It was a decent year for tube-watching – at least until the writers’ strike kicked in. Yes, we had to put up with more Anna Nicole Smith after her death than we ever did before, game shows made a comeback and sitcoms continued to struggle to be funny. But dramas of all kinds, from serious to sci-fi to serious sci-fi, were stronger than ever. Here are the TV moments you were YouTubing the next day.
1 THE SOPRANOS FADES TO BLACK
The last episode of the best show in the history of television leaves fans arguing over exactly what happened to Tony in those final seconds. Here’s a clue: in a previous episode, Tony says that when somebody gets whacked, he probably doesn’t even know; everything just goes black. Bada-boom, bada-bing.
2 HOLLYWOOD WRITERS’ STRIKE
It was expected to last only a few days. Then it was going to be over by Pearl Harbor Day. Now it might not end till March, which pretty much kills the rest of the season for every scripted series on TV. So expect lots of reruns, reality shows, game shows and new series that have been sitting on network shelves gathering dust. Good news for Scott Baio, Morgan Fairchild, Soleil Moon Frye....
Battlestar Galactica, with Tricia Helfer and James Callis, stayed relevant.
3 BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
This is the most socially relevant and politically engaged drama on TV. And it’s got wicked space battles and sexy robots. The season finale saw four key human characters revealed as evil cylons. Shocking, nerdy, awesome and not to be missed.
David Duchovny finally makes us forget Fox Mulder and little green men from Mars with a show that actually lives up to the hype as one of the funniest and filthiest on TV. When a joke isn’t being set up, somebody’s top is being pulled off.
5 ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE SMARTER THAN A MISS USA CONTESTANT?
Can you find America on a map? Can you find your ass with both hands tied behind your back? If you’re Miss Teen South Carolina, the answers are probably, like, no. Her dunderheaded blather had the unfortunate consequence of reinforcing stereotypes about blonds, beauty queens, people from the South and Americans in general.
6 FAINTING WITH THE STARS
In a year that saw Amy Winehouse accept an MTV Award without saying a word because she was so stoned, Britney Spears dance like a zombie on the MTV Awards because she was so stoned and Beyoncé fall off a stage mid-song because she went too far to the left, to the left, Marie Osmond provided the TSN blooper-reel highlight. Thanks to her post-cha-cha collapse, those damn Osmonds are now everywhere. Donnie’s gotten up to dance, and even Merrill and Jimmy have been milking the media attention. Meanwhile, Jermaine, Tito and Latoya are fighting to get on the show, experience low blood sugar and pass out.
7 LOST, PRISON BREAK, 24...
Serial monotony set in as the twists became tangled and the unexpected became ordinary. Perhaps if Jack Bauer tracked a terrorist cell inside the prison or the escapees washed up on the island or Mr. Roarke popped up on the beach to marvel at the fine Corinthian leather.... Even Heroes, one of last year’s best shows, suffered sophomore slump. Hopefully, the writers’ strike will give everyone a chance to recharge their batteries.
8 COLBERT FOR PRESIDENT
Stephen Colbert announces his candidacy for the White House, believing he’s the perfect person to bring truthiness to the Oval Office. His first move, if he gets elected: declare war on Virgin tycoon Richard Branson, who dumped water on Colbert during a Colbert Report interview because he wasn’t allowed to plug his new airline.
9 VICTORIA’S SECRET
Yes, the toned and tanned surfboards in lace and angel wings are pretty to look at. But a sparkly Seal dueting with wife Heidi Klum? What’s that got to do with selling frilly underwear (or records)? And let’s not forget the old Spice Girls, glammed up like WACs and lip-synching like Ashlee Simpson. These Saturday-night divas are so 1996.
10 ELLEN DEGENERES
The queen of talk TV – and the polar opposite of the backstabbing beeyatches over on The View – provided several memorable moments, including her ridiculous on-air breakdown over a repossessed puppy and getting Jenna Bush to crank-call her pop, the prez. Unfortunately, it’s hardly surprising that Dubya’s willing to chit-chat for several minutes while Rome burns.