Sunday, June 30, 2013

Top 100 Television Shows Since 2000: Part III

80. Top Chef (2006-2013) - For one year, and one year only, a shockeroo occured at the annual Emmy
awards, when Top Chef overcame the odds and beat the perennial favorite The Amazing Race for Best Reality-Competition Program. While The Amazing Race when back to its winning ways the next year, it proved that a) it could lose, and b) that Top Chef was a show to be reckoned with, and there are plenty of reasons why. In many ways, the set up is not that different from many of the competition shows out there. The contestants perform some sort of challenge where judges then decide who stays and who moves on to the next challenge. So what makes Top Chef special? First of all, it was one of the first major shows to feature food in this type of competition. Second, the hosts Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi are both great television personalities that always keep the show moving at a great pace, and keep the audience engaged. Most importantly, the talented and exciting competitors, the great challenges, and the constant drama make Top Chef one of the most entertaining shows week after week in any genre. You are always glued to the edge of your seat as the drama heats up, and Top Chef has remained fresh and engaging, while many of its long-running peers are faltering, which is a true testament to the popularity and creativity of this great reality program.

79. Cougar Town (2009-2013) - Yes, the title does suck. But if you can get past its glaring mistake what you will find is that Cougar Town is one of the best comedies on television. After Joey was such a miserable failure and The Comeback was cancelled too soon, I wondered if any of our former Friends were ever going to find television success again. To my surprise, it was the underrated friend, Courtney Cox. For ten
seasons, her character Monica was the glue that held the group together, and unfortunately, she remained the only member of the cast to never received an Emmy nominaton. While she continues to be snubbed for her hilarious work on Cougar Town, she is getting the last laugh. After it held on for a few seasons at ABC, the network finally cancelled it. But thankfully for us Cougar Town fans, TBS made a bold move to pick up the show, which has already been renewed for another season. I'll admit that there have been some growing pains in this season due the move, but nonetheless, Cougar Town, and its incredible cast, all of which have worked hard to create wonderfully flawed and funny characters, remains one of the best comedies on television, and definitely one of the quirkiest. There is so much love, chemistry, and humor piled into thirty minutes every week, that you wish it could last longer than a half an hour.

78. Something the Lord Made (2004) - I never thought in my lifetime that Alan Rickman and Mos Def
would star in anything together, but in 2004, they teamed up with director Joseph Sargent and HBO, to portray the pioneering heart surgeons Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas, and the relationship they
developed as they changed the face of modern medicine by inventing the bypass surgery. The results of this unusual pairing were magnificent, in this heartfelt and compelling television movie that definitely had cinematic qualities. First, the two main leads, both of whom have proved themselves to be capable and compelling actors, simply nail the emotion and the intricacies of this particular relationship. They easily relay the compassion, ambition, and drive of these two individuals. It didn't hurt that they were backed by an incredibly well-written and compelling storyline that not only portrays the drama, and the struggle to make a medical breakthrough, but also navigates the racial issues that were inevitable with grace. But what truly makes this piece of art so worth the watch, is the real and honest emotion that emotes from the screen. After the struggle and the ups and downs, the end result will make you cry tears of hearfelt emotion, of pain and of joy. It is this honesty that elevates it from normal television movie wasteland to stunning dramatic heights.

77. The Academy Awards (1927-2013) - Every year, millions of viewers around the world tune into the Oscars. Every year hundreds of bloggers (including this one), film journalists, and television personalities spend hours of their time covering the events leading up to and including the big kahuna. And yet year after year, all of those viewers and bloggers and critics complain. They complain about the winners, they complain
about the host, and the ceremony, and the length of the ceremony. Despite its noticeably long running time, its cheesy attempts at bad jokes, its hit and miss hosts, and its triubtes that just never seem to work, year in and year out, The Academy Awards is still one of the most entertaining, exciting, and most adored events on television. That is because humans have always been drawn to the power of the movies. I have devoted much of my free time and energy to blogging about movies, most specifically the Oscars . That is because the race to the finish line is thrilling and filled with tons of twists and turns, and the final payoff can sometimes simply be magical. How wonderful was it to see a young talent like Jennifer Lawrence recover from her stumble to give a heartfelt speech? How amazing was it to see the great Daniel Day-Lewis make Oscar history for an utterly brilliant performance? The Oscars are still the original of the major awards ceremonies, they are still probably the most respected, and they still are one of the most thrilling nights of the year.

76. Desperate Housewives (2004-2012) - In the vein of shows like Dallas, ABC tried its hand at
primetime soap operas in the mid-2000's with shows like Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives enticing millions of viewers week after week. It turns out that the experiment was highly succesful, as both went on to be huge hits (Grey's still going strong). Desperate Housewives never claimed to be high-minded entertainment. It wasn't classy and sophisticated along the lines of something like Downton Abbey. No, for eight seasons, Desperate Housewives just happened to be one of the most entertaining, deliciously addictive shows on television. These fierce and feisty ladies, played by Eva Longoria, Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, and Marcia Cross were put through soap opera hell, murders and kidnappings, as well as through lifes happiest moments like weddings and births. Through all of it, these women held their own. They were hilarious, tough as nails, and always looked good (except for that one season where they made Eva Longoria look bad after she had Cecelia and Juanita). The men of Wisteria Lane always held their own as well, perfectly complementing their feisty wives. Like most shows, Desperate Housewives had its fair share of ups and downs, but through it all its twisting and turning storylines, its compelling characters, and its dark humor carried it through, and made it a smashing success.

75. American Dad (2005-2013) - At first, I did not think that American Dad was going to make it. While its voice acting was top notch, and its creator Seth MacFarlane had already proven his success with Family Guy, I just felt that eventually the schtick would wear out. But alas, I am so happy to say that I have been proven wrong. While the first couple of seasons had a central focus on Stan's CIA gig, the newest seasons have branched out from the original premise and began to focus on the eccentricities of the characters. This
subtle, yet smart move allowed the show to eventually grow into something of its own. It branched out in  terms of its storylines, broke away from its Family Guy connection to become something entirely unique. Even as the Bush-era ended, and a lot of the initial punchlines began to fade away, American Dad continues to make politically and socially relevant humor week in and week out. Most importantly, as Family Guy has started to slip into some more dark, and sometimes disturbing storylines, American Dad has remained an always-fun, hilarious, and entertaining half-hour. The characters all get their due, and the storylines remain refreshing. After nine seasons, I think that it is time that we as the viewing public finally separate it from Family Guy (this includes myself, especially since I have referenced the comparison three times), and declare American Dad its own success story.

74. House, M.D. (2004-2012) - Cranky leading men are nothing new in television, and in fact have been
around since the beginning, just look at guys like Archie Bunker, and you'll know what a I mean. But Hugh Laurie's House, a anti-social cranky man with a noticeable injury, was so much more than your stereotypical grouch. His physical and psychological injuries were deeper than their surface recognized, and while his methods were always crossing the line of madness, they always proved that he was an absolute genius, and maybe did have a heart underneath all that sarcasm and madness. But while Hugh Laurie's House was clearly the center of the show, and one of the main attractions, it was not the only component that made House, M.D. such a success for eight seasons. The other cast members all held their own against Laurie, and when each of them was given the chance to shine, they all rose the challenge. More importantly, by placing House in a medical setting, the natural and compelling drama of illness and injury took over, especially when the writers gave us some crazy diseases. But this show was not just a medical procedural drama, instead, the writers  built up sexual tension, character development, and some really awesome medical twists to create a thoroughly entertaining drama.

73. Firefly (2002-2003) - The nerds in the house (and I use the term nerd lovingly) will gasp when they see Firefly this far down the list. I apologize in advance, but while I may not be as obessessed with the show as its fans, I do appreciate that this was a great sci-fi television show that was unceremoniously cancelled way
too soon. Joss Whedon's sometimes disturbing, almost Orwell-esque, anti-corporation, post-war vision is not an easy subject for viewers to wrap their heads around, which is why it may never have caught on while it was airing. But this particularly dark vision, was also mixed in with terrifically thrilling action sequences, and a welcomed dose of humor. The show was impeccably written, with bold and daring storylines, and the actors all approach their roles with the gusto, darkness, and a dash of humor that a Joss Whedon storyline requires. It is unfortunate, but it feels like sci-fi films and television series are all ahead of their time, especially shows like Firefly that have a particular vision that may not click with a wide swath of viewers. But while Firely only had one season, it has gained a tremendous following since its demise, and I feel confident it will live on in television and science fiction infamy.

72. The Pacific (2010) - When HBO, along with executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, decided to tackle another World War II epic miniseries, the immediate comparions to the highly successful
Band of Brothers began. I don't think that The Pacific quite reached the cinematic heights of its predecessor, but it was still an enthralling and engaging ten-part miniseries, that captured audiences with its gritty war realism, its heartfelt humanity, and its epic scale. It was a huge undertaking, and the technical elements of it were on the level of most films in theaters. Heck, most of its stunning eight Emmy awards (out of a jaw-dropping 24 nominations) were given out at the Creative Arts ceremony. But this was not just a well-executed war drama. It also had a human impact, as we follow three marines in their struggles and journeys in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The character development may not be as deep as it was in Band of Brothers (probably the reason it is not quite as highly regarded), but the journey to the finish line is nonetheless just as sprawling, epic, emotional, and gritty. I also appreciated the representation of the other half of WWII. The European theater seems to get most of the storylines in WWII dramas, and the Pacific theater seems to be relegated to Pearl Harbor and the bomb (the beginning and the end). I think that this miniseries is an important entry into the historical film/television canon, by fleshing out in great detail a set of events that seems to have been overshadowed.

71. Sons of Anarchy (2008-2013) - I keep asking myself, how the hell has Katey Segal never been nominated for an Emmy? She probably should have won about three by now, but she's never even had the opportunity. The reason is that in this series (as in Married With Children), Katey Segal is embracing the trashy and the devlish, and therefore lacks the sophistication that most Emmy voters look for. Well screw them, because Katey Segal as Gemma has been one of the most wickedly terrifying, gut-busting characters
on primetime television in the last several years. She is jaw-dropping good, as is the rest of the cast including Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, and loads of others who embrace their dark and complicated characters with gusto. It doesn't hurt that Sons of Anarchy has some of the most gripping, gritty, and edge-of-your seat exciting storylines of any show currently on the air. Every episode blows your mind with just how crazy, yet somehow simultaneously human, it is. I can honestly say that there is no other show quite like Sons of Anarchy currently on television. It holds a unique niche in primetime programming. Those that dislike the show call in the lowest common denominator of entertainment, but what their dense and prejudice minds cannot comprehend is just how smartly written, brilliantly acted, and hauntingly real this show is, and it is their loss.

2 comments:

  1. Good job on the selections on Top Chef, Oscars, American Dad, House and The Pacific.

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