Best of the Rest:
Television in 2007…
Best British Import: “Top Gear”
"Top Gear": Cars and crazy British guys - you can't go wrong.
If you’ve ever wondered if an amphibious car is possible, or if you can make a stretch limousine out of an economy car and chauffeur a celebrity in it, then “Top Gear” may just be your type of show. This long-running British program clearly loves car, but also revels in pushing the envelope (especially since it’s currently being hosted by the BBC2). Hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond (a diminutive Hugh Jackman look-alike) have impeccable chemistry, and witty British humour that especially comes in handy for car novices like me who have no idea what a rear-wheel drive is and have trouble locating the gas tank. The hour-long show features car reviews done on site, silly challenges that can take the crew anywhere from the streets of London to the North Pole to Africa, a Star in A Reasonably Priced Car segment, which puts a celebrity in an economy car for a lap race (curiously enough, Simon Cowell currently holds the fastest run time), and dirty jokes every five minutes. But even without the fancy cars and star power, “Top Gear” is interesting enough to keep tuning in.
Best Ensemble Cast: “Scrubs”
As the show nears the end of its run at the end of this season, we can take this time to reminisce about the wild and crazy antics of the Sacred Heart Hospital staff. “Scrubs” is noteworthy because it managed to do what no other show could do: successfully set a single-camera comedy in a hospital. As light-hearted as “Scrubs” may be compared to other dramas like “E.R.” and the ilk (who are truly missing out by not employing fantasy sequences), it does have its moments of poignancy and introspection, most notably when J.D. performs his voice-overs at the end of the episode. We’ve watched for seven years as the interns grew into doctors, and as they went through life changes like pregnancies, marriages, and deaths. But through it all, they had each other. Forget what they say about Zach Braff being the second coming of adult dramedies – without John C. McGinley, Sarah Chalke, Donald Fasion, Judy Reyes, Neil Flynn, and Ken Jenkins, there would be no show.
Best Retirement: “7th Heaven”
A best and worst list can’t go by without a mention of the popular WB show and, for once, it earns a nod in the best category for its (final) cancellation after eleven long and drawn out seasons. Once the number one show on the WB, its last season played out on the new CW, the network responsible for finally putting the often preachy and patronizing show out of its misery. After eleven years, we have to ask ourselves, what exactly did we learn from this show? For starters, posing for Maxim is probably the best career move you’ll ever make on this show, and having actors that actually look like they could be related to one another is inconsequential to the story – what really matters is that they all have equal amounts of non-acting talent. Oh, and that smoking is bad.
Best Villain: Vanessa Williams, “Ugly Betty”
It doesn’t take much to play a bad guy on television – all you need, really, is some low lighting, a snarled lip, a puff of smoke following you around constantly, and ominous music playing in the background every time you enter a scene. But it does take a lot to play a bad guy well, which brings us to Wilhelmina Slater, the nefarious ex-editor of Mode magazine. Wilhelmina is your worst kind of villain too: she’s shrewd, calculating, and will throw her own mother under a bus to get what she wants. And as Wilhelmina, Vanessa Williams exhibits beautiful range, going from comedy to “Dallas” campy to downright evil with a flicker of her well-manicured hands. Although her plans to take over Mode, and then put it out of business have been foiled, it’s always fun to tune in each week to watch Williams work her deliciously villainous magic.
Best Way to Get Fired From a Hit Show: Isaiah Washington
“Grey’s Anatomy” is known for its often melodramatic plotlines, but it didn’t take long for behind-the-scenes drama to brew. When stories of Isaiah Washington deriding a castmate’s sexual orientation began surfacing, and T.R. Knight’s eventual coming out on “Ellen” (and the coincidental coming out of Neil Patrick Harris, which may be indirectly linked), it was clear that the backlash would severely hurt Washington’s career. And faster than you can say “apology,” “counseling,” and “PSA,” Washington was let go from the hit show and hastily written out by the time the fourth season rolled around. Washington’s story is one that teaches us that actors are not only held accountable for their actions, but are also clearly disposable.
Best Way to Take A Hit Show and Make It Suck: “Desperate Housewives,” “Heroes”
Like “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Heroes” were lauded so much in their first seasons that it was only a matter of time before the shows would lose some momentum. But no one would be prepared for this to happen in their sophomore seasons. After an action-packed first season, “Heroes” slowed down for its second. In fact, it was so slow that it was like watching Jessica Simpson do math. Bring back more Hiro! “Desperate Housewives,” now in its third season, feels like one long joke that no one wants to hear anymore – and really, there’s only so much you can do with Susan’s klutziness, or Gabby’s surreptitious yet “hilarious” affairs, or Lynette’s daily annoyance with her own family, or Bree’s Martha Stewart waspiness, before it gets boring.
Best Way to Impress The Tween in Your Life: “High School Musical 2” and “Hannah Montana”
"High School Musical 2": Why talk when you can sing?
If you’ve ever watched shows like “Saved by the Bell” on Saturday mornings, then you know the pain that is “High School Musical 2” and “Hannah Montana,” except that with “Saved by the Bell,” we never had to listen to Screech sing about his secret hobbies. Though “High School Musical 2” and “Hannah Montana” are cheesy as hell, they’re still wildly popular with the youngsters in our life. Perhaps it’s the power of Zac Efron’s ambiguous masculinity, or Hanna Montana’s Hilary Duff look-alike blonde wig that fluctuate the ratings to unheard of proportions, or have the DVDs flying off the shelves. But whatever the concerns may be with the actual quality of these shows, there’s no denying that these Disney cash cows, with value-infused narratives and innocuous teen stars, will continue to be wildly popular for years to come.
Biggest Trend: Geek Is In
With the writers’ strike still in full effect and shows disrupted from finishing their seasons, it’s hard to remember exactly what we were watching before reruns of “David Letterman.” But before the strike began, the new fall season was inundated with shows about geeks – yes, geek is back, and according to networks, it’s fun to watch. “Chuck,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The IT Crowd” (which has yet to debut), and “Aliens in America” all feature protagonists who are so socially awkward that they’re cool. Of course, they’re no Napolean Dynamites, but relatable characters make these shows closer to real life than most, which is refreshing considering the myriad of reality shows and dramas on television that rarely feature anyone that we’d actually befriend in real life. What’s next – a size ten on network television?
Most Compatible Couple That Still Doesn’t Make Sense: Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel
If we’ve learned anything from Mike Myers and Jim Carrey, it’s that even the funniest comedians in the world are rarely funny in real life. But even if this is true, that doesn’t mean that real-life couple Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel aren’t making each other laugh on a daily basis, does it? After all, he’s a passable late-night talk show host, and she’s an ex-“Saturday Night Live” bit player who hosted the 2007 MTV Music Awards to mixed reviews. With similar career aspirations and acerbic wit, this couple seems like the perfect match on the surface. But when Silverman appeared on Kimmel’s show to promote her show, “The Sarah Silverman Program,” what began as cute banter soon transformed into a bickering, passive-aggressive fight over Silverman’s fondness for sport jerseys, which Kimmel claimed made her look unfeminine. If you’ve ever watched a couple bicker in public, you’ll know how uncomfortable this was to watch. Suddenly, audiences were treated to a glimpse of what life must be like living with Kimmel and Silverman, and that’s when the laughter stops.
Most Puzzling Finale: “The Sopranos”
As a Journey song played over the last minutes of “The Sopranos,” everyone waited with bated breath to see the fate of Tony Soprano, the most notorious mobster to grace the small screen. But fans got a huge surprise when, during the tense final moments, the screen abruptly cut to black, with no clear resolution in sight. The next day, boards and media articles were abuzz with speculation about the puzzling ending, with some camps conjecturing that the sudden silence and black screen meant imminent death for the famed mobster. Whatever the meaning behind the last scene may be, David Chase, the show’s creator, is keeping mum. Although the show ended on a less climactic note than what audiences expected, it’s a fitting end to the life and times of a man who lived his life by his own rules.
Most Undeserved Cancellation: “The Class”
Sure, the ratings sucked, but if we’re talking quality, “The Class” was undeservedly axed this year. With an innovative concept (the show’s main characters attended grade school together and are involuntarily reunited when they are invited to a surprise birthday party), likeable characters played by Jason Ritter and Lizzie Caplan, favourable mid-season tweaking (the disappearance of horrible character Holly Ellenbogen), and the creative minds behind “Friends,” “The Class” seemed like it had finally hit its stride. As far as sitcoms in a post-“Friends” world go, this one was one of the better and, as we settle down for another episode of “Carpoolers” or “American Dad,” it will sorely be missed.
On the Outs: Domestic Comedies
Like voting for George W. Bush, no one will admit to watching domestic comedies like “’Till Death,” “Two and a Half Men,” and “According to Jim,” and yet these shows still manage to draw relatively impressive ratings while other, more revered shows like “Friday Night Lights” and “Pushing Daisies” struggle to find an audience. Gone are the golden days of “Family Ties” and “The Cosby Show,” as we trade in Michael P. Keaton’s sweater vest for James Belushi’s butt crack, and Bill Cosby’s sage advice for Charlie Sheen’s playboy antics. After the retirement of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and, to a lesser extent, “The King of Queens,” it seems that domestic comedies are struggling to find the humour – any humour – in familial bliss. If you live with anyone who’s even remotely annoying like this bunch, you’d be struggling to find the joy, too.
Scariest Reality Show Contestant: Sanjaya Malakar
Sanjaya Malakar: The hair, she is better than the voice.
If you’ve caught any of “American Idol”’s sixth season, then you’ll remember Sanjaya Malakar as the prepubescent teenager from Seattle who desperately wanted to become a real boy and sing. Malakar was put through to the top hundred, then the top thirty, and finally, the top ten, where he continued to assault audiences with mediocre performances and poseur hair. But since this is “American Idol” that we’re talking about, it only prompted viewers to keep him in the competition for as long as humanly possible. Week after week, we watched as more deserving contestants were voted off in favour of keeping Malakar around. In week six, he was finally voted off, but not without making us forget that “American Idol” is a talent competition first and foremost.
Worst Show Ever Made: “Cavemen”
After watching “Alf” and “Mork & Mindy,” I thought I had seen it all. But that was before “Cavemen” debuted on ABC’s fall line-up. Based on an annoying commercial gimmick, “Cavemen” follows the lives of three cavemen who are, for whatever inexplicable reason, living in the modern world. Does hilarity ensue? We’re still waiting for the answer to that one.
Worst Sibling: Jamie Lynn Spears
Hot damn, 2007 wouldn’t be a complete year without at least one teenage pregnancy. Since Britney is off avoiding court time and running over photographers, it’s up to her younger sister, Jamie Lynn, star of the family-friendly show “Zoey 101,” to pick up the slack. The news that Jamie Lynn is barefoot and pregnant should come as no surprise, considering the family lineage. But what is surprising is to realize that even Britney, in all her trashy glory, had the sense to wait until her early twenties to start a family. You know there’s a problem when Britney is the most responsible sibling in the family.
Worst Answer to a Question, Ever: Miss South Carolina, Miss Teen USA Pageant
Normally, we wouldn’t look to beauty pageants as the breeding ground for scintillating opinion, and this year’s Miss Teen USA Pageant proved to be less than the exception when Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina, stepped up on stage. In the question and answer portion of the night, she was asked why she thought one-fifth of Americans couldn’t locate the United States on a map. What followed was an answer so stammered and jumbled that only Whitney Houston could make sense of it. Included in her response were the terms “U.S. Americans,” “the Iraq,” and sentences like, “our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S.” She also threw in something about “Asian countries” for prosperity. Her response quickly became the most watched clip on YouTube for the month, and she was forced to appear on “The Today Show” to try to convince the general public that she wasn’t as stupid as we suspected (in her defense, “A fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think that is?” might come across as a confusing question…if you’re like two years old). But what is more surprising is that Upton still managed to place fourth overall in the competition after her abysmal answer – which goes to show you that as long as you throw in some buzz words like “the Iraq” and general sentiments about the United States’ prominence over the world, your stupidity will be excused.
Worst Way to Resurrect A Career: Michael Richards, Kramer from “Seinfeld”
As Kramer on the popular 90s sitcom “Seinfeld,” Michael Richards became an iconic figure in television, sharing the torch with Archie Bunker and Heathcliff Huxtable. But who knew that behind the pratfalls and zany hair lurked the heart of a bigot? Surely not the crowd who attended Richards’ dreadful stand-up show, and ended up being assaulted with racial epitaphs previously relegated the likes of xenophobic broadcasters like Don Imus. The incident was caught on a cell phone camera and, thanks to YouTube and sites like TMZ.com, quickly spread and effectively tarnished his career. Richards later appeared on David Letterman via satellite and, in front of special guest Jerry Seinfeld, asked for forgiveness for his actions. Unfortunately, it was as sincere as a Dog the Bounty Hunter apology, and Richards went from illustrious “Seinfeld” alumni to entertainment pariah – and an unfunny one at that.
Worst Way to Spend an Afternoon: “The View”
With the whole Rosie O’Donnell debacle that marred the first half of the year, you’d imagine that Barbara Walters would exercise better judgment with her selection of co-hosts – and she did, sort of. When Whoopi Goldberg was announced as the new moderator of the show, everyone was ecstatic. As far as we knew, Whoopi was not engaged in any Donald Trump feuds, nor did she run a website filled with her incoherent ramblings. But there was still a spot to fill, and for some inexplicable reason, “Almost Perfect” actress Sherri Shepherd was tapped to fill in the seat left by Star Jones. The cast changes did little to lessen the annoyance that is “The View,” but things got even stranger when Shepherd admitted that she hadn’t given much thought about whether the world was flat (how Whoopi didn’t throw her chair at Sherri, I’ll never know), and dismissed the theory of evolution. There isn’t much value in watching “The View,” but it is fun watching Shepherd learn new things about the world, much like a newborn baby. ¤ C.Ho.