Weird year, 2007. It began with the public immolation of Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington and ended with the possible immolation of TV as we know it. In between came the greatest fade to black of all time, the twee-est TV show ever to earn a full-season pickup and all kinds of really good (and some really bad) television.
Some of the things that stick out in my mind:
Most welcome surprise: After we watched the pilot of Pushing Daisies, the consensus among us critics was "Great show — it’ll never last." It was just sooo wide-eyed and sweet and visually playful that we thought A) there’s no way audiences will ever warm to it, and B) there’s no way the show will be able to keep up with the eye-popping look of the pilot. The latter has sort of come true, but not at all to the show’s detriment. Instead Pushing Daisies has become one of the most verbally limber shows on TV, cutting its sweetness with some brilliantly acidic humor, supplied largely by the fabulous Chi McBride.
Single worst thing about this TV season: No, not Viva Laughlin. It’s the fact that there may not be one to speak of after we all come back from our winter break. So, please, giant media companies: Get off your extremely well-compensated behinds, get back to the table, and actually negotiate with striking writers. The fastest way to irrelevancy for network TV is to present the summer-like schedule, larded with hacky hidden-camera pranks, baby-raising teenagers and game show after game show, that’s headed our way this winter. That novelty is going to wear thin really quickly.
Best performance you probably didn’t see: It was hard to tell just how, exactly, British actor James Nesbitt pulled off his transformation in Jekyll, which aired on BBC America. Makeup and prosthetics were involved, but more than that, it almost seemed as if the air around him changed when Nesbitt inhabited Mr. Hyde. His eyes were brighter, his bearing straighter — as a viewer, you could practically feel his scary confidence coming through the screen. My words don’t quite do it justice, but it’s on DVD and absolutely worth checking out.
Late to the party: Given my love of most things culinary on television, it really doesn’t make much sense that I ignored the first two seasons of Top Chef. Suffice to say that won’t happen again, for Top Chef is one of the best-produced competition shows on television and (at least this season) refreshingly free of the cattiness that plagues so many other shows like this. Host Padma Lakshmi can be grating at times, but fellow judges Tom Colicchio, Ted Allen and occasional guest Anthony Bourdain more than offset her.
Best signoff: Count me among those who loved, loved, loved the Journey-and-onion-rings non-ending of The Sopranos. I’m guessing there might be a couple of comments in the other direction; the fact that we can still argue about it six months later is at least one measure of greatness.
Worst sendoff: Granted, the final season of Gilmore Girls paled in comparison to what the show was at its peak. And granted, it maybe should have ended under the watch of creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. But that’s no excuse for the way The CW treated the show at the end of its run, giving fans barely two weeks’ warning that the series was ending. Fortunately the show’s writers had crafted an ending that could serve as a series capper, but one of the signature shows of The C-dub’s predecessor The WB deserved far better.
Best deployment of Bob Dylan: The first time Battlestar Galactica used a crackly version of "All Along the Watchtower" in an episode, fans all kind of went, "Huh?" Then it popped up again in the season finale, and in a weird and very cool way, it all sort of made sense.