Saturday, June 27, 2009

Flickchart Learnings, Part the First

Surely all of y'all of have become obsessed with movie ranking site flickchart, right?

If not, get thee there, nowish. And look me up, too.

In going through my rankings, I continue to learn things about my movie tastes:

  • I still subscribe to the "favorite" vs. "best" philosophy when ranking. And though the rankings don't quite reflect it yet, I'm beginning to think that my "favorite" movies -- the ones I find eminently rewatchable and enjoyable -- are Empire Strikes Back, Aliens and Raiders of the Lost Ark. When those come up against anything, there's simply no other choice.
  • I really can't stand Jim Carrey, with the notable exception of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is an alltime classic. I have a visceral reaction to seeing his mug pop up on a poster, and almost immediately want to click anything that comes up on the other side. I just don't find the rubber faced, over the top histrionics funny at all.
  • What was the last great comedy? Most of the ones I choose are older, like Animal House, Airplane, Caddyshack and Monty Python. Shaun of the Dead? Pixar? Yep, those are toward the top of the list, but are more "genre fusion" than just a pure, make you laugh comedy.
  • I don't really like horror movies. Suspense, yes. Horror? Not so much, unless it's an "alien" flick, The Exorcist or Scream.
  • The newest films in my top 50? The new Trek, The Dark Knight (which I've watched no less than 4 times in the last week or so since it's been on HBO) and Ratatouille.
What are you learning?

I'll take potpourri for $6,400, Alex

Top 10 Reasons why Trek is suddenly cool. (And none of those have anything to do with "Spock's Brain.")

Frak my life. Just read it and giggle.

Rating Woody Allen's films, from 1 - 40. Nice rankings, though personally, I'd put Annie Hall at #1. And probably have Bullets Over Broadway and Vicky Christina Barcelona higher. And Stardust Memories lower. Related: 10 Woody Allen proxies. Yeah, Celebrity was not up to snuff, but damn if Branagh didn't perfectly channel the Woodman.

I clipped this story about John Ensign and his hypocrisy on the whole ridiculous "defense of marriage" bullshit last week. And that was before another married with kids bible thumping nutjob jetted off Argentina to schtup his mistress. Yes, Sanford rejected the "stimulus package" because he was already getting his package stimulated. Haaaay-yooo.

Star Trek cakes. How cool are those? Here's an expanded look.

Are these the best sci-fi cliffhangers?

Hysterical! Michael Bay's keyboard.

Novel idea for sneaking booze into a ballgame.

The Madden ratings for the Atlanta Falcons.

Another TNRLM twitter suggestion shows up in the wild

Interview with the delightful Julie Benz. I didn't realize she originally also read for "Deb" on Dexter.

Fantastic gallery of spaceships on io9.

Count down the Top 70 Marvel Comics covers ever. Definitely worth a look if you're a comic geek.

I know he was from Florida, and went to college at Tennessee, but somewhere along the way, didn't Travis Henry ever learn about condoms? Hell, the "pull out" method would seem to be more successful.

Highlights from the recent Bear McCreary BSG concert. Awesome.

Pop Quiz, Hotshot: famous TV homes. (I got 80%, BTW).

Great article on how the "standard" MLB camera angle is so misleading. Yes, the "off center" approach composes a better picture, especially in the widescreen era, but dead center certainly gives you a better idea about the pitches.

Did anyone else know there was a "University of Andy" web supplement to Weeds? Here Andy explains how to hold your liquor.

Are these the 10 most polarizing films of the last decade? Certainly a solid list, and think I wind up on the "pro" side of most of these.

Interview with Hope Davis, who was so mesmerizing on In Treatment this year.

IFC put together a list of the 50 greatest movie trailers of all time (with clips). Also, while I couldn't find a link to the actual list with clips, preeminent movie magazine Empire also assembled a similar list a while back.

Did Ayn Rand want Farrah to play Dagny Taggert? (Still waiting on an Atlas Shrugged flick, and I think Angelina or Rachel Weisz would make a great Dagny).

The dangers of quitting smoking.

Supernatural casts their Lucifer. Great choice, but I wonder what this means for Lost?

Doctor Who returns tonight! Alan Sepinwall talks to Russell Davies, and Mo Ryan chats with David Tennant.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Grieving for Two

But not the two you might think.

Yes, I'm aware of yesterday's double whammy of celebrity passings. And yes, like everyone of my generation, I have an abundance of memories related to both Farrah and MJ. I had the iconic poster on my wall, of course. Watched Charlie's Angels. Went to see Saturn 3, being both a fan of hot chicks with feathered hair and sci-fi (and being terribly disappointed -- what an AWFUL movie. So awful, they completely dubbed Harvey Keitel's entire vocal performance). Listened to the Jackson 5. Had the "Off The Wall" and "Thriller" records (and still think the high points of "OTW" are higher than those of "Thriller"). Remember being in college and everyone congregating around a TV in the common dorm areas when MTV's on the hour showing of the John Landis "Thriller" video would play. (Remember "videos" showing on MTV and not vapid whores?)

So yeah, I was sad about that. But for some reason, seeing an animal pass away on film gets to me every time. Not necessarily in the uncomfortable way of the ox in Apocalypse Now, but more when a beloved pet shuffles off the mortal coil. I can't explain it. I'm not a crazy vegan and not about to go throw blood on the grand opening of a new KFC. But for whatever way I'm wired, Old Yeller made me cry far more than Brian's Song (though of course, that made me squirt a few also).

I bring this up, because Monday's The Closer just killed me. It was a very solid episode, with a great turn from a bitchy Mary McDonnell as a Internal Affairs officer, but Fritz and Brenda came to the resolution that their beloved Kitty wasn't going to make it. That ending scene with Brenda lying on the couch, arms around a sickly, purring and meowing Kitty just wrecked me. To make matters worse, I've been catching up on some Futurama episodes I've missed, and that same evening, what was waiting for me on the TiVo? The heartbreaking classic "Jurassic Bark," which revolves around Fry's "past" dog Seymour. Those final 30 seconds or so of that ep left me sobbing like an infant.

Maybe it's getting caught up in the emotional narrative of the story. Or perhaps because I think that one of my "kids" isn't doing that well. Whatever the reason, I'm glad that double dip in the pool of pet mortality is over, and I can go back to enjoying watching vampires, Cylons, stormtroopers, redshirts and other fake "people" die for my entertainment and fondly recalling the pop culture contributions of real people who are no longer with us.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Reconsidered: "Spock's Brain"

For more about "Reconsidered," see this.

"Spock's Brain," the first episode of Star Trek: The Original Series third and final season, is universally recognized as the worst episode of the show ever produced. Is it? Let's reconsider...

We open as the Enterprise encounters an unusual looking ship being powered by an ion drive. Before contact can be established, a mysterious woman beams aboard the Enterprise, presses a button on her wristband, and renders all 400+ crewmen aboard the ship unconscious. When they start to wake up, Kirk realizes Spock isn't on the bridge, and the captain is called to sickbay by McCoy. Spock is on a on bed in sickbay, and the good doctor tells Kirk:

Hammy acting that would embarrass day players in a telenovela ensues, and Kirk decides to high tail it around the universe looking for Spock's brain. McCoy helpfully explains that due to Vulcan physiology, Spock can survive without his brain (!) for 24 hours. The crew follows ion trails around for 16 hours, before coming to a system with three class M planets. Kirk holds an informal staff meeting.
First Officer's Brain is Missing Agenda:
  1. Review agenda items
  2. Give overcooked voiceover about time remaining before Spock's body can no longer function without its brain.
  3. Discuss implications of ion trailing and excessive voiceovering only leaving crew with time to visit one planet.
  4. Give Uhura something to do (which helpfully, is a suggestion that the least developed planet is emanating strange energy pulses).
  5. Play hunch on which planet to visit.
  6. Review meeting notes (which includes "develop Starfleet procedures for stolen brains" and "how to not look embarrassed in front of the camera when discussing stolen brains")
  7. Adjourn.
Kirk and a landing party beam down, and get attacked by some primitive local inhabitants. Kirk questions one, and because he's Kirk, instantly starts asking where the chicks are. The local doesn't seem to understand the concept of a "mate," (much to the chagrin of the bulge in Kirk's pants) and runs off. Chekov finds a cave, which leads to a buried city. Kirk calls McCoy, who beams down, with Spock, wearing a headset, which allows McCoy to, no shit, move him around by remote control like a Vulcan Roomba.

In the city, they encounter "the others," a bunch of hot chicks in miniskirts and thigh high boots, who have the mentality of small children. Spock's disembodied brain reaches Kirk and company via communicator, but the gal who originally beamed on the Enterprise shows up and renders everyone unconscious (again). When the gang wakes up, they are fitted with silver belts that cause pain when those wearing them don't do what they're told. Kirk asks the hot chick in charge about Spock's brain, and she responds:
"Brain and brain, what is brain?"
It turns out, Spock's brain has been put into a "controller," which is used to regulate the planet's systems, since the race of dimwits here has forgotten how to take care of themselves. And just how did these morons remove a brain? Glad you asked. There's a spiky helmet called "the teacher," which grants the wearer enough temporary brilliance to quickly remove a brain, without leaving a scar or disturbing the haircut. Our heroes make their way to the control room where Spock's brain is being kept, but are stopped by the hot chick in charge, who activates their pain belts. The crew melodramatically rolls around some, but Kirk activates the Vulcan Roomba, and Vegetable Spock grabs the chick's control bracelet, presses a button, and the belts fall off. Hot chick explains the brain removal process, and dons the spiky hat to prove it. Suddenly, she doesn't sound a functionally retarded cast member of "The Real Housewives of Sigma Draconis VI," and points a phaser, (set to kill!) at Kirk. Kirk tries to reason with her, but she's having none of it. Then Scotty pretends to faint -- faint! -- and evidently, the spiky hat only grants so much intelligence, because she falls for it, and Kirk grabs the phaser. She won't restore Spock's brain to the Vulcan Roomba, so McCoy dons the spiky hat and will do the surgery himself. Oddly, someone who was a trained Starfleet doctor before the knowledge transfer can't do the transplant as quickly as a miniskirted rutabaga, and McCoy starts to panic. Fortunately, Spock's vocal cords are connected, so he walks McCoy through the final steps of the procedure, and sits up, instantly healed. Spock then gives a lecture on the history of the planet, and how their genders separated. Kirk tells the hot chick they'll have to tough it out without a brain in the controller, and suggests they go to the surface of the planet to get laid (and take turns using the spiky hat so they're not all morons). Then, he tries to turn Spock "off" using the remote control, and everyone laughs. End.

So, does "Spock's Brain" deserve its reputation? Oh, lord yes it does. Not only is it by far the worst episode of Trek, it may be one of the worst episodes of television I've ever seen. The problem's with Trek's third season were legion. The budget, already tight to begin with, was cut even further. The show was moved to the Friday night "death slot." Because of the late renewal, scripts weren't prepared in advance. (Though to be fair, there were still some outstanding eps produced in this season, even as it was hit and miss overall, and "Spock's Brain" was first out of the gate, leaving little time for developing a quality script). Gene Roddenberry knew that this would be the last season of the show, and basically checked out entirely, leaving things to a new producer. Cast divisions were growing, and some of the series longstanding writers departed for greener pastures. Still, given all that, there's no way something this awful should have even been filmed.

There are some interesting sci-fi concepts here, superficially. A society so run down and used to not thinking for itself that it becomes populated with brain atrophied imbeciles. Gender division that causes a breakdown in planetary growth. A Starfleet officer kidnapped and used for his expertise and mental prowess to save a diminished civilization. But the merging of the three ideas is so haphazard and stupefyingly pasted together that it's an incoherent mess, baked with terrible dialogue and frosted with unnecessarily (even for Trek) overwrought performances. And the resolution? Yes, they get Spock's brain neatly back into his head, and he hops up seconds later with no ill effects. They share a laugh, and basically tell the planet that they are fucked and leave. (Not that brain kidnappers truly deserve any special Starfleet considerations, but still, tonally, it's terrible).

Other than pure camp value, and to see just how bad a legendary and groundbreaking show can be at its rock bottom worst, there is absolutely nothing to recommend here.

"Spock's Brain" Reconsidered: F

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Off suicide watch, for now

Well, today's visit from the DirecTV dude was certainly more productive than the previous one. As you will recall, the other guy said there was not much that could be done. This guy, however, was friendly, creative and responsive to the customer and his tremulous DTs and need for his smack beamed down from above. A minor reconfiguration and relocation of the dish, and voila! TV nirvana once again.

In my previous decade plus with DirecTV, I've always had pleasant experiences with field staff. My friend Freebird told me of mixed experiences with them, which surprised me. But in the last couple of years, I've seen that hit and miss quality myself. When I was getting the hook up last year, the first guy said it couldn't be done, yet the second guy worked his ass off to make me happy. Same thing this time. The first guy acted like he would have to put a pole and dish in the middle of the street to make it work (I would have gladly agreed, and told the traffic to just drive the fuck around, cuz we gots priorities), but the gentleman today was willing to do what it takes to keep me happy and find a solution.

All in all, I didn't miss much that I can't catch elsewhere, and as Commentor Scott pointed out in my previous post, thank Crom this didn't happen during season finale week. If it had happened prior to the Lost finale, it would have looked like the Tate-LaBianca murders around these parts.

Hey, I think I'll go watch some TV.

Obama not fit to be President

He didn't know the name of Conan's deity, nor could he answer three "simple" Dune trivia questions. For shame.

I keed, I keed.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, if you're a nerd, you have to at least be heartened by Big O's proud embrace of his geeky background. (The man gave Leonard Nimoy the Vulcan salute!)

And you'll also enjoy Nerd High Priest John Hodgman's performance at the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner:

Obviously, I'd feel better about things if the man with the keys to the launch codes knew what a "thumper" was, or the purpose of the "water of life," but at this point, why quibble.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I've decided that I hate trees

Longtime readers might recall the living hell I went through a year or so ago trying to finally get my beloved DirecTV with TivVo connected in the new digs. (Quick sampling here). Long story short:
  • Management promised I'd have a perfect view of the sky for the dish.
  • Signed papers, had furniture moved from another state.
  • Installers came, said my balcony missed the view of the satellite bythismuch.
  • Much complaining to everyone.
  • Got waiver from management, got a more creative install crew, who installed the dish on a pole 3 stories down and ran the cables up wall and in.
  • DirecTV bliss.
  • Until Tuesday.
I noticed my signal strength diminishing last weekend, until Tuesday, when it got so low I couldn't get reception at all. Thought it might be the multiswitch. Replaced the multiswitch, and it had no effect. Called for service, and today they come to visit and tell me it wasn't a mechanical problem, but rather a foilage and sightline problem:

click to embiggen

The technician told me there wasn't anything he could do, but that his manager would come out either tomorrow or Tuesday for a second opinion. I'm no satellite expert, but it would seem there could be a few possible solutions:
  1. First guy was wrong, and we can get it working without too much trouble.
  2. We find a way to trim the branches on the tree in the foreground (how? I have no ladder nor any clippers), and hope the tree across the street isn't the problem.
  3. We get a longer pole, and hope raising the height of the dish works.
  4. We move the dish to another location, providing we can find one on this tiny copse of grass, with an unobstructed view of the sky, and hope A. management doesn't bitch about it, and B. we can sufficiently bury the cable so that the maintenance crew doesn't chop it half when groundskeeping.
  5. I give up and kill myself.
  6. I call Comcast and retreat back into the dark ages of dysfunctional and undependable cable and their Commodore Vic 20 ripoff of the real, true god TiVo.
Now, seeing as I have 400+ blog labels relating to "television," you might correctly surmise that the tube is VERY FUCKING IMPORTANT. The past few mights, I've watched programs previously recorded. I've watched DVDs. I've read books. I've listened to podcasts. Early this morning, I watched last night's Burn Notice on Hulu (and of course, starting next week, online showings go to a 7 day delay). But this can't go on forever. Despite it being the summer TV season, there's still good and must watch stuff on, not even including news and sports, and all the dinero I paid last year for the privilege of watching the Braves get their asses handed to them nightly via MLB Extra Innings. I did everything the "right" way and played by the book. Taking my television and my TiVo is like taking my air. Or my whiskey. Or my coffee. Or my ciggies. This can go no further. The line must be drawn here.

In searching for that clip, I ran across this one, which is completely unrelated, but just made me giggle:

We'll know in a day or three how this all turns out, but if you see a story on the news (assuming, you haven't been fucked in the ass by the miraculous growth spurts of neighborhood trees and can actually watch TV) about a killing spree, where the perp had a handgun in one fist and a useless satellite dish in the other, you can probably figure out what happened.

Unless of course, the trees read this blog post and decide to get me first. Then I can stare indifferently into space like a constipated monkey, just like Mark Wahlberg.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The apocalypse is nigh

Fortunately, I've already made out a valid will. If you don't see a blog post for a while, someone break in, step over the rotting corpse, and give the cats a good home.

He'll be back, too

Today is the 15 year "anniversary" of the infamous O.J. Simpson white Bronco "chase" that mesmerized and horrified a national viewing audience.

We all know how things turned out for "the Juice."

Since I usually blog about things trivial and geeky, here's the sadly ironic factoid that always seems too impossible to be true:

When James Cameron was developing the original Terminator movie, he initially thought of the unstoppable killing machine from the future as a "normal" looking guy, who could blend in with his targets (much like Robert Patrick would in the sequel). His first choice was Lance Henrickson, with whom he had just worked on Piranha II. The studio vetoed that casting, though Henrickson was added to the film in another role. A second choice was none other than O.J. Simpson, but Cameron did not think "such a nice guy could be a ruthless killer."

Too bad Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese weren't around in Brentwood.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'll take potpourri for $6,300, Alex

What a real warp capable ship would look like.

TWOP is kicking off the Tubeys!

Torchwood Season 4 is ready to go, after this summer's 5 part miniseries. (I've missed you, Gwen).

Brennan is unlikely to get knocked up on Bones next season. Thank Zeus! After that clusterfuck of a finale, an out of character and preggo Bones might have driven the show from the Season Pass list.

A well crafted and slightly sympathetic "retro review" of Trek's worst movie, The Final Frontier.

A list of the 15 best sci-fi cliffhangers.

Intrepid Dawg Chronicler David Hale took twitter questions for Coach Richt. You'll see a familiar handle on the list of questioners, though sadly, I didn't get the answer I wanted.

Anyone see these pictures of Heather Graham and think of Marty Feldman? (Hint: it's not about her eyes).

Joss tells EW that Dollhouse will be back with a vengeance

Great list of sci-fi composers.

And then the Lord said, "show your cooter to the masses."

Did y'all hear about this fucking freaky Final Destination situation regarding an almost passenger on Air France 447? Spooky.

NPR assembled a list of the least appropriate wedding songs. Jezebel added a few, too.

Anthony Stewart Head talks about Ripper, Merlin and Buffy.

What words to we look up most often on Related, what words do online readers of the NY Times look up?

Are these the top 10 lines from Ghostbusters (which is doing surprisingly well in my flickchart rankings, BTW. And has Sigourney Weaver ever looked better than in this movie? This "subcreature" will step right up, thankyouverymuch).

Something here rhymes with "funt."

Lita Ford will be played by the "mama" of the Cylons in the new Runaways movie.

Shia LaBouf no longer interested in playing Yorick Brown
in the Y: The Last Man movie. Whew, we dodged one there. Not a fit for me at all. Does he bother everyone else? How about Anton Yelchin? Or Joseph Gordon Levitt? Ryan Reynolds, if younger, would have been PERFECT. Also, even moreso than Watchmen, Y is much better suited to an HBO or Showtime miniseries than a movie. If you haven't yet read Y, get thee to a comic book store (or bookstore) NOW.

Are these the 52 best natural racks of all time
? And while it's not exactly "natural," enjoy the fact that Xtina doesn't really care for undergarments.

Televisionary chats with Virtuality co-creator Michael Taylor.

Honest network taglines.

Jezebel ponders the fact that Sienna Miller gets another Vogue cover. Also, modern feminists are very against the concept of "slut shaming." (While I consider myself very pro-feminist, I have mixed feelings about that third wave tenet, for lots of personal reasons and experiences. Still, is it out of bounds to "shame" an English trollop who's very clearly humping and frolicking nakedly for the paparazzi with a married man who has kids back home?) Granted, Sienna was kind of cute on Keen Eddie, but GI Joe looks like a steaming pile of shit.

Very funny "embarrassing celebrity red carpet moments." Just click it and giggle.

11 terminally typecast actors.

Earth gets billion year life extension. Whew. Guess I won't worry too much about driving an SUV or recycling.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Sophie's Choice about...well...Sophie's Choice (or, yet another vast interweb sinkhole of time)

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered the miraculous, time consuming website called "Flickchart." The concept is simple:
  • Two movies pop up on your screen.
  • You click on the one you like more, and the system registers your choice.
  • Two more movies pop up, and you click again. Rinse, repeat.
  • The system ranks your choices over time.
That's it. Who thought it could be so damned addicting? Well, 4,000+ rankings later, evidently me.

Here's how it looks:

It's a fun little exercise that lets you determine exactly what your favorite movies of all time are.

A few thoughts on the process:
  • I guess you can use any subjective judgment you want. Personally, I'm applying the standard of "favorite." Which in my book, is an unscientific amalgamation of "well crafted," "artistically appreciated" and "enjoyably rewatchable" (factored through a prism of "do I own it on DVD?," "do I stop and watch it every time it's on TV?," and "how much have I had to drink?").
  • This poses some interesting questions. For example, Requiem for a Dream is without question a stunning piece of cinematic achievement. I own it on DVD. It's (rightfully) critically adored. But would I rather rewatch that than Big Trouble in Little China?
  • It's rough going at first. You'll see lots of the same movies over and over again, as the rankings start to pile up.
  • You can select "haven't seen it" for one or both of the choices. This does you the favor of creating a list of movies you haven't seen, so the next time you're wandering aimlessly around Netflix or the guide on DirecTV, you can pick out something new with ease. (or, you can continue to ignore the Larry the Cable guy oeuvre, as always).
  • You'll find out things about yourself, like even though Tom Cruise believes in alien volcano spirits and is a couch jumping punchline, I have a fondness for many more of his movies than I thought I would. (I FLOVE Minority Report, and I don't give a fuck what anyone says, Vanilla Sky is a great goddamned movie).
  • Some choices are painful and impossible. Animal House or Caddyshack? Godfather or Godfather II? Wrath of Khan or Terminator? Chinatown or Casablanca? Fight Club or Almost Famous? Vertigo or Rear Window? Sleeper or Love and Death?
  • Sometimes, I'm not sure what's going on with the algorithms. For example, The Big Lebowski was at the top of my rankings for a while, since nothing came up against it in the head to head choices that moved me to select anything other Lebowski. To the best of my recollections, I never picked against it. It was in the #1 slot for a while, then suddenly, without coming up for a head to head, it dropped out of the top 20. Hmmm.
  • Or, some flicks that you might "mentally" have in your top 10 or top 20, don't come up as frequently as you might want. Or when they do, they come up against an unbeatable choice, like Empire Strikes Back or Raiders of the Lost Ark, and vanish into the ether for a while.
  • Did I mention it's a huge, but eminently enjoyable, time suck?
You can go pick up the crack pipe at the Flickchart website, here.

You can also compare your choices with your friends, too. If you want to find yours truly, you can do so here. (or, if that doesn't work, my profile is "shanc13")

Hope to see you there.

(Also, someone should really do this with seasons of TV shows).

Pixar's Best Films

I ran across this top 10 list, which is one person's ranking of the Pixar films to date. It's probably a good time to consider the films, since there are now an even 10 out in the marketplace, Up is kicking ass in the theatres, and I've been ODing on showings of Ratatouille and Wall-E on the movie channels lately.

I'll rank only 8, since I haven't yet seen Up, and for some reason, even though I own it on DVD, I've never gotten around to watching Monsters, Inc.

So, TNRLM Best Pixar Films, counting down:

8. A Bug's Life: Nothing against it, but it only scratched the surface of what Pixar could do visually and story wise.

7. Cars: Despite a fondness for Paul Newman and some impressive character design, it didn't quite have the depth and heart of the others.

6. Toy Story: What child didn't wonder if the toys "came to life" when they were out of sight?

5. Finding Nemo: Making everything work in an underwater environment was a miracle of animation.

4. Toy Story 2: In one of those rare "Empire Strikes Back/Aliens" moments, I actually prefer the sequel.

3. Wall-E: The first 40 or so minutes are a masterwork of storytelling, and still the finest moments Pixar has put on film.

2. Ratatouille: So impressive visually (the fur and food, things so difficult to get right, are both just perfect), it has heart and laughs from beginning to end.

1. The Incredibles: Maybe it's just my inner comic book nerd, but this gets my number one slot in a close call. When we speak about the "best comic book movies," The Dark Knight, Iron Man, X-Men 2 and Spider-Man 2 often get thrown around (and with good reason), but The Incredibles, despite not being based on an actual comic book property, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath.

What about y'all? Agree or disagree?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

TNRLM Emmy Shortlist: Drama Series

Even though Battlestar Galactica was still one of the best shows on TV, and had many stellar episodes as it wound down, including “Blood on the Tracks” and “Someone to Watch Over Me,” I’m considering this nomination more of a “lifetime achievement award” than a pure recognition of the final season’s overall quality, since the series finale was such a letdown. Don’t get me wrong, “Daybreak” was about 90% there, and a beautiful and thematically fitting capper to a thoughtful, challenging and unrelenting reinvention of TV sci-fi. But months later, there are still too many loopholes and copouts that nag at me to call it “perfect.” You can’t please all of the people all of the time, and Ron Moore ended the show the way he wanted to, and for that, we should appreciate his vision and save the quibbles and debate for blog posts and message boards, and thank the gods we were able to enjoy as many years of this masterpiece as we did. So say we all.

This season, Big Love finally found the right “calibration” to elevate it to the level of TV’s best dramas. It had the menace and laughable lunacy of the compound again, but only in smaller, more effective doses. We had Bill’s harebrained marital and business schemes, but they didn’t overwhelm the fundamental reason why Big Love is so damned good – the complicated and interdependent relationships between the three sister wives. Each had an involving and juicy throughline this season: Barb, who struggled with her faith and her church, in addition to having a health scare; Margene, who lost her mother and realized a growing sense of independence; and Nicki, who is always involved in something juicy (this year, it was plotting with and then against her father, carrying on a quasi affair and then discovering her ex husband and child had returned from exile). Yes, there were other twists and turns for the Henricksons this year, including expanding their gaming business to a casino, daughter Sarah getting pregnant and then miscarrying, Joey tragically losing his new wife and even a kidnapping by the demented Hollis Greene, but it was the trials and tribulations of the three wives, and their relationships with each other, that give this show its heart.

There’s no way you can describe In Treatment to someone who hasn’t seen it and make it sound sexy and compelling. “Well, it’s about a troubled shrink who sees four different patients and then goes for a session with his own therapist. Each episode is usually two people in a single room talking about their problems for 30 minutes.” WOW, right? No robots, no vampires, no smoke monsters and no superheroes. Then why is it so damned watchable? ACTING. With the exception of one session (whose primary problem didn’t really hook me, and featured the issues divided, to the detriment of the segment, among three family members vs. a single patient) every single performer on this season made my Emmy Shortlist. The quality of the acting (and the writing, and in a low key way, the directing) was consistently excellent, and it would be hard to find that level of sustained performing brilliance on 35 episodes elsewhere.

All the splashing around in the time space continuum in season five of Lost may have confused or alienated some viewers, but I loved it. Whether or not it was all “worth it” won’t be known until the end game is played out, but I can’t ever recall a show giving us a never ending stream of WTF moments like Lost: They’re in 1977! Sawyer and Juliet! There’s a nuclear bomb! Ben’s at the dock with Des and Penny! Locke hangs himself! No he doesn’t! Ben strangles him! Sayid shoots young Ben! We’re not going to Guam! Dan’s mom shoots him! There’s Jacob! There he is again! Let’s blow the nuke! White screen of WHAT?! The thing about Lost is, despite all the genre trappings and knock you off the couch moments, it’s still all about the characters, who are splendidly written and acted, and not even the last hour return of the accursed “quadrangle” can diminish the fun we had on and off the island this year.

How in the world did HBO pass on this show? Last year’s freshmen sensation showed zero signs of a sophomore slump, and continued to establish its credentials as one of the great TV shows of all time. Every moment, every script, every visual, every performance and every detail of the era are so perfectly realized, you feel like you’ve traveled back in time (without the aid of a magical island). On the surface, Mad Men didn’t have the crazy, twisting plot elements that many of the best shows of the past year did, but the smaller, more human complications faced by the characters inhabiting the Sterling Cooper universe were no less involving. When a tense dinner scene, a missing dog, a trip to the stables, or a poolside party can be just as riveting as a spectacular space battle for the future of the human race or the detonation of a nuclear bomb, you know you’re watching a work of art that’s no ordinary show.

At the end of the last season, Rescue Me had gone so far off the tracks I didn’t even know if I would keep it in my TiVo season pass list. But some time off, abetted by the WGA strike, obviously gave the powers that be time to recharge and refocus, because Rescue Me came galloping out of the gate and hasn’t let up since. Everything we love about the show has come back in spades: human frailty and strength, forged in the rubble of the twin towers. Barbed, witty and profane male bonding. Sharply drawn characters, given a life of their own by outstanding performances. Writing that can make you guffaw one second, and then turn on a dime into something dark, disturbing and reflective. Sexual games and farce that feels straight out of a Blake Edwards movie. And that’s not even mentioning Michael J. Fox’s award-worthy turn as a pill popping, wheelchaired force of nature who is dating Tommy Gavin’s ex-wife Janet. Rescue Me may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly proven it deserves a place on this list this year.

Emmy Shortlist: Drama Lead Actors

TNRLM Shortlist: Lead Actor/Drama

Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment: It’s a shame this show doesn’t attract more viewers, because those who aren’t watching are missing a master class in acting from all involved. It takes special talent to make watching two people sitting on a single set talking for 30 minutes riveting television, but that’s what In Treatment is. Byrne, given more to play with this year than last, was spectacular, and made “listening” into an art form.

Jeffrey Donovan, Burn Notice: Several shows featured charismatic leads anchoring enjoyable procedurals (including Nathan Fillion on Castle and Simon Baker on The Mentalist), but Burn Notice really upped its game in the second season, and went from popcorn munching summer fun to must watch, thanks mainly to Donovan’s portrayal of outcast spy Michael Weston (good scripts and a fabulous supporting cast also helped). Donovan was also great in USA’s little seen and underappreciated remake of Touching Evil several years ago, so how about a little overdue recognition?

Michael C. Hall, Dexter: Hall has created one of TV’s most enjoyable and fascinating characters, a sympathetic serial killer. Though he can propel the show all on his own, it was great watching him in a cat and mouse game with Jimmy Smits in season three.

Jon Hamm, Mad Men: Season two of Mad Men gave us lots of Don Draper to appreciate. From his professional machinations with the Sterling Cooper crowd and obnoxious comic Jimmy Barrett (and his wife) to his existential time on the west coast, Hamm gave subtle shadings to a character who shows little on the outside, but has everything going on on the inside.

Josh Holloway, Lost: With his nicknames and bad boy behavior, Sawyer has long been one of the best things about Lost. Last season, however, Holloway got to play another side of everyone’s favorite conman, as “Jim LaFleur” attempted to build a new life for himself back in the 1970s era Dharma Initiative. His doomed relationship with the equally Emmy-worthy Elizabeth Mitchell was a highlight of a terrific season five.

Hugh Laurie, House: Yeah, the overall show has slipped a bit, but Laurie continues to bring the brilliance week after week, and it’s inconceivable that he hasn’t taken home a gold statue yet.

Denis Leary, Rescue Me: No show benefited from a break more than Rescue Me, which had fallen into a serious ditch, quality wise. But this year, it’s come roaring back with better scripts and inspired casting (including Michael J. Fox as Janet’s antagonistic new boyfriend), and fantastic lead performance from Leary. He handles the laugh out loud comedy and trips to the dramatic dark side with equal aplomb, and should be recognized for helping rescue Rescue Me.

TNRLM Shortlist: Lead Actress/Drama

Ginnifer Goodwin, Big Love: Big Love enjoyed its best season yet, and much of the credit has to go to the actresses who played the Henrickson wives, all of whom I’ve put on this list. Goodwin’s Margene dealt with the death of her mother, and the youngest sister-wife began to blossom as she started her own home shopping network career. Denial and ambition made an adorable package this year for Margene.

January Jones, Mad Men: Betty Draper took an interesting voyage on the second season of Mad Men, as she experimented with the power of her own allure and independence. Jones was up to the challenge, giving the audience a compelling view of a woman trapped in a difficult situation in a very different era.

Mary McDonnell, Battlestar Galactica: How is it even possible that McDonnell has never been nominated for one of the most iconic female roles in all of science fiction? Oh yeah, it’s “science fiction.” Despite the disturbing lack of attention given to extraordinary performances in “genre” programming, McDonnell deserves kudos for breathing life into a complicated character, and I could watch her “I’m coming for all of you!” scene over and over.

Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men: It was tough to be an ambitious career gal in the Mad Men era, as Moss’s nuanced and intelligent performance constantly reminds us. While she was great all year long, Moss should be on the Emmy list if only for her scene with Pete in the season finale. Great stuff.

Chloe Sevigny, Big Love: All the sister wives got compelling storylines this past year, and Sevigny was no exception. Nicki lived a double life, spied for her treacherous father, got caught taking birth control pills, reconciled with her slimy brother Alby and had to deal with the return of her abusive first husband and little seen daughter. Amazingly enough, Sevigny created sympathy for a character that on the surface would seem to engender little.

Jeanne Tripplehorn, Big Love: Concluding the Big Love troika is Tripplehorn, who masterfully took Barb Henrickson through a monumental crisis of faith and questionable commitment to “living the principle” in her plural marriage. Her performance was delicate, true and heartbreaking.

Summer reading for nerds

With all the renewed interest in Star Trek these days, thanks to JJ Abrams marvelous and entertaining reboot of the franchise on the big screen, I've been rewatching some of the original series episodes on TV. Yes, I'm a huge Trekkie (or Trekker, to be politically correct in the geek world) and have seen every episode of every Trek series, multiple times. But it's amazing how well many of the original episodes hold up, particularly when you consider the state of sci-fi on television at the time (it was consider a ghetto of kids programming), and the challenges of bringing an ambitious program like this to the air at all.

I was at the library the other day, and picked up "Inside Star Trek, The Real Story" by Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, who worked for Desilu, the production company (owned by Lucille Ball) that produced Trek. There is a lot of myth and legend now about the show, but this is a clear eyed, fairly objective retelling of the story of how Trek came to be, told by people who were on the inside of the production. It's a great look behind the curtain, and details the difficulties of producing a TV show and keeping it on the air in the late 60s.

Just a few of the interesting tidbits covered in the book:
  • The weekly budget to produce the show was, on average, around $185,000.
  • Gene Roddenberry's legendary womanizing, and how we have him to thank for all the cast's short skirts and diaphanous gowns.
  • The inherent problems in developing shootable scripts.
  • How the cast handled the instant embrace of the Spock character as a cultural icon. (Originally, Shatner made $5,000 per episode and Nimoy $1,500, others much less).
  • Roddenberry created the Chekov character in response to an article about Trek in Pravda, and the popularity of Davy Jones on The Monkees.
  • Nimoy wanted to renegotiate his contract after the first season, and based on a misunderstanding about how much the leads of Mission: Impossible (another Desilu production) made, his agent overplayed his hand asked for way too much money. In response, producers developed a short list of actors to take over the Spock ears and replace Nimoy. The list included Mark Lenard (who had already played a Romulan, and would go on to play Spock's father later), Larry Montaigne (who would play a Vulcan in "Amok Time") and even David Carradine!
  • Trek's relationship with prominent sci-fi authors of the day, including Isaac Asimov and the notorious Harlan Ellison.
  • The real contributions of other Trek vets, including Matt Jeffries, Gene Coon and "D.C." (Dorothy) Fontana.
  • Roddenberry's clandestine involvement in the fan campaign by Bjo Trimble to keep the show on the air.
If you're a Trek fan, it's a fascinating read and well worth picking up for some insight on how the iconic show came to be and struggled to say alive during its original run on NBC. A-

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Emmy Shortlist: Drama Supporting Actors

TNRLM Shortlist: Supporting Actress/Drama

Hope Davis, In Treatment: Davis took a character that on the surface - baby crazy, daddy issues, aggressive mood swings, inappropriately flirtatious Рcould have been an annoying clich̩, and turned Mia into a mesmerizing foil for Paul. She was sexy, demanding, vulnerable and electric and totally believable.

Allison Pill, In Treatment: In Treatment has been a showcase for young actresses that I wasn’t that familiar with: last year, it was Mia Wasikowska and this year, it was Allison Pill. Pill was riveting as the cancer patient reticent to pursue medical treatment, and her sessions on Paul’s couch were as honest as they were showstopping.

Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost: Juliet has long been my favorite female character on the show, and Mitchell, despite how they wrote her character in the last hour of the season, was outstanding throughout the trek back to 1977. Mitchell and Josh Holloway made the audience totally invest in the Sawyer/Juliet pairing, and Mitchell is a master of conveying a lot with a little. The Dharma times were good, but her scenes at the drilling shaft in “The Incident” were heartbreaking.

Annie Wersching, 24: It’s hard to be the “sidekick” on 24, because you’re probably going to wind up dead or a mole. Agent Walker turned out to be neither of those, and we were the better for it. Wersching brought a touch of sass and emotional depth to the role, and helped frame Jack Bauer’s humanity and struggles to do the right thing.

Dianne Wiest, In Treatment: Wiest was fantastic as Paul’s friend/therapist Gina this season, and her character had her hands full as Paul dealt with a lawsuit, familial troubles and crises of professional faith.

Olivia Williams, Dollhouse: Adelle DeWitt could have been a Machiavellian, clichéd icy Brit (and at first, she was), but as the layers of the Dollhouse were peeled back, so too were the layers of the character. DeWitt showed us additional colors in two episodes (the one where she and Topher were under the effects of a drug that caused them to “loosen up,” where she was hilarious, and the one where we learned about her personal uses for Victor), and Williams knocked those out of the park.

TNRLM Shortlist: Supporting Actor/Drama

Jeremy Davies, Lost: Nobody was more crucial to Lost’s time trippy fifth season than Daniel Faraday, and Davies imbued the doomed, damaged scientist with a tragic nobility. If his scenes with Charlotte didn’t bring tears to your eyes, you don’t have a heart, and his note perfect acting grounded the loopier plot elements.

Michael Emerson, Lost: Originally intended to be nothing more than a guest for 3 or 4 episodes, Emerson turned Benjamin Linus into a must watch linchpin for the entire series. With his dry line readings and unique spin on the material, Emerson is fascinating to watch, and nobody makes persistent prevarication this entertaining.

Michael Hogan, Battlestar Galactica: Since donning the patch after the exodus from New Caprica, Hogan has done more with one eye than most actors do with their entire faces. In the final season, Saul Tigh dealt with the nature of his Cylon heritage, the loss of a child and the reappearance of his long lost true love, and Hogan was stellar.

John Mahoney, In Treatment: Mahoney’s Walter was one of the more difficult patients on the couch this year, and watching Mahoney and Byrne go toe to toe through the character’s arc was a delight.

John Noble, Fringe: Was there another character on a drama this year more fun to watch? Walter Bishop was indeed the stereotypical mad scientist, but Noble gave him more than just a childlike id and wonderment and obsession with cows and snacks. He also showed us a man struggling with his sanity and tenuous grasp on reality, and living with the ramifications of the things he believes he’s done.

Terry O'Quinn, Lost: Few things on TV this year were more heartbreaking than Locke’s “final moments” in that run down apartment in “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham. No matter what the producers ask him to do, O’Quinn always delivers, and his “reappearance” in the final episodes of the season as a more confident, motivated John Locke was no exception.

Jon Scurti, Rescue Me: The show has come back with a vengeance this season, and Scurti continues to shine as the funniest member of the crew. Nobody on the show is better with a joke, but we also saw different sides of Lou as he dealt with his memories of 911 with the French reporter, and in what should be his Emmy highlight reel, castigated Tommy for his ongoing self-absorption.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I'm sure everyone has seen this compilation of "100 Best Movie Lines in 200 Seconds" that's been floating around lately:

It's a fun collection, though I would question the "best" title.

The folks over at Pajiba have compiled another list, which they entitle "The Other 100 Best Movie Quotes of All Time." Sadly, there's no video, but I laughed out loud several times just scrolling down through the quotes, so it's definitely worth your time.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I'll take potpourri for $6,200, Alex

Let's take a break from our Emmy shortlisting, and roll around in some miscellany. Sound good?

If you haven't yet seen Veronica Mars, get thee to the, where you can watch the entire first season for free online (only until June 29th). This show is awesome, of course.

Galactica Sitrep has an interview with a leading roboticist, discussing Cylons.
It's a fascinating read, but one thing that stuck out to me (sowing the seeds of my dissatisfaction with not only a major show plot thread, but the WTF of the ending):

What don't you like about the show?

This may put me in a bad light with Middle America, but the God angle – the fact that the cylons have a god – I really find that to be grating.

I haven't yet seen The Hangover, but I want to. Just watching the trailers, one question that popped up in my mind is "how do they do Ed Helms' missing tooth?" Make up? Digital effects? The answer is more straightforward than you think.

No matter how much they prayed, God couldn't save Tommy Tuberville's job. Maybe the staff should have been praying to the Almighty Bobby Lowder.

I never caught the Jeff Francouer quote "If OBP is so important, they why don't they put it up on the scoreboard?", which is hilarious. Some enterprising soul put together a t-shirt in Jeff's honor. Remember a couple of years ago, with an SI cover and universal adoration? Seems like a long time ago.

I was watching an old Quantum Leap episode the other day (the one where Sam helps out Marilyn Monroe), and the guy they had play Clark Gable was spot on. I kept thinking, "where have I seen him before?" Turns out, he's played Gable before in other productions, but equally as geeky, he was the legendary Dash Riprock! AND, he showed up at the "Shindig" on Firefly!

The absolute best, and funniest, things you will ever read on gay marriage. From SI's Jeff Pearlman.

Alan Tudyk chats about Dollhouse, V and Wash.

Land of the Lost isn't doing so well at the box office this weekend. Related, are these the 25 funniest Will Ferrell characters?

Whatever happened to TV theme songs?

Burn Notice triumphantly last Thursday. Alan Sepinwall chats with BN creator Matt Nix. Sepinwall also has great chats with In Treatment showrunner Warren Leight and Party Down creators Rob Thomas and John Enborn.

Good news for V. X-Files and Angel vet Jeff Bell takes over as showrunner.

Speaking of showrunners, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles honcho Josh Friedman takes to his blog to lament the cancelation of his show. Poignant and funny stuff.

12 million year old hominid with human features found in Spain
. Wait, I thought the universe was only 6,000 years old? Obviously, another case of the devil manipulating carbon dating and fossils.

The twenty sexiest ugly people.

Mountain range discovered under Antarctic, that's been untouched for over 14 million years
. Obviously, another case of Old Scratch duping scientists and geologists!

I'm not a videogame guy, but holy shit, does this new Beatles Rock Band game look awesome. Hell, the trailer is a work of art itself.

Children flying first class? Having long been a traveler who appreciates (and sometimes needs) that upgrade, I would have to offer an emphatic NO. (Unless the flight is Air France 447, Oceanic 815 or Ajira 316).

100 movie cliches that just won't die.

Dark UFO put up the results of their Lost season 5 Awards. Pretty interesting.

Great news! New Better Off Teds will be airing starting June 23rd.

Potential covers for the DVD release of The Middleman. Add this to your amazon wish list posthaste!

Dexter adds a new foil for season 4.

Fun with underage strippers back in Georgia
. I think we all know how this story ends.

Profiles in awkwardness: EW's "Idolatry" interviews Danny Gokey (if you're watched, or read, any of the Idolatry pieces in EW this year, you know they're big fans of the Gokester). How can you be on a music show, and not fucking know what band Michael McDonald was in?

Yes, she's annoying. Yes, her live singing leaves a lot to be desired. But these Katy Perry pics? I'll be in my bunk.

Cinematical looks at 7 female TV stars who should be in more movies.

50 dirty text acronyms every parent should know. Suddenly, my BlackBerry feels lonely.

Not only has God been forsaking the Auburn coaching staff, but apparently he's been busy elsewhere during the NBA Finals, since Orlando Magic player, and team dancer impregnator, Dwight Howard assured the media that the Magic would beat the Lakers because of the almighty. Evidently, even divine intervention can't prevent Kobe from scoring 40. No word on whether Howard will start drawing pentagrams and reading Aleister Crowley if the Magic lose.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

TNRLM Emmy Shortlist: Comedy Series

In many ways, TV’s best sitcom is also its most “traditional.” Big Bang Theory is a three camera set up, is only 30 minutes long (as opposed to the hour format of others on this list that are hour long action/fantasy/comedy hybrids), and doesn’t feature hyper-stylized shifts in narrative and time. That, in and of itself, doesn’t make BBT make so good. What does, is that it puts five unique and interesting characters into situational comedy, without sacrificing character integrity, and consistently mines those characters and situations for big laughs. You don’t have to be a big old geek to love BBT (though if you are, you’ll appreciate just how many details they get right about nerd culture); you just have to be a fan of comedy done right.

Chuck, like the other hourlongs on this list, is difficult to classify. It’s not a pure drama, though there are life and death stakes and moments of heartbreaking poignancy. It’s not a total action adventure spy romp, though they can stage Bondian capers on a TV budget with ease. It’s not a sci-fi show, though they feature enough gadgets, gizmos, plots for world domination and techy concepts to fit right in with a starship crew. And it’s not a pure comedy, even though Chuck brings the funny each and every week with not only the zany antics of the Buy More crew, but also within the spy realm (what other show would cast Chevy Chase as an evil genius, and have it work so remarkably?). Despite the genre bouillabaisse, Chuck upped its game in its second (and thankfully, not final) season, and consistently put a smile on the face of its devoted fanbase.

At this point, do any of us really care about the mother? Sure, it’s the maguffin that keeps the show rolling, but that’s not why we tune in week after week. In fact, even though Ted’s quest for a wife is where the show gets its title, ask any How I Met Your Mother fan to rank their favorite characters, and I’m fairly sure Ted would average out to fifth place. Though that has a bit to do with Ted’s ongoing douchiness, the rest of HIMYM’s cast is so strong and so adept at handling the comedy that it doesn’t hurt to have your ostensibly “central” character be the caboose on the funny train. In addition to the eponymous search, the other notable feature of the HIMYM style is the fractured narrative method of storytelling, circling back on itself not only within one episode, but also going back in time to previous seasons, the college days with bad wigs and forward to the future, with all our characters in old age makeup. Even though “how” they tell the stories is just as amusing as the stories they tell, the technique is never distracting and almost always adds to the payoff of a carefully constructed comedy denouement.

For the life of me, I’ll never understand why The Middleman didn’t get more love from critics and audiences. Maybe because it was hopelessly out of place on teen and woman centric ABC Family. Or maybe because it was hard to know what to make of the show at first glance. Was it a superhero show? A sci-fi show? A comedy? An adventure show? A spoof? An homage to the silver age of comics? One of the best written shows on television? The answer to all of these questions is “YES.” The Middleman was like a fusion of the old Batman TV show and Get Smart, if written by Stan Lee and 60s era Woody Allen. It featured a hopelessly square, and square jawed, milk-drinking crimefighter prone to nonsensical exclamations like “Sands of Zanzibar!” and “Hawks of the Luftwaffe!” who teamed with spunky and thoroughly modern partner Wendy Watson to take on threats like flying zombie fish, cursed tubas and vampire puppets. The Middleman had some of the most torturously tangled, and side splittingly funny, dialogue I’ve ever heard (very similar in its construction, if not tone, to the also exquisitely written Pushing Daisies), and it was delivered by a game and winning cast that expertly strode the line between comedy and camp, making the show a true undiscovered gem.

Another show that didn’t get the attention it deserved was the Starz original, Party Down. Created by Veronica Mars mastermind Rob Thomas (along with Paul Rudd, John Enborn and Dan Etheridge), Party Down chronicled the misadventures of an LA catering crew made up of Hollywood wannabes and has-beens, with each episode centering around a particular engagement. The characters were all sharply drawn, strongly written and winningly acted by a very, very talented ensemble. Each of the characters got moments to shine, and they were supported by a murderer’s row of guest actors including Steven Weber, Enrico Colantoni, JK Simmons and Kristen Bell, among others. Party Down has a little something for everyone: the uncomfortable cringe comedy of The Office, broad laughs and sight gags, caustic nerdiness, an improvised shagginess and vibe, romantic travails, and sly commentary on the economic disparity between the haves and have nots. Party Down has already been renewed for a second season, so I can’t wait to see where they take it next year.

Pushing Daisies is yet another sweet, rich, wry, wonderfully developed comic universe created by Bryan Fuller (along with Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me) to be canceled well before its time. It’s tragic, really, since nobody on television produces such beautiful little communities inhabited by brilliantly realized characters better than Fuller. While the set design and achingly twee construction of the show’s world set it apart from anything else on the tube, it’s the fitfully intelligent scripts, and the perfectly cast actors that perform them, that make Pushing Daisies a modern masterpiece. If only the piemaker could use his powers to bring this beloved show back.

I almost didn’t include 30 Rock on the list (replacing it with Better Off Ted), since this season was so hit and miss. Some ongoing plots, like Liz’s awkward relationship with Jon Hamm’s “so pretty he’s coasting” doctor worked fine, but others, like Jack’s romance with Salma Hayek (who really didn’t have the comic timing for this show) flopped on the beach like a gasping trout. But we don’t necessarily watch 30 Rock for carefully constructed plot arcs and a mirror view of real life. We watch 30 Rock because A) Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy are two of the best comic characters around today, and B) it has the highest ZPM (Zinger Per Minute) ratio of any show on TV, and on that front, even though it wasn’t up to the high points of seasons past, 30 Rock still delivered laughs aplenty. And that’s not such a bad thing.