The Best TV of 2007

30Rock.jpgThe Year of our TV 2007 was something of an odd duck. It saw the end of some TV classics (The Sopranos) and the beginning of a strike that still threatens the medium as we know it. Fun year! But in these trying times, we all yearn for something to hold onto— such as the ubiquitous comfort of the year-end list. Here we go:

5. The War (PBS)
It could have been better, but Ken Burns found another way to make the American public sit up and say, “Hey, we’re pretty cool” again. The personal stories made it sing, but the four-location strategy inadvertently restricted those stories racially, forcing add-ons to suggest that there were, in fact, Latino soldiers in WWII at all. But despite the problems, The War stands as one of the best, hardest, and most honest looks at what’s perhaps the most influential and secretive aspects of modern American culture.

4. Chuck (NBC)
One of the best new shows of the truncated 2007-08 season, this spy/romantic comedy show works on multiple levels. The subtle nuances of the characters' interactions makes the holes in the spy plots seem unimportant. This show is supposed to be fun, and at that, it succeeds admirably—especially when it does this by referencing Star Wars, Klingon linguistics, and old DOS text adventures. (Runner up in the geeks-made-good TV category: CBS’ Big Bang Theory.)

3. The Daily Show/Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
The best one-two punch in television programming today, and for many people the only place they get their national news. And that’s not such a bad thing—both of these shows actually deal with complex policy issues, and invite guests that other shows won’t touch—intellectuals from academia who have actually written cogent books on the matters at hand as opposed to pundits from local news with nothing but high-volume opinion. Still, John Stewart and Stephen Colbert aren’t trying to educate so much as entertain—thankfully, they do both.

2. 30 Rock (NBC)
Okay, so they got a little carried away with stunt casting this season, but this sitcom just gets better with time. Tina Fey actually becomes more of a character with each show, as opposed to just being a frustrated version of herself, and what else can be said about Alec Baldwin except that he should have been tapped for TV comedy long ago—“Schwetty Balls” was not a fluke. 30 Rock has even helped me get over my long-standing disinterest in Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski. Or at least Tracy Morgan.

1. The Office (NBC)
Still the best comedy on television, arguably the best romance on television, and definitely the best overall cast on television. Sure, it can be said that the hour-long episodes didn’t work…so I will. The hour-long episodes didn’t work. But that doesn’t take away from the brilliance of Steve Carrell’s intricate and smart performance as Michael Scott, the simultaneously repelling and sympathetic manager of Dunder Mifflin. And the supporting cast is stellar: what would Scranton be without Dwight, Jim, Pam, and the rest of the gang? Not number one, that’s for sure. This is a strong show with a strong bench, and so long as they can stay away from the hour-long format, The Office is destined to be a classic.

Runners-up: LOST (ABC) made a late comeback in the Spring, but won’t return until 2008; Heroes (NBC) would have made the list based on the Spring finale, but lost it all in the sophomore season slump; Friday Night Lights (NBC) continues to be a great show, despite the lack of an audience and a willingness to dip into melodrama here and there; and Battlestar Galactica is uneven, but when it’s on, it’s on strong.

So there’s your Best of 2007. Here’s hoping that the 2008 list isn’t limited to all reality programming, game-shows, and newsmagazines.


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