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TV

The Best TV of 2009

Aside from one or two new shows, this look at the Best of TV 2009 seems awfully familiar. A look at early '60s admen? A practically incomprehensible drama about an island of airplane crash castaways? The Americanization of a UK workplace comedy? That definitely rings a bell.

TV Show: Sons of Anarchy

Network: FX

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst, Johnny Lewis, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman

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List number: 30

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Sons of Anarchy
FX

In its second season, Kurt Sutter’s brave and brilliant Sons of Anarchy still follows a Shakespearean-esque plot structure and picks up a few weeks after the first season finale. Straight away, viewers meet the scummiest of all possible villains in Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin), the secretive head of a “white separatist” movement called the League of Aryan Nationalists, who set up in shop in Charming to stir up trouble for the titular bikers. When members of the League gang-rape the Sons’ matriarch, Gemma Teller-Morrow (the astonishing Katey Sagal), at the end of the premiere, Sutter lets viewers know exactly what to expect for the rest of the season, and he delivers in a way unseen since Deadwood concluded. This year’s scripts were without compare on any network, and Sagal deserves dozens of awards for playing the best character on television in the year’s greatest performance on one of the year’s finest programs. Kevin Brettauer

 

TV Show: V

Network: ABC

Cast: Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Joel Gretsch, Logan Huffman, Lourdes Benedicto, Laura Vandervoort, Morena Baccarin, Scott Wolf

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/v/v-poster-v-on-abc.jpg

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V
ABC

Twenty-five years from now, we may think the visual effects in this year's V are as cheesy as the special effects in the 1984 miniseries now appear to be. Even if that is the case, the fast-paced and intriguing storyline will still be able to hook viewers. While the original played off the Reagan-era cold war rhetoric, the new version emphasizes our recent realization that we are more vulnerable to attack than we believed. Looming ominously overhead, the hovering spaceships of V are a physical representation of the constant threat of attack we now live with. That the leader of the alien forces is both beautiful and charming underlines the message: trust no one. The series' relevance is heightened by its focus on the various conflicts that arise in individuals, families, and societies as the threat of alien domination increases. Plus, the special effects are great, even by today's standards. Michael Abernethy

 

TV Show: Supernatural

Network: WB

Cast: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

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List number: 28

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Supernatural
The CW

In a genre laden with "throwaway" episodes and eye-rolling plot points, Supernatural bypasses all that with consistently good writing and character development. Alternating "monster of the week" storylines (including the deliciously campy episodes lampooning fandom conventions and a guest appearance by Paris Hilton as an ancient demon addicted to fame) with a much heavier season-spanning story arc, the Apocalypse has already been done to death, but Supernatural adds a fresh spin. Actors Jenson Ackles and Jared Padalecki have very believably fleshed out the demon-hunting Winchester brothers and their mercurial, protective-yet-love/hate relationship with each other. Pop culture parodies and self-admitted camp are regularly delivered alongside bleak storylines -- namely the brothers thwarting otherworldly attempts to make them the vessels for eternally-warring, otherworldly brothers, Lucifer and Michael. Supernatural does its homework in regards to Biblical, occult, and pop culture lore, plus it gets bonus points for being the only CW show to feature a kick ass classic rock soundtrack and references in each episode in lieu of dreary emo-contempo. Lana Cooper

 

TV Show: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Network: FOX

Cast: Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Richard T. Jones, Brian Austin Greene, Dean Winters, Shirley Manson

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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
FOX

The premature termination of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles robbed sci-fi fans of one of the best written, far searching explorations of the dangers of the abuse of technology that TV has seen. The show had its flaws -- the pacing was sometimes slower than it should have been and Josh Friedman and his team irresponsibly ended the series on a massive cliffhanger even though they knew that cancellation was certain -- but the overall story was outstanding. Sumer Glau’s Cameron is one of most complex Cyborgs in popular culture, perhaps the only one that comes across as more machine than human, while Lena Headey’s Sarah joins the list of the top kickass heroines of the decade. Robert Moore

 

TV Show: Better Off Ted

Network: ABC

Cast: Jay Harrington, Portia de Rossi, Andrea Anders, Jonathan Slavin, Malcolm Barrett, Isabella Acres

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Better Off Ted
ABC

No show on TV combines the clever and ridiculous better than Ted right now. It's a workplace comedy set in the research and development department of a huge corporation. This allows for all manner of gags involving science gone awry, but it also allows the series to satirize corporate bureaucracy and red tape. Which means that an episode can involve anything from mutant spiders to experimental missiles to children's books to attempting to sell things for a kid's school fundraiser, and it all works. Veridian Dynamics is such a massive, faceless entity that we buy almost R&D-related plotline. Jay Harrington is likable as the kind-hearted straight man Ted, but it's Portia de Rossi as his severe, all-business boss that steals the show. Also worth mentioning are the frequently hilarious Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett, as Phil and Lem, the nervous, bickering scientists that develop most of Ted's projects. Unfortunately, this is the kind of smart, sharp show that's just a little too off-kilter in its premise to really draw in a big audience. The fact that ABC gave it a second season is a small miracle, so enjoy it while it's on. Chris Conaton

 

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Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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