space-age technology
dexter season finale (spoilers)

the year in teevee, 4th annual

As with before, I’ll wander through my various posts on television from 2006 and see what turns up.

Battlestar Galactica. First off, if you haven’t bought the book with my essay, get on it! The year started out well, with the return of “Season 2.5” … the first episodes, where the Galactica and the Pegasus continued to show the different ways humans were responding to their situation, were terrific. It fell off a bit after that, but finished with a bang … the season finale was one of the most audacious such episodes you’d ever find. Season Three started very well, too, then slacked off … sound familiar? Grade: A-.

The L Word. Sleater-Kinney were on, and that was the highlight for me. Same old same old … this year they offed a major character, and we didn’t care. Grade: C.

The Shield. They somehow manage to keep it interesting. Last year, they added Glenn Close, and while it seemed like stunt casting, in fact it was inspired. So this year they topped it, with Forest Whitaker giving one king-hell of a scary performance, week after week. Add in some actual repercussions for the murder Vic Mackey committed way back in the very first episode of the season, and another major character being offed (this time we cared), and you’ve got another winning season for this most brutal of shows. Best season yet, in fact. Grade: A.

Craig Ferguson. He seemed in 2006 to be a bigger part of whatever passes for buzz. He’s still a guy hosting a late-night talk show that runs after midnight and isn’t as popular as its direct competition, Conan O’Brien. He’s still not something I’d say was worth taking up space on the DVR. But his monologues are still different, and they are still archived on the CBS website, called “Show and Tell.” In 2006, he hosted the People’s Choice Awards, published a novel, got pwned by Bob Barker, and was nominated for an Emmy (he lost to Barry Manilow). When his father died, he devoted a show to the man, including a truly lovely monologue which you can watch on iFilm.

24. Just another season. The death of Edgar was an actual, legitimate touching moment, a rarity for this show. Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart were great as the President and First Lady. Grade: B+.

Desperate Housewives. I gave up a few episodes into the new season. Grade: C.

Comedy Central. Chappelle was missing in action, Jon Stewart was reliably fine, Stephen Colbert got famouser. Grade: Magna cum laude.

The Sopranos. Very weird season, argued over endlessly by fans. I give ‘em credit for doing something different this late in the franchise. Grade for show: A-. Grade for Steve Hammond’s F-Word Updates: A.

Big Love. One of my favorite actors, Bill Paxton. One of my favorite actresses, Chloe Sevigny. A bunch of other terrific actors. Not my favorite scenario (Mormon polygamist). It worked, in any event. Grade: B+.

Huff. Or should that be Huff, R.I.P. Once in awhile you get a show that is carried by one of the actors. It helps when that actor plays the lead role. Here, the two best actors were supporting characters, Oliver Platt and especially Blythe Danner. Platt was given far too many over-the-top plot devices; Danner is great no matter what. Show wasn’t great, got cancelled. Grade: B-.

Penn and Teller: Bullshit!. I finally quit watching. It didn’t get any worse … it’s pretty consistent, or rather, individual episodes are good or bad, but there are just as many good ones in Season Four as in Season One. It’s just that after 3+ seasons, I get the point. Grade: B.

Bonds on Bonds. Wasn’t much of a show. I watched it anyway. It got cancelled. Grade: D.

Tim Goodman. It was a big year for the best of the television critics. He started a blog, which if anything is even better than his column (pay the guy for the damn thing, Chron!). Robin and I got to attend his annual TV Party, where Robin won a box set of every episode of Jack of All Trades. Grade: A+.

The Unit. I gave up on this one … couldn’t stand the female characters. Robin still watches … go figure. Grade: C+.

My Name Is Earl. The odds were that I would have given up on this one by now … my record with sitcoms isn’t very good. I’m not sure why I’ve stuck with it … it’s good enough, but good enough isn’t often good enough to keep me watching comedies. Grade: B+.

The Office. The odds were even higher against this one. A sitcom, based on a British series I had loved. As everyone now knows, this was one of the few British-to-American translations that worked. This is one of the best shows on television, and possibly the show I most look forward to each week (since the only shows I like better are v.dark shows). Grade: A.

House. I can’t say too much … I have to save whatever interesting thoughts I might have for the essay I’m supposed to finish by New Year’s. In short, without Hugh Laurie, there is no show, and thank … well, it would be improper to say thank god, but thank whoever for keeping House a cranky, godless asshole. Grade: B.

Lost. How dare they kill Adebisi? Grade: B+.

Rescue Me. The most disturbing television scene of the year was when the hero raped his ex-wife. And she liked it. And he smirked afterwards at the fast one he’d pulled. It’s a sign of how good the show is that people like me are still watching. It’s a sign of both the general downbeat nature of the show, and its willingness to go where other shows won’t, that it survives such a scene, if not thrives. But they can’t get away with that smirk. Grade: anywhere from A to C, depending on a variety of things.

Deadwood. Season was the best yet, with the exception of the finale, which felt like somebody expected another season. Thanks, HBO. Grade: A+.

The World Cup. Not really a TV show, I know, but it’s all I watched for a month. Looked great in HD. Cup itself was so-so. Grade for TV picture: A. Grade for TV commentators: C. Grade for the soccer: B-.

Entourage. Gets better every year, still relies on Jeremy Piven to make it must-see TV. Grade: B.

Life on Mars. Interesting BBC series that is going to be remade for American television. The remake will suck; the original wasn’t all that, either. Grade: B.

Weeds. The best series ever on Showtime, although Robin tired of it by the end of Season Two. Grade: A-.

Dexter. Robin would say THIS is now the best series ever on Showtime. It’s hard to argue with her. Season finale tonight, which might change my grade: A-.

The Wire. Do I really need to say more? Grade: A+.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The West Wing wasn’t as good as Sports Night. Studio 60 isn’t as good as West Wing. Aaron Sorkin is going in the wrong direction. Yet I still watch, because Aaron Sorkin is that good. Grade: B-.

Ugly Betty. Way better than I would have imagined. I’m not really the audience for a show like this, though, so my grade will be lower than yours. Grade for series: B. Grade for scene of Salma Hayek in her bra: A+. Grade for Salma Hayek’s bra: D. Ironic value when a show about how inner beauty is what really matters is dominated at times by the eye-popping beauty of semi-regular Salma Hayek? Priceless.

The Nine. Fine premiere, not much after that, and I can barely stand to look at my screen when Scott Wolf appears. It’s not his fault, and it has nothing to do with his acting skills … I just have the completely opposite reaction to him than I have when Salma Hayek shows up. Grade: C+.