The Best TV of 2006

Now that Christmas is over and it'll be the New Year tomorrow, I figure I'd do a bit of looking back on things. So, the best TV of this year:

New TV

This was the year that the television networks picked up on the fact that serialized TV might sell really well. Following the sucesses of LOST and Prison Break, it seemed like a no brainer. Odd thing is, it didn't really work as well as people'd predicted. Critic favorites like the Nine and Six Degrees bombed and were cancelled, although a couple held on nicely.

1- Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - I like TV, the industry, writing, everything. I'd heard about the show earlier on in the year and thought that it sounded bad, but when I saw the pilot episode online, it hooked me from then. This show's the most important one on there. It takes on religous, governmental, politics, broadcasting theory and ethics in its episodes, stuff that you don't really see. This is smart TV. The dialogue, characters, plots, all fantastic stuff, and it's a shame that this show didn't catch on as well as it should have. Hopefully, we'll see a season 2 to this.

2- Heroes - This is a fun show. Can't take it too seriously, but it's just one of the best geek shows out there. There's a good kick back to the community with references and things like that that makes it fun to watch, as well as a really cool storyline and characters to match it.

3- Day Break - This was cancelled just the other week, which makes me very unhappy. The good news is that this show's got all the 13 episodes filmed, or so I heard, so they'll be out sometime. Detective Hopper's reliving the same bad day, and while this show couldn't last very long, it's got the strongest of all the storylines of any tv show. They should have just billed this as a miniseries or something.

TV That Came Back

Battlestar Galactica - I didn't think that it could get any darker, but it did, and man, the opening five episodes just blew my mind. There's been a couple of episodes that I wasn't thrilled with, but on the whole, Battlestar's back and kicking ass. Can't wait to see the next ten episodes. As far as Season 2 went, this year's half of the episodes was weaker than season 1 and the first half, but they really pulled themselves together towards the end.

Veronica Mars - Season 3's on a new network and doing pretty well, although they're not going to be doing an overall mystery this time around. The rape mystery was brought to a conclusion, which was pretty good, and the writing and characters are just as good this time around. Can't wait to see the next half of the season.

House, MD - House was cured! Sort of. After getting shot, he could walk for four months. Then he's back to drugs again, and he's got a cop after him, a former actor from the show Hack, who's one of the cooler new characters that's been in the show, much better than Vogler from season 1. House is sarcastic still, and downright mean at times, and they're really pushing his character around, which doesn't happen that often.

Prison Break - Okay, they broke out of Fox River, and they're on the run. A good chunk of them have been killed, right from the first episode. It was good to see the show change gears so quickly, but I don't think that this has much life left in it. While they're still alive, they're still running, and they've done a terrific job with it.

Other good ones this year - Supernatural, LOST, Stargate SG-1/Atlantis. Supernatural's gotten into more of an arc, which is interesting, and they've really forced some characterizations out of the brothers, LOST has been interesting and Stargate's really gotten into it's stride again, only to be cancelled.

Foreign TV

1- Life on Mars - Aired earlier this year on BBC1 while I was over there. I didn't catch the show while I was in England, but I did recently. It's one of the more imaginative and interestin series that I've seen, mixing police drama with science fiction and the 1970s. Brilliant show.

2 - Green Wing - This show is hilarious. Simply brilliant show, great acting, really fun sense of humor there.

Misses this year were The Nine, which should have been a movie, Six Degrees, which had an interesting concept, but handled poorly with some bad characters. Smith was promising, but it never took off, which was a shame, that one I actually liked.

In the upcoming year, I'm only looking forwards to one show, and that's The Dresden Files, airing on SCIFI in January, based off of the books by Jim Butcher. It looks really good, and I can't wait to watch it.

Internet TV: New Season

Last year, and earlier this year, I posted up a series of essays on television's increase in quality, as well as the changing role of television programmes and the internet. iTunes has increased it's number of television shows from just a couple of ABC shows to two-hundred twenty. They've also picked up shows such as Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Prison Break, Law and Order, CSI, The Office, and have added a feature called a Season Pass, which will allow you to purchase the entire season ahead of time, all that you have to do is download the episode when it's put online. In addition to the huge number of shows that have been added online, Apple Corp. has just revamped the iPod and iTunes. The new iPods have a better screen and longer battery life, aimed specifically at being able to watch videos on the devices. They're not the full screen iPods as had been rumoured, but iTunes has become more visual. CD Cover art is more prominant, and the video quality has gone up. Towards the end of the typical TV seasons earlier this spring, where ABC put several of their shows online free, streaming, with limited ads. FOX and CBS have followed suit with some of their shows thus far. Fox put up four of the first episodes of Prison Break, Vanished, and has followed with a couple of other shows. CBS has placed their new show Smith, CSI: Miami, and the Unit online. I'm sure that several other networks (Please, please, please, CW, put up Supernatural and Veronica Mars online).
So what does this mean? Television is breaking further into the internet. NBC, SciFi, ABC, CW, and CBS have all added online video hubs. These hubs offer a number of different options, ranging from the full episodes of television episodes to behind the scenes and promos for upcoming episodes. I don't think that it needs to be said, but TV is here on the internet to stay.
There's a couple of reasons for content being provided online. The technology is here, with broadband connections becoming ever more powerful. I, for the first time, have Cable internet, and as a result, I've been watching Prison Break, Battlestar Galactica, and currently, Smith, streaming. It's a cool thing.
I'm also extremely pleased with it because I can now watch the episode a day or so after it airs, which is very nice because my job will be taking me away from the tube, and for shows with content that relied heavily on the story aspect, it's nice to have the option to be able to catch up without waiting half the year for a re-run.
There are, with all good thing, some drawbacks. iTunes music files are fairly large, ranging from 396 megabytes to 912 megabytes. These are huge files, and they have the potential to really eat up your hard drive in huge bites. No pun intended. But currently, I'm down to about 7 free gigabytes on my own hard drive. In addition, the streaming shows are just that, streaming. The quality level on the full screen settings are pretty weak, and if your connection is spotty, you're likely to have trouble.
Security is another drawback. with sites like Youtube, Google Video and Myspace videos gaining in popularity, it'll be a matter of time before there will be some news about television networks and their programs ending up on these sites. I know that House has made an appearance as a six part upload, as I'm sure that several other shows have done. Warner Brothers has signed a deal with Youtube for their content, while another has condemned the site.
Finally, not all shows are online. Fox, much to my annoyance, hasn't put up House for download on iTunes, nor streaming. So, if there's really one show that you have your heart set on, it might be hit or miss whether it'll be online for viewing or not. Well, there's always the DVDs, or you know, making sure that you'll be able to make the TV date.
I generally get around that little problem by watching the episodes while I'm doing other things, like writing, talking with other people, and with it in a small corner of my screen.
Things are likely to improve. Image quality has a little ways to go, but I'm betting that we'll see some slower progress, as with higher quality episodes, we'll have bigger megabyte sizes. Bigger sizes mean longer download times and more space taken up on your computer.

Next up: Lost Clones, the TV/Movie Barrier and high quality storylines.

What To Watch

In recent years, I've become a big fan of a lot of the TV shows that have come out on television, mainly because of the recent rise in quality in a lot of the storytelling that's been coming through. LOST has been one of the biggest movers and shakers thus far, causing a bit of a change among a number of stations and a number of new shows coming out with a much different focus than before.

So, as a friend described, I did something incredibly geeky over the summer, and set up a table comparing the shows, times, days and what they go up against. Thus, I've come up with a list of shows that I suspect will do well, and which ones I'm recommending for the upcoming season.

Returning Shows:

Prison Break (FOX) - This was one of the best scripted and arched series that came out last year. Now, the inmates of Fox River Penitentrary are all on the run, and now that the show's in it's third episode, it looks like they're keeping up the intelligent storytelling and scripting. Can't wait to see what happens next.

House, M.D. (FOX) - Doctor House and the doctors are back, and they're picking up where they left off, after House was shot last season. This show has some of the more interesting characters in TV, although they don't have the tight storylines that Prison Break has. However, the sarcasm makes up for it nicely.

Veronica Mars (CW) - Remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Now imagine it without the vampires, supernatural elements and keep the cute blond girl, who's father is a Private Investigator and the various problems that she solves over the year, and you've got Veronica Mars. It's highly and tightly scripted and has some of the best dialogue and characters to date.

LOST (ABC) - I don't think that I really need to talk too much about LOST, do I? 48 or so survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 land on an island with a mysterious creature that eats people and a couple of hatches with computers and other things like that. Oh yeah, and everyone's connected somehow. And, after last Season's cliffhanger, the next six episodes are supposed to be a sort of miniseries to clear everything up. Can't wait to see what happens next. Season 2 comes out today on DVD.

Supernatural (CW)- Last season, the two brothers lost their parents, their mother (and one of their girlfriends to a monster) and the father who vanished. They hit the road and work on taking out monster after monster. It's a little formulaic, but it's got great camera work and some very fun stories. Season 1 comes out today on DVD. Great watching for Halloween.

Battlestar Galactica (SciFi)- Coming up in October, this is the show that I'm waiting the most for. Season 2 left us with a year long jump ahead in the story that left the remains of the human race under the control of the Cylons and the Galactica and Pegasus jumping away to who knows where. The SciFi channel is leading up to the show with a small series of webisodes that'll lead people into the 3rd season, as that there's another gap in time. This season is going to be darker, deeper and better than the last two. The DVD for Season 2.5 will be released on September 19th.

And now that the shows from last year have been looked at, there's several new shows coming that also look very promising:

Heroes (NBC) - Around the globe, a number of people start finding that they have powers. A girl can heal quickly. A cop can read minds. A painter can paint the future and another man can fly. And, it's not based on a comic book, but it's rooted in the tradition. Reports are that this show's got potential and interest, although a little formulaic to start, but it's going to be launching into a full blown story arc. I'm excited for this. Also airing on the SciFi channel.

Jericho (CBS) - In a small, midwestern town called Jericho, one character comes in mysteriously. As people start asking him questions, a nuclear bomb blast is seen on the horizon and communications are cut off from the town. As the season goes on, we learn why. I'm not sure that this is going to do terribly well, but it should be interesting if it does.

Six Degrees (ABC) - The Six Degrees of Seperation states that anyone knows anyone six people down the line. One person knows another, who knows another, etc. Small world, right? This show's about six random people in New York City, who's lives are impacting each other's in some way. The really interesting part of this? J.J. Abrams has some hand in this. He also did LOST and Alias.

The Nine (ABC) - Nine people are caught in a bank robbery. As it goes bad, they're held for 52 hours. These nine people are linked together somehow, and that's all that I know. It's an interesting concept, but I can't see it lasting for very long.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC) - This one looks amusing. It's about back stage life behind a sketch comedy show, and it's been getting some of the biggest buzz than almost all of the other new shows. It's created by the guys who did The West Wing, and from the previews that I've seen online, it looks interesting.

Vanished (Fox) - Comes on just after Prison Break, so it's got some of the audience from there. The wife of a senator goes missing, and there's a wider conspiracy that will be uncovered. I haven't seen any of it yet, but it's getting decent ratings. I've heard that it's a little predictable.

Those are the ones that I suspect will do well, although there's several others, such as Shark, Justice, Kidnapped, The Unit, Smith, and maybe a couple others that might do okay during the season. It should be interesting to see where this will be taking TV and the storytelling that it tells.

Now, just to end, a couple of the shows that I'm going to be missing in the upcoming Season:

Alias (ABC) - Going from being a double agent to missing a year of her life to various other drama in the spy world, but also great action and a very tight storyline, Alias was a very fun show. The first two or three seasons were really good, especially 1 and 2. While it dragged a little 3 to 4, the show did leave on a good ending. Despite that, I do wish that it was still going. Season 5 will be released shortly.

Surface (NBC) - This was very short-lived, but it was very interesting. A new life form appeared in the oceans. Big new life forms. They trashed a nuclear submarine, one small one was raised by a small kid and the government got really paranoid. Had a lot of potential, but I guess it didn't really appeal to the audiences. Complete series was just released on DVD.

Arrested Development (Fox) - Quirky, deadpan and hysterical. This is probably the one show that I'll miss the most, especially after watching all of last season, which only lasted 13 episodes. The writing and characters were the best and funniest. If only Fox listened to the fans again. Season 3 was just released on DVD.

Theshold (CBS) - An alien spacecraft lands in the ocean and the government enacts a plan to contain the situation. Too scifi for CBS apparently, as this was killed off in just 13 or so episodes. I only caught a couple episodes of this, but it seemed interesting. Now out on DVD.

The West Wing (NBC) - I heard that this was really well done, well acted and well written, and the awards that it won certainly means that it has some of those. I personally haven't seen it, but given what some people have said about it, I might give it a short somewhere down the road.

And that's it. I doubt that I'll be able to see most of the ones that I'd like to see, but given the fact that a lot of the shows are making their way onto the internet on the show's network's official sites, I'll probably be able to get an episode in here and there.

British TV

Something that's very weird, but funny at the same time. The commercials are leaps and bounds above those that you'll see on American TV. While we only get four channels in our flat, we seem to have a couple that are replaying some new American dramas, such as House and Prison Break.
I caught House last night - that's a hilarious show. Great characters, who are extremely sarcastic.
Also, I got this link from Karen Traviss - Looks like a very good documentary:

Why We Fight