Following on the heels of my Top 10 Books of 2008 comes this list of what I consider the ten best shows of 2008 (most of these did, in fact, debut in the 2008 calendar year…however, one or two have been on the air for a while). So, in no particular order, here we go:
Leverage premiered in early December, barely making the cut as a 2008 show, but I’ll be damned if it might not be the best show of the year (or, at the very least, my favorite show of the year). Why? A few reasons. First, it stars Timothy Hutton who is, in no uncertain terms, 10 pounds of awesome in a 5 pound bag. Second, the basic premise is totally up my alley: after getting screwed by the company he works for, a former investigator for an insurance company gathers a team of thieves and grifters to rob from the rich and powerful to help the helpless. Bonus points for the limber, vaguely sociopathic blonde cat burglar.
2. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
The first two Terminator movies might very well be the greatest pair of films ever made (and, yes, I’ll admit that I didn’t even hate the third one), but does that mean they’d translate well to the small screen? Some people might say “no.” However, I think Sarah Connor Chronicles is pretty good. You can’t help but respect a show that (a) casts Summer Glau as a killer robot from the future, (b) casts Garret Dillahunt as anything, and (c) goes out of its way in the first episode to erase the third movie from existence (hint: it involves time travel, naturally).
3. The Office
Okay, I admit that for the last few years I’ve avoided the American version of The Office like a plague-invested village. I really love the BBC version and the first few episodes of the American series were shot-for-shot copies that, in my opinion, just did not work. But, after catching a few episodes on TBS, I decided to give it another shot…and, if you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I’m pretty much in love with this show now.
Fringe was probably the most hyped new show of the year for two reasons: J.J. Abrams is more or less a TV god these days and Fox was hoping this would recapture some of that old X-Files magic. But, to tell you the truth, I had no desire to watch it. So, with absolutely no expectations, I watched the pilot and was immediately won over by Joshua “Please don’t call me Pacey” Jackson, John “Boromir is dead?” Noble, and a cow. Yes, I said “a cow.”
5. Ben 10: Alien Force
Alien Force is a sequel to Cartoon Network’s Ben 10, which was about Ben Tennyson, a ten year old who finds an alien device that allowed him to turn into ten different alien heroes. This sequel series is set five years later, and Ben has to use a different set of aliens to find his missing grandfather and fight off an alien invasion of Earth. Ben is aided by his cousin Gwen and former adversary Kevin Levin. As much as I liked the original series, I think Alien Force is a vast improvement: the animation is cleaner and the writing is more mature (both in terms of basic plots and humor).
Crusoe fills a gap in network programming that has existed since the ’80s ended: the rippin’ yarn. This is an adventure series, plain and simple. If you want pirates, savages, muskets, swords, and gadgets made out of vines and bamboo, this is the show for you.
7. In Plain Sight
I’ve decided that there is a single reason that God invented cable television, and that reason is to have a place to produce and air shows like In Plain Sight. Remember when there used to be shows about old ladies who solved murders, priests who solved crimes, and guys who hung out on boats with robots? Those kinds of shows used to be all over TV. Now, they can only exist on cable stations like USA or TNT. In Plain Sight is a show like that. It mixes action, suspense, and humor in careful balance. Plus, it co-stars Paul Ben-Victor and Peter Weller’s cousin.
It’s a scientifically proven fact that I love cop shows. I can take or leave your basic doctor or lawyer show, but give me a cop show and I’ll follow you anywhere. Flashpoint is a little different from your average cop show, though. For starters, it’s made in Canada. But, more importantly, it doesn’t follow your basic “let’s solve this crime that’s been committed” storyline. The main characters on Flashpoint deal mainly with hostage situations, so you pretty much know “whodunnit” already. Also, most episodes begin in medias res, with a member of the Strategic Response Unit trying to negotiate with the perp, and then flashback to see how we got there.
9. Eleventh Hour
Eleventh Hour is far from unique among the new shows for 2008. First of all, like Life on Mars, it’s an American remake of a British series. Second, it deals with similar pseudo-scientific situations like those found on Fringe. Now, I’ve never seen the original BBC series, so I can’t really talk about the former statement; however, as to the latter, although Fringe and Eleventh Hour both deal with pseudo-science, the similarities more or less end there. The science crimes presented on Eleventh Hour are played a little bit straighter than those on Fringe (no hot sauce-chugging bald guys or old ladies with robot hands on Eleventh Hour).
10. Bones and NCIS
Neither of these shows premiered in 2008, but they each did something of note in this season. Last season, Bones ended with the reveal that Brennan’s assistant, Zack Addy, was in league with the Gormogon serial killer. This season, Zack is behind bars at an asylum and occasionally helps the team out Hannibal Lecter-style. To find Zack’s replacement, a string of applicants have paraded through the Jeffersonian, including Brennan’s estranged father. The writers could have pulled a House and turned this season into “The Quest for Zack’s Replacement”, but giving each potential replacement two or three episodes on their own to grow as characters was a great move–plus, it allowed the writers to examine the dynamics of the team through fresh eyes.
A few seasons back, the team on CSI was broken up into two different teams. That lasted for most of the season. This season, NCIS did something similar. It lasted two episodes, and I’m not complaining. I knew coming in that Gibbs wouldn’t rest until his team was reassembled. What I never suspected was the real reason why his team was disbanded and that it would have repercussions throughout the entire season. Oh, and we got to meet Gibbs’ dad this season.