Last year at decade’s end, I compiled a few best of and worst of lists to commemorate the first 10 years of the new millennium. However, when doing this, for some reason I neglected to compile any sort of list for my favorite entertainment medium; television.
And seeing as how I am without question the most reputable voice of opinion on the internet, it doesn’t seem fair to the masses who suckle at my every word not to put something together regarding my opinion on TV. So with that, here are the shows that wielded through the cluttered reality TV mess of the past several years and showed there will always be a place for quality, scripted television.
The Office (US Version, NBC), Modern Family (ABC) Extras (HBO/BBC), Arrested Development before it became unbearably smug and entirely self-referential (ie, Season One)
5. Flight of the Conchords (HBO)
Sure, this import from New Zealand only ran for two seasons. And sure, only one of them was truly good. But if there was any one season that yielded a spot on this list on its own individual merits, it’s the first season of Flight of the Conchords.
From the quirky songs, hilariously bizarre dialogue and situations and a nearly perfect cast, FOTC was one of the great comedy creations when it hit the airwaves in 2007, and even though it petered out surprisingly quickly, it still left a lasting impression on me and dozens of others.
4. Mad Men (AMC)
Perhaps the most critically acclaimed series of the past few years, it took me a few seasons to truly embrace this series about sexy people and their sexy adventures in the sexy world of 1960′s Madison Avenue Advertising. While I’ve enjoyed it from the get-go, for some reason it just didn’t make an overwhelming impact right away.
However, over the past few years, series creator Matthew Weiner (allegedly pronounced “why-ner.” Yeah, fucking right!) and the rest of the cast and crew have pulled me in with some of the most intricately plotted dramatic television today. And while it did create one of the most shockingly bizarre scenes in recent memory, Mad Men is arguably the least flashy great show of its time, and must be credited for being compelling without feeling as if it needs to constantly dazzle its audience.
3. The Office (UK Version, BBC)
I love the American Office and find that most people who smugly hate it do so blindly, because how dare someone try to touch the original. Having said that, I must give the British version a slight comparative edge. One because it has a more realistic feel to it, but also because it created perhaps the most engagingly pathetic comedic character this side of Homer Simpson.
While I very much enjoy the work of Steve Carell as American boss Michael Scott, there’s just no trumping the work Ricky Gervais did as UK manager David Brent. When you watch Carell, you feel like you are watching someone embarrass themselves, where as with Gervais, you often times feel as if you are actually watching another human being die. It’s not everyone’s variety of comedy, but if you have the stomach for it, it’s pretty remarkable.
Though he deserves all around credit as the co-creator, writer and director for the series (as well as an Executive Producer for the American version, that son-of-a-bitch!) Gervais was effortlessly brilliant as Brent, who could humiliate himself in almost every imaginable fashion, and somehow still hold on to the illusion that he’s “rock and roll through and through.”
2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
1. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Strangely enough (to me anyway), in two years of involvement with this dog-and-pony operation, I’ve never once taken the time to gush about Curb Your Enthusiasm which is not only the best show in the depicted time frame, it’s the best show in the depicted time frame by a mile.
While a fantastic run with Seinfeld proved Larry David was more than capable of writing great comedy, it was somewhat surprising to see how adept he was at performing it, in this mostly improvised series, which is an alleged re-telling of the events of his misanthropic life.
David, simply put, is a genius. He now, on two separate occasions, has crafted nearly flawless comedies about the minutia of life. While other shows have attempted to capture a similar magic (see the pathetic yet inexplicably popular It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) David has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt he is the undisputed master of this genre and has been for close to two decades.
Like The Office, Curb isn’t for everyone, but most brilliant shows aren’t. Even after seven full seasons (eight is on the way) it’s still as close to “must-see TV” as it gets and if it had been the only show created over the last decade, it still would have been a good decade for TV.
As a final word, if anyone tries to get into Curb by watching it in syndication on WGN, DON’T! The edits are criminal, by which I mean, if there were any justice in the world, the people who edit the program for broadcast on that network would be in jail. Rent the DVDs and thank me later.