Review – The Top 10 Television Shows of the Decade: 2000-2010

Originally Posted at Aint It Cool News 09/08/09

SOME UNFAIR AND SWEEPING GENERALIZATIONS NECESSARY FOR THE CREATION OF SOMETHING AS PRESUMPTIVE AND INDEFENSIBLE AS THIS LIST:

Going to the theater has become a crapshoot in regards to quality, a succession of trips down the de-evolutionary ladder from Star Wars to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, where thoughtful filmmaking seems to accidentally escape the studio system, contrary to the wishes of those looking to collect large checks and trade on your relaxed entertainment standards.

Your best bet to enjoy quality, character driven long-form storytelling involves wearing boxers, owning a TiVo, and placing aforementioned boxers on a couch in front of your television, and hitting play on a remote control , and has been that way for over a decade now.

The 2000’s are the single best creative period the medium of television has ever seen, and the best way to contextualize just how good we had it is in the creation of a completely disposable top 10 list on the internet.

THE SOLE RULE:

A show can only be eligible if its best season aired in the 2000’s. That single season will represent the show for the purposes of this list.

THE TOP 10 TELEVISION PROGRAMS OF THE 2000’s.

10. LOST – SEASON 5: The season it stopped being a Puzzle-Box for the sake of pleasing/confounding people who should probably be playing Tetris. Not that the Russian Nesting Doll nature of the show was suppressed, but the characters finally stopped being clumsy playing pieces to be pushed around by a convoluted mythology. They gained a 3rd dimension, with behavior both consistent and compelling, instead of lapsing into pants-shitting retardation for plotting purposes. Season 5 is like a gifted college student who finally understands why he’s in all this debt, puts the goddamned bong down, and decides to make good on the potential before he enters the real world shrugging and chucking cases of ramen into his shopping cart.

9. FIREFLY: Joss Whedon’s magnum opus. Season 3 of Angel came close to the heights he hit here, but this show is the culmination of Whedon’s skills as a showrunner, storyteller, director, writer and universe builder. Fox then cut it off at the knees, and the potential of the show, forever to be unrealized, led a group of devotees to coalesce around Whedon with the fervor of religious zealots, or Green Bay Packers fans. Some of them are apologists the likes of which haven’t been seen since Jar Jar defenses littered AICN talkbacks like Eopie turds. Some of them are level-headed connoisseurs of quality entertainment with a sharpened critical eye. Some of them just like how Nathan Fillion wears Han Solo’s pants. All of them recognize what a unique gem they were lucky to have seen in its brief 13 episode run.

8. MAD MEN – SEASON 3: If I’m going to get a raft of shit for this article, I might as well deserve it. These lists are presumptuous at best, anyway. Why not go Michael Bay with the presumption, huh? Here’s my flimsy reasoning: Season 2 Mad Men was a massive leap from the quality in Season 1, much in the same way Buffy jumped from cloying shitpile of annoying character tics in S1 to engrossing, highly entertaining potboiler in S2, except Mad Men S1 started really fucking good. Season 3 of Mad Men is ALREADY better than the entirety of its 2nd Season. I’ve seen 4 episodes, and I believe this claim completely. Sure, you could argue “Well, what if the remaining 9 suck ass?” but you might as well argue “what if dragons were real and could fart rainbows into my breakfast cereal every morning?” The two premises are roughly equivalent in their plausibility.

7. CHAPPELLE’S SHOW – SEASON 2: Now, the reality is that Dave lost his fuckin mind, left 50 mil on the table and hung out by himself smoking cigarettes, only to wander out of the desert every few months to do 12 hour sets at the Laugh Factory or some shit like that. “Dave Chappelle? That wizard’s just a crazy old man.” But I prefer what Season 2 of Chappelle’s Show seems to represent: Dave exceeding the best seasons of Saturday Night Live combined, in 1/3rd the time, making it look effortless, and then dropping the microphone on the floor and exiting stage left like some sort of comedic Maximus Decimus Meridius. Check the stats: The Racial Draft. Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories. When Keeping it Real goes Wrong. The Wayne Brady Show. The problem in looking back is that you have to ignore 3.6 million fratbro’s popping collars and asking each other what 5 fingers said to the face for about 2 straight years.

6. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT – SEASON 2: I like to imagine Chuck Jones watching this show on loop in heaven. Arrested Development has been compared to a lot of things over the course of it’s too-short run on FOX, but I’ve always thought it was the natural progression from those old Warner’s shorts. Everything about the show and its characters can be traced back to the wickedly perfect comic timing, convoluted plotting and creative gag-writing that a psychotic duck and a wiseass wabbit basically invented back in the late 40’s/early 50’s. Mitchell Hurwitz, his writers, and an ensemble cast that rivals Cheers, did the impossible in season 2: improved on a comedic aesthetic I thought was perfected with “Rabbit Seasoning,” and improved on it for 18 straight episodes.

5. SPACED – SEASON 2: It’s strange to think that the most cinematic television show in the last 10 years is a slacker/stoner comedy on Channel 4. Usually when discussing TV, the phrase “cinematic” means they didn’t light the set and brown things happened. (See: X-Files, The) But Edgar Wright hit the set of Spaced like Sam Raimi snorting rails of the same medicine that made Charley a turtlenecked pimp in Flowers for Algernon. Now marry that manically intelligent energy to characterization that gives truth to the lie of confectionary sitcom bullshit like Friends and Coupling. Apply the of Gervais/Merchant Comedy Theory of “Say what you need to say, shut the fuck up and get out of the way,” and you get the silly, succinct, and sublime “Spaced.”

4. SOUTH PARK – SEASON 8: Before Parker/Stone got lost up their asses being professional libertarians, perpetually playing the “too cool to actually pick a side” game, they began to regularly stir in celebrity satire and social commentary to measured perfection. That they nailed the recipe at the same time the evolution of their characters hit its zenith makes Season 8 the best season of the best animated series ever. Good Times With Weapons is a perfect encapsulation: It might be a smart send-up of misplaced parental concern after Janet Jackson’s titty fell out for 0.3 seconds during a pointless song and dance routine at a football game. But it’s also a hilariously accurate representation of what happens when kids and their imaginations are set free, and it’s joyously dangerous.

3. THE OFFICE – SEASON 2: There are people who enjoy the US version of The Office. I don’t begrudge them their watered down, ham-filled, increasingly contrived television program. It’s funny, sure. Some people need to have their entertainment with the crusts cut off. Some people can’t handle knocking back a slug of everclear, they’re afraid they’ll end up like Bushwick Bill on the cover of “We Can’t Be Stopped.” I get that, and I’m glad they like that show. But Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant believe in serving up single shots of schadenfreude with no ice, and no chaser, and the experience is all the more rewarding for it. There is nothing easy about this comedy, to the point where I laughed not only at the exemplary writing, but the fact a tv show was making me physically uncomfortable just being in the same room with it.

2. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA – SEASON 1: This is the best single season of any sci-fi show ever aired. Many pretenders have made their run at that particular Captain’s Chair, shows full of unnecessary apostrophes, latex head-bumps, shitty effects and earnest ambition always about a thousand yards beyond ability. Babylon 5, Farscape, the 30,000 versions of Stargate: MacGyver-And-That-Funky-Looking-Black-Guy-With-The-Massive-Fuckin-Head or whatever. And then there was this claustrophobic, gritty, pissed off little show holding a mirror up to post-9/11 America, and then breaking the mirror, and stabbing the fuck out of your heart with the shards. From the opening seconds of “33” until a solitary Taiko drum blinked a bleeding Eddie Olmos into the void 13 episodes later, Ronald Moore and David Eick made a brutal, relentless, emotionally honest investigation of the humanity of man, and made it kick more ass than “Aliens.”

1. THE WIRE – SEASON 4: This is the best season of anything that’s been broadcast on television. It’s also the reason for this list’s only rule. You need the previous seasons to build to this point, but if I could include those seasons, this list would be “The Wire and 5 other shows that could concievably carry its jock if they asked The Wire very politely, didn’t make eye contact, and wore that cherry wig the Wire just bought them.” Season 4 is probably the closest thing to Literature that television has ever achieved. If Dostoyevsky had HBO, and you walked into his living room just as this season ended, there’d be a single tear resting on his beard. His will to live, along with his balls; powdered, dusting the carpet beneath him like so much cigar ash and dreams of Baltimore.

And as for any protestations to my sanity in compiling this list, and any discrepancies between my viewpoint and yours, I’ll quote Marlo Stanfield as my sole response:

“You want it to be one way. But it’s the other way.”

Published in: on 12/31/2010 at 1:13 am  Comments Off on Review – The Top 10 Television Shows of the Decade: 2000-2010  
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