Thursday, September 29, 2005

Top 10 Television Shows

"So what are your top 10 t.v. shows?" -Joyce

Such a simple question, such a complicated answer. You have to think about it - top 10 of all time, or top 10 on the air today? And what are we rating them on? There are so many things to consider. I just want to say, Joyce, that this was the most challenging question I've ever had to answer, and a pleasure to tackle. I wish I had four hands, I'd give you four thumbs up. Instead, I submit to you: The Top 10 TV Shows On the Air Today, judged by innovation and entertainment value. Mind you, this list is in no particular order, so don't get mad because #3 should be where #8 is. I just did this as I went along.

1. Arrested Development. This show is a multiple Emmy winning, grass roots cult favorite. It is in the top 10 because it is such a brilliant concept. For those of you who haven't seen it, it's a sitcom posing as a documentary (hence the shaky camera work) narrated by the director, who just happens to be Richie Cunningham - I mean, Ron Howard. The characters are original, the plotlines are ridiculous to the point of hysterical, and it's smart. What's not to like?

2. Family Guy. I'm really showing my love for Fox here. This show is more than just a cartoon. It uses the medium to push envelopes that live-action shows just can't, such as the nudity envelope, the racism envelope and the sexism envelope. It ridicules established social convention, which I'm always a big fan of, and the family is a lot more normal than the Cleavers. I mean, the Cleavers are a great family, but they're not real. At least this family (with the exception of the talking dog) is more reflective of an actual family. Plus - Stewie Griffin is one of the greatest characters ever conceived. I don't care what anyone says - that kid is great.

3. Desperate Housewives. Now, I confess that I'm sick of Eva Longoria and I don't see what's so great about Teri Hatcher, but you can't deny the show has got some real power behind it. The fact that it can draw in viewers from so many places and walks of life - my 78-year-old dad likes the show, and believe me, he is hard to please. Not only that, but this show is not just a celebration of loose morals and loose women, it's more like a pictorial of American life (for some!), and is unashamed by portraying women who have flaws. On a personal level I can't stand the show, but we're not judging these on my personal taste. It's smart, it's different, and you can't deny it.

4. Lost. I admit to never watching the show, but the concept alone makes it top 10-worthy. The shipwreck theme is not new, but the way the plot keeps its wide body of viewers interested every single week without fail means they must be doing something right. I also find it fascinating that they weave plot clues into the show, for example, the winning lottery numbers story. Also, bringing together such a large ensemble cast and keeping all the characters fresh is a hard thing to do, and they do it every time. They're also not afraid to kill of a hot/potentially popular character to be true to the story. Keeping it real is job #1.

5. The Daily Show. A lot has been said about The Daily Show, but sardonic newscasting is my favorite cup of tea. This show has a knack for giving you fake news, but somehow telling you more about the way of the world than the real news does. It's a self-admitted joke, but is still legitimate enough to do interviews with political figures and ask the difficult questions. You know, the ones that make the pundit squirm in their seats. And then the force them to sit there and answer it. I don't really care about journalistic integrity - I want to see the hypocrites of the world puckered at both ends. It also spawned the careers of some of the most brilliant comedians of our time, including Mo Rocca, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carrell.

6. Entourage. I think it's easy for HBO to get the best shows because they don't have to worry about profanity, nudity, you know, all the things young men like. But regardless of all that, Entourage is a deliciously voyeuristic look at the backstory of Hollywood. Jeremy Piven is a brilliant comic, and it's about time he was given a successful vehicle. And if you've ever seen the show, Johnny "Drama" is another one of those characters that you don't know where they came up with him, but holy crow is he funny. Also, the use of Mandy Moore as her(fake)self was great. It's like fake reality inside a sitcom.

7. Law and Order. This program is the originator of so many other shows, including the entire CSI franchise and NYPD Blue. It's as old as the hills, and its staying power alone is what makes it great. It also has a great cast, no matter which L&W you're talking about, not to mention the sheer number of successful spin-offs it spawned. Vincent D'Onofrio, Chris Meloni, Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T all do cop mystique perfectly - not overdone, as so many others have. Oh, and by the way, how in the world did Ice-T go from the rapper of "Cop Killa" fame to portraying a detective? God has a quirky sense of humor. P.S. We miss you, Jerry Orbach.

8. My Super Sweet 16. Some of you are thinking, "Is she serious?" Some of you are thinking, "What is that?" If you've never seen it, check MTV out - now bear with me while I explain. This show chronicles how these rich, privileged girls plan and execute their sweet 16 parties. The children really aren't as disturbing as the parents are, though. It is they who are the enablers, who foot the $10,000 bill for the most lavish party on the block. It's really a brilliant cross-section of elite life, although I'm sure that's not how it was originally intended. The sociological implications are staggering - the parent who gives in to their child's incessant whining because she wants her first car to be a Land Rover, or the family's desperate quest to make sure that their party is better than the best friend's. It's a sick train wreck I can't stop watching.

9. Most Extreme Elimination Challenge. You may never have heard of this show, unless you are a fan of Spike TV. Picture this: a Japanese game show of physical challenges. Not really that hysterical on its own, but add a quippy, nasty American overdub and you have yourself a show. It's hard to make a program where all you can control is what the people say, but it worked out great for these people. I can't say it's the smartest show I've ever seen, but I never watch an episode where I'm not crying laughing. That makes it worthy.

10. Mythbusters. I love this show if only because, as one of the most curious people on earth, there are certain things that I've always been dying to know with no way of finding out. These guys use science to find out if urban legends are true or false. For example, they tested the theory that if you're in an elevator, and it starts to free fall, you should jump just before it hits the bottom so you won't get squished. That was proven to be very false, and it's fascinating to watch how they do it. Go check it out and learn something.