2012 Televised

Farewell, 2012. Here’s what I watched, for better or worse. Let’s dig in!

BEST DRAMA: Mad Men

After a lengthy absence, everyone from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was back in full force. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to label Season 5 as the best of this outstanding series (I often go between Seasons 2 and 4 depending on the day), but this was indeed an amazing collection of moments as our characters hurtle closer towards the denouement that will be 1970. From “Zou Bisou Bisou” to Lane and Pete exchanging punches in the conference room, from acid trips to Hare Krishnas, from the prostitution of Joan to the suicide of Lane, each episode had the impact of a Ben Hargrove (or should I say Dave Algonquin) short story.

BEST DATE: Louie and Liz – Louie

Talk about acid trips! This was a Woody Allen filmscape turned inside out and upside down. Rooftops (from which I really wanted Liz to jump), dressing rooms, and can we all just take a moment and revel in the orgasmic splendor that was the detour to Russ & Daughters? It was never going to end well (as later episodes showed, maybe?), but what a night in Manhattan that I never wanted to end.

WORST USE OF A CLIFFHANGER: NCIS

Now I love me the escapades of Gibbs and his team, and I was on the edge of my seat during Season 9’s finale. But when the show returned, a summer’s worth of momentum evaporated in five minutes. Here’s the thing. Everyone knew that all of the actors negotiated new deals, so no one was going the way of Sasha Alexander’s Kate or Lauren Holly’s Jenny. But spread the revelations out a little bit! Bang! Ducky’s fine and Jimmy’s right there with him. Boom! Abby and Gibbs make it out of her lab with just a few bumps and bruises. Blammo! Ziva and Tony are killing time in the elevator, and she’s able to get a cell phone signal and speak to her father in Israel! And that piece of glass in McGee’s side? He’s fine after the commercial break. Don’t get me wrong. Season 10 is going strong with “Phoenix,” “Gone,” and “You Better Watch Out” among the highlights. But this was a waste of suspense on par with the Moldavian Massacre fallout.

BEST CHARACTER: Hannah Horvath – Girls

Played to utter perfection by series creator Lena Dunham, aspiring writer Hannah is without question “a voice of a generation.” Smart and funny but also self-absorbed and lazy, everyone has either been or known a Hannah at some point in their lives. She’s both the cool kid you want to hang with and the needy relative you desperately avoid. I can’t say I approved of every move she made in the show’s spectacular first season (weird as Adam is, she did him wrong by agreeing to move in with Elijah), but I understood that Hannah is driven by both fear and desire (like most of us). She is the most complex and the most compelling character to emerge this year, and I’m longing for January to see what she does next.

BEST EXAMPLE OF “EVERYTHING CONNECTS”: Boardwalk Empire

It’s more than a bit of throwaway dialogue from Lansky to Luciano. Boardwalk Empire faced a monumental task. Would the show work without Michael Pitt’s Jimmy? Admittedly, things got off to a slow start. Despite an awesome final ten minutes that had me longing for the next episode, the show still produced one of the most boring hours of television all year. But in the home stretch, wow! Eddie’s shooting tied into Chalky’s paltry narrative when his almost son-in-law, Samuel, is the only doctor available. Margaret’s quest to bring prenatal rights to AC paves the way for her to abort the late Owen’s child. And the strained relationship between Nucky and Rothstein allows Capone (and, probably, Van Alden) to stake their own claim to the boardwalk. Just great storytelling that fills one with hope and anticipation for Season 4.

WORST STUNT CASTING: Christopher Meloni – True Blood

So I pretty much stayed clear of these vampires and werewolves in the Bayou, but the announcement that Stabler was joining the cast sucked me right in. And I’ll admit, as crazy and overcrowded as Bon Temps is, the show gets to you, and I’ll be watching again next season. Still, Meloni was utterly wasted as vampire Guardian Roman. Why cast him if he’s only there to bide time until Denis O’Hare’s Russell steps to center stage as the most sadistic vamp going? I’m sticking with the show, but what a waste of a tremendous actor.

BEST COUPLE: Leslie and Ben – Parks and Recreation

Despite the conclusion of Leslie’s successful campaign for councilwoman and Ben’s gig in D.C., they found their way back to one another to build a life in Pawnee. Can we just stop and marvel at the proposal in their new house, a moment that Leslie wants to freeze in time to remember for always? I dare say that nothing was more romantic all year. Without question, this couple will defy the sitcom odds. They’re together, they’re happy, and there is no threat of the magic fading. From Leslie’s attempt to join their families with her unity quilt, to their encounters with a hated Eagleton architect, to a gift from Ben to Leslie in the form of VP Joe Biden himself, each and every note was exquisite.

WORST SECOND ACT: Homeland

A bit of a cheat on my part. I still have to watch the last five episodes of Season 2. But there’s a reason the going’s been so slow. After a freshman season showered in deserving accolades that took the characters to the point of no return, this show has backpedaled to the point of absurdity. From post-shock treatment Carrie being sent to Beirut (and conveniently finding Brody’s damning confessional tape) to the afore-mentioned Brody sitting in on video feed of Abu Nazir’s near destruction only to be granted the opportunity to text his former captor of the impending danger, this is one twisted pretzel of a mess. While the performances are still strong (and Carrie interrogating Brody was all kinds of amazing), Homeland seems to have found its voice at the expense of the audience that adored it in the first place.

BEST COMEDY: 30 Rock

Season 6 and the bulk of Season 7 will stand as one of strongest final bows of any sitcom ever. Liz became The Joker and wed as Princess Leia, Jack and Avery said goodbye after he fell for her mom and made a TV movie out of their whole affair, Tracy took steps towards respectability and becoming his own version of Tyler Perry, and Jenna and Paul tried a “sexual walkabout” before making their way to the altar. They slammed The Wiggles, featured Jon Hamm in blackface, and sent Elaine Stritch’s Colleen to her final resting place in hysterical style. I’ll really miss this show, but it’s going out on top.

…and

BEST TRIBUTE: “One Moore Episode” – Portlandia

Yeah. I’ve would’ve risked my job and utility service to continue watching Battlestar. An eager James Callis (“but you need to listen to me!”), a disgusted Edward James Olmos (“I command because I have the discipline to command!”), and a clueless Ron Moore (“flying the freak all over the place” ), set this geek girl’s heart on fire. The Doctor Who shout out was the icing on the cake, but “Be careful. Psychologically. It’s television.”

Bring it on, 2013!

EMMY 2012: Lead Actress – Comedy

Up next, the ladies who make us laugh! And the nominees are:

COMEDY ACTRESS

Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in Girls
Melissa McCarthy as Molly Flynn in Mike & Molly
Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day in New Girl
Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton in Nurse Jackie
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon in 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer in Veep

Wow! Seven contenders for the prize (seems a bit much, right?). Worthy as all these women might be, in my mind the contest comes down to two performers. So let’s make with the honorable mentions.

Melissa McCarthy is a talented performer who deserves a better vehicle than the formulaic Mike & Molly. The show’s nothing to write home about, but McCarthy is so likable and funny that I did not begrudge her last year’s win. In short, there’s a very real chance that she’ll repeat, but one Emmy for this show is more than enough.

Edie Falco is an even more talented performer who makes you forget that she already created one of the most iconic characters in all of TV history with her turn as Carmela Soprano. She also has an Emmy for this titular character. Make no mistake; I don’t have a problem with multiple wins per se, but when it comes at the expense of someone whose mantel should not be bare, I want to see a new winner. Still, Falco is beyond awesome.

Zooey Deschanel is beyond annoying. It’s not entirely her fault. I think. I mean, I tried to like New Girl. I just… didn’t? Couldn’t? In any event, it ain’t my cup of tea, and since Deschanel headlines the proceedings, I’m not a fan of this nomination. I am well aware that the show and the actress have their share of admirers, so a Deschanel win would not be a shock (but I hope it won’t be a reality).

Moving on to Tina Fey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, also previous winners (Fey for her 30 Rock role and Louis-Dreyfus for shows other than the freshman Veep). Fey as Liz turning into a bizarro version of Heath Ledger’s Joker was one of the highlights of this past TV season. And much like Falco, Louis-Dreyfus makes the condescending, self-absorbed Selina a creation completely separate from Elaine and Christine. If one of them is going to claim victory, I’d put my money on Fey. And I’d really be okay with either actress winning. But…

Okay. So Lena Dunham is all kinds of amazing, the female Louis C.K. She created, she writes, she directs, she is Girls. Her Hannah is so bright but also so screwed up that you want to be her and be there for her. Sometimes, a lot of the time, Hannah is incredibly immature and kind of awful to those around her. But Dunham infuses her portrayal with just the right amount of vulnerability. So if nothing else, you never judge Hannah. It’s a gift to bring a character this real to life, and if it wasn’t for our final nominee, this would be the end of the discussion. Still, I suspect that Dunham is going to get some love in the writing category. She won’t go home empty-handed.

So give Amy Poehler an Emmy already!

Parks and Recreation might not be my favorite comedy currently on the air. It’s not even always the funniest. It is the sweetest. Poehler’s Leslie and her cohorts support one another’s small dreams in a small town. But because Leslie’s quest for city council, the culmination of a life spent working towards making her town a better place, means everything to her, it means everything to her friends, and it means everything to the viewer. Poehler is not without her LOL bits (losing the drinking contest for Ron’s soul to Tammy One comes to mind). But it’s moments like Leslie listening to Ben’s court transcript declaration of love or, more obviously, Leslie’s heartfelt acceptance speech at the end of her campaign that continue to make her one of the most likable characters on television. Poehler deserves to win, the show deserves the boost and exposure that an Emmy might bring their way. I think she’s got a real shot, and while it should be obvious that I’d be okay with several of these other actresses emerging triumphant, I’m pulling for Poehler.

Thoughts?

2011: The Highs and the Lows

It’s a little late (and we’re doing it a little differently), but let’s take stock of the year that just was in television.

BEST EPISODE (COMEDY): Community – “Remedial Chaos Theory”

If any episode of this past season should be taught in screenwriting classes the world over, this is the one. It’s essentially an exercise in utilizing the same established groups of characters in variations on the same situation and revealing their truths while crafting moments of comedy, romance, action, and horror (maybe its’s just me, but Pierce’s troll doll gift is the stuff of nightmares, and if I were Troy, I would also try to swallow it, thus destroying my larynx). Community is a unique show that operates on its own beautiful wavelength. The current hiatus is troubling, but I have to believe that a group of writers and actors who know their characters so well that they can tell an audience all that needs to be known in 3-minute vignettes when other shows can’t accomplish this feat in a season’s worth of work will, like the Phoenix, rise again.

BEST EPISODE (DRAMA): Mildred Pierce – “Part 5”

Okay. So lots of people thought it was slow moving (translation: boring), but I loved this mini-series. Kate Winslet’s Mildred met every challenge life put in her path, except for the terror that was her own ungrateful daughter. The final episode drove this point home. Mildred is successful as is the horrid Veda, now a classical singer. But Mildred, desperate to share in this importance and thus justify every choice she’s ever made, looks up and marries her wayward lover (Guy Pearce’s Monty), buys his house, and proceeds to shower Veda with gifts that even Mildred can’t afford. Losing her grasp on her hard-earned fortune, maybe Mildred can finally take comfort in Veda’s acceptance and gratitude. This hope is dashed when she finds her demon spawn naked in bed with Monty. Yes, Mildred reconnects with her ex, and there is the suggestion that she’ll start over baking the pies that first brought her prominence. But Veda is gone, and the sight of Mildred cursing her daughter and simultaneously chasing Veda’s departing car completes the tragedy of a woman whose mind for business is undercut by the misguided desires of her heart.

BEST SOAP OPERA: One Life to Live

Facing cancellation alongside sister soap All My Children, OLTL made every effort to go out with its head held high. If you missed this fantastic ensemble breathing life into romantic, gut-wrenching, and even humorous scripts, shame on you! But for those who watched, we saw the truth of Rex’s paternity finally revealed, a double wedding undone by an assortment of DNA tests, the reemergence of Tess (and her surprisingly exciting relationship with Ford), Shane’s bullying, Gigi’s “death” (which gave the ailing Clint a new heart), Destiny’s teenage pregnancy, and matriarch Viki finally coming to terms with her alters. But nothing tops the “Two Todds.” While some of the plastic surgery and brainwashing hi-jinks were a little zany (even for a soap), no performances matched those of Roger Howarth, Trevor St. John, Kassie DePaiva, Florencia Lozano, and Kristen Alderson. That these creative people and so many more will continue to work is a given. That it won’t always be together, playing these characters, is a crime.

WORST DECISION OF THE YEAR: The cancellations of All My Children and One Life to Live

Words more eloquent than mine have already described how the unceremonious dismissal of these two long-running classics in favor of two lifestyle shows equals the loss of beloved friends for so many. The hope for a new life online via Prospect Park is also seemingly dashed. In this day and age, there are always ways to go back and revisit favorite storylines and discover those one might have missed. But as of right now, the promise of new adventures in Pine Valley and Llanview is gone. And as the end of General Hospital doesn’t seem that far behind, it is simply a sad, sad state of affairs for the soap fan.

BEST DOCUMENTARY: There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane

This pick narrowly beats HBO’s Bobby Fischer doc, which was a compelling study of an obsessive, self-destructive genius. But this study of the tragic fate of mother Diane Schuler, her daughter, her nieces, and a car of strangers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time stayed with me for days after viewing. What happened? The evidence said that Aunt Diane was drunk, was high, and drove her vehicle into oncoming traffic the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway. But what led this devoted mother and aunt to such a fate? Schuler’s surviving sister-in-law and husband grasp at straws to explain the horror, but there is no absolving explanation. And the film tells us that such is life. Nightmares become real, and we will never understand. All that we have are the words of forensics’ expert Werner Spitz to Diane’s family: “I sincerely hope that you find peace with this.”

BEST SHOW TO SURVIVE THE LOSS OF A MAJOR CHARACTER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

The departure of Christopher Meloni’s Stabler left a void that seemed impossible to fill (and after avoiding it for so long, now I guess I have to start watching True Blood). Danny Pino and Kelli Giddish, enjoyable as they are, do not have the same chemistry with Mariska Harigtay’s Olivia (although she and Pino have their moments). That being said, SVU has featured a host of compelling mysteries and powerful guest turns (the T.R. Knight episode was far-fetched, but Treat Williams was amazing in the show’s indictment of the long-term injuries suffered by NFL players). Dan Lauria’s turn as a sexually abusive coach might have aired before Jerry Sandusky was synonymous with Satan, but syndication will link the two events in viewers’ collective memories. And in the Russian mail-order bride episode, series regular Dann Florek arguably did his best work of the entire series. So while USA’s endless marathons cannot help but make one wistful for the days of “El and Liv,” the show is more than holding its own with its new cast members and consistently intriguing stories.

WORST SHOW TO SURVIVE THE LOSS OF A MAJOR CHARACTER: The Office

Steve Carell’s departure signaled a turning point in the world of Dunder Mifflin, but I was optimistic that the show would find a way to reinvent itself in the wake of Michael Scott’s goodbye. Many a sitcom has done it before. Sadly, The Office is floundering. James Spader’s Robert California adds little to the action. But the bigger problem is Ed Helms’ Andy as boss. Andy had carved out a niche as a lovable dork when simply one of the many desk jockeys. Now, as Michael’s successor, the character has been stuffed into the mold of the former manager. Several strong Jim subplots along with Darryl caught between the office proper and the warehouse are not enough to lift the series in the face of Andy’s loss of identity and the pointless sabotaging of his relationship with Erin. I’m still watching but rarely enjoying what was once appointment television.

WORST SERIES FINALE EVEREntourage

I was never a diehard fan of this show (but then again, was anybody?). Still, I enjoyed the some of the early episodes (loved Drama and Turtle finding Nirvana – translation the kiddie table at a Bat Mitzvah to feed their munchies). But the series was long past what you might define as a prime (remember when it became the Jamie-Lynn Sigler half-hour during her real life romance with Jerry Ferrara?). So the show limped towards the finish line. But you know how it is; you’ve watched a show and its characters over the years, so you want to see how it all ends. But Vince’s sudden engagement? A reconciliation between Ari and his suddenly named wife that was supposed to read as some supreme sacrifice on his part? And Sloan in that red dress waiting to fly away with E? Stupid, stupid, and lame (let’s hope the movie gets lost in production limbo; probably won’t happen, but a girl can pray).

WORST COLLECTION OF SO MUCH TALENT IN ONE PLACE: I Hate My Teenage Daughter

Tony Award winner Katie Finneran? Emmy Award Winner Jamie Pressly? Chad Coleman from The Wire? And Eric Sheffer Stevens, one of the highlights of the last few months of As the World Turns? All on one of the lamest new shows of the season? Someone get these people a better creative team behind them and craft something worthy of our screens!

BEST WTF MOMENTS: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire is an imperfect show with a too large cast. Now that cast has been trimmed. But damn! The murder of Angela Darmody and her female lover was shocking and tragic (there goes my hopes for Angela and Richard Harrow becoming the great love story of the series). The revelation that Jimmy’s twisted mother, Gillian, had her way with her son before he ran off to WWI? Makes sense given their relationship and something we all thought would happen. But that it already had puts their entire relationship in a light demanding a second viewing. But nothing topped Jimmy’s murder at Nucky’s hands, especially when it seemed like Jimmy was in a position to survive to Season Three. From a storytelling perspective, it makes sense. There was no other way out for Jimmy, and now Nucky is a complete gangster. But does the show rebound from the loss of arguably its most compelling character, arguably the true lead of the first two seasons? Time will tell.

BEST CHARACTER: Leslie Knope – Parks and Recreation

The figurative First Lady of Pawnee organized an amazing Harvest Festival, fought the flu, decided to run for City Council, and most importantly fell in love with Ben. But whatever Leslie is doing, she does it well. The ability to be right almost all of the time would not endear Leslie to the other characters and the audience in the hands of a lesser actress. But at the heart of Amy Poehler’s performance is  optimism, wisdom, and kindness. Always efficient and never aggravating, Leslie is currently the funniest and most likable woman on TV.

WORST COUPLE: Barney and Robin – How I Met Your Mother

Back in Season Five, they finally made if official, but the writers quickly lost interest in what was and could have continued to be a nice contrast to Ted’s romantic dreams and Marshall and Lily’s super sweet marriage. Last season’s finale hinted at a second exploration of the duo. But so far we’ve only seen either Robin or Barney wanting to reconnect when the other is not ready, new partners, a secret hookup, and a pregnancy scare. In other words, every rom-com cliche you can imagine when that’s never what the couple was. Robin is likely Barney’s mystery bride from the flash forward in the most recent series premiere, but let’s hope the getting there starts to show much, much more originality.

MOST AWKWARD MOMENT IN SPORTS: Joe Paterno is Fired

I am not about to equate the loss of a job with the horrific abuse inflicted by the afore-mentioned Sandusky. Still, all sports channels and most major news outlets devoting their air time to what once seemed inconceivable, the dismissal of a legend, made for riveting TV. There is no more classic and familiar and tragic story than a supposed hero who is revealed for the scared little man he always was. His blind eyes wrought pain on so many who are only now getting a voice. Yet, who cannot help but feel something at Paterno’s downfall whether it’s shock or schadenfreude or simply sorrow. And I stayed awake until well after midnight, as I’m sure many of you did, watching the fallout.

MOST AWESOME MOMENT IN SPORTS: The Cardinals Win It All

As a Mets’ fan, I have no business celebrating this victory (although I was gleeful when St. Louis sent the Phillies home earlier than anticipated). Not that I have some great love for the Rangers either, but I was behind them at the start of the World Series, which shaped up to be the competition that ratings are made of. Then, as it so often happens, we had Game Six. The Rangers seemed on their way to the title. Then the Cards took control of the game. Then Texas was back on top. Then St. Louis tied the thing up. After many an extra inning, St. Louis emerged victorious. Now I was far from the Russian fans turning on Drago in Rocky IV, but at the start of Game Seven, any fan worth their salt had to feel that the Cardinals and their fans deserved this win. And they got it. You won’t see me rooting for them when baseball resumes, but game respects game, and for one night Pujols, La Russa, and the rest earned my applause.

Emmy Thoughts

Emmy Nominations announced today, boys and girls. Here are the top five reasons why I am happy and frustrated all at once:

  1. Mad Men’s writing nod for the best episode of anything of 2010: I’ve already discussed on this blog why “The Suitcase” was the most compelling hour of television offered last year. What was essentially a Don/Peggy duet is in no way hindered by a viewer unfamiliar to the complicated relationship of our two leads. It helps to know the whole story behind the screams, the laughs, the tears, the poor punches (Duck does make an appearance), and the ultimate love on display between the unraveling genius and the protegé who is more than possibly even he ever imagined. Naturally the experience is only enhanced if you know the entire backstory, but so sublime are the performances from Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss and so skilled the words making their way from page to screen, a glimpse into what makes any “most important” connection between two people work, that I cannot see how it will be denied the trophy (but of course, this is the Emmys, people).
  2. Parks and Recreation a contender for Outstanding Comedy Series: Guess the Emmys will never got on board with Community (their loss), but Parks and Recreation definitely made moves to find its own identity on NBC’s Thursday night lineup. April and Andy’s wedding, the permanent additions of Ben and Chris, Ron Swanson’s turkey burger, and Leslie at something of a professional and/or personal crossroads at the season’s conclusion added up to a show that I will be rooting for even if I think it has zero chance of claiming a title it held for more weeks than not.
  3. Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series?: Where the fuck are the Boardwalk Empire boys? Michaels Pitt and Shannon (especially Shannon) mesmerized with characters who defied expectations. At one point, Pitt’s Jimmy seemed doomed to fall into a self-loathing addiction reminiscent of Christopher Moltisanti, but he got his head together to partner with his long-estranged birth father, and he is poised to go after father figure Nucky in Season Two. And Van Alden? Van Alden?! Only the most twisted character in a world of gangsters and murders. And he’s the law! Should have both been recognized.
  4. Everybody from Mildred Pierce but…: I didn’t get a chance to properly praise HBO’s compelling mini-series, but let me express how pleased I am to see most of the stellar cast and the brilliant writing rewarded with nominations. Evan Rachel Wood is worthy for her turn as the older Veda, a budding singer who betrays her titular mother in the worst way imaginable. But Morgan Turner’s performance as the younger Veda showed the audience how and why Veda could and would go to such monstrous lengths. I adore Kate Winslet (and she will win the Emmy), but this was the highlight of an awesome collection of episodes.
  5. Where’s Jason Segel?: How I Met Your Mother has been better, but props where props are due. Jason Segel acted the shit out of  Marshall’s fear of trying to have a baby/becoming a dad, the loss of his own father, a radical change in career paths, and the news of Lily’s pregnancy in the season finale. Should have been nominated, wasn’t, so while I’m looking forward to the telecast, you can see why I’m far from pleased with today’s announcement.

NBC Thursday Highlights

It was a strong night for NBC’s comedies (well, except for The Paul Reiser Show, which might have been good, but I turned it off after 30 seconds to check the weather). Let’s take them one by one:

Community: This reminded me of those Golden Girls episodes that hinged on recreated flashbacks (the girls recall money-making ventures, Valentine’s Day disasters, birthdays past, etc.). It’s a storytelling device that works well because it manages to showcase the characters in a variety of situations and perhaps provide some back-story without using the space of an entire episode. Such was the case with Community, as the study group recalled a year even more complicated (if that’s possible) than the one we’ve seen each week. The highlights were without question the Jeff/Annie and Pierce/Abed lingering looks montages, and I got a kick out of Dean Pelton bursting in wearing an array of inappropriate costumes (that was a gag that went on just the right length of time; they took it further than you expected without killing the joke).

The Office: Definitely an improvement from last week, but did anyone else feel that Will Ferrell’s Deangelo was a completely different, albeit more likable, character? Maybe we’re supposed to believe that he was posturing in order to assert his authority and now, after a settling in period, he’s relaxed with the group and is grateful to learn at the foot of Michael Gary Scott. Or maybe the writers just decided to change the character midstream. In any event, I liked nervous Deangelo terrified at the prospect of hosting the Dundies, and his coworkers’ tips culminated in an amusing King’s Speech parody. Erin dumping Gabe in front of everyone was cruel, but I think it served two important purposes: it paves the way for Erin and Andy to reunite, and I actually pitied and kind of liked Gabe for the first time all season (so there’s hope for his character down the line). And the Seasons of Love tribute combined with what were obviously Steve Carell’s real tears? All I can say is that next week is going to be rough.

Parks and Recreation: Leslie being paired up with Tom via the dating site really took me by surprise, and their lunch was as amusing as Ben inviting Leslie to join him at the mural was sweet. I also love that Chris’ no dating in the office policy kind of sets him up as an oblivious, even good-hearted villain along the path of the Leslie/Ben courtship. But without question, this episode was all about the Ron/Chris cook-off. From Chris’ efforts to describe a turkey burger’s appeal, to the trip to the health food store (which Ron likened to a zoo), to the stop at Food and Stuff (where Ron gets his food and most of his stuff), and finally to Chris having to admit that Ron’s burger was the superior sandwich. And let’s not forget newlyweds Andy and April. April was right to suggest that Andy get the pinwheel, but those crows were pretty awesome sauce, too.

30 Rock: Let’s just put it out there. Steve Carrell, worthy though he might be, is never going to win an Emmy for The Office. Because how can he compete with Alec Baldwin playing four incarnations of Jack Donaghy (Past Jack was my favorite because everyone talked like that in the 80s). The over-sized episode dragged in parts (Jenna’s storyline was basically an excuse to use Jane Krakowski’s pregnancy to the show’s advantage), but Tracy’s inability to sully his good name (and Jack’s obvious solution) stood out in a sea of guest stars (I gotta give props to Michael Keaton’s doomed maintenance man and Ken Howard’s perpetually smiling Hank Hooper). And through it all, we saw every aspect of the Jack/Liz relationship, a platonic partnership for the ages.

Great night all around. Thoughts?

PARKS AND RECREATION: Here Comes the Bride

Loved Community (as always), slightly unimpressed by The Office (but I guess it’s just the first act of the Michael Scott finale), and I still have to watch 30 Rock. But I’m giving a shout-out to Parks and Recreation. Not because Ann might go down as the worst participant ever at a singles mixer or because Ben stayed in Pawnee for Leslie (they are really cute). No, what rocks is that in such an early part of the series, April and Andy tied the knot, for real. And, for the moment, it looks like it’s going to stick. Lesser sitcoms would have had someone object or the newlyweds would have split before the honeymoon or the whole ceremony would have been a joke on the assorted guests. But Andy and April took the plunge because they’re in love. The bloom may go off the rose. Hell, maybe they’ll have the thing annulled next week. But somehow I think this is more than a ratings gimmick. These two are immature and perfect for one another. And I hope the show plays the beats of such a marriage, Pawnee style.

Telephoria’s Favorites: 2010

Time to count down our favorite episodes of 2010, the ones that stuck with us when all was said and done. So without further ado…

HONORABLE MENTION:

THE OFFICE – “The Delivery”

Not the strongest of days for the Scranton crew (although Season Seven is finally starting to pick up some steam). Still, the birth of little Cecelia Marie Halpert featured an unraveling Jim, a mad dash to the hospital, Pam breast feeding the wrong baby, and the sweetest Andy/Erin moment to date. Long awaited, it was classic Dunder Mifflin.

10. SHERLOCK – “The Great Game”

This re-imagining of the classic mystery series (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson, respectively), did not substitute 21st century technology for plot but rather used it to enhance familiar stories and make them seem more relevant than ever. The season finale saw Holmes investigating a slew of seemingly unrelated crimes all engineered by the sinister Moriarty (a truly scary Andrew Scott). Funny, thrilling, and closing with a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more right now.

9. PARKS AND RECREATION – “Telethon”

I haven’t yet blogged about this show because it kind of crept up on me during NBC’s Thursday night line up. Little by little, it won me over, so you can imagine my displeasure when NBC bumped it for Outsourced. Thankfully, Leslie and Co. are on their way back. This episode, penned by series star Amy Poehler, focused on a diabetes fundraiser so lacking in talent that Andy’s band, Ron’s skill at caning a chair, and ultimately Leslie’s recollections of her favorite Friends episodes had to fill the void (all because Tom is delayed in bringing guest of honor Detlef Schrempf). This zaniness combined with Mark’s doomed proposal to Ann gave every character a moment to shine, and if you’re not watching yet, tune in as soon as it’s back on the air where it belongs.

8. CAPRICA“Things We Lock Away”

Gone too soon. Sure Syfy burned off the remaining episodes of this Battlestar Galactica prequel, but lost is the opportunity to delve deeper into the origins of the Cylons and the spiritual divide between monotheistic and polytheistic humans. I enjoyed most of the first part of the first and only season, but “Things We Lock Away” stood out. Zoe and Tamara, after a particularly brutal fight, come together to reshape V-World, and Amanda became a spy in the Willow household. But it’s her husband Daniel, manipulated into killing business rival Tomas Vergis and then calling on the Adamas to wash the blood away, who best suggested the compromises these characters could and would make in service of their own needs, their own survival. Think of the magnitude of suffering witnessed on BSG. And while Caprica lacked the action sequences of its predecessor, how fascinating and terrifying to contemplate that it was the result of the whims of a few longing to reclaim parts of their pasts and work them into their futures. Shame we won’t get to see more of that.

7. FUTURAMA – “Lethal Inspection”

Science Fiction of a far lighter variety, ostensibly this was the story of robot Bender seeking revenge on the inspector who sent him out into the world flawed, unable to download into a new body, and therefore mortal. What followed was a road trip where Hermes aided Bender in his quest for answers and ultimately helped his friend to focus on living for whatever time he has rather than dwell on the fact that it’ll all end someday. Food for thought to be sure, but then came the revelation that Hermes himself saved Bender from the scrap heap, valuing the little robot’s life over policy, and he accompanied Bender on his journey to keep the secret. Not quite “Jurassic Bark,” but pretty damn close.

6. COMMUNITY – “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”

I loved the character work of “Cooperative Calligraphy,” but this was such wild take on Christmas specials that I have to rank it. Abed, abandoned by his mother and their tradition of watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, descends into a stop-motion fantasy and learns the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is a feeling that translates into video games, liquor, and, ultimately, just being with the ones you love. You have to appreciate the skill that crafted the episode and the heart at its center.

5. BOARDWALK EMPIRE – “A Return to Normalcy”

I almost went with “Nights in Ballygran,” the episode that really made me a fan, but the first season finale did what all season finales should. I can’t wait for the show to come back. I want to see Nucky and Margaret in the next phase of their relationship, Van Alden coping with his and Lucy’s unexpected baby, and Jimmy scheming with the Commodore and Eli to take back Atlantic City. I tuned into Season One in large part because of the hype, but I’ll be back for Season Two for the promise of what’s to come.

4. KIDS IN THE HALL: DEATH COMES TO TOWN – “Dead Man Walking”

How great was it to have KITH back on our screens, doing the kind of intricate comedy that SNL barely remembers? This series about a small town plagued by murders and secret lives climaxed with morbidly obese hero Ricky battling and defeating Death during a public execution (bow down to the genius that arrived at such a conclusion). But the entire outing was obviously the troupe having fun, shocking each other and the audience, and let’s hope they have similar projects planned for the near future.

3. AS THE WORLD TURNS – “Finale”

The final months could have been stronger given the length of time between the cancellation notice and our last glimpse of Oakdale. Still, that last episode was satisfying. Tom and Margo were solid while Katie and Chris were just starting out. Carly and Jack prepared for a new child while Janet and Dusty celebrated Baby Lorenzo. Paul and Emily got their happy ending, and Barbara and Henry danced the night away. Maybe Lily and Holden, like Luke and Noah, remained estranged, but reconciliation seemed in the cards in an unseen future. But it was patriarch Bob Hughes, retiring at long last and reflecting on a life well-lived, who quietly summed up the journeys of these characters (and that of the loyal audience). An ending is always a beginning. Goodnight, ATWT.

2. IN TREATMENT – “Sunil: Week Seven”

Yeah. It’s the twist that stayed with me. Paul’s sessions with Sunil were an elaborate con. The patient knew how to push the right buttons to force his therapist to punch his ticket home. As a result, you have to re-watch every Sunil episode in a different light. And that’s good television.

1. MAD MEN – “The Suitcase”

Nothing else matched it. Peggy and Don’s all night duet addressed all the love, resentment, gratitude, and frustration between mentor and protege. Low blows (Don using the fact that he quietly supported Peggy post-pregnancy as an excuse for taking her for granted), laughs (they found Roger’s memoir and learned about Cooper’s… surgery), and punches (both witnessed on TV and pathetically delivered by Don and an equally drunk Duck) were just the prologue to the main event. Don admits what he’s known for the entire episode (Anna is dead), and he cries to Peggy who picks up the pieces and assures him that he is known by someone else who loves him in her own way. About as perfect an episode as you’ll ever find, and I’ll wager that Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss are assured Emmys for their efforts.

So here’s to 2010. Let’s hope 2011 is as exciting and rewarding.