2008 Calvin Awards: Best TV Show

February 18, 2008

They can't believe what cheaters the Patriots are.

Our top three selections from 2007 repeat in 2008. The only difference is in the order. Friday Night Lights makes the jump from third place last year to be our selection as Best TV Show. Winning by almost 20%, the NBC show with a cloudy future went from being a show a few of us were passionately supporting to one that all of us adore. The true surprise was in the extra episodes we received after season one. The show was given a surprise renewal for the 2007/2008 season, though NBC has been honest about the fact that it's unlikely to air again on the network. The writer's strike has deprived us of seeing whether the Dillon Panthers would have made a follow-up playoff run after their state championship last year.

If the above does not make any sense, let's back up. Friday Night Lights is a show about small town life in Texas and the way that football unites the community. Players are treated like royalty, and family members hang billboards outsider their houses identifying the number of the player who lives there. Based upon the 2004 movie set in 1988, this is a fictional, modern take on what it means to be a product of an elite football factory with a pipeline to many major college programs. The show ostensibly tells the story from the point of view of Dylan's head coach, Eric Taylor, and his wife and teen-age daughter. In reality, the players themselves have evolved into the focus of the series.

There is Matt Saracen, accidental quarterback, as well as responsible teen tasked to be caretaker for his mentally fragile grandmother. There is Tim Riggins, the drunken sex machine who puts women of all ages in heat. There is Smash Williams, the flamboyant prima donna straight out of the Terrell Owens mold, who is secretly a momma's boy. There is Landry, the untalented nerd trying to be a part of the football team in order to remain close to best friend Matt and maybe impress sexual empress Tyra along the way. And then there is the fallen idol, Jason Street, a would-be Peyton Manning whose life turns in the course of one tackle, rendering him an 18-year-old paraplegic. All of their struggles tie together to form a masterful package of soap opera-esque drama (one of the above kills a would-be rapist during the show's run), sublime humor (The Taylors' relationship is a series of endless quips), and gripping reality that shows that even the sleepiest towns in America have their share of stories.

Friday Night Lights may or may not find a new home on network or cable television. No matter how bleak its future looks, however, the show's first season is currently available on DVD for around $20. If you appreciate quality television, you owe it to yourself to pick this up and watch it. Plus, the second season will be available on DVD in April, meaning that you can quickly acclimate yourself with the entire run of this spectacular series. We regret that we are probably coming to the end of the road on Friday Night Lights, which makes its selection as the Best Television Show of 2007 bittersweet.

Always a bridesmaid, this is the complaint of The Office. After missing first place by only three points last year, the Steve Carell work-place comedy finds itself nine points away victory this time. So, not only did it not win, it moved further away from victory. The good news is that silver medals are nice, too, and it's certainly not as if the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin isn't used to finishing second. Their office was originally chosen for termination before a circuitous turn of events saved the quirky crew to suffer through another interminable period. Whether that is good or not is in the eye of the beholder, though I'm guessing Stanley wishes they had gotten the axe...and Creed would have kept showing up even if the place had gotten boarded up. The Office is the rare form of awkward humor that is somehow universally accessible to anyone who has ever suffered for countless hours in a cube farm. While we mainly turn it on to see what happens with Pam and Jim, the minor characters on the show have evolved to the point that Scranton lays claim to the most eclectic group of people this side of Springfield.


Last year's winner, Battlestar Galactica, drops to third place this year despite having the best season finale of any show on the 2008 list. The cause for the decline is assuredly the fact that we haven't had new episodes of the show since May 1st. Even the revelation of the identities of four of the final five Cylons combined with the haunting incorporation of All Along the Watchtower isn't enough to make us overlook the lack of new content. Sure, there was Battlestar Galactica: Razor in November, but we want our BSG to focus on the characters we know rather than ones we've never seen before. The good news from our perspective is that season three of BSG was ultimately satisfying, with several major story arcs including the occupation quickly cleared up. This allowed the show to take a firm step forward in moving toward the inevitable end, a point the viewer may not have fully appreciated until the finale aired. We have now, in the words of show creator Ron E. Moore, moved into the third act of the magnificent re-imaging of the corny 1970s show. From here on in, BSG is promising answers to all of their major questions, which is something we don't expect of some other, more heavily hyped shows such as, say, the one we have listed in sixth place below.

Humor is crucial in our fourth and fifth place selections. 30 Rock got a smattering of votes last year, but its quirky sense of humor won over the BOP staff in the interim. In particular, the over the top behavior of Tracy Morgan and Jack Donaghy made this one of the most quotable shows on the television schedule. Tina Fey's sense of humor is an acquired taste, meaning you may not fall in love with the show immediately. If you stick with it, however, you will soon grow to love Dotcom and Grizz the same way we do. Meanwhile, House is equally funny in its own way, but that gets hidden a bit by the tension, the drama and the...well, blood. House is not for everyone due its stubbornly disgusting visuals each week. The producers seem to attain sexual gratification through the discomfort of the audience, but our staff overlooks this in order to celebrate Hugh Laurie's masterworks as the titular character. It's no secret by now that Gregory House is modeled after Sherlock Holmes, making the show the best mystery program since the days of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, maybe even longer!

Finishing tied for sixth are the formerly celebrated J.J. Abrams series, Lost, and cherished newcomer, Chuck. This is the second time Lost has been selected, as it finished in fourth place in 2005 due to its magnificent first season. Since then, the staff has been skittish about celebrating Lost's accomplishments since it has, well, sucked as often as not. The show has been stuck in neutral for too long, but an eclectic mix of episodes of the second half of its third season made us cautiously optimistic moving forward. A fantastic season finale featuring a sort of fractured time new to the series made us (relatively) confident that past mistakes are being addressed, meaning we can go back to enjoying what was once great about Lost. On the other side of the coin, Chuck, the latest series from the creator of The O.C., has struck a chord with our staff. Genteel spy action featuring a nerd has been done recently in an unheralded but enjoyable series entitled Jake 2.0. Chuck builds upon the promise of that concept by focusing upon the head of the Nerd Herd at Buy More, not to be confused with the Geek Squad at Best Buy, because that would be legally actionable. The beauty of Chuck is that it too features an eclectic supporting cast - judging from our 2008 top 10, BOP seems to be drawn to the shows that do – highlighted by Australian newcomer Yvonne Strahovski as Chuck's co-hort, Sarah, and BOP fave Adam Baldwin as John Casey, a man just like Jayne Cobb in every way, shape and form, not that we're implying anything.

Rounding out our top ten are South Park, How I Met Your Mother and, tied for tenth place, Burn Notice and Doctor Who. Like Lost, South Park found redemption in the past year, particularly with their spectacular action trilogy movie spoof, Imaginationland. That episode alone was probably good enough for its eighth place vote. How I Met Your Mother's voters are torn between rather their support is based on the genius of the slap bet or cleverness of the video for Let's Go to the Mall. Tenth place breaks down as the old versus the new. Burn Notice grabbed our attention with its marvelous pilot, and it quickly became one of our most TiVo-d shows. Alternately, we are going to vote for anything with Bruce Campbell in it. Doctor Who's season three took a risk in letting Rose Tyler go, but to our staff's surprise, we quickly fell in love with Martha Jones. Her hopeless longing for a man she could never have added emotional depth to an otherwise cheesy sci-fi show that we love for its slight nature.

Other shows that just missed top selections are Flights of the Conchords, Psych, Andy Barker P.I., My Name Is Earl, The Simpsons, The Sopranos, and Damages. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Breakthrough Performance
Best Cast
Best Director
Best DVD
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Video Game
Worst Performance
Worst Picture
Top 10
Position Show Total Points
1 Friday Night Lights 61
2 The Office 52
3 Battlestar Galactica 43
4 30 Rock 42
5 House 21
6(tie) Lost 20
6(tie) Chuck 20
8 South Park 18
9 How I Met Your Mother 17
10(tie) Burn Notice 16
10(tie) Dr. Who 16



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