2008 was an interesting year for television. The Writer’s Strike put a huge damper on our weekly watching schedule early in the year, and caused some of our favorite new shows grief. This year also saw us go without 24, Sylar try to be a hero, some Losties getting off the island, the end of Vic Mackey’s career and the last remnants of mankind discovering a desolate Earth. Even with the problems caused earlier in the year we were treated to some great moments and episodes of television.
Yet without the characters and shows we loved doing their best to make a bad situation tolerable 2008 could have been the worst year in recent TV memory. It wasn’t quite that dire, and to prove it we have picked the best of the best to give special Blend Television End of Year Awards to. Blend TV editor Kelly West and I ordered some fish tacos and nachos, a few cold beers, and sat down to discuss who was tops in television this year.
Best Male Character
Sylar - Heroes: It took just one line for Sylar to turn everyone back around on the character. He had spent previous seasons being an interesting, if getting a bit tired, bad guy. Then Fall of 2008 hit and Sylar went goody goody. It actually wasn’t all that bad of a character story, despite backlash from fans. But what puts Sylar in the running for Male Character of the Year is his gleeful fall back into evil. All it took for us to love the villain again was, “Cake!”
Admiral Bill Adama - Battlestar Galactica: How can Edward James Olmos top his previous years' performances as Bill Adama? In a show that is still great, if a little too disjointed from the family story told in earlier years, Adama had some major breakthrough moments in 2008. As much as I'm behind Col. Tigh's character, it can't be denied that Adama was the man. He finally stepped up and went for Roslin, even staying alone in a Raptor to find her. And then he was told that his best friend is a Toaster. Watching Adama break down -- heck, even just thinking about it -- puts that little lump in your throat only an honest and heartfelt performance can acheive.
Jack Donaghy - 30 Rock: There’s just no way to overstate Jack’s importance on 30 Rock. In a show that relies on great characters interacting with one another (a la The Office) Jack is the cornerstone of the show. Liz Lemon is just too much the every person dealing with the craziness of the workplace to stand out. And the other characters are far too quirky to be the backbone of the show. Jack brings a satirical edge to 30 Rock that makes the show an edgy and biting comedic commentary.
Best Female Character
Angela Montenegro - Bones: Bones’ best friend at the Jeffersonian has had a stellar year. While critics consistently wonder at the success of Bones, a show that looked to be on the verge of cancellation when it first appeared, all you have to do is point to the wonderful characters that make the series a perfect companion to House. It also helps that Angela is the non-doctorate common gal who puts things in perspective when cases get gross. She’s often the one to bring up the disgustingness of the gooey mess on the table, and she does the same for the personal lives of the characters as well.
Cameron - Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: As a character, Cameron is refreshingly blunt and unfeeling. She can't help it. She's a robot. In many ways, every show should have a Cameron, if only to remind the other characters of what's really important whenever they find themselves getting caught up in petty drama. She's awkwardly funny at times and unintentionally hilarious when she imitates human behavior. And did we mention, she dances? Kudos to Summer Glau for her excellent portrayal of what otherwise could be just another hot-chick-robot.
Robin Scherbatsky - How I Met Your Mother: Step aside Barney Stinson, there's another hilarious character in How I Met Your Mother that needs to be recognized. Oh, rest assured, we love you NPH but Cobie Smulders really stepped up the humor this year, giving us yet another reason to adore the series. Robin is so many things; a tomboy, a woo-girl, a former teen popstar, a proud Canadian, a potential love interest to Barney and an all around fantastic character.
Best Comedy Series
How I Met Your Mother: Between the usual flashbacks, the fake flashbacks, the occasional flash-sideways, the hilarious Robin Sparkles B-Side track "Sand Castles In the Sand," the naked man, the woo girls, Britney Spears' surprisingly funny guest appearances, the almost wedding and so much more, what wasn't to love about How I Met Your Mother this year? The series delivers comedic excellence on a weekly basis. While 2008 went by without a single slap from Marshall, the show has proven episode after episode that it can be consistently great, even if we still don't know who the mother is. It almost doesn't matter who she is. The story of Marshall, Lily, Ted, Robin and Barney has given us a reason to laugh on Monday nights.
30 Rock: There was a time when Thursday night comedy on NBC was floundering. The network was trying to recapture the classic style of the 90’s sitcom. And then came the single camera comedy format. The endearing characters, including Tracy Morgan who is allowed to be funnier than he ever was on SNL, make 30 Rock one of the best comedy ensemble pieces to hit television since a group of friends made a masturbatory bet. 2008 was a stellar year for the Tina Fey helmed series, as it grew comfortable in the comedy and commentary being told each week.
The Office: If you’re going to talk single camera comedies, then you need go no further than the little show that NBC thought couldn’t…and then did in a big way. It seems so long ago that this series was a floundering comedy on the verge of cancellation. The most amazing thing about The Office is that the people working at Dunder Mifflin are the same folks we met years ago. Except for Ryan, who turned into a cocaine snorting douche. But you can see where that landed him, right back as the temp we originally knew. 2008 wasn’t the pinnacle year in the show’s history, but even when The Office isn’t perfect it’s better than most of the schlock you’ll find on TV.
Best Drama Series
Breaking Bad: Breaking Bad gave us a reason to ignore what the writer’s strike had done to midseason earlier in 2008. This story of a desperate man with virtually nothing to lose had us on the edge of our seats as we watched Walter White, the broke chemistry teacher, cancer victim, father of a son with Cerebral Palsy, and husband to a pregnant wife decide to make crystal meth in an effort to make some money to leave his family. I can't even begin to wonder how someone came up with the concept for this series but it's brilliant. We know what White is doing is wrong but at the same time, it's impossible not to want to see him succeed in his drug-cooking scheme.
Battlestar Galactica: "We're going the wrong way!" Sure, we had to wait until April for the first half of the fourth season of BSG to air but was it not worth the wait? Starbuck's return, the Cylon's dividing, the big reveal of the final four-of-five, the Adama/Roslin romance, Tigh putting a baby in Six, Baltar's cult and of course, the insane half-season finale in which they get to earth only to find that the place is in shambles and appears to be abandoned all contributed to making BSG an outstanding series this year. Sometimes I miss the earlier seasons when the series focused more on some of the simpler dramas and struggles aboard Galactica but the mounting suspense that each episode delivered this past season more than makes up that.
House: Sometimes there are watershed moments in a show that makes even the casual fan stand up and take notice. While Dr. Gregory House and his new band of misfits continued on their merry breaking and entering ways for most of 2008, the show dared to buck the trend and open up House’s heart. Oh, I know the episode was “House’s Head/Wilson’s Heart” but just watch that dream sequence with House. Hugh Laurie finally takes TV’s best doctor to a place that is raw and without guile. And guess what? They proved that the core team from the show’s inception aren’t the only ones the audience can attach to. For a series based on a solid formula to shake things up so much and then spend 2008 making it work just as well as before is incredible. The new kids are not the equivalent of Leonardo DiCaprio showing up on Growing Pains.
The Best Moments On TV In 2008
Breaking Bad - The bathtub falls through the floor - Note to self, when destroying a body, don't pour acid over it in a bathtub unless it's in the basement. Otherwise, keep a mop and bucket handy.
The Office - Jim proposes to Pam. Nothing like a marriage proposal that takes place at a rest-stop gas station in the pouring rain.
Big Brother 10 - Dan makes the worst deal in BB history with Ollie and then reneges on it, leaving Ollie fuming. We're not sure what was funnier, the fact that Dan made the deal to begin with or the fact that Ollie thought Dan would actually stick to it.
2008 Beijing Olympics - Phelps wins the 100 meter butterfly. You had to watch the underwater cam in slow motion in order to see that one one-hundredth of a second that earned Phelps the gold. Brilliant.
How I Met Your Mother - Barney introduces the Bro Code, giving us yet another reason to love his character.
Battlestar Galactica - Col. Tigh tells his best friend, Admiral Bill Adama, that he is a Cylon. This resulted in the most personally emotional scene in the show’s run, a welcome addition to all of the big to-do that has become the search for Earth That Was.
Heroes - Caught literally red handed Sylar turns, smiles, and exclaims “Cake!” Taking our fallen villain back to his former gleefully evil glory.
House - During a white light bus sequence House tells Amber that he doesn’t want to be miserable any more.
So You Think You Can Dance? - Twitch and Katee use a door frame to perform a Mia Michaels routine to Duffy’s “Mercy.”
2008 Beijing Olympics - The Chinese show off with the best opening ceremony of any Olympics games ever.
TV Entertainer of the Year
Tina Fey: Tina Fey has long been the sexy smart gal every guy wants. Her snarky attitude, librarian glasses, and rapport with the audience made her stint as co-anchor of SNL’s “Weekend Update” the best in the show’s history. She’s since moved on – with friend Amy Poehler contending for the top “Weekend Update” spot – and what came about was Mean Girls. A film that was advertised as more schlocky teen comedy, but turned out to be hilarious and smart. It also happens to be the last time Lindsay Lohan was relevant.
Fey has since moved on with 30 Rock, elevating the show to the pinnacle of comedy genius. Under her guidance the series went from floundering with the masses to a successful commentary on everything from video game development to men in power with serious mommy issues. Her portrayal of Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin went from quirky character to national phenomenon faster than you can say “Maverick!” With a wink and a smile Tina Fey locked up 2008.
For more of Cinema Blend's BEST OF 2008 click here.