The Best TV of 2009

by PopMatters Staff

7 January 2010


20 - 16


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Friday Night Lights

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Zach Gilford, Gaius Charles, Scott Porter, Minka Kelly, Adrianne Palicki, Jesse Plemons, Aimee Teegarden, Taylor Kitsch


Review [8.Oct.2007]
Review [18.Apr.2007]
Review [10.Oct.2006]


Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights is that rarest of things in television: a show that has managed to survive on love alone. In 2008, NBC and DirecTV reached a cost-sharing deal to keep the critically adored but ratings-starved drama on air for a couple more seasons, and television is better for it. While perhaps never quite reaching the narrative brilliance of its first nearly flawless season, Friday Night Lights remains an elegiac and beautifully rendered portrait of life in a small Texas town, filtered through the lens of a high school football season. As members of the core ensemble cast graduate and move on from the Dillon Panthers, the show’s heart—the relationship between Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and wife Tammy (the astounding Connie Britton)—beats as strong as ever. Meghan Lewit



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How I Met Your Mother

Cast: Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan


Review [3.Oct.2005]


How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother‘s status as Friends Done Right solidified this year. Even after longtime friends Robin and Barney finally hooked up, the show refused to slide into will-they-won’t-they-will-they-again soap opera: their courtship and subsequent break-up was sweet, surprising, unsentimental, and never protracted. Meanwhile, the show’s playful structure continued to reward its ardent fans; a cutaway gag of Marshall saying “I can make that jump” in one episode would bear pivotal explanation week later. The running gags, in jokes, and reflective characters made the show, in its fifth year on the air, feel like, well, an old friend. Jesse Hassenger



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Pushing Daisies

Cast:   Cast: Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride, Kristin Chenoweth, Ellen Greene, Swoosie Kurtz


Review [4.Oct.2007]


Pushing Daisies

The second season of Bryan Fuller’s wholly original Pushing Daisies found the series steamrolling ahead with longer mystery arcs, more secrets, and the ongoing romantic entanglements of the pie maker, his dead girlfriend, a lovelorn waitress, and a private investigator. The technicolor world of Ned’s Pie Hole and Emerson Cod’s detective practice provide a hyper real setting for Fuller’s fantasy world. Ned’s ability to bring dead things to life, albeit with consequences, creates much of the personal conflict in the series, yet also affords a clever tool for solving mysteries. Unfortunately, the series was canceled this year and treated poorly by ABC, as they burned off the remaining episodes in blocks over a few weekends. An inventive premise with beautifully imaginative production, Pushing Daisies was one of those shows that comes along every now and then and never seems to last very long, but is lots of fun while it does and will be sorely missed. Jessica Suarez



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Cast: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Julie Benz, Lauren Vélez, James Remar, Keith Carradine, John Lithgow


Review [16.Feb.2008]
Review [4.Oct.2007]
Review [16.Oct.2006]



Failing to sit back on its laurels as one of television’s (premium cable, or otherwise) best shows, from beginning to shocking its end, Season Four of Dexter outdid itself. This year saw Dexter juggling his life as a new husband and family man, his day job as a blood splatter analyst, and his serial killing hobby with each one encroaching upon the other. In terms of acting, the ensemble cast was at the top of their game with Michael C. Hall playing Dexter as increasingly more human—a man unraveling under the weight of the life he’s built on lies. Equally brilliant, John Lithgow played against type as Dexter’s nemesis, Arthur Mitchell, another long-time serial killer and perhaps the most completely reprehensible villain ever, juxtaposing a Ned Flanders-esque, do-gooder façade against his incredibly sinister inner nature. Each episode was a cliffhanger unto itself, keeping viewers craving more of the likeable serial killer next door, wondering how—and if—he’ll emerge victorious from his (largely self-created) predicaments. Lana Cooper



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The Colbert Report

Cast: Stephen Colbert

(Comedy Central)

Review [7.Nov.2005]


The Colbert Report
Comedy Central

The Colbert Report and its host Stephen Colbert have long been inimitable, but this year Colbert actually managed to raise the bar for himself, a feat few television hosts in their prime ever achieve. In his fifth season, Colbert baited Barack Obama in an attempt to get the new President to appear on the show with a signed issue of Amazing Spider-Man, broadcast from Camp Victory in Iraq for an entire week of episodes, and convinced Woody Harrelson to shave his head in support of America’s troops while the two sang “The Star-Spangled Banner”. He also took on such distinguished guests as Meryl Streep, Jim Cramer, David Byrne and John King—all while maintaining his trademark sarcastic punditry and improvised wit, proving once again that he is still one of television’s greatest entertainers. Kevin Brettauer


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