Highs and Lows and Things in Between
The end of another year! A time for reconsidering what has past and what is yet to come. While next week's column will feature the annual Top 10 list, this week I thought I would reflect on the most interesting TV moments of 2008:
The failure of quarterlife on TV and the success of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog online. In the future, I suspect TV media scholars will point to quarterlife and Dr. Horrible as case studies for how the TV media landscape was shifting in 2008. quarterlife had all the right credentials, but it failed in its move from the computer to the TV screen. When Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was a bona fide online hit, it brought to the fore the enormous learning curve yet to be conquered by those who don't understand the aesthetics of new media.
The rise of Hulu.com and other streaming video sites. That also includes the likes of BlipTV, Blinkx, Bebo, Crackle, For Your Imagination, Sling, My Damn Channel, ON Networks, YouTube, Vuguru, Revision3, and Next New Networks. While Hulu is focused on bringing studio-backed content online, others – such as Austin-based ON Networks – are focused on new, independent content made specifically for the Internet. It will be interesting to see who's still standing this time next year. Also of note: the creation of technology to allow your TV to read downloaded content. My prediction is that this technology will be more prevalent and affordable in 2009.
Sex, race, and class. These touchy issues were addressed, surprisingly enough, on prime-time broadcast TV. Brothers & Sisters (ABC) led the way with its portrayal of a gay male couple, not as outcasts or over-the-top fops but as an ordinary couple finding its way. Alongside that was the storyline of the deeply closeted Uncle Saul (Ron Rifkin). When he finally came out, you could feel the full weight of generations of gay men and women who carried their secret life in shame and fear. Elsewhere, there's Ugly Betty's (ABC) Justin Suarez (Mark Indelicato) going through his (presumably) gay adolescence (it's never been explicitly stated that he's gay). Dirty Sexy Money (ABC) jumped the shark this year, but its inclusion of transsexual Carmelita (Candis Cayne) as politician Patrick Darling's (William Baldwin) lover was, again, not played for cheap guffaws but as an honest and loving (if doomed) relationship.
The surprising place where race and class converged, and were critiqued, was in CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine. Early on, I was annoyed that Wanda Sykes was relegated to the black sidekick role as Barb, but she's the one who brings out the clueless white liberal in Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and helps lampoon it, as in this standout episode: Desperate for new members at the gym the women co-own, Barb sets out to find some. Christine is thrilled that Barb's work pays off until she realizes she is now the minority among the new, black members. New Adventures often ends too tidily but gets high props for going to less charted territory.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on Saturday Night Live. Fey's spot-on impression of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was mind-blowing enough, but when paired with Poehler as a perplexed Katie Couric or a steely Hillary Clinton, it was almost too good to be true. Catch all of their amazing SNL performances on Hulu.com.
Barack, Barack, and Barack. Obama's now-famous "race speech," his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, and his victory speech on election night were nothing less than historic, in addition to being phenomenally poignant.
The old man and the shoes. When Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zeidi threw his shoes at George W. Bush during a press conference, it was shocking. When the symbolism of the thrown shoes was revealed and his words translated with the toss of each shoe, it was high drama: "This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is a farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq." More shocking than Bush's quick reflexes was his response: "It doesn't bother me. If you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe." (At press time, al-Zeidi was still being held in custody and has reportedly suffered numerous injuries.)
Thank you, al-Zeidi for tripping George W. Bush on his so-called victory lap around one of the greatest debacles of the 21st century. If only you were there for his earlier "Mission Accomplished" speech.
For more memorable TV moments or to add your own, visit "TV Eye" online at the Picture in Picture blog (austinchronicle.com/pip).