I don’t watch much drama on TV. For example: 24 seems too serious for its own good and too much like a too-long action film. I’ve seen a few episodes of Mad Men, and I liked it — more movie-like than most things on the tube. But I’ve not caught much of The Sopranos or watched an episode of The Wire — two dramas I’m sure are great but seem to deep and engrossing for me to jump into without preparation.
So forgive me, but my favorite TV of the last decade is all comedy.
And there was plenty of great TV comedy in the Aughts.
1. The Office (U.K. version)
Ricky Gervais’ mock-doc about a quaint British paper company is the essence of brilliance: hilarious when it needs to be and utterly perfect in the amount of drama it sprinkles in. As I’ve said before, it’s the closest modern-day pop-culture has come to Shakespeare. [Check out Brent’s blog on the UK office here.
2. American Idol
Like it or not, it can be quite engrossing. If only to see whether the contestants really are that talented. If only to see how they re-arrange or mishandle classic songs. If only to see Simon Cowell, one the masters of one-liners.
3. The Office (U.S. version)
Unlike the British version — which is more about awkward and serious emotions — the American edition is more about people. We care about the characters enough to both laugh at and love them. It also has some
of the most diverse plotlines on television.
4. Arrested Development
More laughs-per-minute than any show of its generation — which is tough for a show that cleverly walked the line between wacky and too wacky. But I’m kind of to blame for its sad demise: I didn’t watch it
until it hit DVD.
5. Curb Your Enthusiasm
The fact that it’s unscripted yet looks so effortless makes it great. But what makes it brilliant is how Larry David shows us something we don’t always admit: that behaving without boundaries is hilarious.
6. Late Night With Conan O’Brien
It’s almost shameful to watch what NBC is doing to Conan now. But when he was on at 12:35, and had the freedom to say what he wanted, he reveled in how pleasantly random and juvenile comedy can be when it’s
7. Parks And Recreation
The newest show on my list, this has quickly become my favorite half-hour on TV. Season 1 was okay, but Season 2 is consistently smart and funny — which is quite a triumph for a show about small-town government.
8. 30 Rock
Like Arrested Development, Tina Fey’s farcical Emmy-winner mines the wacky for content, and only rarely over-does it. Plus, Alec Baldwin has turned into a great comic actor and Tracy Morgan is one of the most underrated laugh machines in TV.
9. Family Guy
The best skewer of pop-culture around. Take that, Best Week Ever.
Ricky Gervais’ second TV series was an astute exploration of fame and hubris. Like The Office, it’s really a mini-series you should watch in a row.
Much like my good friend Brent Johnson, the Aughts were a decade where my time to dedicate to watching television was quite limited. With the numerous time consuming jobs I’ve had these past 10 years, my free time has been dedicated to family, friends, dating, film and the beach. So below are the 10 shows that I took time to watch because they were awesome in my humble opinion.
1. Spaced [Channel 4, UK]
Silly, surreal, subtle, superb, Spaced. A basic “will they, won’t they” sitcom is turned into the ultimate celebration of pop and geek culture. Its comedy is so out there, but yet its characters are so relatable- you know these people, hell, you might be these people! The dialogue is littered with witty film references yet chock full of meaningful speeches about love and dating and how much the new Star Wars films sucked. Its camera work is inspired by the Evil Dead films, yet feels completely original in a TV setting. Its the most genius show ever created. You can catch it on Hulu here.
2. Professional Wrestling [Monday Night RAW, TNA Impact!, Smackdown!, ECW Hardcore TV, WWF Classics on MSG, Sunday Night Heat, ECW on TNN, WCW Monday Night, WCW Thunder, AWA Classics]
I have been a pro wrestling fan since I was seven years old and I still try and watch at least one wrestling show every week. While the once thrilling, well scripted and exciting action of the sport has cooled off since wrestling’s last glory days in the late 90s/early 00s, there’s always plenty of blood and guts for me every week.
2a. Tough Enough [MTV]
My all-time favorite reality series. While the show tried to focus on the “drama” between the potential wrestlers outside the ring, the lifeblood of this show was always the wrestling. It was awesome seeing a behind-the-scenes look at how to become a professional wrestler as well as watching young talent, like the last Tough Enough winner John Morrison became national headliner.
3. Mad Men [AMC]
One of the best-written dramas to grace the screen. Deeply engaging and tragic storylines, dynamite acting, impeccable sets and costumes, it’s breathtaking genius week in and week out. To read more about Mad Men click here.
4. Family Guy [Fox/TBS/Cartoon Network]
Old reliable. So many quotes, so many memorable characters, Surfing Bird. I can watch this show at any time, on any channel and still laugh loud, hard and with tears in my eyes.
5. Top Chef [Bravo]
What started out as “another reality contest show” became the stuff of foodie legend. You are literally salivating watching these highly trained chefs create unique dishes under unique circumstances. For more on this show click here.
6. Little Britain [BBC 3, UK]
The most madcap, absurd and off-the-wall British sketch series since Monty Python. Sadly, the American update, Little Britain: USA, failed to show how brilliant its creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams are. Try and find this gem’s first season (the best one by far) on DVD as soon as you can and be ready to laugh.
7. The Colbert Report [Comedy Central]
Divinely absurd and insightful, Steven Colbert’s skewering of the American political talking head phenomenon has not only made him a comedic icon, but a cultural one as well.
8. 30 Rock [NBC]
Sadly, I have not dedicated enough time to keep up with this show. Based off the first season and the recent episodes I’ve watched, it’s the best American sitcom created in ages. It’s lower on my list because I just haven’t seen much of the new shows to love it more.
9. The Shield [FX]
Forget Jack Bauer, Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) is the ultimate badass with a badge. This raw nerve, gritty drama about a cop who upholds the law unless it effects his wallet, legitimatized FX as a cable station and raised the bar for cop dramas. Rent Season 6 when Forrest Whitaker comes on as an internal affairs officer who becomes obsessed with taking Mackey down.
10. The Office [NBC]
It’s cute, it’s engaging and it’s very human. The Office is able to walk the line between ridiculous comedy and real human emotion- something most sitcoms have and will never achieve.
Honorable Mention: Arrested Development, How I Met Your Mother. These two shows are ones that I find to be absolutely amazing and hilarious, however only watching a handful of episodes, I cannot justify putting them on the top 10 list. Luckily I just received HIMYM Season 1 on DVD, so I will definitely be catching up on it.