As we come to a close on the 2004-05 Television Season, I am heartened by the re-emergence of popular network programming, from Desperate Housewives and Lost to American Idol and 24. Water cooler shows, huge audiences, magazine covers, and top 5 ratings. Of course, I don't watch any of those shows. In fact, of the season's Top 20 rated shows, Survivor is the only one that I watch regularly. The 17 CSIs that are on TV right now? I haven't seen a single episode of any of them. I'm sure they're fine programs, and I'm sure that Housewives is cool and funny. I just prefer my programming to be... well, um... less scripted I guess. Of my top 10 favorite shows this year, well... it's a sad list. Let's just get right to it.
1. The Amazing Race (CBS) It was an inauspicious start for the show this year, as season 6 was probably the worst of all the seasons, taken down by poor casting choices, particularly Jonathan and Victoria. On the other hand, season 7 this spring was phenomenal, with the infusion of Rob and Amber and the great comeback finale victory by Uchenna and Joyce. The best show on TV right now, and it's not particularly close.
2. The O.C. (Fox) Cheesy? Yes. Complete ripoff of 90210? Basically. Terrible acting? Absolutely. Meant for teenagers? Um, probably. So addictive that I can't miss a week? Sadly, yes.
3. Project Greenlight (Bravo) It was a short season that did so poorly in the ratings that it basically doomed the franchise. But... it gave us The Gulager. And that earns it a top 5 spot right there.
4. Survivor (CBS) A forgettably horrible season 9 this fall was followed this spring by one of the top 3 or 4 Survivors ever, and the first time in memory that the strong alpha male who dominates the challenges for his team and provides them with food and shelter doesn't get voted off as a "threat" when 6 or 7 contestants are left. Instead, fireman Tom was able to turn the tides on the alliance-switchers (Greg, Jenn, and Katie) and risk a tie that saved himself when Katie switched back to his side. Brilliant move, well-deserved win, and a great season.
5. South Park (Comedy Central) It wasn't a banner year for the show in its I don't know what season this is, but "Best Friends Forever" (aka South Park Schiavo) was the highlight of the spring, and the fall saw instant classics "Douche and Turd" (which cleverly skewered the then upcoming Presidential election - the only choice is between a douche and a turd), "Pre-School", "Cartman's Incredible Gift", and the truly frightening and disturbing Christmas special, "A Woodland Critter Christmas" (in which the fuzzy woodland critters are actually sex-depraved Satan worshippers who drink each other's blood - but in a funny way).
6. Real World/Road Rules Challenge (MTV) The fall season featured another "Battle of the Sexes" that was dominated completely by the men and kinda was boring, but the spring season "Inferno 2: Good Guys vs. Bad Asses" has featured a collection of the most insane, steroid-addled, violent guys along with the sluttiest, most backstabbing, vilest, catty girls to provide just hours and hours of entertaining fun. I think Dan best summed it up when he said, "We're so dysfunctional... we're all the problem. Except me."
7. The Apprentice (NBC) The third season of this show was somewhat better than the 2nd season, but that's not saying much. The show's interesting format and cool challenges have been replaced by overtly commercial product placement challenges and boring theatrics amongst the cast. I really don't even care who wins tonight, Tana or the other girl, although the other girl certainly seems to deserve it more. I just don't remember her name. Not a good sign.
8. Arrested Development (FOX) I don't really watch this show much, but the episodes I've seen are very funny, and it's won a bunch of awards. I should really watch it more.
10. The Surreal Life (VH-1) I'm never going to get the image of a drunken, naked "Mini-Me" wheeling around in his mobile cart on the first night of this season's series. It's not a good thing. But it was freaking funny. I didn't really watch any of the rest of the season, though, which hurts its overall ranking.
So there you have it. 3 scripted shows out of 10, 1 of which is a cartoon, and another of which I don't watch. It's a sad state of affairs for everyone involved. Perhaps next year, I'll start watching actual dramas and scripted programming. I doubt it, but anything's possible.