Saturday, January 23, 2010

Top Ten TV Dramas of the 2000s

Alright folks, not much feedback on the first one but that's to be expected. Now remember with this second list I haven't seen all the shows I should have, they are all sitting on my pile of shame and will be watched in due time...after I catch up on classic Doctor Who. So do not expect to see some of the cable shows like Mad Men, The Sopranos, Dexter etc because I sadly have yet to see them. So let's get down to it.

10. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Okay, so I'm cheating with this one as it began in late '99 but it really hit its stride in the mid 2000's. This show was different from the regular series, not just in the type of cases but with how the stories were structured. Unlike regular Law and Order, the focus was mostly outside the courtroom and actually delved into the personal lives of the two lead detectives, played by Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay, who brought a lot to their characters and made you feel connected with them. Like the regular series, there are guest stars by the score; one of my favorite guest stars being Martin Short, who gives a great performance as the perverted faux psychic. Unfortunately, like other crime shows, Law & Order: SVU became formulaic with the stories and went into familiar territory in terms of character development. But I believer the seasons from 2003 to 20 are the strongest in the series and well worth watching.

9. Criminal Minds

The show came in the wave of more scientific crime show (CSI, Numbers, etc) and what set this show apart for me was Mandy Patinkin as the lead investigator. I just love how Patinkin he delivers dialogue and seems to know what he's talking about rather than other shows where they just speak in technobable hoping that's enough to pass off as intelligent (okay, that's a bit snobbish but still it's a pet peeve of mine). The first couple seasons are really good but it falls into formula writing and trying to top itself in terms of "how sick we can make this guy?" But the first couple of seasons rise above that and deliver some truly engaging television.

8. Heroes

The first season and a bit of the second are some of my favorite television moments. Sadly the show has "jumped the shark," and lost all sense of direction. But when it started the had characters who I cared about and was interested in. Characters like Sylar, HRG, and Mr Linderman. Of course Hiro and Claire were the show's poster children and were pretty good characters as well. I think my favorite episodes would have to be the pilot and "Company Man," which features HRG and presents a really fantastic narrative. The reason Season 1 worked was the writers knew the endpoint of the season, the potential devastation of New York, and knew how to move the plot forward . Why the seasons that came after didn't work was because it seemed like the writers were just throwing stuff out and there and saw what stuck. But season 1 is good enough to overide that and make it as number 8 on my top ten.

7. Joan of Arcadia

Alright, I might get flack for two things, 1) this series can be considered a "chick show" and 2) the religious nature of the show. I, being a future theatre major, really don't follow what is guy or girl oriented in terms of entertainment, unless it's Twilight (sparkling vampires, need I say more) and by far am not a religious person, but there is something just so alluring about Joan of Arcadia. Some would say it is a morality play or a dignified after-noon special but I never felt that. I revisited the series and I still like it. I really enjoy the concept and the ensemble cast led by Amber Tamblyn. I really came to care for the characters and even the actors who play God were good. This may be in part due to the writing as the God character was not defined as Jewsih, Christian, or Muslim but as a general higher power, ie the god for agnostics. This was helped as instead of scripture, this God would quote songwriters, authors, and philosophers and remained a very friendly and even humorous God. Sadly the show, despite popularity and critical acclaim, was canceled in its 2nd season with a cliffhanger ending that leaves you wanting more. Still Joan of Arcadia was a great show that mixed comedy, drama, pathos, and philosophy all into a nice little package that makes it to number 7 on my list.


Like Heroes, Lost had a phenomonial 1st season, the 2nd and 1st half of the 3rd, like Heroes, felt as if they didn't really know where they were going. Thankfully, the writers decided on an end point and where able to map a coheasive story from there on. I like the ensemble cast as it gives the viewer a pick from several people to root for. I think the characters that really keep my interest are Locke, Ben, Desmond, and Sawyer. Each of these characters are fleshed out and were painted in shades of gray rather than black and white. Episodes like "The Constant," "Walkabout," "Man Behind the Curtain," "Through the Looking Glass," and "The 23rd Pslam," really show great storytelling ability. Its just about to start its final season and I'm really excited to see how it all ends.

5. The West Wing

Again I'm cheating as The West Wing started in the fall of '99 but the show's bulk occured from 2000-20006. The show was one of those revolutionary shows in how shows where filmed, how shows were written, and what tv shows could cover in terms of material. Granted political material had been covered by shows like Murphy Brown but the West Wing had optimism that most shows that cover politics do not. It was optimistic about government and politics in a time where politics became truly divisive, which was abreath of fresh air. It took complex issues and spoke about them in an intelligent and witty manner. Granted it did have a left-leaning view but thats because it took place in a democratic presidency and did bring in inteligent members of the opposition such as Arnold Vinick and Ansley Hayes. The cast was fantastic, from Allison Janney as CJ Craig, Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman, John Spencer as Leo McGarry, and of course Martin Sheen as President Jed Bartlet. Granted it did dip in quality in sesons 4 and 5 but the first 4 seasons and the last two seasons are fantastic. Classic episodes are "The Stackhouse Filibuster," "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen," "Two Cathedrals," "Bartlet for America," "Noel," "And It's Surely To Their Credit," the list of the really great episodes can go on and on and on. Which shows that when this show was at its strongest, it was powerful, witty, and memorable, and why it makes its way to the number 5 spot on my countdown.

4. Life on Mars

To answer your question, yes this was a tv series in America but the British original is far superior in terms of acting, storytelling, and visuals. The British show ran for two eight episode series that really tell a complete and engaging story. For those of you who don't know Life on Mars is about a modern day cop, Sam Tyler, who gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. On of my favorite movies is the original Back to the Future and I'm a fan of classic rock, which this show provides by the score. But it also has elements of the buddy cop genre and even a psychological drama as Sam doesn't know if he's in a coma, insane, or has actually traveled back in time. The buddy cop genre comes into play with the relationship between Sam Tyler, played by John Simm, and Police Chief Gene Junt, played by Phillip Glenister, who work really well of each other. When the ABC remade the show for America and I heard Harvey Keitel was taking over the Gene Hunt role, I was somewhat excited but sadly he really couldn't equal what Glenister brings to this role. I won't give away the story and I would really compel anyone who loves a good scifi, detective, or psychological show to watch it as it does have a little bit of something for everyone. Of the sixteen episodes, my favorites are the Pilot, episode 6 of series 1 and episode 1 of series 2. You can get the show on DVD now in America and if you can netflix it I would advise you to do so. As Bowie says in the titular song, "Take a look at the lawman" making his way to number 4 on my list.

3. Slings and Arrows

Okay for those outside the theatre world, I don't expect you to know this show as it is originally a Canadian show that aired on premium American cable. The entire series is available on DVD and it is worth watching! The show takes place at a failing Shakespeare Festival and each season has parallels to that season's flagship production: Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear. The idea of a show that has its bases in Shakespearean text may drive some away but Shakespeare or not it's a damn good drama. The show has some of the writers of Kids in the Hall and that dark humor does shine through but it also features some of Canada's best actors working today: Paul Gross, Martha Burns, Mark McKinney, Stephen Ouimette, Don McKellar, and a pre-famous Rachel McAdams. What I loes is despite the larger than life characters and concept the show still feels very real, just like any well performed Shakespeare play. The dialogue is some of the best I've ever heard: "Everyone cries when they're stabbed," "theatre ethics! That's like saying whore house morals," "Excuse me, we are trying to rehearse a play, would you mind shutting the fuck up?" The show lasted three seasons, six episodes each, and it feels like one flowing story, Like a good piece of Shakespeare, it is beautifully written, beautifully acted, beautifully paced, and it is just an amazing series. You can see the 1st and 2nd on youtube and you owe it to yourself to see what great TV our neighbors to the North can make.

2. Doctor Who/Torchwood

I am a huge lover of all things british and I love fantasy and sci-fi. While Doctor Who began in 1963, it was revived in 2005 with a sleak, new look, epic writing from Russel T. Davies, and new Doctor(s). For those who don't know Doctor Who is about a time traveling alien who can change is face and personality every time he "dies," so several actors can play variations on a single great character. The new series introduced the 9th (Christopher Ecceleston) and 10th (David Tennant) Doctors who have become two of my favorite characters. The show could be funny, dramatic, and even heartbreaking. One thing that helps that is Murray Gold's epic score that really sets the mood and has some memorable bits. My favorite episodes from 2005-2009 are "Blink," "Human Nature," "Midnight," "Father's Day," "An Empty Child," really I have some many favorite episodes of the new series. The show did have a spinoff, Torchwood, about a secret government agency that protected England against all extra-terrestrial threats, with a good deal of camp value to it. Sort of like X-Files meets Scooby Doo, but in a good way. The series had some great episodes during its first two seasons, "Small Worlds," "Everything Changes," "Countrycide," "Adrift," the deadman trilogy, and "Exit Wounds." But the third season was an amazingly tight narrative with some great acting especially from the main characters (John Barrowman, Eva Myles, and Gareth David-Lloyd) and Peter Capaldi that took some great dark turns and had some of the best moments in drama that I have seen in a long time. These shows are just sheer epic and I love every minute of them.

1. Boston Legal

My favorite show, I am serious, this is a show that I can watch again and again and again still laugh, still think, and still be engaged. The show's lofty writing style and quirky plot and character elements are sheer fun. What really grounds the show are the two leads: James Spader and William Shatner. This is one of the best bromances (yes I just used that word) in television. You really feel that these characters care for each other despite their differences. The fact that Shatner can crack me up merely by saying two words, "Denny Crane," at any occasion shows how great the comedy of this show is. The show has an amazing supporting cast: Christian Clemenson, Candice Bergen, Mark Valley, Julie Bowen, John Larroquette, and René Auberjonois. All of them have great comic timing but can switch to drama on the drop of a hat. One of my favorite non-Denny Crane(Shatner) or Alan Shore (James Spader) is Jerry "Hands" Espenson played by Christian Clemenson, who creates one of the most adorably awkward characters I have seen. The writing is both lofty and self conscious and witty, this show is notorious for breaking the 4th wall which makes the show all the more fun. The lofty writing comes in the form of closing arguements, usually by Alan Shore, who delivers a left-leaning political message but is still insightful and the writers know it can be preachy, as they mention when they break the 4th wall. My favorite episodes would be "Legal Deficits," "The Cancer Man Can (with a great guest appearance by Michael J Fox)," "Stick It," "Hired Guns," "Lincoln," "Dumping Bella," and one of my favorite episodes of any tv show, "The Son of the Defender." "The Son of the Defender," is a powerful hour of television that doesn't delve into any hot button issues but examines Denny Crane and the tricks he used as a young lawyer, leading to a great hostage situation with some flashbacks to a young William Shatner and great use of the song "And So It Goes," by Billy Joel.
Alright, I think that's all I have to say on Boston Legal. So those are my top ten dramas of the decade and remember it's my opinion and mine alone, if you feel I might have left something off the list comment about it. Tell me if you think I should post more lists or if I should just stick to writing about my life. Well until next time.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tep Ten TV Comedies of the 2000s

Alright guys, this is part one of my list of the top shows of the 2000s and I divided it into the comedies and dramas. Now remember, I haven't seen ever show put out on the airwaves in the past decade and some I just didn't get into (The Office, I'm sorry, I know I'll get letters but I never caught onto it). But this is my list and my opinion and if you have a different opinion post your own blog.

10. Pushing Daisies

What can you say about Pushing Daisies? Not only was it one of the funniest shows of the best decade but also one of, if not the, best looking shows of the past decade. Everything about it bleeds whimsy and magic. The characters, the sets, the storyline, the music, were oh-so fantastical that when I first saw it I thought it was a Tim Burton creation, the part of him that made Big Fish not Sweeney Todd. I think the greatest aspects of the show were the amazing narration by Jim Dale and the dialogue. One thing you will keep seeing on this list is shows with fantastic dialogue. Not only is the dialogue brilliant but it is delivered so straight-faced and deadpan that it makes it all the more hilarious. Sadly the show was severely hindered by the writer's strike and was canceled after only two seasons but was brought to a somewhat satisfying conclusion. If you missed this show, I highly recommend catching it on DVD.

9. Reaper

Another show that was killed before it could deliver everything it had to offer. Like Daisies this is a fantasy comedy but whereas Daisies was whimsy, Reaper could be dark and kick serious ass, like the other side of Tim Burton's creative mind. It could have been a formulaic monster-of-the-week style show but it quickly rose above it. One of the creative consultants on the show was Kevin Smith, one of my favorite writer/directors, and the imprint of his style of dialogue shows. Especially with one of the best comedic television performances I have seen, Ray Wise as the Devil. Wise delivers his lines so beautifully that you really feel that this is what evil incarnate would be: charming, witty, and just oh-so despicable. While the show could get dark and serious, it was able to handle those moments with aplomb and deliver a great concept. Again, if you missed it, check it out, both seasons are on DVD. Reaper, a hell of a good show (sorry, I'll try and stay away from the puns).

8. Monk

Tony Shaloub makes this show; no ifs, ands, or buts. Originally USA was going to cast Michael Richards, AKA Kramer from Seinfeld, and thank god they didn't. Shaloub's portryal of the obsessive compulsive detective is so nuanced and so cleverly executed that despite all the things that make him less relatable, his extreme phobias and quirks, he is just so likable and one of the best characters to come out of the last decade. As an actor, Shaloub really is able to gracefully walk that line with this character that he doesn't overact but he still delivers a full performance. This doesn't mean that the rest of the cast isn't phenomenal, far from it, they give the show some of its best moments. Also this show had guest stars, one of the most memorable being, Monk's brother Ambrosse, played by one of my favorite character actors John Turturro. The writing for this show early on was fantastic, especially with Monk interacting with everyday life and his relationships with the other characters, including the ghost of his dead wife, Trudy. Sadly, in the later years, the writing began to follow the murder-of-the-week that many detective shows fall victim to and while I liked the series finale, it still was not as good as those first three or four seasons. If you missed it, check it out solely for Shaloub's life-like performance of this oddball character.

7. Psych

Made in the same style as Monk, but geared more the "hipster" generation. Unlike Monk, it doesn't solely rely on its lead, though James Roday as Shawn Spencer could run off with this show, it works with a great ensemble cast of characters. Like Monk, it does follow that murder-of-the-week formula, but makes up for it with the dialogue and the fantastic chemistry each of these actors have with one another. Dule Hill as Burton "Gus" Guster, could have been a bland sidekick but he and Roday develop such a great comedic team of give-and-take that allow both of them to hold command of the screen. Unlike Monk, this show started strictly as a comedy but in the past couple of seasons has explored dark elements especially with episodes like "An Evening with Mr Yang," that shows the Psych and its actors have more range than we expect. Like Monk, Psych has guest stars by the score, Jane Lynch, Cybil Shepard, Gary Cole, and Ally Sheedy in a role that you wouldn't expect. Right now, I'd say Psych is in it's prime so check it out.

6. 30 Rock

I love just how insane this show is and its unwillingness to take reality into account. Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan make this show and yes I will say certain actors make a show as I am biased towards actors. I really need to credit Tina Fey and the 30 Rock writing staff. There are so many visual jokes thrown in for people who have stuck with the show but it is accessible enough that you can really pick it up from anywhere. I think the classic episodes would be "Generalissimo," "Into the Crevasse," "Mamma-Mia," and "Believe in the Stars." Specifically because these episodes are the ones that truly delve to lowest depths of insanity and ludicrousness that you can't help but life. Any show that can have actors say lines like, "You don't tell me what kind of pizza to like," and "laser-shield," totally straight is an achievement. All I can say is that 30 Rock does indeed rock (okay I'll try and stay away from the puns).

5. How I Met Your Mother

While there was a patch of the show that I tuned out for, the first three seasons and the current season are pure gold. Again, the dialogue is a great part of this show and pretty much anything Neil Patrick Harris utters is laugh out loud hilarious. While the show presents the question, "Who is Ted's future wife?" it really isn't concerned with the question and for most people, that is more than alright. It's a character study of this young group of friends that you're able to find someone in the cast that you like. While it does still have the canned laughter and does fall into typical sitcom traps, ie asking for the laugh rather than acting and saying the line, ok I'm getting a bit snobbish. I think the series has its best moments in episodes like "The Pineapple Incident," "Slapsgiving," "The Slap Bet," and "Girls vs. Suits." This series as a whole rarely fails to deliver and I think this one will be around for a while.

4. Glee

As a theatre geek I am sort of obligated to put this show on the list and I might get some flack because the show just premiered last year, but by god did it premiere strongly, in fact the only reason it isn't higher on the list is simply because there has only been 13 episodes as of yet. The dialogue, the characters, and, of course, the musical numbers truly define the show. It both parodies and pays tribute to the high school genre of television and high school in general. The characters were painted in broad stroaks and over time, each of them slowly fleshed out into characters who were larger than life, yet at the same time you know or knew someone in high school exactly like them. My favorite characters so far are Kurt Hummel and of course, Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester, currently the funniest female character on television. Even if the show doesn't last long, I think Sue Sylvester will be a character with some great staying power, as she has delivered some of the best one-liners of the past year. Don't stop believin'!

3. Chuck

Again, another niche show. A geek becomes a super-spy and has references to video games and cult movies, intense action scenes, and fanservice? What is there not to like?! With one of the best show soundtracks in recent memory, the show hits all the right notes, especially with Chuck, Sarah, and Casey. Chuck really is this ordinary guy who is thrown into larger than life consequences; granted some will say that that is a typical fish-out-of-water tale but sometimes originality can be trumped just be sheer quality. Besides, any show that can get Scott Bakula on the show has my approval. I hope that Chuck stays on air for a few more seasons as it really is a well written and well acted show. Tune in now, and make sure that fans never have to go on a Subway binge again.

2.Late Night with Conan O'Brien/The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Alright, so I'm cheating just a tad bit as both of these shows premeired in the late 90s but in all honesty both shows hit their stride in the 2000s with great bits of comedy that will stick with me for a long time. While Conan and Stewart represent opposite ends of the comedy spectrum, both conquer that style of comedy. Conan on the side of the sheer outrageous and random and Stewart on the topical, biting, witty commentary of the day. Conan's tenure on Late Night created truly original and memorial bits: The Year 2000, The Walker Texas Ranger Lever, Conan Hates My Country, the Masturbating Bear, and of course, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. With Stewart, it is harder to pick out the great bits but I think "Internet=Series of Tubes," the Larry Craig Scandal, and anything involved in an election year, showcases all that Stewart and his writing staff can mock with rapier wit. Of course, the best bit of either show was the late night brawl between Conan, Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, during the Writer's Strike that was not only one of the most memorable moments of 2000s television but one of the funniest moments in television.

1. Arrested Development

I'll admit, I missed this show the first time around but it's just such a great show. Everything about this show I simply love: The Bluth Family, the visual jokes, the references to past episodes and the meta-references, Ron Howard's commentary, makes it all work in this really great mad-cap fashion. The madcap writing of this show is helped by the fact that I cannot point out a single bad performance in this show. The show really shines in episodes like "Top Banana," "Hand to God," "Spring Breakout," "Staff Infection," "S.O.B.S," and even the way the show ended in "Development Arrested," was amazing. I really am looking forward to the movie adaptation of this series and I hope that it is as rewatchable and as hilarious as the show is. It's Arrested Development.

That's my list of the best tv comedies of the past decade, stay tuned for my list of the best dramas!

An Introduction

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have stopped depriving the world of their access to my thoughts on the menial and trivial happenings of my life and the world at large. First let me go over some things:
1. While I am indeed red-headed, I am not a step-child. I am merely borrowing from an expression "Beat him like a red-headed step-child," to which many people, specifically community theatre folk decided to apply to me.
2. The subject matter of this blog will usually consist of my feelings of the days, lists of my top (insert topic here), or a rant or two on issues I may feel strongly about. Normally I will try my best to avoid the really big political topics, as I wish to draw people into the blog rather than drive them away.
3. If you disagree with anything I may post on this blog, feel free to leave a comment but please for the love of all that is holy, be civil, both to me and to anyone else who may post something, which I'm guessing will be a small number of people.
I think I will probably start off with a list of the decade, original I know, of probably the best tv shows as I have not seen all the movies I wanted to this past year (Up in the Air, Precious, In the Loop, An Education, The Hurt Locker, The Hangover, the list goes on). I might do a list of my favorite shows I've worked on in the past decade which I think will be a top five as I have only been in eleven full length productions throughout the decade.
So, that's my first post, I'll update soon with the current going-ons of the day, I've got my CCM audition this saturday, oh shit. But I think I will be fine. Here's to me being consistent and active with this blog!