Monday, December 24, 2007

Year End List, I: Thanks For Your Support

As promised, I'm running lists of my favorite and least favorite aspects of TV in 2007.

Notice how I said "favorite" and not "best" or "worst." These lists are what I, the TV Guy, enjoyed the most and least over the past year. Of course, there are many shows I didn't get to watch (after all, this isn't a full-time job for me as it is for most other TV critics), so some of the popular things on the air, such as "Grey's Anatomy" or "CSI" won't be making my lists while some more obscure stuff will.

Today I'm focusing on my favorite supporting actors and actresses. Though they don't often get the limelight of bigger-name stars, I'd argue that these people make their shows more compelling with their presence.

So, in no particular order except how I think of them:

Actors:

1. Michael Emerson (Lost): TV's best villain (or warped hero, depending on your point of view), Emerson's quiet demeanor actually makes him scarier than your run-of-the-mill psychopath.

2. John Slattery (Mad Men): Slattery is one of those actors who you see a lot and always delivers a reliable performance, but as Jon Hamm's slimy boss on "Mad Men," he has reached new heights professionally. The oysters/stairwell revenge moment on Slattery remains one of the show's high points of the season.

3. Ray Wise (Reaper): "Reaper" hasn't lived up to the promise of its excellent pilot, but in no way is that the fault of Wise, who is phenomenal with his seemingly nice-guy take on the Devil. With his smile, immaculate suits and the twinkle in his eye, Wise has done the near-impossible -- he makes you root for Satan.

4. Chi McBride (Pushing Daisies): Who knew McBride had such a knack for comedy? After playing a variety of serious characters, McBride steals many scenes in a series full of scene-stealing.

5. Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother): Every guy should have a Barney in their life to act as their wingman. With his "Suit up!" call to action, Harris' Barney is LEGEND-(wait for it)-ARY.

6. Walton Goggins (The Shield): Goggins was always very good as Michael Chiklis' right-hand man, but with Shane Vendrell becoming the main villain and killing one of his teammates, Goggins has taken his game to a whole new level. How he didn't win the Emmy is proof the system needs another overhaul.

7. Philip Glenister (Life On Mars): The perfect foil for John Simm's straight-laced Sam Tyler, DCI Gene Hunt is as old-school as it gets. And while we find his un-P.C. approach to life amusing, one wonders if the streets would be safer today if we had a few more Gene Hunts out there.

8. Masi Oka/Jack Coleman (Heroes): Say what you will about "Heroes," but Coleman and Oka have been top-notch from the get-go. Oka brings a wonderful sense of whimsy as the time-traveling Hiro, while Coleman brings both warmth and coldness to his assassin/family man HRG.

9. Ted Danson (Damages): Though "Damages" proved to be a little slow-paced for me ultimately, Danson was terrific as a Ken Lay-style CEO, who managed to elicit both sympathy and revulsion. This was definitely one of the breakthrough performances of the year.

10. (AND LEADING INTO SUPPORTING ACTRESSES) 1. Michael Urie/Becki Newton (Ugly Betty): You can't have one without the other. Urie's Mark and Newton's Amanda are delicious as the scene-stealing, scheming assistants at Mode Magazine, yet both also offer their share of poignant moments as well.

2. Christina Hendricks (Mad Men): As the "it" girl among the secretaries, Hendricks was a total bombshell both literally and figuratively. Knowing how to control men yet stuck perpetually as a secretary, Hendricks created a memorable conundrum of a character that might have been two-dimensional in the hands of a lesser actress and lesser writers.

3. Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost): OK, so everyone knows I love Elizabeth Mitchell. That doesn't make the addition of her to TV's best cast any less signficant, as Juliet gives us a wonderfully complex character. We still don't know whose side she's on.

4. Kristin Chenowith (Pushing Daisies): Chenowith has never really had a TV role that matched up to her wide range of talents - until now. Her duet with Digby the dog on "Hopelessly Devoted To You" remains the highlight of the TV season for me.

5. Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica/Bionic Woman): Sackhoff scores the rare double here. As Starbuck on "BSG," she's always delivered, but as Sarah Corvis, the original Bionic Woman, she absolutely steals the show. Most "Bionic" fans would rather follow Sarah's story than that of Jamie Sommers, more proof that it's always good to play a great villain.

6. Amy Pietz (Aliens In America): Pietz has created one of the more memorable TV moms in recent memory, and while I wouldn't recommend her parenting techniques, she's a riot to watch.

7. Anne Dudek (House): Dudek made Cutthroat Bitch the most memorable of House's candidates to study under his fellowship. Her willingness to lie, backstab and not whine about it unless it was to her advantage was fun to watch, and made it all the more shocking when she didn't make the final cut, when she seemed a shoo-in that the producers would want to keep this character around. Fear not, "House" fans: Dudek is back at least once more after the show returns (whenever that is).

8. CCH Pounder (The Shield): Year in and year out, Pounder delivers one of the most consistent performances on the air as Lt. Wyms, one of the few honest cops at the station who is slowly compromising her own values by realizing just how essential Vic Mackey is to keeping the streets relatively safe.

9. Angela Kinsey (The Office): Why Kinsey and not Jenna Fischer? Well, I consider Fischer to be the female lead on the show. Kinsey is a supporting actress in the truest sense of the word, not essential to the series from a storytelling point of view, but essential in providing some of the series' best comedy moments. With her quiet nature, Kinsey does more with facial expressions than most actresses do with dialogue.

10. Andrea Roth (Rescue Me): As a fan of "Rescue Me," I was a little disappointed overall with the way the show unfolded this year, but considering the high standard I hold it to, I'm probably asking a lot. But one thing that has never wavered has been Roth's performance as Tommy Gavin's (Denis Leary) equally screwed-up wife and mother. Say what you will about the Gavins, but they pretty much deserve each other.

So, who were your favorite supporting actors and actresses in 2007?

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Nothing new on, but plenty of Christmas options here. The classics "It's a Wonderful Life" (NBC, 8 p.m.) and "A Christmas Story" (TBS, 8 p.m. and continuing for the next 24 hours) are the best bets, while "Bad Santa" (Comedy Central, 9 p.m.) might be the pick for adults. Me, I'll probably watch "GoodFellas" (A&E, 8 p.m.) if I don't crank up the DVD player.

7 comments:

Paul said...

I know, it's been months, but a couple of shout-outs to members of the "24" cast:

James Morrison and Mary Lynn Rajskub: The last couple of seasons of "24" have been as good as they were largely thanks to CTU LA's Director Bill Buchanan. Rajskub's Chloe has been around since the beginning and may have been a bit annoying at first, but she's grown on me, as I imagine she has on most fans of the show.

Phillip Ramati said...

As much as I criticize 24, Morrison and Rajskub are two excellent performers, and Peter MacNichol was a very good addition to the cast.

In fact, one of my (many) criticisms of 24 this season was that they didn't give Chloe enough to do this season.

Paul said...

Ultimately I agree, about the performers and its criticism. But ultimately it's an incredible show with an intricate plot, and naturally the real-time element squeezes the writers into a few unrealistic plot twists. Maybe they just aren't imaginative enough to keep things realistic, or they're too imaginative and some originally good ideas have become cliché.

But back to the supporting actors... I also miss a couple other part-timers from previous seasons. I'm a bit too pressed for time to look up their names, but the female cabinet person or presidential assistnant (Lynn Kresge, I think?) was a strong character. I hated the way she went out. And since it was never specifically shown that she was killed, I was hoping for her return, but I think I've given up on that now.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, I've blasted 24 enough on here that I'll be kind for the holidays and not say anything negative here.

Ultimately, though, 24's trapped in a format that is dramatically self-defeating. What makes it unique in the first place is the 24-hour format, but that also makes it virtually impossible to sustain the plot in a logical dramatic sense in that format.

I've rarely criticized the acting in 24; it's the writing that isn't up to par.

Paul said...

Yeah, the writing is limited by the format, and also by the producers who pretty much demand higher ratings rather than perfect logic. As long as it sells, the networks are happy.

zodin2008 said...

Overall, a really good list, Phillip and I am in agreement on the greatness on the majority of it. I have decided to list based on who I would likely nominate for an award.

My top 5 for each category.

Drama Actor:

Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Kiefer Sutherland, 24
Kevin McKidd, Journeyman
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
James Gandolfini, The Sopranos

Drama Actress:

Edie Falco, The Sopranos
Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars
Mary McDonnell, Battlestar Galactica
Jeanne Tripplehorn, Big Love

Drama Supporting Actor:

Michael Emerson, Lost
James Callis, Battlestar Galactica
Jessie Plemmons, Friday Night Lights
Walton Goggins, The Shield
Jack Coleman, Heroes

Drama Supporting Actress:

Tricia Helfer, Battlestar galactica
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Adrianne Palicki, Friday Night Lights
Ginnifer Goodwin, Big Love
Callie Thorne, Rescue Me

Comedy Actor:

Steve Carrell, The Office
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies
Zack Braff, Scrubs

Comedy Actress:

Mary Louise Parker, Weeds
Anna Friel, Pushing Daises
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Jenna Fisher, The Office
Tina Fey, 30 Rock

Comedy Supporting Actor:

Chi McBride, Pushing Daises
Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Michael Urie, Ugly Betty

Comedy Supporting Actress:

Becki Newton, Ugly Betty
Kristin Chenowith, Pushing Daises
Alyson Hannigan, How I Met Your Mother
Susie Essman, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Jamie Pressley, My Name is Earl

Anyway, it's just an easier way for me to "vet" my lists for the 'best' of 2007.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, Zod, you certainly put a lot of work into your lists. I'll be spreading some more love later in the week.

Of all your picks, the two supporting actors I didn't mean to leave off were Helfer and particularly Callis, who took Baltar to a whole new level this year.

And I probably should have list Friday Night Lights as best overall cast. It's kind of hard to pick just one supporting player, and listing every single person kind of misses the point of the list.

And I should have given Digby the dog from Pushing Daisies his own category.