In honor of Mad Men and The Game of Thrones coming back on the air I thought I would celebrate with the only pastime that’s lazier than watching the boob tube, making a top ten list.
Here are the rules, the shows can be judged only by episodes that aired after January 1, 2000. As the rankings descend shows get a higher and higher recommendation. That does not mean I believe all people would like these shows in this precise order, but rather if I ran into one of my doppelgängers who had spent the last twelve years trapped in the wilderness or doing important things with their time, I would recommend the shows to them in this order. Here we go….
10) The Sopranos
The first season of this show was amazing. It uniquely delved into the mind of a neurotic gangster combining psychology, strip clubs, and mob violence, while showing unprecedented depth. Unfortunately that amazing season took place in 1999 disqualifying it as being part of this list. What I remember from the following seasons of this show was the endless repetition of Tony Soprano dealing with the dilemma of killing someone close to him who might betray him. When that character dies a replacement character comes in to take that role.
As I write about the Sopranos I wonder why I don’t put Six Feet Under, The Shield, In Treatment or the Ricky Gervais version of The Office above it. But I know at one point this was my favorite show and as the Godfather of television serials where they portray the protagonist as evil as possible, while still likable I’ll include it on this prestigious list.
9) Justice League/ Justice League Unlimited
Many people will stop reading this list at this point as I have lost some legitimacy for picking a superhero cartoon over the Sopranos, but I am a comic book nerd. And this cartoon chronicling the adventures of Superman, Batman and friends captures everything I love about comic books from creative plots to interesting characters to snappy one-liners.
8 ) Deadwood
If you like facial hair and curse words this Western is for you. Violent, vulgar, and gritty as the passing of a kidney stone (which they show in excruciating detail), it ended way before its time so that the creator David Milch could make the terrible series John From Cincinnati
7) Mad Men
One of only two shows on this list still airing. I have confidence that Mad Men will wrap itself up in as clever, entertaining, and poignant a manner as the first four seasons have unfolded. Mad Men proves that any story, even one about ad executives in the early 1960’s, can be interesting with the right storyteller. (Although so far the new show Luck disproves that theory as no one can make a story about degenerates at the horse track interesting to watch).
6) Arrested Development
As I make this list I find it is much easier to write something interesting trashing a show, than to laud it. And so I have trouble finding words for this comedy documenting the absurd Bluth family. There isn’t much to say about it beyond the show’s masterful ability to have jokes build upon themselves., but if you’re looking for something more wordy I could tell you how disappointing that new show Luck is.
5) Curb Your Enthusiasm
This comedy series hasn’t ended either and I don’t think it ever will. I thought it would never top the season where Larry David organized a Seinfeld reunion which not only gave us deep bellylaughs, but also the sad nostalgia of deep bellylaughs, but last season where Larry went to New York to get out of volunteering for a charity function might have been even funnier. In this world of infinite possibilities hopefully Larry David will continue to find inspiration.
Could have been number one, but the last ten minutes of this series is so excruciatingly disappointing that I am left wondering whether to recommend it at all. You can read my problems with the finale, by clicking here, but I have to remember what an amazing ride Lost was inspiring me to watch TV as it was aired for the only time since Seinfeld was cancelled (all these other shows I watched on DVD). The creators kept us hanging to the edge of our seats continuously telling us all the secrets of the universe would be revealed at the end. Only to remind us that nobody knows anything.
3) Friday Night Lights
This drama made me want to live in Texas. Sure, the only restaurant in town is Applebee’s and they keep you in high school until you’re thirty, but the Texas of this show is filled with people of integrity with extraordinarily good taste in music. It’s a place where hard work, determination, and doing the right thing no matter how hard that might be always pays off. The idea of watching a series about high school football might turn a lot of people off, but as the show says, “You love football, you just don’t know it yet.”
2) The Wire
This was a show that ended right. Unlike Lost as everything wrapped up you believed The Wire knew what it was doing all along. A cynical (or what some would say realistic) portrayal of the decrepit city of Baltimore. It portrays the urban rot, the corruption, the helplessness, but somehow when all is said and done after watching five seasons of the worst of humanity you want to visit Baltimore.
1) Da Ali G Show
I’m unsure how many times I have to watch this show before I stop laughing. Sacha Baron Cohen with his holy trinity of comedy in Bruno, Borat, and Ali G get me all riled up every time I see them. For the high minded you could also say with his interviews with Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump this show exposes the vanity of those seeking power and attention. But a good laugh trumps social commentary any day.
That’s my list. As always I look forward to comments, criticisms, and recipes.