Sunday, January 20, 2008

Best TV Shows of 2007

To be honest, there weren't a lot of great shows introduced this year. Still, there were a few new standouts, and some great seasons of returning shows:

10)Aliens in America - The conceit of this show, about a foreign exchange student from Pakistan, is a recipe for cliches about American xenophobia. Fortunately, there's a lot of heart on display in Aliens in America, and while it may be a bit too cute for its own good at times, it's also surprisingly smart and funny when dealing with the culture clash and general open-mindedness of the American people.

9) Big Love - This year, the HBO polygamist saga made the transition from gimmicky drama with occasional moments of brilliance to captivating series about a tension-filled family that happens to practice polygamy. Superb performances from Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ginnifer Goodwin and Chloe Sevigny helped propel this year's storylines to a higher level.

8) Top Chef - This Project Runway-esque reality series really came into its own this season, with some very talented and compelling contestants, most of all eventual winner Hung. Unlike many of its contestants, the show succeeded on its truly creative challenges. Top Chef has slowly slid itself into the position of best reality series on television.

7) The Sopranos - Count me as one of those viewers who thought the finale worked. More than that, though, the series experienced a comeback of sorts with its final 6 episodes, from the masterful brawl between Bobby and Tony at the lake house to AJ's suicide attempt. The Sopranos may have gone out on a lower note than it entered, but it was still amazing television.

6) Planet Earth - The amazing footage that appeared on this series of animals caught in their natural environments singlehandedly forced me to go out and buy an HDTV.

5) Pushing Daisies - Yes, this show can be too whimsical for its own good. But it has also managed to create an entirely believable universe of its own, where corpses are brought to life with the touch of a fingertip and the streets are decorated with more bright colors than a candy store. It's an impressive visual accomplishment and a surprisingly addictive television series.

4) Mad Men - Leaving aside the fact that one of the primary plot points was a direct rip-off of the Armen Tanzarian storyline from The Simpsons, the first original series from AMC was filled with gorgeous images, well-crafted character arcs, and touching performances. Some of the plot turns may have been a bit too forced, but the execution was impeccable and the acting first rate.

3) Friday Night Lights - This show makes the list on the merits of its incredible first season. There has been an undeniable decline in its second season, but that's no reason to avoid this pitch-perfect series about a small Texas town that finds its soul in high school football. Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler make for the most realistic couple on television; after a few episodes, you too will wish you were a member of the Taylor family.

2) 30 Rock - The best comedy on network television since Arrested Development. Like that show, 30 Rock boasts an incredible cast, superb writing, and wonderfully absurd storylines. It also boasts Alec Baldwin, who singlehandedly elevates every scene he's in with his dry delivery and perfect comic timing. I'm not sure how long the ratings will allow 30 Rock to be on the air, but this series deserves all the viewers it can get.

1) Flight of the Conchords - I don't know that Flight of the Conchords is a funnier show than 30 Rock. But it's the most original and creative comedy on television, mining the humor of New Zealand's most famous comedy rock troupe to maximal effect with fantastically weird musical set-pieces and low-key, perfectly deadpan punch lines. Murray the manager (Rhys Darby) alone makes this show worth watching.