TV Top 10s
Selecting Top 10s for TV was hard this year. There's always tension in trying to keep my short attention span from being snowed over by what's new and dazzling. However, this year's dazzlers were in short supply, making me rely on old standbys. But did some of my old standbys falter this year? While many TV critics lamented the decline of The West Wing, I found myself wondering which West Wing they were watching. Sure, it was an uneven year, but hardly time for a death knell. And The Sopranos, though not as spectacular as it was in its first year, always deserves a nod. A weak Sopranos episode (e.g. "Christopher") is better than most any other show.
But before we get to the best of the rest, here are the illustrious, the shameful, and the outright weird things I saw on TV, or:
The Top 10 Things I Never Thought I'd See on TV -- But Did:
10. A one-on-one with David Letterman. His short, candid interview was the first on Up Close Primetime, a placeholder show hosted by Ted Koppel until the new Jimmy Kimmel show launches Jan. 26.
9. A shamelessly hyped, then outright slaughtered version of the traditional showstopper "Cabaret," as sung by Meredith Vieira on The View
8. The repeated image of Liza Minnelli getting the life sucked from her by her wax-headed husband, David Gest. My eyes! My eyes!
7. The remains of Michael Jackson's nose, way too up close on, of all places, ESPN's Pardon the Interruption.
6. The human debacle called The Anna Nicole Show.
5. Juicy women, front and center: Not only does the ebullient Sara Rue star in Less Than Perfect (ABC), her main gal pal Ramona (Sherri Shepherd) is all goddess with her big, busty self.
4. Key nuptials ... The marriage of Niles and Daphne on Frasier took so long, I imagined Frasier's son growing up and stealing Daphne for himself. On the opposite end of the spectrum: the wham-bam marriage of Grace and Leo on Will & Grace (NBC).
3. ... And nasty breakups: Like the marriage on W&G, the breakup of Carmela and Tony on The Sopranos won't last. Ditto with Tony falling off Dr. Melfi's couch.
2. A 7UP commercial making jest of prison rape -- it was pulled after a week.
1. A woman with a fart fetish on Blind Date.
Top 10 Shows on Television:
1. Six Feet Under (HBO). Unlike The Sopranos and The West Wing, Six Feet had a solid season with strong story lines, intriguing characters, and brilliant performances that made you weep.
2. Alias (ABC). Jennifer Garner is simply fabulous as spy girl Sydney Bristow, and Lena Olin, as an ex-KGB agent and Syd's icily mysterious mother, is divine.
3. (tie) The Sopranos (HBO) and The West Wing (NBC). Though these series had uneven seasons, they still provide a high watermark for TV dramas.
4. Boomtown (NBC). I'm no fan of cop dramas. The good thing about this one is its use of multiple points of view, not just of the cops and perps, but from peripheral characters, too, making for smart, surprising storytelling.
5. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO). Larry David may be an acquired taste, but it's one I wouldn't give up for a year's worth of Friends or Will & Grace.
6. The Gilmore Girls (WB). Witty, family-friendly fare is not a contradiction in terms with this warm, sometimes-wacky dramedy.
7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (UPN). If this is the final year for the slayer, this season will be the high note on which to exit.
8. 24 (Fox). I still think Kiefer Sutherland and Co. rule, but found myself less absorbed in its second season.
9. Scrubs (NBC). Laugh-out-loud funny, with one of the tightest sitcom ensembles on TV.
10. The Chris Isaak Show (Showtime). This year I didn't forget. Chris Isaak plays himself, shortcomings and all, with such low-key charm it's a shame the show doesn't have a larger audience.
Andy Richter Controls the Universe (Fox)
Sex and the City (HBO)
Watching Ellie (NBC)
The Bernie Mac Show (Fox)