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BEST OF 2006 / TELEVISION | PAUL BROWNFIELD

Plot twists are not all written

December 17, 2006|PAUL BROWNFIELD

WHAT sticks out about '06 is Stephen Colbert's routine at the White House Correspondents' Assn. Dinner, Spike Lee's Hurricane Katrina documentary "When the Levees Broke" and the arrival of Showtime's "Dexter." Given the ever-expanding offerings -- you could do a list of Top 10 Internet video, including but not limited to lonelygirl15 and Michael Richards' Laugh Factory tirade -- here's a loosely categorized, fuzzy-eyed look at the year past. On TV, that is.

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Best plot twist: "The Sopranos." Series creator David Chase divided fans of his HBO hit with the two-episode fugue state that kicked off the sixth season, when Tony was left in a coma after being shot by his demented Uncle Junior. But the sequence re-established "The Sopranos' " big-tent themes and willingness to test the bounds of viewer involvement.

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Biggest tempest in a teapot: Katie Couric, anchor of "CBS Evening News." The move was designed to make a lot of noise, to touch off a referendum on the role of broadcast news and whether a morning person had any business being on at night. Mission accomplished. Only the news failed to change.

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Best career move: Michael C. Hall. Granted, he was coming off a boutique hit, HBO's "Six Feet Under," but Hall's performance as a kinder, gentler --but still emotionally absent -- sociopath on Showtime's "Dexter" is more than arguably the most consistent performance in a TV series right now.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 07, 2007 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 0 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
"The Wire": Paul Brownfield's Dec. 17 article on the best of 2006 in television said that the series "The Wire" had completed its fifth season. It was its fourth.

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Best stare: Michael Emerson, "Lost." As Henry Gale, chief executive officer of the Others on ABC's "Lost," Emerson has the bug-eyed thing down pat. On a show that derives much of its tension from the extreme close-up, Emerson's in-your-face face is the best mood-setter this show has left.

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Best flameout: "Emily's Reasons Why Not." You couldn't miss the billboards for this misbegotten comedy, but ABC made sure you missed the series, canceling it after one very-low-rated episode and thus depriving legions of Heather Graham fans from gifting the first-season DVD at the holidays.

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Best talk-show apology: Michael Richards, "The Late Show With David Letterman." There was Vice President's Dick Cheney's mea culpa for shooting his lawyer friend while quail hunting on Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume" and Mel Gibson's olive branch to the Jews via "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer. Refresh me: Did any of these men actually apologize, as in "I'm sorry for (insert stage-managed description of supposed transgression here)"? No, wait, I distinctly remember Richards using the word "apologize." So he wins.

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Best use of my television for your personal hobby: CNBC's "Conversations With Michael Eisner" and Dane Cook's "Tourgasm" on HBO (a tie). Which was the comedy, and which involved narcissists droning on and on into a camera? We'll let you play around with that one.

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Best casting, top to bottom: "The Wire." There are various entry points for talking about the achievements of this series, but in its fifth season on HBO, "The Wire" had four new male protagonists, all 16 and younger, not to mention Felicia Pearson as the nailgun-wielding Snoop, the most ineffable character on TV this year.

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Best metrosexual costuming: "Ugly Betty." The men at Mode dress in very primary colors, hot magentas and exciting blues, and not just the gay ones. ABC's adaptation of "Ugly Betty," the much-beloved/translated telenovela, is like staring at a lollipop as it turns into different shapes and colors.

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Best sound of silences: White House correspondents' dinner. Stephen Colbert's keynote monologue ("He stands for things," Colbert said, as the leader of the free world looked on. "Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares") seemed to leave the room, not to mention the president and first lady, wearing the kind of smile that hurts.

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The worst

In April, after some half-dozen episodes, ABC cancels "Sons & Daughters," a superbly cast, partly improvised, hungry sitcom about a mixed-up extended family in Ohio. In November, it airs "Big Day," a completely starved, bankrupt series about a mixed-up extended family in Connecticut.

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paul.brownfield@latimes.com

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