Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ten On Tuesdays: Ten Best TV Freshmen Classes

The fall network television season officially kicks off next week (although FOX and The CW are getting a bit of a headstart) and each new show will be under the microscope. The pressure is always higher for new shows since they have only 13 episodes or less to win viewers or produce a strong enough product that may win some favor from the network execs and allow a stay of execution. There is no telling which of this season's new shows will become the next sensation or even if there will be one, but it's always exciting to follow, at least to me.

In honor of the upcoming fall tv season (one of my favorite events of the year), I've decided to do a top ten list of what I feel are the seasons that had the best freshmen line-up. I based this on the ratings success of the show, longetivity, quality, importance to the history of television and its lasting impact on pop culture. This list is also not limited to just shows in the fall line-up, but shows that were midseason replacements as well. I also didn't include every new show for each particular season, mainly because they didn't fit the criteria. Any shows not on the fall line-up are noted with an asterisk (*).


The A-Team*
Family Ties
Knight Rider
Remington Steele
Silver Spoons
Square Pegs
St. Elsewhere

The A-Team, Cheers, Family Ties and Knight Rider are cornerstones of 80's television and shows that people will often remain nostalgic for, but the enduring quality of St. Elsewhere and Newhart, not to mention Square Pegs' groundbreaking look at adolescent life is what earns the 1982-83 crop a spot on this list.


7th Heaven
Buffy The Vampire Slayer*
Everybody Loves Raymond
The Jamie Foxx Show
Just Shoot Me!*
King Of The Hill*
The Practice*
Spin City
The Steve Harvey Show

Raymond went on to become one of the best sitcoms of all-time. Buffy revived a network and re-ignited serial storytelling in primetime. The Practice was definitely one of the best dramas on television for at least its first three or four seasons. King Of The Hill continues to remain consistent to this day. Those fours shows alone are impressive enough, but once you add the importance of the Jamie Foxx and Steve Harvey-led sitcoms in an era where FOX was slowly phasing out African-American centered programming from their schedule and 7th Heaven's longevity, you have one of the most well-rounded group of freshmen in this season.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jordin Sparks - "Tattoo"

I am not afraid to admit my love for American Idol. Aside from the merits of pre-manufacturing the next superstar (which doesn't bother me if the music is good and it's not as if it isn't a decades-old practice), the show is genuinely entertaining as television and one of the few shows that hooks you from the first week to the last. I root for a lot of the contestants to have successful careers after the show, but let's face it, some never live up to the hype. The expectations have been even harder for the contestants that make up the final two to become successful ever since Ruben and Clay proved that more than one person from a season can achieve commercial success. The pressure has gained even more with the runner-ups getting more accolades than any of the actual winners (Jennifer Hudson? Chris Daughtry anybody?). The progress of the 2007 final duo of Blake Lewis and winner Jordin Sparks will be examined more closely than any final two before them. With both of the 2006 final two's albums flopping (Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee), people will be speculating whether the show is relevant any more if back-to-back winners have mediocre album sales and whether the title of American Idol would even matter any more since it's been proven that all you need to have is the talent, a spot in the final 12 and a little luck to have a good career. The first one up to the plate is Jordin Sparks, who has an album slated for release in November and a single, "Tattoo", that is already out at radio. What's really notable about "Tattoo" is that it's the not the usual sappy, ear destroying ballad that final two contestants are forced to release, but a straightforward pop song ready to get toes tapping instead of radio dials switched. It's also the perfect song for Jordin to be introduced with. There's no getting around the fact that she's still a teenager, but the bubbly personality that she displayed on the show will likely not translate in to good music. If likeable personalities translated into album sales, there would be at least one American Idol contestant in the top 20 of the Hot 100 for every year of the week. "Tattoo" has the perfect balance of youthful appeal and edge that Kelly Clarkson showed during her first album. The song itself is a response to a former lover that Jordin can't escape like a, um, tattoo and with its icy synths and "Irreplaceable"-like drum pattern is a surprising and welcome turn from the American Idol camp. Game on, Blake.

Jordin Sparks - "Tattoo" (streaming)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

If it's hard, try spellin' it phonetically

For those who lost faith in Talib Kweli after 2004's stale The Beautiful Struggle, you should definitely give his latest Ear Drum a try and you might find yourself being won over again. Around 2002, I would have still considered Talib one of the best 10 MCs in the game, but after The Beautiful Struggle was released, I couldn't even mention him as one of my current faves. The production wasn't the only downfall of that album, but Talib's quest for mainstream listeners resulted in rhymes that simply weren't exciting or inspiring. Kweli has managed to strike a better balance of mainstream pandering while holding on to his underground roots on his latest. "Country Cousins" shows Kweli using the Midwestern double time flow (which I didn't even know he had in his arsenal) over a laidback soulful beat with UGK contributing as well. If that isn't a recipe for success, I'm not sure what is. You have two of the best acts from the East and the South together on a track and the results make for one of the more beautiful hip-hop tracks of the year.

To buy the album from Amazon, click here

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Go Home Productions - "This Was Pop (2002-2007)"

So one of the greatest artists of this decade has just released a career retrospective on his website. For those of you that don't know, Go Home Productions, aka Mark Vidler, is the premeir mash-up artist of our time, and what he does cannot simply be described as putting two songs together. Of course, that's the best way to explain it to someone, but his eclectic song choices and flair for arrangement take 21st century pop to dizzying heights (great example: Flaming Lips' "The W.A.N.D. + Mary J. Blige's "Real Love," + Can's "Halleluwah" + Run DMC's "My Adidas" + Prince's "Sign O' The Times" = "Flaming Mary Can (Out) Run Prince", which didn't even make the cut!). Neither is he a one-trick pony who mashes up songs just for quirky kicks, but GHP has proven time and time again that not only can his songs be terrific ear candy to smile and dance along to, but can have surprising depth and emotion as well. See for yourself why each bootleg he releases is met with great expectation. His homepage, http://www.gohomeproductions.co.uk/ has the songs available for individual download right now, as well as the complete album.