Inching towards mediocrity.

The Great 2009 Wrap-Up! (Now with 100% less 2009, from here on in!)

I’ve decided to do a fairly quick (and fairly arbitrary) wrap-up of the best and worst of 2009. This list will mostly cover television, with a film list tomorrow. I say arbitrary due to the fact that I have the memory equivalency of a goldfish – that is to say, I can’t really remember much about the year before, say, November. As such, this list will be far from absolute – it will instead be a more subjective list detailing my personal highs and lows of the 2009 television season.

So, with the pre-amble ramblin’ out of the way, I give you The Best that Television Had to Offer During a One Year Span, the 2009 Edition.

Best New Show – “Modern Family.”

Laugh track free, for your pleasure.

The great Ed O’Neil returns to the sitcom world with a vengeance, heading up one of the best casts on television as the surly patriarch of the Pritchett family, a close-knit, but somewhat unconventional tribe – or, if you like, “modern”. His daughter (Julie Bowen) has the archetypical “nuclear family” – three kids and a well-meaning, though buffoonish, husband (Ty Burrell). His son, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is gay and has adopted a Vietnamese baby with his boyfriend Cameron (Eric Stonestreet). And Jay is married to a much younger (and much hotter) Colombian woman (Sofia Vergara) who has a young, sensitive son from another marriage named Manny (Rico Rodriguez). Not your traditional family by any means, but that’s what makes it so fun – watching such different characters, all played to perfection, interacting with each other. They may not be the same, but they’re family – and the show makes a point of proving that in the end, that’s all that counts. Heartwarming, but never corny, and shot in that pseudo-documentary style that made “The Office” so popular, this is a phenomenally funny and irreverent show that is a hit with TV snobs, critics, and your average viewer – which, believe me, is not an easy task to accomplish. I look forward to spending more time with the Pritchett’s in the coming years.

Best Comedy – “How I Met Your Mother.”

When the hell did Neil Patrick Harris become cool?

God, I hate laugh tracks. I really do. With a fiery vengeance. There was a time when laugh tracks were a given on sitcoms – just a natural inclusion that didn’t really register with me either way. Then along came a slew of great comedies, all laugh track free – “Scrubs”, “Arrested Development”, “The Office”, etc, and I became, for lack of a better word, spoiled. Suddenly my mind was opened to a world without obnoxious studio laughter telegraphing the jokes, and telling you just when you should be laughing. Fuck that, television. I know when I want to laugh. It’s involuntary. And it’s embarrassing and insulting to be told otherwise – and it was that reason, and that reason alone, that kept me from this little gem of a show for all those years.

Having said that, I think it’s a fine testament to this show’s quality that I am able to stomach the overbearing phony laughter and enjoy it for what it is – a supremely clever and very well acted little nugget of comedy gold. (Though I should point out that I don’t really get the episode voice-overs from an older Ted, telling the tale to his kids…would a 30 year old’s voice change so drastically over the years that he’d sound completely different and remarkably like Bob Saget when he’s older? I don’t think so.)

Best Actor in a Comedy – Ed Helms, “The Office”.

Hey, it's the only funny thing about "The Office" these days! And he's doing something funny!

Ed Helms’ clueless, over-confident, banjo-playing, falsetto-singing Andy Bernard has consistently been the bright spot in a sitcom that – let’s face it – is clearly on it’s way out. While “The Office” hasn’t quite reached “Simpsons” levels of sucktitude, it’s definitely not quite the comedy juggernaut it used to be. The characters have become too predictably zany, Jim and Pam are just plain boring now, and there’s really only so many stories about a paper supply office you can tell – and believe me, they’ve told them.

The point is that Helms, who’s coming off a huge year with his movie hit “The Hangover” is a revelation on an otherwise fairly stale comedy. He brings a lot to the show, and makes me continue to tune in.

Best Actress in a Comedy – Tina Fey, “30 Rock”.

I'd like to "rock" her "30". If ya know what I mean. *wink!*

I know at this point it’s almost passe to praise this show. It’s one of the most critically adored shows on television – some may even say too critically adored, as to admit to not liking it is akin to admitting you don’t “get” science. Or gravity. Which IS pretty scientific.

Anyways, Fey, while always a more than decent writer, has evolved into an excellent comedic actress along the lines of Julia Louis-Dreyfuss or Mary Tyler Moore. Her Liz Lemon is an awkwardly adorable, lonely nerd, which – let’s face it – resonates with a lot of us. Lately she’s become as adept at physical comedy as she is at verbal wordplay, which only seems to enhance Liz’s awkwardness. “30 Rock” may be overrated these days, but Tina Fey certainly is not.

Best Drama – “Lost”.

Did you know that "Lost" backwards is "Tsol"? I don't know what that means, but I'm sure it's a clue.

“Lost” really knocked this one out of the park. Like. Seriously. This was a momentous season that just kept getting better as it went along – all leading up to the inevitable final episode later this year. And it’s gonna be a doozy.

My only concern now is that they can’t possibly top this. They have one season left and nowhere to go. They’ve set the bar too damn high – good luck wrapping this thing up without pissing A LOT of people off. I know it sounds horribly cynical, but I truly feel that there is no way to end this thing and make everyone happy. It’s either going to be completely predictable, or a colossal letdown. Either way, though, I can’t wait.

Best Actress in a Drama – Cherry Jones, “24”.

Now let's see if she survives the next season!

Odd choice, I know. But I really warmed up to Cherry Jones President Allison Taylor on the seventh season of “24”. She may have made a lot of questionable decisions, but she always stuck by her own code – even when it meant arresting her own daughter. For paying to kill a terrorist who had killed the president’s son. That’s harsh, Mrs. President.

Regardless, Cherry Jones managed to imbue Taylor with just the right balance of iron-willed toughness and maternal instinct to make her a thoroughly enjoyable and complex character to watch. Looking forward to seeing her (and hopefully Bob Gunton as her Chief of Staff) next season.

Best Actor in a Drama – Terry O’Quinn, “Lost”.

Locked up.

John Locke is by far the best part of “Lost”. His character arc (while hopefully not complete) has been a terrifically entertaining, confusing, and at times heartbreaking journey. John has always been the most complex and interesting character on the show, and this season only managed to continue adding to his mystique and overall mystery. How it plays out now, in the final season, remains to be seen. I’m not even sure if John will continue to be a main part of the next season – or, hell, even if he’s John at all anymore. Hopefully his journey isn’t quite complete, though – it’s been far to enjoyable until this point, and I’m in no hurry to see it end.

Best Moment of the 2009 Television Season – And Maybe EVER – The Seinfeld Reunion, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Larry David, unsurprisingly, has done the impossible. Reunion shows are usually a dicey proposition; and, as such, are never any damn good. So, leave it to David – the genius behind “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to be the first (and probably only) person to ever find a way to make it work. And make it work he did.

The genius here is that it isn’t a reunion show – technically. It’s just another season in David’s award-winning, semi-autobiographical series about his award-winning, semi-autobiographical alter ego, Larry David. In a characteristically misguided attempt to win back his wife, Cheryl (Cheryl Hines), Larry decides to finally acquiesce to NBC’s demands for a reunion of some show that Larry had created in the ’90s. What follows is an entire season of Seinfeld-y goodness culminating in actual, honest-to-god scenes from a new “Seinfeld” episode.

Not only is it the best we ever could have hoped for for a “Seinfeld” reunion, it’s pretty much the best we could ever hope for for a reunion episode of anything.

Other sitcoms take note for the future – Larry David is your new god. And bow down to him you shall!

Welcome back, old friends.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

larry david knows the answers to all questions.

Comment by the mule

I find the development in laugh-track free sitcoms has done more to portray “awkwardness” effectively then actually changing the dynamics of a joke or intensity

Comment by naysayer

Considering you claim to have the “memory equivalency of a goldfish” I’m surprised you managed to even complete this blog

Comment by naysayer

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