First Up: Sam Williams
Gah—I’m so uncomfortable. How in the world am I supposed to choose the Best. TV Show. Ever!?
An 80-year-old should be sitting on this couch, on this laptop, half-watching Spongebob, and writing this article instead. An 80-year-old would have so much more knowledge. I’m still working on my 10,000 hours watching of TV’s best.
See, I wasn’t allowed to watch TV during the week when I was growing up. And I wasn’t allowed to watch adult shows (not porn, but something like Lost) until I was 18. Until I reached that draftable age, I watched mainly cartoons—hence the Spongebob watching at the moment—and sports, which I still watch a lot of.
Come college, I had my pick of TV shows to watch. What was it going to be? Cheers? Friends? Parks and Rec? BREAKING BAD? Nope. I chose to watch Family Guy all the way through (like 8 times in a row) before I moved on to watching American Dad.
Short anecdote: my then-fiancée (now my wife) introduced me to Family Guy, thinking that’d I’d enjoy it. Now, it’s basically banned from the house (apartment).
I only recently starting bingeing pretty much everything I can. So I have seen A LOT of TV since graduating from college in 2014. Yet I still feel that an 80-year-old who thinks of Mork & Mindy as newish TV would be a better judge.
That person has seen so much crap and so much good TV too. I wonder what they would pick.
THE “WHO I HAD TO CROSS OFF, BUT REALLY WANTED TO CONTEND” CATEGORY
Parks and Rec.
Parks and Rec is probably the best workplace comedy of all time. It’s funny, insightful, and has got a killer cast. I mean, come one! Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, and Chris Pratt? It had this ability to make you laugh while pointing out strange social conventions or the wildness of the political scene. Even their future 2017 jokes were funny, though it’s strange to see that even in a dramatized comedy, Parks and Rec 2017 wasn’t nearly as weird as real life 2017.
The trouble is, Parks and Rec is among a slew of workplace styled comedies. It follows the immensely popular Office and other rip-offs, so as per Rule 3, I had to take it off.
Biting, weird, hilarious, dirty. All of these things apply to the best The Simpsons-like Cartoon (I’m not putting Rick & Morty in that category). It helps that their Stewie character, Roger, is an alien, making his explicitly sexual jokes less uncomfortable, as compared to when a toddler delivers the same on Family Guy.
But it follows the trend of The Simpsons and such. So, off it comes.
THE “IT’S TOO EARLY TO TELL” CATEGORY
The angst. The visceral reactions. The willingness to go there. Rick and Morty proves unafraid to do anything, even break TV rules. I mean (SPOILERS) in season one, Rick and Morty turn everyone on the planet into giant insect-like creatures who want to have sex with and then kill Morty. They end up “fixing” this with, what would otherwise be, a cheap trick—going to another universe where they’re dead right before the events of the episode. The jokes, the creative outlook on science fiction, and the commentary on the modern family life make this show just fantastic.
It’s too early though. Rick and Morty is only 3 seasons in. In comparison, it took a while before The Simpsons and Family Guy became our favorite versions of those shows and of course, both those shows changed over time, leading to them not being in contention to this list.
Our first J.J. Abrams inclusion...
Some people liked the “Space Cowboy” thing called Firefly. But everyone likes the having sex with cowboy robot thing!
Seriously though, Westworld has woven into it’s story a 1984-like approach. We have to ask ourselves questions about what the future is going to be like and how we want to approach artificial intelligence, crime, and business ventures. What’s amazing to me, is that through all the sex, violence, and mystery, the first season of Westworld still managed to be about dealing with our emotions and our freedom. Excellent show.
But it is only in its first season, so, you know, too early.
THE “I’VE NEVER SEEN IT BUT I’VE HEARD IT’S GOOD” CATEGORY
THE “CONTENDERS” CATEGORY... finally
Here’s quick hits on all the Contenders on why they’re good, but why they didn’t win.
Cheers: Heartfelt, and well-acted. Cheers became a place you wanted to visit everyday too.
Why it didn’t win: It was on too long and the storylines towards the end felt repetitive.
Friends: I mean, this is probably the greatest TV show of all time. Witty, funny, Jennifer Aniston, “How you doin?” “Smelly Cat!” Ah, so good.
Why it didn’t win: Such solid writing in this, it almost did win. It was that close to winning. It’s hard to find fault with any of the major storylines. What ultimately made it a third place holder was the use of a laugh track (which I detest) and some gags that didn’t age well.
Batman: The Animated Series: Scoff if you will, but this is the best written superhero show and best written children’s TV show. The narrative surrounding Batman’s struggle to be Bruce Wayne and the absolutely riveting voice acting from Mark Hamill as the Joker make this the premier classic 90s cartoon.
Why it didn’t win: The normal faults of superhero plot points, plus some super cheesy dialogue.
Game of Thrones: Keeping you on your toes! At least for the four first seasons. It’s amazing that once GoT started winning Emmys, they stopped showing so much nudity. My goodness, they really injected nudity in the first season. It feels like the producers put the nudity in to capture male attention. Can’t you just hear the producers, “If we have a ton of hot chicks naked, a lot of guys will watch right?” “Well, they watch Bravo without the nudity, so yeah, that should work.”
Why it didn’t win: Really, the writing during the past season felled this show. Game of Thrones season 7 felt like the writers were pressed to get places in the plot quickly, so the characters had to get to places physically quickly. Too quickly, and even the casual fan was like, “HOW DID A RAVEN FLY FROM THE WALL TO DRAGONSTONE IN ONE NIGHT?”
Dr. Who: This show was going to win. It’s the longest running show ever. It has a great mix of campy and serious. It’s lovingly fun and bizarre and the David Tennant episodes are the three best seasons of TV I’ve ever seen.
Why it didn’t win: These most recent seasons with Peter Capaldi—whom I love as an actor—have been poorly written. The main companion for Seasons 8 and 9 was over important. It took forever for Steven Moffat and Co. to find Capaldi’s Doctor “moment.” The show tried to get more serious and became too dreary.
Lost: The mystery behind the bunker, the monster in the woods, and who would win the love triangle between Jack and Sawyer: it was all so compelling! The first two seasons of Lost rank up there as best seasons ever. The next four? Eh.
Why it didn’t win: Too many loose ends! The mysteries were so good, it was hard to do satisfactory reveals. Plus, the sixth season made it feel like what happened in the fifth season didn’t matter.
Archer: This was the show I was going to pick until I remembered the actual winner. Archer is smart. It’s incredibly crass, but smart. The jokes are creative, the action is actually interesting (and not just for a cartoon), and it’s just interesting action. Period. Archer made the decision to have continuity, unlike most animated shows, meaning those really funny/really bad Ray in a wheelchair jokes can keep happening. It also means the show can tackle issues like raising a child. Plus, Archer is one of the best-written characters on television. You hate him and love him and root for him even though he really should be in rehab/jail.
Why it didn’t win: Ask me tomorrow and I might choose Archer over [redacted]. I love this show.
New Girl: Incredibly funny and very relatable to my generation. Schmidt and Jessica bring this show to a whole ‘nother level.
Why it didn’t win: Lately, it feels like the show really belongs to Schmidt (like how Chandler and Monica owned Friends for a couple season), yet this past season really amped up the Nick/Jessica relationship instead.
Gilmore Girls: The best show to watch during autumn. Lorelei and Rory bring a much needed soft drama to the world. The show is the epitome of cozy. And the navigation of adulthood, childhood, and mother/daughter relationships make this one of the all-time best-written shows.
Why it didn’t win: The whole Lorelei eloping with Chris thing is something that I will never get over. It felt forced, rushed, and made to amp up fan interest.
THE “WINNER” CATEGORY
Sherlock: What makes Sherlock great is that it doesn’t oversaturate the viewer with Sherlock Holmes’ quirks. Unlike the Big Bang Theory, which hits you over the head with how strange Sheldon is, Sherlock gives you doses so it doesn’t become tiresome. Of course, having Benedict Cumberbatch as your lead actor with Martin Freeman as your sidekick also helps.
The time allotted to each episode also helps. It gives the show freedom to accomplish what a show in 40 minutes has to do in an hour and a half instead. The narrative elements of this show rely on the introduction of a mystery or problem, the bits of Sherlock’s quirks, the normality that Watson brings, the thrill of the chase, the problem solving skills, and the reveal of the solve.
What the writers accomplish in this show is a sense that Sherlock can be beaten. They continually surprise their viewers with how Sherlock solves or beats his adversaries. And yet, the show isn’t about the mysteries; those mysteries are a plate to give us the dish that is the Sherlock/Watson relationship. Pitting against each other and with each other, we get to watch Watson, a normal man (in other words, us the viewers) ride alongside an extraordinary individual and witness extraordinary events. That’s what attracts such a large following and that’s what makes Sherlock so great.