TV

Here is a list of my favorite TV Shows.

Lost

This ABC drama was the epitome of appointment TV for me. It required not missing a single episode, repeat viewings of key episodes and then post-episodic obsessive-compulsive web searches for additional clues, Easter Eggs and viewer theories. There were moments of sheer brilliance, like when they introduced flash-forwards, times of great character-arc payoffs, like when Charlie sacrificed himself to save his fellow castaways, and scenes that made your imagination run wild, like when they found the French radio distress signal coming from the island in the pilot episode. There will probably never be another Lost for me, even though networks sure have tried to replace it with other similar, but pale-in-comparison copies. Sure the finale left many fans wanting more, sure there were many explanations of mysteries that were never given and sure there were some rushed storylines to abrupt conclusions, but in the end no other show mixed science-fiction and human drama as effectively as this flawed but wonderful TV show.

Lost

Mad Men

This show single-handedly brought the style lexicon of the ’60s into today’s popular culture with possibly the best wardrobe ever in a TV show and put AMC on the map as a cable channel to be reckoned with. With some of the best episodic writing and acting ever seen on TV, it’s no wonder that this show is the Emmy and critics darling that it’s become. No one is cooler than Don Draper, no one is sexier than Joan Holloway, no one is as frustratingly beautiful as Betty Draper and no one is as great with witty one-liners as Roger Sterling. Sterling Cooper (now +Draper Pryce) is an ad agency from the ’60s—a place where ad men took martini lunches (plus whiskey meetings), secretaries were nothing more than choices in a dating pool and everyone chain-smoked cigarettes like chimneys. Yes, times have changed, but not all that much. And that is the key here—viewers can marvel at how ridiculous American culture was back then, but we can still relate the struggles of the characters.

Mad Men

The State

Once declared a “historic mess” by a reviewer, the worst show on television (by some definitions) was also my favorite comedy sketch show ever. It was clever, dumb, absurd and uneven, sometimes all in one sketch, but it was always entertaining and when it hit comedy gold, it was magnificent. The uber-talented cast have all have gone on to make their individual marks in the industry with various shows on Comedy Central, feature films and web series. They left MTV after 3 seasons to produce a special (The State’s 43rd Annual All-Star Halloween Special) for CBS that had such low ratings, that they were dropped from the network. But rather than remember this final nail-in-the-coffin moment, I like to remember their heyday when they were the funniest and most talented ensemble of sketch artists ever assembled.

The State

Fringe

Though this FOX show had a creatively rocky start, and though it sometimes veered too close to X-Files territory, it found it’s footing by the end of the first season and it has not stumbled since. The first season finale blew my mind, when we first learned that there was an alternate parallel universe where things were just slightly askew (little differences like the twin towers still standing in the alterna-universe). The most recent season finale took those blown pieces and put them into a blender, when one of the main characters not only disappeared mid-sentence, but as it turned out had never even existed (due to some time traveling/meddling). I’m not sure how the show runners are going to explain that one, but I can’t wait to see them try with some variation of the grandfather paradox or something less obvious. There has been great acting from all of the leads, especially from the actors portraying Walter Bishop and Olivia Dunham, who have played the same character but in two universes. The actor playing Peter Bishop, since he was stolen from one universe to the other, only plays one version of himself, but he does it very well. The show does an excellent job of working in “fringe” science into its cases and having them make logical sense, no matter how crazy the premises. And that really is quite an achievement in writing.

Fringe

Game Of Thrones

A new HBO show based on a series of books, A Song of Ice and Fire, that had me hooked from episode 1. It’s on par with the Lord of the Rings films but it has a lot more sex, political backstabbing and plot twists than the Tolkien novels. It features a lot less epic battle scenes than the Peter Jackson films though… so far at least (due to budget constraints I’m sure). The show features various devious (and some upstanding) characters from various houses in the fictional medieval land of Westeros strategizing, fighting and sleeping their way to the king’s throne. Episode 9 was the best episode so far, as it shockingly killed off of the show’s main character, Ned Stark, and the episode after that ended its freshman season out on a cinematic and storytelling high note. Right now, I’m torn between wanting to read the books to find out what happens next and not spoiling the show for myself when Season 2 comes.

Game Of Thrones

The Walking Dead

Based on a series of comic books, this AMC show breaks from what other zombie stories can do because it isn’t limited by a movie’s 2-hour running time. In the pilot, Sheriff Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma to find the hospital and the city (possibly the world) around it have been overtaken by zombies. Before long, he finds his wife (who has since shacked up with his old partner Shane), his boy and other groups of survivors, one of which he becomes the leader of. The show is grim and dark, the zombies are vicious and scary, and the violence is bloody and visceral. In one of the better scenes in the show so far, Rick and another survivor, Glenn, camouflage themselves by covering themselves in zombie guts to hide their scent and move freely amongst the street-walking zombies to get to a van. Of course, to get the zombie guts, they bash open a dead (or deader) zombie and rip him to bloody pieces… bloody-good fun for zombie fans.

The Walking Dead

Flight Of The Conchords

When “New Zealand’s 4th most popular, almost award-winning guitar-based digi-bongo a cappella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo” created a show on HBO, I was excited. I had first seen them on HBO’s One Night Stand (part one, part two, part three), and laughed for 30 mins straight. The show featured Jemaine and Bret playing fictionalized versions of themselves as struggling musicians in NY, their manager Murray (who also worked at the New Zealand Consulate), their biggest (and only) fan Mel and their pawn shop friend Dave. 2-3 music videos were featured in each episode and they were usually the highlights. The comedic songs are the bread-and-butter of what the Flight Of The Conchords do, and as such, they are catchy, well-written and funny as hell. They chose to end the show after two wonderful seasons, but I have hope that we’ll see some more Jemaine and Bret adventures in some format somewhere down the road.

Flight Of The Conchords

Mr. Show

A sketch comedy so wrong and twisted that it could only have aired on HBO. It starred David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, as well as a small ensemble of cast members, who week after week made me laugh out loud and feel slightly bad about doing so (this show frequently made jokes at the expense of targets other shows would stay away from like child burn victims, blind girls and mentally-challenged parents). This show further separated itself from other sketch comedy shows by featuring a theme for each episode with the sketches within the episode strung together from one to the next. It would also start every episode as a live taped-in-front-of-an-audience show, switch to pre-taped sketches and then return to the live show format again by the end of the episode—giving the show both a live-wire feel and the producers a chance to carefully craft their comedy in short films. Never before did something so motherfucking wrong feel so goddamn cocksucking right.

Mr. Show

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Even more twisted than Mr. Show is this FX comedy. Centered around the “gang”ca group of friends (I use this term loosely here)—who run a Philly bar called Paddy’s Pub, this show features its main characters being consistently shallow and self-centered with no character growth at all from the consequences of their actions—like the characters in Seinfeld, but on steroids. No subject is too taboo, no deviant behavior too outrageous and no joke too off-color for this show… it revels in being shocking but always in the service of comedy, never just for shock value. By not having a line between what’s far and what’s too far, the writers and cast have their work cut out for themselves to masterfully make a group of completely unlikable characters not only likeable, but a group of characters you’d want to hang out with week after week. Good thing then that they are good at what they do and that some of us viewers also don’t have that metaphorical line in the sand.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

X-Files

The best show to come from the ’90s was this mythology-heavy drama on FOX about the cases assigned to Mulder and Scully… otherwise known as the x-files. This show had a language of its own—the cigarette smoking man, the lone gunmen, black oil—that required obsessive viewing to understand but once you did, you could then use it as rhetoric against the non-believers. There were many great monster-of-the-week episodes, but the juiciest ones were the ones that pushed the alien mythology forward—if an episode involved “the Syndicate,” you knew you were in for a good one. Still, there were many episodes without aliens whatsoever that were even better, and those were the ones that showed the full depth of Mulder and Scully’s professional and personal relationship. For example, my favorite episode was a Christmas episode where Mulder and Scully visited a haunted mansion only to end up killing each other like the ghosts of star-crossed lovers that coerced them into it. At the end of the episode after they survive their ordeal, there is a touching scene with the two characters exchanging gifts deep in the midnight hours that I will never forget for the sheer simplicity of it and how well it displayed all of the complicated emotions that ran in their partnership.

X-Files

Six Feet Under

This was a perfectly quirky HBO family drama about the Fishers who run a funeral home. It was unique in that it constantly dealt with death and how the lives of the living were affected by constantly being surrounded by death. Yes, the Fisher family had its issues, but it can be argued that the Chenowith’s, surrounded by modern psychology, were even more fucked up. Brenda Chenowith was Nate Fisher’s on-again, off-again girlfriend and as the show progressed, the other members of Brenda’s family became just as important to the show. Every episode started off with a random death, each one more creatively imagined than the one before, and as the corpses are being embalmed at Fisher & Sons, they would (as projections of the characters) converse with them and teach them lessons. This show had the darkest sense of humor, a healthy bit of surrealism and some of the most realistic family situations ever depicted on the screen. All reasons why this show is usually found on Best TV Shows Of All-Time lists, including this one. Additionally, the DVD set has the best packaging ever developed for an DVD set (IMO).

Six Feet Under

Gilmore Girls

This WB show outlasted the network it started on and was migrated over to the CW before it was put out to pasture. It featured some of the smartest rapid-fire dialogue ever spoken on TV, which is saying a lot considering that it came from an era filled with shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek. Much of the dialogue was peppered liberally with pop culture references, Most of this dialogue was spit out by the two immensely likeable female leads playing mother-daughter combo Lorelai and Rory, who both seemed a bit too hip and cool for the small quaint town they lived in. Myself, having never lived in a small town, Stars Hollow seemed like a magical place. Filled with colorful characters, most notably Luke who ran the local diner, Lorelai’s best friend, Sookie, Rory’s best friend, Lane, and Lorelai’s parents, Richard and Emily Gilmore, the town was never short of whimsical storylines to provide a backdrop for the main dramatic events. Of which we had a vested interest in because we genuinely liked the Gilmore girls characters and wanted to see them find their respective true loves and their happily ever afters.

Gilmore Girls

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