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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Best of 2007: One writer's opinion

True, end-of-the-year lists are about as plentiful as holiday fruitcake tossed in the trash. But everyone in the know seems to be taking a crack at it, so these waning, wintry days of December seem like an appropriate time to reflect on a medium that -- let's face it -- has a pretty dark cloud hanging over its head rolling into 2008.

Ah, memories! Like reruns, it's all we have for the time being.

Favorite show: "30 Rock"

"Bee Movie" overexposure aside, the Jerry Seinfeld cameo was a great kickoff to the season and should have cemented "30 Rock's" status as a major ratings player, not just a critical darling. That hasn't happened, but Tina Fey is becoming too ubiquitous for NBC to deny the show its full support. The Thursday night comedy has such an amazing cast (real-life blowhard Alec Baldwin is actually likeable as a fictional blowhard), talented bit players like Frank, Toofer, Pete and Josh haven't needed much airtime to register laughs this season. And what more can be written about jack-of-all-trades Fey, a geeky scribe turned unexpected sex symbol. "Me want food?" No, me want more "30 Rock."

Favorite new show: "Flight of the Conchords" and "Pushing Daisies" (tie)

Most comedies start at square one and spoonfeed safe laughs before hitting stride. "Conchords" skipped about 10 steps and jumped headfirst into brilliant music parodies of Daft Punk, Godley and Creme, David Bowie, M.I.A. and Pet Shop Boys as if pop culture savvy and a rock 'n' roll PhD were the ultimate prerequisite. Not since "Arrested Development" has a comedy broken so many rules and catered to a select audience that hangs on every word ... or in Bret and Jemaine's case, lyric. Having built the show around songs already constructed for stand-up comedy gigs, let's hope a new season and fresh batch of tunes prove just as hilarious. And speaking of bending the rules, far too many people have told me, "Oh, 'Pushing Daisies?' I've heard of that show but haven't watched." It's not on HBO, so no excuses, folks. The "Pie Ho" joke from "Bitter Sweets" is an all-time classic. Slices of TV are rarely so scrumptious.

Favorite character: Olive Snook

My crush on "Pushing Daisies'" Kristin Chenoweth couldn't be more obvious. And no, it doesn't have anything to do with that (ahem) skimpy mermaid costume (ahem) she was wearing in the "Smell of Success" episode. She's quirky. She's cute. She's original. Not to mention a character you root for because of how she openly pines for Ned and gets bubkus in return. I'd pick her over a dead girl any day.

Best "No, F'n way!" TV moment: "Lost: Season Three" finale

The shockwaves continue to ripple from the flash-forward that propelled "Lost" fans into the future, where a bearded Jack appeared crazily desperate to get back to the island he was, you know, previously desperate to get off. That it followed Locke's ominous warning about leaving the island prematurely only makes Season Four's potential plotlines all the more dangerous and destiny-laden. And how can you not see the pain in Jack's eyes and think Ben isn't one of the good guys now? Though why didn't Kate share Jack's sentiment in the startling airport scene? And why didn't she care about the newspaper clipping ... man, there are far too many pressing questions. We all just have to trust that with an end date on the show, Carlton Cuse, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof know exactly what they're doing.

Honorable mention: "The Sopranos'" series ender in Holsten's restaurant with Journey's "Don't Stop Belevin'" blaring before that abrupt ....

Best episode: Or in this case, series of episodes goes to "South Park's" Imaginationland trilogy. It had terrorists "invading" our imagination. It had Kurt Russell getting sexually assaulted by Christmas Critters. It had freakin' Snarf from ThunderCats. But nothing tops the "Saving Private Ryan" parody with Santa Claus on fire and Ronald McDonald searching for his arm. Yeah ... I need help.

Best old-school discovery: HBO's "The Wire"

Thank god for TV on DVD. The fifth and final season starts Jan. 6 and I'm six episodes away from FINALLY getting caught up. Each season unfolds like another gripping chapter in the world's greatest novel, and for plotline and character development, there's no equal on TV, past or present. It's a show that should be watched by everyone, but admirably, isn't meant to be.

Favorite obsession: Food Network

2007 is the year Food Network officially replaced ESPN as my go-to channel. "Iron Chef America" remains a DVR staple, but my new favorite is Guy Fieri's grease-soaked "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives." Looking like Corey Feldman and Larry the Cable Guy's demented love child, Fieri scarfs down "the people's grub" at greasy spoons, shoddy shacks and classic roadside stops. It all looks so good, you'll want to lick your TV screen.

Most disappointing show: "The Office"

Granted, this is kind of like scolding your straight-A student for coming home with a B-plus math test, but Season Two (and most of the third) set the bar so high, the new episodes have to be held to a different standard. You'll get no gripes about the Jim-Pam relationship from me. I just want to see more consistency, less Michael Scott acting like a brainless five-year-old, and the show sticking to its original premise -- a documentary about Dunder Mifflin paper company and its bored stiff employees. Or more succintly, KEEP THE CAMERAS IN THE OFFICE! (Oh, and no more hour-long episodes, please.)

Hope for 2008: The writers get a fair shake and start writing new episodes before February. "Lost" returns uninterrupted. "The Wire" gets the send-off it deserves (and loads of awards.) MTV's "The State" is finally released on DVD. Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest are brought down in a monkeyfighting scandal and "American Idol" is cancelled forever.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives is awesome!!! These are exactly the kind of places that I would love to eat at. I watched most of the marathon at Thanksgiving at the in-laws.

Are you willing to try that burger with the peanut butter?

By Blogger Antony, At December 28, 2007 at 10:32 AM  

Since you didn't take a shot, I will officially complain about the Jim/Pam relationship. (Note: This is coming from someone who actually cheered out loud when they revealed Pam called off her wedding.) I fully believe that romantic relationships are killing the unique (and originally hilarious) dynamic of the Office. Nobody wants to see Dwight cry or Michael grope his former no-nonsense boss' breasts ... well, maybe somebody does. Regardless, the Office is supposed to be a documentary about the quirky, awkward relationships between coworkers. To see so many of them hooking up is unnatural – and, more importantly, unfunny.

By Anonymous Mary, At December 28, 2007 at 12:54 PM  

Oooh, I can feel the anger. THE ANGER!

-- Tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At December 28, 2007 at 2:30 PM  

Clearly you watch HBO. How about "Curb" and "Big Love?"

By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 28, 2007 at 5:31 PM  

I loved the "Curb" finale with the Blacks -- in fact, the series could end now and I'd be satisfied -- but of all the seasons, the latest was the weakest one. Larry David has a tendency to repeat jokes and ideas, some dating back to "Seinfeld," and some from earlier seasons of "Curb." It's still worth watching, though. (My all-time favorite is the "Producers" arc. Those are some stellar episodes.)

I have a feeling I'll get into "Big Love" later, but everything I've heard about the show is positive. I'd love to watch everything, but I have to prioritize, unfortunately.

-- Tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At January 2, 2008 at 8:17 PM  

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