Alec Baldwin – Jack on “30 Rock”
Stephen Colbert – Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report”
Rhys Darby – Murray on “Flight of the Conchords”
Neil Patrick Harris – Barney on “How I Met Your Mother”
Tracy Morgan – Tracy on “30 Rock”
Neil Patrick Harris did a great job of pushing Barney into more emotional situations without compromising the inherent appeal of the character. He and the writers managed the near impossible task of giving him real emotional pathos without neutering the character. He’s the standout on the show, and was the standout comedy performance of the year.
Tina Fey – Liz on “30 Rock”
Rashida Jones – Anne on “Parks and Recreation”
Jane Krakowski – Jenna on “30 Rock”
Amy Ryan – Holly on “The Office”
Cobie Smulders – Robin on “How I Met Your Mother”
Tina Fey continues to be the likable, hilarious center of one of the strangest, funniest shows on TV. The short way to say it would be that she’s like Jerry Seinfeld if Seinfeld could actually act.
Supporting Actor Drama:
Nelsan Ellis – Lafayette on “True Blood”
Michael Emerson – Ben on “Lost”
Josh Holloway – Sawyer on “Lost”
John Slattery – Roger on “Mad Men”
Dean Stockwell – Cavill on “Battlestar Galactica”
I didn’t think too much of the character during the first few years of the show, but sometime around the fourth season, Sawyer and Holloway’s work with the character became one of the standout elements of Lost. As the other original characters grew exhausted, Sawyer continued to show new depths, and the relationship with Juliet was the perfect showcase for this. This year was the show’s best, and Sawyer owned its emotional component.
Supporting Actress Drama:
Ginnifer Goodwin – Margene on “Big Love”
Christine Hendricks – Joan on “Mad Men”
Elizabeth Mitchell – Juliet on “Lost”
Adrienne Palicki – Tyra on “Friday Night Lights”
Katee Sackhoff – Kara on “Battlestar Galactica”
There’s only been one successfully realized female character in the whole run of Lost, and that’s Mitchell’s Juliet. Rising above the plot machinations of an endless love quadrangle, she’s always found the emotional anchor to even the wackiest stories. This year, she matched wits with Josh Holloway’s Sawyer and killed it every episode. Hopefully she’ll be back in a meaningful way next year, she’s too good a character to lose.
Kyle Chandler – Eric Taylor on “Friday Night Lights”
Jon Hamm – Don on “Mad Men”
Edward James Olmos – Adama on “Battlestar Galactica”
Bill Paxton – Bill on “Big Love”
David Tennant – The Doctor on “Doctor Who”
The second season saw Hamm deepen Don’s internal turmoil and grow the character in new and fascinating ways. The relationship with Bobbi Barrett put Don in a new light, and he was able to skillfully show the stages of Don’s transformation into the man he is now. He’s already crafted one of the iconic TV performances of all time.
Connie Britton – Tami on “Friday Night Lights”
January Jones – Betty on “Mad Men”
Mary McDonnell – Laura Roslin on “Battlestar Galactica”
Elisabeth Moss – Peggy on “Mad Men”
Chloe Sevigny – Nikki on “Big Love”
There’s a lot of great performances on this list, but Sevigny surprised me the most, taking a character who was rather one not during the series’ first two seasons and giving her an unprecedented depth and longing. Her story captivated me this year, and helped make it the show’s best to date.
Big Love - “On Trial” by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer
Lost - “The Incident” by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof
Lost “La Fleur” by Elizabeth Sarnoff and Kyle Pennington
Mad Men - “Jet Set” by Matthew Weiner
Mad Men - “The Mountain King” by Matthew Weiner and Robin Veith
I first watched Jet Set while home from work sick, turning an already crazy episode into a full on trip. Shot in the style of a 60s European art film, the episode draws you into a strange world and strands you there, gradually letting the world of the series to date drift away. It’s the series’ riskiest hour yet, and to date, its masterpiece.
Battlestar Galactica “Sometimes a Great Notion” by Michael Nankin
Friday Night Lights - “Hello, Goodbye” by Michael Waxman
Lost “The Incident” by Jack Bender
Mad Men - “Jet Set” by Phil Abraham
Mad Men “The Mountain King” by Alan Taylor
The best written episode of the year was matched with the best direction, as Abraham builds a surreal landscape for Don to get lost in during Jet Set. Lacing ordinary moments with significance, the episode takes on the feel of a dream, and still lingers in my head, nearly a year after its initial broadcast.
Flight of the Conchords
How I Met Your Mother
Parks and Recreation
30 Rock had some ups and downs this year, but after the guest star heavy first part of the season was over, it was back to being as reliably hilarious as ever. The high school reunion episode was a classic, as was Generalissimo. It’s crazy and funny, the best comedy for several years running.
Friday Night Lights
One of the most artistically ambitious and stylish TV shows ever to air, Mad Men functions simultaneously as an exploration of a nation in turmoil and individual identities in crisis. The second season was more ambitious and more successful than the first, particularly during the California arc at the end of the year. The true successor to The Sopranos, Mad Men is already one of the greatest TV shows of all time, and was definitely the best of the ’08-’09 season.
Sunday, September 20, 2009