Friday, December 11, 2009

Best of the '00s in TV

Like every other TV critic on the planet, I've spent much of the last month preparing my list of the best TV shows of the last decade. In the end, my resolve was too weak to limit it to a single list - even if I were to do 30-plus entries the way Fienberg has been doing all month - and so get ready for what James Poniewozik calls the "Everybody gets a trophy!" approach.

So go read the introduction, where I muse a bit on why the '00s were so awesome, and lay out the groundrules for the lists, and then follow that to my lists of:
While I agonized over some choices - and have a feeling that a few of my selections (and/or omissions) will draw ire around here - it was a lot of fun to revisit all the shows I loved over the last 10 years, and to search for the best video clips to represent each one. I didn't always succeed in that ("House" season 1 footage was awfully hard to come by), but hopefully you'll have some fun wasting your day or weekend reading and watching all of what I put together.

And in case you're wondering what would be my top show regardless of genre or other sub-category, well... look at the picture I included here.

128 comments:

Aaron said...

Does Sleeper Cell count as a miniseries, if it aired 2 seasons?

Alan Sepinwall said...

The Emmys considered it a miniseries. And there have been miniseries with sequels before, like Lonesome Dove and Winds of War.

Chazz Goodtimes said...

I scrolled down to make sure you had the West Wing on there(I was worried because you didn't mention it during the podcast with Simmons when you discussed some of the best dramas). Not only was it there but you had a clip of my favorite scene from my favorite episode of the series. Totally made my morning thanks! I'd put the West Wing as 1a and The Wire as 1b as the best of the '00's.

Aaron said...

Good enough for me.

By airing the 2nd season over 2 weeks straight, they did a great job of keeping up the intensity.

ScottyG said...

Jersey Shore better make Best Reality, the show has ruined the word "situation" for me

Donlee Brussel said...

Hey Alan. Glad to see my suggestion of "Coupling" made the imports. Wasn't "Skins" something you really enjoyed too and is about to get remade?

JanieJones said...

Alan,
Excellent list! You were succinct and on target (even if you did have to do more lists).
I'm running late but three caveats, it's a pity Burn Notice could not have fit in on an honorable mention. To me, that show's writing and direction evolved so strongly in its' second season, it's hard ignore.
Damages' first season was amazing.
Second, Weeds was a good show. MLP and most of the supporting characters such as Perkins and Kirk provided hearty laughs and much amusement for me.
You did a great job! I miss some of the shows mentioned that have ended.

Mike C said...

Great stuff, Alan. I read through all the lists and look forward to watching some of the clips, especially that 30 Rock scene. This may even be the final kick in the butt to get me into "Band of Brothers".

Having just finished watching "Six Feet Under", I'm surprised there wasn't some trophy for its amazing finale.

baggsey said...

I don't think anyone is going to argue with your choices, Alan. I'd be interested in your take on integrating the "imports" list into the drame and comedy categories, as I cannot see the sense in separating them. I'd rate the UK office miles ahead of the US office in terms of innovation, edginess and humour and pathos - and I do like the US office.

Second, I'd like to have seen recognition of the series MI-5 ("Spooks" in the UK), now in its 8th season in the UK, and dropped by A&E for its perceived anti-American storyline in seasons 3 and 4.

Thomas said...

Great stuff! But... I can't help but feel that The Daily Show/The Colbert Report deserve some kind of honorable mention somewhere in there as well. I've no idea how often you watch them, but those two shows combined have undeniably had an impact on the newsmedia the past decade, and are at the very least a great way to keep track of the changes of the newsmedia. If that makes any sense.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Thomas, Daily Show was (very) high on the comedies list.

rosengje said...

Great list. There is something incredibly gratifying about seeing the universal acclaim for The Wire as best anything and everything.

Is there any possible way we can get a sense of what shows/seasons almost made the cut, particularly on the more specific list entries?

Tom said...

I was a little disappointed Angel wasn't included. I know it started in 1999, but other shows were included that started the same year (west wing, for example).

It would have been nice for Angel to have been in there somewhere.

Thomas said...

D'oh! My sincerest apologies, I completely overlooked it. I feel a bit like a jerk, now. ;) Either way, great list that I now agree even more with.

Steve said...

Glad to see LOST on your best dramas list, but "immortal pirates"? Do you know something about Richard Alpert we don't?

Dave said...

I trust your judgment, but I'm surprised that Chuck didn't make the best of the decade (either drama or comedy) based on the way you talk about it. Perhaps, like me, you're subject to hyperbole, but I can't remember you enjoying yourself more than season 2 of Chuck. So, if Freaks & Geeks can make it from one perfect season, seems like Chuck could make it for its near-perfect season 2, even if season one was just okay. At least over 30 Rock & Titus.

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan, agreeing with the other commenters- great list. Just a small nitpick. Lost began in 2004, not 2003.

Anonymous said...

I've always preferred The Colbert Report to The Daily Show, but I am apparently in the minority there. I find it both funnier and more insightful.

I was hoping that Damages would make the drama list. Great writing, great acting, etc. And how many dramas have there really been where the drama was between two female leads and was not a soap opera? Rare indeed.

Joe Beach said...

Alan, will there be a worst of the 00's list? Because man, there has been some really bad stuff made this past decade. (Looks in the direction of "Bionic Woman" and "Knight Rider" and certain episodes of "Dollhouse" and "I'm a Celebrity" and...)

Brandon Nowalk said...

Alan,
First, great lists. I think you covered nearly all the great shows of the 2000s (though, check out The Thick of It if you haven't).

Question: Are these ranked or sort of generally ordered?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Dave, I thought long and hard about putting Chuck in the #10 spot on the comedies list. In the end I couldn't, though, for the same reason that Breaking Bad didn't go on the dramas list even though its second season was one of the best overall seasons of the decade: it's just too soon, and the sample size is too small.

Freaks and Geeks is a special case. Not only did it not get to make more than one season, but that season is just so perfect in every way that it transcends any rule I could have made to restrict its positioning.

Even Josh Schwartz told me that he didn't think any one-season show should qualify for a best series list - with the exception of F&G.

But believe me: if Chuck had started a year earlier and the third season was in the ballpark of the second, it would absolutely be on the comedies list.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Question: Are these ranked or sort of generally ordered?

Yup. Descending order of greatness, from 1st on down.

Sam Sevr said...

Nice job on the lists. I'm glad season 2 of In Treatment made it. Your writing about season 1 was what got me to watch season 2.

I'm kind of surprised season 1 of Heroes didnt' make the list though. Yes its fall-off was more severe than some others, but I'd rank the 1st season up there with Lost's 1st season.

TMoss said...

I am so glad someone in this world also remembers the brilliant "Titus" -- although having recently reviewed the entire series, I have to disagree with the critique of it.

The show boasted a brilliant cast (especially the wonderfully imposing Stacy Keach), sharp writing, appropriately uncomfortable themes and main action that took place in one or two locations spanning the course of no more than an entire day in the classic style of "Raymond", "Roseanne" and "All in the Family".

I also applaud your inclusion of the aforementioned "Raymond". With so many comedies going the hip "Office" and "30 Rock" by the end of its run in 2005, it's nice to see a critic who still appreciates that style of sitcom enough to count it among the best of the 2000s where it belongs.

Jeff L said...

First, Alan, I want your job. You just got paid to spend a whole month watching the best shows of the past decade! Nice!

Second, great work. The next time someone says to me "Oh, we don't have a TV, it's all crap" I'm sending them this link. Every single thing you picked is worth watching.

But I gotta say I'm really, really shocked that Breaking Bad didn't make the best Drama list. It's a great show, and you've been a huge booster! Any particular reason you left it out?

zehava said...

Any "Best of the 00s list that does not begin with "The Wire" I cannot abide by. Good job Alan!

erin said...

I forgot just how ferocious Dexter was in Season 1, and how much they've watered down his character (I know people have complained about it, but I hadn't really SEEN it until I rewatched that clip). MCH was really a marvel in that role, and compared to the book, which is pretty sarcastic and campy, it's high drama. I was going to sell my copy of Season 1, but i might just go back and watch it again.

Anonymous said...

Thrilled to see Dexter Season 1 on the Honorable Mentions list. Groundbreaking, riveting television. But you are right that it was impossible to sustain the premise over multiple seasons.

Alan Sepinwall said...

But I gotta say I'm really, really shocked that Breaking Bad didn't make the best Drama list. It's a great show, and you've been a huge booster! Any particular reason you left it out?

I didn't leave it out. Keep reading the lists. It's there. And I explained why it is where it is in a comment above.

Brandy said...

I prefer Colbert to Daily show, so you aren't the only one, Anon.

Love that VMars made the list, but the clip had Piz. It's not that I was a militant LoVe shipper, I wasn't... but piz was not good. Although, I found the actor to be a saving grace of both Life As We Know It and Private Practice, both of which I stopped watching, but liked him in.

bsangs said...

My wife would like to know - and I quote - where the hell is "Sex and the City?"

Hard to argue with the lists, but since I enjoy arguing. :)

I'd have "Deadwood," "The Shield," "WW" and "FNL" ahead of "Mad Men." (But for two episodes, this past "MM" season was dull.) And I'd definitely replace "Veronica Mars" with "24."

As for the comedies, "Freaks and Geeks" is a stretch. I know you love it, but 18 episodes shouldn't earn it a place on anything but the "Brilliant but Canceled" list. "Curb" and "AD" rule the roost of comedies. And how can you ignore "South Park?" It's still brilliant. "Raymond" is better than "South Park?" Really?

I love these End of Year, End of Decade lists.

ken said...

I'm beyond thrilled that VM made the list! And it's a great list, by the way

AngryPerson said...

Where's ma Pushing Daisies at?

Adam said...

Well done. I'd have tried to fit Rome into the dramas list and Joe Millionaire on best reality, but that's for me to write my own lists in my own time. Provocative, thorough job, Alan.

mac35 said...

The only thing that would be in the neighborhood of an omission would be not having BBT S2 on the season's list. I hope the show or Jim Parsons at least will get some love in one of the other lists.

Overall though, great stuff! Glad to see Chuck S2 get a mention.

forg/jecoup said...

To see Gilmore Girls in the list is a pleasant surprise. I'm glad that a respected critic like you didn't just consider this show as something for the teens. It was a fun, delightful show to watch, the last two seasons were uneven but there are still bright moments to make up for the dragging love stories of the girls. And it did have a satisfyinf de facto series finale.

I agree with your choice on picking How I Met Your Mother season 2 as one of the best. It truly is. I still love the show but I hope they could find the season 2 magic they had

I'm quite sad Big Bang Theory didn't make it, maybe the next decade :)

Anonymous said...

Not that I expected it to happen, but I continue to be sad that The Venture Brothers isn't getting any (non-AV Club) end-of-the-decade love. It was consistently smart, funny and had its own brand of pathos, with unique and memorable characters and at least five or six episodes that I'd rank up there with any other comedy's best episodes this decade.

Don't know if you've checked it out, but it's such a smart show living at such a different pace than any other Adult Swim show (or other animated show), it's worthy of a DVR slot and some DVD love.

/Venture Bros rant. To return in the best of '09 list.

Jack said...

Raymond making any sort of 'best' list is horrifying. And I don't have anything to add for any of the meaningful lists, but Joe Schmo surely should have made the reality list. Or Beauty and the Geek just for being awesome and hilarious, if not at all profound.

George said...

I was also surprised to not see Six Feet Under in the list. I'd also put The West Wing higher, purely on the strength of Two Cathedrals, best TV episode this decade, hands down.

I'd put the US Office below Scrubs, then again I'd put Scrubs tied with AD. I like your reasoning for 30 Rock's low positioning, though I feel it should be higher.

F & G at number one!? I think you have to consider the difficulty f maintaining consistency and quality over a longer period of time. I mean what if Season 2 and beyond sucked a la Heroes or The OC. That said, it is the most uncompromising and real comedy of all time (along with The original Office).

Never saw Dave Chappelle's show, but I'm skeptical, just because it's a sketch show.

Imports: I gotta say I prefer Extras to The Office, anybody agree? Barry and Darren in Season 2 were especially hilarious and I think it should be commended for figuring out away to accommodate celebrities guest as well as making them funny, The Simpsons wishes it could do half as well.

I think Seasons 2 and 4 of House are better than series 1, also.

Other than that I'm really looking forward to watching the accompanying videos this afternoon

Dodort said...

No Torchwood for best miniseries (or honorable mention best season if you consider it a season)?

Anonymous said...

I second the commenter who would like some recognition for Spooks. A fantastic post 9/11 series that has held up far better than 24 over the years. While on 24, you know that no one except for Jack is safe, on Spooks, even the leads could go at any moment

Anonymous said...

I second (or third or fourth) Venture Bros. It tackles weightier themes than other animated shows; like Breaking Bad and the UK The Office, one of the major themes is failure and how people respond to failure. And it does it in the form of a Johnny Quest parody.

I'm kind of surprised season 1 of Heroes didnt' make the list though. Yes its fall-off was more severe than some others, but I'd rank the 1st season up there with Lost's 1st season.

I really enjoyed Heroes Season 1, but it's not in the same league as Lost Season 1. There were a lot of pacing problems and bad dialogue, and the characters were not nearly as well-defined as Lost's. The story was compelling, but Lost had the compelling story plus a lot more.

Jen said...

Great lists!!! I definitely enjoyed reading them and agree with a whole lot of your choices.

At some point recently, you had mentioned doing a best episode of the decade list - is that still coming, off, or did I miss it somewhere?

Christian said...

I mostly agree with your lists (although I haven't seen some of those series at all, so I can't talk about them, obviously).
The only one I miss from the import list (I figured it ran in the US) is the original UK version of "Life On Mars". That show was absolutely brilliant in it's 16 episodes.
Otherwise, great list!

Nick said...

Just curious Alan - did you ever get around to finishing the first season of Damages or did the pilot, which I know you didn't like, completely put you off?

I guess I just think there was much more characterization than you give it credit for. Danson and Close, especially, were given a good deal of material. And, looking back, nothing really struck me as dishonest or unfair in the end. Everything fit together really, really nicely.

Now, the second season, I admit, is another story.

Anonymous said...

Alan, any consideration for Generation Kill on the miniseries list? Would it be an honorable mention?

Elisabeth said...

On my personal list, Pushing Daisies winds up probably in the top 5 of the comedies list -- but it definitely deserved a spot on the "brilliant but canceled" list, if nothing else.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the lists very much. Thank you, Alan.

When these end-of-decade lists start turning up, I usually think that it might be better if we termed them "Favorite" rather than best.

People have different tastes in art and TV is no different. For example, a friend thinks 'House' is the best show on TV while I contend it's 'Sons of Anarchy'. What we really mean is that his favorite show is 'House' and mine is 'Sons'

I know part of the job description for a critic is to determine the quality of shows relative to each other. And that is of great value to a reader with limited time trying to pick new shows to watch.

I also don't think these type of lists ought to be limited to a set number. For example, in the reality category I would have maybe included in the best-of section 'Survivor', 'A-Race' and 'Top Chef' and left it at that. I'd create a separate category of "notable" shows in order to recognize 'Idol', 'Apprentice', 'The Bachelor'; shows that, in my view, were uneven in quality ('Apprentice') or dubious in how, at times, they were more about humiliation than about affirmation but had undeniable cultural impact.

A few shows I would include somewhere on theses lists:
"Over There"
"Generation Kill"
"Life"
"Rescue Me" (season 1)
"Kitchen Nightmares" (BBC version)
"Rome"

Rich
Denver

Sarah said...

Decent enough lists, I guess, except for the omission of the amazing Wonderfalls. :)

Alan Sepinwall said...

At some point recently, you had mentioned doing a best episode of the decade list - is that still coming, off, or did I miss it somewhere?

I abandoned that plan. There came a point where there were too many lists, and enough shows covered that I felt comfortable. It would have been nice to be able to include stuff like "The Body" (Buffy) or "Come Ye Saints" (Big Love) or the Life season 1 finale, but eventually even I felt I'd given out enough trophies.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Love that VMars made the list, but the clip had Piz.

As I said on Twitter, I spent a long time on YouTube looking for better VM clips and couldn't find a decent season 1 scene that was representative of the show. "Boom goes the dynamite" at least captured the snark and had Veronica talking about why she does what she does. I even asked Rob Thomas for suggestions, and in the end we agreed it was the best of the bunch.

Andrew said...

I'm surprised at the omission of The Colbert Report (at least in a footnote to The Daily Show's entry.) Stephen Colbert's performance as "Stephen Colbert" is consistently impressive. With the first episode I worried that the shtick wouldn't last to the second episode, but now 4 years later, the character is evolving and the show remains consistently funny. And though the satire is less direct than the Daily Show, both play to targetting different sides of the 24-hr news cycle media.

While The Daily Show hits more on the absurdities of the 24 hour news cycle coverage as well as the inevitable flip-flops by public officials and the reporters who cover them, The Colbert REport gets the cult of personality "journalism" of O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Joe Scarborough et al. As good as The Daily Show has been since Jon Stewart took over 10 years ago, at times The Colbert Report has been funnier.

In a decade where cable news and television journalism became so focused on chasing breaking tidbits, over-covering trivial news, and becoming even shoutier and less information, a fake news show is not only funnier, but more successful at speaking truth to power. And by acknowledging its extended its reach through the Colbert Nation, The Daily Show becomes even more important and funny.

Anonymous said...

I thought Jekyll or When the Levees Broke might make an appearance, but otherwise a nice list. I especially appreciate the love for Titus and Karen Sisco. I'd also give Dexter season two a slight edge, but tomayto tomahto.

LDP said...

Excellent lists, although the "best dramas" one reaffirms for me that I'm the only person on earth who didn't like The West Wing. I never bought it for a second, and whenever I watched I felt I was being lectured.

Anonymous said...

It seems like you wanted to stick to one season wonders for the brilliant but canceled list, but I'm sad Pushing Daisies didn't at least get an honorable mention.

Anonymous said...

Glad you recognized the brilliance of the Sorkin seasons of West Wing, 1-4. Two Cathedrals is one of my favorite episodes of any television series of all time. I was in 9th grade when WW started and really never followed the critics reaction to it, but whenever people talk about great series now, WW is usually omitted. Alan, what was and is the general feelings amongst you guys about West Wing? Personally, I can think of many TV dramas where all of the characters are so well developed and loved that on any given episode any of them can be the A story and not take away from the enjoyment of the show. (The Wire is the closest I can think of. *the wire was also unique because they changed the A plot almost every season. First time through I hated season 2, but on my second and 3rd time through developed a great appreciation for Ziggy, culminating in the epic scene after he shoots the greek and is sitting in his stolen ride and cant light the cigarette* The Soprano's lost me sometimes when the AJ/Meadow stories got too much time. Mad Men I love, but Betty is so much better in small doses, hated the season 1 scenes where she was talking to the shrink.)

Nicole said...

I agree with pretty much all of the lists, and am super glad to see Slings and Arrows on the import list. The barely disguised satire of the Stratford Festival was actually somewhat prescient of the events that occurred after the death of artistic director Richard Monette.

Anonymous said...

24 deserves a lot more than an honorable mention, in my opinion. The second and third seasons greatly improved upon the concept laid down by the first, and the first was brilliant. After the dump that critics took all over the show in its sixth season, a lot of people are quick to forget that the slump didn't start until two more of the greatest television seasons of this decade were produced.

Alan Sepinwall said...

24 season 2 had its moments, but it also had the cougar. Seasons 3 and 4 I stopped watching partway through because I was tiring of the formula. Season 5 was mostly great if you can ignore how completely the President Logan heel turn didn't track with what we had seen before of the guy.

TL said...

Good lists. And good job leaving "Six Feet Under" off!

Anonymous said...

@ Andrew: This is where I think The Colbert Report always gets short shrift; it's seen as an offshoot of The Daily Show or as a companion program, when it's really not. I think you recognize that to a point. But it's why Colbert really never gets his due.

The Colbert Report is pure satire with a central satirical character. You get that, obviously. And I am so thrilled that you pointed out that Colbert can skewer what cable news has become in a much more damning way than Daily Show can.

I think it's actually far more difficult to do what Colbert does, to keep it going this long, and to make it so incredibly funny every single night. The Daily Show is the John Stewart Show. They may as well abandon The Daily Show moniker as it was only ever meant to corral Kilborne's audience. It's John Stewart being John Stewart. The out of studio pieces (since Colbert left) are often atrocious. Even Stewart admits that those pieces only exist to give him and his writers a break. When I watch The Daily Show, sometimes I laugh all the way and sometimes I wish I had just gone to bed already. But Colbert has me laughing for nearly all of every single show.

The Colbert Report is all Colbert. I don't know how he keeps it up, but I am forever grateful that he does!

Comedy is always a personal taste, but I think Colbert has set himself a much more technically difficult track. His goalposts are higher and smarter. And he's killing it!

Hatfield said...

Only through the dramas list, but as always, you done good, Sepinwall. I would have pushed Deadwood up to #2 and left everything else the same, but I'm clearly obsessed. I was just recently on YouTube, looking up Deadwood clips to send to my girlfriend (who already wants to watch the whole thing again, she loves it so), and I watched the one you chose twice. McShane + Milch's writing was a treat, episode after episode.

Anna said...

I'm sad "Pushing Daisies" didn't make the Brilliant But Canceled list, but otherwise, great job! Yay "Slings & Arrows"!

Amy said...

I'm very glad that you included the honorable mentions of specific seasons. I had forgotten how good the first seasons of 24 and Dexter were (not withstanding the cougar attack!), and I'm glad there was space for that kind of temporary innovation.

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, do you like Firefly personally, or did you include it in the list because of the fan response?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Out of curiosity, do you like Firefly personally, or did you include it in the list because of the fan response?

No show is on there because of fan response. All are there because of my personal preferences. In certain cases (that and Chuck), I mentioned fan response to describe the passion the shows inspired in their audiences, which is not normal.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to say HBO got shortchanged, but what about Six Feet Under, Rome, Gen Kill, or John Adams?

With animation, Futurama and South Park thrived during this decades, to heights not imaginable if your only impression of them was from when they first came out. The Venture Brothers is also the second best show created by a New Jersey native on TV.

Frank said...

Great list. Bit surprised to not see Six Feet Under and Breaking Bad on it. But seeing how you explained why latter didn't get a spot, I understand it.

Julia said...

For me the only glaring omission was the absence of "Life on Mars" on the best imports list. Alan, I'm curious. Did you not see it or did you discount it for some reason?

Alan Sepinwall said...

As I've said, I loved the first episode of Life on Mars, and I loved the finale, but too much of the in between didn't really work for me. It felt too close to an actual '70s cop show at times, much as I enjoyed Simm and Glenister.

Cameron Hughes said...

Raymond? Ugh. One of the most banal sitcoms ever. Romano is devoid of charm and Patricia Heaton is terrible

Steven Timberman said...

Solid lists, and I'm if I ever publish mine they'll look quite similar.

My only real disappointment was paying tribute to Skins. Certainly it could have made it's way... somewhere?

Juliette said...

I would have to add Sex and the City, whose best episodes were definitely in the noughties, and Rome. I would also add the British Dancing with the Stars, Strictly Come Dancing (not being in the US, I haven't seen the US version).

Andrew said...

@Anonymous (1:17 PM) Given that The Colbert Report won a Peabody Award, Emmys and TCA Awards, I don't think that you can argue that Colbert hasn't gotten his due. And particularly for Colbert as a performer-- he carries the show and does it in character. Considering that the Emmys eliminated the Best Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program award this year (which Colbert shuld undoubtedly have won), perhaps the Emmys do have something against Colbert Nation?

But you can definitely consider it as an offshoot of The Daily Show, because it's part of the same Fake News organization. Jon throws to Stephen at the end of most episodes of The Daily Show and the two shows do (or did at one point) work together to make sure that their bits don't overlap with each other's. For a best of the decade list with limited slots, I'd say it's fair game to consider their impact together. After all, without The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, you never have The Colbert Report.

Any decline in quality of the Daily Show field segments may have more to do with savvier subjects than with the quality of correspondents. Carrell and Colbert were able to do field segments for TDS before it was as well known. Subjects that might make great subjects for field pieces now know that The Daily Show is a comedy show.

Bix said...

I gave up on Spooks after S5. The first three seasons were fantastic (aside from some odd quirks like the terrible resolution to the S1 cliffhanger) and S4 was good, but the addition of Roz as an incredibly unlikeable female lead and the show being less grounded in reality turned me off. Has the show rebounded? At its best, I loved the show (the climactic scene of the S3 finale is one of my favorite TV scenes ever), so I'd be glad to watch again if it's regained some of its old form.

Anonymous said...

@Andrew: Yes, Colbert has certainly received some notice and awards for his outstanding work.

And yes, it is a complicated knot to untangle between The Report and Daily.

Yes, John and Stephen do still work to be sure that they aren't stepping on one another with their coverage of news items. They've both freely expressed it in interviews. And again, you are right that Stewart 'throws' to Colbert to hopefully transition one show's viewership to the other. A lot of those phenomena are Comedy Central's bidding.

I guess where I really feel the two shows are different, and perhaps I articulated it poorly, is that The Daily Show is primarily John Stewart doing his thing. And, as you rightly mentioned, Colbert has created a character who carries his show completely.

Both shows mine the foibles of politicians and cable news for laughs, but they do it in different ways. I still think that Colbert has chosen the harder course and been more consistently funny. (Sounds as though you may be in agreement here.)

It just bothers me when reviewers, critics, award panels, etc. look it as the John Stewart Daily Colbert Report, as though they are one animal. Because they are really distinctly different. I see you understand and appreciate the difference.

And I don't mean to presuppose that Alan has thought of them as one, hour long show, although many, many do. I think Alan's too bright and observant for that. But I don't understand why The Report is always in the shadow of The Daily Show. To me the Report is smarter and funnier, but it's the younger of the two shows that Comedy Central has worked overtime to link in the minds of viewers.

Somehow The Report doesn't seem to be reviewed on its own merits, but is always seen as an extension of a very different show. Both shows are funny and both review the news of the day, but that's where the comparisons end. Very different shows IMO.

I think you are with me on this, mostly. I may not be explaining it well.

filmcricket said...

I'm sorry too not to see "Pushing Daisies" and "When the Levees Broke," and I heartily disagree about "Raymond" (I always thought it was far more insulting to Italian/American families than "The Sopranos" ever was) but otherwise, good lists.

@ Bix: I only saw the first two seasons of "Spooks/MI5", but to me it suffered from inconsistent writing and pacing problems practically from its inception. I enjoyed the episodes I saw a lot, but I spent a lot of time thinking "That could have been cut... and that... thanks for saying the same thing three different ways, Peter Firth."

Anonymous said...

I think you should have placed PTI under best reality show -

Anonymous said...

great list. had my faves, the wire, sopranos, lost, arrested development, but also SO glad to see recognition for gilmore girls and chapelle show (both of which haven't made it on to the majority of best of lists). hope the next decade gives us tv half as great as the aughts!!!

Steve said...

loved the lists Alan and great clip choices, especially for The Wire.

I thought South Park should have made the list. It is one of the most brilliant shows on television.

The fact that Extras was on Best Imports... does that mean it wasn't in your Top 10 overall?

I would put SP and Extras in the Best comedies over Scrubs and Titus.

You should do a Best of Characters list.

Alyson said...

I was thrilled to see Gilmore Girls on the list, as well as Extras. Count me in the camp that prefers it to the original Office. (Though I love both.)

I was surprised to see no Sex and the City, as I think it only got better with age. Also, while this show certainly divides people, I would have put Six Feet Under on the list. yes, it was pretentious, but all the actors were so excellent, as was the writing.

BTW Anonyomous, it's JON Stewart.

Neko said...

Great lists. You covered plenty of favorites, and now I've got a great list of shows to pick up on DVD and catch up on.

The only shows I would add, I think, are Six Feet Under (certainly one of my top dramas of the decade), Carnivale in the Brilliant but Canceled list, and Rome Season One in the honorable mentions. Season Two was horribly uneven and poorly paced (though I still loved it), but season one was flawless.

JanieJones said...

Alan,
I would have loved to have seen PTI somewhere on the list-agree with Anon 4:14. I try and catch Around the Horn (amusement) and PTI whenever I can. My fiance loves PTI and I started watching some years ago along with a ferocious sports fan friend who has discerning taste.
I envy your job sometimes. Again, I love to see a respected television critic put a wonderful together a list of great television shows. it must have been difficult to some degree.

wjm said...

Ahhhhh.....Firefly.

I'm so pleased to see the Gilmores listed, as well as West Wing.

And I agree with Neko that Rome's first season was bloody brilliant.

Mike said...

Alan,

Thanks for an interesting list. I am glad "The Wire" topped it. It seems to be near the top of most critics' lists, which raises the question: how did it never get a single emmy nomination? By season four or five, it must have been on people's radar. Yet, Boston Legal got the nod. Crazy. Any insight on that?

A couple of other thoughts: I love "Freaks and Geeks" too, but I can't see putting its ten episodes ahead of the Daily Show's 1500. And the Daily Show had such a cultural impact: three indecision seasons, coming back from 9/11, putting Crossfire out of business. You don't have to justify your decision, but just curious if you counted any of those factors in your judgment.

Finally, you mentioned not seeing State of Play. It's very well acted and paced, but has some serious flaws.

Happy New Decade. Let's hope Treme is just as great.

Tyroc said...

"Raymond"? Really? Yuck.

And I would really consider "Gilmore Girls" a drama or at least dramedy more than a comedy. Same with "Freaks and Geeks." Even if both shows had lots of laughs, they had many more dramatic moments.

Otherwise lots of great choices of course.

Missing comedies:

The Office (BBC)
Party Down
Flight of the Conchords
"That '70s Show"
Peep Show (BBC)
Coupling (BBC)

TMoss said...

Oh Alan -- what about "Six Feet Under"? How disappointing.

I agree with Tyroc about "Coupling", but not about "Raymond".

belinda said...

Reading this and the various best of the decade list from other critics, it's a little sad why some of the best shows (not even of the year, but of the DECADE) never get their well deserved Emmys/Golden Globes in their respective years. Oh well. At least they have the Sepinwallys!

It is interesting to see that (did I miss any?) only Gervais (The Office and Extras), Apatow (with Undeclared and F&G) Simon (The Wire and The Corner)... and Burnett(!, for Apprentice and Survivor) got more than one 'slot' in your lists. For that reason, I wish I didn't see the Apprentice on the list. :D

I also wonder which particular shows that were on the cusps of these lists but ultimately didn't make it?

belinda said...

Oh, and, ha! I kind of love that even though it was mentioned before that Dexter would never be in a top 20 or even 30 of the decade list, it did end up getting an honorable mention! Aw.

Anonymous said...

So thrilled to see "The Wire" as #1. Just a fantastic show. And thanks for the reminder about "Titus." I remember really enjoying that one.

I agree with an earlier poster that I wouldn't really consider "Freaks and Geeks" a comedy. It always felt more like a drama with a sense of humor to me.

Shows I most missed in the Brilliant but Canceled category: "Boomtown" and "Wonderfalls."

Mike F said...

Overall, thought you nailed the dramas...and that's clearly what you enjoy most (as do I)...and that's why I read you religiously

Comedy, by its nature, is much more subjective and there'll never be universal agreement

Wondering though if you are the best person to put out a reality list...my guess is you don't watch very much reality tv...at least not entire seasons...apart from American Idol.

Alan, have you ever seen Hard Knocks on HBO? how does that not qualify for one of the best reality shows of the decade...is it not included because of sports...also, curious to know if you considered Project Greenlight...did think you nailed it with project 1 of the Apprentice and your diagnosis of how that show went downhill so quickly

I blame NBC more than Mark Burnett...because they always promoted the heck out of the drama, even back then...and not the real intellectual nature of season one...seems a distant memory, but the show was serious business at first

Bix said...

@filmcricket-

Spooks was never perfect, but I loved it as a spy show more realistic than what we get here. There were some interesting plotlines (the nuclear disaster drill) and the acting was strong (with some great guest stars, most notably being Hugh Laurie's awesome appearances and Tony Head in the first season). You're right that it was always inconsistent. The bad stuff was always inexplicably bad (like the resolution of the first season finale being "I guess they're bad at making bombs") and the second season finale's over-done plot.

Alan Sepinwall said...

In terms of classifying Freaks and Geeks, I asked Paul Feig, and he said they always considered it a comedy first, with the pathos laid on top of that.

Anonymous said...

There's some stuff from PBS that I would have liked to see on the best miniseries list, like Cranford and Bleak House.

Liam said...

Freaks and Geeks should be in Brilliant but Canceled right?

Thank you for NOT putting 24 on the best list. Everyone I know gushes over that show but I think it is average at best.

All in all great list! Coupling and Extras are two amazing shows.

Chalmers said...

When I saw the "Brilliant But Canceled" category, I held out hope for "The Comeback."

jd said...

Thanks for including "Karen Sisco" on your "Brilliant-but-Canceled" list. There are very few television shows whose early demise I mourn, and this show is one of them. The cast was absolutely cool (Carla Gugino, Robert Forster and Bill Duke", and the writing and atmospheric setting were stellar. Damn shame that the series isn't available as a DVD box set...

(Btw, I would have included "Now and Again" on the "Brilliant-but-Canceled" list, but only half of its sole season aired in the aughts. I STILL want to know what happened to the Eggman.)

Anonymous said...

My only quibble - I found Dexter Season 2 to be more engaging than Season 1. Lila was annoying but drove part of the plot well. And the ending was amazing because it led to those scenes between Doakes and Dexter. Perhaps I need to re-visit the series though to put season 2 in context. It's definitely gone downhill since then.

Number Five said...

Thanks for the lists, Alan. For one it made me realize how many recent great shows I still haven't gotten around to watching!

Another couple reasons for TV's creative growth:

- as Alan observed, the audience has splintered from watching 3 to hundreds of channels and shows don't have to play to the lowest common denominator anymore. But also, the sheer quantity of TV is now so high (and Americans watch more TV on average than ever), that even assuming the ratio of Sturgeon's Law is fixed (90% of everything is crap), the odds are in favor of a higher number of great shows.

- audiences can handle increasing narrative complexity. One of Steven Johnson's most prominent examples in "Everything Bad is Good for You" to illustrate this was tracing the evolution from Starsky and Hutch to Hill Street Blues to Lost. This doesn't automatically mean better writing, but it pushes the ceiling much farther upward.

Mara said...

Great list, Alan. Once again you confirmed why I think you're the best TV critic around. I loved that you included Veronica Mars, because despite some of its later flaws, it is still one of the most entertaining and witty shows I've ever seen. I hope Kristen (and Enrico and Jason) find material worthy of them soon.

TrueBlood said...

Well, I think True Blood is better than mad Men. Perhaps Alan Sepinwall should blog about that show more often.

Anonymous said...

great to see Sleeper Cell made the list! I loved the first season. To me, it was really the thinking man's 24.

Anonymous said...

I really can't believe that "Pushing Daisies" isn't somewhere on these lists -- is it just a taste disagreement with Bryan Fuller, as "Dead Like Me" (at least season one) also gets no mention?

Or is this a case for Papin County's Most Famous Private Detective and company?

The Wife said...

Wonderful lists Alan! Thanks so much for taking the time to compile them. I agree with so many of the choices, that I'm planning to fill my Netflix queue with those series I haven't yet seen.

I agree with those commenters who would have liked to have seen Pushing Daisies on the list, but that's my only minor quibble. Loving the love for Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, BSG, Friday Night Lights, Arrested Development and Freaks & Geeks.

Interesting analysis about the increase in quality of shows resulting from the splintering of audience meaning a focus on actual quality rather than on watering down a show by trying to be accessible to the lowest common denominator. This has resulted in a great leap in quality. Nearly a decade later, episodes of Freaks & Geeks and West Wing stand up to repeated viewings. Similarly, the surge in quality shows on basic cable channels (e.g. FX and AMC) has been a boon to viewers who don't have HBO.

Thanks again! May we be blessed with similarly strong television in the next decade!

eladnarra said...

As I've said, I loved the first episode of Life on Mars, and I loved the finale, but too much of the in between didn't really work for me. It felt too close to an actual '70s cop show at times, much as I enjoyed Simm and Glenister.

I have to say, one of the reasons I liked Life on Mars was because of this--the times that the future pushed itself into the picture, either in the Test Card girl or in the sounds of the hospital room, were creepier and had more impact as a result. You found yourself waiting for the next "contact," just like Sam.

I'm curious--did you think the same of Ashes to Ashes?

Apart from that, I'm really glad to see "Coupling" on the imports list. It never fails to entertain, staying funny even with second (and third, and fourth) viewings. The various devices Moffat uses (like the split screen in "Split") are integral to the episodes as opposed to pretty trimmings, and the writing is spot on. The few friends I've turned on to Coupling wondered why they'd never heard of it before; I can only hope people reading these lists who haven't seen it will be moved to rent a DVD and get just as hooked.

And I have to say, I've never been quite this excited for the next season of Doctor Who. "Blink," anyone? ^_^

Veronica Mers said...

I love your lists! I am completely obsessed with several shows on your list...VM, FNL, BSG Lost, Mad Men, AD, Office UK. You particularly made my day for the VM love. And you've given me ideas for shows to watch on DVD in 2010, particularly The Wire (I know, I know...I am SO late to this party) and Deadwood.

Alan Sepinwall said...

For those asking about Pushing Daisies, it might have made the Brilliant-But-Canceled list if that had run to 10 spots. Ditto Generation Kill if that list were longer (as it was, I preferred Band of Brothers as a war story and The Corner as a Simon/Burns production). But I think I named 51 shows in those different lists, and, again, needed to stop giving out trophies or else they would seem much less meaningful.

Hatfield said...

Well, this debate always ends up being like an MVP or Cy Young race--even if you give credit to or are known to be a fan of a show, the show's supporters will want it higher, and the detractors will want it lower. Keith Law knows your pain. Overall, I think the lists are really strong, even if I have quibbles. Though, your plan to put them all up at once because you won't be around next week didn't pan out for me and my office job; I ate it all up pretty quick. CA's tax dollars at work!

the Stanfield Org. said...

Alan- Thanks for the lists, good work, especially on the best dramas list, which virtually overlaps with my 1-10 selections (think I'd replace VMars and West Wing with Breaking Bad and Rome, w/ those 2 shows at 12-13 after 24, but that's just splitting hairs).
I diverge a bit on the comedies, agree w/ the other commenters who think F&G should have headed the 1-and-done list, Colbert should have been on there/is stronger than The Daily Show, and Raymond ahead of 30 Rock is ludicrous, but these are of course just my opinions. Also really think FOTC season 1 should have cracked the Best Honorable Mention Seasons list.

Anonymous said...

What about Robbery Homicide Division? Granted Tom Sizemore isn't the nicest of guys, but come on a Michael Mann TV series?

Also, The Unit was good, if only for the first two seasons and Mamet's dialogue.

7s Tim said...

As a fan of The OC, I figured you would have at least found the first season of Laguna Beach decent. It did a better job of showing real people (despite how fake and recreated later seasons and spin off became). The fact that it edited reality into a drama and followed a group of friends/frenemies and not a bunch of strangers changed the MTV reality show dynamic in an incredibly important (in terms of impact) way. And regardless of what she bacome in subsequent shows, Lo was gosh darned hilarious in that first season.

Abhishek said...

No love for Knights of Prosperity?

Tyroc said...

If the brilliant Paul Feig classifies Freaks & Geeks as a comedy, who am I to disagree?

One of the best shows of the decade no matter how you classify it.

renton said...

I mean this with all sincerity. Thank you for saving me the time of coming up with my own list, particularly in the drama category. I can just tell people to check yours because it's so similar to mine.

Thanks for the hard work on this posting and all you do for this site.

srpad said...

Thanks for the lists Alan.

I agree pretty much with you lists (although I must admit, I have yet to watch The Wire [I keep planning to make it a summer viewing project]). The only minor quibbles off the top of my head:

I felt 24 peaked with Season 2. Rewatching season 1 after season 2, the story for Season 1 felt just too small.

I was hoping Rome would get a shout out somewhere. It certainly gets an A for effort.

I understand this was a lot of work for you, but I was really looking forward to the idea of a Best Episode list.

It's funny. Over time, my frustration over the Sopranos finale has turned to mirth (I have learned to appreciate that David Chase basically kicked the audience in the crotch for liking such unlikable people and now find it funny) but for the BSG finale, it just got worse. Not for the the whole giving up technology and setting up shop on Earth in our distant past part which seemed to anger some people. I expected that from literally the first episode. But the whole "you know every thing we wrote ourselves into corner with? Well G-d did it. Or angels or something. Just run along and be afraid of robots" part. And it has soured my enjoyment of the entire series as a whole.

Well, thanks aagin for the lists. Also I guess this is as good place as any to wish everyone a Happy Holidays!

annie said...

Thanks for including Angels in America on the miniseries list! I was especially pleased to see that and Veronica Mars. And West Wing, but that wasn't really a surprise.

I'm also more motivated to see In Treatment season 2 now.

Pamela Jaye said...

Happy here.
Never thought Grey's would show up at all, was wondering where House was.

Turned out everything I was looking for was in Best Seasons (except Scrubs, which was in Comedies)

So: Happy.
Our Library system seems to have lost season 5 of Gilmore Girls. sigh.

Anonymous said...

No Jekyll on the imports list?

Also, didn't lost start in 2004, not 2003?

Anonymous said...

Although I enjoyed both Veronica Mars and Titus seasons 1, I thought seasons 2 & beyond were terrible. They should have stopped both shows at one season.
two shows I wished were mentioned would have been Grounded For Life, for being the first show I remember to use the Time shifting storytelling method almost every episode. People are so used to it now, they have forgotten when no one was doing it.
The other show I wish was mentioned was Once and Again Season 1. I liked how it was an esemble cast but every character got an episode where the focus was on them and the rest of the cast was just in a supporting role.

Joseph said...

Great lists, Alan. I put Sons of Anarchy and Sleeper Cell on my Netflix queue based on your descriptions.

No love for Spaced as an import, though?

GerfalconCP said...

I realize there's already lots of comments Alan, but I'm curious what your position is on "Six Feet Under". Everyone has differences of opinion, so I'm curious what turned you off to the series. It's seriously the only thing on these lists that I was surprised was absent.

Alan Sepinwall said...

On Six Feet Under, it's one of those shows that would have been mentioned had I done a Best Episodes list (for the finale), but despite loving Michael C. Hall and really enjoying parts of the series, it was never great enough as a whole to merit real consideration on the best dramas list, and there was never any one season that I found strong enough from start to finish to consider for the seasons list.

sveinnbirkir said...

What about Generation Kill? Surely that must warrant a mention on the best miniseries list?

Joseph said...

Alan addressed Generation Kill in an earlier post above:

For those asking about Pushing Daisies, it might have made the Brilliant-But-Canceled list if that had run to 10 spots. Ditto Generation Kill if that list were longer (as it was, I preferred Band of Brothers as a war story and The Corner as a Simon/Burns production). But I think I named 51 shows in those different lists, and, again, needed to stop giving out trophies or else they would seem much less meaningful.

Annie T. said...

Alan - I'm rewatching Firefly for the first time since it aired on Fox. I completely forgot that Christina Hendricks was a guest star. She was great!

Narrim said...

I have to say that not much of this list was surprising given how often I come here, though Chuck and HIMYM's absence baffled me until I saw later categories.

The biggest surprise for me was The Apprentice, and I laughed out loud to see Season 1 next to it. That first year was something interesting and special. Sure, most everyone remembers Omarosa and the incident with the plaster, or Sam's wild-eyed stare as he's fired, but the first names that pop up for me are always Troy and Kwame. They were the heart of the show. They were charming, likable, smart, capable guys who made it close to the end, but were upset by Boyfriend Bill (ah, ye olden days of TWoP reviews, how I only miss the Colin/Christie breakdown... also, thanks for the memories with that clip!!!)

Great, great year to remember. Thanks for bringing so much of it back to light.

Jeff said...

I'm a big fan of most of the comedies you have listed (F&G, Chappelle, AD and The Office), but I think you missed one. I'm guessing that you have never seen It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia? It would probably be close to the top for me. It's one of the funniest shows I have seen in a long time.

Alan Sepinwall said...

No, I've seen plenty of Always Sunny. I prefer these shows to it, as well as several others that missed the cut.