Remote Destination – Best of 2007

So it obviously took long for me to come up with thoughts on 2007. But it was difficult to do,.2007 wasn’t a good year for television. It had numerous things going against it. There were the cancelled shows (Rome, Deadwood, Thief) that I felt should have made return engagements this year which left a huge void to fill.

Then there were the awful shows that, for some reason I ended up watching complete seasons of. Dirt and Californication spring immediately to mind.

And of course there was the WGA Strike which took a toll on the Fall Season and threatens the next fall’s too.

But there were some high points too. And thus I give you my Top Ten TV Shows of 2007.

Mad Men

This was the crown jewel of 2007. There was no finer program broadcast on television last year. Hands down.

Mad Men is both a look at the past and a mirror for the present. It illustrates how far we’ve come in terms of childcare (both pre and post-natal) but it also offers up a myriad of examples of how little how gender politics have changed in the past 40-odd years despite the dressing of political correctness.

It’s expertly written and superbly acted. Even the least likable of characters earn their moments of sympathy. It’s a show that revolves around white males yet addresses anti-Semitism, race, homosexuality, sexual politics and issues of identity without missing a beat.

Mad Men is a testament to the notion that commercials and censors needn’t be a hindrance to making great televison.

30 Rock

As a general rule I loathe sitcoms. They’re formulaic, poorly acted and worst of all, insulting. But 30 Rock is one sitcom that I refuse to miss.

It’s probably because it’s fearless. The scene with Jack (Alec Baldwin) and Tracy (Tracy Morgan) at the therapist that’s been talked about ad nauseam had all of the ingredients for public outcry. A white guy doing vulgar caricatures various minorities. But it worked because it was so over the top funny and right within the tone of the show.

The writers are the really the stars of the show. The comedy is simultaneously smart, subversive and self-deprecating. Every episode has moments that caused me to marvel at boundaries being pushed and laugh out loud. The actors sell the words perfectly, but anyone who enjoys the show is really a fan of the writing.

Still, how in the hell did Fox Mulder beat out Alec Baldwin at the Golden Globes?

Brotherhood

Showtime’s Brotherhood is a tersely written tense hour of televison. The debut season introduced us to characters of The Hill and ended on a hell of a cliffhanger. Season two magnificently followed up on everything and actually upped the ante.

Much like HBO’s The Wire, Brotherhood tells the tale of a city, in this case Providence, R.I., though various angles; criminal, police and political. It revolves around the Caffee family and how they are at intersection of all that occurs in Providence.

There’s really not a weak link in Brotherhood. Whether it’s Deco’s descent into the underbelly being a dirty cop or Tommy’s dalliance with adultery every storyline drew you into complete investment. Michael’s attempt to overcome the injury he sustained in the first season finale was probably my favorite, especially when his dreams fell apart.

But the Thanksgiving episode was probably my favorite holiday themed episode in recent memory. It was hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. Brotherhood is one of television’s finest crime dramas out.

Pushing Daisies

Sometimes television is for escaping. And while is usually look for the adjectives “harsh”, “stark” or “realistic” when it comes to my hour long dramas, Pushing Daisies won me over based purely on it’s whimsical tone.

I loved doomed romance so the very notion of longing for someone you can’t touch because that touch would mean instant death is right up my alley. Hell it’s a story set in a town where everything is vibrantly colored, women still wear dresses and making pies is a viable vocation. What’s not to like?

And as if having a character who has a Lazarus touch and a character who’s formerly dead weren’t enough, there’s also a surly P.I. who’s hobby is knitting and a former jockey who pines her boss. Quirky barely does this cast justice.

It’s also a fun show that I looked forward to week in and out. I couldn’t wait for it to come on, so I could sit on the couch with my roommate and take a trip to some place away from the real world.

Life

I’m leery of cop dramas. Far too often they’re procedurals with happy endings. But Life offered something different; and interesting character and a mystery that, while intriguing, wasn’t all encompassing.

The pilot for Life raised plenty of questions; why was Charlie in jail? Why did he return to the police force? How did he return to the police force? Was there an actual conspiracy? The mystery wasn’t a lingering one like say, Lost is was usually relegated to the B story. The answers to those questions were doled out over the episodes that aired, never requiring the view to take anything on faith.

Damian Lewis plays Charlie Crews as a peculiar guy who is inquisitive yet wise. He’s an interesting character who’s quirks never overwhelm the character. He’s much more a character with quirks, rather than a collection of quirks in the form a character. He’s the star and he makes watching mesmerizing.

Weeds

I really wanted to love this season of Weeds, but I couldn’t; it had flaws. U-Turn was written off too soon (though it was a well written exit.) There didn’t seem to be nearly enough Doug. And the lack of the brilliant Heylia/Nancy chemistry really didn’t help things.

But there were good moments too. Anything involving Andy was sure to was sure to inspire laughs. Nancy and U-Turn moments, as brief as they were, never disappointed. Sanjay’s blooming sexuality was never ignored. And then there were the sex scenes.

I wish the season had a stronger ending and that more of the interesting threads had been developed (biker rivals, Shane in summer school.) Still, Weeds began the season with a boom.

Burn Notice

Summer fare is notoriously unreliable. That’s probably why Burn Notice was so refreshing. Using a Miami as a backdrop for a noir tale about a former spy seemed like a sure miss. But Jeffery Donovan really sells it.

Donovan can shift from boyish innocence to brutal menace with no warning and that’s where the charm in the show lies. Much like Life there’s a mystery, but it’s not an overwhelming one. I’m curious why Michael got :”burned” but I’m equally interested in seeing him establish himself in his new surroundings.

Burn Notice has plenty of lighthearted moments. It’s also got some great action scenes. But my favorite part (after Donovan) would have to be the tips that Michael shares with the viewer, like how to win a bar fight or how to secure a domicile. Learning has never been so entertaining.

Greek

I wasn’t supposed to watch this show, much less like it. I just so happened to have an hour to kill on the Sunday after it debuted, when that debut replayed. I caught it and enjoyed it. Actually I more than enjoyed it, I was hooked.

I think I was just impressed at how a show on ABC Family managed to do a decent job of capturing college life. There’s underage drinking and premarital sex and of course the combination drunken hook ups.

What’s more is that I cared about the characters. I grew fond of Cappie and Rusty. I really felt for Calvin and even Dale grew on me. Sure the show took some short cuts (the “two-fer” of having the Black male also be gay) but Greek was probably my biggest surprise in 2007.

Damages

Damages was flawed, but featured flawless acting. The pacing was off at times and the ending was a bit anticlimactic, but the acting always delivered. Glenn Close and Ted Danon got all of the acclaim, but for me I was most struck by David Costabile as “Bearded Man.” He was a foreboding presence that just exuded menace. Whenever he was on the screen I was riveted. But my second favorite was Zeljko Ivanek, who’s always underrated.

I didn’t really care for the whole mystery of the season. I was more interested in the ride and all of the numerous twists and turns. I liked trying to figure out if Patty Hewes or Arthur Frobisher was the “bad guy” of the story. It was a guessing game every week and for me that was a selling point.

And since the show got picked up for a second and third season it looks like I’ll be getting more ambiguity in the years to come. I just hope that the writers keep the writing on par with the acting.

The Shield

The show definitely faltered this season. The inclusion of the political angle felt forced and Kevin Hiatt always felt temporary. But Shane’s descent into the darkness fueled by his guilt is really what pulled this season through for me.

I was a fan of Kavanaugh’s character so to see him have such a diminished role this season was a letdown. But having Vic and Shane as adversaries pretty much picked up the slack. Seeing Shane struggle to keep one step ahead of his crumbing life was intense and actually made the character sympathetic, to a degree.

The season didn’t quite end on a note that left he craving the show’s final season, but I am interested in seeing how things wrap up. And while 2007 wasn’t The Shield’s best season, even a sub par off The Shield is better than 90% of what’s on other channels.

And thus you’ve got the TV shows that I really loved in 2007. But I’m curious what not only what you think about my list, but what shows you thought were the best 2007 had to offer.

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