Saturday, August 30, 2008

Top 20 TV Shows 2008

A year ago, I updated my list of the Top 20 TV Shows of All Time, and a year later, I feel like it’s time for another update. Last year, peoples’ comments got me to finally start watching The Wire, hopefully this year will get me into another equally great show. Here’s the list:

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
2. Six Feet Under
3. The Sopranos
4. Twin Peaks
5. The Wire (New)
6. Cowboy Bebop
7. John From Cincinnati
8. Neon Genesis Evangelion (New)
9. The Office (UK)
10. Angel
11. Freaks and Geeks
12. Arrested Development
13. Doctor Who (New)
14. The X-Files
15. Gilmore Girls
16. Battlestar Galactica
17. Mad Men (New)
18. Babylon 5
19. Friday Night Lights
20. Seinfeld

Why have things changed? Read on…

The Wire

This show definitely lived up to the hype. I’m glad that I was able to catch up and see the final season live, it was one of those that was so good, it felt like the entire week became structured around the new episode. It may have been annoying to go back to work Monday, but I knew that Sunday night I’d also get a new Wire episode, so things weren’t that bad. I can only think of two or three other shows like that.


If you’ve been reading the blog lately, you’ve surely seen my epic posts about this series. This is a show that raises questions about how best to assess what the ‘best’ TV shows are. The first half is a solid, entertaining series, the second half is one of the best sustained runs of any series ever. So, do I judge it primarily on that second half, or do I consider more of the whole? For example, I like the second half of the series better than Cowboy Bebop, but Bebop is more consistently good, and hence gets the higher ranking. Still, I really can’t stress how brilliant the series is, and I’d heartily recommend it to anyone.

Doctor Who

Another fantastic sci-fi show, this one also has some issues with consistency. The reason Doctor Who is so high isn’t because it’s always great from episode to episode, it’s because at its best, it hits me in a way that no other show does. It’s the combination of action spectacle and emotional impact that makes the series so successful. It’s like Grant Morrison’s JLA meets Buffy. It may have more flaws than other shows, but emotionally, it gets to me like no other show I’ve ever seen.

Mad Men

The early 2000s saw a rash of Sopranos knockoffs, about morally ambiguous heroes who were always dealing out violence. But, no show has captured what really made The Sopranos great like this has. It’s the incredibly subtle storytelling that manages to speak volumes without ever telling you anything. The show feels so sophisticated, so cool, and it’s interesting to watch real emotion occasionally break through the socially sanctioned way of behavior. It’s hugely ambitious and really entertaining, I’m thinking this one will rise a few more places before its run is finished.

Last year, I felt I had pretty much seen the best of what TV had to offer, so I was surprised to see a whole bunch of great shows on DVD this year. What else do I need to see? What are the other missing classics from my viewing history?


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Patrick,

Since you are clearly open-minded concerning anime, may I humbly suggest Death Note, since it is freaking awesome.

Yours sincerely,
Blog lurker.

Anonymous said...

have you gave up on farscape?


Patrick said...

I'm on a bit of a Farscape hiatus lately, but I've got the season two box set and am going to continue soon, and will blog when I do.

And, I'll give Death Note a look. I've heard good things from some other people, so it's on the list.

Anonymous said...

oh, and have you seen the shield? i haven't really got caught up in it, but i do think it's one of best sopranos-influenced shows, so you should check it out.


Patrick said...

The Shield's on the list as well, I've heard really good things, and will probably check that out once I finish up the stuff I'm watching now.