Tuned In

Vacation Robo-Post: The 2009 Cincy Awards

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Yesterday, I announced Tuned In’s newest year-end award: The Cincies, honoring TV’s most interesting failures of the year. You can read yesterday’s post for the explanation. Today, after the jump, I hereby announce the 2009 Cincies:

The Goode Family: Mike Judge’s sendup of political correctness didn’t take as well as his previous series, King of the Hill. But its characters, broadly drawn at first, became more understandable and likeable as the series went on. And for all its progressive target practice, it was actually a well-observed take on the schisms and characters of college towns.

Kings: A Biblical story, with Biblical language and the invisible but everpresent hand of God, set in a modern corporatized kingdom. Kings would have been hard to pull off even if NBC knew what to do with it, and it never quite balanced its ambition and its soapier elements. But it was odd, ambitious and occasionally mesmerizing.

Dollhouse: A textbook Cincy. Dollhouse spent the first half of its first season finding its tone; it had a hard-to describe premise and hard-to-take themes of sexual exploitation. When it clicked, though, it was a provocative and wildly entertaining show that asked: if you can store (and create) a consciousness on a chip, what makes a person?

Hung: An example of a Cincy that (because it was picked up for a second season by HBO) has a chance to right itself. The story of a dead-broke teacher turned gigolo (and his poet-turrned pimp), it tried to make sex farce out of very real desperation in the blighted Detroit area. Dark and often bitter, it had as much in common with a typical TV comedy as a baking-chocolate bar has with a Milky Way. Yet it felt like there was a good show in there, if the writers could get their jumble of ideas about American dreams gone awry to cohere.

The Prisoner: Critics, including this one, weren’t kind to this remake, but reimagining a beloved TV classic was not for the fainthearted. And this miniseries’ basic idea—turning the ’60s version’s Cold War gulag into a corporate prison of the mind—made sense on paper. A Cincy for the effort—and for, at least, looking spectacularly good while trying it.