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Ten To Love: TV Shows

Even through most of the summer recession, there's always at least a little bit of news or a topic I'm ready to write about. But I vowed this year that I'd take some of the slowest days this summer and have some fun with other topics of interest. To that end, this marks the first of the "Ten To Love" series, which will pop up who-knows-when as a chance to lay out some of my favorites that have nothing to do with the 'Horns.

I'm kicking off the series with my ten favorite TV shows of all time. Ideally, I'm interested in others' lists as well - Mt. Rushmore style.

Before I lay out the list, let me emphasize that I'm not commenting on these shows as any kind of TV critic. For starters, the only television I see these days is via DVD and I'm woefully out of touch with what's on, what's good, etc. (I've never seen 30 Rock or The Office, for example.) But more importantly, I'm just not a TV snob in the slightest. I like what I like.

On to the list, presented in alphabetical order.

1. Arrested Development - Shameful truth be told, I resisted this show at first, and not for any good reason: MMHorns and Jimmer were watching it before I was and having the grandest time reciting entire episodes back and forth to one another. God forbid I feel left out, I defiantly decided the show was overrated. "I choose not to join in on your Afternoon Delight. Hmmph."

Yeah that didn't work out. And how could it? The show has everything on my comedy checklist: truly unique characters, outrageous plot lines, and enough hyperbole to make Bill Walton blush. I honestly don't know how anyone could be silly-minded enough to have scripted that show. Just awesome.

"Seven grand— you better believe I love them. I mean, look... look what you’re wearing. You look like crap. I mean, at least this is... What...? Who did this?"

2. Battlestar Gallactica - This is not a show I sought out on my own, but watched only because a good friend was so thoroughly obsessed. Honestly, it's so good that I'd invite even the most skeptical to sit down and give it a shot. Whether you start on the mini-series or "33" (Season 1, Episode 1), immediate addiction is inevitable.

The show literally has large doses of everything: heavy action, deep conspiracies, romance, humor, philosophy (political, metaphysical, ontological - no joke), and on and on.

Also, Number Six. Oh dear God she's irresistibly hot.

I seriously might sell out the universe if she were whispering in my ear.

3. Cheers - I'm not 100% positive, but I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode now. Some are far better than others, but at its best Cheers has always seemed to me the pinnacle of sitcoms. I could write for pages about what I love about Cheers, but in the interest of space, I'll limit myself to three quick thoughts:

  1. The sheer simplicity of the show is remarkable. There's just that one little set - two cameras filming  an endless parade of entertainment at a neighborhood bar - guaranteeing the show's strength would have to come from its characters. Nothing cutesy or clever; just an exceptionally simple premise: good TV shows are about people.
  2. The rapport between Ted Danson and Shelley Long was truly exceptional. A lot of people hated Shelley Long during and after Cheers, a reaction I always interpreted as proof that her performance as Diane Chambers was one of a kind. Even more amazing than that, though, was the chemistry she and Ted Danson shared. I've never, ever seen on film a couple fight as well as those two did. Incredibly, despite a six-season roller coaster, their on-again, off-again relationship never got old. Only because Long and Danson were that dynamic together.
  3. Dr. Frasier Crane. One of the best characters ever invented for TV, and for whom Kelsey Grammar was born to play.

4. Columbo - I'll be shocked if this is in anyone else's Top 10, but I'm a total sucker for any and all shows featuring great (and quirky) detectives. Lt. Columbo more than fit that bill, of course, as one of the most unusual lead characters in a most unusual detective show: each began with the viewer witnessing the murder. The treat was waiting to see how Columbo would piece it all together... one question at a time.

5. Friday Night Lights - I cannot tell you how sure I felt that I would hate this show. And after the first episode, I still had my doubts... They didn't last long. I know I'm preaching to the choir at this site, so I won't prattle on about its merits. I'll just add what a godsend that show was to me in cold, dark South Bend. To say that I miss Texas women is an understatement.

Give the casting director two gold stars.

6. NewsRadio - For all its comedic genius, the show was consistently marred by tragedy - big and small. On the small scale, NBC's executives were grossly out of touch with the show's essence, constantly trying to force it to do gimmicky crap to boost ratings (Lisa's on-air wedding, anyone?). And on a much bigger scale, of course, Phil Hartman - the show's best character (among many greats) - was murdered after the fourth season. The show tried to carry on with Jon Levitz stepping in as a replacement, but the spirit was gone and the show folded after Season 5.

Still, for 97 episodes, there wasn't a better comedy on TV, though few seemed to notice. It aired from 1995-99, during the height of the Seinfeld craze, and though it developed a significant devoted following, it never caught on in the mainstream.

7. Six Feet Under - I'm really not one for dramas, but Six Feet Under had no trouble holding my attention through all five incredible seasons. At first there was a certain appeal to the foundation of the story itself - a moderately dysfunctional family in Los Angeles decide to become undertakers when the father passes away unexpectedly.

Engaging though the backstory was, the charm was in the characters. And though the show was very often a sobering drama, it was also rich with dark comedy. Once I'd finished season one, I knew I'd be watching the remaining four.

8. South Park - Do I need to say anything here? I don't, do I?

9. Veronica Mars - This one, on the other hand, may require a little explanation. As I said before, I can't resist a great detective, and Veronica Mars is one of the best ever written for the screen. Before the show was recommended to me, I assumed it was a typical show for teenage girls, but it's far, far more than that. I've never been so surprised to like a show so much. Exceptional dialogue, compelling characters,
and enthralling plot. A++

Hot. Smart. Spunky. Loves mysteries... Marry me?

10. The Wire - If you haven't seen it or don't like it, I don't know what to tell you... There will be many, many doctoral papers written on this show, no joke.