Last night was the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards -- hosted by the hilarious and talented Neil Patrick Harris -- and of course there's coverage of that show and its winners here on our site. But just like we did earlier this year right around when the Grammys and Oscars were handed out, we're using this opportunity to give you ShowbizMonkeys.com's collective picks for the best television shows of the 2008/2009 season.
Some of our favourites would definitely be considered guilty pleasures that would never get love from the Emmys, but you'll also notice a few shows on our list that are definite contenders for "real awards". With so many great television shows out there, you may think we're missing something that should be recognized, so be sure to chime in with your own choices in the comments section.
(Note that there are spoilers about already-aired episodes of the below shows in their descriptions. You have been warned.)
House is a critically-acclaimed show that's also near the top of the TV ratings every year. And just like our Top TV Shows of 2007 (the last time we had a list of our favourite television shows), it's at the top for ShowbizMonkeys.com once again. The new team definitely hit its stride last season, and Hugh Laurie continued to bring the great dark comedy he's so skilled at, the show dealt with some pretty heavy issues in Season 5. The way they chose to write Kal Penn (Kutner) out of the show was brilliantly handled, and House's mental breakdown as the season wound to an end left the show with a unique place to start this fall.
Now airing on DirectTV prior to its mid-season run on NBC, Friday Night Lights is one of the best shows to hit the airwaves this century. The acting, writing, and cinematography are all top-notch -- and despite the title reference, it's not just about football! Somehow, it still doesn't get a lot of viewers, or Emmy nominations. Disgraceful! If you still haven't discovered it, then you best get your hands on the first 3 seasons on DVD and get ready to enjoy the 4th on DirectTV this fall (or wait for NBC to air it in early 2010).
Psych isn't watched enough. Sure, it gets pretty good ratings for USA on Friday nights after Monk, but good ratings for cable are still minimal compared to network TV. Plus, up here in Canada, it doesn't even air -- DVDs (and nefarious means) are the only way to catch the show. But all those people don't know what they're missing! Mixing up often silly characters, clever writing, great mysteries, frequent 80s & 90s pop culture references, and occasional heartfelt moments, the comedy about a fake psychic working alongside the Santa Barbara Police Department is always guaranteed to bring the laughs.
Gossip Girl never disappoints, and that's why it's on this list. Consistently crazy, sexy, over the top, ridiculous and wonderful, we just can't look away. Add some of the most insane fashion and most beautiful young faces of the decade, mix in clever writing and storylines that are simultaneously jaw-dropping and cringe-inducing, and what's not to love?
True Blood's first season was a relative hit for HBO, showing an alternate reality where vampires live among humans, but often as second-class citizens treated with great prejudice. But the recently-complete second season of the show, which essentially doubled in ratings from Season 1, helped make the show a huge sensation. Equally sexy, funny, and frightening, True Blood -- featuring Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse and Stephen Moyer as vampire Bill Compton -- is true escapism television. It's fun and fantastical, and leaves us wanting more after each episode. Twilight may be perfect for teenage vampire fans, but True Blood is where the adults go to get their supernatural fix!
The show only lasted one season, and we are very, very sad about this. It was always adorable, always fun, and featured the eternally loveable JoAnna Garcia as Megan Smith, one of the most sympathetic female leads since Liz Lemon. JoAnna can now be found over on Gossip Girl, and we're grateful to The CW for continuing to employ her. Were you watching? Do you miss it too? If you haven't seen it yet, try to catch it in reruns or on DVD.
Blame ABC. Blame the writers' strike. Blame television audiences. Blame a lack of marketing. But you can't blame creator/showrunner Bryan Fuller or his amazing cast for the cancellation of Pushing Daisies. In two shortened seasons (one courtesy of the writers' strike, the other thanks to cancellation), this show about a super nice piemaker who also has the ability to bring the dead back to life with a single touch gave audiences both nearly headache-inducing sweetness and insanely dark scenarios and comedy. Visually, the show was colourful and enchanting (with a feel similar to Tim Burton's version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), while the writing was clever and sharp. It's just too bad the show never attracted enough viewers.
30 Rock is the most consistently funny show on television. While the characters are likely the most zany that have ever existed on network TV, the most insane of all, Tracy Jordan, isn't that different from the man who plays him, Tracy Morgan. You can tell there's a little bit of each actor in the character's eccentricities, which we think adds to the hilarity of the show. Combined with slick writing, perfect use of guest stars, and the best slapstick in years, Tina Fey's little show about the behind-the-scenes insanity of a variety show and corporate America is always a winner. (And of course, we're not the only ones who think so, as it continues to win Emmys and Golden Globes and everything else you could possibly think of.)
In 20 or 30 years, we think Lost just might be remembered as one of the best shows in television history. The writing is absurdly complicated -- occasionally too complicated for its own good -- but Lost always manages to keep us interested and intrigued. The acting of the talented ensemble is often underrated and overlooked, but we dare you to find a better actor on television than Michael Emerson (Ben Linus). While the show has always been a little mystery and a little sci-fi, the fifth season brought us full-on into science fiction with time travel going from a "theory" about the show to becoming a major part of Lost's mythology. No show on television is as rich in plot or backstory, but unlike other shows that try to develop such a rich tapestry, the characters don't suffer. With only one more season to go, there are so many questions still unanswered, and we'll have our eyes glued to our televisions in the new year to find out as much as we can!
How the mighty have fallen -- but maybe not that much. Our last list put the show at #2, but that was with the amazing first season still fresh on our staff's minds. Now that we've given the show a little room to go through its growing pains (that's the nicest way to refer to Season 2), the show enjoyed some improvements towards the second half of the 3rd season. So the show is still on our list, but not near the top like a year and a half ago.
(Additional reporting by Ariana Heppner and Sarah Miller.)
Paul Little is the founder and Managing Editor of ShowbizMonkeys.com. When not interviewing his favourite musicians and comedians, he can also be found at The Purple Room in Winnipeg, where he is Artistic Director. (@comedygeek)
blech! Only one of your top ten shows is even watchable (House) and it's getting rather stale!
Brad Hutchinson's taste leaves something to be desired.
I know I'm pre-empting the inevitable "House" season premiere post... but I saw it last night and just had to say: "House" rocks my socks. Woohoo new season!
I thought the only thing great about hte emmys was Neil Patrick Harris. I found alot of the good shows were left out such as Dexter and How I met your mother. I felt some people won and I was left wondering why that was but anyways with any luck next years emmys will turn out to be less of a disappointment!
30 Rock is always amazing...too bad about Pushing Daisies. I'm a little late on this, but I just finished watching The Wire - what an amazing series that was!