Saturday, May 30, 2009

25 Best Performances of the TV Season

So, the 2008-09 TV season has officially ended and while the doldrums of the summer season begin and I impatiently wait for Mad Men and my Bravo reality shows [My Life on the D-List, Flipping Out, Tabatha's Salon Takeover and Shear Genius (if that's even coming back)], I decided it's the perfect time to celebrate the best of the past season. Instead of attempting to do a massive Emmy ballot like last year which I know would just end up a complete disaster, I decided to just rank my favorite performances of the season. I hope you enjoy and let me know what you think the best of the season were.

25. Portia de Rossi,
Better Off Ted
Hilariously deadpan. She's now officially my second favorite lesbian (after her wife, of course)
24. Sebastian Stan, Kings
That scene where his father denounces him for his homosexuality totally killed me. And don't we all love a scheming and manipulative gay (I think someone's been taking lessons from their girlfriend)?
23. Brie Larson, The United States of Tara
She gets the funniest lines on the show and I love that even if she's a bitch most of the time, she's still my ideal older sister.
22. Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
Always a delight as the unlucky-in-love Olive. I especially loved her nun storyline this past (and last, sadly) season.
21. Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock
Often has the most ridiculous, WTF lines on the show and he still makes them work.

20. Hannah Murray, Skins
I'm so behind on Skins it's almost embarrassing, but, thanks to Murray, her season one episode was one of the most heartbreakingly real takes on anorexia and eating disorders I've ever seen.
19. Keir Gilchrist, The United States of Tara
Adorable, instantly lovable and already one of my favorite gays ever. As an added bonus, I want his wardrobe more than any other person's on TV.
18. Marcia Gay Harden, Damages
Practically oozes a confident sexuality unmatched by anyone on TV. The fact that she's over 40 and is still sexier than Megan Fox is a testament to her acting (and her incredible, real body)
17. Eva Longoria-Parker, Desperate Housewives
She gets better and funnier with every passing season and still no respect. I do not understand Hollywood sometimes.
16. Ian McShane, Kings
Overpowering and authoritative like any king should be.

15. Hugh Laurie, House
Consistently probing while chipping away at the psyche of one the darkest, complicated and most awesome characters on TV ever. Has anyone done this much character work on what is, more or less, a "procedural" show?
14. Becki Newton & Michael Urie, Ugly Betty
My favorite gay guy/fag hag combination ever (Will & Grace excluded, of course). Apart, they're brilliant. But when they're together, all hell breaks loose. I love that the show is allowing Urie's Marc to grow and become more than just a shallow (yet hilarious) stereotype, while I'm impressed that they have managed to keep Newton's Amanda fresh and freakishly hilarious week after week.
13. Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
One of the very few reasons I watched Saturday Night Live as much as I did this season. Given just a couple of props and quirks, she develops characters that are so funny I forget to breathe sometimes. And the best part is she's ALWAYS funny, no matter how awful some of her sketches are.
12. Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives
Ms. Cross will forever and for always be my favorite desperate housewife. I just wished she got better storylines and more respect from all of the awards groups (One Emmy nomination and NO wins?! How is this even possible? She should have 2 statues, easily).
11. Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
What more does this woman have to do to prove that she's infinitely worthy of an Emmy nomination? She's consistently brings the house down every week and her quotes are the ones I'm always repeating for weeks on end.

10. Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies
Adorable, achingly sweet and just awkward enough to be completely endearing.
9. Rose Byrne, Damages
Scarily intense. I thought I loved her the first season, but she upped her game tenfold for the second. Now, will Emmy fall in line and actually nominate her?
8. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, The New Adventures of Old Christine
My favorite moment of the entire season happened in the episode of Christine where Louis-Dreyfuss is trying to prove to the gang what a sore loser her boyfriend is after he has a complete meltdown when she beats him in tennis. She asks everyone to make sure that he loses at all costs, but when he starts beating everyone, she has a meltdown herself, stamping on the floor and throwing game pieces all over the place. Apparently, I was causing such a commotion with my laughter, my parents had to ask and make sure I was alright. It is for moments like this that I love Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and her take on the burned out single mother.
7. Glenn Close, Damages
By now, Glenn Close has this cold, intense and generally frightening gorgon act down pat, but you can see that she maintains Patty Hewes as a work in process; Close continues to add layers to the character with each passing episode.
6. Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
I was tempted at first to call Portia de Rossi my favorite corporate ballbuster on TV, but then I remembered that Alec Baldwin was on my list and I completely forgot about that. He's still the funniest guy on TV and seeing his chemistry with Tina Fey only get stronger and funnier every week fills me with complete joy.

5. Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
It's a man's world, but Moss's Peggy Olson is fighting to good fight for women's equality in the workplace in her own special way. I love that she doesn't give big, moralizing lectures, but instead does her work better than any of the men while slowly gaining the respect of Don. But, she also has her heartbreaks and its during these moments that we are really moved by Peggy and Moss's performance.

4. Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty
For a show that has more ups and downs, quality wise, than Britney's comeback, it's never less than surprising the way Vanessa Williams is able to consistently find new ways to make being a complete diva bitch compelling and funny. After three seasons, you would think we would get tired of this shtick, but Williams is a much smarter actress than most people give her credit for and knows how to be villainous while showing her human side at the same time. It's a very difficult role, but Williams handles it without breaking a sweat.

3. Jon Hamm, Mad Men
The most interesting thing about Hamm's interpretation of Don Draper, and consequently why it's ones of the best performances of the season, is that for everything that happens to him throughout the course of the season, he remains as much of an enigma as before. Who is Don Draper and, furthermore, will anyone (including Don himself) ever really figure him out? Thanks to Jon Hamm, we'll continue to have fun guessing.

2. Tina Fey, 30 Rock & Saturday Night Live
My professor this semester wondered out loud about Tina Fey's Liz Lemon, "I find it hard to believe that anyone can be that pathetic." I thought about this for a second and had to disagree. Liz Lemon has to be that pathetic because we are all Liz Lemon in one way or another. We have all reacted in similar ways to the situations Liz gets in week after week (and don't you deny it!). On the other hand, Fey's Sarah Palin interpretation became a full-blown cultural phenomenon and it was all highly deserved.

1. Leighton Meester, Gossip Girl
If you're at all surprised by this, then what site have you been reading for the past year? I liked her well enough during the first season, but it wasn't until this year that it blew up into a full-blown obsession. With every passing week, Meester turned Blair Waldorf from a guilty pleasure to one of the coolest and most cheerworthy characters on television. Every time she delivers a bitchy one-liner, manipulates her way out of a situation or devises a scheme to eliminate a potential threat to her well-being, we cheer her on and laugh at the sheer outrageousness of her character (especially when she embarrasses her frenemy Serena in front of the dean of admissions by telling him about Serena's "murder"). But then there are the quieter moments when Meester truly shines as a dramatic actress as well. I still remember the scene where Blair is standing in front of a mirror and, in a beautiful long take, she stares at her reflection and goes from stoic, to upset, to a blubbering mess, back to upset, sullen and finally happy. This all happens in a matter of 45 seconds and is one of the most entrancing moments of the past season. For all of these reasons and more, I mention to JD every week that she's worthy of an Emmy nomination. It completely saddens me that she'll probably never get the respect she deserves just because she's young, relatively unknown and on a "teen" drama on the CW. Leighton Meester is a goddess and one of the most promising and hottest actresses in Hollywood- when will the rest of the world start to take notice?


Anonymous said...

Pshhhh, you're totally missing Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad on AMC. Haha.

nick plowman said...

*head explodes*

I can't even begin to tell you how many of these actors/actresses, characters and shows I love. So I won't.

Okay, since you asked so nicely, almost all of them <3

Karen said...

Gossip Girl as #1? Yikes. What about the amazing performances on Friday Night Lights? And what about Chuck and his super cool but nerdy Buy More staff?

But Liz Lemon is my hero though.

Karen said...

p.s. Fun list!

Jess said...

I love Liz Lemon. I've also really liked Laurence Fishburne starting on CSI. I love this list in general. I think I'll try to think up my own list.

Adam M. said...

This is a great list, James!

The biggest snub I can think of is Christina Hendricks on "Mad Men." DUH.

Ugh. This makes me realize I need to do some kind of TV list of my own.

Great work :P

Glenn Dunks said...

I've never watched an episode of Gossip Girl in my life, but what the fuck is that girl wearing? Christ.

I guess it's a good list, but I barely watch any of these shows (Ugly Betty is about it, actually) as most don't air down here or just don't interest me.

mB said...

Yay! List!

I'll second the Hendricks snub (and might even add Jones, but one doesn't want to over-stuff a list with the great Mad Men cast, does one?)

Dame James said...

Thanks everyone! I just wonder if I should have put a disclaimer at the front about the shows I don't watch. Unfortunately, Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights & Chuck are on that list. Include on there Battlestar Gallactica, every show on HBO and Showtime except Tara, CBS procedurals, How I Met Your Mother and probably a host of other shows that are your favorites.

Re: Christina Hendricks. Believe me, I absolutely love this woman and think she does a magnificent job on Mad Men. I thought long and hard about including her, but I came to the conclusion that as brilliant as she is, the show does not utilize her to her full potential. Not really a slight against her, but against the show (if that makes any sense). Maybe next season the show will realize how amazing she is and give her an actual storyline.

hSquared said...

Yes! Finally Leighton gets the recognition she deserves. This is so geeky of me, but when I read she was number one I totally did the gay inhale. Anyhow, great list James.

anahita said...

amen to hugh laurie.

Peter Chan said...

i love me some 'skins'. that first season is so ridiculously good. not sure how far you're into it, but isn't tony a riot? you might have inspired me to do my own list. :)

Adam M. said...

If I may shamelessly plug my personal list:



Marshall1 said...

Some very great choices! I would add, I know this is controversial, but I thought Justin Chamber from Grey's Anatomy has been a standout. Who would've thought he could actually pull off something so emotionally devastating, the scene he's outside talking with Meredith and just breaks sad

Also, what happen to Dexter? The lead actor is great, and so is his little sister!

Love your choices in Damages, sexy older ladies, and not bag of bones though. I thought Rose Bryne was kinda sleep walking through her character.

Peter Chan said...

I'll shamefully plug my own list as well. hehe..

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