Considering I don’t have as much time to update this blog as I’ve used to I will unlikely be able to do much television coverage anymore. Before I completely stop my coverage of television altogether though, I would like to post my top 10 shows of all-time list. My list only includes shows that have aired in their entirety (although there are two entries in which that is debatable thanks to recently announced continuations) so while shows such as Game of Thrones, The Leftovers and Better Call Saul would certainly be in contention for a list such as this they will not appear on it. So without further ado here is my top ten list:
10. Damages (2007-2012)
Nonlinear storytelling is an amazing narrative device when used correctly, and the KZK trio (Daniel Zelman, Glenn Kessler and Todd A. Kessler) are masters of it. While their new series Bloodline is currently airing on Netflix, their best show to date is Damages. While the mysteries behind the nonlinear storytelling didn’t always work, the show always found the way to get the most out of Glenn Close as ruthless lawyer Patty Hewes and Rose Byrne as her protégé, Ellen Parsons. The show also makes my list for having a late run renaissance, in which it switched networks from FX to DIRECTTV. The show’s fourth season features its most compelling mystery since the first and features standout performances from John Goodman, Dylan Baker and Chris Messina. Also, like most shows on this list, Damages manages to come to an ending that is not only memorable but fits the show well.
9. 24 (2001-2010; 2014)
There is no show as inconsistent on this list as 24, however, 24 always had the ability to reach highs that 99% of television could only dream of. Many parts of season one, season two, the first half of season six, the first half of season seven, the first half of 24: Live Another Day and the entirety of season five are a case of a show taking a unique concept and making magic out of it. Kiefer Sutherland gives an all-time great performance as an all-time great character, and the show itself has some of the best production values you have ever seen on television.
8. Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)
Boardwalk Empire was born as HBO’s flashy new toy for its next golden generation. While critically acclaimed, the show suffered early on from being overstuffed. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good show, it had a talented ensemble (whether it was Kelly Macdonald’s mature performance as a single mother or Stephen Graham’s mesmerizing portrayal of Al Capone) and the production values were unlike anything television had seen at the time it had debuted. Yet an odd thing happened to Boardwalk Empire as it aged. Critics and fans began to turn their attention to Game of Thrones, and the pressure of being HBO’s flagship completely left the show. Later seasons featured a much more confident show that still had everything you loved about it in the first place.
7. Walking With… (1999-2005)
This expansive BBC produced series contains Walking With Dinosaurs, Walking With Beasts, Walking With Monsters and numerous specials (BBC’s Walking with Cavemen is also sometimes included within in this series, but while the format is similar, the filmmaking style makes it certain it was made by different filmmakers). While the science and much of the other information contained within these programs are outdated, the programs still survive as some of the most entertaining nonfiction programs ever created. With a unique format of filming the show as if we could just go back in time and record a nature documentary about dinosaurs just as we do know with gorillas, elephants and all other currently existing animals, it was hard not to be entertained. Additionally, it was nice to see that most of the stuff produced within these programs was able to maintain its quality even after it used up most of the dinosaur related content in the first program, Walking With Dinosaurs.
6. The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009)
Ken Burns is an all-time great filmmaker, and his shows are some of the best television has to offer. So at least one of them had to make my list. I choose The National Parks: America’s Best Idea because it’s the one I end up re-watching the most. It’s astounding how much information Burns and co-writer Dayton Duncan are able to pack in for what is seemingly such a limited subject. It was also interesting to se such a subtle but strong political message be built throughout the entire series. The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is also Burns’ most visually stunning show to date too.
5. Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009)
Television has oddly become a popular format for space operas, and none of them is better than Ronald D. Moore’s reimaging of Battlestar Galactica. The gritty space opera came at a time when television could actually handle the effects work that would really make a show like this look good. While the visuals were great, it was the intricate plotting and a strong cast (Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnall and James Callis leading the way) that made this show one to remember.
4. Extras (2005-2007)
Not many people had as big of a decade as Ricky Gervais did in the aughts. Most of Gervais’ recent output (whether it was his Netflix series Derek or his Golden Globe hosting stints) has been enjoyable but unmemorable. However, in 2005 Gervais delivered one of his television masterpieces: Extras. I have rarely laughed as much at a show as I have with Extras, and its commentary on show business is still sadly just as relevant today (if not more so) than it was when it was first released.
3. The Office (2001-2004)
In 2001 Ricky Gervais released his first masterpiece and the one that spawned numerous remakes including the more famous American version starring Steve Carell. Never has a show been as hard to watch as The Office and that is for all of the right and hilarious reasons as we watch David Brent go from one awkward situation to the next. Ricky Gervais also shows in later episodes that he is just as good of an actor as he is a writer.
2. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
I have fortunately been able to write a lot about this show on this blog already. Suffice to say, if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad yet you are in for a treat when you do.
1. Lost (2004-2010)
Once again I have already wrote as much as I can about Lost on this blog (for my in depth review of the show look here). It’s the show that got me invested into television as a medium, and my life is legitimately way better off because I watched it.