My current favorite shows are Lost, Friday Night Lights, Battlestar Galactica, The Office, and 30 Rock. But over the course of my lifetime, what shows are my all-time favorites? To be eligible for placement on my all-time favorite list, a current show must have at least three seasons under its belt. Older shows don’t have any eligibility requirements since they have proven themselves worthy by standing the test of time. These shows are my favorites because of their creativity, writing, acting, entertainment value, and perhaps most importantly, their ability to keep me wondering, guessing, reacting (crying, laughing, gasping, or all of the above), and talking about them. I also have favorite episodes of all of these series, memorable moments that I will be sure to post on this blog in the coming weeks.
1. Lost (2004-present) – I can honestly say that I’ve never been more consistently fascinated by a show than I am by this drama/fantasy/sci-fi/thriller. It’s a show that defies categorization. I care about the characters, the storylines, the mythology… everything!
2. The X-Files (1993-2002) – The truth is out there. I searched for it alongside Mulder and Scully, and in later seasons Doggett and Reyes, until the bizarre series finale. I’m not sure our questions about alien/human hybrids and government conspiracies were ever answered, but I don’t think that matters. This sci-fi classic gave me plenty of great tv memories, an eclectic mix of scary, weird, funny, and sometimes even poignant episodes.
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) – I didn’t start watching this show until well into Season 5, so my understanding of the characters and mythology had to be developed haphazardly (I watched reruns of seasons 1 through 4 at the same time to try to catch up). Recently, over a 6 month span, I rewatched the entire series. This show is about much more than just vampires. At its heart, it’s about a group of friends supporting each other as they deal with the struggles of growing up. Aside from all the creatures and villains, and as crazy as it sounds, this is one of the most realistic depictions of teenage and college life I have seen on tv.
4. Seinfeld (1989-1998 – This “show about nothing” consistently found humor in daily life, things viewers could relate to. And so it added many phrases to our pop culture lexicon. To name a few: “Yada, yada, yada.” “Serenity now!” “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” “A low talker” or “A close talker” Check out this dictionary of Seinfeld terms: Seinfeld Dictionary
5. Arrested Development (2003-2006) – While Seinfeld found humor in realistic life situations, Arrested Development thrived on the absurdity of its characters, the members of the highly dysfunctional Bluth family. Just thinking about them is enough to make me laugh, and that’s saying something when I can watch an entire episode of many of today’s sitcoms without so much as cracking a smile. Especially hilarious were Tobias the cut-off jeans wearing, out of work actor; Buster the hook-handed mama’s boy; and Gob the unintentionally comical magician. And every time I watch an episode of this show, I have to rewind several times because I miss so much dialogue while I’m laughing!
6. Twin Peaks (1990-1991) – Who killed Laura Palmer? That was the question that kicked off this excellent, bizarre series that was full of colorful townspeople, one inquisitive FBI agent (Kyle MacLachlan’s Agent Cooper), and slice after slice of Norma’s cherry pie with coffee at the local diner. The music, the scenery, and the always odd plot twists kept me intrigued throughout this show’s short, three season lifespan. Now that seasons 1 and 2 are on DVD, I can enjoy the weirdness again.
7. The Office (2005-present) – Awkward, much? Check. Michael Scott is the boss that everyone hopes they never have. He can take any situation and make it worse. But Steve Carrell is far from the only reason to watch this show. Most people recognize someone from their own office, or at least typical character traits, in each of the Dunder-Mifflin employees: Kelly the gossip girl, Angela the uptight control freak, Creed the weird former hippie, Jim the practical joker, etc…
8. Alias (2001-2006) – Jennifer Garner made being a spy look so easy, fun, and cool! And that made for high octane entertainment every week during the best seasons of this spy/family drama. The supporting cast of characters was equally likeable and attractive. Vaughn, Dixon, Jack, Sloane, Will, Francie – all of these characters were brought to life by great actors. So while the covert operations and double-crossing intrigue are what defined the show, it was the character development that made it extra special.
9. 24 (2001-present) – The following events take place between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. At the beginning of each episode, Jack Bauer’s voiceover might as well say “the following events take place on a really long day where I will die twice, torture about 15 people, discover a mole at CTU, and eventually save the world – all without having to sleep, eat, or go to the bathroom.” This show is probably the most unrealistic one on tv, but we don’t watch it for realism. We watch it because it is intense, exciting, thrilling, and any other word you can think of that adds up to fun yet tense entertainment. Jack Bauer just might be the greatest action hero to ever appear on television. And his CTU counterparts aren’t too bad themselves!
10. Angel (1999-2004) – So I hear that CBS is coming out with a new show this fall about a private detective in L.A. who also happens to be a vampire, who tries to help the helpless. Hmmm… that’s the exact premise of Angel, which I think I can confidently say will remain the standard against which to measure all vampire P.I. shows. Angel had just the right mix of witty dialogue, humor, fight sequences, and a rag-tag team of investigators out to save the world. As with its parent show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel was about more than just creatures of the night. It was about standing up for what’s right, fighting against evil and injustice in the world, and depending on the people who love you to help you through it all.
Runners-up: Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights – These are both excellent shows, but I guess I couldn’t fit everything into my top 10.
What are your favorite shows of all time? Are you surprised by any of the shows I have included (or excluded) here?