Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best TV Shows of the Decade

I decided to skip over the Top 10s of the year and go right for the big daddy - the Best of the Decade.

First up - Television.
 This last decade of TV represents for me, the golden age of television.  Simply put, it is the best television has ever produced:

The Wire - The best. Ever. David Simon's brutally honest dystopian vision is the gold standard.


The Sopranos - The one that started it all - and relaunched Journey's career.

Breaking Bad - Fearless. Bold. Funny. Visionary. Brutal.

Mad Men - Tone-perfect subtle portrayal of the pivot point of a decade and a man's journey to find his authentic self.

Deadwood -  David Milch's foul-mouthed Shakespearean western is a multi-layered tour-de-force.

Band of Brothers - Epic portrayal of the realities of war in the mid-century.

Dexter - Puts all those CSI clone shows to shame.  Michael C. Hall carries the show with nothing but subtle facial expressions.

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Seinfeld synthesized into a crack-like addictive journey into Larry David's warped vision of ultimate social discomfort and humiliation.

Battlestar Gallactica - Sci-Fi told on an epic scale while maintaining its focus on character.

Rescue Me - Foul-mouthed.  Daring.  Brutally honest.  Went head-first into post 9-11 territory that no one else with a sane mind would touch.  Thank you Dennis Leary.

These brilliant and revolutionary shows easily match up against the best television of any decade - perhaps even the best narrative dramas of any medium.  If will be interesting to see if the next decade can live up to these achievements.  Clearly the most creative minds are now working in television - where the showrunners (usually writers) can maintain control of their vision.

Not one of these shows was produced by traditional network television.  And no one cares anymore - the era of the networks is dead.  My children couldn't tell a network from cable or pay tv or YouTube or hulu or Netflix.  It is all simply visual storytelling that comes to them from a box in our home - or on a mobile device on the go.  The revolution is already over.

The best of the rest:

Six Feet Under
The Office
Generation Kill
Friday Night Lights
30 Rock
True Blood
The Daily Show With John Stewart

Next up:  Best Horror Movies of the Decade


  1. The revolution may be over for most, but growing up my family couldn't afford cable, and I can't yet, either. I've seen 'most all of these, but on DVDs from the library, or hulu, or borrowing sets from friends.

    I'm keenly aware of what shows aren't network TV. I watched LOST live, but I had to wait for the Wire, and catch The Colbert Report in clips. Forget legality; Megavideo is just bad quality. And so, the lowest classes get the (generally) lowest class entertainment and media. Sure, good shows exist on network TV, but they're also a) the most likely to get dragged out to death (The Office) or cancelled without ceremony for being too brilliant and/or quirky (Arrested Development, Better Off Ted, Pushing Daisies).

    Well, maybe it is over, the streets are just still in disarray.

    Deadwood. I really gotta watch Deadwood.

  2. I wouldn't have a clue where a show came from for two reasons: 1/ I live in Australia and 2/ I don't own a TV
    Yet I have seen every one of these shows and for the most part I totally agree. I might have replaced Curb your Enthusiasm with Arrested Development, and I can only count Battlestar Galactica on the provision that we all ignore the last 15 minutes of the finale (something I regard as one of the most heinous cinematographic crimes of the last decade).

    Unfortunately, I feel I need to go one step further than grassrootsmovement in that I fear that 2000-2010 is the decade of the Euthanised series; so many fantastic shows that have had their wonderful lives cut short so prematurely...

  3. "decade of the Euthanised series" . . . I love it. So true!

    I think it's something the Sopranos and The Wire made people hyper-aware of; if either had run only 2 seasons, we would have lost the beautiful, dramatic Big Arc. Because of their stations, they had time to establish themselves.

    If LOST had been cancelled after a few seasons, just imagine!

    But last decade, many splendid shows weren't so lucky. Take Dollhouse, by Joss Whedon, creator of one of the top 10 series of all time (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was cancelled and then revived by another network so it could fully realize its potential). The network edited Dollhouse's first 8 episodes so that I barely recognized Whedon's hand. When it finally found its way and started to reveal the big picture arc, the network decided to ax it.

    A few shows, like the BBC's Sherlock, get supported when artistry is appreciated by small audiences. But not many.

    Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights, Pushing Daisies, Better Off Ted, Freaks and Geeks(!), have all had strong fan support, some to better effect than other. But in the end, they were all put down, or had drastic budget cuts, or even had syndicated airings pulled.

    It's enough to make one wary of falling in love.

  4. No voices for House? I quite enjoy it. Hugh Laurie is great and the writing on that show is phenomenal. Granted it has gone down a lot in the 5th and 6th seasons, but the show has had a strong following for most of the decade. The main plot is always formulaic, but I think the subplots and character development with smart writing on House really make it a lot more than a simple Sherlock Holmes story.

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