Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Top 5 All-Time Favorite TV Shows

Anyone who has spent five minutes with me knows I'm almost as huge a TV and movie nerd as I am a bookworm. Thanks to Netflix, we can all perform the entertainment equivalent of shotgunning TV shows like cans of cheap beer.

I've been happy to be introduced to some truly wonderful television via the Netflix Way, as well as some that are...well...just okay. There are shows I've loved for a few seasons and then drifted away from (I'm looking at you, Bones and The Office.) And shows I missed the boat on but filed aboard once I saw it (Fringe, plus Breaking Bad.) There are shows I can watch anytime they appear in syndication (The Golden Girls), and a few that I acknowledge as flawed but love anyway (Angel, which had a near-perfect season 5). So, in the best tradition of High Fidelity, here are my top 5 all-time favorite television shows. Some may be familiar to you, but you may also find something new to chug.

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The ultimate Joss Whedon show, with plenty of high drama, romance, humor, danger, and creepy, creepy monsters. This has everything you could possibly want out of a TV show. Great cast, great scripts, epic story arcs (you'll suddenly find yourself needing to know the plural of "apocalypse"), and at its core a kick-ass girl.

2. Firefly - Gone too soon, I only watch this show occasionally because I would otherwise spend much of my life bummed that there aren't more episodes. Fox was too dumb to know what it had, but at least we got one season of the smartest space western you'll ever see. Meet Cap'n Tightpants and his oddball crew as they dodge the evil empire and do their best to stay free in the open 'verse.
Aren't they shiny?

3. The Dick Van Dyke Show - Dick Van Dyke is amazing with physical humor, and he's supported by his comedic equal, the peerless Mary Tyler Moore (plus hilarious meta cameos by Carl Reiner). Rob Petrie (Van Dyke) is a good-hearted TV writer who is as funny at home as he is at work. It's pure delight, the anti-Mad Men. It's the kind of show that makes me feel good about life.
The Empress Carlotta couldn't have shown better taste.
4. Star Trek - This is a cheat, because I'm going to fold in the original, plus TNG, plus Voyager. I grew up watching Captain Janeway struggle to get her crew home, and she's one of my feminist role models. The utopian optimism of TNG sometimes makes me laugh cynically, but it has episodes and characters that I adore. I only recently watched the original series, and I finally get what the fuss is about - though often schlocky and cheaply made, its core team of Spock, Kirk, and McCoy have a perfect chemistry that sells the goofy or sometimes offensive stories. Plus:
Oh my God, yes. I mean aye, Captain.

5. Justified - Have you even heard about this one? I'm often amazed at how many people who love Breaking Bad but haven't heard anything about Justified. I may be unduly influenced by the way Timothy Olyphant wears his cowboy hat (and those blue jeans!), but it's not just U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens who makes the show what it is: the bad guys are top-notch. From the crafty Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) to the hapless Dewey Crowe, they just get better and better. Margo Martindale was hands-down the best one-season baddie of all time (and has the Emmy to prove it). Plus, it's based on an Elmore Leonard short story and emulates the best parts of Leonard's writing style: he sometimes wrote for the show before his death. Justified is cool, it's sexy, and you'll thank me for telling you to watch it.
No man wears a henly better...
Reincarnation of Gary Cooper? Could be.
Honorable mentions: There are so many other great shows I've left off (five is such an arbitrary number). Veronica Mars, about a tough gumshoe who happens to still be in high school, has its storytelling roots firmly planted in classic noir and would easily place high on a longer list.

There are no British shows in my five, though Doctor Who, Sherlock, Spaced, and Fawlty Towers all have places in my heart and DVD collection. I've also left out animation, which knocks off Avatar: The Last AirbenderFullmetal Alchemist, and Cowboy Bebop.

Pushing Daisies, like Firefly, was gone too soon - and had Kristin Chenowith and Lee Pace lighting up the pie shop. The Vampire Diaries may get relegated into the teen vampire ghetto with Twilight, but it moves like lightning and will have your head spinning. Finally, what person with a heart or sense of humor could leave out Parks and Recreation?

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