Naming my favorite TV shows and characters was difficult, as I think the last decade may go down in the history of television as a time when the entire medium took a big leap forward. There are shows I deeply love that didn’t make the list, plus great ones I haven’t gotten around to seeing (Battlestar Galactica, The Shield, etc). Here are the ones that did:
1. The Wire
The first spot on my list goes to the show I consider to be the best drama in the history of television. It starts off as a compelling look into the drug game from both sides and adds a layer with every season. By its end, it was an in depth look at how systems fail our society and how some people can pull themselves into a better existence regardless.
2. The Sopranos
It’s hard to say much about The Sopranos, as so much has already been written about it. I’ll just say that it was a key factor in raising the bar on what you can accomplish in a TV series.
3. The Office (UK)
I love the US version of The Office, but as it’s a remake of the UK original, that’s what I’m going with on the list. It’s documentary format helped drive home the feeling that you were watching real people in a real office. That helped make it both funny and painful to watch.
Years ago, the Zucker-Abraham-Zucker team created a show called Police Squad that was quickly cancelled because the viewing audience wasn’t willing to pay attention enough to catch the jokes. People didn’t want to have to pay attention to their shows. Now, Lost has come along to debunk that idea completely. It hasn’t been a perfect show all along but since they decided on a concrete ending date, the show has become a rare TV drama that has both compelling characters and brain twisting plots.
5. Justice League/Justice League Unlimited
The Justice League cartoon series, in both its forms, is a criminally under-rated show including in fan communities. Over four seasons it gave us everything superhero stories are supposed to deliver: compelling characters, wall to wall action, and storylines that go beyond good versus evil.
Rome is a series that chronicles the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. Even better, it shows us the personalities that shaped and were affected by these great events, from the streets to the palaces. It made ancient Rome into a living, breathing place. In other words, it was everything movies like Gladiator fail to be.
There’s a reason fans are still upset that the plug was pulled on this show before its first season even ended. It’s rare that a genre series gets everything so right from the beginning. Most shows have that awkward first season as they try to get the tone right and discover what characters work. This one had it down pat in the pilot. I still miss Mal and the gang.
Ricky Gervais makes his second appearance on the list with this two-season show. In it, he plays an actor who starts out as a humiliated extra, only to find fame in the second season. The problem is, he finds fame by selling out and instead of solving all his problems, his humiliations are now out for the public to see. Along the way, we get a long list of actors playing egotistical, stupid parodies of themselves. The Ben Stiller and Daniel Radcliff episodes were enough to immortalize this show.
9. 30 Rock
After a bumpy beginning, this show turned into one of my all time favorites. It’s probably my most quoted TV show right now (“There’s a whole in my heart, Liz Lemon, and not just from the time I tried to eat a battery”).
This show is a roller coaster, quality wise. When it’s on, though, it’s on. If nothing else, the show gave us Ari Gold. For that, we owe them our thanks.
1. Omar – The Wire’s thief with a conscience. From his intro to his jaw-dropping death, he never failed to be the standout on a show full of great characters.
2. Ari Gold – Based on Mark Walberg’s real life agent, Jeremy Piven takes off in the role he was born to play. He’s a model for channeling your id into success.
3. Dr. Cox – While JD started to grate on me on Scrubs, Dr. Cox never failed to entertain.
4. David Brent – Ricky Gervais’ worst boss ever on The Office makes Michael Scott look competent, which is a feat in itself.
5. Titus Pullo & Lucius Vorenus – This team was my favorite part of Rome. They were the heart and soul of the series.