Anyways on to the top 10 TV shows:
1. The Wire - If you've paid any attention to college and post-college me then you know how much respect, love and metamorphosis I've gained through this show. While I would say it's sad that I essentially changed my life due to the show, I think it's important to appreciate any way that you grow as a person. Before the Wire, I'd say I was naive to a lot of issues throughout this country. However, the Wire changed that - made want to be a teacher, join Troy Camp, join TFA, and essentially be exposed to what's really going on in the world. While my own reaction is important in my admiration for the show, the show itself is what deserves all the accolades.
Premise: The Wire was one of the first times a show would really hit home on the drug war (post-911 show) and also feature a primarily black cast in both the police and drug game. The show demonstrates how institutions in America are fundamentally broken and who exactly is to blame for the crime, poverty and destruction of our youth. This is displayed by police v. gangs, how drugs get into the country, politics at play, the educational system, and what the news/media decides to display on the subject. It is the most brutally honest show about America ever created and it will make you rethink nearly everything about the country that you think you love.
Characters: Most people have 20 favorite characters in this show as their are so many strong characters throughout every institution. The characters are also all strong actors/actresses who have gone on to be featured in a slew of other shows and movies. There is so much to say about them, but lets just everyone is brilliant for all their subtext and theoretical processes you can have on them.
Filmwork: The Wire is deceptively well made. There are several thematic cinematographic and edited shots that convey The Wire's message. Another fun caveat is that the music diagetic (meaning it comes from the shot itself and is not overlaid in post-production). Two full watches will make you appreciate the nuances.
Overall, the show is brilliant and every time I just say that because I don't want to give away anything for anybody. It is a grand show that fires on all cylinders for music, characters, acting, film work, themes, and a interwoven storyline that makes you care about 50+ characters and their plights.
2. Breaking Bad - What is there to say about Breaking Bad? This show is one that I got chance to enjoy in both real time and in learning how to utilize netflix. The other cool aspect that I did for this show is that I ruined nothing for myself and stayed off the internet for this. As such, it is one of the only shows that I never had spoiled.
Premise - A chemistry teacher needs to get money for his cancer treatments. What starts as a bit of playing with the devil becomes a full ride through hell featuring drug lords, cartels, FDA, and family matters. It is both a grand display of drug crime and a psychoanalysis of people and how they are affected depending on situations.
Characters: While I think the story and premise are brilliant, the characters of this show are full-fledged character analysis studies. Whether it is Walter White's transformation, Jesse's trials and tribulations or Gus' duality of morals, the show continues to create realistic and compelling characters.
Filmwork: The cinematography manages to make Albuquerque look gorgeous (it is) and the editing is top notch (just watch Shotgun for a brilliant editing sequence). I would also say that their is so wonderfully well-applied music that hits themes and ideas quite well in the show.
Overall, Breaking Bad is one of the best shows because it shows you how to near perfectly write a single story. It is essentially the perfect show; however, The Wire covers more characters really well and it is the only reason why it is higher for me.
3. Roots (miniseries) - This show has its own blogpost to explain why I love it. I will say that characters are brilliant, but the film work isn't that great outside of wonderfully detailed costume & set designs to depict the changing times. However, everything I have to say in praise and respect to this show can be found on an earlier blogpost.
4. Mad Men - I've decided for this list to only have that are live actor shows. As such, this and Parks and Recreation will be edits.
Anyways, Mad Men already has its own blog post in my archives, but I do have to state the brilliance of show that understands what America is and the psychological inflictions it can have upon different personality types. From style, to cinematography, to set design, and of course writing and character, the show understands the complexity of how humans interact with each other and their own minds.
Premise: An ad agency in the 1960s reflects the changing cultures, fashions, music and mindsets of the 60s while highlighting the reality of what America is today. Every character is a study in the human condition and every episode is a study on America.
Characters: While I've highlighted this in detail on another post. The glory that is the ad agency are some of the best characters ever written. While I most relate to Don Draper with his lack of conformity and tortured mind, every character is relatable to at least someone; if not yourself than certainly someone you know. You'll end up in love with these characters while at the same time loathing them.
Filmwork: A surprising highlight throughout this show is the filmwork. However, it's not the camerawork that is superb so much as what is in the shot. I will target the cinematography and the set design/fashion. The cinematography in Mad Men has several shots that could be put into a a successful financial company as if it is meta about what is being displayed in both the story and its image. Think 1950s/60s ads and you have the simple yet revealing cinematography of Mad Men. Set design and fashion are the bread and butter elements that make the show really stand out as a piece straight out of the 1960s. The show's team works to give you both the look and feel of the 1960s in order to complete immerse in you the world.
Overall, the show requires a strong drink and an experienced mind to appreciate. There are moments for women and even some for people of color. And while I first thought this show was all about rich white guys, I realized that it is about the flaws in all of us and what we lose or gain as we become older.
5. Sopranos - Deserving of its accolades? Yes. Even with its fan base splitting ending, I would still say the ride of the Sopranos is ultimately worth it. While I will say that it has a trying Season 6Part A that is not that fun nor interesting overall, it still hits well in nearly every other season. It hits so well that while I think my next entry is more consistent, Sopranos really shines brighter than most shows when it's on point.
Premise: A mobster from Jersey has anxiety attacks. Thus, his whole life both the psychological and physical is put on display for our entertainment. While there is never exactly an antagonist in the natural sense, Tony Soprano and his crew/family has to deal with mafia disputes while remembering to take his daughter on a college trip. It's an odd juxtaposition of life and crime similar to Breaking Bad that often reaches into thematic and psychological that are unexpected in the course of the show.
Characters: The acting throughout this show is top notch. While Paulie is hilarious, Christopher's story is almost a completely different show, and Carmella is filled with passion, nobody takes the cake over Tony Soprano. As such, James Gandolfilni (RIP) is possibly one of my favorite characters ever created and realized on TV due to his multiple-dimensions of a real human being in the crime world.
Filmwork: Many of directors/cinematographers here are on other shows that I have listed and will list. However, I would say that the films psychological episodes (Test Dream, Funhouse, Join the Club etc..) really show off the strong film work of this show. Some people hate those episodes, but I think they are the most thematic and intellectually stimulating episodes in TV existence.
Overall, The Sopranos is a real treat that deserves all that praise it gets. The 1st part of Season 6 is weak after the beginning and the ending is debatable, but outside of that it is a wonderful journey.
6. Six Feet Under - I don't think I give this show enough credit for what it does to you as a human being. What I mean by that is that I've heard this show being referenced as free therapy; I couldn't agree more. This show basically puts every scenario you could think of in your life and how you could deal with it. Also it gets major props for two aspects: one of the best gay relationships in tv ever and in contrast to above, the best TV show ending on this list.
Premise: The Fisher family runs a funeral home and must deal with their lives when their patriarch (father, husband etc…) dies. What ends up happening is a strange variety of complex scenarios regarding life, death, family and relationships at different stages of your life that the characters react to in their own ways.
Characters: The Fisher family is the most normal yet dysfunctional family you've ever seen and every character is a delight. Whether it's Nate's inability to figure out what to do next, David's rigidity, Claire's transformation, or Ruth's copings of being single and old. The other characters have their own bizarre eccentrics as well, Keith and Brenda come to mind.
Filmwork: This show won Emmys for its makeup work (making the dead look good is costly, but it's well done here) and gets praise for its strange play with reality and afterlife. With that being said, I think it has some of the better work done consistently throughout the series.
Overall, Six Feet Under is a recommendation to watch how life changes and adapts as we grow older. With that it stays with you and you will probably cry more times in this show than any other I mention because it is therapeutic in knowing that you'll be ok even though loss is something we must all endure.
7. Arrested Development (Season 1-3) - Why not Season 4? One, I haven't finished it and Two, the feel of the show is so different that it feels like I'm watching a whole other series. However, for three seasons this show had me in stitches from its multi-layered humor that was surprisingly approachable for younger audiences while being high brow enough to make sophisticated adults laugh. I think it is an extremely funny show that coherently tells a narrative as well.
Premise: The Bluth family has to deal with the fallout their patriarch has caused with financial evasions. This leads to us learning about the pasts, present and future happenings of the Bluth family in how they deal with their own personal hangups in regards to the family.
Characters: Everyone has a favorite Bluth and while GOB and Tobias often win people over, this is one of the few shows in which I can honestly say every character is equally hilarious including some of the funniest females in TV (Lucille and Lindsay).
Filmwork: You would be surprised how much this show plays with film conventions in using archival footage of the characters when they were younger, photoshopped images, strange Raymond Chandler noir conventions, and a myriad of references to previous episodes or moments. Through all of this and the voiceover narration of Ron Howard, the show is actually a filmic delight that enjoys and entertains as much as its cast.
Overall, I recommend the first 3 Seasons of Arrested Development ASAP, while I think mixed feelings about Season 4, the first 3 are flawlessly hilarious and would provide you comic relief for days especially if you can discover the hidden humor.
8. Friday Night Lights - I can't think of a better media depiction of sports. There is certainly no better depiction of small town football than this show. I would also say that this show accurately depicts aspects of Texas like you wouldn't believe. With all that being said, this show is so much more than a football show and shows a lot of heartache and victories made with some of the most relatable characters ever displayed in TV.
Premise: A newly hired high school football coach and his family move into town to keep the legacy of the strong high school's football team and atmosphere alive. What we really get is a show that gives a lot of honest depictions of the roughness that goes with living with those expectations.
Characters: I think many people have a lot of favorite characters here that is split among the original and the Season 4 cast as the show finds ways to make each of its characters fleshed out and fully realized. Sure it falls short on some in Season 2 (because of the show's writing transitions) it still does well with its brightest even after they've left the main cast (the best episode of the show imo is in Season 4 and is centered around a previously main, but now guest character). Furthermore, you're going to see the worst and the best characters in football that you'll ever know.
Filmwork: This show was made when the shaky cam got really popular as the first season shows. While some think the football work is terrible, I disagree and think it is some of the more fun moments of the show. Beyond the film work is standard, but the shaky cam adds a lot of layers and personality to the show that one might not initially expect.
Overall, this show does a lot of wonderful things we might not initially expect with football whether that is corporate greed, racism, sexism, crime, violence and more. While Season 2 is up and down it still has strong episodes and the rest of the seasons are glorious and I highly encourage anyone who has ever loved football or sports for more than just being game to give it a watch.
9. The Cosby Show/Boy Meets World: I had to tie both of these shots for what they do for growing up and life lessons in practically identical class levels with the only difference being racial. Boy Meets World watches its main character and his friends grow from ~5th grade to post college…which is nearly unheard of in a TV show, while The Cosby Show features the main character, a black doctor and his wife, a black lawyer in how they deal with their families up and downs as they grow in their school years. I can sing praises for The Cosby Show for it being the most positive depiction of a black family in the history of TV while singing praises to Boy Meets World for being a show that to deal with a lot of adolescent issues that come up while introducing us to Mr. Feeny. As such, I just couldn't choose and highly recommend both.
10.Parks and Recreation -While this show was originally an offshoot of the Office, after Season 1, it really came into its own world. The show also stayed consistently funny in the later seasons which cannot be said about the Office.
Premise: The Parks and Recreation office has a cast of characters who attempt to build a park, deal with civil service issues, and attempt build their own careers. The true shine of this show is how the characters develop in personality while remaining hilarious.
Characters: This is an extremely close knit group of characters which makes it hard to find a favorite. Tom as one of the first Indian characters where race isn't an issue on mainstream TV, Donna as a hilarious big Black woman, the wonderful Leslie Knope, optimistic Andy, and sarcastic April and the rest stay funny. However, special notes must be made for Ron Swanson who is arguably one of the funniest characters ever alive. He is a brilliant character in every way.
Filmwork: There's nothing exactly to write about here because the filmwork does not add nor detract to the show. I will say it is not exactly a mockumentary like The Office and is instead its own show with occasional talking heads.
Overall, this show stays funny, has a great finale that while similar to Six Feet Under, makes sense in the context of the show. While the humor is not as multi-layered as Arrested Development, it is strikingly funny with how well its characters play their parts off of each other.
Game of Thrones: Another one that remains to be seen what its full potential will be. At the moment, I'm simply enjoying the chaotic times and fun I get to enjoy will all of my friends on the internet.