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January 8, 2009 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | January 8, 2009 |

Rather than having someone post their meandering thoughts on the last year in television, we opted to have four people provide lots of meandering thoughts on the year in TV. Welcome to Pajiba’s Roundtable on the Television Year that Was. This is the one where Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 all come together and it all makes sense, don’t you know?


“Weeds.” While Beckylooo and I had different points, I also happen to agree with hers as well. Just because Nancy cries and freaks out once every few episodes over her terrible decisions doesn’t make up for her moral bankruptcy the rest of the time. Nancy’s character has become unlikable to the point where I would actually consider kicking her out of the bed for eating crackers, despite her looking the way she looks. And believe you me, I don’t say that lightly. Andy and Doug need their own show, post haste, and the rest can, *ahem*, go to pot.

ted-danson.jpgBut that’s where we part ways B., because “Damages” was fluff. It was very well acted, yes — Ted Danson gave one of my favorite TV performances of the last year. But the storyline and dialogue were pure meh. Not entirely predictable, but talk about a show that thinks it’s smarter than it is. Not a bad show, but only because of the performances — but for those saving graces, it’s a crappy CBS legal thriller.

Meanwhile, I’m not going to acknowledge that y’all are trying to have a conversation about “SNL” being good, because that must be my bleary-from-reading-too-many-legal-pleadings eyes playing nasty tricks on me. Pure nonsense.

But I would like to talk more about this whole future of television business.

We’ve gone through an excellent dramatic run over the past hunk of years. No doubt. But to think that we’re at the tail end is just pessimistic folly. “Breaking Bad” is an amazing show and ballsy as shit. “Sons of Anarchy” developed into something very interesting. Not “Deadwood” or “The Wire,” but something that is starting to mine its Shakespearean roots in its own way. Sure, that’s only two examples. But I think that the various cable networks are only just starting to find their voices, to figure out how to do their own televisions series, and it’s going to take time. Of the free cablers, FX has become one of the best, but it’s taken years and missteps and it still doesn’t always get it right (hey there “Dirt”). And look how long it’s taken SciFi to get one thing right, and yet it still spends most of its time littering the airwaves with bad-effect monsters-of-the-week.

I think over the next five years, all these new outlets for shows are going to absorb what has come out of this golden age of television drama and run with that ball. Yes, some of them will likely just try to Frankenstein that shit up, mixing and matching this element with that, and will wind up giving us nothing more than an ugly Frankenstein’s monster. Oh yes, some young girls will get hucked into the river. But I also think that there will be ones that figure it out, give creators with new vision some room to breathe, and allow them to use what’s come before as stepping stones into something new, different, and (hopefully) no less great.

Look, I don’t put “The Sopranos” in my all-time top five (dare I say that I think it was and is slightly overrated?), though it probably makes my top ten. But I do think it was one of the most important series in television history. And, already, other shows have taken some of the things David Chase put together, and used those to go further and wider, with good and bad results. Can “The Wire” ever be topped? Perhaps not. But could it inspire another novelistic show that manages brilliance in its own right? Just because there’s not an heir right this second doesn’t give me any reason to think not. And that hope is what keeps me watching, man.

Dan, I’m giving you the last word. Get us out of here and take us home.


And for the record, I didn’t give Dan the closing word just because of his flirtations with me. But they didn’t hurt….


Well, I think we’ve all come a long way, kids. Or at any rate, it feels like it. It’s fallen to me to try and wrap this thing up as best I can, but the TV Whore himself did a mighty fine job in his final email, so I will do my best not to step on his work but merely add to it.

Seth, you write that the hope of finding those new amazing shows is what keeps you watching, and I think we’d all agree. Over the brief course of these mass emails — which could, as Beckylooo said, go on forever — we’ve expressed a mix of hope and fear when it comes to the future of TV, and both are understandable. Plunging into a new TV show — like a relationship, a trip to Vegas, or a diner with a B card in the window — is always a huge risk, but we take that risk on the hope of a reward. What’s more, I think that we’re more likely to find reward based on what shows we’re drawn to in the first place.

robin-sparkles.jpgBecause, while we’ve disagreed on the quality of the shows we all watched this year, there’s no denying that we’re all pulled toward a certain type of show, one that’s more artistically accomplished than the mindless fodder we all probably don’t even remember exists. (Seriously, next time you’re bored or suicidal, just watch hours of network primetime crap like “Gary Unmarried.”) Hype only takes you so far, and after that, we tend to seek out shows that we know on a gut level will offer us something more, whether it’s comedy or drama. I think the only thing we’ve all agreed on is the primacy of “The Wire,” but we’re all equally passionate when it comes to finding those new great shows that will entertain or teach us, and it’s that level of devotion to a fleeting but powerful art form that fills me with as much as hope as the blind wish that, somewhere out there, somebody just put the next great idea in front of a camera. For now, though, we’ve got Liz Lemon, Robin Sparkles, Smash Williams, Dwight Schrute, Barney Stinson, John Locke, Laura Roslin, Dexter Morgan, and quite a few others.

We’re not doing too bad.

TV | January 8, 2009 |

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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