Saturday, November 7, 2009

12 Notable TV Shows

As I mentioned in a previous post, short films are becoming a contender for our entertainment by strongly fighting it off against movies. TV on the other hand, has been fighting off movies since its very conception. Nevertheless, film still remains the paramount entertainment and arts vehicle, notwithstanding TV’s latest string of incredibly high quality products. Big shot film stars and film directors are no longer afraid of venturing into TV’s domain and yet TV hasn’t captured Film’s mystique. But our TV is not our regular father’s TV, or for that matter our own TV from a few years ago. TV is no longer watched the way it was originally intended, instead you can rent an entire season and watch episodes back to back during a weekend. One of TV’s strengths is that it allows exploring a “universe” in a more detailed way, as opposed to Film’s limited 2 hours. TV, in the same way as theater, allows fine-tuning a show due to the availability of immediate feedback.

The X Files (1993-2002)

The Granddaddy of them all! The X Files was a unique show while being ahead of its time. Most shows where TV, The X Files attempted to be cinematic, and it paid off. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that TV had it not been for Chris Carter’s baby (The X Files). A show that had both the single standing (TV type) episodes and the story-arc mythology (Film type) episodes. It also tried its hand at comedy, horror, mystery and thriller throughout its long successful run. The bar was set high with The X Files.

Firefly (2002)

I watched this show because I kept reading about how great it was. The Brown Coats (Firefly fans) passionately defended this show ‘till the end, and then some. When something can spur this kind of passion it makes you wonder why. When I first watched it I didn’t really understand why it was so special. It seemed like a cool show, but not the outstanding show I had read about. As time has passed, I now get it. It was a pretty smart show and a true labor of love by Joss Whedon and the rest of the crew and cast. Well-drawn characters that you relate to and care for were only part of its success. It was sadly short-lived, but if Serenity (the movie) is the last we will see of these characters, I will remember them fondly.

24 (2001-?)

A show with a gimmicky premise that I was not expecting to last. 24 greatly influenced the way we’ve come to think of our heroes, definitively imprinting Jason Bourne and James Bond redux with some raw energy. Keifer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer has carried the show, but a lot is owed to its staple aesthetic and its excellent writing and directing. Some story lines seem a tad repetitive, but it still remains as exciting as the first season.

Dexter (2006-?)

Dexter (right in Latin) is such a great show, but I still can’t imagine how someone pitched the idea for it. Luckily for us someone decided it was a good idea and decided to give it a shot. A story about a serial killer of bad (deserving?) guys, who kills following his own strict due process. This show could’ve gone so wrong in lesser hands, but the sheer brilliance of Michael C. Hall has always steered it in the right direction. One of the best TV title sequence as well.

Veronica Mars (2004-2007)

Another fan boy favorite, but with just cause. Other than the fact that Kristen Bell is gorgeous, she portrayed a pitch-perfect postmodern Humprey Bogart’s Sam Spade. A show that showed it was possible to make film noir with a teen backdrop (a precursor to the brilliant Brick by Rian Johnson). If only they hadn’t cancelled it. A great song for the title credits.

Lost (2004-?)

What can you say about Lost that hasn’t been said already? It is a great show most of the times, but we will have to wait for the resolution to see if it is as great as we think it is.

Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)

I have mentioned my love for the Gilmore Girls in the past, but as I’ve said it before, I don’t think wittier pop dialogue sparring can be done better than this; as if written by an estrogen-packed Quentin Tarantino. We even got to see one of the best Tarantino’s homage. Rory as Gogo Yubari, how cool is that? Very, I’d say.

Californication (2007-?)

Not content with having one great show, David Duchovny delved into a different kind of beast with Hank Moody’s character. Breaking his Fox Mulder typecast, Californication could be described as testosterone-packed Sex and the City, or as West Coast’s reply to NYC’s Carrie Bradshaw. Jim Morrison said it best, “the West is the best”.

True Blood (2008-?)

A show about vampires as if we needed one. But we did, and True Blood was the perfect dosage of V with bite. This is not your average 90210 Twilight fangs. One of the best title sequences ever, setting perfectly the mood for the show.

Weeds (2005-?)

If someone had a difficult time greenlighting Dexter imagine greenlighting a show about a suburban mom pushing drugs to provide for her family after her husband’s death. Could this be proof that the craziest premises “just work”? It seems like it. A show that started great but had a small drop in the quality for a few seasons. The latest season looks like it recovered some of the past glory. It is always great to see Kevin Nealon and of course Mary-Louise Parker.

Mad Men (2007-?)

A show about an ad agency in the pre-Kennedy’s assassination 60’s. I don’t really know how to describe this show without making it sound boring, but trust me, its not. Just watch the Hitchcockian title sequence.


House M.D. (2004-?)

Did we need another medical drama? Apparently we did. House brought a breath of fresh air to a tired old TV genre. Part Sherlock Holmes part grumpy old man; House is probably one of the coolest characters ever. Everyone wants to be House, or at least everyone wants to watch his show.

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