Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Good Stuff: TV

Believe it or not, I don’t watch much TV. I thought this year might be different. I’d sample some new shows, catch up with touted ones like Battlestar Galactica on DVD. Never happened. (Update: 2007 is another story.)

Most of what I liked is held over from last year. I’ve talked about The Wire enough, so I’ll simply say that season four is a staggering accomplishment. The Christmas party episode of The Office, directed by Harold Ramis, may have been that series’ finest hour. Right now the most complete universe on television is the bizarre parallel one that can be entered through the vortex of The Colbert Report. Just look at 2006’s final show, scattered across the website, in which the fake “Stephen Colbert” squared off against actual band the Decembrists in a guitar duel that ultimately involved Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, New York governor-elect Eliot Spitzer and Dr. Henry Kissinger. Blasphemy alert: Colbert is now funnier and more consistent than its progenitor The Daily Show.

Other, newer highlights:

Broken Trail. This AMC western directed by Walter Hill was one of the best movies I saw this year on any screen large or small.

When The Levees Broke. Spike Lee’s mammoth, indispensable HBO documentary on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

The Thick of It. The hilarious send-up of office politics and actual politics debuted on BBC America.

30 Rock. Because Alec Baldwin kills in every scene. Because Tracy Morgan’s perfect storm of narcissism and ADD still produces pearls or wisdom. (“Live every week like it’s Shark Week.”) Because of the supporting cast, namely Kenny the intern. Because Tina Fey is secretly using the show to explore the extra pressures faced by women in positions of authority. Because I can watch episodes for free online. But mainly because of Baldwin.