Favorite Television Shows

19:03 Wed 23 Aug 2006. Updated: 17:40 25 Aug 2006
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I might not watch television per se, but I do watch shows on DVD, and this is a list of my favorites.

Tier One

The Sopranos. Its excellence throughout five seasons (I haven’t seen much of season six yet) is extraordinary. It can be tough to watch, especially since some of its main themes are violence, the psychologically-criplling effects of violence on those exposed to it, and how people can get trapped in terribly bad cycles. But the writing and acting are simply amazing, and it’s always compelling.

Deadwood. Amazing atmosphere, excellent characterization, fantastic plotting. Furthermore, the plotting and the characterization weave into each other in a way that isn’t as evident to me in other shows—that is, the plots impact the characters, but not merely does the characterization reflect this, the personalities involves clearly impact how the plots turn out, and in subtle and complex ways. I think it might do this better than any other show, or perhaps I just prefer the way in which it does this.

The Wire. Appears utterly realistic, especially in its portrayal of the politics of policing. I love that, I love the grit, the characters are great, and it pulls no punches. I’m eagerly anticipating Season Three, which is out on DVD and which I will have when I get back.

Lost. I’ve only seen Season One, so I’m tentative about putting it in this tier. But Season One was completely addictive, and I wanted more, all the time. The characters are fascinating, and the mystery of the island almost equally so. I just hope they manage to keep that level of quality up…

Tier Two

Battlestar Galactica. So much better than I thought it would be. It keeps me guessing about what’s going on, which I appreciate a lot. The characters are quite deep for the most part, and not always predictable. But sometimes it’s a little too simplistic, especially regarding the in-fleet politics. And occasionally I feel as if it suffers from needing to wrap things up in single episodic chunks.

Babylon 5. It’s old. It’s cheesy. It’s wooden. But it’s also got brilliant, deep plotting, and some characters who grow to be like old friends over the course of the series. And its wildly ambitious story arc has moments that make you stand back in awe as you realize the number of pieces that have suddenly come together.

Spaced. Completely hilarious. And I love a lot of the editing style. Note: do not attempt to watch/appreciate/criticize this show if you’ve never seen any of the Star Wars movies. You know who you are.

Band of Brothers. Gritty, realistic, didn’t seem to pull any punches. Made you feel for the characters a great deal, and also feel almost as if you knew them. I expected to like it a lot less than I did, partly out of innate scepticism about US military mythologizing. But it got past that for me, and was really good.

Six Feet Under. At one time I would have considered this to be in the first tier. But I felt it lost itself somewhere around Season Three, although I can’t say where or how. It may also be that I ultimately found it too morbid and depressing to deal with (possibly unavoidable, given the subject matter).

Twin Peaks. A classic. Season One was a lot better than Season Two, sadly. But it was so quirky, and so compelling, at the time. And it had Audrey Horne.

There are many other great television shows, of course. I’m not including things like The Daily Show, which isn’t the kind of show I have in mind here. There are shows I haven’t seen but probably should, like both the UK and US versions of The Office, or Carnivàle.

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2 Responses to “Favorite Television Shows”

  1. NiallM Says:

    Television has really really improved in quality, as cinema has disimproved.

  2. kevintel Says:

    I agree with Niall. Until I watched ‘Celebrity Love Island’ I thought that cinema still had the edge, but it seems television programming is now truly superior.

    A lash of Sophie Anderton, anyone?

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