Top 20 TV Shows of 2008

Still 20 like last year, but I'll be a little more brief since there's a lot less new stuff to talk about, owing to the writer's strike resulting in the most pathetic pilot season ever (note that there's not a single show from the big 4's fall lineups here), but it was still a pretty damn good year for the idiot box:

1. "Pushing Dasies" (ABC)

This was at the top of the list before last week's news that ABC wouldn't be renewing the show (the c-word hasn't been officially uttered, but everyone's pretty much assumed that's the case), so this is a preemptive memorial for a show that was and is really really good, before we get into that long drawn out period of its hardcore fanbase whining and sending the network some kind of cutesy token of protest en masse and campaigning for a movie. I guess it's time for me to go check out Bryan Fuller's other cancelled shows, "Wonderfalls" and "Dead Like Me," on DVD.

2. "The Venture Bros." (Cartoon Network)

Just a ridiculously funny and densely packed show that puts almost every other nerd-pandering reference-happy show and movie out there these days to shame.

3. "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS)

Perfecting the 21st century version of the trad sitcom with more continuity, more catchphrases, more identifiable characters and emotions, and more lols.

4. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (Comedy Central)

After a couple years of Colbert stealing his thunder and Stewart lapsing into some Conan-esque self-deprecating mugging a little too often, "TDS" rose to the occasion of a historic election, or at least made sure they went past the easy gags even when there were so many to be had.


5. "30 Rock" (NBC)

I think the main lesson of this top 5 is that I like shows that bring the laughs so rapidly that I tend to miss half the laughs and half to watch the repeats later to catch everything.

6. "The Wire" (HBO)

OK, so the last season was hugely problematic, the weakest year of the show by far, and was only done a disservice by David Simon constantly rushing to its defense in the public. But it was still "The Wire," and it was still frequently amazing.

7. "The Soup" (E!)

After a few years of toiling in relative basic cable obscurity, "The Soup" seemed to explode into relative basic cable fame recently, with every other show on TV self-consciously wondering when Joel McHale would make fun of them next (although they still usually called it "Talk Soup"), the Style channel and Vs. making their own spinoffs, and even longtime rival "Best Week Ever" retooling to seem more "Soup"-like. But whether people are watching or not, it's minute for minute one of the funniest shows on TV, mainly because it allows us to laugh at shit like "The Hills" without actually watching "The Hills."

8. "Hopkins" (ABC)

This could've been more entertaining, considering how endlessly fascinating the inner workings of Johns Hopkins are to me, but it was still a pretty valuable glimpse into the world class medical facility I drive past every day.

9. "Primeval" (BBC)

I'm still kind of amazed that a show on the BBC can be this special effects-heavy and actually look pretty good, I thought every British show inherently looked crappier than American TV. And since the latest crop of U.S. primetime sci-fi is pretty lousy, it's pretty nice to have this around. Let's just hope NBC doesn't make a terrible stateside adaptation in 2 years.

10. "True Blood" (HBO)

Total guilty pleasure TV, because neither Alan Ball nor the novelist who wrote the original books is capable of plot or character development that isn't blatantly predictable and manipulative. But it's also so highly entertaining that I wonder why anyone bothers making (or watching) vampire shows or movies that don't allow for tons of blood and nudity.

The next 10:

11. "Samantha Who?" (ABC)
12. "Reaper" (CW)
13. "Generation Kill" (HBO)
14. "Big Bang Theory" (CBS)
15. "Saturday Night Live" (NBC)
16. "Miss Guided" (ABC)
17. "Ninja Warrior" (G4)
18. "Dirty Jobs" (Discovery)
19. "Aliens In America" (CW)
20. "Two And A Half Men" (CBS)
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Primeval is made by and shown on ITV, not BBC - big difference. Which makes it even more surprising that it doesn't look crappy.
Ah, I see. It airs here on BBC America, so I just assumed it originated on BBC.
i just checked this and i love how both of our wire blurbs (mine was for cp's top ten ish) ended up starting out "okay, so..." as a rhetorical flourish to get our reservations out of the way up front. it was really hard to write even something short about season five without it sounding more like criticism than praise.
lol was also funny because yours was directly followed by Lee's 30 Rock blurb, which also began with "OK, so..."
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