JamesGunn.com – Official Website for James Gunn

youtube facebook twitter myspace blip.fm
 
 

My 15 Favorite TV Shows of the Decade

15. BIG LOVE

I thought the first season of Big Love was spotty and slightly better than mediocre.  I thought the second season was okay, but worth watching.  But I thought season three was classic television – and the show is on this list for that reason.  If I was rating these shows based on single seasons alone, the show would rate much higher.

Best Season: Season Three

14. DEXTER

When I first heard about Dexter, I thought it was bound for failure. I was very excited to see a TV show about a serial killer, but how could an audience possibly feel empathy for an all-out murderer from week to week?  Little did I know that Dexter was fucking Batman! Sometimes the show can drag, but it usually keeps me on the edge of my seat, and there have been enough plot twists to keep me interested from season to season, pretty much equally.  And the best plot twist yet just happened at the end of season four – I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Best Season: Season Two

13. 24

I found the first three seasons of 24 incredibly addictive and exciting. Yes, there were huge plot holes, but I was able to let go of them because it was just so damn fun. By the fourth season, however, the plot holes became so incredibly ridiculous it became difficult to watch. By the middle of the fifth season, I stopped watching.  That said, I enjoyed those first few seasons so much it seemed worth putting on the list.

Best Season: Season Three

12. THE OFFICE US

I know a lot of people on The Office; obviously, my ex-wife/current friend is on the show, and my friend Rainn Wilson just starred in my film SUPER, and I love a lot of the other folks involved.   I was able to be with them in the audience when they won the Emmy for Best Comedy after the second season, and it was an absolutely thrilling moment.  That said, I can’t accurately judge the show, so I’m trying to take it into account.  But considering there are around 25 episodes of the show a year, I think the quality has kept up amazingly well.  They have their weak moments, but they consistently make me laugh out loud three or four times an episode, and I get as weepy as anyone else by the sweet and romantic moments on the show.  I knew in my heart that this show was going to be enormous from the moment I heard about it – that it was going to do for the single-camera situation comedy in the U.S. what Sports Night and others of their ilk were unable to do.  I continue to watch it every week.

Best Season: Season Two

11. SURVIVOR

All right, it may seen like heresy for a member of the Writer’s Guild to put a reality show on his favorite TV shows list (I actually have more below, depending on what you consider “reality’).  But Survivor, at its height, was one of the shows I most looked forward to watching every week.  At its best – and its best was unquestionably its second season in the Australian Outback, with future “fuckable Limbaugh” Elisabeth Hasselbeck seemingly going to actually die of starvation, and the best twist ever in the game with Colby and Tina.  But the great moments continued to come in other seasons.  In all honesty, I have not been watching this show the last few seasons, and there are two reasons for this: I did find it getting repetitive, but, more importantly, because they change the name of the series from season to season my DVR doesn’t automatically pick it up!

Best Season: Season Two.

10. DEADWOOD

Deadwood is like having really awesome sex with a girl for a couple hours, followed by one of the most disappointing orgasms of your life.  The ending of Deadwood was awful – I understand this was in part because the creators of the show thought they were going to make more episodes.  Whatever the case, for a few years it had some of the best acting on TV, especially Ian McShane as Swearengen, Brad Dourif as Doc Cochran, John Hawkes as Sol Star, and Robin Weigert as Calamity Jane.  The nearly Shakespearean dialogue littered liberally with “motherfuckers” and “cunts” was novel and fun (and supposedly accurate).  The show ended far too early.

Best Season: Season One

9. KARACHI COPS

I don’t know anyone else who has seen this show – it was a BBC limited series which was essentially the TV show Cops shot in Karachi, Paskistan.  I caught it by chance on Worldlink, a network I never even knew I had, and was hooked.  There was nothing funny about this reality show, it was instead a pretty straightforward documentary with an inside look at another culture and their nearly hopeless justice system where torture was commonplace.

8. FREAKS AND GEEKS

This one barely made it into this decade. Like so many of these shows, I somehow ended up watching the pilot when it first aired, expecting a 90210 type deal, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was far too smart and funny to be on network TV.  And, of course, I was right, as it lasted for barely more than a season.  On a side note – I loved Linda Cardellini on this show, which is one of the reasons I fought so hard for her to be in Scooby-Doo.

Best Season: Everything.

7. DA ALI G SHOW

I actually saw Da Ali G Show for the first time in Australia, when it was a BBC show.  No offense to those Australians out there, but most of the stuff on Australian TV was fairly unbearable.  I couldn’t believe how funny this guy was.  The American HBO series was just as good, if not better, the ultimate moment being Borat’s cringey performance of “Throw the Jew in the Well” in a Tucson bar, complete with rednecks happily clapping along.  I did like the Borat movie – but my biggest complaint was that the hour and a half movie didn’t contain as many laughs as three episodes of Da Ali G Show.

Best Season: Season One

6. THE SOPRANOS

Like so many others, I fall on the “it sucks” side of the fence when it comes to the final episode, but that didn’t kill the entire show for me.  Actually, I was more off put by the episodes written by Michael Imperioli, or the one directed by Peter Bogdanovich, which were terrible.  However, most of the series was great, even though I felt like it lost its way a bit, and never lived up to the genius of its first season, which was, undoubtedly, one of the best seasons of any TV show ever – perhaps the very best.

Best Season: Season One

5. THE JOE SCHMO SHOW


Everyone but the guy in the upper left corner is a liar.

The Joe Schmo Show was a reality show created by Rhett Reese (who later went on to co-write Zombieland) where they took a guy and put him on a fake reality show and, essentially, fucked with him.  In the first season they took the jaw-droppingly gullible Matt Kennedy Gould, and put him in the house on a supposed show called Lap of Luxury with a bunch of improv actors pretending to be an asshole, a flaming Cuban homosexual, a bitch, and so on (Kristen Wiig played a psychiatrist, “Dr. Pat”.)  The actors then proceeded to vote people off one by one, which never went the way Gould expected.  Part of what made it work so well was the casting of Gould, who was an extremely likable (and, as I mentioned a moment ago, gullible) guy.  Perhaps my favorite moment in the history of television is when they had a contest for all the housemates.  It was a gross food eating contest, and if all of the remaining housemates would eat what was set down in front of them, they would all win a widescreen TV.  They went around in a circle, eating the usual things people on these shows eat, whale blubber, etc, and then they got to Gould, the only one left, and they set a tray of dog shit down in front of him!  I laughed until I cried then, as I do every time I watch the scene on my Joe Shcmo DVD set.  It fucked anything the Honeymooners ever did in the ass.  And the best thing about the show was the first season finale, that played out like an Elizabethan tragedy.  There was a second season of Joe Schmo in which they had a fake dating show, which was well-worth watching, but lacked the magic of Matt Kennedy Gould – the best reality TV show star ever.

Best season: Season four.

4. THE OFFICE (UK)

Let’s clear up any Office Vs. Office confusion.  Yes, I think the original Office is better, but it has a huge advantage – it’s only thirteen episodes long!  That’s more than a hundred less than the US Office.  That said, Ricky Gervais was unbeatable as David Brent.  And the Christmas episode is not only a moving TV episode, but one of the most touching works of art I’ve ever seen. It was a wonderful, wonderful show, and was, essentially, perfect from start to finish.

Best Season: The Christmas Special finale

3. WONDER SHOWZEN

From the show with a lot of heart, to a show almost certainly in the service of Satan. Wonder Showzen is South Park for people with balls and a brain.  It is completely anarchistic, offensive, and absolute genius.  From a kid interviewing a senior citizen at a casino where the kid says: ”I do an impression of you… ‘Gamble, gamble, gamble, die,” to homeless people getting so angry at the blue puppet-on-the-street Clarence that they start to tear out his eyes – even though the puppeteer is right there, Wonder Showzen is the Hieronymous Bosch of the tube.

Best Season: Season One

2. THE WIRE

The Wire was a show you actually had to concentrate on, and it lasted for five whole seasons.  I don’t think any show you’ve had to concentrate to watch has ever lasted more than two.  The show balanced 64 primary characters.  More importantly, it never had a weak episode – another thing I don’t think any other show lasting that long has been able to do.  The acting ranged from mediocre to amazing (including Andre Royo as Bubbles, who I cast in my movie SUPER because of his role in this show), but it was always real. It is, without a doubt, the best cop show of all time.

Best Season: Season One

1. LOST

I had a hard time deciding between this and The Wire as my favorite show of the decade.  Lost is definitely spottier – the first half of the second season was weak (I almost quit watching), and season five was uneven as well.  That said, I put LOST at number one because its highs are so incredibly fucking high.  The flash-forward reveal at the end of season three was heartbreaking and the best twist I’ve ever seen anywhere: even the recent episodes featuring Sayid and Ben blow my fucking mind.  I have never been so attached to the characters in any show ever. There’s an addendum, however: the season finale is coming up.  If it sucks, you can automatically move The Wire into the top slot.  Either all this shit is worth it, or it isn’t.  We the fans are hoping for a finale as good as Six Feet Under or Newhart, not as disappointing as Sopranos or St. Elsewhere.  I must admit: I’m very hopeful. The creators of LOST have only rarely let me down.

Best Season: Season Three

They Came Close!Scare Tactics, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Eastbound & Down, Everybody Loves Raymond, Arrested Development, Flight of the Conchords (Season 1 only), Extras , Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Big Brother (Seasons 4-6), The Mole (Season 1), Firefly, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment.

And, a disclaimer: I have only seen the first season of Battlestar Galactica. I loved it, and it maybe belongs on this list, but I feel stupid not having seen the other seasons yet. I rarely watch shows on DVD – the only series I watched that way from this list are 24, Wonder Showzen, and I’ve watched Lost a second time on DVD.  I also have never seen an episode of Breaking Bad or Friday Night Lights, shows that a lot of people I know respect. I’ll get to them.  As for anything else that’s often proclaimed as great – yes, I have probably seen it, and no, I probably don’t think it’s as good as you do.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you.

‘What is heaven?’

‘That’s where Whiskers went when he died! My brother, Whiskers.’

–      Wonder Showzen

PS I am sorry I am HBO’s whore.

Follow James on Twitter.

REGISTER HERE to be a part of JamesGunn.com.

© 2010, James Gunn. All rights reserved.

Category: LISTS

Tagged: ,

  • James, “Once and Again” was a show created by Ed Zwick and Marshall Herscovitz (“Thirtysomething”, “My So-Called Life”) that ran on ABC from 1999 to 2002, named one year by TV Guide as the Best Show You’re Not Watching (they were talking directly to you, James). It’s about Lily (Sela Ward) and Rick (Billy Campbell), two divorcees who fall in love while navigating their respective families from heartache and form a new family. It’s essentially a nighttime soap–melodramatic and romantic–with the acute observation and knowing of real life. Plus, it’s all wonderfully performed. Kelly Coffield even has a role in season one as a friend to both Lilly and Rick’s ex-wife, who grows annoyed and tired of Lilly’s self-involvement with her new romance.

  • myf

    Australian TV *is* shit (to the point that I haven’t watched anything on Australian network television for almost three years), but I am going to claim that our chocolate is nicer than yours.

    Does this mean that you were stuck on the Gold Coast while filming Scooby Doo? If so, I am so very sorry.

  • Great list, James. I hope that you get around to watching the other seasons of Battle Star Galactica, only because the series is consistant with the things that you seem to love about other great shows. “Breaking Bad” is another one that I hope you are able to catch up on sometime.

  • jwill1011

    Do you not watch Sons of Anarchy? I am so in love with that show. It is really to me the best show on TV hands down. You really should check it out…

  • Tracy!

    I love Freaks and Geeks, Dexter and Big Love. Glad they all made your list. Did you ever watch The Comeback on HBO? Hilarious shit. Other shows you should check out: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, United States of Tara, Bored to Death and The Sarah Silverman Program.

  • I think it’s pretty clear that the last decade will be remembered as “the decade in which TV came of age”. It was foreshadowed since the late 80’s (Twin Peaks), but if you compare a typical 90’s TV series with a typical 00’s TV series, you can’t believe how much it all has changed (And I’m not just talking about production values!)

  • benn

    Oh, just saw it in the honorable mentions. Don’t mind me, apparently exhaustion is fucking my ability to read.

  • benn

    No love for Arrested Development?

  • Tess – You and Mikaela.

  • I think my favorite show of the decade is Medium. I really love it.

  • Lunachick – I will.
    Joseph – Nice list, but what the fuck is Once and Again?

  • Oh shit. How did I forget Veronica Mars. I guess that’s what happens when the bowels aflex.

  • Nice list! I love Wonder Showzen as well. Though when I’d watch it at night I’d have to fast forward through the opening or else Tawny would kill me for getting the theme stuck in her head. I’m particularly fond of “You’re never too young to have a Vietnam flashback.”

    I haven’t seen enough of “Big Love” or “Deadwood” yet, nor have I seen an episode of “The Joe Schmo Show” or “Dexter” (we just got Showtime so I hope to rectify the latter). I just got the first season of “Breaking Bad” from Netflix this week.

    I’m not sure what my list would exactly entail. I’d flip “The Wire” and “Lost”, throw “Arrested Development” into #3 (watching seasons one and two for the first time in one weekend was one of the funniest times I ever had watching TV). “The Office” (UK) would be at #4 (The Christmas Special is absolute perfection). Hmmm….

    5. “Freaks and Geeks”
    What you said.

    6. “The Sopranos”
    Agree with your assessment with the exception of the finale, which I did love. It definitely had its flights of whimsy, some where awful and some worked really well (the season three opener comes to mind).

    7. “Once and Again”
    So high because of my fondness for its strengths. Season one is fantastic. But it’s REALLY uneven after season one–the episode in season two where the guy who played Brian Krakow on “My So-Called Life” guest stars as an employee who holds up the family restaurant is such a dive in quality that I no longer use the “Happy Days” term of “Jumping the Shark” but instead my own: “Krakow’s Got a Gun!”

    8. “30 Rock”
    How hard it must be to have a screwball comedy be so consistently funny. Not every episode is great. But considering where they are pitching from it’s a miracle the show has sustained itself. Even after four seasons it sits alongside “Eastbound and Down” and “Modern Family” as the three funniest shows on television to me.

    9. “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”
    Starting out the decade with Andy leaving I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with the show without him. Even though Andy was always missed by me the show got stronger–the writing, the audacity. A real joy.

    10. “Da Ali G Show”
    What you said.

    11. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (season three)
    12. “The Office” (USA) (Season two)
    13. “Firefly
    14. “Veronica Mars” (Season one and the first half of season two)
    15. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (season 4 being the highlight of the seasons from the 2000s, and “The Body” and “Once More With Feeling” being the obvious stand-out episodes)

  • You really need to get around to watching Breaking Bad – it’s one of the best shows ever.

  • Just Linda

    Great list! Still catching up on the last 5 eps of Big Love but I’ll get to it… LOST is just epic TV and I believe there will never be anything like it again. Joe Schmo was so awesome and probably the only “reality” TV DVD set I would ever purchase and watch. UK Office was brilliance and I so agree about the Christmas episode. What a perfect way to end a perfect series. Dexter just blows me away every season.

  • Tessa

    Most of these shows make my own list, although 30 rock would be in there somewhere, and considering season 4, dexter would be way higher.

  • BPD – I do like Hung a lot as well.

  • As for BSG. I loved the first 1.5 seasons. Didn’t like it much after that.

  • Testing.

    Why does it say that my comment is “spammy”? Is it too long? If so, I’ll post in the JGAS forum.

  • Bill Pardys Doppelganger

    Wonder Showzen was a great little show, I remember I was particularly fond of the Horse Apples episode for some reason. It’s a good list of shows, thought I honestly could never get into 24 for some reason, I’d only ever get a few episodes into a season before I’d just say, ‘fuck it’. I’ve also managed to stay spoiler free regarding season 4 of Dexter, it’s been tough since there are a lot of assholes out there.

    Oh and, I gotta say Hung is a pretty damn good, hopefully it’s giving Tom Jane the exposure he really deserves.



Archives