2009 Favorites on Screen (Big and Small)

My friends over at Crimespree Magazine* recently asked me to compile a list of favorite TV shows and films of 2009, whether current to the year or viewed on DVD. My number of visits to the theater this year was in the single digits, and some were wasted on duds like Men Who Stare at Goats (waste of George Clooney) and 2012 (waste of John Cusack), so the list is dominated by TV shows.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d share an expanded list here in the hopes of learning about your favorites as well. Maybe my list will change after I finally see The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, An Education, Zombieland, and all the other films I missed, but here’s where the tally stands today.

Dexter – In the event you’re still catching up on DVD, DVR, hulu, or on-demand,** I won’t spoil the fun by mentioning the scene that pushed this to the ultra tippy top of my list, but John Lithgow was deliciously, disturbingly evil, and the show’s writers have proven they will take risks to ensure that every season surprises and surpasses.

Up ­ – As much as I’ve loved other animated features, this is the first one that made me laugh, sob, and wish (and momentarily believe) that the chubby little cubscout was a real, live boy so I could adopt him. Extra points for bringing back the wonderful Ed Asner.

Up in the Air – ­ It’s pure coincidence that my two favorite films of the year both involve the word Up. This is the kind of movie they just don’t make any more: good, solid, simple grown-up story telling. George Clooney has never seemed so real. (Can I adopt him, too, but in a different way?)

30 Rock – ­ I cherish my twenty-four-ish minutes each week with the folks at TGS. Tina Fey recently told Entertainment Weekly that, other than her choice to have a child, asking Alec Baldwin to take the role of Jack Donaghy was her best decision. I’ve never met her daughter, but I have to think she’s at best at close second. Incidentally, I want to adopt Tina Fey, too, to be my BFF. In my dreams, we write a TV pilot together. “Want to go to there.”

Glee – The dry humor of Jane Lynch and the earnestness of high school chorus geeks, wrapped together in one big snarky, happy bundle. It’s as if the TV gods came together to create a show specifically for me. I love the show so much I based my criminal law students’ final exam on a heist pulled off by Mr. Shuester, Rachel, Flnn & Quinn. Poor Sue Sylvester perished after taking a hit to the noggin with a Cheerios trophy. Now if only the actual show could incorporate a mystery arc.

Battlestar Galactica ­ – I was slow to come to this series because I still tell myself I don’t like sci-fi. Well, if loving this is wrong, I don’t want to be right. We watched the entire series in a matter of months and
now wish we could lobotomize the BSG-parts of our brains so we could experience it all over again. (Special shout-out to friend and author Lisa Unger for finally getting me on the BSG train.)

The Hangover – I must have a sixteen-year-old boy hiding among my multiple Sybil-esque personalities, because I swear I could not stop laughing when I saw this movie. Granted, I can no longer remember why I was giggling so incessantly, but I also can’t remember why I had so much fun on that one spring break, but I’m nevertheless convinced I enjoyed myself.

The Shield – The series finale was simultaneously shocking and unflinchingly human. This show consistently proved how well the medium of television can explore character. Never seen it? You don’t know what you’re missing. Start with Season 1 on DVD.

Fantastic Mr. Fox – This was the most creative work I’ve seen in a long time. The adaptation of the classic books to a contemporary film, the visual choices, the familiar Wes Anderson vibe in a new medium: I loved it all. Added bonus: Another win in the George Clooney column (officially getting him out of my mental doghouse for that horrible Goats movie).

Lost – Polar bears, time travel, numerology, the mystical Jacob? It really is enough to make even a writer’s head hurt. But that image of Juliet peering up at Sawyer, managing to say, “I love you, James. I love you so much,” was enough to remind even the craftiest, puzzle-solving viewer that the secrets of the island don’t ultimately matter. The show is about people. (Check out the video from 2:42 if you have any doubts.)

Tie: Modern Family or Community. Too soon to tell here, but I’m cautiously optimistic that one of these two new sit-coms will eventually fill the gaping hole left in my comedic existence since the demise of the sublime Arrested Development.

There you go, just in time for some last-minute DVD purchases for the holidays.

So, come on, let me have it: What did I miss?

*Crimespree is the Entertainment Weekly of the crime fiction scene. If you’re a ‘Rati reader, you’ll probably love it. Find out more here.

** When did we start living in the future?