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Self, Consider Yourself Validated — Now With More Selves

Friday, November 13, 2009
by

Please Note: All images are just examples of how kickass The Onion is.I’m sorry Drew, but I’m talking about a list.  Yes, lists don’t actually mean anything, they aren’t objective in any way, and no one should treat them as such.  They should be approached as a conversation-starter, and they should be treated as nothing more than some guy’s opinion.

In this case, that guy is The Onion’s A.V. Club, and that opinion is on The Best TV Series of the ’00s.  They’ve built up a list of 30 (series fiction only, so no talk show Daily Show/Colbert, no miniseries Band of Brothers, no documentary Planet Earth), which is a bit crazy since who the hell has watched much more than 30 different TV series in the past ten years?  That’s three series per year, but since these series’ runs range from one season to nine, that’s … well it’s a lot of TV.  So of course I haven’t seen them all.

But for those that I have seen, this is a pretty bang-on list.  Makes me feel nice and tingly knowing that my tastes line up so well with the cool motherfuckers at The Onion.  For more information on how similar I am to a cool motherfucker, read the article (or just skim the numbers), and then hit the jump.

Self Legend
Beal in black.
graeme in orange.
James17930 in blue.
Tanya (tgjkennedy) in green.

1. The Wire
Absolutely.  No question.  Really, not even optional, having this at number 1.

2. The Sopranos
I got maybe halfway through it, then stopped.  No good reason, I just stopped.  I really need to get back to it.

3. Arrested Development
Yup.  Because Dr. Tobias Funkë’s business cards for his combo analyst/therapist practice portmanteau’d him as “Analrapist.”  And because of Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog.  And “Get rid of the Seaward.”

4. Freaks and Geeks
A really nice show that went down too early.  Partly my fault, I suppose, as I only watched it on DVD about six months ago.  Don’t know if I’d lay it at #4, but I’d definitely lay it.  Especially that James Franco.  Dreamy!

Finally, a show I watch. I like shows with heart that are not mostly about crime/crime fighting. This excludes everything above. Freaks and Geeks is fantastic, and should have been a clear indication of what Judd Apatow had in store in terms of talent. I don’t think it would have been cancelled had it been made today.

5. Mad Men
Just finished watching season three a few hours ago.  Such a strange show, it was kind of hard to get a handle on just what they’ve been doing.  But it was clear they were doing it great.  Confident and cool, great acting and perfectly simple period writing; I think I get what this show’s all about now.  It’s listed where it should be.

If you think about what actually happens on the show, it’s really not a lot. And despite the lack of explosions, it has a huge following. I love it. You can also go back and watch the series and remember almost nothing about what happens in each individual episode. I like a show that’s like that – enjoyable for multiple viewings.

7. The Office UK
I watched this again pretty recently, and you know, I didn’t really laugh much.  Not because I saw all the jokes coming; I didn’t remember it with much detail.  Even the painful cringe-worthiness and the mean bite that was the second season seemed diluted.  But I do remember how great it was that first time, shotgunning them all in one exhausting night.  So I won’t argue its placement.

Weird, I didn’t laugh as much the second time round either, probably because the Ricky Gervais character has been around for a long time now, in various media, so I’m more used to him. But I still find the show very enjoyable, especially watching a legal, non-skipping, non-digital-distortion version.

This would probably go in my Top 5. I rewatch it every year (usually around Christmas, because the Christmas special is a nice wrap up). I still laugh at all the jokes, and I cry every time at the end and I’m not ashamed to say it. In the special features, there’s a behind-the-scenes of Martin Freeman trying to get through the scene where “Brent” points at his crotch while biting his lower lip… brilliant.

8. Lost
Maybe.  The upcoming end will make or break this show.  If its conclusion doesn’t work, it brings a fair bit of was preceded down with it.  If it works, even at a moderate level, top ten is fair.  Worst case, Lost still deserves a place, just further down.

We’ve only just caught up to season 4, which was pretty good (probably because it was a short season so they had to focus), but I agree, they better have an ending that kicks ass or else all will be for naught. I know! Maybe it’s all the dream of an autistic child!! Wait, no, that was St. Elsewhere

I’m voting for the Lost fans among us to do episode reviews of the final season. What are the chances they can wrap it all up in 18 episodes? Unlikely. It’s still compelling though… I have to give a shout-out to Lostpedia, specifically this.

10. The Shield
Good that it’s high, bad that it’s not high enough.  Number two?  Only because you can’t beat The Wire.

11. The Office US
It’s not as angry at the modern workplace as its UK predecessor, but it has better characters (with the advantage of eighty-seven more episodes over which to develop them), and especially better background worker characters.  And it’s managed to reach some great peaks of creative absurdity over the years.  I tried the first few episodes and bailed, then tried them again a time later.  Good thing.

Michael Scott has become almost unbearable these days, and the Jim and Pam stuff only sort of makes up for it. I’m still an avid fan though owing to the good amount of laugh-out-loud moments per episode.

12. Battlestar Galactica
I could’ve seen this up higher.  Though there was some stumbling in the mid-to-late section (see also: Lost), the first few years are amazing TV, science fiction at its finest.  And the ending is divisive in the exact right way, a bit vague and a kind of thought-provoking that seems like an annoying cop-out from one angle, but makes perfect sense from another.  But it’s a real ending, a surprising one and a brave one.

Annoyingly, I’ve still only seen the first season and half of the second one… on the basis of that alone however, it’s better than Lost.

Yet another show I keep meaning to watch… but never get around to it. I think it’s something to do with the name…

004-mandies

13. 30 Rock
I haven’t seen every episode, but the ones I have are hilariously, brilliantly funny. Better than The Office (US). For proof, watch this.

This show fills a void that’s sort of lacking on TV lately, and I can’t quite define what it is. The comedy is similar in vein to Seinfeld and Arrested Development (which I can’t really enjoy), but I genuinely care for Liz Lemon, so it makes my list.

14. Futurama
This is one of six shows on the list that were cancelled in infancy (Seven?  Did Buffy get shut down before they wanted it to go, James?).  I wonder if TV executive types look back with regret about pulling the plug on shows that remain so beloved so long after their early demises?  (Even though, from a business point of view, they were so rarely wrong to do so.)  Futurama did some great stuff, like that amazing Harlem Globetrotters timewarp episode.  And it’s getting a second chance with the DVD movies and maybe a return to TV.  The movies haven’t really been great, but it’s nice that it’s had the opportunity.  I mean, if Family Guy deserves it, surely Futurama does.

15. Veronica Mars
Surprised but not at all bothered by its placement.  One amazing season (#1), one three-quarters amazing season with some filler (#2), and one clearly-compromised-by-network-demands season that’s okay but nothing compared to the previous two (#3) before cancellation.  I’m giving #1 a re-watch these days, and I’m still seeing all that goodness, but some of the cracks, the less-sophisticated tricks of storytelling, are showing.

Totally rewatchable, over and over again. Would be higher on my list. There’s still talk of a movie. sigh.

17. Firefly
Perhaps the most painful of the “killed young” club, because this one started off fully-formed and never wavered for a moment.  Slide this boy up higher on the list, if you would.

Ditto.

Super ditto. Firefly still impresses me. My wannabe-American parents finally gave up and watched it with me. They love country music and Nascar, so I pitched it as a scifi-WESTERN! Emphasis on the Western. Anyway, of course they loved it and went out and bought themselves copies of the DVDs and the movie to share with their friends. There will be 20 seasons of this playing on my TV in heaven.

21. Curb Your Enthusiasm
I haven’t seen enough of its nine years, so pricey do those HBO DVDs get sometimes, but I like what I’ve seen and I’m fine with this.

24. Dexter
My one big disagreement.  Dexter is not an especially great show, it’s a great character.  A great character surrounded (mostly) by mediocre-to-irritating characters.  So while I will continue to watch Dexter, I wouldn’t put it on any list.

Disagree – this would be on my list. It wavered a bit in the second/third seasons, but the current one is getting BETTER AND BETTER. It’s still very character-centric, but they’re really doing a lot with that character. And there’s John Lithgow, who has been showing off some fantastic acting skills.

27. Flight of the Conchords
Hmm, maybe.  Still need to see season two, but if they exploit Rhys Darby’s Murray correctly, then I’d say we’ve got a contender.

30. The West Wing
Well, certainly the first four seasons are as good as anything ever shown on television, so for that alone, I would put this show in my top 10. But even the last season was pretty good. Season 5 was middling… in that it was in the middle, and not very good, but season 6 does start to climb again. Plus, I’m in season 6, so that makes it even more awesome.

Omissions

Of course no one’s perfect, not even the cool motherfuckers at The Onion’s A.V. Club.  They left a few out that I think should be acknowledged.

South Park
For its first few years, in the late ’90s, South Park was an amusing bit of a shock comedy catchphrase sensation, but after the movie in ’99, it got smart.  Its best years were definitely the first five of the new century.

24
I’m not in any way surprised it’s not on the list — last year was okay, but the year before (actually two years before, thanks to a much-needed writers’-strike-demanded year off) was quite bad.  But the year before that, and most of the years before that, were great, fun, intense action TV.  Cool spy shit, awesome hero stuff, badass performances.  And poor Jack Bauer — will he ever get to just be happy?

I watched the first season and I WANT THAT DAY OF MY LIFE BACK.

Weeds
Maybe not for the good-but-not-special last couple of years, but season one and especially the first half of season two (which I believe I’ve spoken of before) is stuff I shan’t soon forget.

I totally agree – this would be in my top 10. The plot rambles all over the place, but it’s still pretty damned good.

Doctor Who
A question I posed recently to Drew: if the mysterious Doctor is the object of the sentence, must we refer to him as Doctor Whom?  Whatever the answer, this continuation-of-aged-cheese has been a combination of great fun and great sci-fi, as I’ve previously stated.  Man, that previous statement would’ve really been prescient, had this show made the list.  Like the shows I mentioned here did.

Omissions from g’s relatively TV deprived memory

Coupling
Not the US remake that didn’t make it past the second episode. This is Stephen Moffat’s (current showrunner of Doctor Who) version of Friends, and it’s a great comedy. Only 4 series(eses), and while the 4th season isn’t as strong because one of the main characters (and the funniest character) left, it still manages enough laughs, and genuine emotion as the central couple go through the trials and tribulations of having a baby.

Spooks (M15)
Yeah, yeah, another British show, but this one is one of the best spy shows ever made. And one of the greatest things about it is that you never know when one of the main characters is going to snuff it. They introduced this policy early on in the first series, and it’s a great device to keep the suspense pumping (also helps that I watch the series(eses) well after their initial broadcast, and I don’t live in England). It’s not groundbreaking, just good, old-fashioned, plot-driven storytelling with guts.

Doctor Who
Ummm…oh right, Adam already mentioned this. Funny that I left it here instead of deleting it . . .

Now that I’ve had my words, I encourage my fellow edit-capables to jump right in here and add their thoughts in the main article.  Leave the comments section to the teeming masses; don’t soil yourselves in their ranks.

And I can help get you started with your own lists.  Here, James17930:

1. Buffy
2. Angel
3. Firefly
4. Dollhouse
5. That episode of Veronica Mars Joss Whedon was on
6. Did they ever air any of Dr. Horrible on TV?

* scans IMDB *

7. 4 episodes of Roseanne

[James17930 enters, stage left]

I’ll admit that my list will be somewhat predictable, and that Beal has already easily predicted most of its predictables above, in that it’s going to be Whedon-centric; in my defence this is simply because I don’t watch a lot of TV (whether or not that works as a defence in a post about TV watching is up to you), and Whedon is one of the few creative forces in modern media I’m willing to devote my time to.  I haven’t seen The Wire, I haven’t seen Lost, I haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica, I haven’t seen Veronica Mars, I haven’t seen So You Think You Can Dance? (which I realize is prejudicially off-limits for this project — shame); hell, I haven’t seen almost everything on that list.  All that being said, here goes (I’m just going to do a top-five):

1. West Wing
Is the A.V. Club’s list ranked?  Or is it random order?  Because if it’s ranked, I don’t see how West Wing ends up at thirty; even if the guy isn’t really that into politics, he should still be able to see just how groundbreaking this show was in terms of its production and writing, and the lasting effect it has had on both the television and, perhaps more amazingly, the real political, landscapes.  It’s because of the way this show affected and educated about the reality of its subject matter — i.e. had a real and significant social impact — that I would put it at the top of my list, along with just being damn good and intelligent entertainment.  Sure it dipped a bit in the middle of its run, but what seven-season or longer show hasn’t?  This and M*A*S*H* are the greatest shows of all time.

2. Buffy/Angel
You may regard twinning these two together at number two as a cop-out, but I just don’t know how I could pick one above the other, mostly because, knowing them so well, I can judge them so minutely.  For instance, Buffy, seasons 2, 3 and 6 were fantastic, 4, 5 and 7 were decent, and 1 was mostly awful; Angel season 1 was bad, 2 and 5 decent, 4 excellent (though many would disagree with me there), and 3 the best single season of television I have ever seen (and I’m sure almost everyone would disagree with me there, regardless of how good they thought it was).  Does that actually give Angel the slight edge?  Not sure.  Anyway, the point is, they both went up and down, and they’re so intertwined anyway, that I’m just going to keep them together as the ‘Buffyverse’ and leave it at that.  Why Beal hasn’t taken the time to get into them yet I’m not sure, but if it’s just some weird, knee-jerk reaction to me and Tanya being so gung-ho about them then he needs to get over that and get to it.  Also — more of that cultural impact I was talking about; some may think this is irrelevant to a show’s quality, but I think ‘legacy’ is something that needs to be considered when deciding if something is list-worthy or not, and since we’re listing here, I’m going to throw legacy in your face all day.

3. Firefly
Not much more I can say about this one — Fox fucking around with its scheduling and then giving up on it as it did was pure infanticide.  And then they should have raised it from the dead after the (albeit DVD) success of Serenity, but no.  Firefly will now always be remembered mostly as the John Lennon of ’00s television.

4. The Office (US)
I’m going to say it: The Office US is better than The Office UK, in that, as Beal has alluded to, The Office US is more re-watchable.  Once the shtick of David Brent’s awfulness wears off, there’s not much left; the jokes are mostly of the ‘ah, good one’ variety instead of the laughing variety, so once you know them all, you end up not laughing at anything as you watch it again.  As Beal says, the US version has had more time to develop those background characters, and that variety overall makes the show more interesting.  There’s a reason it’s the only show, other than Dollhouse, that I’m downloading every week (well, that and I’m running out of storage space — need to invest in new computer or external hard drive).  And with that as a segue, that brings us to the final item on my oh-so predictable list . . .

Note: Joss Whedon directed two episodes of The Office (American version). 3/5 for Whedon.

5. Futurama
I just said it was a segue — I made no claim it was a good segue.

Futurama is, really, the only other show out of those thirty that I have seen enough of to confidently add it to my list.  At first I couldn’t understand why, for a show set 1000 years into the future, it seemed so obsessed with the pop-cultural minutiae of today, but then I realized, as it says in the A.V. Club article, that that was the point, and once I recognized it as satire as opposed to merely ‘funny space-romp’ I enjoyed it all the more.  That being said, I haven’t seen it since its revival, so I don’t really know what it’s up to these days.

Honourable Mentions

South Park
Though mostly for the movie as opposed to the show — I find the show has gotten too bogged down in its satire; sure it’s smarter now, but what I’ve seen recently is only occasionally funny anymore.

Dollhouse
You knew I had to throw this on here somewhere.  This doesn’t make my top five because of its incredible — and sometimes downright sloppy — unevenness.  As widely known, the first five episodes of Season 1 were mediocre, and it was that bad start which basically consigned the show to its death; then episode 6 was good, but then episode 7 was shit, then 8 – 11 good, then 12 kind of bad, then 13 good . . . you see the pattern.  Season 2 has so far been up and down as well.  So — opportunity wasted, although there was enough good that it’s disappointing we’ll never get to see how it plays out (unless comics are an inevitable end-result for Joss Whedon now, in which case — great, we will know!).

P.S.  Dr. Horrible didn’t actually do that much for me.

I’m done. Tanya, you gonna jump in and join the party?

Okay!

Omissions from Tanya’s tv-addled brain

My top shows are all pretty much up there, but I’ve got some honorable mentions. In no particular order:

Medium – Some of the most creative story telling I’ve ever seen. Wholesome and interesting. The only thing that’s annoying is when people argue with Allison despite the fact that she’s right about stuff almost 100% of the time. Would you really keep telling her “it’s just a dream” when it’s never been “just a dream”? Stop doing that.

How I Met Your Mother – Our generation’s Friends, only better. Really, really funny. Slap-bet. Need I say more. I really don’t watch a lot of sitcoms, but this is a show I can’t live without.

Supernatural – I know, I know. It’s Supernatural. But it’s got a lot of Buffy alumni (actors and makers) and it’s also got a high creative factor. The shows range from funny to scary (scary good, not scary bad), and they frequently play around with how the story is told. And the boys are hot and so’s the car. The one-off shows are usually better than the story-arch stuff (which can get a little convoluted), but it’s still great. My main complaint would be that there are few female characters who aren’t evil/killed off or just featured in only one episode.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, November 13, 2009 8:01 am

    Ooh shit, I forgot one. But I can update!
    UPDATE: Updated!

  2. Friday, November 13, 2009 8:10 am

    Doctor Who would stay Doctor Who, because, rightly or wrongly, it’s being used as a proper name, not a relative pronoun. But that Jesus cartoon up there should say ‘Whom do you trust.’

    And I’ll jump into the post tomorrow.

    • Saturday, November 14, 2009 1:11 am

      Yeah, but they’re talking about Jesus there, and we all know that common pronoun rules don’t apply to Him.

  3. Friday, November 13, 2009 8:24 am

    I have no qualms about Dexter ranking 42 on a top-30 list of shows, considering Jennifer Carpenter.

    • Saturday, November 14, 2009 1:19 am

      She’s annoying, but really none of the supporting staff are interesting. I give her the occasional pass because her spazzy sister character’s a good counterbalance to cold, calculating Dexter (though it’s impossible to take her seriously as a detective).

      But the others at the police station are so bland — Angel’s a good actor, but the character’s never done anything of note; that weird forensic guy is not nearly as funny as they want him to be; the “I’m Black!” guy’s no good; and Lt. LaGuerta needs to not be on the show anymore.

      The exception is Dexter’s girlfriend Rita, though she was best in the first season, when a lot of it was about her insecurities and why he chose her in the first place.

      • Saturday, November 14, 2009 9:51 am

        David Zayas (Angel) and especially Lauren Vélez (LaGuerta) were far more interesting in Oz.

        • Saturday, November 14, 2009 2:26 pm

          Him, I believe it. Her, I just don’t find her to be a very interesting actress. But maybe it’s just the role.

          I also find it really forced when they speak Spanish. I never had that problem with The Shield. Or Telemundo.

    • tgjkennedy permalink
      Friday, December 4, 2009 7:03 pm

      Dexter and Dexter’s sister are married in real life. I cannot get over that when watching them. Sorry to bring that into it for those who were not aware.

  4. SarahP permalink
    Friday, November 13, 2009 10:31 am

    I would find myself quickly divorced (emotionally if not literally) if I did not jump in to point out the character’s name is the Doctor, and the show’s name is Doctor Who. The titles are not “Doctor Who and the….” except for the lame-o Peter Cushing movies, which are apocryphal.

    • Friday, November 13, 2009 12:13 pm

      Yes, but Beal’s question is still valid (in that it’s a facetious question); he’s asking would it be:

      1) Do you like to watch Doctor Who?

      or

      2) Do you like to watch Doctor Whom?

      Doctor Who is the name of the show, so still a proper name. So my answer is also still valid.

  5. Friday, November 13, 2009 2:00 pm

    Actually, there was an episode from the early 70s called Doctor Who and the Silurians, but this is the only time in the series history.

  6. Saturday, November 14, 2009 5:10 am

    Hey, look at us — like real bloggers again!

  7. Saturday, November 14, 2009 2:27 pm

    Hey, what happened to my color-coding? I’m putting it back it, dammit! OP still means something around here!

    • Saturday, November 14, 2009 7:39 pm

      There were no additional colours before at any time of me seeing this post.

      Also — looks like the A.V.s are going to be doing like posts for music, movies, books, wallpaper patterns etc.

      Should we get on those too?

      • Saturday, November 14, 2009 8:24 pm

        Yeah, I think there was some autosave shenanigans going on when I did the colour update. Maybe you were in the midst of your alterations when I swept in there.

        And we should get on whatever tickles our fancy.

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