Monday, August 22, 2005


Top Ten Shows

I saw this over at Rose Nunez's blog, No Credentials, and couldn't resist opining, since television viewing has likely taken up a good one-third of my life thus far. Jeff Jarvis says you aren't aren't supposed to list "dutiful" shows. Okay. Here goes.

1. Star Trek: This has been my favorite show since I first saw "The Immunity Syndrome" at my grandmother's house at the age of five. Classic science fiction and great chemistry between "The Big Three." Good allegorical episodes and good human epsiodes. There are also no easy answers to the big questions raised, as in "A Private Little War," a thinly-veiled Vietnam allegory in which Kirk defends his decision to arm the Hill People to fight against the Villagers, who have been armed by the Klingons. A great show, but also one that is like going home to visit family. In fact, the death of DeForest Kelley was like losing family. I met him once--a very, very nice man.

2. South Park: Nothing makes me laugh harder, and by God, I don't feel guilty about it, either. Just finished watching the kindergarten class president episode, and the parody of the 2000 election was dead on. This show, unlike the unjustly touted Daily Show, takes swipes at all sides, and all of them are well-deserved, like the episode with Saddam and his "chocolate chip factories" in heaven and God's complete inability to see through the deception. On South Park, everybody gets served. And if you don't agree with me, well, then I've got something in my front pocket for you.

3. Family Guy: This was almost number two, but South Park beats it by a smidgen. However, this show has made me lose a contact once or twice, I've laughed so hard. I think my favorite episode is the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory parody. The Chumba-Wumbas singing to the crippled Joe: "What do you do when you're stuck in a chair? / Finding it hard to go up and down stairs. / What do you think of the one you call God? / Isn't his his absence slightly odd? / Maybe he's forgotten you." That's evil and I shouldn't laugh, but I do. Not quite until I pee my pants, but awfully damned close.

4. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The best of the modern Treks, none of the gaggy PC crap that plagued The Next Generation or the crappy writing and acting that plagued Voyager. I didn't like it when it first came out, but it gradually grew on me, and I've recently rewatched the whole series, thanks to SpikeTV and TiVo and Netflix. The best episode? "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges." Agent Sloan, of the secret "Section 31" tells the somewhat naive Dr. Bashir, whom he's tricked into undertaking an ethically dubious mission, "The Federation needs men like you, Doctor. Men of conscience, men of principle, men who can sleep at night. You're also the reason Section 31 exists. Someone has to protect men like you from a universe that doesn't share your sense of right and wrong." Damn straight.

5. Battlestar: Galactica: The new one, not the old one, though I confess that the old one is a guilty pleasure. I was dragged kicking and screaming into the remake. "Starbuck's a chick?!? Bullshit PC casting." Was I wrong. This is not your father's Battlestar: Galactica, but it's one of the best shows on television right now. No surprise that the people behind Deep Space Nine are involved--it has the same moral and ethical ambiguity that made DS9 a classic. Still not sure what they're going to do with the fight between the militaristic Adama and the touchy-feely lefty President Roslin, but they are not making the politics simple, that's for sure.

6. As Time Goes By: I almost didn't put this one on, because it is technically a "dutiful" show, as anything starring Dame Judi Dench must be. But I love this show, and am about to plunk down $150 for the boxed-set DVDs. Spending half an hour with Jean and Lionel is like putting on your most comfortable stay-at-home outfit, and Judy, Sandy, Alastair, Rocky, Madge, Mrs. Bale, Lol Ferris, and all of the rest are fantastically well-written and well-acted characters. I almost cried when this show was over, and I still find that watching the final episode makes me sad. I wanted Jean and Lionel to stick around forever, reading Winnie the Pooh and other classics in that big, feather-stuffed bed in their comfy, Holland Park flat. Lionel, I'll join you down the pub for a swift half any day.

7. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: You have to have watched a lot of Hanna-Barbera cartoons as a kid to get this one, but former superhero Birdman is now an attorney, and he defends his fellow cartoon characters in court. Highlights include "The Dabba Don," in which Fred Flintstone is a Tony Soprano-style mob boss (complete with a BEAUTIFUL opening sequence of Fred driving through Bedrock to a parody of The The's Sopranos theme song) and another episode in which Shaggy and Scooby are up on drug charges, pulled over while driving The Mystery Machine. (Turns out they aren't stoned--just really really stupid.) This is one of the most clever cartoons on The Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim," and I hope for a few more seasons of it. Hah hah!!

8. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer: Another one I was dragged into kicking and screaming--sounded like a really stupid premise, and more MTV style programming for Generation Y, or whatever the hell they're called--but a show which I wound up really enjoying, at least up through season five, with selected episodes in six and seven. Joss Whedon is a good writer, and he understands how to do tongue-in-cheek without going over the top. The characters are well-written and well-performed (save for the poor girl who played Tara), and there's just a comic edge to this show that the various pretenders haven't managed to capture at all. Plus, Charisma Carpenter's a babe. Why isn't she on television anymore?!?

9. Barney Miller: Yes, I did watch television before the 90s. This was a classic 1970s sitcom, with a fantastic ensemble cast, in all of its various permutations. James Gregory's appearances as Inspector Luger are probably some of my favorite moments, particularly those last episodes, where he orders the bride from Asia. And we can all thank God that Yemana doesn't work at our local Starbucks. James Gregory and Jack Soo, rest in peace.

10. Magnum, P.I.: I'm not sure how to explain this one, save to say that a couple of years ago, I stayed up every night until 3AM to catch the reruns on the Hallmark Channel, reliving fond memories of watching them at my parents' house back in the 80s. Great ensemble cast, and just a fun show. The whole Vietman vet angle always worked well--the camaraderie between Thomas, Rick, and T.C. always seemed real and undefeatable. And of course Higgins: "Oh . . . my . . . God, Magnum!" Hard to believe Jonathan Hillerman is a Texan. Tom Selleck's camel toe can be a bit offputting at times, though. Why did men wear such short shorts in the early 80s?

Okay, so I'm supposed to put this little baby at the end of this post: .

This was fun. Maybe I'll do 11-20 on my own.

Yeag, I forgot all about Barney Miller. That was a great show. My husband mentioned it after he read my list and I went "doh!"

Glad to see The Simpsons didn't make your top ten. Not that it's not funny, but can't touch South Park.

I'll have to check out the Birdman cartoon.
The first season or two are out on DVD. I'll bet Netflix has 'em.

The episode where Birdboy gets his powers is also a classic. Birdman catches him in the toilet stall by himself practicing with them.
I think Magnum, P.I. is an inspired choice.

I haven't checked in at Jump the Shark lately, but it used, at least, to hold a coveted spot on the short "Never Jumped" list.
Of the many "but how can you omit...":


The ensemble was terrific. De Palma, Alex, Elaine, the Reverend Jim, Simka and Latka.....

They don't make 'em like that any more.
Except Latka. Can we still be friends if I admit to disliking Andy Kaufman?

Maybe I will do 11-20. I won't have time to be thoughtful until the weekend, though.
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