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 ‘West Wing’

Best Actresses of the Decade

Posted by Mr. Feeny on December 17, 2009

Continuing our list of Decade Bests…and to show I don’t hate women after I kept them out of my Best Characters list…here are the five actresses who shined above all others from 2000-2009. Technically, I guess if someone was on a mostly 90s show but had an amazing season this decade, that could count. But I don’t think we’ll run into that. Unlike my character list, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the performances that defined the decade. Just the ones that really stood out.

I see the actor/actress lists more like a sports dynasty. Were the Yankees the best team of the decade? They won the first and last World Series and performed well almost every year in between. The Patriots? The Lakers? Every year’s a little different,  but a dynasty is created. That’s the case with this list. Great actresses boost their significance to the decade by being spread across multiple shows and platforms. Which is exactly what THE Actress of the Decade did.

1) Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock) — There is no doubt in my mind that Tina Fey was the biggest actress of the 2000s. Let’s look at it chronologically. First off, she had nothing on her TV resume before the end of the 90s and now she’s one of the most famous actresses in the country. She ascended to the top of Saturday Night Live’s pecking order early this century, quickly becoming a fan favorite. She transitioned that success into the incredibly popular movie Mean Girls (which she wrote…as she did most skits on SNL). And after leaving Saturday Night Live, what did Fey do to keep up? Created and wrote 30 Rock, a hilarious comedy that has won the Emmy every year since it’s creation, and given Fey two individual nods. Oh, and if that’s not enough, Fey became even more popular with her spot-on impression of Sarah Palin during the 2008 election…also earning her an Emmy. She might be the funniest actress since Mary Tyler Moore…and is definitely the best female writer. It’s Tina Fey’s world and we’re just watching it.

2) Edie Falco (The Sopranos) — How do you play the devoted wife of a killer and not seem like a naive sap? The way Falco did. Carmella always knew what was going on. She saw through Tony’s BS and chose to stay with him, because she herself had problems. But Falco fought to make her character strong, not just a victim of circumstances. Every decision Carmella made, be it small (getting her kid’s form signed) or large (having or not having an affair), Falco showed the power inside her character. Scenes with Gandolfini were always riveting, and unlike some other acclaimed dramas, I never screamed for the lead female character to get off the screen (ahem, Mad Men). The whole range of human emotion could be seen in Falco at any given moment. A flicker of her eyes could tell you what she was thinking. Fantastic dramatic actress.

3) Allison Janney (The West Wing) — The actual West Wing — and all of DC for that matter — is a boy’s world. And fast paced scripts from Aaron Sorkin seemed almost intended for those good old boys. But CJ Cregg was just as much a part of the decision making and fast talking as anyone else in that White House. And that’s thanks to Janney. She managed to find in Cregg the difficult balance of professionalism and compassion, often finding pet concerns or uncovering painful realities that she, as a political outsider, struggled with. When she disagreed with a decision, she let it be known before going about her job. I still don’t like the writers’ decision to promote her to Chief of Staff, but even in that role Janney evolved and gave CJ a new outlook. She almost became Leo. If you need proof that Janney belongs on this list, watch “The Long Goodbye.” The only episode of the series where one character goes off and has an entire episode just to her or himself. The acting in that episode alone is one of the best performances of the decade.

4) Glenn Close (The Shield, Damages) — I love Glenn Close’s masterful performance in Damages but was hesitant to include her after just two seasons. Then I remembered she was in The Shield, which I heard fantastic things about…plus it earned her an Emmy (as did Damages). A pair of Emmys is a good place to start for being one of the best TV Actresses of the Decade. I can’t speak on her Shield performance, but as Patty Hewes, Close dominates every scene she’s in. You can’t take your eyes off her. You never know what she’ll say next or, more importantly, how she’ll say it. The most common phrase can become a biting judgment. Her eyes will turn you to ice, her smile make you squirm. It’s actually very similar to her role as Cruella de Vil…only much more dramatic.

5) Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) — After three seasons, it’s criminal that Britton hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy. Especially in an awards association that relies so heavily on critics over viewers. As Tami Taylor, Britton exhibits every single quality that makes the others on this list award-winners. She has the resolve of Close, the complexity of Falco, the compassion of Janney. Even some humor…though not on Fey’s level. Plus, she improvises a large part of her scenes with Kyle Chandler, showing her natural acting chops. She makes her role as a small town coach’s wife and school principal seem about as realistic as a show can get. And as anyone who acts knows, “not acting” is one of the toughest skills there is.


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Feeny’s Best Characters of the Decade

Posted by Mr. Feeny on December 14, 2009

I agree with several of Moltisanti’s choices on his list of the decade’s greatest characters. Two especially were formative television characters who defined the decade. That’s upon what my lists will be based. Not great characters from critically-acclaimed but hardly viewed shows. Rather, characters that will forever be remembered as coming out of and representing this decade. Frankly, Don Draper’s on the shoulder of that. Great character, multi-layered, widely talked about. But will people think of him when they think of TV characters from the 2000s? Like they think of Lucy for the 50s. JR for the 80s. Homer for the 90s. I don’t think so. He’s a great television character, but not “Of the Decade.” There’s more to that classification.

In 40 years, when you think back, these will be the five characters you remember.

1) Tony Soprano (The Sopranos) — But Molitisanti and I will definitely agree on the top character of the 2000s. Largely because of the impact he had on other characters of the decade. The Shield, The Wire, Damages, Dexter. None of them could have captured audiences had Tony Soprano not introduced the idea of a sympathetic villain. This is a murderer. A law-breaking, modern day mobster who chokes his associates to death, cheats constantly on his wife and bullies everyone around him. But, it’s also the only life he knows, and the best way he knows to provide for his family, which he actually does care deeply about. The hypocrisy is rank, but the drama is golden. And Tony Soprano used it to be the most important television character of this decade.

2) Jack Bauer (24) — I really can’t say it any better than Moltisanti did. Jack is an action hero with feelings. The best seasons (one, three, five, seven) somehow are able to develop Jack’s character in the span of a day, as we see him experience the entire range of human emotion. Just brilliant (except season 6…terrible…I will never stop mentioning that).

3) Jed Bartlet (The West Wing) — How many Americans this decade would have preferred him as their president? Even though we disagree on most issues, I have to admit, I’d vote “Barlet for America.” And that was the beauty of Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing creation. You knew where this fictional character stood on EVERYTHING. Over the course of seven seasons (all but one in this decade), Bartlet made known his beliefs on everything from war to health care to judges to abortion to immigration. He seemed like a real politician. But what makes this character great is the personality behind it. The fact that Bartlet’s a trivia nut, that he once considered the priesthood, that he cracks jokes every chance he gets. He was the perfect balance of personality and power. Add in one of the most compelling storylines of the decade — hiding his MS and then fighting it in office — and Bartlet will forever be remembered as one of the greats. When Martin Sheen dies, they might put his casket in the capital rotunda.

4) Adrian Monk (Monk) — Where else on TV has an OCD character not only been the star, but one of the most popular characters in all of television? Typically, these are supporting or passing persons in the run of a series. But Monk put this uniquely quirky and obsessive character right in the forefront and let the magic happen. You never really pitied Monk. You laughed at his idiosyncracies and rooted for him to overcome obstacles. From season to season, his growth was slight. But he often did come face to face with his fears and usually overcame them…if just for that instance. In the hands of a lesser actor, Monk could have become a stale mockery. Instead, he was one of the most beloved characters, truly of this decade (2002-2009)

5) Michael Scott (The Office) — This one is going to get a lot of negative reaction, especially for those lovers of the British original. But frankly, I’m sick of that. Having now caught up on the entire series, Michael Scott is just as fantastic a character as David Brent. Better, I’d say. You can clearly see that this man is overmatched by his job, but at the same time understand why he has it. You can see why he has no girlfriend or family, but also understand that he should and would be a great husband/father. He’s far more layered than most sitcom characters, and much more than you’d think after just a few episodes. You truly need to see Michael Scott throughout the series to understand his motivation and personality. And there are few characters this decade, including those on this list, that I get a warmer feeling about when they find redemption. Those scenes are incredibly touching in The Office, only because of how invested we are in its lead character.

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Great Thanksgiving Episodes Pt. 3 — Beg Your Pardon?

Posted by Mr. Feeny on November 25, 2009

For the record, The West Wing was already on my list of Thanksgiving episodes before CJ mentioned it on the first post. Two of the most entertaining moments in the show’s history took place on Thanksgiving, making them a must on this list. Of course, I couldn’t choose which is better, so I’ve included both “The Indians in the Lobby” and “Shibboleth”. Of course, both episodes were great in full, but these two clips really exemplified what made them — and the show — so wonderful. The West Wing wasn’t just about policy and smart people and talking fast. It was also about life, from the everyday mundane to the exciting relationships to the regular moments of natural humor. And the concepts for each episode were so clever. What would happen if the President had to pardon TWO turkeys (clip 1)? Or what if the President needed help preparing a Thanksgiving dinner (clip 2)? Hilarity, that’s what.

Best quotes:

  • “Aren’t I gonna get a reputation for being soft on turkeys?”
  • “Morton, this is President Bartlet.” “Hey Morton.” “Wow.” “Well said.”
  • “I’m drafting this turkey into military service.”
  • “Can I have your name please?” “I’m a citizen.”
  • “Is there a chance I could kill my guests? I’m not saying that’s necessarily a deal-breaker.”
  • “That was excellent. We should do that once a week.”

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Happy Anniversary West Wing!

Posted by CJ Cregg on September 22, 2009

My favorite TV show, Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing turns 10 years old today!  The show first aired on September 22, 1999, with the Pilot episode.  6 more seasons followed the first one before the show ended.  The final episode, “Tomorrow,” aired May 14, 2006.  I then promptly acquired the complete series box set.  I wish the show were still on the air, but today, I shall raise a glass to the best show ever on TV (IMHO).  Celebrate with me, dear readers!

Now watch Josh and Donna discuss THEIR anniversary:

What’s next?

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