Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of the 2000s: or how I learned to stop worrying and love televison

Since we are in the final day of the decade, I figured I couldn't let it end without some recognition of the period of time that made me love the medium of television. The 2000s weren't just a year of doctors, lawyers, and cops, but a decade of imagination and creativity. Ignoring the likes of Survivor, American Idol, and the other reality shows that have blinded much of culture from acknowledging the greatness of television in the decade, the 2000s reminded us that television can be as good as the films that are being produced and as inventive as it hadn't been before. Science Fiction was no longer bravados of machismo environments. Comedy evolved to no longer needing a laugh track to inform viewers that what they were watching they should be laughing at. With the prevalence of viewing television at your own pace and at your own time, with DVRs and internet streaming, long serial dramas were able to become something that they had never been before. This is my list of the best tv shows of the decade.

10. Dexter
Early in the oughts CSI ruled the screen with plot twists and intriguing scientists like we had never seen before, but the show never seemed to pierce the surface and attain the mindset of a serial killer like "Dexter" did. Showtime presented "Dexter" as a show about a serial killer who is also a crime scene investigator. Being on Showtime, "Dexter" was able to delve deeper into a character than FCC regulations would forbid any network station. We learned about why Dexter killed and what made him kill, something CSI never came close to.

9. The Sopranos
The 90s were filled with family dramas and comedies about the typical domestic life of suburban America. "The Sopranos" did that too, but this time that suburban life included organized crime. "The Sopranos" allowed the viewer to learn about a mob boss, his family, and how they don't live much different from the rest of America. Yea at the end of the day, my father doesn't kill anybody, but Tony went to a psychiatrist.

8. West Wing
In a decade of terrorism, conservative politics, and antagonistic attitudes, "The West Wing" created a utopia of a presidential office. The perfect presidents meets the imperfect world. At times President Bartlett seemed a little too quick witted, intelligent, and well perfect, but this allowed the series to focus on the staff that dealt weekly with the same issues that the viewer saw on the news.

7. 30 Rock
I was debating between "The Office" and "30 Rock" as to which one should be on this list. I do like both a lot. "The Office" was one of the first successful at creating single-camera non-laugh track series, but it's concept wasn't original. "30 Rock" creativity and ingenuity is great. It is hilarious and brings the viewer into the not so glamorous world of television sketch comedy show writing. Also, it doesn't hurt that pretty much every week a new A-list celebrity is guest starring and doing an amazing job at it too.

6. Veronica Mars
Teen dramas need a twist. Something that separates them from "The OC"s and the "One Tree Hills"s. "Veronica Mars" separates itself from the rest of its WB friends with an excellent film noir style and its intelligent witty script. You didn't tune in every week to see whether Veronica was finally going to get back together with Duncan, but you tuned in to see whether Veronica was going to solve Lily, her best friend's murder.

5. Firefly
Space Western. What? Space Western. Science Fiction can do that and with Joss Whedon it did it well. With "Firefly", Whedon created interesting characters and an amazing universe that wasn't beyond the viewer to understand. Yes, maybe because it was advertised as a space western was the reason for its single season, but it's popularity, cult status, and even feature film signifies that it was one of the best tv shows of the decade.

4. Lost
Creativity is what has kept Lost going for so long. Character driven plots of usually made shows fail. Network science fiction shows typically fail. Long story arc plots especially on network television fail. Lost didn't. It came at a time where viewers could by DVDs of tv show seasons, watch missed episodes online, and record past episodes to view again later. Lost would not have made it in the 90s. The plot is too intricate and its universe too deep, but online streaming, DVR, and other mediums have allowed Lost to stay alive and remain an amazing and thrilling experience.

3. Arrested Development
Oh yea, single-camera non-laugh track series, "Arrested Development was the forerunner. Yea it ran for only three seasons (which was only because of it's critical acclaim and awards success and not its ratings), but its originally is what makes it the best comedy of the decade. It broke from the Seinfeld sitcom model and created a new model that "The Office" and "30 Rock" used to create their present success.

2. The Wire
Long, plot driven, character driven, subject driven, intense writing. That is how you would describe the monumental, but mostly overlooked amazing series that was "The Wire". Each season delved into a different area of Baltimore life. From the school system, to the media, "The Wire" proved that television doesn't need to adapt to their viewers, but that viewers should evolve to accept great material like "The Wire". Even though it wasn't successful like its brother shows on HBO, it is superior in its ingenuity, creativity, and brilliant writing.

1. Battlestar Galactica
What is one show that made science fiction a cheap thrill and corny? Well that would be the original "Battlestar Galactica", but the revision of that show is amazing. It is the perfect example of viewers evolving to understand that science fiction isn't just cheap thrills, but allegories for our lives. "Battlestar Galactica" dealt with issues from genocide and racism, to understanding the mindset of someone in positions of power. It didn't shy from making you hate your favorite character or dislike a plot line. It had a purpose and even at the end, it had a goal to make sure viewers saw something more in science fiction television.

Honorable Mentions:
Friday Night Lights, Big Love, Six Feet Under, How I Met Your Mother