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?

24 thoughts on “2009 Favorites on Screen (Big and Small)

  1. Louise Ure

    Alafair, it’s stunning to me that I don’t watch even one of your favorite shows. But with a guide like this, I think I’ll be broadening my horizons this year. Thank you!

  2. Lauren O'Brien

    Alafair – You just KNOW what I’m going to tell you you missed. See your entry for The Shield and you could re-write it word for word regarding Sons of Anarchy.

    Great list!

  3. MJ

    Yes! I love, love, love, love BSG – SF with a heart and with its depth and power coming from basic issues of what it means to be human. Messy, complex, not afraid to show dark sides or emotion. Great stuff. I miss it so!!

  4. Alafair Burke

    We have plans to watch Sons of Anarchy on DVD because we got such a late start. And I have to say, I really will miss Monk, another terrific example of the importance of character development.

  5. Jeff Cohen

    I don’t agree on all (and I don’t get a few of these shows) Alafair, but I’d have to add Burn Notice. It just hits my groove somehow. And not to get too controversial, but I fell asleep during The Burn Locker and wasn’t sorry I did. And congrats on your election!

  6. toni mcgee causey

    Fringe is another one I’d highly recommend. I missed the first few eps and Allison had fallen in love with it, so I thought I’d give it a try. All those eps were still up on HULU, so I watched them every day and was thoroughly entranced. (I even forgot once that I was on the treadmill and jumped at a scary moment and nearly killed myself.)

    I’ve been told it’s a cross between X-Files and CSI and since I’d never watched the former and only a few eps of the latter, that didn’t entice me, but Allison’s enthusiasm did and it’s well-founded: great story-telling, great, memorable characters, tons of twists. Created by JJ Abrams, of LOST fame.

    I so love GLEE.

  7. Boyd Morrison

    Big Bang Theory is now the funniest comedy on TV, despite my love for 30 Rock. I laugh far more in 23 minutes of Big Bang than I have in any two-hour movie in the past year.

    Another new fav is Top Gear, which is getting extensive play on BBC America. Although a car show might sound boring, it’s anything but, providing hilarious moments from the three hosts, who are really middle-aged versions of ten-year-old boys. If you’ve ever wondered what a Mini Cooper would do if you strapped rockets to it and shot it down a Norwegian ski jump, this show is for you.

    And it’s been mentioned on Murderati before, but Castle is just plain fun, in spite of or perhaps because of how it plays fast and loose with how police officers and writers work.

  8. Alafair Burke

    Castle! We tried Fringe at the very beginning but didn’t get into it. I’ve heard it picked up steam after that, however.

    Boyd, My husband loves Top Gear. But he also loved Pimp My Ride at one point, so there you go.

  9. toni mcgee causey

    Oh, yeah, meant to third Castle. I love the banter. I think they’re improving on the methodology.

    Alafair, it did pick up. But there are times when I can wait ’til there are three or four shows stockpiled before I feel compelled to keep watching.

    Another one that’s fun that’s about the same level of CASTLE is BONES. Particularly this last season. (Of course, the crime lab is a fantasy. But the characters and relationships are fun to watch.)

  10. Paula R.

    Hi, I haven’t seen any of the shows on your list, now I am want to see Glee; that was the best clip ever. I currently watch Castle, Bones (not regularly, but would like to) and The Mentalist which someone already mentioned. I would add Law & Order:SVU to the list as well. Cold Case on CBS is good too.

    I have been to the movie theater much either, so can’t give any recs there. Have a great rest of the day!

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

  11. Venus de Hilo

    I second Boyd on Big Bang Theory: nothing else makes me laugh as much or as hard. It deserves a top spot on your Netflix queue.

  12. Alafair Burke

    One of my sisters is a huge fan of Big Bang Theory, and I know Entertainment Weekly loves it, which goes a long way with me. Oh, so many shows, so little time.

    We rented State of Play last night. Better than I expected.

  13. pari noskin taichert

    We just watched Up for a second time this weekend. What a wonderful movie. The beginning 10 minutes or so are among my favorite of all time.

    I’m curious about the Fantastic Mr. Fox; my kids can’t imagine how anyone could make a movie from such a short book. We might just check it out.

    As for favorites, this year Saturday Night Live had a couple of absolutely hysterical skits — the two I loved both involved Justin Timberlake: Mother Lover and him/Andy Sandburg (sp?) and a third man dancing with Beyonce in a music video for Single Ladies. Timberlake has wonderful legs in stockings.

  14. Chris Hamilton

    Fringe is awesome. It is also, unfortunately, on the ratings bubble. V should be on your list based on the premise and the cast. The only thing I can say about its execution is that I’m in favor of it.

    The end of Lost last season makes me wonder where you go after a nuclear explosion. And I am still in mourning over Juliet.

  15. Alafair Burke

    Chris, When I searched Youtube for the Juliet-down-the-well scene, I was surprised that I welled up all over again watching her let go. I confess that I just can’t keep track of the mythology of the show, but it really doesn’t matter to me: I remember everything I’ve ever learned about the characters.

  16. PK the Bookeemonster

    For 2009 only:

    I didn’t get to see too many theatre movies this year, however, Star Trek and The Watchmen were very good. My husband and I have a lot of movie passes to use up before the end of the year so we’ll be hitting a few in the next couple weeks.

    Movies on DVD: the new Harry Potter, Gran Torino and Up were great. Frost/Nixon interesting. DVD of UK miniseries Cranford was lovely.

    Regular TV, I love Glee and Lie to Me and for some strange reason Say Yes to the Dress. I’m waiting for Chuck to come back on.

    TV on DVD — Late last year and beginning of this one I finally discovered Veronica Mars which is fantabulous and I devoured the episodes one after the other. BSG and MI5 also kept my attention. I have many many series to catch up on now that they are readily available.

    Isn’t technology wonderful to overload our leisure time?

  17. 1

    . Just imagine I read it twice. While I am not as accomplished on this topic, I concur with your closings because they make sense. Thanks and good luck to you.


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