The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Top Twenty Favorite Live Action Series

20. 24

Okay, maybe this show shouldn't be on the list. I haven't seen an episode since the the middle of the third season, when Jack Bauer finally put several bullets into Nina Meyers' skull. But, the first two seasons were among the best I've ever seen on television, and I liked what I saw of the third season. Now, I enjoy it for making jokes about how over the top it is. For me, it may as well be "The Jack Baur Power Hour."

19. Get Smart

I used to watch this on Nick at Nite. Loved it then, picked up the first season on DVD. Sure it's dated and hokey, but it's a lot of fun. They tried to spin it off in the 90s, and then they made a movie a year or so ago. But both were colossal failures. Maxwell Smart and Agent 99's fight against Kaos was a product of its time, and that is where it should remain.

18. Angel

Joss Whedon's spin-off of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" would rank far higher if it didn't take so long to find its identity. The first season was very much trial and error, with a lot of promise. But I think the far larger flaw, for me, was what happened in the fourth season. A lot of great characters were completely destroyed, but thankfully it was followed up by the fifth season, and ended on a powerful note.

However, as much as I enjoyed "Angel," I have to admit, it played a part in the pussification of vampires that has culminated in the reprehensible "Twilight Saga."

17. Cheers

This one is a classic full of memorable characters. Often imitated, especially in the "will they or won't they" but never really duplicated. Sam and Diane have become archetypes in and of themselves, and I always felt that when Diane left and they brought in Rebecca, the show lost something. But, it's still a classic, and I occasionally catch it on Nick At Nite. The spin-off, "Fraiser" was another very fun series, and would be on this list if it were Top Twenty-One.

On a more personal note, I'll never forget when my friend, Greg Weisman, describe the relationship of Brooklyn and Katana.

"There's conflict. I once described their relationship as Sam & Diane-esque. No one got that, but the intellectual crowd here did understand a Beatrice & Benedick reference. Made me feel old and young, simultaneously."

Well, Greg. I got it. So I guess I'm old and young too.

16. Seinfeld

Now some would call this the greatest sitcom of all time. I'm not one of them. But that doesn't mean it's not a classic. Maybe it's my own personal roots as a New York Jew, but it never ceases to amuse me. Although, I more often than not want to punch George Costanza in the face.

This series might rank higher if my stepfather didn't have it playing in the house 24/7.

15. Castle

Okay, if this show lasts a few more seasons, I could easily see it rising up on this list. Aside from my heterosexual man-crush on Nathan Fillion, I love the premise. As a writer myself, I love finally seeing a TV show with a writer as the protagonist. And Rick Castle is a fun protagonist. Not to mention the Sam/Diane relationship between Castle and Detective Kate Beckett. A fun series, and I hope it lasts a long time.

14. All In the Family

You could not get this show on the air today. No way, no how. Archie Bunker makes Eric Cartman look like a Planeteer. Matt Stone and Trey Parker even admitted that you can't create Archie Bunker now, so they put that rhetoric in the mouth of a third grader who wouldn't know any better. Still, it was daring, groundbreaking, and legendary. Archie, I salute you, you racist, Irish bastard!

13. The Twilight Zone

Who doesn't love that haunting theme? I think my love of strange stories where the protagonists get screwed over came from this series. Probably one of the finest science fiction series ever. You don't see too many anthology shows anymore, and as much as I wish it would make a comeback, why re-create a classic? Just remember, "To Serve Man" is a cookbook.

12. Titus

Christopher Titus is one of my favorite comedians, and I loved his semi-autobiographical show. It was dark. Very dark. I can see why it didn't appeal to too many people. But, having grown up with a father almost exactly like Ken Titus, it appealed to me. While I wish it had never been canceled, I admire Chris Titus for standing up to the president of Fox and holding on to his artistic integrity by not compromising what the show was. It will always remain a favorite of mine.

11. Mystery Science Theater 3000

God help me, where would my knowledge of bad pop culture be without this show? I'll admit to preferring the earlier Joel seasons to what came later, but making fun of terrible B-movies never gets old. Without this show, I would never know the pain that is "Manos: The Hands of Fate" or "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians". Aw well, it lives on with Rifftrax.

10. Law & Order

I'm not talking about any of the countless spin-offs, I am talking about the first and best (the Optimus Prime if you will). Jack McCoy is often one of my television heroes, and I admire the subject matters the show is not afraid to take on. From abortion to female circumcisions. It's a staple of prime time, and it's not going away anytime soon.

09. Late Night With Conan O'Brien

Of the network, talk show hosts, Conan has always been my favorite. His dry, sarcastic, self-deprecating sense of humor appeals to me. His segments like Pierre Bernard's Recliner of Rage, and Frankenstein Wastes A Minute of Our Time never fail to crack me up. And his brawl with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert was epic.

It's a shame NBC, after finally handing him "The Tonight Show" is screwing him over in favor of that unfunny blowhard, Jay Leno. But, I'm sure Conan will have the last laugh in the end, and so will we.

08. Married... With Children

Al Bundy is the greatest TV Dad ever. Bar none. I grew up with this show, much to my parents' chagrin. Ed O'Neil's performance as Al Bundy proves what an underrated actor he really is. Al would be so easy to hate if Ed didn't make him so easy to love. Peggy, Kelly, and Bud were also fun characters. And their dog, Buck, had more personality than any dog on television. Yes, Lassie, even you. I preferred the earlier seasons with David Garrison as Steve Rhodes over Ted McGinly as Jefferson D'arcy. Steve was a better foil for Al as he was slowly corrupted and ruined by him.

07. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

If you can get past the title, and I know how hard it is, you'll be in for one of the finest television series in history. Joss Whedon gets a lot of fanfare, and it is mostly deserved. This is a series that should never have worked, but it does. While it didn't end as well as it started, even bad "Buffy" was better than most of what was on television. I think the show's strongest seasons were the second and third. But, overall, it's a great story about coming of age and making your own destiny.

06. Scrubs

Ah, my all time favorite sitcom. I love Dr. Cox, he's my hero. And I also know that if he can't stand J.D., he'd hate me. But that's okay. J.D. and Turk's bromance is television's greatest hetero love story since Kirk and Spock. The only character I really don't like is Elliot, but I don't think we're supposed to. And may I say that Jordan Sullivan is my kind of woman... she can be a complete bitch to me any time. And then, there's the Janitor, and what can I say about him?

Isn't it funny that a sitcom about a hospital is more realistic than the dramas about hospitals?

Oh, what the hell, "Scrubs" gets two clips:

05. The Colbert Report

At last, here comes America's greatest hero to scream at us, and tell us how it is. From using the On Notice board to fight injustice, to warning us of how dangerous Barack Obama and grizzly bears are, Stephen Colbert is everywhere. Sponsoring olympic teams, having bridges named after him, and NASA spacestation parts. One day, Stephen is either going to become our first emperor... or get sued. Either/or.

Stephen Colbert, you're my Alpha Dog of the week.

04. Firefly

Oh, look, Nathan Fillion is on the list again. Well, Captain Malcolm Reynolds this time. Ever wondered what a TV series about the Millennium Falcon would be like? Well, it wouldn't be this good. But, I consider it to be the best science fiction series of the decade (let's see if my finally viewing "Battlestar Galactica" will change my mind). Like all great series, it begins with enjoyable characters. While we didn't get a full season to really appreciate them, what we got was powerful enough to really get to know them.

It remains Joss Whedon's best work.

03. The Sopranos

I'm sure Tony will want to have me whacked for not putting him up at #1, but he'll have to deal with it. This series speaks to me in a way few others do. I grew up like this, minus the organized crime. But this series is as authentic as they come in how these people behave, and live. Memorable characters you both hate and love. Okay, and some characters you outright despise. It broke the mold, and felt like a very long movie on television. A modern day morality tale with a great soundtrack. I miss it.

02. Babylon 5

The series that changed it all. Before "Babylon 5," the very concept of a multi-year novel for television was unheard of. The magic reset button didn't exist. Characters grew, changed, and even died. No one was safe, and empires would rise and fall. It brought something to television science fiction not seen since the original "Star Trek." Teeth. An epic saga that asked the questions and let you decide for yourself what was right and what was wrong. Bleak and hopeful. Mankind went to the stars, we took all of our problems with us, and we got the greatest television science fiction series ever. Thank you, J. Michael Straczynski.

01. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

I'll be honest, the most difficult part of this Top Twenty list was the ordering of the Top Three. Any single these three could have gotten this spot. But, I had to give it to Jon Stewart and his intrepid team of reporters. Not only is Jon Stewart probably the best journalist on television today (that is as amazing as it is sad), but probably the smartest funny man on TV today. Or the funniest smart man. Whether he's telling the Bush Administration they're idiots, or telling the Obama Administration that they're not supposed to be idiots, Jon calls bullshit where he sees it. While his personal politics are obvious, he never lets it get in the way of making us laugh while reporting the news.

Jon Stewart is also the only man on television not afraid to ask the tough questions to the people he interviews. And be careful when you have him as a guest on your show, because as the folks at "Crossfire" learned, he will destroy you if you're show is bullshit.

Okay, not a clip from "The Daily Show," but it highlights exactly what I am talking about.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really enjoying reading these, Greg, but could you maybe remove the LiveVideo embeds? They start playing automatically on my browser, which is annoying because now every time I check out your blog, I immediately hear both the Law and Order clip and the Avatar intro. And the Law And Oder one won't let me stop or pause it, which is more annoying.

    Aside from that, I like your list for the most part. Agree on most of what I've seen. There are a few I haven't, and I never got into "24" enough to follow it before I got turned off hearing about its politics.

    Do you have any particular favorite episodes of "Twilight Zone"? Aside from all the extremely famous ones, I'm very partial to "The Obsolete Man."