Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best of the Aughts: Top 10 TV shows

Admittedly, I'm still catching up on some of the great TV series of the decade (I've yet to watch "The Sopranos," "The Wire" and "Mad Men," for starters), but of the shows I did watch, here are the top 10.

(Note: Shows listed in chronological order)

The Daily Show (1996-present)
I will always remember the 2000 presidential election for two reasons: 1. the "too close to call" race and the weeks of fallout and 2. Indecision 2000 coverage on "The Daily Show." The day after the election, the first thing host Jon Stewart said was, "I know we called it Indecision 2000, but we were joking!" Nine years later, Stewart and his brilliant team of writers and "reporters" are still bringing us the news of the day in a way no one else can. Like it or not, they have become a voice of a generation who is skeptical of the mainstream media, and that's just fine with me.

South Park (1997-present)
Long gone are the days of Mr. Hanky and Chef. In their stead, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone use their foul-mouthed fourth-graders to skewer everything imaginable: Scientology, Bono, "Family Guy," Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Nintendo Wii, and on and on. There are no sacred cows. And because their animation is so bare-bones and each episode takes relatively little time to produce, their gags are timely and rarely miss the hilarity mark. In a word, the show and its creators are audacious. P.S. SouthParkStudios.com is brilliant.

The Office (BBC version, 2001-2003; NBC version, 2005-present)
The age of awkward is upon us, and Ricky Gervais is king (I guess that makes Steve Carell a prince?). The fake documentary of a paper company and its buffoon boss helped make cringe-worthy, squirm-in-your-seat awkwardness insanely hilarious. The NBC version has come into its own, too, relying more and more on its stellar ensemble cast while still allowing Carell to do what he does best.

The Shield (2002-2008)
I'm only three seasons into this series, and already I can say this is one of the best shows ever, and not just of the aughts. It's as if the creators took every other cop drama and cranked the volume up to a Spinal Tap-esque 11. All of the characters are compelling, the storylines are as gritty as they come, and rarely does it fall into the comfort of procedural drama cliches. I can't wait to see what happens to Vic Mackey and Co. because my sources tell me the series finale is quite satisfying.

Arrested Development (2003-2006)
Oh, Bluth family, you left us far too soon. Thankfully, you gave us 43 episodes to watch over and over again, gleaning new nuggets of humor each time. Best. TV comedy. Ever.

Lost (2004-present)
The story of plane crash castaways turned into a real sci-fi mind-bender, which caused some fans of the early seasons to head for the hills. But despite its trippy time-travel element, the show has been a study in how to develop characters. We know where they've come from, we know what drives them, and yet, they still manage to drive us crazy with their decisions. As the final season approaches, there are so many questions yet to be answered. I have no idea how it's going to end, but I've certainly enjoyed the ride.

Project Runway (2004-present)
Bravo brought us reality TV at its finest: Contestants with actual talent, high-tension challenges, cattiness galore and the always amazing Tim Gunn. It has given the world a bevy of made-for-TV personalities (i.e. Austin Scarlett, Santino Rice, Christian Siriano and Chris March), catchphrases ("make it work!" "fierce!") and Heidi Klum outfits.  Sure, the series has had its low points (season 5, anyone?), but whether or not you know anything about fashion, it's a joy to watch the designers put outfits together in such a short amount of time. Here's hoping that for season 7, which begins airing in January, the producers will bring back the reunion show. Pure gold.

Friday Night Lights (2006-present)
And yet again, no Emmy or Golden Globe love for this high school football series that isn't really about high school football. Seriously, coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife Tammy (Connie Britton) are the most realistic married couple on TV, hands down. Throw in the cavalcade of extremely attractive and talented young stars (though, most are nowhere near high school age anymore), dynamite writing and a whole lot of heart, and you have a championship-caliber team, er, show.

Dexter (2006-present)
Watching an episode of "Dexter" is a lot of work. Why? Because you're constantly faced with moral conundrums and intense situations. Is it right to be rooting for a serial killer? Man, I hope he doesn't get caught! But the work is worth it; it's the kind of show that keeps you coming back for more.

30 Rock (2006-present)
Tina Fey is my idol. Alec Baldwin has only gotten better with age. Jack McBrayer is a comic genius (talk about another snub; can we get some awards-show love for Kenneth the Page?). Endlessly quotable, self-aware and irreverent, it's the best comedy on TV today. Oh, and it gave us "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" -- need I say more?

1 comment:

  1. I would give the Colbert Report a honorable mention. simply for the fact of how much his show has changed the way show and audience interact.Stephen allows his audience to be part of the show like no one else has dreamed of doing, and the show's embrace of the "new media" that's made itself available to us in this decade is worth noting.