10. The Sopranos
Ah, Tony Soprano: everyone’s favorite anti-hero New Jersey gangster-type. He is definitely a powerful and memorable character, however what makes this show stand out above the other derivative broken-nose shows is the strength of the story lines and surrounding cast. Edie Falco excels as torn mob queen, Paulie, Silvo, and Christopher are classic paisanos, and the kids…well… they are just kids. The adventures of Tony and the gang obviously parallel that we have seen from Goodfellas, in fact many of the secondary characters (including Tony’s psychiatrist) were in Goodfellas. But much like Goodfellas, I did not love it as much as everyone else on the planet. Some have this show as the best all time. And although it was ground-breaking and really started the golden age of TV (better writing, cinematography, and longer story arcs), I just can’t shake that it is not as good as the Godfather. I know, not fair. But when you have seen the best in a genre, it is hard to not compare.
9. The Wire
Another HBO show that kickstarted the ‘higher level of TV’ movement. For those who do not know the show, it is a cops vs criminals urban opera set in Baltimore. What makes this series special though is the eerie feeling that this is real and these are not actors: it really plays like a documentary. We see the drug trade, turf battles, how the cops and government officials deal with the situations (spoiler: not all are on the up-and-up), how education factors, in, etc. It is a smorgasbord of inner-city drama. Yes, it is a socially-important show to watch. But no, it is not always entertaining. Some of the characters are distant and not really interesting, just vehicles used to move plot. Great show, but not the greatest.
8. Better Call Saul
Prequels are hard to make. Can you name one that supercedes the original (other tha Phantom Menace)? I bet not. This is not to say Better Call Saul is superior to Breaking Bad, but it functions as both a prequela nd a stand-alone show. Yes, it is very early to put this in the top 10. But yes, it is that good. There are two main stories in the show; one of Jimmy McGill (or Saul when he probably needs to change his name) and his hate/hate relationship with his pretentious and judgemental brother played by David St. Hubbins, the other with Mike Ermantraut who is bringing in the drug gang story into the fold. This makes it sound as if this plays out like two disjointed show, and that element does exist. However there is some cosmic binding in these stories; somestimes it isn’t evident, but I feel it’s aura. This show many move up as time passes.
Has there been another show, outside Cop Rock, that has had this monumental impact on pop culture that on;y ran for 1 measley season? NO! I was skeptical and late to this party; I only first saw the show 3 months ago. But I was immediately sucked in. The witty repartee, the charming characters across the board, the mystery of who River is, the list goes on. Serendity did a great job of wrapping up many of the main storylines that were just hanging there, but there is no question this show left us all wanting more. And until there is more, I cannot rank this higher than 7.
No where on TV or in movies you can witness a better back-and-forth than between Cumberbatch and Freeman. Benedict has a nasty habit of stealing scenes in everything he does, and the essence of the Sherlock character can allow this to happen tenfold. However Freeman holds his own; not forcing his way into the scene yet still maintains a presence. In other words, they are awesome. And the writing, well, the story and the dialog makes this show one of the most popular shows across the pond, and for good reason. Each episode is 90 minutes long, which is good in some ways because it really is like watching a movie (and of movie quality). But this also means there are only a few episodes per season (4). Obviously this semi-low budget show can’t retain these two megastars for much longer, but can we at least get a finale season out of them?
5. Game of Thrones
Graphic violence? Unadulterated sex? A dwarf? Count me in! I actually read the books before the show aired and was hesitant at first. But wow! What a spectical! The overall production of the show is huge, and initially I thought it would not be worth it. I mean this is a nerd show and really not for mass consumption. But apparently this country is full of nerds like myself, and has now become the most talked about show on TV. The story is so engaging, albeit very complex. I’ve read the books, seen the shows twice, read the wiki pages, and still don’t know what the hell is going on. All I really know is Jon Snow is a bad-ass, Bran is weird, and Tyrion and Varys provide the best scenes every episode.
Patty Hewes (Glann Close) is the most Machiavellian character in TV history. She is so good, every time she is off screen you are left asking ‘where is she’ and ‘why is she not in the shot right now’. No matter though, because the reason this show is so good goes far beyond Ms. Hewes. The storytelling is told in a Pulp Fiction-y kind of way, or non-chronological order. The show the end first and time-jump around showing the viewer pieces of the story, giving us just a bit to advance the plot yet not enough to dowse the suspense. I really think you show give this show a shot, I mean hardly anyone watched it. Netflix, one episode. Just try one frickin’ episode!
3. Battlestar Galactica
The best Sci-Fi show of all time, hands down. No, not Star Trek, not TNG, not even Firefly. It’s this one. I mean if you want aliens, if you want exotic and complex planets with ecosystems, if you want time travel and bending space, well………. you get none of that here. In fact it was written in Edward James Olmos’s contract there will be no aliens. Despite the lack of the aforementioned things, it is a true sci-fi in the purest sense. Asimov says ‘Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology’. And who the hell are you to disagree? BSG is incredibly thought provoking, intense, well acted, and surprisingly spiritual. Some say the ending is ‘meh’, but I say their face is ‘meh’. Watch this show. It is way better than reading this blog.
2. Downton Abbey
The English are amazin. I mean, how can such a little country own over half the world….only 200 years ago? I am an Angolphile, yet the idea of an ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ class battle set in post-Victorian England seemed like a snooze. NOTHING BUT!!! The costuming, the deep character portrayals, the understated dignity of it all, it was flat out wonderful. The special part about this show is how it manages to make a guy (like myself) who sees the royal caste system in England as the silliest thing since Paulie Shore not only understand this system’s place in history, but to admire it. I would quit my job in a second to be a footman at the Abbey now. The show also does a great job of delving into the macro (the large social world of WWI England), to the micro (the social aspects of the Abbey), to the personal (how each character is relatable and there is piece of us in each one). This show makes you feel good about life. The characters are not all great people, but all have a subtle benevolance that is never heavy-handed. Bravo Sir Fellows.
1. Breaking Bad
This show is the exact opposite of Downton. Downton is about dignified English life, Breaking Bad is about crude American capitalism. In Downton you are born into your place, in Breaking Bad you force yourself into the mix. In Downton there was love, in Breaking Bad there is only selfishness and pain. All those reasons are why Breaking Bad is ranked higher. There is nothing more intense in TV or movie history than this show. I was literally sitting at the edge of my seat during every simgle episode from season 3 on. It was liked the world stopped; what is going to happen next? I’ll tell you what’s going to happen….something awesome! But to simply label this show as a shoot’em up drama is not giving it it’s due. This show has more layers than an ogre. From the psychological tension that each character (especially Walt) has to deal with to the best acting and writing you will EVER find on TV, this is the coup de gras of all the TV-verse. After watching this show, you have to ask yourself ‘there by the grace of God, go I’? Well?????
Yes, I am well aware all of these shows are post-2000 (Sopranos started earlier, but ran into the 2000s), but this is where the best dramas are. Theis is a Golden Age of TV folks, enjoy it!