In the wake of both discovering and finishing the epic AMC’s series Breaking Bad in less than a month – you could easily say that I’ve got television on the brain. Pair that with the fact I’m an absolute sucker for creating and crossing things off lists (they’re kind of my jam) and – well – my mind’s been in overdrive trying to produce a list of my top ten TV shows. Now, this list isn’t some definitive guide to everything that’s been on television and then “Top Shows of all time” it’s merely a list of my tried and true favorites. One key way you can tell: pivotal* shows with huge fan followings are more or less missing. Some I couldn’t get into, others I didn’t get the point; Lost, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Weeds, The Wire, Friends, Oz – all supposedly fantastic in their own right, just not on my terms.
Now, sure – as I alluded to earlier, I more than enjoy finding a new TV show and marathoning the shit out of it in record time. But, another key piece of information to remember is that I’m a socially and physically active 28 year old in Los Angeles so to make me commit to an hour a week devoid of other communication is a huge deal; it takes a considerable amount of gusto from a syndicated show for me to fork over my time. Now, shows on Netflix are an entirely different story….but since the good ones are few and far between, I digress.
For the past week, I’ve been deleting, adding, rearranging, given “special awards”, taken them away, made the list bigger, shrank it again…I think you get the picture – bottom line, this was harder for me than I expected!
1. Battlestar Galactica (SciFi; 2004-2009)
One Line Synopsis: Humanity is under attack by the same forward thinking robotic technology that was built to ensure their safety.
Hands down, my ultimate favorite show. Whether you’re a sci-fi junkie and simply enjoy the idea of a robot versus human sparring match, or you enjoy political or social dramas – this show is totally for you. Between Captain Adama, President Roslin, Apollo, Starbuck and Colonel Thai there’s a hero (and anti-hero!) for every last once of us. I’ve watched the show start-to-end about seven or eight times now and I’m still finding nuanced details that I missed every other time around. Watch it with your parents, your love, your bestie – there’s really something in it for every one of them; also, if they don’t like it, it’s the perfect way to weed people out of your life with poor taste in things 😉
2. Breaking Bad (AMC; 2008-2013)
One Line Synopsis: Diagnosed with cancer, a high school chemistry teacher goes on a meth-inspired-mission to secure his family’s financial future.
Hailed by some as the best show of this decade and hailed by me as a show I’m far too addicted to for my own good, this show is equally anxiety inducing and intelligent, hilarious and serious all at the same time. I lost count at how many times I found myself yelling at my laptop or television in hopes of either a resolution or explanation; and more often than not, instead of answers I received ending credits. There’s a reason I’ve been able to marathon this show so quickly – each episode ends on the most ridiculous cliff hangers I’ve ever experienced; with the aid of Netflix, you can just press the snazzy “Next Episode” button (or, if you’re truly marinating in your laziness, wait 20 seconds and Netflix will magically move on for you.) – but once you get to the second half of Season 5, you’re on your own depending on your service provider.
3. Six Feet Under (HBO, 2001-2005)
One Line Synopsis: Some people need help coping with death, but after their father – and owner of the local mortuary – passes, the Fishers need help coping with life.
I don’t don the title of Genius on many people, but as far as Television Production is concerned – Alan Ball is toally near the top of my list. He’s best known to the film community as the mastermind behind the 1999 classic, American Beauty and he’s the creative brain behind my #10 pick for favorite shows, True Blood. But Six Feet Under is a separate type of genius: it’s morbidly humorous and delicately beautiful; perfectly scripted and aptly acted. If you total all the awards, they’ve received 16 total ( a Peabody, , 3 Golden Globes, 3 SAG Awards and 9 Emmy’s) – even better though, it was Michael C Hall’s first recurring television role. Anyone who’s loved him as the creeptasticly dark and dreamy Dexter would more than enjoy him as David Fisher, especially when he’s dancing around a Gay nightclub like the world’s happiest unicorn.
4. Homeland (Showtime; 2011-Present)
One Line Synopsis: A CIA Agent receives word an American soldier has been turned into a terrorist, all the whlie – an American POW, missing for seven years, is back on US soil and is being hailed as a hero; what do you believe?
Unlike my top three picks, Homeland is currently in it’s prime! This Sunday, while everyone and their mom is busy saying goodbye to Breaking Bad, the third season of Homeland is going to start! In season two, we were left on an incredible cliffhanger: there’s been an explosion and far too many high level government officials have died. I can only imagine that what happens next is some intoxicating combination of shock and awe. The main characters are played by two of my favorites – Claire Danes and Damian Lewis – and each is absolutely incredibly in their respective roles as the mentally anguished CIA Agent and a psuedo-hypothetical-Traitor. The exploration of all of Sgt Brody’s relationships – from his best friend to his family – is hauntingly beautiful; paired with stellar script writing and A-list acting, this is the series to watch this year so hold onto your hats, it’s about to go down.
5. South Park (Comedy Central; 1999-Present)
One Line Synopsis: A group of 4th graders tackle every day issues; and then Kenny dies.
Coming from the deranged and amazing minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, this show essentially punches society in the face each and every time we collectively do anything remotely, well, stupid. Not just that, it’s socially aware, politically aware and incredibly educational. Any and every scenario that’s made the news, has essentially become an episode of South Park – and somehow, through the eyes of these misguided, hilarious, perpetual 4th graders we’re made more aware of our surroundings. Between the “Smug” episode about Hybrid cars, “Margaritaville” which poked fun at the recession and tonight’s new episode with Cartman infiltrating the NSA – they cover the entire gamut of our existence.
6. ER (NBC; 1994-2009)
One Line Synopsis: For the doctors at County General Hospital’s ER Department, the very life they save could be their own.
When I was a kid, I had misguided views about my future jobs because Third Watch made me want to fight fires, Law & Order compelled me to be a lawyer and ER inspired me to be a doctor. Granted, none of those ended up happening by any longshot – but try telling the 20 year old version of me elbow deep in her Biochemistry degree and she might actually disagree with you. Currently, ER stands as the most awarded syndicated television show with 116 – I’m sure any other show on this list would be proud to accomplish half of that. Some of my favorite moments in the show were the intertwining love stories of the doctors and the crossover episodes with Third Watch. From episode to episode, the characters and storylines of ER were so incredibly profound and engaging. Last but definitely not least: sure, Doogie Howser was adorable but Noah Wyle, George Cloony and John Stamos were straight up hunky.
7. Dexter (Showtime; 2006-2013)
One Line Synopsis: Blood Spatter Analyst Dexter Morgan tries to navigate a normal life in the Miami Metro area, so it’s a shame his dark passenger has other plans for him.
Like all great things, Dexter was originally a killer piece of literature by Jeff Lindsay; it all started with the book ‘Darkly Dreaming Dexter’ which became the first season of the show and the characters have catapulted to stardom ever since. Like Walter White, Dexter Morgan is another enigmatic example of the perfect anti-hero; and more often than not, the lives that he touches are worse for him being involved. But isn’t that what happens when your harbor a dark secret to kill? Thanks to the master code of his detective father, Harry, who makes frequent hallucinatory visits to Dexter, these dark moments are only reserved for people who deserve it. But, still; spooky! Michael C Hall is hands down one of my favorite actors; so protagonist, antagonist, whatever – it dosen’t much matter because he’s so adept at playing the part. Now, the show’s finale was actually last Sunday but as with the last two episodes, I want to wait as long as possibe to watch them because I know how sad I’ll be when it’s over!
8. Nip/Tuck (F/X, 2003-2010)
One Line Synopsis: Christian Troy and Sean McNamera are two of Miami’s finest plastic surgeons, but can you really cultivate beauty at the tip of a scalpel?
Miami. The city, the clothes, the cars, the sex appeal; truth be told, Nip/Tuck has it all. It’s glitzy, glamorous and highlights one of what I consider the dark sides of beauty: Plastic Surgery. Created by Ryan Murphey, the man who gave us Glee, the New Normal and American Horror Story, Nip/Tuck follows the antics of Christian and Sean; they’re friends, they’re business partners, and they’re more entangled in each others lives than they know. Secrets ooze out of scenes like water from a leaky faucet, and you get pulled into the juicy plot more and more with each episode. It’s as beautiful as it is disturbing; and like the title track, all of it is the ‘perfect lie.’ Now, I’m obsessed with the first four seasons – and the last few in Los Angeles left me wanting just a little bit more; but Ryan Murphey is known for making ostentatious statements and that’s what I consider the final seasons to be. They’re over the top, they’re ridiculous – and so is the industry they’re in. All in all, it’s a spectacular adventure that I’m definitely going to watch again soon.
9. The Simpsons (Fox; 1989 to Present)
One Line Synopsis: A malfunctioning family in Springfield’s attempt at a normal, middle class life; doh!
Now on the verge of it’s 25th year on air, The Simpsons ranks as the longest running sitcom. So, it’s no wonder I think I was basically raised by it, the show’s been on the TV as long as I can remember being able to turn on the power button. Like South Park, the show is full of hilarious hijacks, on point social quips and statements about our current society. Between Marge, Homer, Lisa, Bart, Maggie, the pets and even the supporting characters – I’m sure we all resonate with one, if not several, of them. And what’s more, the writing staff of the show is chalk full of highly intelligent people who constantly slip in high level mathematics; the nerd in me totally approves! Now, I can’t say I love every episode – but it’s been so fun watching the show grow over the years – from the animation to the story telling, we’ve all been witness to their incredible rise. I can’t wait to see what the show does next (spoiler: the first episode is a Homeland spoof, Homerland).
10. True Blood (HBO; 2008-2014)
One Line Synopsis: A fairy, some vampires and a werewolf walk into a bar.
I’m a sucker for the supernatural and Alan Ball surely knows how to play into that; loosely based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries novels by Charlaine Harris, the story is set in a small town called Bon Temps in Louisianna. Vampires are living among the people and a drink – True Blood – was created with a two-fold purpose: to satiate them and keep them from feeding on humans. Though outlandish at times (werepanthers?!), the show is fantastical, magical and fantastically written; the dialogue is on point and the production value is insanely good. I literally just found out that the show is ending in September of 2014, but that gives them one last season to rock our worlds and knowing the brain of Mr. Ball – we surely won’t forget it.
So these didn’t make my top picks but I still want to give them a shout out for being badass shows. In their own ways, each has left an inpact on me. Most of these shows are from my childhood but there are a few (The Following and The Americans) that just finished their first season and I’m waiting to see more before I elevate their status =)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Law & Order