30 Dec 2006

The 10 Best TV Shows of the Year

Here are my ten favorite TV shows of this past year. Some are American, some are British, but all are available somewhere online. Again, they're in no particular order.

The Shield - Season 5
For me, this is the best US cop show on television. Set in and around the fictional LA borough of Farmington, it tells the story of a group of cops called the Strike Team, led by Det. Vic Mackey, who are corrupt and break the rules, but are the best cops on the streets. All five seasons have set an incredibly high standard in terms of writing, acting and, most surprisingly considering it's not on HBO, realism. Michael Chiklis is unbelievable as Det. Mackey and this season, Forest Whitaker (look for him to nab the Best Actor Oscar this year for The Last King of Scotland) matches him as Internal Affairs agent Kavanaugh. Most highly recommended. Best moment: When Mackey nails Kavanaugh's wife!!

Life On Mars - Season 1
If The Shield is the best US cop show, then this is, by far and away, the best UK cop show. Detective Sam Tyler, whilst investigating a murder case, gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. He doesn't know why or how except that he may be in a coma in the present day. He becomes a cop in 1973 (experiencing all the fish-out-of-water situations) while trying to find out how to get back to the present. Funny, gritty and extremely well-acted it's like Hill Street Blues crossed with Quantum Leap, The Sweeney and Starsky & Hutch. Best moment: When Tyler and his boss punch the dude from The Catherine Tate Show

Extras - Season 2
Ricky Gervais once again comes up with the most excruciating, embarrassing and downright hilarious show on TV. He plays Andy Millman, a TV and film extra who dreams of becoming famous. This season, he appears to have struck gold, landing a sitcom deal with the BBC. Nothing, of course, goes to plan and Andy is forced to compromise in order to keep his new found fame. Guest stars this season included Robert DeNiro, Chris Martin, Sir Ian McKellen and Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe. Best moment: When Andy catches his agent and Barry off Eastenders having a wank over a pen

Planet Earth
This 10-part documentary series from the BBC is eye-wateringly, groundbreakingly, titty-wobblingly brilliant covering, as it does, the entire planet. Five years in the making, the series shows us footage of things never before filmed including snow leopards searching for food on the himalayas, a pride of lions taking down an adult elephant at night and an aerial view of wolves chasing wildebeeste. Each episode covers a different physical part of the planet, from mountains to jungles, rainforests, deserts and beyond. Narrated by the legend that is Sir David Attenborough, your gob will literally be smacked. Best moment: The Great White leaping out of the ocean in super slo-mo

Survivor: Cook Islands
This season caused controversy with it's pronouncement that, for the first time ever, there would be four tribes of five, divided into Black, Hispanic, Asian and White contestants. After not watching this show for about six seasons, this premise intrigued me, to say the least. it was, without doubt, the best season ever. Despite copping out after three weeks and mixing the tribes up, the combination of characters, twists and challenges made this the most purely entertaining show of the year. By the way, no white people made the final three! Yay! Best moment: Ozzy (Viva La Raza!) making it to the final two

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - Season 1 (and maybe the last?)
This was my most anticipated show of the year. Created by the guy (Aaron Sorkin) who wrote The West Wing and A Few Good Men, this show is about the behind-the-scenes machinations of a fictional TV comedy series, loosely based on SNL. This show certainly met my expectations offering this year's best and wittiest dialogue and some extremely touching moments. It hasn't exactly set the ratings alight, though, and may not make it to a second season. For shame! Best moment: The homeless New Orleans band's rendition of O Holy Night

The Vicar of Dibley 2006 Xmas Special
After 2004's worthy but unfunny Make Poverty History special, this was a welcome return to the hilarity of a show that most fans have a great affection for. For the uninitiated among you, this sitcom tells the story of the small village of Dibley's female vicar, Geraldine, played with great humor by Dawn French of French and Saunders fame. This special concerns Geraldine finally making it down the aisle and contains some truly inspired scenes that rank up there with the best the series has ever produced. Best moment: Geraldine's reaction to the marriage proposal

Real Time with Bill Maher - Season 4
Has an administration ever provided satirists and comedians such an abundance of material? Maher was funny when Clinton was in office. Now, though, he looks like a genius. Mixing serious political comment with satirical flourishes and some downright goofiness, this no-holds-barred HBO series is one of the funniest and most informative things on the box. Best moment: Bill's closing monologue at the end of episode 20

Nip/Tuck - Season 4
When compared with the previous three seasons, this season was the weakest. However, the fact that it is still in my top 10 should illustrate the brilliance of this show. Following the adventures of two Miami plastic surgeons, this season we had a guy who wanted his balls enlarged, Sean's wife's affair with their dwarf nanny, Christian banging Rosie O'Donnell's trailer trash lottery winner for money and the return of Escobar. This is, without doubt, TV's guiltiest pleasure. Best moment: Peter Dinklage's entire performance as Marlo the nanny

Elizabeth I

If, like me, you've seen many dramatizations of the life of Queen Elizabeth I, then this, the umpteenth version of the story, could have easily gotten lost in the crowd. The script was very good, the costumes and production design were, predictably for a BBC/HBO co-production, excellent and the supporting cast were uniformly impressive. What makes this one of the best shows of the year, and one of the best Elizabeth stories ever, though, is Helen Mirren. With this, the final Prime Suspect and The Queen, Helen reminded everyone why, along with Meryl, she is quite simply the finest actress working today. Best moment: When she gets pissed off at Hugh Dancy in front of everyone

Honorable Mentions:
I haven't seen the new seasons of Lost and Scrubs, yet but if I had, you can be sure they would have been on this list. Other shows I thought were the nuts:
The Catherine Tate Show - Season 3
The Sopranos - Season 6
The Daily Show
The Colbert Report
Match of the Day
The Royle Family - The Queen of Sheba

The 10 Best Albums of the Year

Here are what I believe to be the best albums of 2006. As you all know, my taste in music cannot be faulted, so you would do well to pick these up! In no particular order they are:

Keane - Under the Iron Sea
While not managing to surpass the genius of their debut album, Hopes and Fears, the trio come mighty close with this follow-up. Best song: Nothing in My Way

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium
I'm not with a lot of critics who say that this is their masterpiece. I would rate Blood Sugar Sex Magik, By The Way, One Hot Minute (just kidding!) and Californication over this. Having said that, the quality throughout this 2-disc is fantastic. SO many artists bring out a double-album that only has about one album's worth of good songs on it (yes, I'm talking to you Foo Fighters and R Kelly!). Best song: Dani California

Outkast - Idlewild Soundtrack
This was easily my most anticipated album of the year. Outkast are, after all, my favorite band. I suppose it was inevitable that they couldn't top the untoppable (is that a word?) heights of Speakerboxx/The Love Below. Hell, they didn't even manage to top Aquemini or Stankonia either. However, Outkast running on half-power are still better than most artists at full strength. Best song: Morris Brown

Prince - 3121
The greatest artist of all time released this follow-up to his "comeback" album, Musicology, in March. I never understood why Musicology was so popular. I thought it was one of his least genius-like albums ever (I just can't use the word "worst" when referring to the man). 3121 was certainly a step up from Musicology and there were even flashes of the old master. On the Prince scale, I'd rate this album as a 6 out of 10, which is 10/10 for anyone else! Best song: Black Sweat

The Feeling - Twelve Steps and Home
These guys came out of nowhere to score five UK top ten hits from this, their debut album. As I mentioned in a previous post, they are like a happier Coldplay and write some of the catchiest choruses you'll ever hear. Best song: Sewn

Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape
Having listened to this album quite a few times since the first review I posted, I can confirm that it is brilliant. I still can't get over the fact that she's managed to top Love Angel Music Baby with an even more eclectic CD, but she certainly has. Best song: Early Winter

Various - BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge
There's a DJ called Jo Whiley on BBC's radio 1 who does a weekly feature called the Live Lounge, where she gets musical guests to come into the show, go into the studio and then do acoustic versions of either their own songs or covers. This double-disc is a collection of these from the past few years. A few highlights are: The Automatic doing Gold Digger, Outkast-Ms Jackson, Queens of the Stone Age-No One Knows, Lemar-I Believe in a Thing Called Love, Franz Ferdinand-What You Waiting For. Best song: Gold Digger

Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds
I can't believe that this guy used to be in a boyband. I think JT is possibly the best male solo artist working today that is not Prince. The album gets more and more rewarding with each listening. Seriously, if you haven't picked this up yet, I urge you to do so. Best song: My Love

Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah!
I think that I Don't Feel Like Dancin' was possibly the greatest song of the year. If you don't get his album, at least download that song. But, if you like infectious disco beats with a dash of Elton and a dollop of 70s New York, download the whole thing. Best song: I Don't Feel Like Dancin'

Razorlight - Razorlight
Lead singer Johnny Borrell is a dickhead in the vein of Liam Gallacher or Brandon Flowers. I'm talking major assholeage, here. However, as long as Razorlight keep coming up with albums this good, I suppose we can let this slide. Best song: America

Honorable Mention:
In a weaker year, all of these would have made the list. I really liked
John Legend - Once Again
Pharrell - In My Mind
Diana Krall - From This Moment On
Nelly Furtado - Loose
Gnarls Barkley - St Elsewhere
Lily Allen - Alright Still
Dixie Chicks - Taking The Long Way
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I am, That's What I'm Not

19 Dec 2006

The Best Video of 2006

Saturday Night Live and Andy Samburg have done it again. After last year's Lazy Sunday video comes this. Justin is always great on SNL, but this could be the best thing he's ever done on the show. It's like R. Kelly done by Color MeBadd!

9 Dec 2006

Now THIS, my friends, is a man who can play guitar, PART 2!!

Since YouTube took down my last posting that proved Prince's guitar genius, here is some replacement evidence of why I'm always right.

What I'm listening to right now

Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape

After a wait of two years since her solo debut, during which she managed to give birth to her first child, comes the highly anticipated (and not just by me) release of Gwen's second album. L.A.M.B. was both a critical and commercial success and, along with Kanye West's College Dropout and Keane's Hopes and Fears, was my favorite album of 2004. With a build-up like this, her sophomore offering could only be a let down, right? Wrong. As unlikely as it sounds, The Sweet Escape is even better than it's predecessor. The album is paradoxical in that it's more of the same but completely different. L.A.M.B.'s great success was it's Prince-like marriage of different genres; from pop to R&B to funk to hip-hop to ballads. The Sweet Escape offers the same eclectic mix which, by definition, makes it different but the same. The usual suspects, Pharrell and Timbaland, are here, along with some surprising appearances by the likes of Keane's keyboardist/songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley. I didn't, two weeks ago, think I would be writing that this album was better than L.A.M.B but do yourself a favor, download/get it now.

Download: Wind It Up, Early Winter

Snoop Dogg - Tha Blue Carpet Treatment

First question: Does Snoop cover any new ground here? Answer: No.
Next: So it's just more of the same from Rap's laconic icon? Answer: Yes
Next: Are there songs about the stickiest of the icky? Answer: Take a wild guess
Next: What about bitches? I assume they're also represented? Answer: Hell yizz-ess!
Next: Are there numerous guest appearances? Answer: What do YOU think.
Next: Pharrell and Timbaland? Answer: Check.
Next: R. Kelly and Dr Dre? Answer: Check.
Next: (Flavors of the month) Akon and Jamie Foxx? Answer: Chizz-eck.
Next: So why should I get it? Answer: Because it's the Snoopy D-O-double-gizzle!

Download: Does it really matter?