Best on TV — 2008 Edition

Best non-romantic relationship
Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) on The Big Bang Theory. He’s an asexual scientific genius, she’s a waitress who walks into her neighbour’s apartment in her underwear, and together they have become the funniest odd couple since, well, The Odd Couple. Their interactions are a highlight of every episode: Penny gets frustrated by Sheldon’s lack of familiarity with normal human concepts, and Sheldon is constantly surprised that she thinks he’s weird. Their relationship reached a sort of apex in a Christmas episode when Penny gave Sheldon a napkin that was used by Leonard Nimoy (”I possess the DNA of Leonard Nimoy”) and in gratitude, Sheldon made the supreme sacrifice and gave Penny a hug. Who needs romance when you can have hilariously awkward platonic friendship?

Best appearance by a ghost
Harry Morgan (James Remar), the adoptive father of the title character on Dexter, died long before the series began. But this season, that didn’t stop him from popping up to talk to Dexter, his sociopathic pride and joy, about the ethics of murder and anything else that was on his spectral mind. Some fans felt that Dexter seeing dead people was just another sign of his sad decline from a fascinating monster to a lovable weirdo with a wacky habit of killing people. But it sure is better than the other high-profile ghost sighting this year, Izzie’s visions of Dead Denny on Grey’s Anatomy. At least the ghost on Dexter isn’t sleeping with anybody.

Best use of a TV show for political purposes
This scene from the 1967 Batman episode “Dizzonner The Penguin,” where the Penguin (Burgess Meredith) debates Batman during a mayoral election and accuses the Caped Crusader of “concealing his past” and “hobnobbing with crooks.” Placed on YouTube, it became a viral sensation, as several news anchors and hundreds of thousands of viewers pointed out the eerie similarity of the Penguin’s campaign rhetoric to John McCain’s (right down to calling the audience “my friends”). what was once considered just a campy ’60s series became, ironically, more politically relevant to our time than The Dark Knight.

Best speech
In the next-to-last episode of The Shield, “Possible Kill Screen,” rogue cop Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) agrees to confess to all his past crimes in exchange for immunity. As other characters listen in horror and disgust, he proceeds to recount every horrible thing he’s gotten away with in the series, starting with his murder of a fellow police officer in the pilot. (“They just couldn’t prove it. I was too good.”) It could have been a silly laundry-list of villainous deeds, but through the power of the writing and Michael Chiklis’s acting, it became a truly scary moment as well as a kind of meta-analysis of the show and its lead character. Like Vic’s interrogator, we in the audience finally had to confront the unvarnished truth about what kind of a monster we’ve been following for the past seven seasons.

Best-looking Canadian on TV
This is almost as difficult as choosing the most depressing news story of 2008; there are so many beautiful Canadians on television that many U.S. message-board posters have become convinced that Canadians are all beautiful. Which we are. But Cobie Smulders, the tall ex-model who plays Robin on How I Met Your Mother, still laps the field; Robin is so attractive that even bimbo-magnet Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) is hopelessly in love with her. It doesn’t hurt that the Vancouver-born actress is one of the funniest members of a very funny cast.

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