Sunday, January 2, 2011

Best of the Decade: TV

Wow, it's been a long time since I watched TV on a set like the one on your right.

I had one of these in my bedroom for many years, though these days TV viewing is limited to my living room on my Vizio 32" LCD HD flatscreen. It's a good TV with excellent picture and sound. I can't imagine what my grandparents would have thought of a TV that weighed less than ten pounds and delivered movies On Demand or recorded shows without setting the timer on a VCR.

I'll admit that I love TV, especially now. For as much crap as the networks put out (Survivor; The Bachelor/Bachelorette; Two and a Half Men), there is often enough good stuff to counterbalance it. So, for my first big post of the new year, here are my picks for the best TV shows of the past decade:

10. 24

24 was the show that almost wasn't. Debuting not long after 9/11, it was a story of a terrorists plotting the assassination of the first viable black candidate for President, and only our hero Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) could stop it. Oh - and it was told in real time. Each episode equaled one hour in time, giving us one day in a 24 episode season. The plots were ridiculous (Kim and the cougar?); Jack's survival was preposterous and the story lines were often recycled (how many moles could CTU have?), but there was nothing like it before or since, and it was the best action show since Mission Impossible.

9. Modern Family

The family sitcom had almost been officially declared dead  when ABC premiered it's faux-documentary Modern Family, featuring three branches of the family, including a gay couple raising their adopted daughter. Brilliant writing combined with an astounding ensemble cast give is one of the best sitcoms since Friends.

8. Psych

USA continues to provide funny, interesting shows, and Psych is the best since Monk. When Sean Spencer (James Roday) returns to his hometown of Santa Barbara, he teams up with his childhood friend Gus (Dule Hill) and uses the observational techniques taught to him by is father (Corbin Bernsen) to establish himself as a "psychic" detective. Irreverent and often downright silly, Psych is one of TV's most enjoyable hours.

7. How I Met Your Mother

CBS may have the worst sitcom on TV (the repulsively unfunny Two and a Half Men), but it also has one of the best. Terrific writing and ensemble acting (not to mention stand-out Neil Patrick Harris) once again combine to make this tale of a rather unlikeable architect's search for the girl of his dreams, so likable. 

6. Arrested Development

This Fox sitcom, produced and narrated by  Ron Howard, told the story of the Bluth family, whose father was imprisoned for selling housing that didn't exist (or existed only in Iraq). The show gave rise to the career of Michael Cera, resurrected the career of Jason Bateman and lent a whole new meaning to the term "frozen banana." Sadly, the show was too smart for the average TV viewer and was cancelled after only 3 brilliant seasons.

5. The Closer

Kyra Sedgwick finally won an Emmy last year for her role as Los Angeles Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson, a woman with fierce determination and the ability to elicit a confession from the most cynical of murderers. Her struggles to gain acceptance among her peers; her tenacity when working a case and her love for her FBI agent husband all add up to one of the most endearing characters in a procedural drama in a long time. It helps that Sedgwick is joined by one of the best casts on TV, including J.K. Simmons and hottie Jon Tenney.

4. Six Feet Under

The story of the Fisher Family and their mortuary business was an instant hit for HBO, and producer Alan Ball made sure each episode was filled with black humor and human drama. An amazing cast, terrific writing and a fearless producer gave us a TV classic. Of course, it helped that it had the single best series finale of all time. As Claire made her way East to New York, we got to see just what happened to every character. Only one series finale ever made me cry more... Brilliant.


3. The Walking Dead

Envelope pusher AMC took a huge gamble in producing a very graphic series based in Robert Kirkman's graphic novel about a group of people trying to survive in a world gone mad. Produced by Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd, The Walking Dead is the rare modern zombie story that's more about the living than the dead. And boy, is it good!

2. Pushing Daisies

Series creator Bryan Fuller has had several quirky, funny series, none of which have lasted beyond a season or two. And the best of these was one of TV's best shows ever. In Pushing Daisies, adorable Lee Pace plays Ned, a fellow who can revive the dead with a single touch. The catch? If he touches them again, they die for good. Hilarious, touching, romantic and oh so dark, Pushing Daisies was probably a little too quirky for mainstream America, but it pushed all the right buttons with me.

1. Lost

ABC caught America's collective  imaginations with the J.J. Abrams series about a group of plane crash survivors marooned on a mysterious island. The show, with its complicated mythology, time-jumping plot lines and characters that blurred the lines between hero and villain was at once the most fascinating and aggravating series, ever. And it's Season Six finale is still the cause of debate, 6 months after it aired.

I'll be back tomorrow with my Top Ten Horror Movies of the Decade.

More, anon.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Don't you think it takes more than 6 episodes for a show to earn Best of the Decade status?

And no true Blood?