Thursday, December 27, 2007

Favorite Moments, Favorite Casts

As an aspiring writer, I particularly enjoy it when all of the elements of a scene come together - acting, writing and directing.

Even during a year that has produced a lot of remarkable and memorable TV, certain moments stick out.

Here are 10 of my favorites, one of which is sure to be controversial:

1. Friday Night Lights (NBC): The single best scene of the year, IMHO, was when Mrs. Taylor (Connie Britton) confronted her daughter Julie about teen sex. So terrific the acting and the writing, this scene ought to be required viewing in all high schools around the country as an argument to deter the issue of teen sex.

2. Lost (ABC): In a series with so many compelling scenes, my favorite was Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) deliberately sealing himself in the chamber to ensure his own death, taking the leap of faith that it would mean Desmond's vision would come true and Claire and Aaron would be rescued from the island. In a series in which a lot of characters get killed, that was certainly the most memorable and most beautiful.

3. Rome (HBO): Atia (Polly Walker) figuratively shoves her daughter-in-law aside and takes her place beside her son Octavian as Rome's new emperor. It was the culmination of a series' worth of scheming and plotting, and Polly Walker was brilliant in conveying all of that.

4. Doctor Who (BBC/Sci-Fi): After hiding out as a human for most of the two-part episode, the Doctor (David Tennant) finally confronts alien hunters in the episode "Family of Blood." Told by the point of view of the leader of the clan, it's downright chilling as the Doctor delivers a fate worse than death on each of his pursuers as the clan realizes too late that the Doctor was hiding not because of cowardice, but because of his power. Just as good was the finale, in which the Doctor is confronted by the woman he fell in love with, and the fate of the boy who found the Doctor's watch and learned his secret. I get chills just typing this.

5. Battlestar Galactica (Sci-Fi): In the episode following Starbuck's death, Adama (Edward James Olmos) is puttering around his cabin, heartbroken at the death of someone who was a daughter to him. He finds an old birthday card and opens it and through his tears he finds a ridiculous picture of Starbuck with a handlebar mustache drawn on her face. Through his tears, Adama lets out a laugh at the same time as viewers probably did.

6. The Shield (FX): Vic (Michael Chiklis) has left his hearing and finally gets the evidence he needs to give him leverage against his corrupt superiors who would see him fired. As he starts ordering his former boss and city councilman Aceveda around at the end and drives off with the evidence, we know that the most dangerous guy around has just been handed the ultimate weapon. That's a season finale for you.

7. Dexter (Showtime): A lot of great moments, but my favorite is Dexter (Michael C. Hall) doing his thing to the drug dealer while Sgt. Doakes is helpless while caged up. After the deed is done, all a sickened Doakes can mutter is "Don't talk to me."

8. Pushing Daisies (ABC): One of the few scenes you can watch over and over on YouTube, Kristin Chenowith and Digby the dog perform the "Grease" classic song, "Hopelessly Devoted To You." Wonderfully comic and sad at the same time, it serves as a reminder as to just how talented a performer Chenowith is.

9. The Office (NBC): Another series with a lot of great moments, but my favorite this year was when Roy learns that Jim made a pass at Pam and bursts into the office to beat him up. At the last moment, Dwight heroically maces him, a complete left turn that you didn't see coming but was perfectly within what the character would do.

10. The Sopranos (HBO): Here it is, far and away the most controversial moment of the season, the final scene of "The Sopranos." Tony is waiting to order with his family, Meadow can't parallel park to save her life, Journey is cranked up on the radio, the tension builds, then ... nothing. Say what you will about it, and I can't say it was my favorite ending by a long shot, but it sure as heck made an impression.

In singling out favorite performers like I've done earlier this week, sometimes you get casts in which you have excellent individuals, but the sum is definitely greater than parts.

I might have included "Heroes" on the list, but they shouldn't have added the Wonderless Twins this season:

1. Lost: Even when "Lost" added the totally useless Nikki and Paolo, the producers found one of the most inventive ways to get rid of two characters ever. It's rare for a series to have so many subplots and the viewer to care for them all, but "Lost" pulls it off.

2. The Shield: It says something about Michael Chiklis the producer when he lets so many of the rest of the cast share the spotlight with Michael Chiklis the actor. Each year, this cast has produced a huge list of people deserving Emmys - Glenn Close, Anthony Anderson, Forest Whitaker, CCH Pounder, Walton Goggins - yet the Academy ignores them.

3. Mad Men: While I've pointed out some standouts from this series - Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Christina Hendricks - the rest of the cast wasn't exactly chopped liver, especially January Jones as Hamm's bored trophy wife.

4. Friday Night Lights: It says something when two actors like Jesse Plemons and Adrienne Palicki can take an overly melodramatic storyline such as Landry killing the rapist and give it feeling. There are a lot of subplots here, some better than others, but everybody does a good job. From Zach Gilford as the good kid who suddenly finds himself in the limelight to Gaius Charles' egomaniac star tailback to comical booster Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland), they all take what could be two-dimensional roles in the hands of lesser talents and give them depth. And everyone from the rest of the cast and crew to my parents love Liz Mikel as Smash's no-nonsense mom.

5. Battlestar Galactica: A reader pointed out to me on Christmas that I'm a bit too sci-fi oriented in this blog, and she may have a point. But few "mainstream" TV viewers could argue that the BSG cast is amazing. You expect greatness from the likes of Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, but the supporting actors like Katee Sackoff, Jamie Bamber, Grace Park, Tricia Helfer et. al. are equally up to the task, not to mention recurring actors like Callum Keith Rennie and Lucy Lawless. And James Callis, as the series' reluctant villain who is more of a coward than truly evil, is probably the most realistic character on TV right now in the sense that when the chips are down, we'd all be more like Baltar than we would Adama than we would like to admit.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Reruns, reruns, reruns.

The only "new" thing is the Family Television Awards (CW, 9 p.m.), which I'm fairly sure is run by one of those groups that tell you the five family-oriented shows on TV and want to yank the rest of the schedule for being too racy. I'm all for promoting family-oriented shows - it's one of the reasons I like "Friday Night Lights" so much, though I'm fairly sure it doesn't make the list for these parents groups - but I'm not in favor of any sort of censorship when it comes to watching TV. If you don't think your kids should be watching "Grey's Anatomy" or something like it, then take better care of the remote control. Don't punish the rest of the TV viewing world because a show might have sexual content.

5 comments:

zodin2008 said...

Some great moments for sure, Phillip, but I think Hurley popping out of the jungle with the van to save the day even tops Charlie's amazing moment of self sacrifice, in the "Lost" season 3 finale.

I agree with your pick of the best moment of "Friday Night Lights", but would put that in a dead heat with the final scene of the pilot episode with the Dillon Panthers coming back for their first win on Network Television.

I thought the top "Sopranos" moment was when Tony & Christopha (sorry, in my head I still say his name the way Adriana pronounced it) had their car accident and when Tony saw Chris struggling for life and realized Chris was too far gone to deal with anymore and Tony pinched his nose to basically end Chris's life.

My top moment on "Battlestar" was when Apollo was in his ship and after being blown off course, comes across a suddenly alive Starbuck in her ship w/ her telling Apollo she's found the way home.

These are just some that have come to mind.

My top 5 ensemble casts:

1. Lost

A fantastic collection of actors with acting talents like Terry O'Quinn, Matthew Fox, Dominic Monoghan & the hilarious Jorge Garcia, but the cast only looks even stronger when you try to add lesser talents to it like Michelle Rodriguez.

2. 30 Rock

"The Office" is on par, but I put "30 Rock" now slightly above because the chemistry is SO good. It starts and ends with the Alec Baldwin-Tina Fey relationship, but add in the madcap hilarity of Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, Tracy Morgan, et all, it's a crazy mix of comedy talent that's the most fun comedy cast since "Best in Show".

3. Battlestar Galactica

Phillip maybe Sci Fi focused, but c'mon, the BSG cast is possibly the best on Television. Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Mary McDonnell, Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff, Edward James Olmos, Grace Park, Callum Keith Rennie - the list goes on an on, but not a weak actor in the entire bunch - not one.

4. Friday Night Lights

What makes this cast so amazing is that other than Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton and Brad Leland as Buddy Garrity, the rest of this cast is made up of teens & twenty somethings and yet all of them from Zack Gilford, Taylor Kitsch, Aimee Teegarden, Gaius Charles, Scott Porter, Jessie Plemmons & Adrianna Palicki, are all terrific. (Minka Kelley is absolutely gorgeous but she's the one weaker actress of the entire group).

5. Mad Men

Completely agree and it starts and ends with Jon Hamm, one of the most dynamic and interesting leading male dramatic actors to come along since James Gandolfini started playing Tony Soprano in 1998.

I also agree with the greatness of Christina Hendricks, January Jones and John Slattery among others.

Phillip Ramati said...

These were my favorite moments. I did give serious consideration to the whacking of Christopher and the Dillon Panthers winning the state title. Also, the "we gotta go back Kate!" moment from Lost.

I chose mine because there was a certain level of unexpectedness to them, as well as beauty.

KellyC said...

I second Zodin's listing of 30-Rock - I got into it late, having just watched all of season one on DVD in just one weekend. BUT it's the shizznit :)

ryan said...

Gotta third the 30 Rock ensemble comments above. The chemistry is fantastic, especially between Faye and Baldwin. Brilliant.

And I'll throw my two cents in for the cast of Dirty Sexy Money.

Phillip Ramati said...

For whatever reason, 30 Rock doesn't work for me personally, but I do think Baldwin and Fey (and Macon's own Jack McBrayer) are excellent, and obviously, I'm in the minority when it comes to this show.

Dirty Sexy Money is a show I didn't really mention this week, but if I did a list of top new shows for this season, it'd definitely be near the top.