Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

Posts Tagged ‘The West Wing’

Frank and Jed

Posted by CJ Cregg on October 31, 2010

Selleck as Reagan

So, I love Blue Bloods on CBS.  It’s a great crime drama with an awesome family twist set in the best city in the world.  I love this family more than the Walker family (of Brothers and Sisters) as of late.  Although the Walker family of the first three seasons might still give the crime-fighting Reagans a run for their money.

But I don’t really want to talk about Brothers and Sisters right now.  I want to talk about the West Wing.  (Stop rolling your eyes, friends.  I know I always want to talk about the West Wing, but I’m being serious now.)

So, what do the West Wing and Blue Bloods have in common?  An awesome male lead and a great supporting cast.  I’ve been watching Blue Bloods since the premiere, and I’ve been having a difficult time putting my finger on why the show is so awesome.  And I realized last night what that is.  It’s that BB reminds me of the WW.  (Abbrevs FTW!)  Not really the whole show, although I love how BB delves into controversial topics like racial profiling and torture.  The Reagan family often holds a variety of opinions on these issues, which get debated at weekly family dinners.

Really, Frank Reagan (Commissioner of the New York Police Department, played by Tom Selleck) reminds me of Jed Bartlet (you know, President of the United States, played by Martin Sheen).  Both have a quiet, reflective, educated power.  They make tough decisions carefully and thoughtfully, but decisively.  They accept the painful ramifications of their choices.  In the most recent episode of BBSmack Attack” in which the Reagans bust a drug ring at a Catholic high school, we see Frank Reagan’s spiritual side and learn about his Catholic school roots, which reminded me of Bartlet’s similar quiet spirituality.  (Confrontation in “Two Cathedrals” not withstanding.)  Reagan seems like the kind of guy who, like Bartlet, would speak Latin and understand the intellectual side of Christianity.

What do you think?  Is my comparison apt?  What differences/similarities do you see between Selleck and Sheen or Reagan and Bartlet?

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The Top Ten TV Shows of the Decade

Posted by Mr. Feeny on January 6, 2010

The best television shows of the decade. Of the 2000s. Of the aughts. Of the Ks. The best TV shows from 2000-2009.

I’m just trying to cover everything for google searches. As you can see, I wrote a ton. And I want the world to read it.

Before Moltisanti jumps on me, I just want to clarify my rationales. As I have with all my lists, I created this one not solely based on my personal feelings. If it were just up to me, The West Wing would be the best show of the decade. But it’s not the “top” show. Not the one that had the biggest impact and will be the most remembered. That’s the decider for me. These aren’t the best shows. They’re the decade’s shows. If the decade were a person, the shows he/she would pick. I recognize there are some very well written and acted shows out there that lasted only a short time, or were off network TV. But that limited reach affects their standing in the decade.  Also, some shows suffer from just having begun. Modern Family might end up being one of the top shows of the 2010s. But it’s not one of the best this decade.

My list was a lot more clever and insightful before CJ posted hers. Now it just looks tired and repetitive. But I already had my list made when she put hers up, so it’s a testament to how sure-fire these picks are. If I were rating on quality, though, like Moltisanti, The West Wing, The Sopranos, and Arrested Development would be my top three.

He redefined disdain.

1) American Idol (FOX) – No television show garnered more attention all decade than FOX’s hit singing competition. Consistently the highest-rated program on television, American Idol became a cultural pillar. You can’t help but know something about it. Whether it’s the theme song, Simon Cowell, or one of the successful winners, everyone has an understanding of what this show is. If not Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood (which is how most people would know the show without watching it), they’re at least familiar with the premise. Why? Because it’s been repeated now over and over in other shows and live events. Local idol competitions sprung up like wildfires (including one that my sister won). The show has countless problems and can be very frustrating. And its popularity will certainly drop without Paula or Simon next year. But for the 2000s, nothing holds a bigger place in the pop culture landscape.

CSI makes science fun.

2) CSI (CBS) – Why when you flip on one of the four main networks at night are you more than likely going too see a crime procedural? And why will you see reruns of all those shows on the big cable networks, like USA, TNT and TBS? Why were there 3 million crime procedurals that aired — and lasted — in this decade? Because CSI worked. It did more than work; it kicked butt. Year after year, what was basically a modern Quincy, M.E. dominated the ratings. But even though the mystery format was similar to a new show every season, the details were not. What were Crime Scene Investigators? The general public didn’t know. They watch cops, doctors and lawyers. Never the scientists. Before CSI, detectives just handed baggies to nerds and 15 minutes later we had a fingerprint match. The public was (and still is) intrigued by the process. And seeing as half of network programming can be attributed to this genre, I think its trailblazer deserves a high spot on this list.

3) The Sopranos* (HBO) – As I mentioned in my characters list, The Sopranos really ushered in a new type of drama (much like CSI…but a very different genre). It’s characteristics: non-network, dark themes and filming, gritty language and situations, and a central anti-hero. Try to count all the programs that have basically been made only because of the success of The Sopranos. The Shield, Rescue Me, Saving Grace, Deadwood, The Wire, Damages…etc, etc, etc. I know there were other shows that were like this first, for instance Oz, also on HBO. But The Sopranos made it to the mainstream. They entered into pop culture. Even people who didn’t watch knew who Tony Soprano was. Of course, it was successful because of its entertaining and exciting plots and excellent acting. But again, that’s secondary on this list.

Great Flashback

4) LOST* (ABC) – This show created the most ravenous fan base I’ve ever seen, other than Star Trek. Spoilers and theories flooded the internet. Every little piece of the canon was perfectly (or accidentally) created, ripe for analysis. But unlike other shows that have tried to copy it, you cared about the characters. The brilliant concept of a different set of flashbacks each episode forced viewers to invest in the show. That’s part of the reason its ratings declined in the later seasons; rarely were there true flashbacks (or flashforwards). Just a hodgepodge, mixed in with too much science fiction. It became more than many viewers bargained for, but it will still be on the best shows of the decade…until they completely screw up the finale.

5) 24* (FOX) – I read an interesting comment from a critic recently. He said that before 24, killing off a main character, especially in the first season, was taboo. Now, it’s old-hat. I’m not sure if that first part is true, but the second certainly is. It doesn’t seem like a show can last without some character getting written out permanently. And you have to credit 24 for that. A show that continues to reinvent itself to avoid getting tired. With the exception of Jack and Aaron Pierce, no character has appeared in every season. And other than Tony and Chloe, no one else has been a starring character for more than 4 of 7 seasons. That is risky. Imagine if the bar patrons at Cheers kept changing. Yet each season was riveting because you knew no one was safe. Anyone could die at any moment, except for Jack. It keeps you guessing and keeps viewers coming back.

6) The West Wing* (NBC) – It says a lot about the quality of The West Wing that they routinely dove into complex political theories and dilemmas, used big words, talked a mile a minute and still garnered high viewership from the American public. As CJ put it, this show was about more than politics. It was about relationships: between the president and his wife, him and his best friend, a boss and his assistant, the press secretary and a reporter, friends and coworkers in the office, a speechwriter and a call girl…well, maybe that one didn’t matter as much. Don’t get me wrong. The politics were superb. I disagreed with most of their conclusions, but I never felt like Aaron Sorkin wasn’t presenting both sides. Liberals and conservatives could appreciate it all the same. But, the point is, even if you’re not all that into politics, the character studies that exist in this masterpiece of a show make it a must-watch for any serious television fan.

Not just a clown

7) The Daily Show (COM) – I’m going to cheat a little here,  but I’ll explain why. The Daily Show technically premiered in 1996, giving it four years in the other decade. BUT, I still say it was one of the biggest shows of this decade. If The Simpsons or ER were as big a player in the 2000s as they were in the 1990s, I’d include them here too. (FYI, that list would go Seinfeld, The Simpsons, ER). Consider these facts. Every award The Daily Show has won came in the past ten years. The show really jumped into the spotlight during “Indecision 2000.” And its insanely popular spin-off, The Colbert Report (2005), might be one of the best shows of the decade just on its own merits. So, I rest my case. As to why the show belongs on this list (instead of just why it qualifies), Jon Stewart has become this generation’s Walter Cronkite…as terrifying as that is. The youth of America turn to him for their news. And although it’s incredibly biased, I can’t argue with the fact that kids and young adults are at least learning something about current events and deeper thought…hidden in humor and gags. The Daily Show’s interviews all decade made more news than anyone appearing on a network show or even late night TV. This really was a blend of both genres, and beat them both in the ratings and public attention.

8 ) The Office* (BBC/NBC) – I’ll include the British one here, although I haven’t seen it. But you can’t give credit to the cleverness of the American version without the original. So many comedies these days seem to miss the boat when it comes to characters. They either focus on one or two and leave the rest as decorations, or they flood the set with stereotypes. I’ll mention Cheers again. There was an ensemble show. You, the viewer, felt like you really knew each character. Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart Show (with all his patients), Taxi. Just other examples of how this used to be done. The Office brought that back, with a huge cast, yet each character has a unique personality. Everyone can be counted on for a laugh. The fact that a show like that was able to become so popular, and with their sometime dizzying filming style, shows a new wave of sitcoms on the way.

Survivor Outback: The Best Season

9) Survivor (CBS) – This basically completes the list of “Decade Trendsetters.” You had CSI for crime procedurals, The Sopranos for gritty dramas, and Survivor for reality TV. None of them were the first, but they all got the most attention and made future endeavors acceptable. And when you consider those three categories, that pretty much defined the decade (that and the apparent death of comedy). In Survivor’s case, it was an instant hit. It seemed scripted, the way alliances formed and disputes unraveled. But because they weren’t actors, it also had that real quality perfect for summer entertainment. The name Richard Hatch is still universally known, long after his million dollars have been spent. I personally preferred the next two seasons, in the Outback and African deserts (remember, Outback launched the career of Elisabeth Hasslebeck…hmm, The View is probably one of the Top 20 shows of the decade). Survivor continued to pull big ratings, and still is one of CBS’s top ten shows, now in its 19th season. Despite its formulaic nature, the characters constantly change, adding new excitement. And without Mark Burnett’s creation, there might have been far less reality TV for the past ten years. Since 90% of those shows were horrible, I kind of wish Survivor had failed.

10) Family Guy (FOX) – Easily the best cartoon of the decade, Family Guy still can’t compare with The Simpsons in its heyday. There, that’s my disclaimer. So Simpsons fans won’t jump on me like they usually do when I praise Family Guy. But the fact of the matter is that Family Guy will be remembered as being one of the best shows of this decade. Not as much for quality as for pure entertainment. I enjoy the show for its witty references. Most people just like the crass humor. But either way, decades from now, middle-aged men (let’s face it, girls just don’t like the show as much) will fondly watch reruns on their cereal box TVs and laugh like they did as twenty-somethings. As for its place in the decade, the show definitely helped branch into more risque and raunchy comedy on television…which I’m not sure I like.

*As an addendum, shows with astericks would be on my “Favorite TV Shows of the Decade” list, which would also include Monk, Curb Your Enthusiasm, How I Met Your Mother, Arrested Development, and Dexter.

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CJ’s Best TV Shows of the Decade

Posted by CJ Cregg on January 5, 2010

OK, friends.  Time for the big one.  Which TV shows will we remember many years from now as some of the best of the decade?  Which ones truly captured the American public?  Here are my humble musings.  This is, of course, not the same as my personal list of favorite shows, but unsurprisingly, colored by the shows I like the best.

The very first American Idol

1) American Idol-I don’t know if anyone really watches American Idol anymore, but chats with some of my family members suggest that they do.  I clearly remember the beginning of my college career, though, when it was all anyone talked about.  Much like Survivor is to the “extreme reality TV” genre, American Idol is the decade trendsetter of the “reality competition” genre.  A mix of drama, talent, and kicking people off of things are the trademarks of this genre, and American Idol started it all with Kelly Clarkson.

2) Survivor-I readily admit to never having actually watched this show (and I call myself a TV blogger), but Survivor kicked off the “extreme reality TV” craze with a bang.  And what could be more 2000s than extreme reality TV?  (I say extreme because MTV’s the Real World premiered in the early 1990s as what is undoubtedly reality TV, but I think Survivor is a different genre.)  Survivor inspired numerous spinoffs (like I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here or the Amazing Race), and I distinctly remember it being the most talked-about show in the beginning of my high school career.

3) CSI-I must have bad taste, because my top three shows of the decade are all shows I never really watch, but CSI in all of its various iterations are constantly at the top of the ratings charts.  This is THE crime procedural.  Mr. Feeny explains it more eloquently than I can, perhaps because he’s actually watched the show, but people love this stuff.  And this is the trendsetter.

4) Lost-Few shows have taken the American public on such a thrill ride as Lost.  Moreover, no one I know just casually watches the show.  The people that do watch are hooked.  And the show is designed so that you can’t watch just one episode.  In fact, Lost may be the winner in the contest of ‘shows I picked up on DVD and watched all the seasons in a ridiculously short time.’  You can’t do it otherwise.  And though I could whine about how the show has gotten too confusing, and what the heck is the smoke monster anyway, I’m anxiously awaiting the final season to see how the writers will wrap it up.

5) The West Wing-I think people will remember this show.  I really do.  It was (for the most part) fantastically well done, and a balance of relationships and politics gave it a wider appeal than it otherwise might have.  It’s also my favorite show ever.  I’ve raved about it other places, so I’ll spare you, loyal readers, here.

6) Desperate Housewives-This is one of the most watched TV shows in the world, according to economist Charles

Desperate AND juicy

Kenney.  Premiering in 2004 and currently airing season 6, Desperate Housewives was a real crowd pleaser.  I remember the race to the TV room on Sunday nights my freshman year of college to watch the first season.  Kind of like a modern-day “Feminine Mystique,” shows that explore the secret lives of housewives are now commonplace.  Do you think Bravo’s multi-locale and extremely popular The Real Housewives of… would even exist if not for ABC’s Desperate Housewives?

7) The Sopranos-Yah.  Never watched this show.  But lots of people did.  And talked about it a lot.  And loved it.

8 ) Sex and the City-I have to admit, this show kind of uncomfortably straddles the decade divide.  But I think the SATC movie will help this show be remembered in this decade.  What else can we say about SATC other than it made 30 the new 20?

9) The Office-A show that is still going strong and shows no signs of quitting.  It has a very loyal fanbase and the dialogue and shot style has taken hold in other shows as well (see The Modern Family).

10) 24-Everyone knows who Jack Bauer is.  Even if you never watch the show.

Honorable Mention

Scrubs

House

How I Met your Mother

Friday Night Lights

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Moltisanti’s Best TV Shows of the Decade

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on December 31, 2009

1. The Sopranos

The best. Ever.

David Chase’s deeply perceptive realist drama attracted audiences with the promise of mafia intrigue. In reality, however, the mob was a supporting character in this study of modern American family life. It covered immense thematic ground—everything from generational conflict to the power of parents to our inability to cope with death to, well, the elusive meaning of life. Though set in a specific time period, this is a show that makes universal commentary on human nature. Its ideas and characters can be placed in any context at any time throughout history and still be valid. That’s the mark of great art, and that’s why it’s the best show I’ve ever seen.

2. Mad Men

Heavily influenced by The Sopranos, both stylistically and thematically, Mad Men has slightly less ambitious goals. And when I say slightly, I mean it attempts to capture the changing social fabric of America in the 1960s. So, yes, it’s still an ambitious show, and so far, a near-perfect one. Novelistic in its emphasis on specific themes, stylish beyond anything on TV and, like The Sopranos, touched with dark humor, Mad Men is the finest entertainment on television today. It’s already established itself in the pantheon of great television. Depending on how the next few years turn out, it could move even higher.

3. Arrested Development

Arrested Development is the funniest show I’ve ever seen. Its smart rapid-fire comedy was too, well, smart, for a mainstream TV audience, but its style makes it one of the most re-watchable shows I’ve ever seen. Will Arnett made my best actors list, but all the major players here (and the many guest stars) are brilliant. There are too many wonderful plotlines to mention here, but, if you haven’t seen it, go get in on DVD now. You won’t be disappointed.

LD

4. Curb Your Enthusiasm

Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm is a close second to Arrested for “best comedy of the decade” honors. Its dissection of every day annoyances as seen through the eyes of the perceptive (some might say tiresome) David retreads ground from Seinfeld (albeit with edgier plotlines and more vulgarity). The show’s loose, improvised style lets its talented cast shine. Let’s hope David keeps it on the air for at least a few more seasons.

5. Deadwood

David Milch’s Deadwood is about the creation of a civilization—and the compromises, the odd alliances, the brutality, and, sometimes, the human decency that accompany it. Written in a unique, almost Shakespearian style and anchored by several strong performances, Deadwood is a powerful, gritty Western with a lot to say about human motivation.

6. 24

Save for a disastrous sixth season, 24 has been one of the most consistent shows on TV this decade. Season one is arguably the most compelling season of television of all time, and it’s ending proved that the writers were willing to push the envelope of network TV conventions. Six seasons later, the show is still going strong, coming off a series-saving seventh season that proved that it is still the most compelling hour on TV. He may not be the absolute best character, but Jack Bauer will be the defining character of a troubled decade marked by terrorist threats and muddied rules of engagement.

7. Friday Night Lights

FNL is a powerful portrait of middling, average people weighed down by expectations and visions of grandeur. Its plot is the stuff of classic literature — characters with lofty ambitions and dreams operating in an imperfect world muddled by personal flaws, social divisions and tragedy. It’s a show that captures the redemptive power of sports — for both fans and players. So, next time you wonder why people get so invested in athletics, watch this show, and you’ll understand.

8. The Office

The British version is great too, but I’ve only seen a few episodes, so I’m sticking with the one I’m familiar with. Steve Carrell is the reason this show makes the list. Michael Scott does mind-blowing things, but, as Feeney noted, we’re still sympathetic to him. The supporting cast is great as well, and, the show brilliantly captures the drudgery, personal conflicts and politics of office life.

9. Lost

Great characters make Lost a top 10 show

After a scintillating first season, this show went downhill. Not quickly, but steadily. Based on what the writers have been saying about their commitment to getting back to character development in the final season, I’m optimistic about the end of the series. Still, Lost offers lessons to writers and TV execs everywhere. It’s the characters, stupid. Sure, the mysteries of the island made the show that much more addicting, but the series’ ability to craft a handful of deep, compelling and conflicted characters made it a success.

10. The West Wing

Maybe I’m just bitter that it beat The Sopranos at the Emmy’s multiple times, or maybe it’s because I don’t love Aaron Sorkin’s writing style, but I was never enamored with this show. Still, this was a strong series for a long time that gave us a unique inside look into the workings of the White House. It’s a fascinating premise, especially for political observers, and, for the most part, it was a solid show.

P.S. I know, I know. The Wire is missing. Before any of you David Simon acolytes lose your heads, rest assured that I have the DVDs and have started watching it. Based on what I’ve seen so far, it will easily make this list. Once I finish the series, I’ll amend the list and give the show it’s rightful due. So, sorry West Wing, you’ll soon be a goner.

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Feeny’s Best Actors of the Decade

Posted by Mr. Feeny on December 29, 2009

I hate going last. My list is now just a hodge podge of theirs. But believe me…mine’s the definitive list. If I used emoticons, this is where I’d type 😉 In seriousness, though, I think my cohorts forgot one major actor on the list…just like they did for characters.

1) Martin Sheen (The West Wing) – Just further proof that the Emmys don’t know what they’re doing (disregard this argument for Tony Shalhoub). In seven fantastic years as President Bartlet, Sheen never once came away the winner. His costars did. Even Alan Alda did for his end-of-the-series run. But never Sheen. And that’s ridiculous. He was the best actor on the entire show. He mixed pomposity with compassion, resolve with confusion. You saw everything the most powerful man in the world must go through on a daily basis…and still thought of Bartlet almost as a friend or father. I waited on bated breath for every time he would respond to a crisis or lesser dilemma. And that was because of Sheen, not Sorkin.

2) Keifer Sutherland (24) – I’d just like to once again thank Keifer for sponsoring this blog. We couldn’t do it without him. (He is the only person on all three of our character and actor lists…we are clearly on the take…thus nothing else needs to be said).

3) Tony Shalhoub (Monk) – My comparison of Monk to mashed potatoes is becoming more and more accurate. Not only did both my colleagues leave him off their best characters list, neither gave credit to Tony Shalhoub, the man behind the OCD. I guess his three Emmy awards didn’t catch their eye. I’m not saying that needs to be a qualification for being on this list….but it’s THREE! And a yearly nomination to boot. That’s not the Emmy voters just being their usual repetitive self. Shalhoub deserved it. His lovable and sypmathetic character seemed incredibly natural. Almost as if you were watching a reality show about this obsessive detective.

4) James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) – Tony Soprano would not have been the character of the decade without the superb acting of Gandolfini. He’s what made you root for the bad guy. You’d kind of like to hang out with T. That’s because Gandolfini pulled off the always difficult task of making a gangster seem human. You understood all of Tony’s motivations, from the big kills to the minor gripes. And every glance was extremely telling. Probably the best actor on my list in terms of subtlety.

5) Nathan Fillion (Castle, Desperate Housewives, Firefly) – If only Fillion were better known, or his shows lasted longer. Then you might have to call Fillion the actor of the decade. His work is always superb (and underrated, because of his goofy smile). And, he played a large part in a ton of shows. I was hesitant to include him in my Top 5, actually, until I started watching the final arc in Buffy the Vampire Slayer today. He made his appearance as Caleb and was just astoundingly great. Every word he utters is commanding…you want to and have to listen. If Buffy‘s not your cup of tea (idiots), try his season on Desperate Housewives, or the short-lived and much-adored Firefly, or Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog, or in his current hit Castle (boy does he deserve one). Oh, and if that’s still not enough proof he belongs on this list, how about the fact that he was in Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, which had two seasons in this decade. We can’t ignore our blog namesake.

Honorable Mentions

-) Michael C. Hall (Dexter) – I’ll go even further than mention Hall. Even as the show has declined, and Dexter’s character has gotten dull and repetitive, Hall’s acting has not. He’s just as believable as the normal guy forcing his way through interactions as he is as the serial killer slicing up victims. You see the true spirit of his dark passenger constantly.

-) Hugh Laurie (House) – What Laurie does so well (besides his American accent) is let you see the inner workings of House’s mind. You know how he arrives at every conclusion. Even those in his personal life. And as a testament to his work, he’s a likeable curmudgeon, unlike so many grumpy doctors on TV.

Guest Star of the Decade

Zeljko Ivanek (24, Damages, Heroes) – I had to make a special spot for this guy. I love him. One of the finest actors of the decade, without a doubt, but his lack of being a series regular kept him off the main list. I anxiously await the credits on my favorite dramas, hoping to see his name. Of course, at this point, he’s pretty much been on all of them. He was Andrei Drazen in 24‘s first season. He was a regular during Heroes’ third season. And he won an Emmy for his supporting role in Damages. But look at his lesser credits. He was Juliet’s husband (the guy killed by a bus) in LOST. He held House hostage in one of last season’s best episodes. He was even the bad guy in the series premiere of The Mentalist, the #1 show last year. Add in a role in the miniseries John Adams, some guest starring spots on programs like ER and True Blood, and reoccuring turns on The West Wing, The Practice, and Homicide/Law & Order. I’m not sure if anyone worked as much as Ivanek in television these past ten years. And he did so with such conviction. Always a pleasure. Sadly, I haven’t seen him in anything this season.

/

Moltisanti will surely note the absence of Hamm. He’s probably next on my list. But I never saw the layers of Don Draper that others see. To me, he’s stiff and rather dull. I don’t see much variety in his character. Moltisanti also may wonder why Soprano is #1 on my character list with Bartlet at #3, and yet Sheen is #1 and Gandolfini #4. Tony Soprano meant more to television as a character than Bartlet did. He’s much more lasting and impactful. And I thought they were both fantastic actors. But Sheen’s portrayal of the somewhat flawed and belabored president, especially in the middle seasons, really stood otu for me.

As for the others on their lists: Will Arnett’s probably the best actor on Arrested Development, but it’s too much of an ensemble show for me to select  just one. And while I think Kyle Chandler’s acting is fantastic in Friday Night Lights, it doesn’t quite match up to the others on this list.

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CJ’s Best TV Actors of the Decade

Posted by CJ Cregg on December 27, 2009

We’re running out of time to bring you the best of the 2000s.  So, here for your viewing pleasure, I present my five best TV actors of the decade.  Now, this will be a brief list because most of these actors have been mentioned for their skill on my best characters of the decade list.  However, when I selected those to include on my character list, I

Intensity? Check.

selected characters that I thought would be remembered, not necessarily those that are the most skilfully portrayed (although these are often one and the same.)  But since the criteria are a bit different for the two lists, they are slightly different.  Here we go.

1) Martin Sheen (The West Wing)-Martin Sheen brought just the right stuff to an incredibly complex character.

He was remarkably consistent as president Jed Bartlet, but very believable in his reactions to trying situations.

2) Kiefer Sutherland (24)-Jack Bauer.  Come on.  What else do I need to say?  (Jack Bauer would come and kill me if I didn’t put Sutherland on this list.)

3) Hugh Laurie (House)-This was the most popular show in the world in 2008.  And House is another fascinatingly complex character to portray.  Laurie brings an air of believability to such an ‘out there’ character.  He deserves recognition for this feat.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose

4) Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)-Perhaps only upstaged by Connie Britton, Chandler does a remarkable job as Coach Eric Taylor.  Firm as a coach and undying in his love for the game, Chandler brings a notable passion to his role.

5) Jon Hamm (Mad Men)-I haven’t seen much of this show.  So I may as well admit to just putting Hamm on the list because I think he’s cute.  Also because I’m looking forward to getting into this show (FINALLY) when I get back to Madison.

Honorable Mention

Steve Carell (The Office)

Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)

Naveen Andrews (Lost)

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Moltisanti’s Best Actresses of the Decade

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on December 26, 2009

1) Edie Falco – The Sopranos

I’ve already detailed why Carmela Soprano is one of the best characters of this decade. One of the main reasons she made that list is because of Edie Falco, who is equally understated and show-stopping throughout the six seasons of The Sopranos. Most will point to her duel with Tony in season four’s “Whitecaps” as her best performance, but it’s the smaller, quieter moments, when you see her wrestling with the disappointment in her husband (and, at times, her children), her struggle with her own limitations, and her maternal sense of responsibility where Falco shines the most.

2) Glenn Close – Damages

As Patty Hughes, Close is chilling and brutal. However, as I noted in the best characters list, this could easily have been a one-dimensional villain. Close, however, complements Hughes’ villainous side with hints of vulnerabilities and emotion. Her ability to command a scene is unparalleled.

3) Allison Janney – The West Wing

I’m not a huge West Wing fan, but during my years of watching the show, Allison Janney always stood out.  Unfazed and in

command, she, as Mr. Feeny noted, was the perfect actress for the high-paced Aaron Sorkin-penned Bartlett White House.

4) Kyra Sedgwick – The Closer

I wasn’t a regular viewer of this show, but every time I did watch it, I was mildly entertained by the plot and wildly entertained by Kyra Sedgwick’s turn as a spunky, tough detective. It’s possible that I was just brainwashed by all the promos I saw during the NBA playoffs, but, for now, I’m confident saying Sedgwick was one of the best of the decade.

5) January Jones – Mad Men

Betty Draper may be a slightly adapted version of a character we’ve seen before: the stifled 1950s housewife struggling to cope with suburban ennui. But, credit the show’s writers and January Jones for making sure she doesn’t turn into a cardboard cutout of a character. Betty has developed over the course of the show into a slightly more assertive woman and certainly a less naive one. Still, however, she’s held back by her own delusional childlike nature, her unhealthy relationship with her now dead parents and the social confines of an age where divorce was far from commonplace. Jones never overacts and often captures Betty’s unhappiness, fear and anger with just a look. In my opinion, Jones has delivered one of the most underrated performances of the decade.

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CJ’s Best TV Actresses of the Decade

Posted by CJ Cregg on December 20, 2009

Here goes.  Finally the women get the credit they deserve.

1) Tina Fey (30 Rock, SNL)-Thank Sarah Palin for this one.  See Mr. Feeny’s post on how Tina Fey became the actress of the decade.

2) Allison  Janney (The West Wing)-Mr. Feeny has hit the nail on the head with this one.  The reason CJ is such a compelling character on this show is that Janney portrays her with a passion that is unparalleled.  CJ never hesitates to speak her mind and get involved with the issues.  When something just doesn’t feel right, she lets us all know.  And, she can hang with the boys like the best of ’em.  She also lets her fun and quirky side out.  See this clip from season one if you doubt Janney’s versatility:

That's so Carrie

3) Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City)-Are you a Carrie or a Samantha?  That most people understand what this question even means is a testament to Sarah Jessica Parker’s portrayal of Carrie Bradshaw.  Sex and the City aired from 1998-2004 and was capped last year by the movie.  Parker’s insightful voiceovers about sex, love, men, and Manolos resonated with viewers and made the actress and the character one of the most popular of the decade.

4) Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls)-Quirky, sarcastic, and confident, Lauren Graham’s portrayal of Lorelai in Gilmore Girls made her everything mothers could hope to be.  Graham’s skill made Lorelai a down-to-earth, if totally strange, character.  Her humor was one thing that did not fade throughout the seasons.

5) Sally Field (Brothers and Sisters)-I know Mr. Feeny will argue with me over this one, but I sincerely believe Sally Field is the best part of this show.  Field’s portrayal of Nora Walker, the matriarch of the crazy family, really brings the whole family (nay, show) together.  When her eyes glisten with love for her family, it is hard for me to believe that Sally Field is anyone but Nora Walker.

Sally Field Brings the Walkers together

Honorable Mentions

Sarah Chalke (Scrubs, How I Met your Mother)

Alyson Hanigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, How I Met your Mother)

Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, The West Wing)

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CJ’s Best Characters of the Decade

Posted by CJ Cregg on December 14, 2009

Hugh Laurie as Gregory House

I use the same criteria as Mr. Feeny.  That is, when looking back, which characters will we remember in 20 or 40 years?  As a result, some of my personal favorite characters did not make the list.  I’ll write up my top 10 characters of all time when the insanity of finals are over.  Of course, my list here is colored by the shows I actually watched.  I have (brace yourselves) never seen an episode of The Sopranos, so even though I recognize that the show was a pretty big deal, I don’t feel justified adding a character from it to my list.  So here’s what I think are the most memorable characters of the 00s.

1) Jed Bartlet (The West Wing)-Bartlet for America, indeed.  A charismatic leader, principled person, and, at times, sarcastic snob.  Flawlessly portrayed by Martin Sheen, Jed Bartlet is the American president.  Prone to poetic monologues, Jed Bartlet is, however, undeniably human.  Viewers get to watch him struggle with tough issues and moral dilemmas from the realities of sending troops to war, hate crimes, and every other possible problem in between.  And this is the important part.  We get to see him struggle.  We understand his pain.

2) Jack Bauer (24)-This show is not in my regular viewing rotation.  Nonetheless, I remember working in the basement of my dorm (CRC what?) in college and constantly having to run away from that stupid ticking clock noise from 24.  In addition, Jack Bauer was constantly evoked in my political science classes when the subject of torture or harsh interrogation techniques came up, demonstrating that this character captured the imagination and interest of many young viewers.  I myself will tip my hat to Bauer and 24‘s writers for tackling difficult moral dilemmas.

3) Dr. Gregory House (House)House premiered in 2004 and has been going strong since then.  House’s severe and unconventional antics have made him famous in TVland, and Hugh Laurie is fantastic as the title character.  His struggles with illness and addiction make him a compelling person, and viewers are constantly waiting to see how far beneath House’s rough exterior they will be able to get.  Furthermore, wikipedia tells me that House was the most watched show in the world in 2008.  I think that justifies putting the best character from the show on my list.

4) John ‘J.D.’ Dorian (Scrubs)-OK, so Mr. Feeny is right that the ninth season of this show was just a really bad

Zach Braff as JD

idea.  But I find J.D. and most of his castmates touching and humorous throughout the previous eight seasons.  Premiering in 2001, Scrubs has been around for most of the 00s, making the main character an appropriate choice.  J.D.’s internal monologues, musings, failed relationships, and bro-mance with Turk make him a great character that has lasted throughout the decade.

5) Michael Scott (The Office)-Another show that isn’t on my weekly rotation, but the TV critic has to be cognizant of the fact that this is one of the most continuously popular shows on TV.  Mr Feeny does a better job of explaining everything that’s going on with this character, so I’ll just say that I think Steve Carell is funny.

I’m admittedly quite sad there are no women on my list.  Oh well.  What’s a girl to do?

But to restate, my personal list of favorite characters will look much different from this one.  You’ll have to wait to see that, though.

Honorable Mention

Barney Stinson (How I Met your Mother)

Coach Taylor (Friday Night Lights)

Hurley (Lost)

CJ Cregg (The West Wing)

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