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The Best Television Shows of 2006

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2006-12-20


To say that television in the 2005-06 season marked a high water mark in the history of the medium probably wouldn’t be an understatement. We’ve come a long way from just a few years back when not many new series seemed to be working while television networks seemed to be stuck in the “Clone Friends” mode. But things have changed.

Now, practically every night there is something interesting to watch and the broadcast and cable networks consistently continued to develop innovative and risky new series.

But not all news in 2006 was rosy.

Lately, some of those “innovative and risky” series like Lost and Battlestar Galactica have begun to loose viewers, and this fall the Fox television network failed to produce ANY new hits out of their crop of new shows. I’m sure that for years to come, statisticians at Fox will be analyzing just what went wrong this season.

The best show of 2006 was The Wire. The fourth season of this show changed the direction of the series a bit. Gone was the police-centric line, replaced with a look at inner city Baltimore youth. For the kids on the mean streets of “Balmer,” life and school can be a struggle stuck between a life of poverty or as a participant in the drug trade.

The Wire is not an easy series to watch. Some plot elements in the current season are derived from events in previous seasons. And unless the viewer is willing to invest time in the series, the underlying story of The Wire can be confusing. I have to admit that when I first started watching The Wire I had a hard time getting into the series. I finally broke down and re-watched the first season on DVD over the course of a week to begin to understand the series. But trust me, this time spent is worth it.

The Wire easily outpaces every other procedural cop drama on network television; making these other series look quaint and old in comparison. From the depiction of real-life politics and street life, The Wire gets just about everything right.

The rest, in alphabetical order.

Battlestar Galactica: I seriously considered naming BSG as the best show of the year as I had last year, especially since the current season of the show is as good as, or better than, the previous. But I had to go with The Wire since right now the series is the more powerful and timely of the two shows – and that’s saying a lot considering that BSG continues to explore life on 21st century planet Earth in the guise of science fiction.

Deadwood: Sadly, this third season of Deadwood will be the last as the series was canceled BEFORE the 2006 season even aired. This season, Deadwood focused on mining baron George Hearst (Gerald McRaney) and his quest to either control or destroy the town of Deadwood. Unfortunately, Deadwood ended with a cliffhanger, and there is some question as to whether we’ll ever get to see whether or not Hearst gets his way.

Lost: I had a hard time calling Lost one of the best television shows of the year, especially after the relatively dull “Fall Season” this year. But I wasn’t able to ignore the fact that the second season of Lost was arguably BETTER than the first and felt that the show deserved some recognition. Though I fear that the current season of the series might have marked the beginning of the inevitable decline of Lost, it’s impossible to take away just how good season two was.

The Office: I suspect many years from now historians will look back on season two of The Office as the GREATEST comeback series in the history of television. From just how bad/mediocre The Office was during the first season to just how good it came to be in season two, it’s almost as if another group of people are writing the show. My only question is; how long will Steve “Mr. Movies” Carell stick with the show before heading for better paying pastures?

The “didn’t quite make it” list includes Dexter, Holmes on Homes, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, My Name is Earl, Mythbusters, The Unit, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The Venture Brothers.

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