Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ten Years on TV: The 50 Best Seasons #30-21

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Oh decade with an enthusiastically biased take on the last ten years on TV. I've limited myself to one season per series, tried very hard to keep it to seasons that began and ended in the Aughts, and haven't included mini-series and TV movies, but for two extremely worthy exceptions. Enjoy!

[Previously: #50-41, 40-31]

#30. So You Think You Can Dance, Season 4 (FOX, 2008)
So tough to choose one season of this lil' obsession o' mine, but I'm choosing the strength of Season 4's top 10 over Season 3 (when I first fell for the show) and Season 5 (when my favorite dancer won).

Top Episode: The Top 18 episode, featuring Courtney and Gev's sweet contemporary, Kherington and Twitch's emotional waltz, and eventual finalists Katee and Joshua's Nigel-freaking Broadway routine from Godspell.

#29. Six Feet Under, Season 1 (HBO, 2001)
It's interesting -- as a series, Six Feet Under would easily have been in my Top 20, probably close to the Top 10. But the unevenness of the series -- which is easier to forgive in long form, particularly because of the emotional crescendo of that finale -- makes each season just a little bit dissatisfying. Among the many virtues of the first, groundbreaking season was that we got Brenda before she was broken and degraded by the second season (she never was quite the same).

Top Episode: The pilot, which was a true knockout and featured Claire's immortal freakout because her dad's dead and she's on crack. Crystal! Whatever!

#28. Angel, Season 4 (WB, 2002-03)
I know this season was somewhat divisive, and its anti-episodic structure ended up leading the WB to mandate the format changes that made Season 5 such a disappointment (to me, at least; that season was fairly divisive too). Pregnant Cordelia aside, Season 4 made brilliant use of Angel's lived-in ensemble, plus accommodated the return of Faith (Eliza Dushku) much better than Buffy would.

Top Episode: "Orpheus," where Faith takes an unpleasant trip through Angel's subconscious, and Willow stops by to give him his soul back, again.

#27. True Blood, Season 1 (HBO, 2008)
It was a bit of a slow starter, but once Alan Ball was able to find the balance between gaudy violence, hyperbolic romance, and (my favorite) sneaky comedy, this season was off to the races. Special shouts out to Carrie Preston and Nelsan Ellis (not to mention Alexander Skaarsgard in that bathtub) for appealing to me when the vamp romance perhaps did not.

Top Episode: "The Fourth Man in the Fire," which had so much goodness you could barely stand it, from Sookie and Bill babysitting Arlene's kids, to Jason and Amy kidnapping a vampire, to the aforementioned Eric in the bathtub, to Tara's newly born-again mom and her ridiculous hat.

Click below for #s 26-21...

#26. Laguna Beach, Season 1 (MTV, 2004)
Look, I don't want to hear it. One of my favorite TV moments that didn't occur on TV was discovering, almost all at once, that everybody I know was just as hooked on this MTV "reality" soap as I was. Rooting for Lauren Conrad to land hot boy Stephen and smite Kristin Cavallari was like sports, but better.

Top Episode: "Grin & Bear It," where Lauren eye-rolls her way through a trip to Catalina Island with Stephen and Kristin, and we discover that Christina's dad is a pretty big wheel down at the cracker factory Crystal Cathedral.

#25. Clone High, Season 1 (MTV, 2002-03)
Hilarious, brainy, ridiculous -- I can't decide whether the show was sharper on history or on "very special episode" TV culture. I mean, Eleanor Roosevelt as the gym teacher is one thing, but the Snowflake Day episode is just a classic. The fact that "Snowflake Day" was followed up immediately by "Makeover, Makeover, Makeover" is an achievement almost too grand to imagine.

Top Episode: "Makeover, Makeover, Makeover," because I know you're thinking what I'm thinking.

#24. 30 Rock, Season 2 (NBC, 2007-08)
Choosing between the first and second seasons of 30 Rock was some kind of Sophie's Choice. If Sophie had to choose between rural jurors, Jack facing Kenneth in poker, "Muffin Top," and the joys of Cleveland on one side, and Little Chechnya, gay for Jamie, Sandwich Day, and Kenneth Parcell's last party ever on the other. You tell me which way to tilt. Season 2 gets the edge due to MILF Island.

Top Episode: "Rosemary's Baby," where Carrie Fisher played a hippie who took Liz Lemon to a second location, and Jack Donaghy channeled the cast of Good Times in a therapy session with Tracy.

#23. The Riches, Season 1 (FX, 2007)
Much as the second season was a letdown, I was riveted to the first collection of episodes about the Irish-gypsy Malloy clan, and especially the performance of Minnie Driver as Dahlia, one of the more improbable star turns this decade.

Top Episode: "Cinderella," where Dahlia encounters her old prison buddy Chunky K and is forced to reconcile her two lives.

#22. The Sopranos, Season 2 (HBO, 2000)
I'll cop to being ever-so-slightly less attached to The Sopranos as a series than most. But this second season -- featuring the dark-cloud returns of Janice Soprano and Richie Aprile, plus the end of Big Pussy -- was as perfect as that show got.

Top Episode: "The Knight in White Satin Armor," where the Janice and Richie plots get unexpectedly resolved, both at once.

#21. Frisky Dingo, Season 1 (Adult Swim, 2006-07)
Easily the strangest comedy on this list, but also screamingly funny and quotable. It's a tragedy (yes, a TRAGEDY) that this didn't catch on with more viewers.

Top Episode: "Meet Antagone," where the mall is once again Killface's Waterloo, and Xander Crews is kidnapped by the X-tackles.


Amber said...

I know you and I were the only people who watched that show, but I'm still going to be disappointed if Related (only season...sigh) doesn't make this list.

Joe Reid said...

Aw, Related! It didn't make my list, but I do think of it fondly.

Jeff Hansen said...

I love Clone High so frickin' much.

And I am so grateful to you for the Frisky Dingo recommendation.

Viewtiful Steve said...

Season 4 of Angel was awful.

Viewtiful Steve said...

Season 4 of Angel was awful.