Please donate to help save PopMatters. We are moving to WordPress in December out of necessity and need your help.
Featured: Top of Home Page

Net-Works: The Best TV of 2006

You won't have to look far along your television dial to discover the Top TV picks from PopMatters staff. From 20 upward, each entry represents the boob tube at its best.

The pay TV predictions regarding the death of broadcast television seemed pretty prescient a few years back. Sloppy sitcoms dominated the airwaves, and dramas drew on standard show business material (families in crisis, cops in crisis, doctors in crisis) to create their stereotypical storylines. However, it is safe to say that in the last few years, the networks have fought back in a big way. Proving that comments concerning their imminent passing were greatly exaggerated, the Big Four (or five, if you count the still struggling coming together of the WB and UPN known as CW) have avoided cable's micromanaged programming directives and instead have delivered outstanding entertainment that has managed to touch a broad-based audience. Even better, they've found the critical compliments that usually accompany offerings from those experts in experimentation like HBO.

If this were a war, the 2006 battle would easily be won by the non-coaxial companies. Take the PopMatters list of the best television from the last 12 months. Seventy percent of the chosen Top Ten shows are broadcast offerings. Indeed, of the overall 20, 65 percent come from rabbit ear accessible stations. While cable can claim the remaining seven titles, only two arrive from a premium service. The rest are found on your typical line-up. So the forecasts that fed a wasteland weary nation the notion that Showtime and Sci-Fi would fill the void left by such routine stations as ABC and NBC were way off the mark. If anything, the competition from so many divergent sources has seen the networks taking risks they otherwise might not have envisioned. After all, who would have expected a weekly study of superheroism, the ongoing dilemma of a group of plane crash castaways, or a comedy concentrating on a loser lottery winner and his attempts to correct his karma?

Consequently, you won't have to look far along your television dial to discover the Top TV picks from PopMatters staff. From 20 upward, each entry represents the boob tube at its best:

TV Show: Grey's Anatomy Subtitle: Season Three Premiere US release date: 2006-09-21 Network: ABC Cast: Ellen Pompeo, Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, Chandra Wilson, Sara Ramírez, Kate Walsh, Patrick Dempsey Image: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Trailer: Airtime: Thursdays, 9pm ET

Display as: List

List number: 20

Grey's Anatomy's success in its original post-Desperate Housewives time slot makes perfect sense. After each tease-filled Desperate hour, viewers can't help yearning for actual story, and they can find several of these each week in Grey's Anatomy. Revolving around a handful of surgical interns and their superiors at Seattle Grace Hospital, the series has emerged as a quality guilty pleasure and, in its way, a fine successor to that recent Sunday night must, Sex and the City. Grey's creator Shonda Rhimes is doing her own soapy thing, such that the series only resembles Sex in its depiction of complicated, ambitious women defined by their work and friendships rather than their sex partners. Samantha Bornemann

Grey's Anatomy

TV Show: The Closer US release date: 2005-06-13 Network: TNT Cast: Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Corey Reynolds, Robert Gossett, G.W. Bailey, Anthony John Denison . Image: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Airtime: Mondays, 9pm

Display as: List

List number: 19

The Closer is Brenda Johnson. Two other shows (Monk and House MD) featured such dominant central characters, but only The Closer had a lead who could go from slapstick to melodrama to frazzled disorganization to kick-you-in-the-balls toughness with such ease. Kyra Sedgwick was the delight of the tv season, and her portrayal of Johnson showed that a keen mind and quick wit are far better crime-solving tools than the forensic expertise and high-priced technology so prominent in most detective shows. Along with interesting cases and a strong supporting ensemble, Sedgwick made The Closer TV's top cable show. Michael Abernethy

The Closer

TV Show: The Daily Show US release date: 1996-07-22 Network: Comedy Central Cast: John Stewart Image: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Airtime: Weeknights, 11pm

Display as: List

List number: 18

Recently celebrating "10 F#@king Years" of brilliant news show parody, Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart continued to unmask the world phonies in hilarious fashion. In an era when the "real" news found on the major networks is increasingly reliant on sensationalism for ratings, The Daily Show shines its light on the hypocrisy and double-speak of world politics, all while providing riotous entertainment. While the major networks cast cozy morning show hosts in the roles of nightly news anchors, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart is primarily a comedian, but one who wields his extensive knowledge of world politics and razor sharp intellect to great effect. In 2006, The Daily Show is where we turned for real news, and really big laughs. Michael Keefe

Show Clip: More is HellThe Daily Show

TV Show: Degrassi Subtitle: The Next Generation US release date: 2001-10-14 Network: The N Cast: Dalmar Abuzeid, Sarah Barrable-Tishauer, John Bregar, Stefan Brogren, Deanna Casaluce, Daniel Clark Image: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Airtime: Fridays, 8pm

Display as: List

List number: 17

Like its suddenly blossomed cast of young adults, Degrassi: The Next Generation is all grown up. It's not just that the show takes on the big issues -- teenage pregnancy, drug use, getting it on with the editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, etc. -- since any teen soap worth its salt throws around this kind of heavy drama. Instead, it's the quieter, less hot-button themes, like Spinner's yearlong quest for forgiveness for an adolescent prank gone bad, that mark the newer, more mature Degrassi. To complement this new attitude, the look of Degrassi has grown up as well, with moments that are impressively shot and surprisingly cinematic. Marisa LaScalaDegrassi: The Next Generation

TV Show: 30 Rock Subtitle: Series Premiere US release date: 2006-10-11 Network: NBC Cast: Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Scott Adsit, Jack McBrayer, Alec Baldwin, Rachel Dratch Image: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Trailer: Airtime: Wednesdays, 8pm ET

Display as: List

List number: 16

Tina Fey’s backstage/workplace comedy, sort of a scrappier kid sister to Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60, has steadily improved since its enjoyable pilot. Fey plays put-upon straight (or bicurious, if you ask her coworkers) woman to a crack batch of eccentrics: Tracy Morgan, who plays crazy with greater gusto than anyone on TV; Alec Baldwin, giving a rich mahogany voice to an unflappable network exec; and relative newcomer Jack McGrayer, an improve vet whose line readings as Kenneth the NBC page elevate his every appearance. With Fey gluing it together, 30 Rock has grown into a thoroughly snappy sitcom -- one that would rather end with a punchline than a lesson. Jesse Hassenger

30 Rock

TV Show: Project Runway Subtitle: Season Three Finale US release date: 2006-10-18 Network: Bravo Cast: Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn Image: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Trailer: Airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm ET

Display as: List

List number: 15

The third season of Project Runway had its most diverse collection of designers yet, and more drama and comedy than many of the fictionalized shows that aired. There were the drama queens (Vincent, Angela, and Kayne), villains (Jeffrey, Laura, and Keith), and a few regular joes (Michael, Uli, and Alison), who stood on the sidelines watching the fur fly. Runway also featured some of the most creative challenges on reality tv (design a dress made of garbage or an outfit for a dog and owner) and, of course, imaginative and delicious ensembles. While some reality contestants were crawling through the mud to get to the big prize, Runway's were creating things of beauty. Michael AbernethyProject Runway

TV Show: The Simpsons Network: Fox Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria Image: Website: First date: 1989-12-17 Airtime: Sundays, 8:00pm

Display as: List

List number: 14

Currently in the midst of its 18th season on Fox, The Simpsons hit its stride back in the early '90s and has never slowed down. The yellow, four-fingered family of five from 742 Evergreen Terrace are now deeply imbedded in the landscape of pop culture, but that didn't stop creator Matt Groening and his team of writers and animators from continuing the explore new topics in 2006. By poking fun at the army in episode 383, The Simpsons maintained its fearless devotion to skewering all aspects of American culture, risking reprisal in these "support our troops" times. Moreover, The Simpsons continued to play to its greatest strength in 2006, by holding up a mirror to humanity and making us laugh at our beautiful faults. Michael KeefeThe Simpsons

TV Show: House US release date: 2004-11-16 Network: Fox Cast: Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard, Jesse Spencer Image: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm

Display as: List

List number: 13

Hugh Laurie has to be the most unlikely dramatic TV star in the history of the American small screen. For decades he's been part of the British humor renaissance, paired up with Cambridge cohort Stephen Fry for a series of seminal shows. But with his turn as acerbic doc Gregory House, the brilliant performer has almost placed his outrageous comedic style behind him. Instead, he lights up this Fox hit as a physician who should really heed the maxim and heal himself. Now in it's third season, House is a show that defied the standard 'disease of the week' ideal to broaden our understanding of medicine, and the individuals who practice it. It may not always be pretty, but with Laurie in command, it's compelling as Hell. Bill GibronHouse

TV Show: Scrubs US release date: 2001-10-02 Network: NBC Cast: Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, Neil Flynn, Ken Jenkins, John C. McGinley Image: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Airtime: Thursdays, 9pm

Display as: List

List number: 12

While some may call it a sitcom, Scrubs actually doesn't fit well into such a television category. More character and story driven than your typical laughfest, this medicomedy focuses on individuals, not incidents, to cull its laughs. For fans of Zach Braff, whose hound dog expression seems to mimic a generation unable to fully grow up, this is where his status as a considered slacker started. But thanks to the brilliant ensemble cast surrounding him, Scrubs is much more than a one man show. As a matter of fact, turns by Donald Faison and longtime character actor John C. McGinley make each episode an exercise in performance perfected and characterization clarified. All half hour humoresques should be as witty as this one. Bill GibronScrubs

TV Show: Deadwood Network: HBO Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, John Hawkes, Robin Weigert, Molly Parker, Paula Malcomson, Powers Boothe, Kim Dickens, Alice Krige Image: Website: Airtime: Sundays, 9pm

Display as: List

List number: 11

Deadwood is possibly the most coruscating indictment of American capitalism ever aired in primetime. Here the frontier requires order but has no use for law. Yet it represents a critical moment in history: in the decade between 1877 and 1887, four and a half million migrants flooded the Western plains. This revisionist vision of the pioneer myth is not wholly original. Deadwood capitalizes on the TV series' spacious format to strip the last vestiges of retrospective nostalgia from the frontier. The humor is cruel, irony pitiless, and cynicism almost absolute. While creator Steven Milch's previous work -- Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue -- courted his audience by perfecting the "deeply flawed but deeply touching" character, the clinical detachment of Deadwood is unrelenting. Lesley SmithDeadwood

Next Page
j.k. simmons john c. mcginley patrick dempsey alec baldwin jason lee timothy olyphant jane krakowski omar epps hank azaria steve carell ali larter ethan suplee adewale akinnuoye-agbaje naveen andrews heidi klum harold perrineau mary mcdonnell ron howard d.l. hughley zach braff molly parker portia de rossi milo ventimiglia julie gonzalo donald faison amanda peet frankie faison sarah paulson hayden panettiere ellen pompeo robert sean leonard jason bateman david cross powers boothe hugh laurie dominic west edward james olmos john stewart jeffrey tambor katee sackhoff john hawkes sandra oh kate walsh dominic monaghan aidan gillen alice krige tina fey harry shearer tina majorino jaime pressly kyra sedgwick katherine heigl matthew perry bradley whitford ian mcshane kristen bell john doman elizabeth mitchell jesse spencer rainn wilson john krasinski jenna fischer masi oka adrian pasdar enrico colantoni jason dohring percy daggs iii chris lowell matthew fox evangeline lilly josh holloway michael emerson jorge garcia daniel dae kim yunjin kim jessica walter will arnett tony hale alia shawkat michael cera corey reynolds robert gossett g.w. bailey sarah chalke ken jenkins stephen colbert robin weigert daniel clark kim dickens santiago cabrera nancy cartwright chandra wilson jamie bamber terry o'quinn eddie steeples dan castellaneta julie kavner yeardley smith neil flynn tracy morgan steven weber jack mcbrayer scott adsit rachel dratch tricia helfer grace park tim gunn timothy busfield nathan coddry sara ramírez bj novak sendhil ramamurth ryan hansen henry ian cusick nadine velazquez anthony john denison . dalmar abuzeid sarah barrable-tishauer john bregar stefan brogren deanna casaluce paula malcomson deidre lovejoy Best Tv Film And Dvd Of 2006

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





© 1999-2020 PopMatters Media, Inc. All rights reserved. PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.