Blu-ray? It was pretty amazing. You get the Women's Prison angle we were all hoping they'd spin-off but did not.

Prison Break was an excellent series from beginning to end. They knew the perfect time to end it, unlike Heroes - and they ended it in a good way.

December 19 2009 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tony DIMeo

wow peter that sounds awesome it'd be a dream come true for me

December 19 2009 at 5:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe Blow

Was just in New Mexico on the soundstage for Breaking Bad... got to meet Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul... both really nice, down to earth guys. Also... this next season is going to be amazing. I also had a few conversations with the writer, Moira Walley-Beckett. Really, the whole crew was awesome.

December 19 2009 at 2:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You continue to pick on Chip Carey in a world where
John Serling was a major league announcer for
years? "The Ya---nnnn---kkkkkk---eeee's w--iii--nnnn."

December 19 2009 at 2:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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