Well, here we are…the final “Best of 2007” list that I’m going to be putting together for you guys (you’ll notice that there’s no “Best Music of 2007” list…that’s because I listen to very little music recorded after 1986). So, without any further ado, here are my picks for the 10 best shows of 2007.
1. How I Met Your Mother
Probably the funniest non-animated half-hour show on the air today. It’s like Friends…only funny. What does HIMYM have that others shows don’t? First, it has an awesome cast. Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, and Neil Patrick Harris are on fire each and every week. Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders have only become watchable since their characters split (and, I might add, Smulders’ Robin has become at least three times hotter without being saddled with Radnor’s Ted). Second, HIMYM might be the reigning king of TV catch-phrases (thanks, in no small part, to Harris’ Barney). Not only did this show breathe new life into the waning classic “awesome”, but it also brought us “legendary” (and its endless hyphenated permutations) as well as “Slapsgiving”:
Eureka is a throw-back to a simpler time in television. The premise is simple: U.S. Marshal Jack Carter finds himself transferred to a top-secret government-run town full of super-geniuses.
Each week, Sheriff Carter finds himself confronted with a new mystery, usually involving some kind of wacky, super-scientific invention created by a resident of the town or by Global Dynamics, the government think-tank at the heart of Eureka. If you want harmless fun with off-the-wall characters and “gee-whiz” sci-fi gadgets, then Eureka’s for you. It’s a mix of X-Files and Twin Peaks, starring the cast of Northern Exposure.
Might as well get this out of the way, right? Everyone had Heroes fever in the first half of 2007, and with good reason. The freshman season of the show was one of the greatest television experiences I’ve had in recent years (I think the last show that I really, truly looked forward to each week as much as I did Heroes was Buffy). Rewatching the first season on DVD made me realize just how well the show was plotted and executed.
I’m the first person to admit that the second season stumbled out of the gate. The writers and producers came to their senses and did their best to make the last third of “Generations” (the title for the first half of Heroes second season) as exciting as the first season. I think they managed to pull it off, effectively preventing what could have been the largest crash and burn I’ve ever seen.
4. Big Bang Theory
I probably never would have looked at Big Bang Theory if it hadn’t been scheduled after HIMYM. I’m glad it was. If HIMYM is the funniest show on television, this is a close second. The premise is fairly simple: four highly intelligent, but ridiculously socially awkward guys are forced to interact in the real world when “hot girl” Penny moves into the apartment across the hall from physicists Leonard and Sheldon.
I’m usually less than thrilled by the ways that geeks, dorks, and nerds are portrayed in Hollywood. Too often I find that Hollywood geeks are just normal guys with floppy hair and glasses whose geek-cred doesn’t extend any further than the current best-selling video game (I’m lookin’ at you, Chuck!). Leonard, Sheldon, and their posse are true geeks. Many of their conversations and arguments sound like ones I’ve had with my friends at one point or another. Okay, maybe they take it a little too far from time to time…but, what do you expect, it’s television.
In the future, when scientists make a list of the television shows that were killed long before their time, two shows will be at the top: one of them is Firefly, and the other is Drive (both, ironically, starring Nathan Fillion…I hope he’s not the superstitious type).
Drive tells the story of an illegal, underground cross-country race where many of the participants are bullied, cajoled, or otherwise coerced into racing. Fillion’s Alex Tully, for example, is forced to join when his wife is kidnapped. Each week, contestants are given riddles that they must solve in order to make it to the next checkpoint. If it takes you too long to get to a checkpoint, you’re out of the race (don’t worry, sometimes the shadowy group running the race will give you a second chance if you agree to rob a bank or shoot someone in the face). It was probably envisioned as a mobile version of Lost, and I would have been down with that for two reasons: (1) Nathan Fillion and (2) Emma Stone.
6. Burn Notice
Burn Notice is to the action-adventure genre what Eureka is to sci-fi: an homage to a simpler time. Burn Notice would have fit nicely into NBC’s Friday or Saturday night schedule back in the ’80s. It’s the story of Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donnovan), a government agent who pisses off someone in power and gets fired (or “burned”, as the Feds call it). He ends up with no job and no money in Miami, where he does what anyone else would do in his situation: he uses his spy training to become a private detective. As if his life isn’t complicated enough, Michael also has to deal with an ex-girlfriend (Gabrielle Anwar) who used to run guns for the IRA, a buddy (Bruce Campbell) who’s informing on him, and his mother (Sharon Gless):
7. Doctor Who
This show has been around for about 79 years (well…maybe a little less), so if you have no interest in watching it, me telling you about it probably won’t have any effect. But, on the off chance that you’ve never heard of it before (and you like time travel, aliens, parallel dimensions, immortals, and British people), please check it out.
The Doctor is the last living Time Lord, a race of immortal aliens who have mastered time and space. He travels from planet to planet, from past to future, looking for adventures and helping those in need. Currently in his 10th incarnation (when a Time Lord is about to die, they can regenerate into a new person, making it easy to recast the ridiculously long-running BBC series), the Doctor travels with human companion, Martha Jones. I must admit that it took me a little bit to get into the third season, but I’m glad I did.
8. 30 Rock
I know that people say that bad things come in threes, but can’t good things come in threes, too? Along with How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock is the most consistently funny show on TV. Alec Baldwin and Tracey Morgan are having so much fun being ridiculous that you can’t help but come along for the ride (one of the greatest moments of the year involves Baldwin, Morgan, therapy, and the spirits of half of the cast of Good Times). 30 Rock never shies away from the insanity that is Corporate America and the “Television business”, whether it’s Seinfeld-vision or product placement:
9. Bionic Woman
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you remember watching the original Bionic Woman, then you probably won’t like this 21st century reboot. However, if you enjoy mindless action shows, strong female characters, and Miguel Ferrer, then you probably would have enjoyed this:
Sadly, lackluster ratings and the WGA strike has pretty much killed Bionic Woman. Another fine program bites the dust, and American audiences are deprived of the gorgeous Michelle Ryan.
There are two kinds of shows that I really love: Procedurals and any show with a lead character who’s ridiculously intelligent but socially inept. House is both of those things. Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House is a rarity on American TV, a main character who is not a nice person. House is rude, arrogant, and borderline misogynistic. He’s also one hell of a doctor. Give him a mysterious illness and in about 52 minutes he’ll have it figured out.
This current season has gotten some bad press, but I think it’s as good as any of the previous three. I like the idea of House turning his search for three new assistants into something akin to a reality TV show (if we live in a time when Kid Nation is considered viable entertainment, then why not?). I like that Foreman (who quit last year because he was afraid of becoming “just like House”) is forced back to his old position because no other hospital wants him. Why? Well, it seems he’s just like House. The cast is just as good as always, including additions like Kal Penn and Olivia Wilde (whose “Thirteen” might as well have been named “Cameron Two-point-Oh”), although I confess that I will miss “Ridiculously Old Fraud” almost as much as House will.