Tag Archives: 30 Rock

Best TV of the 2000s

In 2020, will there be TV anymore? Who knows. But on the off chance that the death of television hasn’t been greatly exaggerated and is indeed imminent, we can at least celebrate the good twilight years that were the 2000s. In case TV fades into oblivion or merges with the Internet or something, this wasn’t such a bad decade to have ended on.

Here are my picks for the best TV shows of the decade:

1) Friday Night Lights (NBC, 2006-present): This show, based on a movie that was based on a book, became the best adapted television show of all time. More than a high school football show, FNL is beautiful rendered, stunningly mature look at Middle America. It’s close to perfect on almost every level and one of the great dramas of the contemporary network era.

2) Lost (ABC, 2004-present): There’s nothing else like Lost on TV, though there have been plenty of imitators. The Twin Peaks-esque sci-fi mystery show has gotten better in its five seasons, and its time-traveling, shape-shifting perplexities only get more interesting. This is to say nothing of the insanely perfect ensemble cast and memorable characters that have compelled audiences to truly care and watch, sans irony, for all these years.

3) Arrested Development (FOX, 2003-2006): This show might be the most tragically short-lived and under-seen on this list. But it’s also the best comedy. Hands down. If you haven’t seen this show (which launched the careers of people like Michael Cera, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett) you must get on it right away.

4) The Office (NBC, 2005-present): Though the British series is hard to top, the American version (which at 6 seasons is now a much more substantial body of comedy) quickly became one of the best comedies of the decade, capturing the zeitgeist of the YouTube era better than any other show on TV.

5) Mad Men (AMC, 2007-present): This is the show that got hipsters obsessed with television again. It’s a show that has so much indie cred: It’s bleak, sexy, fashionable, 60s lux, and on AMC! But it’s also just really great, nuanced, challenging TV. This show offers television what Don Draper’s vodka offers his martinis: Top shelf quality.

6) 30 Rock (NBC, 2006-present): As richly intertextual and self-reflexive as Arrested Development and with a cast equally as brilliant, 30 Rock just might be the comedy that saves NBC. It’s been a slow gainer since its low-rated first season, but it’s only gotten better with time.

7) The Wire (HBO, 2002-2008): I read something once that said that after watching The Wire, there’s no way anyone could watch CSI: Miami without stabbing their eyes out with a fork. And I think that’s about accurate. The Wire is HBO’s verite show about urban life in Baltimore, and though I’ve only seen the first two of its five seasons, I can understand why the critics frequently hail it as one of the best television shows of all time. It’s gritty, prestige TV of the finest order.

8) American Idol (Fox, 2002-present): This is the show that has dominated the decade in ratings and reality TV trends. After Idol came all the other dancing, performing, talent shows. But Idol’s contribution was also to the emerging landscape of “convergence” television in general—perfecting the art of audience interactivity, product placement, and trans-media storytelling (a live show, a concert tour, single available on iTunes, etc). It’s not Citizen Kane or anything, but it’s a ridiculously well-oiled machine of moneymaking pop entertainment. And I applaud that.

9) Friends (NBC, 1994-2004): Yes, this show was on in the 2000s, and while it might not have been the best years for the show, it was still pretty darn good post-Y2K. By the end the six “friends” had become icons getting $1 million a piece for each episode. The show was THAT huge.

10) Laguna Beach (MTV, 2004-2006): Before The Hills became a parody of the genre, there was the exquisitely rendered, truly original reality/soap hybrid Laguna Beach. Its celebration of conspicuous consumption and rich white American youth ushered in a new era for MTV and the youth culture at large. Real teens acting like actors playing real teens, driving Range Rovers and wearing Stella McCartney coats… GREAT TV.

Honorable Mention: The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Chapelle’s Show, Da Ali G Show, Dexter, South Park, Rome, Prison Break.

Can Anything Save TV?

Watching the Primetime Emmy Awards this Sunday night (well, “watching” is a generous word… it was on my TV at least) was kind of like watching John McCain try to convince America that he invented the BlackBerry.

It was laughable and sad.

Coming off of the dangerously-close-to-fatal WGA strike that soured many of us on the television, this year’s Emmy’s really couldn’t expect to get gangbuster ratings. And predictably, the audiences did not turn out. It was the least-viewed Emmy show since 1990 (a paltry 12.2 million people watched the 3 hour show). Chalk it up to the insignificance of the event that I, a scholar of and apologist for television, didn’t know the Emmy’s were even on until I turned on the television Sunday night.

Alas, it was a horrible, horrible three hours of TV. From the painful quintet of reality show hosts (Ryan Seacrest, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst, Heidi Klum and Tom Bergeron) to Josh Groban’s kitschy medley of TV show theme songs, it was bad news. You had director Barry Sonnenfeld saying, “love TV and fear the Internet,” which was a pathetic cry for help from an aging old media relic. Then there was all the predictable political nonsense, with Martin Sheen rambling about voting practices and various other people putting in their appeals for America to get smart and vote Democrat. Add to it some humdrum Laugh In segment and some inexplicable appearances from Oprah and Lauren Conrad, and we had one highly unfortunate hot mess of an Emmys.

But in spite of the apathy most of America rightfully showed toward television’s “biggest night,” I do have to say that, for the most part, I was happy with who won awards. AMC’s Mad Men is indeed the best drama on television right now, not counting Friday Night Lights (which comes back in NBC in January and DirecTV next week!). And NBC’s 30 Rock is indeed the best comedy. I was happy to see it win so many awards… maybe now (please, people!) it will gain some much-needed viewers. Better late than never, I’d say. But—and this goes for all of TV—it appears that “never” is looming ever closer on the horizon for this medium in the twilight of its life.

Let the Lists Begin!

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As you know, I loooove lists… so if you thought I was going to limit myself to one “best of 2007” post on Dec. 31st and that’s it, you’d be mistaken! “Best of the Year” frenzy begins today on The Search, and will go through the end of the month (culminating with my top ten movies of 2007 on New Year’s Eve!)

So, to kick things, off, and because this category has no risk of missing any latecomer additions, today I’m listing my picks for the best television shows of 2007:

10) American Idol (Fox): What can I say? As trifling as it is, this show is the most compelling television for four months out of the year… I’m addicted.

9) The Hills (MTV): Am I joking? Sort of… But anyone who has seen this show must admit it has a definite “can’t turn away” quality. Plus, from a theoretical, “what is real?” point of view, the show is fascinating.

8) Project Runway (Bravo): Continues to be the most interesting, consistently quality reality series on television.

7) The Daily Show / Colbert Report (Comedy Central): Yes, these are two different shows, but the spirit is the same in both. It’s the Comedy Central “newsblock,” and it’s ridiculously fun to watch.

6) Rome (HBO): HBO’s Caesar series only had two seasons, but its great cast (a who’s who of British thespians) and classy period melodrama made for some really good, highbrow TV.

5) The Office (NBC): Gets better and better every season… the cast has nailed down the nuances and hilarious quirks of their characters, and the writing is consistently dead-on.

4) Lost (ABC): This show redeemed itself near the end of its third season, reminding us all why we got so addicted in the first place. Can’t wait for its January return!

3) 30 Rock (NBC): Miles above the majority of comedy on TV in terms of sharp, culturally astute humor. Tiny Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan lead the funniest ensemble cast since Arrested Development.

2) Mad Men (AMC): Who knew AMC was in the business of making amazing one-hour dramas? This 60s period piece (about Madison Avenue ad men, their whiskey and their women) was the best new series on TV this fall—with great acting, glossy eye candy, and sharp social commentary.

1) Friday Night Lights (NBC): I suppose it’s getting repetitive by now, but this show really is the best thing on TV. The acting, writing, production, and general “breath of fresh air” spirit of the whole thing is really unrivaled among network shows. Here’s hoping it’ll survive for a third season!