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Best and Worst TV of 2009: Jason's List

by Jason Hughes, posted Dec 21st 2009 5:06PM
Daniel Wright2009 was a good year for television. It offered the resurgence of the comedy on network television, and the continuing growth of original programming on cable. In all honesty, I don't think I could just do a list of what was great and what was horrible on television because I would need pages and pages.

Instead, I'm going to focus on the things that really stood out this year. Sorry, Mad Men fans, but even though this was a great third season and an amazing finale, I expect it at this point. It's the only way I could come up with to keep my list manageable.

Also, as a point of protest I did not include Jon, Kate or the balloon boy hoax. These events got more attention than they deserved already this year, and I feel bad I even mentioned them.

Doctor Who / Torchwood - It was David Tennant's final year as the Doctor, and all we got were telefilms. He was one of the greatest to steer the TARDIS, and he will be missed. As for Torchwood, the "Children of Earth" mini-series event this past summer was the most focused and entertaining the franchise has ever been.

Russell Hantz - When I look back at past seasons of Survivor, I find that I've usually forgotten most of the players. "Evil" Russell Hantz of Samoa was one of the most diabolical and entertaining players ever. He made Survivor a watercooler show again by sabotaging his own tribe and finding hidden immunity idols. Love him or hate him, and there seems to be no in-betweens, Russell was the best thing to happen to Survivor since the original snake: Richard Hatch.

Better Off Ted - As someone who worked for a faceless corporation, Ted rang a little more true than I was comfortable with. I liked that it defied conventions and managed to be funny and poke fun at the domination of big companies in our society at the same time. Too bad audiences didn't agree and it's likely coming to an end.

ABC Comedy Wednesday - ABC wasn't exactly riding a winning streak in new comedy development when they announced a Wednesday lineup of all new comedies. It was a risk I thought would fail, and yet three of the four are rock solid. Modern Family was expected to be great, and it is. But The Middle is so much better than I thought it would be, and Cougar Town rose above a terrible name and initial premise to become a good ensemble comedy.

Daniel Wright - Shay may have been the biggest contestant ever on The Biggest Loser this past season, but Daniel's weight loss journey throughout two seasons in 2009 was the better story. He's charismatic, charming and proved to be a beacon of support to Shay and everyone around him as he transformed his young life in front of America.

Life on Mars (US) - I'll forgive the wonky ending, because I don't want it to tarnish one of the single best period dramas I've ever seen. Everything was so authentic and rich, and the ongoing mystery as to exactly what was happening to Detective Sam Tyler kept me coming back every week. Add in Harvey Keitel, Gretchen Mol and Michael Imperioli and it was 16.95 episodes of TV heaven (sorry, that ending -- yeech!).

Reaper - Season two introduced the Devil's son, as well as Sock's hot sister. Andi finally became a full member of Sam's "Scooby Gang," and even helped on a few bag-and-tags. Everything was clicking creatively and Reaper could have easily run another several seasons. Unfortunately, the end would come all too soon, with not just one, but two souls in the balance.

Battlestar Galactica - Only the tail end of this series came in 2009, but it was the culmination of one of the greatest science fiction achievements in television, and one of the few to actually reach its intended finish. They usually get cut much too soon. BSG was the series that convinced my wife that sci-fi could be good, and it was never less than compelling and groundbreaking for the genre.

Glee - I didn't know if America would embrace a true musical experience like this, nor was I sure FOX could pull it off without coming off corny or stupid. And yet, they did. In fact, they've managed to make it corny, sweet and great all at the same time.

Sons of Anarchy - After a so-so first season, SOA came roaring out of the gate with a second season that I would put up against any season of any show. From Gemma's dramatic rape and its fallout, to the rift between Clay and Jax and the powerhouse presence of Adam Arkin and Henry Rollins, I don't know if I ever breathed while watching an episode.


Hank - Kelsey Grammer wants to work so bad that he agreed to this. Five minutes in we all knew it was going to be awful. Actually, I lied. I knew it would be terrible the moment I read anything about it.

Brothers - How did a network once known for edgy comedy so completely forget how to develop a good one? Brothers was as tired and cliched as Do Not Disturb, 'Til Death and every other comedy FOX has had the past few years.

FOX's decision not to air "Epitaph One" - I know Dollhouse is canceled, but it might have stood a chance if FOX would have aired not only the best episode of the first season, but the only episode that showcased the potential in the series that we're only now beginning to see -- now that it's too late to matter.

Hole in the Wall - I can't believe this was a hit anywhere. Built up fake drama and people jumping through weird shaped holes. I thought Deal or No Deal sunk game shows to a new low!

Dating in the Dark - It was a weird enough premise, but then it turned out to be a little depressing. We basically learned that many pretty people are shallow and materialistic, but didn't we already know that? It was a decent idea, but poorly executed.

Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone, Dirty Sexy Money canceled - The WGA Strike gave all three of these shows a second season, and while I loved them all for different reasons, it didn't matter. ABC canceled them all. I guess I should be grateful I got that summer of reruns, but it was just a reminder that unique, creative television still struggles.

The Jeff Dunham Show - I don't get the appeal of this guy. He's a terrible ventriloquist, his puppets aren't funny and just when I didn't think he could get worse, he got his own TV show. Now the puppets were "on the loose" and I wanted to find them all and destroy them.

NBC's late night shuffle - 2009 saw Conan O'Brien take over The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon take on Late Night and The Jay Leno Show take over five hours of prime time on NBC. The network is getting mixed results, with O'Brien under-performing, and Leno in prime-time turning out to be one of the stupidest ideas in TV history.

Reality out of control - Ten years after Survivor "made" the genre, reality took an ugly turn somewhere in 2009. I opened the article with two examples I won't bring up, and then there's the Ryan Jenkins (Megan Wants a Millionaire / I Love Money) debacle over at VH1. The desire for over-the-top sensational personalities is taking the "reality" right out of these shows.

The Great American Road Trip - It seemed like a good idea, but with a budget of about a nickel per episode and one of the most annoying families to ever come out of New York, it turned into the longest car ride in history. I just wanted to pull over, get out, throw up, and run far, far away.

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Damir Secki

btw, Jeff Dunham's Achmed and others are really, really funny.. but only to see them once...seeing them more then once is lame, boring and not funny at all...

his show sux big time!

December 22 2009 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jeff Dunham really is a mystery. He is not funny at all.

I disagree about Survivor Samoa's Russell Hantz. Rather a lame version of a villain (is burning socks and claiming you are a Katrina victim really outstanding villainous behavior?) and an overall bland and characterless group for the season.

Other than that, the shows in your best of list that I'm familiar with would make my list as well. Better Off Ted, Reaper, Sons of Anarchy, Torchwood...all were great.

December 22 2009 at 8:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Damir Secki

I actually like accidentally on purpose and I think modern family is not that good everyone is saying.. I think both shows can go toe to toe...Better of ted is in the same category

as per biggest loser.. I don't think danny is the best character in the show..

December 22 2009 at 4:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dammit...another wound opened in the cancellation of Eli Stone and Pushing Daisies. And this on the SAME DAY as the reveal that Better Off Ted is 99% dead. I feel like ABC has one executive who's allowed to choose new shows because he's the CEO's step-nephew or something, and the shitty thing is that he's got the same damn taste as me but the rest of the network hates him for his nepotistic position and so they undermine and ultimately kill his shows long before their time. Of course, that explains Journey Man too. DAMN YOU ABC!!! Why must you tease me and then kick me in the balls every spring!?! I'm going to go off in the corner and cry silently to myself now, if that's okay....

December 22 2009 at 1:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a serious fan of Life on Mars, I thought the ending was OK. It tied everything up neatly and, really, what else could they do. If it had gone two seasons, we woulda had more great '70s crimes/situations but the ending was inevitably what it was. A shout out to the actress eho played his mom too. She was wonderful. I've asked for the complete show set for Christmas (or I'll but it my ownself).

December 21 2009 at 9:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My list
Breaking Bad
Sons of Anarchy
White Collar
Royal Pains

Amc's The Prisoner
Rescue Me
V Remake
The Jay Leno Show
Accidentally on Purpose

December 21 2009 at 7:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Agreed also, but i think True blood should also be on that list.

December 21 2009 at 7:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Agreed as well. Looks like someone on this site isn't just drinking the usual kool-aid at least.

December 21 2009 at 6:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


December 21 2009 at 5:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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