Some Lists for 2009?

Okay, so I gave in – I wrote up my own list of 2009 tv, more as a follow up to last year’s list. This list has also been posted in the comments section of David Bianculli’s “Tv Worth Watching” site. Do check out his best and not-so-best lists; I completely agree with his selected not-so-best (bottom) items: “I’m a Celebrity; Get Me Out of Here” and anything relating to Octomom were probably the bottom of the barrel of 2009 in tv (and, I swear, one should not be considered a “celebrity” if one did nothing worthy – i.e., help society or arts or whatnot – to be a celebrity).

As noted, I haven’t been up on tv stuff. My personal 2009 list is more like someone else’s Honorable Mentions type list, since I’ve been terribly remiss on key 2009 things (Mad Men and Battlestar Galactica), and I’ve become an unapologetic PBS snob who keeps hoping for better from the original broadcast networks for some reason (nostalgia, maybe). But, this is what I’ve basically enjoyed and really thought highly in 2009 (in no particular order):

1. Fringe (FOX) – it ended the 2008-2009 season strong and there were some good moments so far in 2009-2010. I haven’t taken it off my list at all.

2. Community (NBC) – it has some heart and a lot of humor; I really had a huge kick out of the Christmas episode (sorry, I mean, it was not really Christmas, it was a non-denominational Dec. 10 episode – a funny thing in the context of the episode).

3. Modern Family (ABC) – another show of heart and humor.

4. Better off Ted (ABC) – if you think your workplace is a depressing source of dark humor, try Ted’s workplace…

5. Lost (ABC) – what a season earlier this year! I’m getting very excited for its return in 2010.

6. The Sing Off (NBC) – I’ve been entertained by “Glee” (FOX), but felt it was inconsistent (the fake pregnancy plot was a big turnoff for me); but I really enjoyed the great a capella in “The Sing Off” and Ben Folds as a judge who gave good constructive feedback.

7. Nova Science Now (PBS) – Neil deGrasse Tyson makes science accessible.

8. Ken Burns’ “National Parks” documentary (PBS)

9. Masterpiece Mystery! (PBS) – I appreciated it for bringing Kenneth Branagh as Detective Wallendar to the small screen and the return of Inspector Lewis.

10. Last but not least: Craig Ferguson. I really got into watching him this year, and got to love the puppets!

Not-so-good trends of 2009:

1. What I consider to be a decline of “Heroes” (NBC)(it stopped being on my list of things to watch, because I lost patience with the writing and what was done to the characters I had liked).

2. Jay Leno at NBC’s 10pm – he’s trying his best, but I miss seeing dramas at 10pm on NBC.

3. the continued trend of poor quality reality shows (regardless of network, broadcast or cable).

I’m not prepared to do a best/worst of the decade list (I’m in denial that the aughts are really over), but I liked James Poniewozik’s decade lists (posted via his Robo-James, since he’s on vacation):

Brilliant-But-Cancelled Shows of the 00’s.

Poniewozik included “Wonderland” – the short-lived series about Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward – well-acted, yes, but Michelle Forbes as the pregnant psychiatrist stabbed by a mental patient with a hypodermic needle was quite a powerful scene – too powerful and thus left “Wonderland” with a short shelf life. But, it was part of ABC’s attempts to get out of the ratings basement with daring shows (take note, NBC), and was a series where actor Ted Levine played one of the psychiatrists in the middle of a child custody battle – back in his pre-“Monk” days… (that I remember this is a little scary and geeky) but the series was memorable and you can probably imagine how shocked I was that Monk’s Capt. Stottlemeyer was the same actor on “Wonderland” (such a strong cast of actors).

Poniewozik also included “Karen Sisco” (where Carla Gugino did a pretty nifty job, and yes, another show where ABC took a chance to get it out of the ratings basement), and “Wonderfalls” (which was a weird show, by Brian Fuller, before “Pushing Daisies” (and probably a similar whimsical tone – although, I never did get to watch “Pushing Daisies”).

Speaking of Carla Gugino, I did feel sorry that her other 00 series – “Threshold” – wasn’t given more of a chance with CBS (I mean, what a cast – in addition to Gugino, it had Brent Spiner (ex-Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation), Peter Dinklage, and Charles Dutton! Plus, an X-Files-like alien invasion thing and decent writing and creepy atmospherics).

“Arrested Development” would have been another one of those Brilliant But Cancelled 00 shows in my mind – gone too soon. I’m not so sure about “Veronica Mars” – yeah, sad that it got cancelled, but it sort of had a good run (I’d define Brilliant But Cancelled as a show that went too soon without a shot and a full completion) – UPN took it as long as it did – and then again, UPN was also gone from the earth too, so oh well.

Oh, and “Boomtown” – definitely sad that it was pulled; it removed Neal McDonough and multi-perspective storytelling from the small screen – so unfair (NBC during a cruel moment, as far as I’m concerned; no wonder it became the network that gave us a crappy revival of “Knight Rider,” and “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”).

Oh, and, from WB, “Jack and Bobby” and “Everwood” (which, granted, had four seasons, so that’s pretty decent compared to, say, one season of “Jack and Bobby” and the season and less-than-half of “Boomtown”) — but then even WB is gone from this earth so… okay, maybe I like a lot of Brilliant But Cancelled shows.

Poniewozik also has a list of “What Changed TV in the 00’s” (DVR, cable, reality tv, HDTV, and that thing called the Internet, among other items sure made tv in the 00’s real amazing and horrid at the same time).

Wonder how tv will be redefined in the 2010’s. If the quality can be better, maybe change isn’t so bad. But, then again, I’m wary of change…

Don’t Go Just Yet, 2009!

On Christmas Day, siblings and I watched “Invictus” at Bay Ridge’s Alpine theater. Movie was good stuff. Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela – one who is human yet trying to do better (for his people – his immediate family, whom he became estranged, and his nation, which is struggling to overcome hatred and a poor economy); Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, who is more than just a rugby player in becoming inspired by Mandela.

Both Time’s Richard Corliss and Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman make the film’s parallels to President Obama (he wins an historic election; can he lead?), but I pretty much agree with A.O. Scott’s review in the NY Times – yeah, it’s a sports movie, but there’s politics, human weakness, and growth in change (it did lag a bit at some points, but I think that’s more of a choice on the part of director Clint Eastwood to build the story).

I thought the supporting cast of “Invictus” was also pretty solid, in making one feel like this might have been what it was like in the early and mid 1990’s of South Africa, a nation in a difficult transition (racially, culturally, economically, etc.). Adjoa Andoh as Brenda Mazibuko was a good watch as Mandela’s skeptical chief of staff – and I kept wondering where had I seen her before. PBS stuff, in all likelihood, where the British imports are… and then IMDB completely established for me where I had seen her: she was in the 10th Doctor Who series, as the mother of Martha Jones, the 10th Doctor’s post-Rose companion. God, I am a geek-wanna-be.

I had read this awhile back, and provide for reading pleasure: Henry “Fonzie” Winkler as Captain Hook in the British holiday tradition of the pantomime – what a thought!

Hat tip to Angry Asian Man: Prof. Frank Wu of Howard Law School has been named new dean of UC Hastings Law; I wonder if this makes him the only Asian American law school dean (since Harold Koh left Yale Law to join the Obama administration); plus I recommend Wu’s book “Yellow” – great writer.

Granted, I may never have Harvard Men’s basketball in my March Madness brackets (seriously, no, but who knows by next March? I root for Alma Mater, but it’s not like Alma Mater or the rest of the Ivy League has really gone far in the NCAA tournament) – but, what a great story about an Asian American kid at Harvard who just wants to play ball (hat tip from Angry Asian Man).

I have to agree with this Slate article by Christopher Beam – I think it’d have to be awhile yet before we can truly define the 00 decade (have we really defined the 1990’s, come to think of it?).

Last but not least: Pandas!