TV Eye: Wish List

Looking back and looking forward

Old Spice poster boy Isaiah Mustafa
Old Spice poster boy Isaiah Mustafa

It's list-making time for media watchers – the time to make our "best of" lists and check them twice. While the Chronicle's Top 10s issue comes out next week, I thought I'd get an early jump and talk about the things I will remember about TV in 2010, what I plan to forget, and my wishes for TV in 2011.

What I'll remember:

Isaiah Mustafa in those hilarious Old Spice ads. I don't watch commercials, but those bizarre Old Spice adverts with Mustafa's droll delivery entertained me every time.

The late-night talk show kerfuffle. It was interesting to read all the talk on the unseating of Conan O'Brien from The Tonight Show in the entertainment media and elsewhere: Conan got dissed, NBC is evil, Jay Leno is the devil, and on and on and on. After many rumors flew, including much speculation that Conan would lead a talk show on Fox, HBO, or elsewhere, Conan returned to late night following a surge of fan support using social media. The new Conan show launched on TBS this fall, and even Conan himself doesn't quite seem to believe it. Though Conan has been airing since November, he still makes jokes about appearing on cable TV. He needs to stop. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have done just fine on Comedy Central, as has George Lopez on his late-night show that follows Conan. I, for one, am happy to see Conan wherever he appears, and I know I'm not the only one.

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret (IFC). Did anyone else watch this besides me? Screamingly funny, David Cross is in top form in this outlandish comedy about a pathological liar who digs his own grave of trouble.

Khandi Alexander's performance in Treme (HBO). I've adored Alexander since her time as Catherine Duke on NewsRadio. But her performance as LaDonna Batiste-Williams in Treme – and most especially in the funeral scene in the first season's final episode – was, in a word, astonishing. During a New Orleans-style funeral march for a loved one, the camera remains trained on Alexander's LaDonna. She starts from deep despair, moves through the various colors of emotion, until she alights on that sublime place where celebration for a lost life coexists with mourning. I remember watching it twice. And then again. I was touched each and every time.

Idris Elba on Luther (BBC America) – another great actor whose stunning performances mostly fly under the wire. Elba first received much-deserved attention as Stringer Bell on The Wire (HBO). In his title role as Luther, he is absolutely mesmerizing, a little terrifying, and oh, so very, very fine.

What I would like to forget:

Any of those "real housewives" from Atlanta, D.C., Beverly Hills, or wherever else they hail from. Honestly, I don't understand the appeal. Friends who are hooked on the franchise have tried to explain, but I just don't get it. Within moments of starting to watch these walking train wrecks, I am ready to leap out of my skin. I'm not against escapist entertainment, but these shows make me feel like I'm trapped in a nightmare. Pass the remote, please. The same can be said about those kids from Jersey Shore. No, I don't think they're doing anything profound, subversive, or even slightly entertaining. Again, when I've tried to watch, my eyes have rolled into the back of my head.

The series finale of Lost (ABC). I don't expect finales to be tied up in a nice tidy bow, but I found no satisfaction in the long and inordinately winding road to this series' end ... beyond knowing that I would never have to hear or think or write about Lost again.

What I wish for in the new TV year:

To end my cable TV subscription, once and for all. It's too expensive, and I believe I can see everything I want to see online. I think. Could I? Should I?

As always, stay tuned.

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end of year TV, Isaiah Mustafa, Old Spice, Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Magaret, David Cross, Khandi Alexander, Treme, Idris Elba, Luther, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Real Housewives of D.C., Jersey Shore, Lost

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