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No Smoking, No Farting, No Pillow-Fighting: Highlights from the Year in TV

By Sarah Carlson | TV | May 31, 2011 |

By Sarah Carlson | TV | May 31, 2011 |

Well, it’s the day after a three-day holiday weekend, one during which I drank tequila, sang Styx during karaoke and swam — fully clothed — in the Tennessee River in the middle of the night. I’m taking it easy today, looking back at the most memorable scenes/episodes/character developments from my DVR queue this past TV season.

From musical numbers to murders, this was a good year for TV. If we can count last summer’s fare, I’d put several of “True Blood’s” gruesome and head-twisting antics up there in terms of memory staying-power. Or how about “The Walking Dead’s” premiere? And with present shows, the opening sequence of “Game of Thrones” scared the ever-living daylights out of me, and the premiere of “The Killing” was spot-on.

In no particular order, here are nine of my picks for stand-out TV.

Kurt Brings His “Sunset Boulevard” Game to “Glee”

The reasons to be disappointed in “Glee” are many, and it has taken me two years to be able to say that. I wanted so badly for the show to be great — the pilot and parts of Season One had so much promise — but the eventual tableau of incomprehensible and mawkish “stories” have me believing that firebombing Fox’s studios ain’t a bad idea. The show’s saving grace is Kurt Hummel, played with such sweet earnestness by Chris Colfer, yet the heavy attention given this character could rightly be the series’ downfall. In focusing on Kurt’s life and his issues of being a bullied gay teen, “Glee” showrunners have created moving and important storylines that unfortunately have left the other characters in the dust. They’re filler. I’d rather watch a Kurt spin-off at this point, especially if he gets more numbers similar to “As If We Never Said Goodbye.” Kurt’s channeling of the “Sunset Boulevard” song upon his return to McKinley High in Season Two Episode 18 “Born This Way” was beautiful and goose bump-inducing. Colfer deserves the awards he’s received for his performances, and at this point, he deserves to be on a show worthy of his talents.

Skip to 34:30 for the number:

“Justified’s” Apple Pie

(Spoiler alert if you haven’t watched this season.) The bookend poisonings in “Justified” this year were riveting, first as Mags Bennet (Margo Martindale) did Loretta McCready’s daddy in for having brought the attention of the law to her marijuana-manufacturing family and later as she chose to take her own life rather than be taken in by authorities. Her weapon of choice was her own “apple pie” moonshine, poured into a glass already containing poison. The manner in which Mags so calmly held Walt McCready’s hand as the poison took effect and she explained the process was chilling. As soon as she reached for her apple pie in the finale, I knew she herself was a goner. Perhaps U.S. Marshal Raylon Givens (Timothy Olyphant) knew, too, but it didn’t make her departure less shocking. A powerful exit for one of this TV season’s best characters.

“Castle” Ups the Ante

Finally, Nathan Fillion has a hit. And ABC’s “Castle,” while not amazing, is at least a pleasant take on the police procedural that is saved thanks to Fillion’s charms and the increased buddy comedy among the detectives. Season Three continued the recurring storylines of Det. Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) trying to solve her mother’s murder, and the finale, “Knockout,” presented twists I hadn’t expected. (Again, spoiler alert.) Captain Montgomery’s involvement in the entire affair was a surprise, but the biggest shock came in the last few minutes as Kate is shot as his funeral. Castle finally tells her he loves her and her consciousness fades and everyone scrambles for cover. Typical of primetime TV? Maybe. But that doesn’t make it less entertaining.

Dr. Cooper, “Nurse Jackie’s” Man-Child

Don’t count Peter Facinelli out for his “Twilight” gigs. Man has to pay the bills. But at least he’s spending most of his time on Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” as the often ridiculous Dr. Fitch Cooper. Coop routinely brings the funny as the pretentious ER doctor who isn’t as talented as nurses such as Jackie (Edie Falco). This season, which is still going, has brought him trouble at work as he tries to earn respect and possible promotions. But a bigger problem for Coop is the divorce of his two moms. The news sends him into a depression as he fills his office at the hospital with childhood toys, pouting with his dioramas and dolls. Facinelli brings the right mix of sincerity to the silliness, making Coop utterly believable and, somehow, likable. He’s much like the show itself, which blends drama and comedy to great effect.

“Community” and the Giant Blanket Fort

It’s hard to whittle down a favorite scene from Season Two of “Community,” but I can point to Episode 9, “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design,” as a great representation of the show’s ability to make the unbelievable believable. Troy and Abed’s blanket fort eventually takes over Greendale as all the students join in. Soon enough, the fort is its own community, complete with a Turkish District and Latvian independence parade (they had the proper permits). Everyone just goes with it because Greendale truly is its own little world. That’s also evidenced in Episodes 23 and 24, “A Fistful of Paintballs” and “For a Few Paintballs More.” But it’s a world that works. And you should really check out their civil rights museum.


Van Alden Loses It on “Boardwalk Empire”

HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” consistently blew me away this year, and its standout was the scary talented Michael Shannon as conflicted Agent Nelson Van Alden. His facial expressions can tell the entire story, but it’s the repressed emotions he has boiling under his surface that are the most terrifying. He lost it in Episode 11, “Paris Green,” when he realized fellow agent Sebso was playing both sides, and the baptism-cum-drowning sequence was jaw-dropping. “Boardwalk” had several such scenes in Season One, such as Episode 4, “Anastasia,” when Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) tortures a KKK leader after one of his men was hanged while describing how his own father was murdered. Another highlight was when Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) takes out two D’Alessio brothers in Episode 10, “The Emerald City.” But nothing sticks as much as Van Alden and his punishing righteousness.

Benslie on “Parks and Recreation”

There’s not much to say here. The budding (and hopefully continuing) romance of Ben (Adam Scott) and Leslie (Amy Poehler) on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” is downright adorable, right up there with Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza) - or better yet, their alter egos, Bert Macklin and Janet Snakehole. The cute Jim and Pam days of “The Office” are long gone, so it’s nice to have cute sitcom couples to cheer for again.

“Greek” Graduates

If you never tuned into the antics among fraternity and sorority students at fictional Cyprus-Rhodes university — or were just too afraid to venture to ABC Family altogether — I recommend catching up with “Greek” on Netflix. The series is surprisingly sweet and funny — Scott Michael Foster steals many scenes as fun frat boy Cappie — bypassing the bitchiness of other shows aimed at younger audiences and presenting stories that adults can get into. Coming-of-age tales always resonate, and “Greek” did them well without getting schmaltzy. I was sad to see the show end this year in what felt like a rushed season, but the good news is that the reruns are endlessly watchable.

Episodes available at ABC Family’s Website

Nancy Gives In on “Weeds”

I know some of you are “Weeds” haters, but trust me: Don’t give up on Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) and her tales of woe. The show took a dramatic turn several seasons ago when Nancy burned down her suburban California subdivision and took her weed business to new heights. But becoming involved with Mexican drug lords wasn’t so wise, especially when she married one, Esteban (Demián Bichir). The Botwins were on the run in Season Six, which made for fresh stories and compelling dramedy. Cornered as she tries to flee the country, Nancy makes a strategic sacrifice at the airport in the heart-tugging season finale, “Theoretical Love is Not Dead.” She gives herself up to authorities rather than be taken by Esteban, who really only wants their child. But her other kids, Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Shane (Alexander Gould), along with their uncle Andy (Justin Kirk), made it aboard the plane to Amsterdam. The best part about “Weeds” is I can honestly say I have no idea what will happen when Season Seven begins at the end of June. But it will be worth it.

So, what were your favorite moments this TV season?

Sarah Carlson has a front-row seat to the decline of the newspaper industry and lives in Alabama with her overly excitable Pembroke Welsh Corgi.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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