This is the first of my “End of the Year Lists.” I’ve decided my first list will be my 5 favorite TV shows. Five is a pretty small number but unfortunately I didn’t watch that much TV this year. The first half of the year was devoted to my senior thesis. Plus, I had no cable in my apartment. Luckily there were some great shows to watch once I finally got cable. Some old favorites, some great new shows, some good shows really finding their groove and becoming great, etc.
About a month ago I asked the question,“Have you learned nothing from Arrested Development?” I don’t think most people have. In five years everyone will watch Community on Netflix and demand it be brought back. It will be a classic and everyone will wonder, “How do such a brilliant shows get cancelled?” Where countless blogs watch the hours and hours of the crap television produces to find the gems for you. How the hell are you not watching Community? How come my Facebook didn’t explode the way my twitter did (where I follow film and television sites). If you aren’t going to watch the brilliant shows when they’re actually on TV then why the hell would networks make them? I beg you… Watch Community. It starts a little slow, but as you get to know the characters and the show gets its footing it becomes amazing. If you don’t want to take the time to watch the whole thing from the beginning watch the paintball episodes (Modern Warfare), Chicken Finger Gangster Episode, Dungeons and Dragons episode, claymation Christmas episode, Clips episode made entirely and clips not actually from the season. And if you watch Whitney or The Big Bang Theory instead of Community. Fuck you, seriously.
Remember how great the second season of The Office was? The show was absolutely hilarious, but more importantly it had a heart. We cared so much about the characters. Jim and Pam’s relationship was heartbreaking. It was amazing. This is what Parks and Recreation has become. This show has grown so much. In the beginning it was nothing more than an Office rip off. Leslie Knope was not a real character. She made bad decision after bad decision. Tom Haverford was a pig. April was an annoying hipster. Andy was a complete idiot. But at some point in the second season something clicked and we began to love every single character. The show created real relationships we cared about. The show continues to get funnier and funnier while it has slowly developed Leslie and Ben’s relationship. This perfectly paced storyline has brought Parks and Recreation to a whole other level. Hopefully Parks can maintain such a high quality for a much longer period than The Office did.
I love Homeland (want more reasons why? Click here), but I never expected to. When I initially saw the marketing for the show I thought, “Oh great, another example of the media giving us even more reasons to be scared of terrorists. Another black and white show of good vs. evil.” Instead, I watched a show filled with shades of gray. That actively critiques the methods the government uses to find information, and even gave reasons terrorists believe the things they do. Wow. I have never seen a show do anything like that before. The show actually reminds me of Paul Greengrass’s Bourne films. Homeland is a tense, tight thriller. There isn’t the pure adrenaline filled physicality that Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon mastered, but there is the intellectually engaging and more importantly, emotionally engaging show. I cared about all the characters in this show, and watching Carrie’s life fall apart was emotionally devastating. Also, like Parks and Recreation, the lead character is a strong, independent woman. This is incredibly rare, and the writers deserve a ton of credit for creating such an amazing character. But the show had all of this from the very beginning. The question was, “Will the show be able to stick the landing?” The answer is yes. The second half of Homeland was brilliant television. And the finale was amazing. This was by far the best new show and television, and if it wasn’t for Breaking Bad, the best drama on television.
Breaking Bad is one of the best shows in the history of television, and the 4th season was just as brilliant as ever. I had some problems with the last couple episodes of the season (which you can read here) but they were still amazing television. The season started off with a bang (I’ll never look at a box cutter the same way again) but the season actually moved at a very methodical pace. Every moment and action piled on top of itself. Breaking Bad spent the entire 4th season isolating Walter until he had nothing left. The slow burn lead to a moment so powerful, so brilliant, I like to call it perfect television. Crawl Space was the best episode of television I’ve seen in a very long time. Those final 10 minutes were one of the scariest/tense things I’ve ever seen. I showed that sequence to my girlfriend without any context and she was utterly rattled. Within context, I felt like my life had crumbled around me. As always, the acting was utterly brilliant, the writing was superb, the directing was spectacular, but there’s something about Breaking Bad that separates it from everything else on TV. Breaking Bad is truly cinematic. It doesn’t feel like television. As much as I loved Homeland, it looked and felt like television, brilliant television but still television. Breaking Bad just feels brilliant.
So what could possibly be better than Breaking Bad? My answer… Louie. First of all Louie is the funniest show on television. One episodes puts on a mock Fox News segment with Louis CK arguing with an incredible religious woman about masturbation, and it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. More importantly, he doesn’t make this woman a one dimensional religious zealot. Every character in his show is a real person, and that’s what makes this show so much more than just hilarious. It constantly presents the real world through Louis CK’s amazing perspective. It’s presents human truths while setting up a 5 minute sequence that climaxes with a 40 second fart. He simultaneously does and does not take himself too seriously. He spends an entire episode devoted to masturbation, followed by an episode about ditching your friends for stardom and suicide. No other show made me think about my own life over and over again. The show is so personal, but simultaneously universal. We’re all incredibly lucky we live during a time where Breaking Bad and Louie are on at the same time.