Friday, June 20, 2008

Let the Arguing Begin!!!

Entertainment Weekly has put together a Top 1000 modern-day classics group of lists, with the top 100 of the last 25 years in several categories. For the purposes of this blog, let's just focus on the television (though I could argue about the movies, books, and music as well). Buffy is nicely placed at #10 (YEAH!) and Lost is at #8 (DUDE!)... I'm happy to see awesome placement for The Wire, South Park, Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development, The Shield, My So-Called Life, Six Feet Under, Mr. Show, 30 Rock, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, Xena, and MST3K, (and yay, Kids in the Hall are on there!) and I'm happy that The Sopranos and The Simpsons are holding the top spots.

But hey, y'all know I need to bitch.

SO... Battlestar Galactica, The Office, Friday Night Lights, and NewsRadio should be higher. And where the frak are Angel, Firefly, Heroes, Pushing Daisies (hey, before you say I'm premature on that one, they have the Ben Stiller Show on there, a similarly brilliant show with few episodes to judge), Veronica Mars (forget about season 3 for a minute; season 1 is STELLAR television, and it deserves a spot just for that), Dexter, Animaniacs, Futurama, Blackadder...

I know, I know... I can't have the list custom-made just for me, but every show I listed there is far superior to some absolute mind-bogglers on there: Saved by the Bell? Are they joking??? If you're going to put some high school show on there, The Facts of Life was far superior (and maybe my 11-year-old brain that watched it is betraying me by remembering it as being better than it was, but it was DEFINITELY better than Saved by the Frickin' Bell). The Hills. They have included The Hills. And The Osbournes. It's entertaining to watch the Prince of Darkness struggle to change the garbage bins... but one of the top 100 shows of the past 25 years?! Are they mad?? And... Baywatch. As in... BAYWATCH. Oh. My. Joss.

Here, in all its simultaneous awesomeness and stinkitude, is the list. What do you think is missing? What are you happy with? What would you like to see off this list?

1. The Simpsons, Fox, 1989-present
2 The Sopranos, HBO (1999-2007)
3 Seinfeld, NBC (1989-98)
4 The X-Files, Fox (1993-2002)
5 Sex and the City, HBO (1998-2004)
6 Survivor, CBS (2000-present)
7 The Cosby Show, NBC (1984-92)
8 Lost, ABC (2004-present)
9 Friends, NBC (1994-2004)
10 Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The WB (1997-2001); UPN (2001-03)
11 The Wire, HBO (2002-08)
12 South Park, Comedy Central (1997-present)
13 Freaks and Geeks, NBC (1999-2000)
14 The Daily Show, Comedy Central (1996-present)
15 The Oprah Winfrey Show, Syndicated (1986-present)
16 Arrested Development, Fox (2003-06)
17 The Office (U.K. version), BBC2 (2001-03)
18 American Idol, Fox (2002-present)
19 ER, NBC (1994-present)
20 Beverly Hills, 90210, Fox (1990-2000)
21 Roseanne, ABC (1988-97)
22 The Real World, MTV (1992-present)
23 The West Wing, NBC (1999-2006)
24 Star Trek: The Next Generation, Syndication (1987-94)
25 Miami Vice, NBC (1984-89)
26 Chappelle's Show, Comedy Central (2003-06)
27 Law & Order, NBC (1990-present)
28 The Larry Sanders Show, HBO (1992-98)
29 The Shield, FX (2002-present)
30 Late Show With David Letterman, CBS (1993-present)
31 The Civil War, PBS (1990)
32 Gilmore Girls, The WB (2000-06), The CW (2006-07)
33 My So-Called Life, ABC (1994-95)
34 24, Fox (2001-present)
35 CSI, CBS (2000-present)
36 thirtysomething, ABC (1987-91)
38 Beavis and Butt-head, MTV (1993-97)
39 Six Feet Under, HBO (2001-05)
40 Mr. Show, (HBO, 1995-98)
41 Frasier, NBC (1993-2004)
42 L.A. Law, NBC (1986-94)
43 Late Night With Conan O'Brien, NBC (1993-present)
44 Jeopardy!, Syndicated (1984-present)
45 Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO (2000-present)
46 Homicide: Life on the Street, NBC (1993-99)
47 30 Rock, NBC (2006-present)
48 Ally McBeal, Fox (1997-2002)
49 Twin Peaks, ABC (1990-91)
50 Baywatch, NBC (1989-90), Syndicated (1991-2001)
51. Melrose Place, Fox (1992-99)
52. Felicity, The WB (1998-2002)
53. Will & Grace, NBC (1998-2006)
54. Moonlighting, ABC (1985-89)
55. Pee-wee's Playhouse, CBS (1986-90)
56. Desperate Housewives, ABC (2004-present)
57. The Amazing Race, CBS (2001-present)
58. The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, NBC (1992-present)
59. Battlestar Galactica, Sci Fi (2003-2008)
60. Xena: Warrior Princess, Syndicated (1995-2001)
61. The Office (U.S.), NBC (2005-present)
62. House, Fox (2004-present)
63. Mystery Science Theater 3000, Comedy Central (1989-96), Sci Fi (1997-99)
64. The Osbournes, MTV (2002-05)
65. Family Guy, Fox (1999-2002, 2005-present)
66. Grey’s Anatomy, ABC (2005-present)
67. Planet Earth, Discovery Channel (2007)
68. Jackass, MTV (2000-02)
69. The Colbert Report, Comedy Central (2005-present)
70. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS (1996-2005)
71. Friday Night Lights, NBC (2006-present)
72. NewsRadio, NBC (1995-99)
73. Oz, HBO (1997-2003)
74. Wiseguy, CBS (1987-90)
75. Project Runway, Bravo (2004-present)
76. In Living Color, Fox (1990-94)
77. The Golden Girls, NBC (1985-92)
78. I'll Fly Away, NBC (1991-93)
79. The Comeback, HBO (2005)
80. King of the Hill, Fox (1997-present)
81. Murphy Brown, CBS (1988-98)
82. The Hills, MTV (2006-present)
83. Absolutely Fabulous, BBC2 (1992), BBC1 (1994-2004)
84. Northern Exposure, CBS (1990-95)
85. The Kids in the Hall, HBO (1989-92), CBS (1992-95)
86. Prime Suspect, ITV (1991-2006)
87. Deadwood, HBO (2004-06)
88. Malcolm in the Middle, Fox (2000-06)
89. SpongeBob SquarePants, Nickelodeon (1999-present)
90. Dawson's Creek, The WB (1998-2003)
91. Mad Men, AMC (2007-present)
92. The Ben Stiller Show, Fox (1992-93)
93. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Bravo (2003-07)
94. Married...With Children, Fox (1987-97)
95. Designing Women, CBS (1986-93)
96. The Arsenio Hall Show, Syndicated (1989-94)
97. Party of Five, Fox (1994-2000)
98. MacGyver, ABC (1985-92)
99. The Bachelor, ABC (2002-present)
100. Saved by the Bell, NBC (1989-93)

Check out the other lists here.


Anonymous said...

I'd assumed it was an American list, but I see Gervais' The Office, so where is Doctor Who?

I can't stand Seinfeld. Never could. Give its spot to Frasier.

Brian Douglas said...

Survivor? What the frak?

And where's Deep Space Nine?

Anonymous said...

How can you not have Cheers?

Anonymous said...

A contribution from a long time lurker/second time poster...

In terms of how, if at all, they have changed the way we think/watch a TV show... Twin Peaks, Miami Vice and House MD should be a lot higher.

And, Northern Exposure at #84 is simply ridiculous -under Project Runaway AND Gray's Anatomy?!?

Cedar said...

I think Joan of Arcadia should be on this list.

Unknown said...

Well, Colleen, I think Dr. Who is older than 25 years, isn't it?

Nikki Stafford said...

redeem147: I actually LOVED Seinfeld (despised the finale, but loved the show). Frasier's there, but it's at 41. And I was going to mention Dr. Who.... but I still haven't watched it. For which, I know, I deserve a good beating.

Brian: You know, my initial reaction was exactly like yours. But then I realized Survivor was the first of the non-scripted (*cough*) reality shows, and it really deserves kudos for being the frontrunner and coming up with everything, like the alliances and voting off and big ratings.

That said, I really hate it now that it's in its 43rd season.

Anonymous: AWESOME catch. You're right; I can't believe I forgot Cheers.

Cordelia: Hello again! I agree. Survivor is so high simply because of how influential it was, so the other shows you mention deserve their due at a higher level. Also agreed on Northern Exposure. And, actually, on Project Runway. I LOVE that show and would probably rank it #1 among the reality shows for showing pure talent, no posturing of the judges (unlike The Tyra), and being so damn entertaining... but I'm not sure if it's really one of the top 100 shows of the last 25 years. Hmm... maybe it is. I'll have to think on that.

Cedar: Joan of Arcadia's a good one, too!

Justin: I think redeem meant the 2005 incarnation? If BSG can be on the list, then Dr. Who could qualify, methinks.

Michelle said...

Woohoo! X-Files at 4th! And that's pretty great that Lost is so high. At least they have some taste :)

poppedculture said...

I think your comments about Survivor is the same reason The Osbournes is listed - it was the first of the celeb reality shows to take off. It's not great TV, but look at the impact.

I assume the dead tree version of EW will have the reasoning behind some of their choices. Looking forward to reading that.

Anonymous said...

Nikki: I reckon Project Runway is far more better than other reality shows. However, maybe there should be a separate list for reality shows... The more I read the list, the more it looks like a (too) mixed bag!

Anonymous said...

No, I agree with Justin if it's only shows introduced in the last 25 years. I don't distinguish between the show from 1963 and now, since it's a continuation and not a remake.

Not that there's a lot of shows on that have been running for more than 25 years. Meet the Press, maybe?

Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...
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Ryan said...

I'm choosing to focus only on the positive aspects of this list, so as to not drive myself mad:

10) Buffy (wow, top 10!)

20) 90210 (on and off guilty pleasure; long live Donna Martin)

32) Gilmore Girls (I'm kind of surprised that's even on here; it's so underrated.)

79) The Comeback (I know I plugged this show endlessly at the Slayage Conference - you're just going to have to trust me on this one.)

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Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

All lists like the one posted are utterly selective, utterly subjective, utterly intersubjective, utterly parochial, and, in the end, utterly worthess. I don't take them seriously unless, a la the lists of critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, there is an admission of all of these limitations. There is one difference between this list and that of Rosenbaum, however. You can't accuse Rosenbaum of parochialism. Few American critics pay more attention to world cinema than Rosenbaum.

A few very subjective thoughts:
1. never much liked The Sopranos. I really can't say that I want to see yet another version of the mafia as family theme.

2.The Simpson's hasn't been good, in my opinion, since season six.

3. other than Sex and the City I think HBO shows are overrated. I like SATC because I think it really captures something real about human life, namely how humans revel in the mundane and banal.

4. Twin Peaks is, for me, the epitome of what passes for "intelligent cinema" in the US these days. It's all pretty surfaces, weirdness for weirdnesses sake, and postmodernism for postmodernisms sake. Compared to the surrealism of Bunuel the surrealism of Lynch/Frost is pointless, apolitical, see what I can do (particularly for those of you in on the joke about America’s middle class), navel gazing. The show "proves" Baudrillard's point about how all has become nothing but simulation in the modern western world. To me it’s a more "avant garde version of all those Hollywood remakes of old TV shows (Bewitched, Get Smart) and French films.

5. what is so wonderful about Whedon's shows is that they go beyond the consumer oriented surfaces of most modern American media and dissect issues of great intellectual depth (social ethics). In this regard I think Whedon's work is closer to that of say Bergman and Kieslowki.

6. Speaking of Bergman and Kieslowski Scenes from a Marriage, Fanny and Alexander, and Dekalog are, for me, amongst the TV shows that have had a tremendous impact on me.

7. to list shows that are still in production is rather like naming a building after someone who is still alive and who, as Ohio University found out, can get into legal difficulties (gotta love those flim-flam men from Wall Street!)

8. i find Lost a good action/adventure/mystery/SF show but I don't think it has much depth despite all of its showy surface rhetoric (Rousseau, Locke...). Again to me it’s just another example of the it’s all surface and little else tendency in contemporary American cinema and TV.

9. American "quality television" with its we are doing something so important here (ER, Six Feet Under) is, to me, massively overrated. I'll take Fawlty Towers, Prime Suspect, and Butterflies over this anyday.

10. I prefer Rocky and Bullwinkle with its all knowing sometimes snarky and sometimes naive narrator over Arrested Development.

11. I admired Friday Night Lights for trying to show real Americans who live in real small towns and have real religious sensitivities. American cinema and TV never portray real middle class or real lives in poverty as do Europeans like Bresson, Varda, and the Dardennes (to choose three examples). American cinema and television, tends to portray the poor as supermodels in middle class clothes supposedly bought from the Gap or Old Navy but really purchased in trendy stores on Sunset Blvd.. Compare that with the "poor people" who inhabit Mouchette or Rosetta.

12. Most Americans simply can't watch European art cinema because of its episodic qualities. Most Americans simply can't think outside of the genre plot box. Now I like a good genre film or TV show as well as the next bloke or shiela but I also appreciate films that attempt to capture a degree of “real life”. Sex and the City captures a very limited aspect, namely our mania for consumer goods, consumption oriented lives, and sex, sex, and more sex. I am sure Freud would have a field day with this obsession with sex. I am not sure sex and shoes are the only things that humans are about. I may be wrong, however.

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Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

Here are a few of the TV programmes that have touched me in some way, shape, or form. Needless to say this list reflects my biases and my ignorance--I haven't had the opportunity to see a lot of global television. The geographical limitations on viewing global TV over the web are truly annoying...
This list is in no particular order...
Slings and Arrows
Anne of Green Gables
Inspector Morse
Inspector Lewis
Inspector Lynley
Prime Suspect
Foyle's War
White Teeth
Bleak House
The Up series (7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49)
Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends
Forgotten Silver
Eating Media Lunch
Berlin Alexanderplatz
My So-Called Life
Dead Like Me
Ally McBeal
King of the Hill
Northern Exposure (with the
original music)
Married...with Children (with original musical openings)
American Family
Tales of the City
The Education of Shelby Knox

I am sure I have left some things out. I am also sure that what I would want to put on this list or take off it may change when I wake up tomorrow.

pete said...

Twin Peaks should be WAY higher on the list. Survivor should be WAY lower.

Sue K. said...

Okay - so been thinking about this for the last few days and here are my thoughts:

Where are:

The Closer - great show, hugely underrated on Cdn t.v. - great, talented cast, amazing storylines and twisty plots

Rescue Me - I LOVE Dennis Leary and this show has everything you could ask for - humour, drama, emotion & Charles Durning

Fawlty Towers - John Cleese's masterpiece - need I say more?

That 70s Show - sure the last few seasons petered out, but in the beginning, this show was great fun - I really miss the 360s in the Foreman basement and that catchy theme song, not to mention Mrs. Foreman's laugh

Due South - we need more Canadian shows on there!!

Queer as Folk - I can't rave about this show enough though I seem to be in the minority as not many people have watched this show - it was great during all 5 seasons - never lost its integrity and was truly groundbreaking in its portrayal of gay life and gay community - Gale Harold is one of the most underrated actors EVER - as Randy Jackson would say "He could read the phone book and I'd be interested"

Finally - so happy to see 30 Rock so high up in the list and its not that great in the ratings - I don't get why more people aren't watching and loving this show - Tina Fey is a tour de force comedy writer and Alec Baldwin is my new comedic hero

That's my two cents!! :)

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Austin Gorton said...

I'm late to the party, but since no one else has, it looks I'm going to have to jump to the defense of Saved by the Bell.

To me, #100 on a list like this is the perfect place for it: worthy of recognition but not good enough to beat out most everything else. It should always be listed near the bottom of any "great TV" list.

I grew up watching Saved by Bell, so there's an obvious nostalgia factor at work; I don't think the show is inherently awesome or anything, and if you weren't in the right place at the right time, it probably seems really crappy and bizarre. But the fact remains that if you were there at the right time, Saved by the Bell has permeated the pop culture zeitgeist in a way only a handful of shows have.

Give the opening words of the theme song to most mid-20 to early-30 somethings nowadays and they'll finish it off. The Max, "timeout", Mr. Belding, "preppy", Jesse's "drug" addiction, Screech; these are things that most of us in that age bracket just know. Amongst my friends, Saved by the Bell operates almost like verbal shorthand in some situations.

Was it high art? No. Was the acting well done? Not really. Were the characters compelling? Kind of thin. Was it funny? Mostly just unintentionally.

But it was memorable, and it was just...there. For me, in syndication five days a week after school. It wasn't very good, but there was something...compelling in the day-glo colors, cleancut characters and over-the-top plots. Something that drew me to the point that I now know every episode inside and out (and still watch at least a bit of it each morning-it still airs in my city Mon-Fri early morning before work).

The high school life it presented wasn't anything close to reality, but it was maybe a little bit better, a high school where there was time to meander in the halls, where you went to a diner for lunch, where you could freeze time in a tight spot, personally participate in every sport and activity imaginable, and the nerdiest kid in school could hang with the coolest.

Austin Gorton said...

Wow, and having said WAY too much in defense of Saved by the Bell, let me just add:

I am overjoyed that Buffy placed as high as it did.

Drop in quality aside (pick your favorite season as the "last good one") The Simpsons absolutely deserves #1; no other show has risen to that level of significance in the last 25 years.

It is a crime that DS9, Futurama, Firefly, Angel, Animaniacs, and Batman: The Animated Series didn't make the list.

I've also never "got" Seinfeld; glad to know I wasn't the only one.

Oh, and Gray's McAnatomy can drop right off that list...

Nikki Stafford said...

helfron: I was just about to ask if you actually liked television, but it looks like you do! :) I noticed you didn't put Angel on the list but had Whedon's other two shows. Was there a reason you didn't like it as much?

Also, I've wanted to see the Up series for ages now, but obviously I'd like to watch it from the beginning (did you watch it as it unfolded? It probably would have had more impact if you'd seen it every 7 years and not all at once). Your post made me go check amazon, and I was delighted to see it's now out on DVD. I'll have to get that.

You had some great shows on there, but... Married With Children? I just can't agree with you there. ;) I love Ed O'Neill and Katey Sagal, and I know the show was meant to be satirical, but I think I missed the point.

Sue K.: I thought the same thing about Fawlty Towers at first, and then realized that the show was out in the 70s, and this list is only for anything after 1983.

Teebore: Thanks for adding your two cents, really. You've given me a new appreciation for the show. (No, I won't be rushing out to buy the DVDs... I shall appreciate from afar.) It probably has everything to do with what you grew up with. I mentioned Facts of Life, and I bet if you looked at it now, the show was silly, but at the time it was awesome to me. I was a teenager when Saved By the Bell started up, and I hated it because it just wasn't the show I watched. So I'm really glad you posted what you did. :) Different strokes for different generations! (Speaking of which, I also loved Diff'rent Strokes.)

Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...
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Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

Nikki and Company,

I love TV. I am not particularly fond of top 100 lists and the tendency for navel gazing particularly here in the USofA. And I don't like putting things on top of the TV pops lists that are still in production. That they are on the list is simply a reflection of current fashion, imho.

I actually teach a course on TV history, theory, and practise. At present I am doing it as an online course. It is the first time that I have done it this way. It's rather frustrating at this point for a variety of reasons. In the traditional classroom I could count on theatre students getting that mise-en-scene can reflect the narrative. I could count on film students getting the connection between the 1950s Dragnet and, looking backward, film noir, and looking forward, contemporary police procedurals. The connections just aren't being made at the moment and I don't want to hand everything out on a silver platter. I want students to be, at least for six weeks, TV historians. Sorry for the rant. Meanwhile back...

I would argue that American TV is much more interesting that American cinema at the moment. I know that may not be saying that much given the state of American movies is in my estimation dismal but...Films (save for that incredible fifteen hour film by Rivette and perhaps the 400 plus minutes of Bela Tarr's Satantango) are short stories. Sometimes great short stories. TV shows like Buffy show that TV can be the equivalent of a complex and incredibly moving novel.

Why not Angel? I have watched Buffy some eight times. It never grows less rich or less interesting to me. I learn something new each time I watch it. I have watched Angel some five times and I just don't think it holds up as well as BtVS. On the other hand, I think that each season of Angel gets better. I think season five of Angel is the series best (thanks in part to Marsters whose energy brings everyone else's acting chops up). I suppose it should be on the list because even second rate Joss and Company is superior to virtually everything else out there.

Continuing on the subject of O my Joss, I am coming around to the position that Firefly, even a truncated Firefly, is Joss and Company's greatest achievement.

I am a long time lover of TV. For my list I did try to stay in the time range of the original list. If I was rating my favourites across
TV time and space I would put Fawlty Towers, Pennies from Heaven, The Singing Detective, Twilight Zone, Dragnet (the 50s series), and The Dick van Dyke Show, for instance, on the list.

Married...with Children? Married... was not the first dysfunctional family comedy--I suppose you could argue that Till Death do us Part (the basis for the US All in the Family) and the wonderful Family sketches on Carol Burnett have that honour. Married..., in my opinion, took the generic conventions of American domestic sitcoms and really turned them on their head in brilliant fashion. It is the anti-Father Knows Best and the anti-Leave it to Beaver. The importance of one of the great anti-domestic dysfunctional sitcoms is often forgotten by partisan fans of the Simpsons who forget that Married, did a lot of what the Simpsons would later do amongst them savaging the Fox network.

The Up series is absolutely brilliant. I am fortunate to work at an institution that has a strong Documentary Studies programme so I get a chance to see a lot of docs because of that and I watch a lot of PBS (POV and Independent Lens in particular). I was a fan of documentaries long before I became a semi-academic. I don't think they get the respect from critics they deserve (I think many critics ignore them in their top ten lists for some reason--Canadians who remember the heyday of the NFB I hope won't fall into the same unfortunate trap). I am going to buy the British edition of UP when it (hopefully) gets to 40% off at EVERYONE WHO CARES ABOUT TV AND FILM SHOULD PURCHASE AN ALL REGION DVD PLAYER. And they should check out the reviews on Toronto's own DVD Beaver...

Much prefer DeGrassi to Saved by the Bell...

Really dislike mediocre soft American "comedies" like 30 Rock...

Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

Have to add the following to my list
House of Cards trilogy
A Very British Coup