Tag Archives: Best of 2007

Top 10 TV shows of 2007

Well, here we are…the final “Best of 2007” list that I’m going to be putting together for you guys (you’ll notice that there’s no “Best Music of 2007” list…that’s because I listen to very little music recorded after 1986). So, without any further ado, here are my picks for the 10 best shows of 2007.

1. How I Met Your Mother

Probably the funniest non-animated half-hour show on the air today. It’s like Friends…only funny. What does HIMYM have that others shows don’t? First, it has an awesome cast. Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, and Neil Patrick Harris are on fire each and every week. Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders have only become watchable since their characters split (and, I might add, Smulders’ Robin has become at least three times hotter without being saddled with Radnor’s Ted). Second, HIMYM might be the reigning king of TV catch-phrases (thanks, in no small part, to Harris’ Barney). Not only did this show breathe new life into the waning classic “awesome”, but it also brought us “legendary” (and its endless hyphenated permutations) as well as “Slapsgiving”:

2. Eureka

Eureka is a throw-back to a simpler time in television. The premise is simple: U.S. Marshal Jack Carter finds himself transferred to a top-secret government-run town full of super-geniuses.

Each week, Sheriff Carter finds himself confronted with a new mystery, usually involving some kind of wacky, super-scientific invention created by a resident of the town or by Global Dynamics, the government think-tank at the heart of Eureka. If you want harmless fun with off-the-wall characters and “gee-whiz” sci-fi gadgets, then Eureka’s for you. It’s a mix of X-Files and Twin Peaks, starring the cast of Northern Exposure.

3. Heroes

Might as well get this out of the way, right? Everyone had Heroes fever in the first half of 2007, and with good reason. The freshman season of the show was one of the greatest television experiences I’ve had in recent years (I think the last show that I really, truly looked forward to each week as much as I did Heroes was Buffy). Rewatching the first season on DVD made me realize just how well the show was plotted and executed.

I’m the first person to admit that the second season stumbled out of the gate. The writers and producers came to their senses and did their best to make the last third of “Generations” (the title for the first half of Heroes second season) as exciting as the first season. I think they managed to pull it off, effectively preventing what could have been the largest crash and burn I’ve ever seen.

4. Big Bang Theory

I probably never would have looked at Big Bang Theory if it hadn’t been scheduled after HIMYM. I’m glad it was. If HIMYM is the funniest show on television, this is a close second. The premise is fairly simple: four highly intelligent, but ridiculously socially awkward guys are forced to interact in the real world when “hot girl” Penny moves into the apartment across the hall from physicists Leonard and Sheldon.

I’m usually less than thrilled by the ways that geeks, dorks, and nerds are portrayed in Hollywood. Too often I find that Hollywood geeks are just normal guys with floppy hair and glasses whose geek-cred doesn’t extend any further than the current best-selling video game (I’m lookin’ at you, Chuck!). Leonard, Sheldon, and their posse are true geeks. Many of their conversations and arguments sound like ones I’ve had with my friends at one point or another. Okay, maybe they take it a little too far from time to time…but, what do you expect, it’s television.

5. Drive

In the future, when scientists make a list of the television shows that were killed long before their time, two shows will be at the top: one of them is Firefly, and the other is Drive (both, ironically, starring Nathan Fillion…I hope he’s not the superstitious type).

Drive tells the story of an illegal, underground cross-country race where many of the participants are bullied, cajoled, or otherwise coerced into racing. Fillion’s Alex Tully, for example, is forced to join when his wife is kidnapped. Each week, contestants are given riddles that they must solve in order to make it to the next checkpoint. If it takes you too long to get to a checkpoint, you’re out of the race (don’t worry, sometimes the shadowy group running the race will give you a second chance if you agree to rob a bank or shoot someone in the face). It was probably envisioned as a mobile version of Lost, and I would have been down with that for two reasons: (1) Nathan Fillion and (2) Emma Stone.

6. Burn Notice

Burn Notice is to the action-adventure genre what Eureka is to sci-fi: an homage to a simpler time. Burn Notice would have fit nicely into NBC’s Friday or Saturday night schedule back in the ’80s. It’s the story of Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donnovan), a government agent who pisses off someone in power and gets fired (or “burned”, as the Feds call it). He ends up with no job and no money in Miami, where he does what anyone else would do in his situation: he uses his spy training to become a private detective. As if his life isn’t complicated enough, Michael also has to deal with an ex-girlfriend (Gabrielle Anwar) who used to run guns for the IRA, a buddy (Bruce Campbell) who’s informing on him, and his mother (Sharon Gless):

7. Doctor Who

This show has been around for about 79 years (well…maybe a little less), so if you have no interest in watching it, me telling you about it probably won’t have any effect. But, on the off chance that you’ve never heard of it before (and you like time travel, aliens, parallel dimensions, immortals, and British people), please check it out.

The Doctor is the last living Time Lord, a race of immortal aliens who have mastered time and space. He travels from planet to planet, from past to future, looking for adventures and helping those in need. Currently in his 10th incarnation (when a Time Lord is about to die, they can regenerate into a new person, making it easy to recast the ridiculously long-running BBC series), the Doctor travels with human companion, Martha Jones. I must admit that it took me a little bit to get into the third season, but I’m glad I did.

8. 30 Rock

I know that people say that bad things come in threes, but can’t good things come in threes, too? Along with How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock is the most consistently funny show on TV. Alec Baldwin and Tracey Morgan are having so much fun being ridiculous that you can’t help but come along for the ride (one of the greatest moments of the year involves Baldwin, Morgan, therapy, and the spirits of half of the cast of Good Times). 30 Rock never shies away from the insanity that is Corporate America and the “Television business”, whether it’s Seinfeld-vision or product placement:

9. Bionic Woman

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you remember watching the original Bionic Woman, then you probably won’t like this 21st century reboot. However, if you enjoy mindless action shows, strong female characters, and Miguel Ferrer, then you probably would have enjoyed this:

Sadly, lackluster ratings and the WGA strike has pretty much killed Bionic Woman. Another fine program bites the dust, and American audiences are deprived of the gorgeous Michelle Ryan.

10. House

There are two kinds of shows that I really love: Procedurals and any show with a lead character who’s ridiculously intelligent but socially inept. House is both of those things. Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House is a rarity on American TV, a main character who is not a nice person. House is rude, arrogant, and borderline misogynistic. He’s also one hell of a doctor. Give him a mysterious illness and in about 52 minutes he’ll have it figured out.

This current season has gotten some bad press, but I think it’s as good as any of the previous three. I like the idea of House turning his search for three new assistants into something akin to a reality TV show (if we live in a time when Kid Nation is considered viable entertainment, then why not?). I like that Foreman (who quit last year because he was afraid of becoming “just like House”) is forced back to his old position because no other hospital wants him. Why? Well, it seems he’s just like House. The cast is just as good as always, including additions like Kal Penn and Olivia Wilde (whose “Thirteen” might as well have been named “Cameron Two-point-Oh”), although I confess that I will miss “Ridiculously Old Fraud” almost as much as House will.

5 movies that earned their 11 bucks in 2007

2007 was the first year in a while when I was able to see almost all of the movies that I wanted to see in the theaters (Netflix is a horrible enabler for those who enjoy sloth).  I enjoyed most, if not all, of them–Fantastic Four 2 was good until the last two minutes; Spider-man 3 was fun despite the scene where Peter Parker suddenly transforms into an emo, jazz-dancing lesbian; Live Free or Die Hard was awesome even though it was rated PG-13; and, although it might not have been the movie I would have made, I enjoyed Transformers.  But, none of these movies truly earned the 11 bucks that I had to shell out for a few hours of mindless entertainment.  What follows are five movies that, for various reasons, truly earned the money I spent to see them.

1. Zodiac

What could be better than a movie about a serial killer?  How about a movie about a real serial killer.  Add a cast that’s a delightful mix of Faces (Robert Downey, Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, and Mark Ruffalo) and That Guys (Anthony Edwards, Elias Koteas, Charles Fleischer, Donal Logue, and Brian Cox) and put them all into the capable hands of the guy who directed Fight Club and Seven.

I’m a fan of procedurals…straight-forward narratives about men and women doing their jobs.  Zodiac is two and a half hours of men and women doing their jobs, frequently obsessively so.

2. Grindhouse

Who wouldn’t be willing to pay $11 to see two full-length features and a bunch of goofy fake trailers?  Apparently, a lot of people.  But, as a friend of mine pointed out: most people are just afraid of awesome. 

Just look at that.  It’s got it all.  Even fake trailers:

Now, it’s inevitable that anyone who saw Grindhouse prefers one of the features over the other.  Personally, I like the gore-soaked, zombie-fest Planet Terror over the more psychological thriller that is Death Proof (although Kurt Russell kicked seven kinds of ass in that one and Mary Elizabeth Winstead stands around in a cheerleader uniform).  But, you need to see them both, back-to-back, to get the real Grindhouse experience.  That’s why it’s really sad that Dimension released them on separate DVDs.  I’m holding out hope that we’ll get some kind of special edition collector’s something or other…so I can experience Grindhouse again, the way you’re supposed to.

3. Superbad

Possibly one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen (which I know is a very bold statement). 

Most people I know agree with me; those who don’t usually fall into one of two camps: those who thought it was too juvenile and those who didn’t think it was juvenile enough.  Is it juvenile?  Yeah, absolutely.  But, what it has that other dick-and-fart movies don’t have is heart.  I liked American Pie and the Trip series (y’know, Road and Euro), but I never got the feeling that the characters liked each other very much.  But Evan and Seth are friends.  They care about one another.  They might not show it unless they’re wasted, but it’s there.  And who doesn’t like McLovin?

4. 3:10 to Yuma

Maybe it’s just me, but I find westerns (real westerns, not the P.C., namby-pamby Dances with Wolves crap) highly satisfying.  Maybe I like them because there’s nothing more American than a western.  Maybe it’s because like the procedural, there’s very little room for debate in a western: you know what you have to do and you do it.  Or it could be that I just loved Russell Crowe and his hat:

Whatever the reason, I walked out of this movie extremely satisfied.  Christian Bale and Crowe were awesome, as always.  Ben Foster was fucking insane.  Alan Tudyk was goofy.  It was everything I could have hoped for.  Plus there were horses, trains, and shoot-outs.

5. The Simpsons

You run a huge risk when you try to transform a television show into a movie.  It doesn’t always work (I’m lookin’ at you, X-Files).  But, sometimes it does:

The folks behind The Simpsons gave fans exactly what they wanted: essentially three very good episodes of the TV show.  They didn’t try to reinvent the wheel.  They simply used what’s worked on the show for the last 47 years.  The feature film weaves the three usual television plots into one arc–you have the “Family Dynamic” plot, where one or more members of the Simpson family messes up and has to earn the forgiveness of their kin; there’s the “Simpsons on the Road” plot, where circumstances force the family out of Springfield to some other location (in this case, it’s Alaska); and there’s the “Townspeople Go Ape-shit” plot, which pretty much speaks for itself.

The only way this could have been a better movie is if Sideshow Bob, Kang and Kodos were in it.

Top 10 Books of 2007

‘Tis the season for lists of this sort.  However, unlike most other Top 10 of the Year lists, not all of these books came out in 2007 (hell, some of them are almost as old as I am!)…I just happened to read them in 2007.  So, in no particular order, here we go:

1. The Big Nowhere, by James Ellroy

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The second book in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet.  Like the first book, The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere builds upon actual events: the Sleepy Lagoon murder case and the Zoot Suit Riots.  A brutal string of sex murders is rocking L.A., but the Law is too busy hunting down Commies to give a damn.  There are three separate storylines that all slowly come together.  The best one?  The story of Buzz Meeks–disgraced cop turned mob bag-man.

2. The Archer’s Tale, by Bernard Cornwell

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Set during the Hundred Years’ War, this first book of Cornwell’s Grail Quest Trilogy,  introduces readers to a young archer named Thomas of Hookton.  The Archer’s Tale doesn’t try to sugarcoat history: the mid-14th Century was a pretty bad time not to be royalty, and Cornwell doesn’t hesitate covering his archers and infantrymen in blood, gore, mud, and shit.  Oh, and for sheer entertainment value, Cornwell throws in a family secret, multiple sackings, revenge, and what may be the Holy Grail.

3. The Gun Seller, by Hugh Laurie

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So, imagine that Raymond Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe found himself dropped into the middle of a Robert Ludlum novel.  Now imagine that the entire thing is told to you by Bertie Wooster.  That’s pretty much all you need to know about Laurie’s espionage pastiche about government conspiracies, arms-dealing, and being in the absolute worst place at the absolute worst time.

4. The Templar Legacy, by Steve Berry

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Poor Steve Berry…he’s been unfortunate enough to get lumped together with dozens of post-DaVinci Code authors.  I understand the comparison.  Many of Berry’s books have cryptic historical puzzles that need to be decoded.  There are frequently Church conspiracies and cover-ups.  But, I’ll be honest, Berry is a much better writer than Dan Brown (and I enjoyed Brown’s two Robert Langdon books).  The Templar Legacy begins when former U.S. government agent Cotton Malone, now a bookseller in Copenhagen, witnesses a purse-snatcher commit some kind of ritual suicide.  From there, Malone is pulled into the search for the fabled archives of the Knights Templar, which reportedly contains information that would destroy modern Christianity.

5. IT, by Stephen King

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After over 15 years, I decided to revisit King’s classic about an evil force that masquerades as an evil clown in a small Maine community.  I had forgotten how truly fucked-up IT actually was–and if you’ve read the book, you understand why it’s so funny that I have forgotten details over time.  It’s not scary, per se (although I’m the first to admit that I don’t scare easily), but it is quite disturbing in the “small-town conspiracy of silence” way, like another of King’s novels, ‘Salem’s Lot

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling

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I feel like anyone who doesn’t know what the deal is with this book probably (a) doesn’t own a computer, or (b) has no idea what the internet is.  What I will say about the final book in the epic story of “The Boy Who Lived” is this: despite a few hiccups, it really is an amazing book.  I feel like Rowling kind of beats us over the head a bit with the “This is just what Nazi Germany was like and our society is heading there, too” metaphor, but I credit her with creating the kind of suspense that has you worried that some beloved character will die at any moment (she delivers, of course, but the near-misses are the ones that really get your heart racing).

7. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

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Fans of Moore and O’Neill’s first two League volumes rejoice.  It is now the 1950s, and Moore’s alternate Britain has finally emerged out from under the oppressive regime of Orwell’s 1984.  Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain are on the run from British Intelligence–including a gadget-laden, thuggish lad named Jimmy–after stealing the titular Black Dossier.  Once again, Moore shows that he’s not only read every book ever written, but he can also copy the writing styles of countless writers from numerous centuries (his “lost” Shakespeare play is a prime example).  However, Moore doesn’t limit himself to literary characters, as this volume also includes references to characters from music, film, TV, and radio.  Despite the total awesomeness of the book, I think I would have preferred a straight comic narrative with the excerpts from the Dossier in the beginning and the end, rather than having them inserted into the current storyline.

8. Proven Guilty, by Jim Butcher

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In Butcher’s eighth Harry Dresden novel, Harry–the only professional wizard to advertise in Chicago’s Yellow Pages–is given the unfortunate task of bringing his best friend’s daughter before the wizard’s ruling body, The White Council, for breaking laws she didn’t know existed.  To make matters worse, Harry has to deal with the seductive spirit of a Fallen Angel that’s taken up residence in his subconscious, as well as the on-going war between the Wizards and the Vampires.  Luckily, Harry’s got friends on his side who’ll back him up when his do-gooder tendencies get him in over his head.

9. Black Order, by James Rollins

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James Rollins grew up on adventures stories about Doc Savage, Flash Gordon, and Tarzan.  He turned his love of adventure stories into a career as an author of techno-thriller adventure stories.  Black Order is the third novel featuring Rollins’ Sigma Force–a top-secret unit of Special Forces soldiers who also happen to hold doctorates in various scientific disciplines.  These “soldier scientists” are tasked with defending America’s technological superiority, and this time around that involves hunting down a device that fundamentally alters a creature’s DNA.  Did I mention that this device was built in the 1940s by the Nazis and that Sigma Force has to outrace two factions of still-active Nazis with differing philosophies?

10. Hack/Slash: First Cut, by Tim Seeley, Stefan Caselli, and Federica Manfredi

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Another comic book, this one about young Cassie Hack and her hulking, simple-minded sidekick, Vlad.  Cassie was the sole survivor of the serial killer called the “Lunch Lady”, who also happened to be Cassie’s mom and a Slasher–a person who is filled with so much rage at the time of their deaths that they come back from the grave as an unstoppable killing machine.  Cassie and Vlad travel the country, hunting down and dispatching Slashers wherever they find them–think a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural.  This volume collects the first three Hack/Slash one-shots, which were followed by subsequent one-shots and an ongoing series in May of 2007.