So, it's the end of the year and here are my picks for the Best of TV of 2006 (and yes, that includes ALL of 2006). I thought it was a great year, so I had to up my usual top 10 to a top 20, and some good shows that had potential to be on, were sadly cut short (Love Monkey, Smith, The Nine) so never really given the time to grow into a possible great show.
So here is my list, compiled from a mix of what I think had the best quality, was my favorites to watch, the ones I look forward to most, and which entertained, thrilled, made me laugh, and moved me the most. My first three picks have made me cry (whether from laughter or emotional involvement), and to be honest, from 4-8 could all be mixed around in any order, and I would be okay with it, and again from 9-15.
1. Everwood - Like I said back in June, it combined comedic and dramatic heartfelt family drama into one powerful and realistic hour every week in Everwood, Colorado. By year 4, we had grown to love all the warmful joys and irritating realities of the Brown and Abbott's in what is one of, if not the, best family drama's ever. Never boring or panders, never simplistic but always hilarious, and all with a pitch perfect cast.
2. The Office - Hilarity ensues in the Dundler Mifflin Paper Supplies Office with all the absurdities of the daily grind, all while we get emotionally involved in Pam and Jim's relationships and even idiot boss Michael's life. From Dwight to Toby to Oscar, Angela, Stanley, Phyllis, Ryan, Kelly, Kevin, Creed, Meredith and now add in Karen and Andy from the new office and it was a very great year for us voyeurs.
3. Friday Night Lights - More than just about football, it's about life around a high school in small town America. It's about family, friendships, loyalty and growing up, and Friday Night Lights looks at it all in an unflinching manner. Gritty and real, it's almost too painful to watch yet somehow it elicits such joys in the little great moments of life, that it moves me to tears so far in every episode.
4. Grey's Anatomy - Yes, Meredith was annoying at times, Izzie's love for Denny and her decision to cut the cord was idiotic, and Burke and Christina's conspiracy to hide his shaky hand was just plain dumb, but nothing on TV made us want to yell at the TV, scream at the characters, laugh at the lines, and enjoy all the melodrama within the halls of Seattle Grace. In essence, the great smart soap opera that intelligently goes beyond justifying itself as a guilty pleasure so that there no longer has any guilt involved.
5. Veronica Mars - Smart and sassy Veronica Mars lives in the dark and twisted town of Neptune and helps solve cases as a detective, be it in high school or at college. From solving the case of a school bus crash, to a series of rapes at Hearst College, Veronica is our woman for the job!
6. Lost - Infuriating and frustrating, yes, but always fascinating and compelling. Still gives me the shivers in every episode, and we get frustrated because they make us care so much about the Losties as we discover who they really are. The show is a huge cryptic puzzle and while we have no idea if we may ever get an answer, its basically a breakdown of regular people (we think) dealing with an impossible situation. An arthouse drama in serial format, with a bit of mystery thrown in.
7. Arrested Development - The final episode alone should be enough to place this show onto any classic TV shows list, but the story of the Bluth family came to a (sadly early) conclusion but never without gigantic laughs.
8. Weeds - Mary Louise Parker's fierce and funny performance as Nancy Botwin is only matched by her amazing ensemble (Elizabeth Perkins as her ferocious friend Celia, Martin Donovan as the calmly FBI Drug Enforcement Office who marries Nancy, Justin Kirk as her lovable id brother-in-law Andy, Kevin Nealon as the lazy politician Doug, Tonye Patano as the mother of all weed distributor Heylia and Romany Malco as Nancy's new partner Conrad), as we follow Nancy as she opens up her own operation growing weed herself (with partners Conrad, Doug and Andy) and gets herself entangled with the law, or so to speak, all while dealing with two kids and a blackmailing nanny.
9. Ugly Betty - Who would think that at the beginning of the year, we would be watching and loving an ugly Betty on Thursdays at 8pm? A perfect balance of campy gay fashion fun, heartwarming moments and some nice dramatic twists, all with characters that move beyond their initial stereotypes in story arch's that always takes a nice twist of oddity from the normal Hollywood plots (that eventual makeover for Betty? Hilarious!). With quotable comedic lines spat out from every characters mouths, all who have some sort of charm and lovability (in what other show would you fall in love with nasty Marc or Becky, or heck, even Wilhelmina?) and the relationship between Betty and her boss Daniel is special and has stayed away from creepiness. They make no apologies (Justin would not exist in another show, or done poorly at least) and Ugly Betty, the show, and the character are proud of exactly what they are and that is just fantastic!
10. How I Met Your Mother - From Barney's lines to Lily and Marshall's painful breakup and roller coaster relationship to avoiding the usually inevitable boring and tedious relationship when the main characters finally get together (Robin and Ted), this show has grown more and more enjoyable every week. Will the words Slap Bet or Let's Go To the Mall every be the same? Legendary!
11. Heroes - At parts frustrating because some of the clunky dialogue and cheesy moments stall the usually zippy show. Dark (though at times too dark) and light, its popcorn fun at its best with some great characters about regular people discovery their new talents and forced to become heroes (and note, not superheroes) to save the world.
12. Scrubs - Consistently balancing absurd slapstick humour with emotionally human moments, it can always be reliable for saving our heart and soul.
13. The Loop - New college graduate gets a real grown-up person's job at an airline company only to realise the corporate world is even crazier than living with his idiot brother and 2 other young and naive roommates. Fiercely funny particularly at work and Bret Harrison is a great central foil for the zaniness that surrounds him.
14. Project Runway - Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum lead a pack of designers as they fight their way to New York Fashion Week. Bitchy, plotting, sewing, and frocks, the design world comes alive as we watch amateurs try to become professionals all under the insightful but biting eyes of the judges (Nina Garcia, Michael Kors and Heidi). Reminds me of my days back in architecture school in the studio. Who knew fashion could be so much fun?
15. Entourage - The boys were back but Ari, up to his usual antics finally pushes Vince and co. to the breaking point as the boys each try to forward their own careers (Turtle as music producer to Saigon, Drama as always to get his own agent, and Vince and Eric making their way through e politics of Hollywood as Vince wants to make a movie for passion while under a deal for Aquaman 2. Not as great as season 2 but boy have we grown to love this overgrown boys bunch.
16. So You Think You Can Dance - So I dismissed this show at first because the first season never really kept my attention, but by the time the auditions were through, we knew we had a very special bunch of dancers this year and I was hooked. Travis, Benji, Heidi, Martha, Donyelle, Allison, Dimitri, Ryan, Natalie and Ivan danced to routines from choreographers Mia Michaels, Shane Sparks, Wade Robson and more and gave us some joyous and sexy moments (like the Sexy Back routine, Hide and Seek, Calling You, Sexy Love, Ramalama etc. etc) that thrilled us and made watching these amateurs perfect their talent such a hoot to watch.
17. The New Adventures of Old Christine - Finally a traditional family sitcom that is funny, modern and relevant.
18. Brothers and Sisters - Not perfect yet but the Walker clan is definitely fun to watch amongst all the messiness within the funny family drama, in part due to Everwood's Greg Berlanti addition as showrunner partway through this first season, and one to watch for.
19. My Name is Earl - Always funny and surprisingly heartwarming with some of the best guest appearances around (who knew Roseanne would be such a welcome sight again?). Plus, any show that shows Jaime Pressly as funny as she is as Joy deserves recognition.
20. Bones - A procedural yes, but one that really makes us care about the characters and doesn't just become a case-of-the-week show. Plus its very funny which helps the mood.
Consistently good shows left off the list:
Everybody Hates Chris
The Amazing Race
Men in Trees
Help Me Help You
Shows presumed dead or almost dead that have improved vastly in the second half of 2006:
The OC - Seriously, how did this show resurrect itself from practically dead to fabulously wonderful again in its 4th season. Ironically all initiated with the death of a main character. Who would have thunk Taylor Townsend (Autumn Reeser) would be the saviour for the show, even making Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie) funny and changing the show from the Seth and Summer show to the Taylor and Ryan show? Bonus points for Melinda Clarke's emotional performance of the damaged Julie Cooper.
Desperate Housewives - What a horrible sophomore slump but as the housewives have done time and time again in their lives, the show is slowly clawing its way back to its first seasons' excellency.
Survivor: Cook Islands - Finally someone smart wins for controlling the game based on a numbers game, after being in the underdogs tribe we rooted for, plus add a double backstabber in Jonathan, a lovelorn kook in Billy and some genuinely smart strategic moves (finally, a hidden immunity idol used properly).
Questionable but entertaining shows nonetheless:
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Shows I hear/know are great but haven't had the chance to see the whole season this year yet so are left off my list.
Life on Mars
Here is the list of Best of TV 2005 when Everwood first shot to the top of the list.