BuddyTV television critic John Kubicek makes his picks for the eight best shows of 2008.
#8 True Blood
HBO’s vampire drama True Blood was funny, scary, sexy, serious, and about a thousand other things all rolled into one. Creator Alan Ball beautifully adapted Charlaine Harris’ book series into an exciting show that kept viewers hooked and provided a unique twist on the normal vampire mythology we’ve come to know.The Best Part: The show had no problem killing off major characters early and often, like Dawn, Grandma Stackhouse, Jason’s crazy girlfriend Amy, Eddie the vampire and Rene.
#7 In Treatment
Another HBO series, In Treatment aired every weeknight over nine straight weeks. Each night, we spent time with another one of psychiatrist Paul’s patients, following their psychological journeys. Much like an actual therapy session, the show began slowly and at first it seemed rather boring, but as each week passed, new layers were uncovered for all of the patients, including Paul himself, and the show became more fascinating.The Best Part: Blair Underwood’s commanding role as a cocky jet fighter pilot was one of the year’s best acting performances on all of television.
#6 Prison Break
After three seasons, it seemed as though Prison Break had lost its steam. But this year, with Michael Scofield and his team being recruited by the government to go after the Company, the tables were turned and Prison Break returned as a truly great action series. Twist after twist left audiences guessing as Scofield succeeded in stealing the Company’s little black book, only to have the chase start anew when their government handler Don Self turned on them.The Best Part: Cress Williams played a terrifying Company agent named Wyatt who killed Mahone’s son in the premiere, and the two squared off in a cat-and-mouse game that ended with justice being doled out in an extremely satisfying way.
#5 The Big Bang Theory
I love comedies like The Office and 30 Rock, but when I thought about the sitcom that made me laugh harder than any other this year, the surprising answer was The Big Bang Theory. It has a laugh track and its co-created by the man behind such painfully unfunny sitcoms as Dharma and Greg and Two and a Half Men yet the show’s four lovable nerds somehow offer some of the smartest, funniest dialogue and situations on TV.The Best Part: As the socially inept but supremely intelligent Sheldon Cooper, Jim Parsons is quite possibly the funniest man on TV, and if he continues to be overlooked by award shows, it will be one of television’s greatest injustices.
#4 The Middleman
Taking a tongue-in-cheek comic book and turning it into a TV show can’t be easy, but former Lost writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach did just that, and The Middleman had such a quick, clever sense of humor that it translated beautifully. Often blurring the line between self-parody and lame cheesiness, The Middleman was a pure delight to watch from start to finish.The Best Part: With any luck, star Natalie Morales will have a long and successful career. Looking, sounding and acting like Tina Fey’s younger sister, Morales is sexy, smart, funny, and any other positive adjective you can think of.
#3 The Shield
In its final season, The Shield delivered on every front, providing just the right amount of closure for renegade cop Vic Mackey. While he got away free and clear despite his numerous crimes, he lost his friends and family in the process. The show really picked up in the home stretch by pitting Vic and Shane (and their wives) against each other in a complex chess match that ended in tragedy.The Best Part: There are too many to list, but Vic Mackey’s confession to all his crimes, starting with the murder of fellow police officer Terry Crowley, was a sublime bit of acting that, in a perfect world, will earn Michael Chiklis another Emmy to go along with the one he won for the first season.
Supernatural can be hysterically funny, deeply emotional, horrifyingly scary, and anything else it wants to be. When looking back at 2008, you only need to look at the wide range of brilliant episodes Supernatural gave us. There were funny ones like “Ghostfacers” and “Monster Movie,” action-packed ones like “Jus in Bello,” and revelatory ones like “Lazarus Rising” and “In the Beginning.” In addition, the introduction of religion when an angel brought Dean Winchester out of Hell was a stroke of genius that added even more weight and relevance to the show’s adventures.The Best Part: There were many great episodes, but none was better than last spring’s “Mystery Spot.” Starting as an homage to the movie Groundhog Day, Sam relived the day his brother Dean died over and over again to hilarious results. Then the show took a darker direction by showing us an alternate future where Dean really is dead. It was funny, scary, dramatic and innovative storytelling at its best.
#1 The Wire
The best show in the history of television came to a close this year as The Wire’s fifth and final season aired on HBO. The expansive look at the drug war in Baltimore looked at everything, from drug dealers and cops to politicians and the media to educators and kids, no area was left unexplored. The Wire wasn’t easy to watch with its dense, complicated storytelling and huge ensemble (the official HBO site lists 84 actors in the cast). But the final season provided a fascinating and terrifying look at how the media influences politics while ignoring the real story.The Best Part: Creator David Simon’s past career as a newspaper reporter was clear in his depiction of a beleaguered Baltimore Sun editor who was told by his boss to do “more with less,” which is as idiotic and meaningless a phrase as could be. Simon’s contempt for anyone unwilling to be challenged by the true complexity of society was the perfect argument in favor of brilliant television like The Wire over the glut of simplistic crime procedurals that dominate the airwaves.