I figure since I'm way too far behind (and kind of unethused about the product) to do a proper year-in-review for 2008's film and TV output, my resources (such as they are) would be better but towards looking ahead to 2009. And as Alan Sepinwall beat me to the punch in observing, 2009 looks positively bountiful with highly-anticipated TV.
Here's a roundup of the shows I'm most eagerly anticipating. Some less respectable than others.
Confessions of a Teen Idol (premieres January 4)
You guys, I don't even know. I'm part of the problem, I realize, but these VH1 shows have a hold on me. And this one looks like a mix of The Surreal Life, Celebrity Rehab, and Charm School. Works for me. Most of the teen idols on display -- Christopher Atkins, Jamie Walters, Adrian Zmed, the kid from Baywatch -- don't really have any pull for me, nostalgia-wise. I mean, I remember Jamie Walters from 90210 but I never liked him. No, the only teen idol of this bunch I can actually look back at and say "Ohhhh yeah," is...Eric Nies. I know. Anyway, expect some laughs at the guys' expense, some unexpected pathos, and a whole lot of thinking Eric Nies is a real douchebag. Can't wait!
Damages (January 7)
It's been over a year since the first season ended, and aside from the odd awards show, I hadn't given much thought to Damages. Then I re-watched the last couple episodes of Season 1 in preparation for its return, and I remembered: Oh yeah, this show was awesome. Yes, it lagged some in the middle episodes, and they'll want to watch out for that this time around. But Rose Byrne's character came a long way by season's end, so the burden won't rest entirely on Glenn Close this time. And the arrival of Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and Timothy Olyphant ups the curiosity factor even more.
Real World Brooklyn (January 7)
While the Sydney season sucked me back in, last spring's Hollywood season was a pretty sorry follow-up. But even if I was ready to give the show up again (and I'm not gonna sit here and lie to you that I would have), this edition, filmed a stone's throw from my old neighborhood, would have strung me along anyway. Not that I expect much of the out-of-the-house activities to take place in actual Red Hook, but New York geography porn is New York geography porn. And I'm gonna need to know who these fools are when they show up on the Challenges.
24 (January 11)
Yeah, I figure I'll give this show a go. Again. Odds on my seeing the season through to the end aren't great, but Cherry Jones as the president intrigues me, and the part of the two-hour prequel movie that didn't involve U.N. representatives wetting their pants in cowardly fear were halfway interesting. We meet again, Kiefer. Show me what you got. One suggestion: now that they're bringing Tony Almeida back from the dead and thus the show has given up on being respectable TV, can't we resurrect Sherry Palmer to wreak some more havoc? Please and thank you.
American Idol (January 13)
If David Archuleta, Taylor Hicks, Ryan Seacrest, Sanjaya, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and three seasons in the recapping trenches couldn't break me, I'm pretty sure nothing on this show ever will. There are even some indications that this season could be an improvement on the last few. Fewer audition episodes, more coverage of Hollywood week, and a regression to the 36-person semifinals like how it was in seasons 1-3. It remains to be seen if the talent pool will end up improving upon last season's bland entrants, but I'm in this as much for the conversation surrounding the show as for the show itself. Which means crappy singing, as ever, is not a deal-breaker.
Sober House (January 15)
This would be the offshoot of VH1's Celebrity Rehab, where they follow selected rehabbers from Season 2 (plus the ever-unfortunate Mary Carey from Season 1) into their sober-living facilities. I was over the moon about Celebrity Rehab initially, and even thought Season 2 brought the questions of whether the rehabbers were truly looking to turn their lives around (Amber Smith; Nikki McKibbin) or just be on TV (Sean Stewart; Jeff Conaway's monstrous wife) into even sharper relief. But I still buy that Dr. Drew is looking to help people first and make TV second, and I'd defy anyone to say that they weren't affected by at least some of these stories.
Friday Night Lights (January 16)
Now that Season 3 has aired on the rogue format known as DirecTV, it'll be coming back to re-air on real TV. Or, okay, NBC. Close enough. I've heard good things about this season, with phrases like "creative resurgence" and "among the best of the year." I'd be all about that. To be honest, the middling quality of season 2 really took the wind out of the show's sails, and out of my enthusiasm for it. I'm really hoping the spark comes back with these episodes. You know, so I can be devastated when it gets canceled.
Battlestar Galactica (January 16)
I really don't have to say why, do I? The final episodes of my favorite show on TV. We've been told that questions will be answered, but we all seem to forget that the answers to these questions always tend to be the most emotionally damaging and harsh answers possible. Not that that's a bad thing at all, but it does make the impatience for these answers kind of funny. Anyway, I'm fully expecting all of my favorite characters to die (particularly Roslin, Anders, and at least one of the Cylon models), so that should be fun. Harrowing, painful, and fun.
Big Love (January 18)
Man, it has been WAY too long since Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin ran circles around Bill Paxton on my TV screen. It's weird that the mantle of HBO's Flagship Drama Series has fallen to this show, but it's certainly deserving. I wonder if Mark Olson and Will Scheffer will touch upon the Mormons v. Gay Marriage stuff that's been in the news lately or if the season was too far into production by the time that all went down.
Flight of the Conchords (January 18)
This show kept creeping and creeping up on me in its first season, and I ended up really loving it. It's hard for a show like this to become appointment television because there's no compelling reason that I have to see it right away. But like HBO's other excellent comedy, Summer Heights High, it's a good one to keep stockpiled on the DVR and watch a few episodes at a time. And then go back and watch this a few more times.
The United States of Tara (January 18)
I've already seen the first episode and wrote about it here. Toni Collette (yay!) playing multiple personalities within Diablo Cody's (hrm...) creative vision. It's been getting some really scathing reviews, which I don't entirely disagree with, but it feels to me like Tara is getting sucked down with the continuing Juno backlash. Like critics who felt like they were taken in by Juno suddenly felt on the wrong side of the "cool" divide and are now correcting that by being extra-harsh on this show. I don't know. Like I said, it starts off super annoying, but I thought it got very good by the end. Of course, True Blood got the same kind of reviews, and I liked that too, so...
Lost (January 21)
Season 4 was an absolute rebirth for the show, and I couldn't be more excited going forward. Last season was such a fast-moving series of episodes (and who ever thought we'd say THAT about this show) that I'm gonna have to catch up on the more pressing plot threads that were left dangling. (Yeah, yeah, the island moved, but what was the deal with Farraday and Charlotte?) This is also the first time we're not hearing about big cast additions going into a new season. I think that's the sign of a sure-footed show going into its home stretch.
Dollhouse (February 13)
Oh, this poor doomed show. I really don't like its chances of making it past a few episodes, even on Fox's Low Expectation Fridays. The idiots with Nielsen boxes will be clamoring for Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? before long, I'll bet. And when they do, I'll say it to Joss Whedon again: Sci-Fi Channel. Look into it. For all our sakes.
Reaper (March 17)
I lapsed on this show last fall after the first season just took too long to kick into gear, but I have been assured by multiple sources that the show ended the season strongly and I should tune in for Season 2. The mid-March premiere makes me wonder just how long of a leash the CW is giving the show, and its Class of 2007 brethren (Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, Eli Stone) have been dropping like flies as of late, so it could probably use some support. So here I am, Reaper! Supporting you!
Kings (March 19)
The premise (a modern rejiggering of the biblical story of King David) is probably too grandiose to stay on NBC for very long (again I say: to cable, o ye writers with vision!), but I'm totally down for it, and for the return of Ian McShane to series television. Even if the plot seems to be heavily leaning on the overworked-to-the-point-of-uselessness concept of the "butterfly effect." I'm not too sure about that blank-faced kid they've got playing David either.
Greek (March 23)
The best show about teenagers (Gossip Girl doesn't count, as it's about 30-year-olds who for some reason go to high school) returns for a new school year. The leisurely pacing -- one school year took two and a half seasons -- has helped the show from running into silly logistical problems and instead focus on making simple, amusing, enjoyable TV. It's not breaking any new ground, but it's both likeable and, for a show that doesn't ever get dark, remarkably sugar-free.
Real World/Road Rules Challenge (???)
Oh, we'll get to this once we have a premiere date. But just to get you in the mood, here's a link to this year's participants. (Isaac! Ruthie! Aneesa! Will cut you with words!)