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The Writer’s Perspective : TV of ’08

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Weeksy Here,

I’ll be taking over Kris Ashton’s eternally-popular “The Writer’s Perspective” column (Kris is choca-busy editing a major magazine now, and assumingly can’t be seen consorting with the likes of coke-fuelled “Caffeinated” Clint… not many of us can be) – at least until I’m poached by another website (who pays big!), find something else to do with my typing fingers (hello ladies!), or NBC cancels “Friday Night Lights” (I’ll be going out on a Highlander-like beheading frenzy if that happens). For the meantime, enjoy my weekly/daily/whenever-the-hell-I-feel-like-it rants…

BEST TV OF 2008

It’s a little hard for me sometimes to break down a “Best Of” list for the year – especially when it comes to movies. For me, the experience of going to the cinema and seeing something truly outstanding is a much smaller probability than watching an incredible episode of one of my favorite shows – so while I will supply you with my Top 10 TV shows ranked in order, but I’m going to pussy out on the Top 10 films, instead here’s just a little list of the flicks I really enjoyed:

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”
“Iron Man”
“Slumdog Millionaire”
“The Dark Knight”
“Zack & Miri Make A Porno”
“Mamma Mia”
“The Wrestler”
“The Strangers”
“Cloverfield”
“The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button”
“Stop Loss”
“Pineapple Express”
“Gran Torino”
“Shine A Light”
“The Incredible Hulk”
“Milk”
“Choke”
“Rocknrolla”

So in my book – if you’ve watched those flicks, you’ve probably had a decent year in entertainment – nothing made me laugh quite as much as the “Dutch Rudder” from “Zack & Miri”, creep me out as much as “Sack Man” in “The Strangers” or hit me in the heart than Mickey Rourke’s scenes with Evan Rachel Wood in “The Wrestler” – but it’s just too much of a pain in the ass to rank them – but I’ve got definite opinions on the TV side, so let’s go to that:

10). “Ashes To Ashes”
The spinoff series to “Life On Mars” was a show I was looking forward to in a big way – and was enormously let down by a less than quality first episode. In a way, coming of the back of the incredible two season run of “Life On Mars” gave me very high expectations, but thankfully by the time a few eps had clocked over, it reached the same levels, and finished strong. While Keeley Hawes isn’t quite as involving as the mighty John Simm, Philip Glenister’s “DCI Gene Hunt” remains one of the best characters on TV.

9). “Generation Kill” (Mini-Series)
From the creators of “The Wire”, this seven part look at a Recon Marine unit in 2003 Baghdad was a great example of how to tell a story about Bush’s “War On Terror” from all sides – the troops, the Iraq citizens and their families – this didn’t seem to get as much attention as it should have while it was airing, so I can easily recommend picking up the box set.

8). “Dexter”
The introduction of Jimmy Smits and the Season opener final twist wasn’t quite enough to elevate the third set of “Dexter” stories to the heights of the incredible second Season, but “Dexter” is still “Dexter”, and despite a somewhat disappointing finale, it just wouldn’t be a top 10 without our favorite Serial Killer in it.

7). “Chuck’
“Chuck”, alongside “Eli Stone”, “Dirty Sexy Money” & “Pushing Daisies” was a new show that suffered the mother of all traffic jams when the Writers Strike hit, but unlike those others, “Chuck” has managed to come back bigger & better thanks to some fan favorite casting choices being made (John Larroquette, Tony Hale, Michael Clarke Duncan, Rachel Bilson, Jordana Brewster – hell, even Nicole Richie was good in it) – but more importantly, the trio of Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski & the great Adam Baldwin all hit it out of the park in every episode.

6). “Californication”
I wasn’t sold completely on the first season of “Californication”, despite some genuinely sweet & heart touching moments – it was still disturbing as all bollocks to realize the hot chick I was seeing naked in the first episode was “Gracie” from “The Nanny”, or that I saw way too much Duchovny ass during it’s run – but there’s no denying that “Californication” has some very smart writing, and some absolutely inspired casting, and the second Season gelled it all together in a perfect way – even if the ending did leave me a tad apprehensive about the forthcoming third season.

5). “Sons Of Anarchy”
I didn’t really hear anything about “SOA” leading up to the premiere episode – so I wasn’t even aware that Ron Perlman was a part of it, or even the general storyline – so I was a happy camper to find it to be a very hard edged look at a Motorcycle Gang operating out of Charming, California – think of it as a cross between “The Shield” & “The Sopranos” and you won’t be too far out of the general idea. Coming from Kurt Sutter, a former Writer (and Producer) on “The Shield”, it’s already got legs and the second season is on its way.

4). “The Wire”
The show that just never got its due – unless you count the rabid fan base of celebrities & TV Critics alike who consistently called it the best show on TV – along with newly elected President Barack Obama. After 4 seasons of consistently lower than average ratings, HBO elected to shorten the final season to only 10 episodes, and unfortunately it does show in some regards – there are some nice bookends to earlier characters, but the main storyline does feel just a *touch* rushed in the end – that being said, even when it’s not at the top of its game, “The Wire” still remained some of the most compelling TV ever made.

3). “True Blood”

Based on the series of books by Charlaine Harris, I wasn’t quite sold on the original pilot of “True Blood” – some things felt a little off, but by the time the series went to air – it flowed considerably better. Alan Ball’s take on the Southern Vampire Mysteries still managed to feel a little flat for the first couple of episodes, but soon straightened out as the ensemble cast began to expand, introducing characters like Alexander Skarsgård’s Sherriff Vamp, Eric; Lizzy Caplan as Amy, Stephen Root as Eddie – the supporting actors really helped kick the show into gear, and by the time the finale rolled around, I was already counting down to the second season.

2). “John Adams” (Mini-Series)
Sitting only just behind “Band Of Brothers”, “John Adams” is one of the best Mini-Series ever made, no question – the cast alone – Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney, Sarah Polley, David Morse, Danny Huston, Tom Wilkinson, Rufus Sewell, Justin Theroux etc. is incredible enough – but this absolutely fascinating look at the American revolution, and the birth of the United States is the definition of “Can’t miss” – I loved every minute of it.

1). “Friday Night Lights”
Incredible, Amazing, Brilliant, Beautiful, Mesmerizing – pick your words, “Friday Night Lights” is not only the best show on Television right now, it is quite likely my favorite show that I have watched to date. This is one that Clint & I spend a good amount of time talking about, like we’re a couple of Yentas on “The View” – but it’s just so damn addictive and you invest so much of yourself in it if you truly “get it” – why this show struggles to find an audience (although it has done well on DirecTV this season) is beyond me. This is one of those rare shows where I have watched the first couple of seasons more than a few times each – I don’t know how to convince people to watch it, but even if it’s just me – I love this show beyond words – and Connie Britton is amazing.

So that’s it – my top Ten for TV in 2008 – there’s a bunch of shows that I still watch every week, and really enjoy as well – “Scrubs”, “30 Rock”, “Survivor”, “Gossip Girl”, “Supernatural”, “The Office”, “Heroes” and a whole bunch of others – but in a season I wasn’t particularly impressed by, the best episode of TV out of everything this year came from “Lost” through an amazing performance by Henry Ian Cusick in February episode – “The Constant”, the story of Desmond jumping back in forth in time was one of the best episodes of the series to date, and the best of the year in my book.

Now it’s onwards to watch new “Damages”, “Big Love”, “24”………

Adam ‘Weeksy’ Weeks

View Past Writers Perspective Columns (by Kris Ashton) here

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