Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: Please Turn Out The Lights



Turner Classic Movie's beautiful little year ender brings a tough year to a close with style and grace. If there was a better channel in 2008, I'd like to know about it. The recent salute to Disney's live action films, The Age of Believing, was such a terrific Christmas present, worth it if just for Dick Van Dyke's hilarious story about the monkey who co-starred with him in the otherwise unmemorable Robin Crusoe, U.S.C. (Van Dyke visited the chimp later at the L.A. zoo. "Dick--they've got me in here with these monkeys! Get me outta here" he seemed to say to his former co-star.)
TMC had another outstanding original earlier in 2008 with Role Model: Gene Wilder. This casual, intimate conversation between Wilder and Alec Baldwin--who should do this sort of thing on a monthly basis--was one of the programming high points for me in 2008.
A lot has been written about what a wretched year it has been, especially for network television. It could be argued that the box, already in decline, never recovered from the writers strike. Financially, it was a brutal year for networks on both sides of the border, and the full impact will speed the transition from old media to new. Here's one compelling perspective, looking at how the shift of Jay Leno to 10 p.m. on NBC next year is but the canary in the network TV gold mine.
But there was some good news. CBC had a bounce back year, with a few new shows finding a footing, especially The Border. The Geminis were canceled, or shown on a night and network where no one could find it, so that was a plus. Canadian Idol was silenced, may it "rest" in peace. See--2008 wasn't so bad after all!
Even better news is that 2009 will start with some new shows that should give viewers plenty of reasons to get back in front of the set. The Showtime drama The United States of Tara delivers on all the promise of its cast and creative team. Toni Collette is mesmerizing as the title character, in all her multi-personality dementia. Diablo Cody (Juno) pens several episodes, and Steven Spielberg produces. Don't miss a minute of the first four episodes, which premiere Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. on The Movie Network/Movie Central.
The pilot for the new Fox drama, Lie To Me, was also a winner. Tim Roth stars as an expert of facial expressions who can tell if someone is lying, which makes him both invaluable and a pain in the ass. It launches Jan. 21 on Fox and Global.
The new CBC dramedy Being Erica is also full of promise. Erin Karpluk (Godiva's) stars as a 30something granted the chance to go back in time to fix her past mistakes. Always welcome Michael Riley (This Is Wonderland) powers this one past the Back To The Future premise. It begins Jan. 5.
Those are three reasons to hold on to your set. More to come. Happy New Year!
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