The beginning of another year brings the inevitable, innumerable “Best of…” lists, highlighing every topic imaginable found in the previous year – from tweets to fleeting celebrities. So with that gentlereaders, I present my own contribution to the interwebospheres with the Best TV of 2010. More than just a simple compilation of series names, I’ve divided my choices into categories that delve a little further into why praise is so deserved and with hopes to bring those uninitiated into the dedicated viewer fold for any or all of these fine examples of television. First up, the overall best episodes.
These are 30 or 60 minutes that encapsulated everything that makes these shows great – acting, writing, et al. Of course it’s easy to place Mad Men and 30 Rock in this category and they both can do no wrong (usually), but even these stellar shows will rise above the high bar they’ve set for the rest of television.
Mad Men, “The Suitcase” – Coming in at the mid-point of a so-so fourth season, this episode is, I dare say, the drama’s finest as it showcased the amazing dynamic of its two strongest characters. Giving the bulk of time to just Don and Peggy as they try to tackle a new campaign for their client Samsonite, which was really just a device by writers to setup an all-nighter of cocktails, confessions and a chaste “sleepover,” allowed the acting prowess of Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss to shine most brilliantly and should guarantee them both their first Emmy wins.
Community, “Modern Warfare” – “Come with me if you don’t want paint on your clothes.” One of countless amazing lines found in this late-freshman year episode, the premise – campus-wide last-man-standing paintball game – seemed on the surface only a gimmick to pile on as many action movie cliches as possible. It ended up not only giving us a lot of clever “Oh that’s from…” moments (Spanish teacher Senor Chang as a John Woo movie-type villain is mind-blowingly brilliant), it was able to further develop and be true to the characters at the heart of the show – keeping an edge, being honest about relationships, without getting too schmaltzy – which makes Community one of my favorite new obsessions.
30 Rock, “Gentlemen’s Intermission” – From Liz’s father Dick Lemon in search of an extra-marital dalliance to Jack’s need for someone’s DIHC (that’s Drive, Intelligence, Humility and Chaos) in order to be fulfilled as a mentor and Tracey’s decision to make sure he leaves an obituary that doesn’t include a submarine DUI, this episode contained everything that makes 30 Rock stellar: quotable lines (“Albino ninja!”), absurdity (Tracey’s all-giraffe basketball team the New York Necks), a little low-brow humor (“She’s got just the right amount of DIHC for me. I hear it and I don’t care.”) and a perfect storyline for Jack & Liz, the greatest on-screen couple that will never fall victim to “will-they-or-won’t-they” sexual tension syndrome. Plus we get to see Liz completely fail at “seducing” her father dressed as Tootsie.
Thanks goes out to one of my faves in the blogosphere, Wacky (he of Wacky on the Junk, who commands not only my utmost respect in music selections but also television choices), for bringing to my attention this New York Times article on Community‘s Donald Glover. While seeming little more than the token black guy in the misfit cast of community college characters, his comic talent has elevated the easy-to-write-off-as-a-one-dimensional-jock Troy to hilarious heights. Of particular note are the coda moments he’s created with Danny Pudi capping off each episode of the Thursday night NBC hit. Not only has his part in these comedic gems caused me to sit up and take notice of his skill, after learning that his professional pedigree includes a two-year tenure on the writing staff of 30 Rock this rising star has earned much admiration from this faithful funny follower.
Hello again gentlereaders. No, I didn’t forget about you these past two months, please blame my absence on the most hectic (wonderful?) time of the year. Now that the holiday season has passed, including the glut of repeats that come with it, I am back and focused as ever to comment, critique and celebrate the best of what’s to come in 2010 television. The musings are too much so I must make this a multi-part post.
MAKE ‘EM LAUGH
I’ve made no secret of the insane amount of love I have for comedies, particularly the perfectly programmed 2-hour block on NBC’s Thursday night. While the Peacock appears to be making all the wrong moves in late night (the incomparable Conan in limbo and bland Leno is back, no words) they’ve at least made impeccable choices when it comes to scheduling the primetime funny this season.
Vets The Office and 30 Rock had some of their strongest episodes of their series’ histories – Jim & Pam’s wedding will go down in the annals of TV moments and “Dealbreakers Talk Show No. 0001″ not only gave us crazy Performer Liz who forgot how to wave like a person, we were treated to how HD alters the Rockers – Kenneth is a Muppet and Jack a young Alec Baldwin, classic.
Parks & Recreation became so enjoyable as its second season progressed that I found myself not just choosing it first among my DVR viewing selections the next day but actually watching it in real time! And even though newbie Community had some ups and downs, its ups (Senor Chang’s always quotable lines – “Hasta luego! Come on, hands 90% of spanish!”) far outweighed the downs.
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New episodes of all CNDR shows return this week, save for The Office (which is open for business again January 21st) but with an extra 30 Rock there’s no complaint from this Fey-natic, and we’ve got guest stars galore – Jack Black wandering around the Greendale campus on Community, Will Arnett romancing real-life wife Amy Poehler on P&R and James Franco stopping by as “himself” for an arranged celebrilationship with Jenna on 30 Rock.
Lady, just because I’m an ignorant black man and you paid me a nickel to bust up your chiffarobe doesn’t give you the right to call me ridiculous just ’cause I’m proud of my son.”
I’m no linguist, logophile whathaveyou, but many times while watching comedies just a single word in a joke will create a reaction so strong it affects me for long after the moment has ended. Such is the case with “chiffarobe.” Those who watched this week’s Family Guy will remember it as one of many words used in the extended “you know a person is old when they use this to mean this” gag at the end of last night’s episode “Brian’s Got a Brand New Bag.”
While the Family Guy joke was probably the best in that particular episode, hearing “chiffarobe” evoked a memory from when this word was used as an even better comedic device in a scene from the second season episode of 30 Rock “Rosemary’s Baby,” a scene that I believe to be the best in the series’ still-in-process history. Not only is Alec Baldwin’s sizeable talent on full display playing five(!) characters within a character (which was undoubtedly the reason he nabbed a second straight Emmy win for Best Actor in a Comedy that year) but the fact that the 30 Rock writing team crafted both a Good Times and a To Kill a Mockingbird reference all in two and a half minutes is staggeringly amazing.
Not that one should need any additional incentive to watch 30 Rock as it is the most well-written and well-acted comedy currently on television (and I’m bold enough to say it’s one of, if not the,funniest damn shows in television history) but pay special attention to catch this week’s episode (NBC – Thursday, October 28th 9:30/8:30c) as they add a cherry on top of their creme de la creme list of guest stars with the bawdy, beloved Betty White.
The synopsis gives us a little hint as to a possible part the former Golden girl will play:
Liz (Tina Fey) and Jack (Alec Baldwin) venture down south to Kenneth’s (Jack McBrayer) hometown to discover new talent. Jenna (Jane Krakowski) tries to make friends with the writers to solidify her place at “TGS” before the new cast member is hired. Meanwhile, Tracy (Tracy Morgan) fears for his life when two celebrities die and he believes he’s the next to bite the dust.”
I have never doubted 30 Rock‘s writers in the past, and if there is anything right in this world her character will live within Kenneth’s family tree.