Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Top 6 TV Shows of All Time

For not having lived in a house with TV reception since I was nine, I sure have managed to watch a lot of random TV shows. Thanks to Hulu and Netflix and other websites offering TV series viewing, I've found quite a few shows that I've just fallen in love with. This is my list of my favorite 6 TV shows that have ever, ever existed, and why I love them so much.

6. Daria

While Daria isn't always as brilliant a show as the others - sometimes the comedy doesn't work and the animation is awkward - when it works, it works perfectly. Above all, it really fleshed out an amazing female character, with a unique and interesting personality that made me feel, for the first time, that I was being represented on TV.

I've already written at length about why I love Daria the character in my article about TV girls who are most like me, and I mostly love the show because I love the character, so I'm not going to go into further detail about it, but instead move on to #5.

Favorite episode: "Write Where It Hurts."

5. Sherlock

I have yet to show anyone the pilot episode and have them be anything less than psyched to watch the next one. Not all the episodes are great - the second in each season lags a little - but they're essentially full-length movies about, IMHO, the most interesting incarnation of Sherlock Holmes ever. Benedict Cumberbatch brings this modern version of the character to life, and he is fascinating every single second he is on screen. Martin Freeman is fantastic as John Watson - an extremely likable everyman who is quite intelligent in his own right but far overshadowed by Sherlock's genius.

I love watching the way they update the plots for modern audiences, but most of all, I love that this show made such great use of Benedict Cumberbatch, and that it got him noticed. He completely deserves it. He makes this show work.

Favorite episode: "A Study in Pink."

4. The IT Crowd

I do really enjoy my British comedies. I'm actually a little surprised this is the only one on the list. This is one of those shows where every episode gets funnier the more you watch it. The cast is absolutely incredible - I took a poll once asking me who was the funniest character. I couldn't pick between any of them, so I gave up on the poll. While Roy, Moss, and Jen are the backbone of the story as our protagonists, the supporting characters of Richmond, Denholm, and, later, Douglas, round out the truly hilarious cast.

There are only 24 episodes of this show total (4 seasons, 6 episodes each) and nearly every one is really, really, hilariously funny. There are really only one or two that don't make me go, "OH, YAY, THAT ONE" when I realize which episode it is. It's a much, much better nerdy show than Big Bang Theory - smarter, funnier, and kinder to the nerds among us.

Favorite episode: "The Work Outing." Though "Italian for Beginners" is a very, very, very close second.

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This is the longest-running show on my list. Generally shows that last beyond 3 or 4 seasons start going really downhill in terms of quality, or at the very least, are inconsistent across the board. While Buffy certainly has its ups and its downs as it gets into the later seasons, what makes it triumph over all the others is Joss Whedon's incredible character development.

All throughout the Buffy series, the characters' core stays the same. Yes, they grow. Yes, they change. But each change makes sense with who they are at that moment. When I go back and rewatch earlier seasons, I don't say, "Whoa, Willow was totally different at the beginning." I think, "Whoa, Willow grew a lot in the later seasons." As the characters encounter new situations, they react to it in a way their characters would, and it changes them in a way it would change their character. It's truly brilliant character consistency, difficult enough to get right in a movie, let alone a seven-season television show.

(And what other show could pull off a villain -> comic relief -> love interest -> volatile stalker -> redeemed hero arc so effortlessly? Seriously, that is my favorite character arc of all time. In any fictional universe.)

Favorite episode: "Once More With Feeling."

2. Arrested Development

It's hard to think of a show with higher rewatch value than Arrested Development. There are so many little foreshadowing jokes and throw-away lines that it's simply impossible to catch them all the first time around. The more you watch it, the funnier it gets. I still occasionally get a joke for the first time, and I've seen the series probably four or five times all the way through.

The cast is wonderful. Every single cast member here is at their best. Though they're all funny in other projects, I have never liked any of the cast members as well as I do here. The string of guest stars and cameos is also hilarious, with frequent subtle digs at their real-life personas. (There are several jokes my mom didn't get when we watched it because she kept forgetting Ron Howard was playing the narrator.)

The cynicism and lack of likable characters may not sit well with some people, but I still say it's one of the funniest shows ever. Hoping as I rewatch season four, it fits in as well with the rest of the series in its cleverness.

Favorite episode: "Mr. F."

1. Community

Oh, gosh. What is not to love about Community?

It was my third rewatching of the show that clinched it for me. This is my all-time favorite show. It is the most beautifully nerdy show out there, thanks to the genius of Dan Harmon, who was not afraid to say, "Hey, let's do a show where the entire premise centers around a mashup of Pulp Fiction and My Dinner With Andre."

Community's cast is amazing. Though my favorite characters are Troy and Abed, each character gets their chance to shine and be hilarious. From Shirley's self-righteous indignation to Pierce's continued attempts to be relevant to Britta's defiance of everything she deems oppressive, there are plenty of episodes that bring each character to the foreground. Some of these episodes even end up being oddly moving, despite the snarkiness and cynicism in the show. (Season four episode "Basic Human Anatomy" actually made me tear up a little bit.)

Beyond just a good cast, Community does something that other shows try and fail to do all the time: It makes perfect parodies. It captures the exact right feel of whatever it's tackling - everything from Ken Burns documentaries to Star Wars to Dungeons and Dragons to westerns to musicals to zombie flicks to video games to Law and Order... you get the idea. Generally I find parodies lazy and uninspired, but every time this show does one, it proves they don't have to be. Sometimes they even manage to squeeze several parodies into one - "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" spoofs several horror genres in a row and does them all exactly as they should be done.

There's so much to love in this show. I'd argue season three is the most perfectly crafted TV season of all time. Out of 22 episodes, I love all but one, and even that one has grown on me significantly as I rewatch it. I have one friend (and you know who you are) who saw a couple episodes, didn't like it, and refuses to watch any further... and while usually I can understand people disliking the things I love, in this case I'm thoroughly baffled, because I honestly can't think of a single reason to dislike this show. (Well, at least not until we get to season four, where Dan Harmon was no longer involved, so it didn't really hit its stride until halfway through.)

If you haven't started watching this yet, DO IT. Catch up so you'll be ready for season five this midseason.

Favorite episode: "Digital Estate Planning." (And I'm pretty sure that's my favorite episode of any TV series, ever. Seriously. Pretty much anything Community has done, I think it's superlative.)

What are your favorite TV shows? Have you seen all of mine? What do you think of them?


  1. I was going to try watching the IT Crowd once on Netflix...but someone had already watched part of it on the account so the episode randomly started with a really icky shot of a very unhappy looking foot and it scared me off it....maybe I'll trying it again.

    Community and Buffy would definitely make my top 6 list, but I don't know what else would. I love so many tv shows I have a very hard time ranking them. Farscape would probably be there, since I really enjoy Sci-Fi shows and it's probably the best overall one I have seen (and I still think whoever wrote Abed's dialog on Community about Farscape did not watch all the show because it did not make sense with the second half of it).

    So Community, Buffy, Farscape, Criminal Minds...and can't decide on the last two spots There are just too many I love or too many I love and then self-destruct after a few seasons.

    1. Haha, the one with the foot... Yes, that one is rather disturbing. But it's one of my favorite episodes. The main girl buys some shoes that are far, far too small for her because they look so cute, and she ends up mangling her toes for the duration of the episode. Give IT Crowd a second shot, but get through the whole first season before you decide whether you like it or not, as the only episodes I don't like are in season one.

  2. I've seen all of those but Community (been meaning to start on that one), and I have to agree with you that those are all excellent and deserving of praise. I identified with Daria too. I loved that character arc in Buffy as well. (Watching it for the first time with my boyfriend who had seen it before: in the early seasons of the show, he would celebrate when that character was featured, and I would ask, "Why do you like that horrible jerk?" Now I understand.) I don't ordinarily like modernizations, but Sherlock is brilliant. And "The Work Outing" is definitely my favorite episode of The IT Crowd as well; it just has a perfect crescendo of comedic moments.

    "The cynicism and lack of likable characters may not sit well with some people..." Funnily enough, this is a reason I reject a lot of shows, but I love Arrested Development. Normally, I need sympathetic characters (one could argue that Michael and George Michael are sympathetic in the show at first, but they become less so as the show progresses). Somehow, it pulls off being extremely watchable (and hilarious) while so many of the characters are selfish incompetent hateful jerks.

    A show that I've been watching and really enjoying lately is Malcolm in the Middle. It's definitely not your generic sitcom. It has a lot of genuine heart and also a lot of over-the-top craziness and hilarity. The characters are all unique, with large flaws in their characters but redeeming features as well. Although the show has seven seasons, I haven't seen a deterioration in quality at all; I'm on the last season currently and I think it may have so far the most laugh-out-loud moments of any of them. And I think this show (along with Breaking Bad, for different reasons) has made Bryan Cranston my current favorite actor. The man just has no shame when it comes to what he will do on camera, and it is freaking funny.

    1. -Oh, you should absolutely watch Community. Though I'm sure there's nothing I can say here in the comments that would be more of a glowing recommendation than everything I wrote in the blog. Heh. Whenever you do end up watching it, let me know what you think of it.

      -That character arc in Buffy brought me to tears more than once. I absolutely love the redemptive story going on there. One of the most beautiful things that has ever happened on TV.

      -Jacob and I just rewatched The Work Outing after he read this blog, and I couldn't stop giggling during that final scene in the bar. The moment when Jen turns from seeing one of her co-workers in a wheelchair to see the other standing behind the bar is still one of my favorite comedic moments of all time. And everything Roy says comes out so pathetic. Jacob and I kept saying, "I'm disabled!" for the rest of the day.

      -Huh. I haven't heard a lot of arguments for Malcolm in the Middle, but maybe I'll have to look that one up some day, especially if it's pretty consistent throughout its many seasons.

    2. Funnily enough, I did watch the first episode of Community and rejected it for the "unlikable characters" reason. I don't remember specifics since it was a while ago, but everyone just seemed defective and not in an entertaining way. I've heard so many good things about it, though, that I'll have to give it another chance.

      "I'm disabled." Yes. And you have to say it with his accent and intonation.

      Malcolm in the Middle seems to fly under the radar a lot. I don't see it get talked about a lot. I know I sure didn't know much about it. I think I'd even seen a few episodes back when it aired and didn't think it was anything special. Now I think it's amazing and I'll be sad when we finish out this last season.

    3. Yeah, definitely give Community another chance. I find it very interesting that you found the characters unlikable, because my other friend who won't watch it dislikes it for the same reason. If it helps, all the characters bond eventually together very closely. They're still all majorly flawed (and they have a tendency to be jerks to anyone outside the group, heh) but there are some very sweet moments about them learning to love and accept each other.

  3. Of these six, I've seen some Daria and enjoyed what I saw. My friends keep lobbying me to see your top three. I'm not terribly big on TV these days, even to re-watch old favorites. Here are my top six, in alphabetical order:

    Batman: The Animated Series
    The Sopranos
    Star Trek (the original series)
    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

    Curiously, I only have three of these on DVD (Batman, Sopranos and the original Trek) but I have all three in their entirety. Cheers (11 seasons) and Dallas (14 seasons) are pretty lengthy so I've been waiting to find those cheap, whether used or on clearance, whatever. Deep Space Nine I think I'm just gonna wait on to see if CBS releases it on Blu-ray.

    I'd give an honorable mention to Sherlock Holmes, the 1954-55 TV series starring Ronald Howard and Howard Marion Crawford. You can find complete series sets from Mill Creek easily enough. There is a "Sherlock Holmes' Greatest Mysteries" DVD set that I've seen recently in a promo bin at Walmart priced at $5, I think. It includes all 39 episodes of the series, plus eight of earlier Holmes films starring Arthur Wontner and Basil Rathbone in the role. Well worth the $5.

    1. Hold on. You haven't seen the BBC Sherlock yet? Oh, that's a must. Heh. More than any of the others, I think you'd enjoy that one. Each episode is an hour and a half long so it's a bit like watching a six-movie marathon of Sherlock Homes movies. But it's totally worth it. And if you haven't seen Benedict in anything but Star Trek, this is absolutely worth watching just for him.

  4. My favorites, at the moment: Austin & Ally, Good Luck Charlie, Shake It Up, Dog With a Blog, VICTORiOUS, iCarly, American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, any Power Rangers series, etc.
    I'm such a kid; I'm a quarter-century old, and still watching these shows! XD

    1. I watch American Idol, but I really don't watch any of the others. Despite having lived in a house with little kids for years, I don't watch a lot of kids' shows... though I do enjoy Phineas and Ferb and the occasional episode of Adventure Time.