Best Dramas (in order--to gratuitously generate more comments):
- Mad Men. Does so much so well. Instructs me on what life was like just before I was born (kids playing plastic bags); Great Acting; Interesting spin on Advertising and business; Great Character development. Perhaps it is my favorite now because it is on-going, but I have more enthusiasm for this show than any other.
- Sopranos. Great acting, great writing. Really set the model for all subsequent dramas.
- Deadwood. Hell if it is accurate at all about the time, but it had a fascinating villain (who was more complex than any other), great characters, a nice depiction of cooperation under anarchy (for the IR geek that I am), some compelling plots. How did towns spring up out of nothing? This is one possible story. The only real downside is that it was only on for three seasons. And it should have won a special Emmy for most creative swearing
- Friday Night Lights. Criminally ignored by the Emmys and the public. Great depiction of family/work life/teenagers. What does a father do when his girl gets drunk or dates his QB? Everything I know about fatherhood I learned from Coach Eric Taylor. "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." Indeed.
- Band of Brothers. Just one season (mini-series or not?) of a moving, accurate, deep portrayal of one unit from the US through Normandy, the Bulge and to Victory. I am very much looking forward to the "sequel" in 2010 which does for the Pacific what this series did for the American experience in Europe.
- Lost. An endless mind@#$. The fate of this show hangs in its final season, as there are many questions that have yet to be answered, and the potential reboot in the aftermath of last season's finale may or may not make the previous seasons moot. To do so entirely would be greatly damaging to the entire series (not unlike what happened with BSG). The show has been a wonderful combination of drama, science, comedy (Hurley in a VW van), mystery and theology perhaps.
- Closer and Weeds are both fun shows but my viewing has been disconnected due to the time/space conflicts between the US and Canada.
- Battlestar Galatica was heaps of fun and most watch TV, but fell short of greatness by how it started and ended. The characters in the first season were so incredibly stupid that my wife could not watch: hey, let's give the scientist who talks to himself a nuke and then let's forget we gave it to him. And the last episode--not the angels part but the rest of it--ok, we are in Earth's past and might want to lose our technology, but given how often they fought over other decisions, is this really going to go down that easily? And they all split up from each other? Even Lee and his dad? Still a fun, fun show.
- Rescue Me. An amazing show in the aftermath of 9/11, but so brutally depressing at times that I could not sustain a commitment to watch.
- The Office (US version). I have not seen much of the UK version. This year's focus on the decline of the American corporation has taken the show beyond mere hijinks to actually just a bit relevant. They need to get Jim and Pam back to being intelligent and fun again, but otherwise an excellent blend of cringe and laughing.
- How I Met Your Mother: Interesting replacement for Friends and Seinfeld. New Yorkers, mix of single and married, presenting competing theories of social behavior. And presenting the best forum for Neil Patrick Harris. Amazing how they have hung so much on a show with such a potentially limiting premise.
- Big Bang Theory. I was reluctant to join the fun, but the Spew family compelled me to watch. And then I had to run out and get the DVDs for the season I missed. Geek supremacy has arrived. Perhaps the best display of science on TV (outside of Mythbusters).
- Scrubs. Whimsy.
- South Park. I watched it less consistently in Canada since new shows were on Friday and then Saturday nights, but still brutally funny, always on target stuff.
I don't watch such stuff much, but two shows do stand out: the aforementioned Mythbusters (which I would like more if I didn't have to watch marathons whenever I am in the US in a hotel or house with only one TV--the Spew kid dominates the remote control like Tiger Woods dominates golf and now gossip news); and Joe Schmoe. Joe Schmoe was actually a parody of the reality TV shows, with one real person and a bunch of actors playing the usual cast of characters. It was hilarious--the best TV Spike has produced thus far. And it gave us Kristen Wiig, who is used way too much on SNL but still one of its best talents.
The Most Important TV Show of the Decade:
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. While the Colbert Report can be funny and is a wonderful exercise in who will go along with his routine (and what his followers will vote for), The Daily Show has become the single most important check on the media and on politicians. Showing 1991 Cheney discussing the difficulties of occupying Iraq vs Cheney 2003 talking about parades, Bush as candidate vs Bush as President on nation-building, etc. It almost seems like only this show has an archive of what politicians have said and is willing to occasionally compare and contrast. Very funny, usually insightful, and now expected to be better journalists than a source of fake news, which is the height of irony.
For this, I post the classic Jon Stewart defense of his show and the failures of the rest of the news media:
*I am certain that I will be abused for this, but I will eventually rent the series and can then re-rank.