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Looking back on the TV decade: Favourite moments, series 2000-2009

In television on 12/19/2009 at 9:54 am

Let’s start with favourite moments.

Sopranos finale in 2007

The show about a mobster in therapy and his two families was so dynamic, so great, so moving and shocking and thrilling that the only thing David Chase could do, the most effective thing, was to just stop it mid… What was it? Mid-assassination? Mid-let’s-get-some-more-onion-rings-and-its-just-another-day? Only my imagination will tell.

Lost, Season 3 finale, also in May 2007

In the final moments, Charlie drowns and the flashback-heavy series about the island survivors of the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 convulses into its first flash forward. It will be months and several episodes before it’s clear that the flashfowards are (probably? I’ve lost track) actually time travel. Charlie’s death broke my heart. Time travel broke my head. But bravo to a fearless series that rewards close watching but stays deliciously elusive.

House, Season 5 finale, May 2009
The doctor snapping to the realization that he’s hallucinated the whole night with Cuddy. The Sixth Sense replay of the episode (he didn’t ask Cuddy for help, he insulted her so she’d leave; it wasn’t her lipstick, but his Vicodin bottle) was dizzying but wonderfully played. Having his beloved Cuddy witness the unravelling was painfully perfect. (Sorry about lack of vid; can’t find a single version without horrible music.)

ER, Season 6, episode 21, May 2000

George Clooney’s surprise cameo right at the end of this episode helped answer what had become of Julianna Margulies’ Nurse Hathaway. It was also such a great surprise to loyal fans of this Chicago-set medical drama. As though Clooney, then a big movie star, returned to the scene of his career’s take-off to say thanks.

In Treatment, Season 1, Week 7 with Jake and Amy
Josh Charles and Embeth Davidtz come to the moment that could launch their happily ever after. Amy wonders out loud, to therapist Paul (Gabriel Byrne) if Jake can forgive her philandering and other terrible behaviour. Paul gestures to Jake, beside her on the couch, and suggests Amy ask him herself. The seconds tick by in silent agony. Roll credits. In the next episode, they end their marriage. This show about therapy is like scenes from a play. Very small physical spaces and gestures, where words are the thing. And even when they don’t come, or especially when they don’t come, it’s a thing of beauty. (Sorry, no video here either.)

And now, here are my 10 favourite shows (scripted, of course!), in no order whatsoever.

You’ll notice there’s no 30 Rock or Mad Men or The Wire or The Shield or The Office, U.K. or U.S. These are great shows. Brilliant all. But favourite is not best. These following shows, I could not live without, even though some I discovered late in their runs.

Friday Night Lights (2006-), because this finely drawn, beautifully performed sketch of life in a football-centric small town proves that good drama and suspense don’t have to include murder. And for Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, as coach and the mrs., are very, very good.

Deadwood (2004-06), because David Milch knows no limits and most of the time that’s a good thing, as in this frontier drama set in 1800s in South Dakota. And because I could never take my eyes off town bully Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) and Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), though for very different reasons. For the record, however, I am still peeved about the unfulfilled promise of follow-up movies.

West Wing (1999-2006) and Gilmore Girls (2000-07) because the hyper-real, snappy dialogue in both these witty, moving ensemble dramas — one set in the Oval Office, the other in the Stars Hollow home of a single mom who reconnects with her parents for the sake of her daughter — thrilled the word-nerd in me.

Battlestar Galactica (2004-09) because like the best science fiction, this futuristic series about exile, religion, politics, love, war and zenophobia was about here and now. And I promise this is the last time I will write the word frak.

Lost (2004-) for its playful fearlessness, attention to detail, willingness to mess with my head and great characters. And because the fan web community are such maniacs that I never go looking for Lost details without getting lost in some new theory, bell or whistle.

Sex and the City (1998-2004) because it doesn’t have to be realistic, it just has to be convincing. And I loved these women and their sex recaps and breakfasts and such. The finale? Not so much.

Castle (2009-) because Nathan Fillion is a god and the show in general, pairing a crime writer with a stiff cop (Stana Katic) is lovely and funny and moving and occasionally nasty funny.

Sopranos (1999-2007) because I still wonder how Tony and Carmella are getting on and when the next batch of ziti is going in the oven.

Judging Amy (1999-2005) because it was the show, thoughtful and homey and true, that my mother and I watched in our respective cities and then called immediately after to gab about.

Needless to say, I want your fave moments. Or your reasons that you hate mine. I can take it.

— Denise Duguay

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