- Boris, Pink
- The Pipettes, We are the Pipettes
- Joanna Newsom, Ys
- Bardo Pond, Ticket Crystals
- Espers, II
- Isis, In the Absence of Truth
- OOIOO, Taiga
- Saint Etienne, Tales From Turnpike House
- Camera Obscura, Let's Get Out of This Country
- Eluvium, When I Live in the Garden and the Sea
Special mention goes out to Electrelane's Singles, B-Sides & Live collection.
Anyway, back on the TV front. To cut some suspense, stuff that is totally up my alley -- Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, and Battlestar Galactica -- aren't on the list because like a failed nerd, I only started watching their first seasons this year -- I have a feeling that once I get completely caught up, a lot of reality tv would get bumped off this list.
So, without thematizing the entire year (which, if you ask me, is an exercise in futility and arrogance), an ascending list of my favorite hours from 2006 with brief-to-briefish commentary:
10. So You Think You Can Dance, Top 10 Dancers (2x16)
The judges were witless annoyances, the reality wasn't narrative-based, and I still don't know a quickstep from a jive, but SYTYCD is the younger, snottier, snappier, and sometimes "edgier" (i.e. including krumping as a style) version of Dancing with the Stars. Clearly, all of the hip-hop styles are on the show to appeal to younger viewers, who would be more familiar with popping-and-locking than fan kicks, but amazingly, the most impressive, sublime moments of the second season of SYTYCD were lyrical, paso doble, and the Cuban rumba, and this episode featured two of these styles. As shallow eye-candy goes, SYTYCD is fluffier (even if the final prize is actual employment for the winner), but as camp as a high-energy disco number, fluffy goes a long way.
9. The Amazing Race, "5 Continents...10 Countries...And More than 59 Thousand Miles!" (9x12)
Wherein smelly hippies flex their brains to beat almost heterosexual fratties!
8. Scrubs, "My Transition" (5x18)
OK, so Scrubs makes the list 9.5 hours. Add "My Urologist" (5x17) if you're into Dr. Acula. Vampires and absurdist high-comedy -- how could I not love this?
7. Friday Night Lights, "Pilot" (1x01)
Friday Night Light perfectly blends the football action with searing melodrama in its first episode. Also: QB1 vs. QB1.
6. Survivor: Cook Islands, "People That You Like Want To See You Suffer" (13x10)
Many reviews point to the preceding "Mutiny" episode (where Candice, and then Jonathan, abandoned the Aitu (Survivorese for "hero") Tribe) as the turning point of Cook Islands, since it turned the most likeable contestants Ozzy and Yul, who to that point were among the likeliest contenders to win the game, into underdogs. At the same time, the other tribe, composed of young white kids (& Nate), dared to treat the solemnity of the Survivor as no more than The Real World: Cook Islands, thus earning the contempt of most viewers. (Insert boring tangent about how the white kids, AKA the face of homogenous America, rejected the Protestant Work Ethic, which the two Koreans, a Mexican, a black woman, and a middle-aged Jew were left to pick up.) In other words, "Mutiny" completely deserves its place in Cook Islands lore, but in all of 2006, I don't think that my schadenfreude got as much of a work out as it did when I saw Candice blub because she was surprised that the tribe she betrayed to make out with her show-boyfriend was angry at her.
5. Project Runway, "Designer's Best Friend" (3x03)
Just about any episode could've made this list (like Kayne's Marilyn Monroe riff), but seeing how Laura interacted with her dog was just too priceless. (Not to mention the first of Angela's many disasters.)
4. Heroes, "Fallout" (1x11)
Lost-lite, but a very candy-coated version that, thus far, doesn't take itself quite as seriously as its progenitor, as summed up by Matt and FBI Girlfriend's telepathic flirting (better known as the awesomest exchange between shippy characters ever).
3. Lost, "Live Together, Die Alone" (2x23)
Even though Lost consistently disappoints and frustrates me, the finale to season 2 rates this high almost because it stands out so much from the rest of that tease of a season, much of which was satisfied with maintaining its insular little world as the series became preoccupied with drawing out its status quo. Without answering existing questions, the show introduced new mysteries that were entirely within the parameters of the status quo, and as a result, many viewers felt like they were strung along. But by the finale, Lindelof, Cuse, et al seized the chance to blow up the insular little world they'd created and show us that, yes, another world existed beyond the Island, a world much larger with a whole different vocabulary to describe its own questions. (Unsurprisingly, this outside world has been a non-factor in season 3.)
2. Veronica Mars, "Not Pictured" (2x22)
Maybe my taste is questionable (obviously it is with all these reality tv shows), but Veronica Mars was no less enjoyable in its second season than it was in its first. (Caveat: I only saw the mythological episodes that UPN reran during the summer hiatus.) The season finale typified everything I love about the show and even added a cherry on top: snappy and "epic" dialogue that culminated with Logan's impassioned and equally epic speech to V, a reveal that was unexpected but not out of leftfield, and a serious and genuine sense of danger during the climax (which is the cherry, if you're still keeping track).
1. America's Next Top Model Cycle 6, "The Girl Who is Going to the Moon" (6x09)
Before this year, I wouldn't have listed a recap episode at all, much less rank it this high, mostly because it's simply a summary of what's happened so far in a show's season. However, I picked a recap episode is because if it would stand in for the whole season, and I otherwise would've listed multiple episodes of Cycle 6. But "The Girl Who is Going to the Moon" also helped me realize two benefits of recap episodes. The first: "deleted" scenes that offered hilarity -- Joanie doing her Furonda impression, Danielle and Joanie rapping in the kitchen, etc. The second: it allows viewers like me, who originally couldn't stand Jade's mentalism, to revisit such classics as, "This is not America's Next Top Best Friend." The difference between the first time I heard her inanity and the second time were was Joanie and Danielle had both been built up into protagonists who could face (or play) off against Jade. As long as Jade was a credible threat to win, and without any frontrunning girls to keep her winning, I couldn't enjoy her Sister Soldier antics; but when Joanie and Danielle became the prohibitive favorites to reach the top two, I could safely dwelve into Jade's analystic mind.
Indie rating: Joanna Newsom - "Emily"