The year of quality television
You needed Showtime to watch the best new comedy — Californication, starring David Duchovny as an author enjoying the mess his life has become — and HBO to see the second-best new comedy, Flight of the Conchords, the series about a deadpan singing duo from New Zealand who can’t catch a break.
Though the Sopranos left us in the dark, Sopranos’ writer Matthew Weiner and AMC brought to life Mad Men, an exquisite drama about New York ad men in the 1960s. The first season of this series ranks among the deepest, richest dramas ever on television. Those with cable but without the premium channels also were treated to FX’s Damages, with Glenn Close as a cutthroat lawyer who’ll stop at nothing and Ted Danson as the Enron-like executive she fights to bring down.
If you weren’t paying extra for TV, there were still some excellent new alternatives on the networks, including ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money, a dramedy about a super-rich family and their lawyer that is as good as its title, and The CW’s Aliens in America, a warmhearted comedy about a Pakistani Muslim exchange student living with a family in small-town Wisconsin. I’m also a big fan of Kid Nation, the CBS reality show that brought together 40 kids and gave them the run of an abandoned town for 40 days.
Finally, if you missed Ken Burns’ The War, his seven-part documentary about World War II that premiered in September on PBS, at least rent the DVDs. It was extraordinary. Same with James Gandolfini’s Alive Day Memories, the hour-long documentary he made for HBO about soldiers returning home from Iraq.