Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Top 20 TV Shows

Picking up on another blog trend, here's my top twenty TV shows of all time.

1. Twin Peaks
Best Episode: Finale (2x22)
Best Season: 1

Nothing ever made can match the moody weirdness of the first fifteen episodes of this series. Most shows you remember good characters or an interesting storyline, but with Twin Peaks, it's the atmosphere that lingers with you. After I finished the show, I remember missing the town, like it was a real place, and even now, just hearing the theme song puts me back in that mindset.

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Best Episode: Restless (4x22)
Best Season: 6

I've never been as hooked on a show as I was on Buffy during the fifth and sixth seasons. This show is the perfect example of something that's simultaneously thought provoking, demanding of analysis and thoroughly entertaining. Once you get hooked, the show will define your life for a while.

3. Six Feet Under
Best Episode: 'I'm Sorry, I'm Lost' (3x13)
Best Season: 3

Six Feet Under has my favorite TV character of all time, conflicted lead Nate, as well as the most consistently sharp writing and cinematography on TV. I think the show hangs together perfectly as one 63 episode long story, with the perfect finale.

4. The Sopranos
Best Episode: 'D-Girl' (2x08)
Best Season: 5

The most consistently frustrating show on TV, watching these characters struggle through their lives is sometimes funny, sometimes painful. More than any other show on TV, this one feels like the writers had perfect control of what they're doing, creating a many layered narrative.

5. Cowboy Bebop
Best Episode: 'The Real Folk Blues' (2x13)
Best Season: 2

The moodiest show I've ever seen, this was like Wong Kar-Wai making a series. No other show has used music as well as this, to create singular moments that define the characters. There's subtle evolution of the arc through a series of seemingly unrelated episodes, it's only when you reach the end that you realize how every single piece of the show was building to the catastrophic finale.

6. The Office (UK)
Best Episode: 'Christmas Special II' (3x02)
Best Season: 2

It's simultaneously the funniest show in TV history, and one of the saddest. That's quite an accomplishment, in only twelve episodes, Gervais and Merchant sketch an entire world, then tear it down. The final moments of the Christmas special are some of the most emotionally rewarding in any work of fiction.

7. Angel
Best Episode: 'A Hole in the World' (5x15)
Best Season: 5

The show had a couple of off seasons, that's the only thing keeping it from being ranked higher, because at its best, season five in particular, this stood with the best of Buffy. And, unlike Buffy, they went out at the absolute top of their game, with a final episode that perfectly captures what made the title character so unique.

This makes the end of the shows I would consider masterpieces. After this, there's some really great shows, but they don't quite match up to the preceding shows, which represent the medium at its absoulte best.

8. The X-Files
Best Episode: 'Jose Chung's From Outer Space' (3x20)
Best Season: 3

At its best, The X-Files is my favorite show of all time. There's moments that have a scope and grandeur that eclipse anything else in TV history, but the show will always be flawed by its total disregard for plot and character continuity, and the fact that there were way too many uneven standalone episodes next to the brilliant mythology stuff. But, the show had enough good stuff to remain one of my favorite shows.

9. Freaks and Geeks
Best Episode: 'Discos and Dragons' (1x18)
Best Season: 1

The most accurate depiction of the highs and lows of high school life in any medium. The subtle character development and consistent growth over the season was great to observe, and each of the episodes works wonderfully on its own. If this had kept going, it would probably be much higher on the list.

10. Gilmore Girls
Best Episode: 'A House is Not a Home' (5x22)
Best Season: 5

Like Buffy and Six Feet Under, this show is notable for the way it tracks characters on the journey of life, covering a vast period of time that you just couldn't do in film. The show has gotten slightly darer as it's gone on, sharpening into a still funny, but more poignant exploration of Lorelai's loneliness in the fifth and sixth seasons. Lauren Graham is one of the best leading ladies in TV history, totally carrying the show.

And 11-20...

11. Arrested Development
12. Battlestar Galactica
13. 24
14. Seinfeld
15. Samurai Champloo
16. Babylon 5
17. Spaced
18. The Prisoner
19. Carnivale
20. Trigun


crossoverman said...

I wonder how how up B5 would be if you'd finished the series :-)

I expect it will rise a few places, if not break into your top ten.

The only show I question here is "Gilmore Girls" - but then, I never watched more than two episodes.

Patrick said...

Yeah, I'd consider the first seven leagues above the rest of the list, and if B5 keeps things up, it could surpass Angel and possibly even a couple of others.

Gilmore Girls gave me a lot of the same joy as Buffy, watching characters grow and change over a long period of time, plus it's got that same witty bantery dialogue. It's got a lot less gravitas than some shows, but at its best it was a perfect fusion of comedy and drama.

Have you seen Cowboy Bebop? That's a show I'd definitely reccomend checking out, I'm usually not an anime fan, but general consesus hold it's the anime for people who don't like anime.

TV Addict said...

I like the following tv shows:
- Twin Peaks
- Buffy the vampire slayer
- The X files
- Cowboy Bebop
- Gilmore girls