06 February 2010

The Good and Bad of 2009: TVola!

My movie quota wasn't as high as 2008, and fault purely falls onto TV. In '09, I experienced the awesomeness of Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles (too late; by the time I got into it, the show had already been axed by FOX). Scrubs (watched a few episodes on Channel 45, and am now officially addicted), The Big Bang Theory (how have I missed this ode to geekdom?), How I Met Your Mother (this show is fantastic!), and The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

Nah, I was just kidding 'bout that last one.

Point is, I've been deliberating a lot recently as to whether or not TV shows are actually superior to motion pictures. Granted, they don't have as big as a budget or 'big name' stars, but television programs have far more to offer than films. They present a ongoing storyline with ever-evolving characters without a restricted 2-hour run time. That's perhaps the best part. For writers to be able to delve into characters and find so many little nuances - it's amazing.


Day 6 was bad. Now granted, there's been a lot worse, and Day 6 was still better than a majority of junk surfing around on the tele, but compared to the Emmy-worthy Day 5 - filled with edge of your seat tension, awesome action, and a bunch of twists and turns that were completed unexpected - yeah, Day 6 wasn't up to snuff. It opened strong, I'll tell yah that. The first four hours were superb, and then a little bit past half-way, the game started to change. Important plots went away, and it became more of a family drama. The most disappointing thing for me, I guess, was that the writers didn't utilize Day 6's storyline to its fullest potential. They used it as a set-up, and went back to tried and true plots that have been done a bazillion times before.

So Day 7 had a lot to redeem. And boy did it ever. Day 7 resurrected the thought-to-be-dead Tony Almedia as not only a foil for Jack Bauer, but a emotional breaking point for our unhinged hero. The stakes were high, the writing was solid, and it introduced several new and interesting characters, and the best President since David Palmer (seasons 2-4). Now if only we could get Day 8 to be just as good....

Best Performance: Annie Wersching as Renee Walker. Benefits of a new location: new characters. Here's a play-by-the-rules kinda gal, but once she joins forces with Jack Bauer, who read the manual but decided the best course would be to do the complete opposite, her day turns really, really not good. Annie is awesome as Renee, and as opposed to many new faces that pop up throughout the 7 Days, I got a instant liking to her and her character, and was glad of her presence in Day 8. It's fascinating watching Renee stick up for her values, and as the day progresses, begin to understand Jack's methods - methods that, earlier that day, she disdained and thought of Jack Bauer as nearly criminal - and find them necessary. It's not often a show as fast-paced as this can allow real character growth in the span of its one day, so it was a pleasant surprise to see her written extremely well. And kudos to you, Ms. Wersching, for kicking ass. I'd watch a Renee spin-off; anyone else?

Runner-Up: Cherry Jones as President Allison Taylor. Best President since David Palmer, period. Charismatic, understanding, standing for truth, justice, and the American way, and yet vulnerable when it comes to her family. I would even say Day 7's worth watching just for her. Thank God she's around for Day 8.

Best Episode: "Day 7: 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM" (S07E12). A particularly important symbol of patriotic pride and national freedom is about to be attacked, and Jack Bauer's ready to kick some ass - if the damn government will let him.

Battlestar Galactica

In 2009, Battlestar Galactica concluded its four-season run on the Sci-Fi Channel. For a reboot of a show that's mostly known for being a Star Wars rip-off for the little screen, Galactica became a 'event' program. Now by saying this, I by no means imply the show was raking in the big numbers like ABC's Lost, simply that this final season of a series that had so many questions, characters, moral dilemmas, and a gazillion things to wrap up in 22 episodes definitely received wider attention. Luckily, the final season more than matched the hype. Perhaps working better on DVD than week-by-week viewing, BSG's fourth season is, in my opinion, its best. The first 10 episodes (not counting the made-for-DVD 'Razor'), which premiered in 2008, were absolutely thrilling. It opened with a bang ("He That Believeth in Me") and ended with one of the best episodes in the show's history ("Revelations"). 2009's batch didn't necessarily have the same pace, coming back from break with another superb episode ("Sometimes a Great Notion"), lagged a lot the last four episodes or so before the magnificently written but somewhat disappointing conclusion ("Daybreak").

Anyhow, the complete series DVDs are proudly placed on my DVD shelves, and I can guarantee that they will not be ignored, that they will be watched over and over and over again, and that Battlestar Galactica, as envisioned by Ronald Moore ('Star Trek: The Next Generation"), will always be a loved and prized show in the years to come.

Best Performance: Y'know, with a show like this that heavily relies not just on the superb scripts but the unbelievably phenomenal actors at its disposal, it's difficult to pick just one person. Like, my favorite role of the show period is Baltar (James Callis), but he didn't have much to work with (unfortunately) in season four and was given a rather crummy storyline for the majority of the season, although his character grew to a minimally satisfying degree. And then there's Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos), who nearly everyone loved for the depth that he brings to his role, but I just don't dig him. The actor I was going to choose was Katie Sackhoff as Kara Thrace, who had a lot to deal with this season, and it was the perfect opportunity for Katie to flex her acting muscles, and she did it beautifully, all the way up to her character's exit. I will always appreciate her performance. But honestly, and I think my decision was made in "Blood on the Scales" when she tells Felix via the Intercom that she was "coming for all of you!".

That's none other than Mary McDonnell as the dying President Laura Roslin. I won't lie; there's times where I really hate her character and don't like her at all, but this season was a friggin' gold mine for McDonnell. She hit so many emotional notes through the course of the 20 episode season, displaying inaudible despair after one catastrophe after another destroys her hopes, literally presenting us with a dying person do whatever she can do to help during her last hours; and (but not the last) there's when she's just pissed, and it's like Godzilla rampaging through Tokyo. Don't.get.in.her.way. Period. The End. That's the Laura Roslin from "Blood on teh Scales." McDonnell (hopefully) will be on a lot of 'best' lists, and deservedly so. Superb. Top notch. Phenomenal. Chilling. Sweet. Sad. Powerful. Dignified. Tragic. Human. Hat's off to you, Mary McDonnell.

Best Episode: "Sometimes a Great Notion". The first episode back after the 2007-2008 Writer's Strike, it followed possibly one of the most powerful and best episodes of the entire series, "Revelations." A tough act to follow, but I needn't to worry, it kicked ass. A tragic death that was entirely, completely unexpected. Kara Thrace finding something pivotal out about herself, leaving her completely lost, as she'll be for the rest of the series. The entire fleet of Galactica, all hope lost without any hint of salvation. Even the Cylons are depressed. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful episode. Although a love this beastie, "Blood on the Scales" almost took this lovely mantle. Oh, the suspense and those heart-stopping last two minutes. But back on topic, "Sometimes a Great Notion" was in every way great, and this was the episode that I (perhaps wrongly) compared every following episode to, and hardly any reached its greatness ("No Exit"/"Blood on the Scales"/"Daybreak, Part 2" excluded). It was also rather frustrating that with a episode that presented so many questions, executive producer/writer Moore didn't really seem interested in answering a lot of them until the last episode, which was extremely frustrating.

Best Track from the BSG Season 4 Original Soundtrack (by Bear McCreary): "Kara Remembers"

Doctor Who

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Doctor Who is the longest running sci-fi show on TV. It's now branching...32, 34 seasons (?), with a new series transmitting in the coming months. 2009 was a particularly important year for Doctor Who fans, as David Tennant, the man portraying the 10th incarnation of The Doctor, announced his departure from the franchise by year's end. His final episodes would be hour-long 'specials' (BBC had just purchased HD cameras, and to keep costs low, several programs had truncated runs), broadcast on holidays. Christmas 2008 was "The Next Doctor", a overall fine special, but sorta disappointing overall; "Planet of the Dead" (Easter), in which The Doctor's transported to another dimension with the lovely Michelle Ryan ("Jekyll", "Bionic Woman") and hears a ominous prophecy that signals his end; "The Waters of Mars" (Thanksgiving), with The Doctor going to Mars only to find himself stuck in a fixed point in time, and faces a crisis of what he feels is right, and what he should do, as per the laws of time; and it all concludes with the two-part "The End of Time" (Christmas 2009, New Year's Day 2010), where The Doctor faces his long arch-nemesis The Master in a confrontation that will cost him his life.

So, yeah, pretty important year. School work took a backseat whenever I was able to find the episodes on YouTube (I couldn't wait; but for those blokes wanting to yell at me for the illegality, I DID buy the recently released 'Complete Specials' Blu-Ray). They ranged from OK to magnificent. But these being David Tennant's last episode, I respect them never the less. And yeah, I'll still watch Doctor Who as the 11th Doctor embarks on his adventures, but it's very sad to see Tennant go, who is arguably the best Doctor in the franchise's history. And without further ado, my awards for the Specials...

Best Performance: David Tennant. Duh. Just watch any episode he's in as the 10th Doctor. You'll get it. Then watch "The End of Time, Part Two." I dare any humanoid to not at least feel their body tighten as Tennant superbly delivers his last lines. Perfection. We'll miss you, Mr. Tennant.

Runner-Up: John Simm, who resurrects The Master as a complete and utter psychopath, and it's delicious to watch. Brought back to life by followers of his human visage, Harold Saxon, The Master wrecks havoc on earth, but not before spending a episode scouring around the London waste lands like a bum, his appetite for the munchies even extending to humans. It's "Part Two" where John really gets to shine, as he's totally sadistic as he taunts The Doctor, revenge-driven as he finds out who is responsible for the ringing in his head, and sometimes is just having way too much fun being a Bad Guy, and that's why I love him. John Simm is one of the most talented actors I've seen on TV screens as of late, and is awesome enough that I might just have to give the British "Life on Mars" a chance.

Best Special: "The End of Time, Part Two." The 10th Doctor ends on a high note. Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. The Doctor's running around London trying to stop this and that, and it's one Apocalypse after another that needs to be averted. And it all concludes with a intimate sacrifice, a emotional tangent, and teary-eyed goodbye. Tennant has never been better; composer Murray Gold excels with his epic, heartbreaking score; John Simm captivates every scene he's in; and Russel T. Davies finishes his tenure on Doctor Who with style, and a finale that will always be remembered for years to come. He also leaves the series as a blank slate for Steve Moffat, who'll be the new show runner for the new Doctor Who premiering this spring (with Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor). Emotional, epic, grand, heartbreaking, fantastic, brilliant, and freakin' cool, "The End of Time, Part Two" was awesome, and one of the most thrilling and gripping 75 minutes I've seen in a while. Bravo, Russel T. Davies and David Tennant. Bravo!

Best Line: "Oh! Financial solution... deleted!" The Master, "The End of Time, Part One"

Kyle XY

Didn't watch Kyle XY at all when ABC transmitted its first and second seasons, but a luck-purchase of the second season and a Netflix catch-up of the first made me fall head over shoes in love with this show. My bad. But rest assured, I watched every single episode of the 10-ep run for Season 3. Sadly, that wasn't enough, and the show was canceled at the end of January, and whatever will happen to Kyle is left a mystery. The season started off strong, but lagged a lot during the middle. By its seventh episode, the writers decided to stop fixating so much on the teenage relationship dynamic, and get back into the sci-fi elements that was so appealing in the first place. Luckily, with its DVD release in December, the episodes flowed a bit better without week-by-week intermissions. But still, it's unfortunate that the show wasn't able to expand as much with its limited episode order and emphasis on teenage drama rather than continually expanding the mythology.

I'll always love Kyle XY, and I still highly recommend the series to anyone who hasn't seen it yet. And here are my awards for season 3 of Kyle XY:

Best Performance: Hal Ozsan. If I were reviewing season 2, Magda Apanowicz would without hesitation be my first choice, and I would use her again, but her appearance was shortened this season to accommodate her shooting schedule with Caprica (the BSG spin-off).

Runner-Up: Jaimie Alexander. Kind of a bitch in season 2, but Jaimie really excels in season 3. Though I bet it helps she has plenty of material to work with. Unrequited love; a lust for revenge; confusing emotions causing her abilities to go out of whack. Jessi had quite the year. "Tell-Tale Heart" is Jaimie Alexander's crowning achievement, absolutely her best performance on the program. Vulnerable, full of rage, shattered - damn, gives me chills just thinking about it. This 'award' truly goes out to you.

Best Episode: "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" Everything comes front and center as Kyle and Jessie construct a elaborate plan to force Cassidy into revealing all his cards, so they invite him over for family dinner. Oh boy, does it get good! Awesome ending! A perfect lead-in to the series finale, "Bringing Down the House", which nearly hits similar awesome proportions, but those last 30 seconds...eh...

I could have included multiple other shows (Supernatural, Smallville, Reaper, Stargate: Universe), but I wanted to cover series that had concluded its run, either permanently or seasonally, in 2009. Since most of the shows (except for Reaper, which I didn't cover for the sole reason I didn't watch enough of the episodes to gain a adequate enough judgment of it; a DVD purchase is long overdue) were in mid-season limbo for the 2009-2010 season, none applied. Anywho, I hope you at least semi-enjoyed my critique of TV in 2009 (at least what I watched), and come back next year! Cheers!

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