I have to say, that I think 2009 was a very good year for television. There were numerous quality shows that kept our DVR full around the year. Enough so, that I felt badly that we didn't go through as many movies as I thought we would via Netflix. Not enough hours in the day – or evening, I suppose as the case may be.
As for coming out of the blue, nothing surprised me more than Fox's Glee. I didn't even watch the first couple of episodes of this wonderfully snarky musical comedy, but found myself drawn to it as I crossed through the living room a couple of times when the Beloved was tuning in.
I really love how the show is so self-knowingly smug with its non-PC-ness. The glee club itself is a mirror of a perfectly integrated 21st century American cast: nice jock, mean jock, dumb cheerleader, conniving cheerleader, gay kid, black girl, Jewish girl, wheelchair kid, Asian girl and a guy who always seems to be called “other Asian”. Blend its' over-the-top schlockiness soap opera plots with rip-roaring musical numbers (of both contemporary popular songs and classic hits*), and you have a recipe for fun. Some of the performances have been really fantastic (especially those from Lea Michelle, Matthew Morrison and Amber Riley). And the claims that it's anti-Christian seem just as silly as those worrying that Harry Potter being anti-Christian. In Glee, there are good people and bad and true people and hypocrites, conflict and bad choices, forgiveness and redemption – and in the end, you get the sense that the good will win and bad elements will get there just desserts (what's more Christian than that?). I also have a nagging hunch that this show may “jump the shark” fairly early (like “Heroes”), but this half-season has been just about note-perfect.
Also on the “must-watch-now” list for me were two shows by Bravo: Top Chef and Top Chef Masters. This most recent installment of Top Chef was easily the strongest – both in the quality of the contestants and the show's focus on the competition. Gone were stupid-hat-guy and in-your-face-anti-social-girl, and snide-Euro-guy which had marred some otherwise excellent seasons. With increased exposure and larger amounts of prize money, these guys were here to cook. And win.
The show started with 17 contestants, but it was pretty clear that barring a big upset that the winner would come from a group of four that was a cut above the others: Jen, Kevin, and a pair of brothers, Michael and Bryan Voltaggio. I think any of them would have pretty easily beaten any of the previous winners and I really hated to see it come to an end.
Top Chef Masters was a summer series that pitted very famous (like world famous) chefs against one another for charity (and no doubt for bragging rights). The amazing thing to me was how many incredibly well known (amongst foodies) people they got to participate. Across the board, the contestants were classy and really seemed to embrace the fun and good-natured competition. And to see these guys create really did give you a sense of the gulf between the pros and the “young bucks” that are just getting started in “regular” Top Chef. We were very excited that the top two were two of our favorites Hubert Keller and super-food-nerd Rick Bayless. Bayless won, but Hubert has become a house favorite – espeically after we ate at his restaurant Fleur-de-Lys in the Mandalay Bay last fall.
Don't think that I wasn't on the JJ Abrams bandwagon though — Fringe and LOST both have had excellent seasons, but the above were the shows that I wasn't willing to let sit on the DVR very long.
*classics, meaning they were popular when I was in high school