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Phoebe Raven’s Top Ten TV Shows of 2008

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer


Image CC2K's TV junkie Phoebe Raven ranks the entertainment that flickered on the small screens this year.

Before all else, let me clarify that I do not claim this to be a comprehensive or representative list. Even being the TV junkie I am, I cannot manage to watch every show there is. And because I am loyal and stick to shows I have invested time in, I am also limited in the amount of new shows I can add to my viewing schedule.
Hence shows like 30 Rock or Fringe haven't made it into my schedule yet (though I might catch up over the next summer break).

Out of the twenty or so shows I followed this past year, these are the ten that kept me entertained the most. Which is, after all, what TV is supposed to do.

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Honorable Mention: Project Runway

Project Runway is a staple in my schedule whenever it is on, but I chose to exclude it from this list, because it can only be described as a “scripted show” in parts. However, it keeps me highly entertained, also because it is good to see a fellow countrywoman succeed.

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10. Gossip Girl

This is a guilty pleasure and yet I cannot resist putting it on this list. Many might decry this as just another teenage show, like 90210, One Tree Hill or Dawson’s Creek. What Gossip Girl does well though is that it combines the glitz and glamor of the Upper East Side with the drama and dirt of the normal world. If you watch it with the same voyeuristic pleasure as you check sites like Perezhilton.com or People.com, then you can really enjoy Gossip Girl every week. You don’t really care about the characters (with very few exceptions, maybe), you simply want to know what scandals they can get involved in and get out of this week. The show doesn’t try to pose as something it’s not, it’s simply entertainment you can indulge in and as an added bonus you get to look at beautiful people in the newest and hottest clothes for forty minutes every week. Now, I can’t find an angle from which that looks bad.

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9. Burn Notice

I keep saying this is the best show that no one watched last summer, but I must be wrong, because it came back for a second season, so someone besides me must have been watching. If you loved Miami Vice back in the day, you are going to love Burn Notice, which is set in Miami and therefore features the same popping color palette and Cuban music on top of it. And if you loved MacGyver back in the days, you are also gonna love Burn Notice, because its lead, Michael Weston, continually has to come up with new plans to get out of jams and he can build bombs, tracking devices and other gimmicks from pretty much anything.
He also has a very hot chick as a sidekick/lover and engages in ultra-cool undercover, spy missions, even though he got “burned” and hence no longer officially works for the government.
Burn Notice is funny, colorful, suspenseful and well-made. It is perfect summer television and now it is rightfully working its way into the regular season. Look for seven more episodes on USA in early 2009 and a third season after that!

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8. How I Met Your Mother

It isn’t easy to make a case for a traditional sitcom these days. Most people are over the cheap laugh track, New York City youngsters sitting on couches and all that comes with it. I have to admit, I never got over the impression either that HIMYM is just a knock-off of Friends, but only half as funny. (Yes, I will say it, Chandler can make me laugh without end. I could not have BEEN more entertained for at least five of their ten seasons.) However, HIMYM still has an interesting premise to work with (a love story in reverse) and I am hanging on to find out who eventually turns out to be the mother. In the meantime, Neil Patrick Harris tides me over the fact that Season Three so far has had a lot of filler episodes. Sure, in the show NPH aka Barney is a one trick pony, but so far he is still making me laugh. I can’t really stand Marshall, he is too stupid to be a lawyer (or is he?) and Ted isn’t hot enough so I can stand his whining for longer than twenty minutes a week, but it’s still a solid show with potential. Too bad they ruled out a Ted and Robin romance, that kinda worked for me there.
And it will be interesting to see what the creators do with the fact that both female lead actresses are pregnant.

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7. Life

When Life came out I thought “Do we really need another detective show?”, but I gave it a shot anyway, mostly because I have been a fan of its lead, Damian Lewis, for years and happen to think he does tremendous work. He is another one of those Brits that has you completely fooled with his American accent (just like Hugh Laurie). In the role of Charlie Crews he gets to deliver the most awkward lines that result in hi-jinks especially when his partner Dani Reese doesn’t get it. These two would never work in a romantic way, and the show doesn’t play in that direction either, but they work as a team of cops working cases. Charlie has a refreshing way of looking at the world after spending twelve years in prison and as trivial as some of his Zen wisdom sounds at first listen, sometimes he can really open your eyes and make you go “huh”. Add to all this the eye-pleasing coloration of the show, the glitz, the glamor and the light, and you have a real treat, even if the cases are ordinary and not specifically thrilling.

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6. Mad Men

I initially had a hard time with this show. While a lot of people found it very atmospheric, I found it too cliché. The men drank and smoked and pinched the PYTs in the ass. The one tough business woman in the first few episodes finally gave in and used her feminine allure to get what she wanted. But ultimately Mad Men has a level underneath all this. It aspires and in large parts succeeds to give a genuine portrayal of life in the 1960s in America. It chronicles the work place in the same way as the personal lives of couples, married, unmarried, about to be married. And the show takes its time. It is shot gorgeously, the lighting is always perfect, the costumes are authentic and so is the language. AMC truly has pulled a stunt with this show, as every episode has cinematic quality. And whether you love or loathe the lead, Jon Hamm’s character Don Draper, you keep coming back for more and either hope he gets what’s coming to him or you just smile at him in sweet delight. All the characters have depth, flaws and struggles, which makes it so easy to connect to them, even though they are removed by more than an era from us.

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5. The Unit

My love for The Unit is ambiguous. I love it and hate that I love it at the same time. It’s good old American action, soldiers from special ops going “rogue” in all the countries you associate with “bad guys”, and yet there is more to it. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that it is based on real operations of Delta Force, but I could really care less about that, I don’t have any insight into the military anyway, I don’t even know if a Colonel stands above a Sergeant (OK, that is an overstatement, but you get my point). What really furthers my love of The Unit is the fact that my favorite American playwright is a creator of it (David Mamet) and that the home life of the soldiers feeds the action out in the field. We get to see what these men fight for, what they come home to and how it affects them on missions.
The added hotness of Max Martini doesn’t harm my viewing pleasure in any way either. After struggling in the ratings previously, it now seems The Unit is doing OK and justly so.

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4. Bones

I am the first one to admit that Bones has writing problems. In fact, I have written articles about it and complained in the forums. And yet Bones has one of the best leading couples on TV in Booth and Brennan. The chemistry between them is undeniable, they work as partners, they work as friends and they would work as lovers. Obviously the latter will be drawn out for some time (though I sincerely hope it isn’t as long as it was on X Files). The show would benefit from having a more defined story arc in every season, but it still is a crime show worth watching, because it is so much more than a procedural, it has humor and relationships. It could be better, but it is pretty good.

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3. Dexter

Who doesn’t love the serial killer exacting divine justice? This show is so deliciously morally ambiguous that you cannot help but tune in every week to satisfy your voyeuristic side.
After the roller coaster that was the second season it is good to see the creators haven’t run out of ideas. Throwing Dexter the curve ball of fatherhood is simply brilliant. So is giving Dexter an “apprentice”. The show is suspenseful, and only takes expected liberties (for example: when does Dexter ever sleep or how the heck does he find bad guys the police can’t find for years). Michael C. Hall is creepy and yet endearing as the show’s lead and if you blend out his annoying sister, this show is a Sunday night well spent.

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2. Friday Night Lights

Just like the show I crowned No. 1, Friday Night Lights rewards the experienced viewer of television. It avoids clichés by cutting away at exactly the right moment, when the scene would take a turn we have seen too many times already. At the same time it lingers on a facial expression for that second longer than any other show. It has some of the most realistic dialog, people talking over each other, mumbling, stuttering, breaking off sentences in the middle. FNL also has the most endearing and realistic married couple on TV in Coach Taylor and Tami Taylor, who quibble and fight and yet you never ever question that they belong together without them ever overemphasizing that fact. The hand-held camera used throughout the entire show has put some people off, saying that “a shaky camera does not a good TV show make”, but if you look at it as an asset to the stories told and not as a gimmick to appear artsy, it makes a difference. It alters your viewing experience and to me, FNL is a delight every single week. It has beautiful, glossy close-ups of two lovers and then it has gritty, shaky action on the football field right after that. It has roots and that makes it fly.
What will happen after this season is up in the air, and continuity had to suffer at times, but the little I got of this show I treasure.

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1. House, M.D.

Even though I still strongly dislike the new team (mainly because they don’t really interact with each other and therefore still lack depth, even after almost a year), I admire the writers of House. In the vast LaLa Land of TV they seem to be the only ones with a plan. A plan for the next two years or so to come at that. And if in reality they don’t have a plan and are making all this up as they go along, then I admire them even more.
I keep saying to friends and family that House is not a show for the irregular viewer, it rewards loyalty. What makes this show the best of the best are the subtle nuances of psychology and its slow development of relationships. The characters on the show don’t change within the course of an episode or even a season, they change slowly or not at all, just like real people. House isn’t CSI, you don’t tune in for the PotW, you tune in for the people and the sarcastic quotes.
I know I won’t ever tire of House, I love most of the characters involved (though I am annoyed with getting Thirteen aka Remy Hadley shoved down my throat) and in a way they are almost friends to me, we have gotten to know them so well over the years. Truly an achievement not many shows can claim. Just like Wilson, I cannot walk away, because at the end of the day, House is still the one hour of television that keeps me entertained the best.

Author: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

Born in Germany, lived in the US, now in the UK. Always taking my love for TV and writing with me. Life participator. Blogger. Gaming enthusiast.

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