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The Year in TV

Angie Harmon renewed our faith in the cop show, Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver blew up the class divide, Queen Latifah doled out condoms, and Michael Keaton self-imploded. Rory Kennedy chastised our democracy, while Frederick Wiseman paid it uncommon attention. And Fred Thompson was one lousy president.


Michael Keaton in The Company.  

Angie Harmon in Women's Murder Club.  

1. BEST NEW SHOW
Women’s Murder Club
Alongside Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer, Kathryn Morris in Cold Case, Holly Hunter in Saving Grace, and Emily Deschanel in Bones, add Angie Harmon to the list of women with badges, guns, and handcuffs by whom one wouldn’t resist arrest, or fight custody. (It gets even kinkier with doctors.) The genius of ABC’s Murder Club is twofold. For starters, this is an ensemble cop show that is congenial, witty, and occasionally even mysterious. Add to that an Angie who’s thrown away her sleek Law & Order style—barracuda pantsuits, castanet high heels, fashion-model Kabuki look—for jeans, running shoes, and a head of suggestive hair half-Medusa, half-Klimt, while bringing with her that husky, torch-song, Pall Malls–and–single-malt insinuation of a voice.

2. BEST SEND-UP OF THE AMERICAN DREAM
The Riches
Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver star in FX’s series about a lunatic family of travelers, Irish gypsies on the road in the Louisiana outback with a fiddle and a con, looking for “buffers” to sucker. Even when the Riches end up installed in ritzy suburban digs, impersonating the middle-class behaviors of a family that died in a car crash, they are pursued by a drooling nemesis. Since The Beverly Hillbillies, TV has had a hard time deciding which side to take in the class war; The Riches suggests that class itself is a charade and an imposture.

3. BEST BAD-FAITH SCUZZBALL
Walton Goggins as the Loathsome Shane
Against heavy competition all over the dial—whackers and whackees on The Sopranos, Dexter, CSI: Miami, Law & Order: SVU, 24, and pro wrestling—on FX’s The Shield, Walton Goggins prevails, looking sort of like an ashtray. On a cop show that specializes in scenery-chewing, he’s managed to steal the limelight from everybody else in the station-house “Barn,” including fellow cops Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker. Even Michael Chiklis’s Vic, that badass baldy, looks principled standing next to Shane. It is as if, before our eyes, Shane putrefied.

4. BEST PERFORMANCE IN AN OLD-SCHOOL TELEVISION MESSAGE MOVIE
Queen Latifah
An all-star cast including Anna Deavere Smith and Gloria Reuben added heart and bite to Life Support, Nelson George’s Bed-Stuy social-worker film on HBO, but it was Latifah, as an HIV-positive reformed crackhead turned angelic bully, who seized, shook, and baked us. As she carried out her tireless rounds of condom distribution, telling everyone that AIDS is the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34, she hadn’t, naturally, left enough time for her own kids.

5. BEST DOC, DEPARTMENT OF GUILTY CONSCIENCE
Ghosts of Abu Ghraib
Not only did Rory Kennedy wander the corridors of the infamous prison, interviewing military police, abused prisoners, wardens in denial, and witnesses now reviled, but, in this HBO film, she also explores sensory deprivation, dogs, nudity, chains, sandbags, Nerf balls, pyramids, sexual humiliation, and electrocution—in sentences so simple and images so stark that even a Republican presidential candidate should be able to grasp the basic idea.


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