08-09 Report Card: TV’s Winners & Losers

Like the school year, the TV season starts in the fall, lasts through the spring and concludes with our report card.

by Andrea Reiher and Jessica Gentile

WINNER – LAURENCE FISHBURNE: Raise your hand if you thought the departure of William Petersen’s Gil Grissom from ‘CSI‘ would pretty much kill the show. Us too. Now raise your hand if you’ve been pleasantly surprised by Laurence Fishburne’s Ray Langston gelling with Catherine, Nick and Greg. Yeah – us too! Who knew ‘CSI’ could lose its main character and remain one of TV’s top-rated dramas? We’re eager for season 10. WATCH HERE.

LOSER – JASON MESNICK: Mesnick pulled the ultimate switcheroo on America when he dumped Melissa Rycroft in favor of runner-up Molly Malaney during ‘The Bachelor’s‘ controversial and dramatic “After the Rose” finale. Just six weeks after proposing to Rycroft, a teary Mesnick explained that “over the past few weeks I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Molly.” More shocking? Malaney took him back. WATCH HERE.

WINNER – ANNA TORV: Fox’s breakout hit ‘Fringe‘ has obviously benefited from having ‘American Idol‘ as its lead-in as much as it has fascinating, mysterious, frequently gross and always creepy plotlines. But admit it, Anna Torv is the real attraction. She’s been thoroughly winsome (translation: hubba-hubba) as Agent Olivia Dunham. The Aussie head-turner, a Saturn Award nominee for Best Actress, scored a real prize last December when she wed her handsome co-star Mark Valley. And if that’s not enough to curdle your sense of accomplishment, she’s also Rupert Murdoch’s niece. WATCH HERE.

LOSER – KARA DIOGUARDI: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell were a perfectly oiled three-ring circus. Enter songwriter-producer Kara DioGuardi. Has she spiced up ‘American Idol’s‘ eighth season? She started out stiff, mistook ‘Saturday Night Fever‘ for ‘Saturday Night Live‘ (and Studio 54 for Studio 57), and overused the phrase “packaged artist.” But who cares what we think. Simon? “She’s in a difficult position,” he told TV Guide. “It’s like we friends had dinner with each other for eight years and now somebody new has joined the dinner table.” WATCH HERE.

WINNER – FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: The experiment between NBC and DirecTV worked. The two split the cost of new episodes, which aired in the fall on DirecTV and re-aired in the winter/spring on NBC. ‘Friday Night Lights‘ won an amazing two-year renewal. NY magazine called the news “mind-exploding.” The next two seasons will each have 13 episodes, so we can keep watching Dillon’s best parents, Eric and Tami Taylor, and find out what happens to our favorite Panthers after graduation. Unfortunately the show is losing two hotties, Adrianne Palicki and Minka Kelly. But we’re sure they’ll rebuild. WATCH HERE.

LOSER – THE OSBOURNES: Listen up Ozzy, Sharon and family: We loved you all on MTV, but you were all effing mad to do ‘Osbournes: Reloaded.’ You do drugs, not variety! In what proved to be a cringe-worthy 30 minutes filled with lame antics (a blindfolded man made out with a senior citizen) and worse sketches (Ozzy and Kelly took over a fast food drive-thru), rock’s first family subjected viewers to one of the grossest affairs in network history. Before he agreed to the show, Ozzy told us that he was “thinking 40 years of my rock and roll career was going out the window.” Hey Ozzy, next time go with your gut. WATCH HERE.

WINNER – SUSAN BOYLE: We forgive her lying about never having been kissed (an old audition tape proved otherwise). We also forgive the 47-year-old Scot for getting a makeover. Who wants to be known as the world’s favorite frump when you can sing like an angel? Her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ not only bowled over the show’s unsuspecting judges, including Simon Cowell, it endeared the single grandma previously best known to her church choir to millions of people worldwide. Even if the tides turn against her, and her proposed autobiography doesn’t sell, we will thank Boyle for the special moment she provided, as well as for reminding us of an important life lesson. WATCH HERE.

LOSER – MISS CALIFORNIA: It came down to the interview question, the part every beauty queen dreads – none more so than Miss California, Carrie Prejean, the favorite to capture the Miss USA title until pageant judge Perez Hilton asked if she supported states’ rights to grant gay marriage. Prejean thought for a moment (big mistake), then gave a politically incorrect, not to mention mind-numbingly inarticulate response. She also inadvertently coined the phrase “opposite marriage” to describe heterosexual unions, causing those who were paying attention to gasp, say what? Hilton, who refers to himself as the Queen of All Media, later blogged that Miss California “gave the worst answer in beauty pageant history” – his other comments contained language making them unprintable. Prejean retaliated by saying that she will be praying for Prezzers – and a career. WATCH HERE.

WINNER – KATIE COURIC: First off, it doesn’t matter that she’s third in the ratings. Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson will never be as easy on the eyes as Katie Couric. But forget such superficialities. Katie’s displayed true grit, as much as her boss Les Moonves has, by sticking with the program, namely delivering a tight and trusted nightly news program. More, she innovated with an Internet news show following the television version. Way cool, Katie. Even cooler? Her classic interviews with VP hopeful Sarah Palin, her exclusive with hero pilot Chesley Sullenberger, and a slight increase in ratings. “I was beginning to think only my parents and my brother were watching,” she quipped. Even crusty Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales wrote, “How about a hand for the little lady?” Indeed, she has what Lou Grant once told Mary Richards that she had that separated her from the pack – and that’s spunk. WATCH HERE.

LOSER – HEROES: Has any show fallen faster and farther than ‘Heroes?’ Once a fanboy favorite and ratings hit, the show plummeted in season 3, ratings-wise and among fans. The problem? Too many time jumps, fake deaths and convoluted plotlines. The network brought in their own superhero, writer-producer Bryan Fuller, to consult. The show “became too dense and fell into certain sci-fi trappings,” Fuller told Entertainment Weekly. Yet the series has already been renewed for a fourth season, and Fuller has given his take on the fix. “It’s not necessarily a reboot as much as it is going back to the basic spirit of the show and pulling people back in.” Back to basics is always good, if you can get there. Sadly, this once-fine show is way too jumbled for its own good. WATCH HERE.

WINNER -TRUE BLOOD: Vampires were all the rage this year. ‘Twilight‘ had the tweens all a-twitter, but ‘True Blood‘ had the adults in its thrall. Based on the Sookie Stackhouse character in the “Southern Vampire” collection of books from author Charlaine Harris, it’s an R-rated ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘ produced with Alan Ball’s Midas touch. “It’s all over the map – part scary, part funny, dramatically intense and yet kind of silly,” wrote San Francisco Chronicle critic Tim Goodman. “Audaciously sex-filled but also violent and bloody.” In other words, it’s HBO at its best. Last January, ‘True Blood’ received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Drama and sultry star Anna Paquin took home the award for Best Actress. For pure body heat, Paquin and Stephen Moyer as the un-dead vampire Bill are TV’s hottest. WATCH HERE.

LOSER – KELLY BENSIMON: The newest addition to Bravo’s ‘Real Housewives Of New York City‘, Kelly Bensimon did not receive the warmest greeting from the neighborhood hotties. Too bad for them. Kelly came across as the biggest bitch of all, and she keeps on clawing. In May’s Harper’s Bazaar, she puts down castmates Bethenny Frankel, Lauren DuPont and Aerin Lauder as phonies and says she has second thoughts about being on the show. “One of the worst things about putting yourself out there is exposing yourself to situations you never dreamed would be a reality,” she said. She currently faces misdemeanor charges for allegedly assaulting her now-ex boyfriend. Hopefully the cameras were rolling; that’s great television. WATCH HERE.

WINNER – TORI SPELLING: Formerly noTORIous, Tori Spelling is back this year in a big way. Her Oxygen network reality TV show, ‘Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood,’ returns for a fourth season in June. Her guest-starring turn on the new ‘90210‘ scored rave reviews. (Where’s the reunion with Shannen Doherty? That’s what we can’t wait for!) And her newly published second book, “Mommywood,” is soaring up the NY Times bestseller list (already #4), though it must still climb a few notches to equal last year’s No. 1 bestselling “STORI Telling.” Word is she wants to do more ‘90210’ episodes next season, and Oxygen is developing more shows with her, including a romantic comedy TV movie based on her and hubby Dean McDermott’s wacky homelife. Why do we love her? The poor little rich girl got herself together. WATCH HERE.

LOSER – SOAP FANS: After 72 years (57 of those on television) ‘Guiding Light‘ will go dark in September, ending the longest-running TV drama in history. Fans have only a few precious months to spend with their favorite Springfield residents. One rumor circulating has Lifetime interested in continuing the show. But one thing’s for sure: Daytime soaps are in trouble. Beset by declining ratings and changing viewing habits, the genre’s future could suffice as its own danger-plagued plot. A mere seven soaps remain on the three major networks. Demographics have changed. “You don’t have stay-at-home moms like you used to,” UCLA television professor Myri Schreibman noted three years ago. Until the CW stepped up, no network wanted to broadcast the Daytime Emmys. One college newspaper captured the situation when it headlined a story ‘The Young and the Ambivalent.” WATCH HERE.

WINNER – ADAM LAMBERT: He hasn’t won ‘American Idol’ – yet. Despite a bottom three scare this week, he still seems like a lock to walk away with the title. Even if he doesn’t, the 27-year-old who blew away judges in his audition with a ballsy ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ seems like a sure bet to make the leap from musical theater (prior to ‘Idol,’ he was in the cast of ‘Wicked’) to pop stardom. Simon Cowell is convinced. “He’s somebody who should be selling records all over the world,” the judge told TV Guide. “He’s that good.” Even better is Lambert’s confidence with who he is. If he wins, a friend of his said, “Every man in America will have eyeliner and nail polish on!” Probably not. But they could take a few lessons from him. WATCH HERE.

LOSER – AMY POEHLER: There were high hopes for ‘Parks & Recreation” – and it wasn’t due to all the commercials promoting this sitcom. No, it had pedigree. It came from the creators of ‘The Office,’ and it starred Amy Poehler, another gift ‘Saturday Night Live‘ sent to prime time. It also seemed to be well-timed to the public’s frustration with the government. Poehler’s mid-level bureaucrat with ambition should have been dangerously funny. Sadly, ‘Parks’ has been a bust. It’s simply not funny and a waste of Poehler’s talent. The show “betrays Poehler by failing to provide her with material worthy of her talents,” said an early review in the San Jose Mercury News. Bottom line: a half hour in prime time is a horrible thing to waste. Next! WATCH HERE.

WINNER – MELISSA RYCROFT: Jason Mesnick had his way with this lovely on ‘The Bachelor’. First he proposed to Melissa Rycroft, then he dumped her. In front of millions. On national TV. Nice guy. But Rycroft has had the last laugh. And lasting fame. She was a last-minute substitution on the current season of ‘Dancing with the Stars,” and thus far the former ballet dancer and Dallas Cowboy cheerleader has shown she’s got both pluck and luck and more than a little talent. Despite an injury, she outlasted two-time winner Julianne Hough. Now injured, Rycroft will be back as revenge is the best medicine. No doubt Mesnick has watched his ex perform and seen that she put the ha-ha in the cha-cha. WATCH HERE.

LOSER – KATH & KIM: Listen up TV producers and network executives. Can we all just agree to stop reworking foreign TV shows for domestic consumption? First off, there have to be good ideas here, ideas that are born of a distinctly American comedic sensibility. Take a risk. Secondly, you’re just destroying good shows and good actors. Case in point: ‘Kath & Kim‘. The Australian original was exactly that, original. And truly funny. But Molly Shannon and Selma Blair, both fine talents, didn’t have a chance of filling the quirky roles that made Kath & Kim a pop culture phenomenon Down Under. It’s not only a shame for Shannon and Blair, it’s also unfortunate for viewers who probably would have gone for a good mother-daughter comedy that wasn’t trying to be something else. WATCH HERE.

WINNER – JON HAMM: After paying his dues either in big parts on small shows or small parts on big shows, Jon Hamm has finally broken out on the AMC drama ‘Mad Men.’ His efforts have not gone unnoticed, as he has been nominated for an Emmy and taken home a Golden Globe for his portrayal of affair-having, dog-tag-switching ad exec Don Draper. This year he also had a recurring guest stint on ‘30 Rock‘ as a man too good-looking for the oh-so-normal Liz Lemon. To top it all off, Hamm also hosted ‘Saturday Night Live‘ last October, famously uttering, “And remember the Jon Hamm’s John Ham motto: if it feels like a slice of ham, don’t wipe your ass with it.” He’s been having a pretty great year, eh? WATCH HERE.

LOSER – PARIS HILTON (AND HER BFF): Wanna be ‘Paris Hilton’s New BFF‘? The call recently went out for season two of of this MTV show and miraculously girls showed up. But will viewers? A few years ago, Hilton was the It Girl of pop culture, a mysterious sex kitten with a society background. As the out of place deb on ‘The Simple Life,’ she was her generation’s Eva Gabor, with Zsa Zsa’s smarts. She let the paparazzi turn her into a star, made money off an embarrassing sex tape, survived jail (now it seems like a weird Larry King fantasy) and had the audacity to publish a book (her diary) that asked the reader to fill in most pages. But times have changed and Paris seems like a trip we’ve taken way too often. How about retitling this show: Paris Hilton: Been There Done That. WATCH HERE.

WINNER – GREY’S ANATOMY/SHONDA RHIMES: Next week ‘Grey’s Anatomy‘ arrives at its milestone 100th episode, which one insider who has already seen it calls “sensational and maybe as good as the season finale, which is pretty incredible.” Don’t say any more. We’re in. And we’re in awe of the show’s creator and executive producer, Shonda Rhimes, who returned prime time’s most delicious nighttime soap to buzzworthy status after several disappointing turns early in the season, its fifth. She may have been distracted while dealing with runaway egos (Katherine Heigl and T.R. Knight). But now all is in tippy top shape. The 100th episode takes place on Meredith-Derek’s wedding day, but as Rhimes said, the I Dos may not be theirs. “We’re heading on a journey,” Rhimes told USA Today. Viewers may feel lost sometimes. “But I know where we’re going,” she said. And that’s why this show will continue to rank among TV’s best. WATCH HERE.

LOSER – ROD BLAGOJEVICH: The impeached Illinois governor, who faces 16 counts of fraud and racketeering charges, will have his day in court. But hopefully not on reality TV. Blagojevich was prevented by the federal court judge handling his case from traveling to Costa Rica to tape NBC’s reality program ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here.’ The judge, who showed more taste than the network executives who approved the casting of Blago, warned the disgraced politician to cast a more serious eye on his legal problems, each count of which carries a max of five to 20 years in behind bars. But Blago showed up at NBC’s summer press tour, behaving as if he was still involved in the show. He was like the clueless guy at the bar who didn’t get the joke was on him. One word: Loser! WATCH HERE.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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