Sunday, July 21, 2013

Top 100 Television Shows Since 2000: Part V

60. Project Runway (2004-2013) - There are a lot of competition shows out there, and a lot of them follow the same format. But even with a similar format, there is no other competition show on
television quite like Project Runway. Its premise of finding the next great clothes designer provides the show with so much energy and drama simply due to the creative and outgoing, and yes, sometimes weird, contestants. More importantly, the challenges put other reality shows' to shame with some of the most challenging and entertaining on television, throwing in crazy materials, stunning and confusing inspirations, and a constantly ticking clock as the contestants try to create a masterpiece. The judges are also entertainment within themselves, and are some of the best in the fashion business including Nina Garcia and Michael Kors. The hosts have a great Jekyll and Hyde routine with Tim Gunn being the nice one and Heidi Klum being tough with her derogatory and sharp, "you're out!" All of these elements combine together to create one of the most entertaining hours on television, and most importantly, one of the best reality shows to ever air. Twelve seasons, countless Emmy nominations, and a legion of devoted fans who love fashion, drama, and high entertaintment are all proof of the immense entertainment value and the popularity of this great reality show.

59. Game Change (2012) - Tackling such popular and controversial subjects as John McCain and Sarah Palin was sure to spark debate, but the combination of a great cast, a wonderful script by Danny Strong, and cinematic-esque direction from Jay Roach turned the 2012 HBO original television movie Game Change into a huge success. The actors, led by the likes of Ed Harris, Woody Harrelson, and Sarah Paulson all hit the nail on the head. But the real triumph here was Julianne
Moore's Sarah Palin. She played Palin with a ferocity, but also with a sympathetic view that challenged the supposed bias of the movie. What she also adequately portrayed was the fact that Sarah Palin, while an excellent wife and mother, was overly ambitious and completely unqualified to be the Vice President. This complicated of a portrayal may not have worked with a lesser actor, but in the hands of Julianne Moore, the results were terrific. The film's other strongpoint was the incredible inside story that gave the American public the real interworkings of a struggling campaign, and the tension between running mates. While many conservatives will deny these details, the truth could not be far from what was portrayed, as the tension was reflected throughout the campaign. But Game Change was not just an actor's gold mine or a great civics and history lesson. It was also a thoroughly entertaining television movie that had cinematic qualities, and a facsinating story.

58. Archer (2009-2013) - There are certain shows that are simply not for everyone, and Archer is definitely one of them. The animated story of ISIS, a spy agency, whose agents and employees
always save the day, while screwing each other, taking trips down outrageous excursions, and making audiences laugh out loud, is one those shows that could turn off a whole swath of people. But for those who dare, Archer is one of the most creative shows to hit the air in the last thirteen years, and also one of the most outrageous, jaw-dropping, and crude. It's characters are despicable, and yet you love them at the same time. Its jokes are insensitive, sexually tinged, unbelievable, and absolutely brilliantly funny. Adding to the crazy writing, are the balls-out performances of its voice cast lead by H. Jon Benjamin (who recieved an Emmy nomination for his work), and including the great Jessica Walters, Judy Greer, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, and the MVP of the bunch Amber Nash, who has turned her Pam into the most ridiculous and memorable animated characters on television today. The interplay between the characters is so fresh, that it can not only be attributed to the sharp scripts of its writers, but also to the chemistry of its actors. It takes a talented cast to create chemistry when they share a screen, but it is a true testiment to the cast and its writers, when you can feel the chemistry through only their voices. Like I said before, Archer is not everyone's cup of tea, but if you haven't checked it out yet, you may just find that you are as much in love with this show as I am.

57. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000-2013) - The last several seasons of CSI are proof that sometimes shows overstay their welcome, especially when most of the original cast as already jumped ship. But for at least a decade, CSI was one of the biggest and most interesting criminal procedurals on television. The original cast, featuring some great performances from Marg Helgenberger, Jorja Fox, George Eads, Gary Dourdan, and William Peterson had a great chemistry, and usually captured the highly dramatic, and incredibly emotional world of crime investigation
incredibly well. But what made CSI such an engaging and popular drama for so long was its groundbreaking and trailblazing premise, and its constantly entertaining crimes. Its creators and writers took the basic premise of a crime procedural, and added in an incredible amount of amazing science and technology, satisfying the geek in all of us, who, let's face, found all of the different techniques and lab equipment to be just totally cool. A lot of people who read this post will see CSI, and roll their eyes. I can understand where they come from regarding the last couple of seasons, but the generic characterization of an old people's show that lacks inventiveness is not accurate at all. It may not be the most clever show on television, but for now over a decade, CSI has been one of the most entertaining, and fun shows on the air, and has definitely become a pop culture icon that spawned two spinoffs, and several other shows that all can trace their roots back to this original. While I no longer watch the show, it is a testament to its popularity, and to the devotion of its fans, that it looks like there are no signs of stopping.

56. Band of Brothers (2001) - When talking about The Pacific in an eariler part of this series, I kept referring to an earlier HBO production, 2001's Band of Brothers. This story involves Company E,
whose shared journey through the European theater of World War II includes major battles, and one of the most incredible sequences involving the liberation of a concentration camp. In the end, the war takes a back seat to the companionship, and the bond that develops between soldiers when they have the unfortuante task to fight in gruesome battles and experience horrific sights together. This is where I think The Pacific falls short of its predecessor. It does not spend enough time with the characters. In contrast, the different writers and directors who contributed to Band of Brothers spend ample time and depth fleshing out these incredible and lifelong bonds, showcasing how these men went from being simply company mates to being brothers in a lasing fraternity of bravery. Adding on to the series greatness were the incredible technical elements by its crafting team, that gave it a cinematic quality, of course I would expect no less when your executive producers include names like Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Furthermore, while none of the actors at the time were exactly considered A-list, they all were hard working veterans of the genre who poured their heart and soul into their characters and helped the audience fill the emotion, the pain, and the friendship. Some of the names include people like Tom Hardy, Ron Livingston, Damian Lewis, Scott Grimes, and Donnie Wahlberg, have gone on to have successful careers. Overall, Band of Brothers remains one of HBO's greatest achievements, and also one of television's.

55. Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) - Before Paul Feig became a household name with the success of his Oscar-nominated film Bridemaids, he was a hardworking television creator/writer. More importantly, he became infamous as the creator and writer of the short-lived, but cult classic Freaks and Geeks. Anyone who ever went through the hell that is high school in America can relate to the two major cliques that Feig created, the Freaks and the Geeks (I'm sure that one was hard
for all of you to figure out). High school dramas or comedies tend to fit into two different sections of the genre. They are either cliche rehashes of the same themes, or they are over-the-top versions of those stale genres that make fun of them. What I always liked about Freaks and Geeks is that while it had a self-aware humor about its subjects, it managed to stay fresh enough to avoid falling into one of the normal categories. The characters that were created never fall quite into any category, they were not played by people twice their age, and the problems they faced were never so easily resolved, and were never quite as humiliating as usually portrayed. In lamens terms, Freaks and Geeks had an incredible sense of originality and reality that made it down-to-earth, and actually made it relatable to its audience. It filled a void in the genre that has never quite been replaced. It also featured a plethora of talnented young actors, many of who went on to big careers including Linda Cardellini, Jason Segal, Seth Rogan, and James Franco. Like many of the great shows, Freaks and Geeks only lasted one season. But luckily its fans and the critics have given it a life after death and have turned it into a cult classic that should not be missed.

54. Glee (2009-2013) - Before you take to the comments section to villify me, let me say this: I know that Glee can be tumultuous at best, but it is one of my guilty pleasures, and honestly I don't feel that guilty about it. Yes, I like the show, and personally think that while the third season was dreadful,
this past season was a much needed improvement, focusing more on the characters, and doing less (still two or three too many) public service announcement episodes. Glee is one of the shows that you never what you're going to get each week, and even in its bad episodes, it has moments of brilliance. The songs have become legendary, particularly their anthem version of Journey's Don't Stop Believin', and its use of music to push its storylines forward keeps it bouncing along a nice pace in most of its episodes. But, for me at least, the real reason to tune into Glee week after week are the characters. No matter what ridiculous situations Ryan Murphy and his team put them through, this cast of talented young actors/musicians alwasy bring their A-game, and have worked tremendously hard to create a batch of characters that we can see ourselves in at that age, and that we truly care about. That is why the passing of Cory Monteith has hit the show's fans so hard. We genuinely care about these characters, and to see one go like that is just heartbreaking. Through its us and downs, Glee has always been an excellent vehicle for funny and quirky characters, toe-tapping music numbers, and a nice mix of humor, with a dash of emotion that gives the show some bite. Glee has, and always will be, a cheeky and fun show that needs an acquired taste to appreciate it. And no matter how many people insult me for this, I will continue to watch the show, and in the end, I will never feel that guilty about enjoying it.

53. The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986-2011) - For a quarter of a century, Oprah Winfrey was the queen of talk shows. With one mention, she could put a book in the top twenty of the New York Times Best Sellers List, win a film an Oscar, or help those who needed help the most with one very loud sentence. It takes someone with a lot of finnese and talent to go from nothing to a dominating
entertainment empire, which is a true testament to the will, power, and amazing ability of the one and only Oprah. Her shows were legendary, and her infamous prizes could change lives. Take for example the time that she gave the whole audience cars, each one of it's members needing one desperately. Most importantly, her interviews are, and still are, simply one of a kind. She has always excelled at blending together a dash of hard-hitting journalism and tough questions, with a lighter sensiblity that made her flourish in daytime television, while also reaching out to a broader audience creating an amazing fanbase that loves and respects her. She also used her position as a powerful black woman, to reach into black communities across the country and better their lives while inspiring them to achieve their dreams. She has since moved on from her daily talk-show, all though she does interviews of powerful or popular people on a regular basis, and launched an entirely new empire OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. While it got off to a rocky start, it has expanded its offerings to include classic Oprah interviews, daytime and primetime original programming that reaches a broad audience, although particularly attracting women and African Americans who continue to find Oprah inspiring and entertaining. But no matter what happens with OWN, we will always remember the original, The Oprah Winfrey Show, one of the most influential television programs of all time.

52. Frasier (1993-2004) - For over a decade, Fraiser was one of the best sitcoms on the air, and in the aftermath of its finale, most critics and fans agree that it is certaintly one of the best shows of all time. If we were to do a Best of the 1990's (which I might just do next summer), Frasier would be much higher on the list, but even in its last couple of seasons, it remained a popular and funny classic.
Cheers was so good, I'm sure not many thought that a spin-off would even get close to its predecessor's success. But the creative mixture of Frasier, his even snootier brother Niles, their gruff nad laid-back ex-cop father Martin, the sex-crazed and sarcastic producer Roz, and the wonderfully daft and funny Daphne was delightfully funny, doing well to match Cheer's ensemble vibe, while still remaining its own unique entitity. The actors including Kelsey Grammer, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, Jane Leeves, and especially the neurotically funny David Hyde Pierce had an incredible Cheers-esque chemistry, and together they amassed a stunning twenty-five acting nominations winning an incredible amount, and this doesn't even include the dozens of guest stars that were nominated and won over its eleven seasons. Fraiser was considered by many to be high-minded entertainment, almost snobby, which is why the Television Academy was so in love with it (it won five years in a row the Best Comedy Series prize), but it also had an incredible way of relating to all of its viewers, always slyly insulting Frasier and Niles for their fussieness, and allowing their more common characters' (Roz, Martin, and always Daphne) street smarts to win the day. When Frasier went of the air about the time Friends did there was a massive hole in the NBC's comedy lineup, and in our hearts. Because for so long, we had grown to love these characters and laugh along with them all the way to the bittersweet end. Not much has come close to matching that kind of success in the years sent, which means that Frasier remains in a league of its own.  

51. ER (1994-2009) - Like CSI above, ER was one of the those shows that probably should have said goodbye a few years before it actually did, as by the end its original cast had all gone their separate ways. Also, like Frasier, it would be one of those shows that would be a lot higher on a list celebrating the best television shows of the 1990's. But anyone who tuned into the last several episodes, particularly its amazingly emotion, Emmy-winning series finale, can easily see why it remained so popular and so beloved by its fan base throughout its incredible fifteen seasons. Many of the later television success stories involving medicine such as House and Grey's Anatomy owe a lot
of ER, as it was really one of the originals. It, like its successors, succesfully used the natural stress, drama, and emotion of a hospital, particularly an emergency room, to allow for its drama to explode (literally sometimes), and its relationships grow. ER also deserves a spot on this list for its longevity. Even though the quality did slightly dip as the seasons went on, and its cast members moved on to different projects, it still managed to week in and week out be an engaging, dramatic, sometimes shocking, and always surprising television drama that no matter who was in front of the camera, worked extremely hard to intertwine its characters and provide amazing depth that made the show so much more than a serial enterprise. Some of its cast members including Julianne Margulies and Noah Wylie have gone on to other succesful television enterprises, and of course the juggernaut in the list is George Clooney, who today is considered one of the best actors, writers, and directors working in Hollywood today. ER remains today one of the most popular, longest running and greatest television shows in the medium's history.

1 comment:

  1. All good picks, except for Archer. I don't really like that show, just my opinion.