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Best, worst of TV in 2009

December 23, 2009 - Andrea Johnson
‘Tis the time of year for lists of the top best and worst television shows.

Unlike real TV critics, I don’t bother watching shows I think are terrible for longer than a few minutes at a stretch. I also don’t bother watching TV shows that critics tell me I should like because they are thought provoking or edgy or socially relevant or the like. Those are usually the shows that I usually find downright painful to watch. I also don’t have cable, so I usually see cable series six months later when they come out on DVD and I can get them through Netflix.

With those caveats, here is my very subjective list of the year’s best and worst shows (really a list of shows that I have found entertaining and some that I love to hate.)

Top five shows

Top five television programs:

1. “The Mentalist,” airing at 9 p.m. Thursdays on CBS.

The always charming Simon Baker as fake psychic turned police consultant Patrick Jane has entertained me consistently since the show debuted in the fall of 2008. There isn’t a cast member who annoys me, a plot twist I didn’t like. It is TV that goes down as easy as a strawberry smoothie. It’s harder to be that consistently entertaining than it sounds and, not surprisingly, the critics don’t pay much attention to “The Mentalist.” More fools them.

2. “Fringe,” airing at 8 p.m. Thursdays on FOX, is a nice next generation “X-Files” on a TV schedule that has been short on good science fiction. I enjoy the ongoing adventures of mad scientist Walter, his son Peter and FBI agent Olivia as they battle evil forces from an alternate dimension. Hopefully FOX will keep it around even though its ratings aren’t stellar.

3. “House,” airing at 7 p.m. Mondays on FOX, is wish-fulfillment TV. Outrageously crotchety Dr. Gregory House says and does the things my evil twin only wishes she could get away with. The opening episode this season where House recovered some semblance of sanity in the state mental hospital was a tour de force. The show has taken a few wrong steps since then by making Dr. Chase a murderer, but it’s such a well-acted, entertaining program that it’s bound to recover its footing in the new year.

4. “The Closer” is a cable TV series that I can’t watch in real time, but I have watched all four seasons on DVD and am eagerly awaiting the release of the fifth season. Quirky, junk food loving L.A. Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, a Southern transplant, attempts to solve murders while juggling a complicated personal life. She has an equally quirky family, including FBI agent husband Fritz, her somewhat overbearing parents, Fritz’s crazy sister, and a pet cat named simply “Kitty.” I’ve watched multiple episodes in one sitting and howled with laughter.

5. “NCIS,” airing at 7 p.m. Tuesday on CBS, is one of a platoon of similar crime procedurals on CBS, most of which I have watched at one time or another. This one is set in the Navy. It’s less violent and misogynistic than “Criminal Minds,” has more gentle humor and a more cohesive, interesting cast than “CSI,” and is really hitting its stride even though it’s been on the air for years. Like “The Mentalist,” it doesn’t have a single actor or character I find annoying. I watch to find out if Ziva and Tony will ever get together, to see Goth-lite lab geek Abby and pathologist Ducky and Mark Harmon’s leader Leroy Jethro Gibbs interact.

Worst five shows

Top five television programs I love to hate:

1. “General Hospital,” airing at 2 p.m. weekdays on ABC, is a violent, mob-infested mess that views serial killing mobsters as heros and mob molls and corrupt mob lawyers as heroines. Seventeen-year-old Michael clubbed his stepmother Claudia on the back of the head to keep her from kidnapping his newborn sister and his father the mob boss, who was planning on killing Claudia himself, said “Good job” and hid the evidence. Much was made of GH getting an apparently famous actor named James Franco to guest star on the soap as an artist/serial killer. Not only have I never heard of James Franco, but I am underwhelmed by the character he plays, who just dug up Claudia’s body for some reason or other. It’s just more of the same. Another day, another body to bury or dig up on “General Hospital.”

2. “American Idol.” Simon is mean and obnoxious. Paula is an airhead. The singers are forgettable. There are better ways to spend an hour.

3. “Rachael Ray.” Something about this woman is like nails screeching across a chalkboard for me. I can’t wait to turn the channel whenever she appears, oozing cheer, on her morning cooking/variety show.

4. “Entertainment Tonight” has devoted endless hours this year to such gems as the Michael Jackson funeral and interviews with Tiger Woods’ many mistresses. Enough said.

5. ”Super Nanny” is filled with parents who are terrified of their toddlers and spend hours trying to get a 3-year-old to stay in time out for three minutes. This show is useful mainly for making me glad I don’t have a screaming toddler to keep in time-out and grateful that I can simply turn off the noise when it gets too much.

 
 

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