May 25, 2010

Top Ten Television Dramas

Upon the conclusion of Lost I figured it incumbent upon me to put down a list of my favorite television shows. It's a tough list to come up with, particularly because there is such a large variety of genres. But also because a lot of my favorite shows are not yet complete, so it is hard to judge the entire body of work. I do not wish to compare apples to oranges, in that respect I will make two top ten lists. One for for pure comedies and one for dramas, dramedies, etc. No reality shows, no talk-shows, just pure scripted / semi-scripted television. I must add that obviously a list of one's favorite television shows is a purely subjective measure. If you do not like my list please comment with your own.

Honorable mentions to Dexter, Mad Men. I have not seen these shows, thus the honorable mentions. They are widely followed and crititically acclaimed. So trust me, they are on my list.

It's hard to argue with success. The original came to a close on monday night. It had been on the air for twenty years, the longest running crime drama on TV, and tied for the longest running drama. When a show gets such a following and produces multiple spin-offs, you know the formula is working. I don't religiously follow any of the shows, but I can't help myself if I find an episode starting when I'm browsing through the guide. These are their stories.

Probably more of a comedy than a drama. But still a great plot and plenty of drama. A newly widowed suburbanite mother of two turns to selling pot to support her family after the death of her husband. Over the course of the show, she finds herself increasingly entangled in crime. Great entertainment. Shane learning a life lesson:

An FDNY firehouse set in a post 9/11 New York. The show follows the men of the firehouse in the daily professional and personal lives. A dramedy in every sense of the word. Denis Leary plays the main character, Tommy Gavin, who struggles with his recent divorce, alcoholism, and the loss of his brethren on 9/11, especially his cousin and best friend. The firehouse's lieutenant's take on life:

A wicked drama about the lives of a close-knit outlaw motorcycle club. The show follows Jackson Teller, the thirty-something VP of the club, as he struggles with club loyalty, adjusting to life as a father, and the daily problems that arise from being an outlaw. Only through two seasons, the show has been picked up for a third by FX, and shows no signs of giving up, as viewership/ratings have been high. The season two trailer:

If you do not know what this show is, or is about, then shame on you. David Duchovny plays the lead in this comedy about a book writer always running into trouble with sex, drugs and women, while struggling to maintain a relationship with his ex-girlfriend and trying to raise his daughter in a less than normal environment for a teenager. Watch it!

Bryan Cranston (best known as the dad from Malcolm in the Middle, or the dentist Tim Whatley from Seinfeld, lol) plays a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer. With a pregnant wife and a disabled son, he has plenty of responsibilities. To pay the bills of his treatment and set up his family for the future he decides to put his extensive knowledge of chemistry to work cooking crystal meth. Mayhem ensues. Currently in its third season, this show is simply awesome, do whatever you can to watch it. The opening scene of the series:

The West Wing provides a glimpse into presidential politics in the nation's capital as it tells the stories of the members of a fictional presidential administration. These interesting characters have humor and dedication that touches the heart while the politics that they discuss touch on everyday life. The show is long over, but while on the air it was highly decarated, critically acclaimed, and widely followed. If you're into politics, get your hands on the DVDs.

3) Lost
Simply amazing. LOST follows the lives of survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious island. For those who have not seen it, a warning: if you plan to watch it clear your calendar for about three weeks, because if will consume you. I started watching after the fourth season had ended. I couldn't stop watching. I have seen it happen to many of my friends, they literally get LOST (I know its a brutal pun) in the drama. The show is set in the unknown, throughout the show the properties of this mysterious island are slowly revealed, and to fully understand the show you will need to accept the supernatural. While on the air, and probably forever, this show created a mainstream cult following, whereby fans would try to decipher the hidden meaning in the show.

Following characters on both the law enforcement and gangster sides of Baltimore's drug trade. As you watch The Wire you come to empathize with both sides and no real protagonist / antagonist is developed. Furthermore, the show draws countless parallels between the two sides. Each season focuses on a different theme, and this keeps the show fresh. In later seasons a political angle and a major Baltimore newspaper are thrown into the mix. The Wire is arguably the best show ever created, its the reason you pay for HBO, the reason to watch TV. Nothing supernatural, just real television, the closest thing to real life in a television series. When choosing the best television drama I will not choose between my two favorites. I just won't do it, lots of people have a favorite, but to me they are both so incredible that its not worth comparing. Here's the opening scene of the series:

Following the life of Tony Soprano, the head of a fictional mob, as he struggles to find a balance between his personal life and the mafia. The perfect crime drama, drawing from every great mafia movie including Goodfellas, The Godfather, Casino, etc. In theme and talent, as there is plenty of overlap in actors from the movies and the show. What's more is that James Gandolfini, while certainly an overwhelming presence and a perfect fit for the role of Tony Soprano, is a poet/artist/gentle soul in real life. He is just so dedicated to his craft that Tony Soprano was one of the more intimidating characters of all time.

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