Thursday, December 13, 2007

SDD's Top 100 Series of All Time: Places 70-61

70) 30 Rock
NBC, produced 2006-present

What: Perhaps the funniest new comedy in years (at least since the debut of Arrested Development), 30 Rock had a bit of a rocky start, having to extensively reshoot its pilot, then suffering through a handful of rough episodes that didn't quite gel as quickly as the show must have been hoping. Then, inexplicably, the series started to play to its strengths and simply took off, having barely a dull episode since that point in time. Low-rated and zany, 30 Rock seems more and more the spiritual heir of Arrested Development with every episode.

Why: In a time when there are fewer and fewer shows that aim for nothing more than comedy at all costs, 30 Rock is the funniest show on the air, blending madcap plotting with one of the best ensemble casts on television (featuring everyone from Alec Baldwin to Judah Friedlander). What makes the show work is that it isn't JUST a show-business satire; in fact, it's barely a show-business satire. What it is is a workplace comedy, set in what must be the goofiest workplace in the history of the world. 30 Rock takes old storylines and wrings new relevance out of them by giving them a fresh coat of political paint and tossing them to its expansive ensemble cast of recurring players. 30 Rock, more than anything else, is about how we've all been living with a conflict between people who want to change the world and the corporations that employ them since the 1980s. Slyly subversive, the show managed to somehow come back better than ever in its strike-shortened second season, adding a hard coat of political satire to its bag of tricks. Despite the low ratings, here's hoping 30 Rock lasts long enough to hit syndication.

Best season: Despite the fact that it has been shortened by the strike, season two is pretty terrific, held back only by a lackluster premiere that gave too much time over to Jerry Seinfeld.

Best episode: "Greenzo" is possibly the best episode of the show, taking equal time to mock well-meaning environmentalists and the corporations that would exploit them.

Did you know?: NBC greenlit the show only when executive producer Lorne Michaels called them angrily about Aaron Sorkin's behind-the-scenes series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Fey's script was rushed into production.

Available on DVD?: Season one is available on DVD. Season two is airing right now.

69) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
CBS, produced 2000-present

What: A huge surprise hit when it debuted (it had barely been promoted in favor of lead-in The Fugitive, and then it debuted with better ratings than The Fugitive), CSI has become such a huge pop-culture monolith that it essentially recreated an entire network (CBS) in its own image. What most people don't remember is just how fresh and different the show felt on a structural level when it debuted, largely because every other cop show is ripping it off now. But while other cop shows focused more on the personalities in the squad room or quirky detectives, CSI was all about the science, the characters revealed slowly through terse one-liners delivered over rotting corpses. Sure it's gotten long in the tooth, but the original series is still one of the most dependable stops on the television dial -- you always know what you're going to get, and you won't be disappointed.

Why: CSI is another show where escaping the series' influence becomes frankly impossible. I would have probably had the show on the list in a much lower slot (for a few seasons there, this was one of my favorites on the dial) if not for the fact that its stripped-down, back-to-the-basics approach has become TV's crime show default. In many ways, CSI's closest spiritual forebear is probably The X-Files, which also had a case-of-the-week structure and slow-burning character development, but its REAL ancestor seems to be Raymond Chandler short stories. CSI has become a bit hard to take, simply because it seemingly takes place in a universe where dark danger lurks around every corner (on a network where the same is true -- oh WHEN will dark crime procedurals stop being popular?), but in its first few seasons, CSI was dark and glittery, the perfect example of a glitzy TV noir and the absolute perfect series to give light to the darker side of Las Vegas. CSI is another series where the pleasures aren't found in profound ruminations on the human condition but rather in the series being almost exactly what you would expect it to be from week to week. To that end, it's almost impossible to watch with any sort of passion now, but at its start, there was really nothing like it on the air.

Best season: The third season moves with the swagger of a show that KNOWS it's the biggest thing going and knows nothing can stop it. It introduced the idea of serialized arcs to the series and gave virtually every member of the capable cast something to do.

Best episode: "The Execution of Catherine Willows" is a great showcase for Marg Helgenberger and the introduction of a fiendish character who would bedevil the show's detectives in seasons to come -- the Blue Paint Killer.

Did you know?: Developed for ABC, CSI got a pass from that network. It then went to CBS, where Les Moonves also passed on it, unable to figure out what it was all about. The series was off the schedule in favor of a Tony Danza series until Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal, anxious to go to lunch with Moonves, convinced him that CSI, which he liked the promo reel for, should be on the schedule. The rest was history.

Available on DVD?: The first seven seasons are on DVD. Season eight is airing right now.

68) Undeclared
Fox, produced 2001-2002

What: The last of Judd Apatow's critically acclaimed trilogy of one-season wonders, Undeclared is probably the series to best nail down the hazy fun of college life. Low-rated and generally unseen by the larger public (though reportedly quite popular on college campuses), the series, with its loose, improvisational style, was so not what America wanted to see after Sept. 11, so it bounced around Fox's schedule before dying an unceremonious death. The series is probably the best chronicle television ever came up with of how much fun it is to be a nerd who goes off to college to find that there are other people just like you, who want to be your friends. It's not as earthily tragic as Freaks and Geeks, but it doesn't have to be. Apatow called college the "reward for surviving high school," and this series makes that all too apparent.

Why: Undeclared is just really funny. There's an element of a continuing story to it (mostly in how main character Steven Karp slowly realizes that he's no longer just the picked-on nerd at his new school), but the series was mostly an excuse for the talented ensemble and recurring players to goof on what it's like to go to college. College has never been as successful a setting for television shows as high school, largely because the pain of high school is so universal, while the joys of college are very different for everyone who goes there (it also hurts that a network television show can't be honest about the things many college students do in their free time). Undeclared mostly got around that problem by being just so strange and silly; the VERY loose structure of the show really did feel a lot like some of the improvised adventures you might come up with with your college friends. The series brims with the freedom and possibility that come with going to college and finding out who you really are, and it gets a great boost from a perfectly cast Loudon Wainwright III as Steven's emotionally crippled dad.

Best season: There's only the one, but it's a great one.

Best episode: "God Visits" gets great jokes out of college Christian groups AND existentialism and hones in on one of the series' central themes -- when you're in college, you try on as many personas as you can to find the one that works best.

Did you know?: (This is pulled directly from Wikipedia, because it's just so great.) During a question-and-answer session, Judd Apatow stated that if the series had gotten picked up for a second season, there would have been an episode entitled "Eric's Birthday" in which Lizzie and Steven would go to the birthday party mentioned in episode Eric's POV. Linda Cardellini of Freaks and Geeks would have played his new girlfriend. In the episode, Eric would have gotten a cake with a picture of him and his new girlfriend printed on it. Lizzie would have gotten the piece with Eric's new girlfriend's face. At the time Jason Segel was dating Linda Cardellini.

Available on DVD?: The series' full run is available on an excellent DVD set from Shout! Factory (the Criterion of TV on DVD).

67) The Rockford Files
NBC, produced 1974-1980

What: In the 1970s, two detectives emerged as seriocomic foils to the typical macho, always-right detective. One was Columbo, but the other, more successful detective, was Jim Rockford. The series followed a fairly standard "case of the week" format, but within that format, lots of room was made for star James Garner to play around. Garner is one of those people who manages to make any series he touches work one way or another, and The Rockford Files is his finest hour as well. The series doesn't seem so revolutionary now, but it was seen as a new sort of drama at the time, with a new sort of hero. Later, the series would find great success in syndication to local stations, picking up a whole new generation of fans.

Why: Jim Rockford would rather run than fight. He isn't registered to have a gun and keeps the one he has in a cookie jar. His life is far from glamorous, and he lives in a beaten-up trailer down by the Malibu Pier. He rarely collects his fee (which is steep), and he has his share of other vices. On top of all of that, he was in prison for five years, and people from his prison life keep finding him and trying to rope him into their schemes. Many darker and more complex characters have succeeded on television since Jim Rockford, but he was the start of TV's gradual move to the embrace of the antihero. There had certainly been antiheroes before, but Rockford was the first who was so charming that you just HAD to like him, maybe even in spite of yourself. It helped that the series was quite funny when it wanted to be, lampooning other detective shows of the time with the straight-laced Lance White (played by a young Tom Selleck). Rockford also gave a lot of promising young television writers their start, including none other than Sopranos creator David Chase. Things about Rockford feel creaky to modern eyes (especially the action sequences), but the central character and Garner's portrayal of him still feel incredibly fresh. This is one well worth checking out on DVD.

Best season: The series got better after season two, and season four was its best year, when it finally gave up most of its pretenses of being a serious drama and embraced its comedic side wholeheartedly.

Best episode: The introduction of Lance White in "White on White and Nearly Perfect" was hysterically well-done, and Selleck was the perfect foil for the rumpled Garner.

Did you know?: The series was not felled by low ratings or creative disputes; it was felled by James Garner's health, which was poor and forced him to shut down production. He tried to make up his contract to NBC with a new Maverick series, which did not do well.

Available on DVD?:
The first four seasons are available, and the fifth season is scheduled for release in January.

66) Mad Men
AMC, produced 2007-present

What: The current trendy pick for the next great drama series is a show about the lies and deceptions of a group of advertising managers in the early 1960s. Mad Men tells its story through a deliberately slow pace and a filming style that recalls movies and TV shows of the time-period (the camera doesn't move a lot, and the cinematic grammar is very, very simple). The production values are sumptuous, and the cast is phenomenal, especially Jon Hamm as Don Draper, the go-to man for the ad agency, who's hiding a very big secret. Mad Men isn't as perfect as some critics want it to be, but it's a darn good series with every chance of becoming so much more.

Why: Few shows have had as confident a debut season as Mad Men had this summer. Creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner started his story out well with a stellar pilot, then carefully carried us along from strength to strength, highlighting the hypocrisies of both '60s society and the society of our own time. Some of the story points didn't entirely hit their mark, and there was stuff here that didn't quite work as well as the writers must have thought it would, but Mad Men at its best deeply respected its audience and their ability to figure out what was going on without underlining every point. Also, at a structural level, the series is phenomenally inventive. Most shows tell their stories through a simple collection of plot points -- even The Sopranos has a storyline that follows a rough plot in every episode. Mad Men, however, structures each episode as a collection of mini-sequences or mini-stories that have a thematic or character-based link. In this manner, an episode can start out in one place and end up somewhere completely different. The plot's still there, but the series finds a different way of getting at it. In a season one episode, Don and his boss Roger go to Don's home for dinner, where Roger hits on Don's wife. The sequences plays out almost as a tiny short story, but it informs the next one, where Don and Roger try to impress some clients. Don, angry at Roger, but unable to directly retaliate without losing his job, sets up a situation where he is able to indirectly humiliate Roger and show him just how old and washed-up he's becoming. By not feeling that every single story thread has to perfectly lead in to the next one, Mad Men is giving television a feel closer to a film comedy of social mores, like one Billy Wilder might make.

Best season: Season one is some tremendous television, aside from a handful of missteps late in the season.

Best episode: The season finale, "The Wheel," is amazing in the way it ties together everything that has gone before in the season in a quiet and restrained fashion, rather than, say, blowing up the Draper marriage. And Jon Hamm is perfection in a scene where he pitches a bunch of men from Kodak on a slide projector. Watch it now.

Did you know?: Written as a spec pilot in 2000, Mad Men was passed on by every major network, even though David Chase (creator of the Sopranos) talked it up to HBO. AMC picked it up as their first original series since the mid-90s, hoping it would become a flagship program for the series and attract new talent. Needless to say, it worked.

Available on DVD?:
Season one will be out in early 2008.

65) Monday Night Football
ABC/ESPN, produced 1970-2005/2006-present

What: Before Monday Night Football, the NFL was just a mostly regional league, and if you had a team nearby, you followed their exploits. If you didn't, the league didn't mean a whole lot to you. Sure, the championship game was on national television, but the league had yet to attain any of the pageantry associated with it today. In the late 1960s, though, two things happened: The NFL started the Super Bowl, and it signed a contract with ABC to broadcast one game to the whole nation in primetime weekly. The game was supposed to be one of the week's highlights, featuring two powerful teams beating on each other. Similar things had been attempted for baseball, but football's season perfectly corresponded with the fall TV season, and the innovations of MNF made the game more of an entertainment venture than anything else. The Super Bowl and MNF were the beginning of the modern NFL and maybe even modern sports.

Why: Monday Night Football has gotten less relevant as league parity has come to pass in the last ten years (thanks to the salary cap), and it's not even on a broadcast network anymore (with the NFL choosing to move the week's flagship game to Sundays -- a move that has had mixed results for the league), but in its 70s and 80s heyday, the game was THE event of the NFL week. What's more, the show pioneered many advances in sports programming, including packaging the game as an entertainment event (through an opening title sequence, etc.). Perhaps the series' most important innovation, though, was in putting three people in the booth to comment on the game, including a commentator, a play-by-play man and a "color" man, who would say things intended to comment humorously or insightfully on the game. The chemistry between two of the series' three teams (Meredith-Gifford-Cosell and Gifford-Michaels-Dierdorf) has become near legendary, and Howard Cosell managed to become one of the oddest media personalities in the history of American popular culture.

Best season: Not really applicable, but I think the Gifford-Michaels-Dierdorf teaming is a bit underrated.

Best episode: Again, not really applicable.

Did you know?: The two most common Monday Night Football matchups are the Denver Broncos vs. the Oakland Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Washington Redskins. Both matchups have been broadcast on the series 14 times.

Available on DVD?: No.

64) The Dick Cavett Show
ABC, produced 1968-1975

What: The name seems like something of a misnomer now. Talk show. Most of these shows have very little to do with anyone besides the host talking. Even the great, acclaimed Oprah's show is mostly a vehicle for her to tell her captive audience all about her assorted obsessions. The great talk shows, though, featured a give and take between the host and his or her guest. The guest was usually a celebrity of some kind on these shows, and said guest usually had something to say. Often, the guest might be a writer or philosopher or even someone like John Lennon, who had ideas about the world and humanity's place in it. Probably the best of these talk shows was the Dick Cavett Show, a free-wheeling hour where Cavett would talk and talk and talk with his guest. While never as successful as the show if often competed against (The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson), The Dick Cavett Show lives on in occasional reruns on cable channels and offers a fascinating time capsule of the decade in which it was filmed.

Why: What makes The Dick Cavett Show work is its affable host. Cavett really was interested in what the people he had on his show had to say, and he was willing to invite people from outside of the usual talk show mainstream on, including various rock acts and faded celebrities. A Cavett conversation was usually wide-ranging, covering everything from the artist's life story to their political philosophies and other beliefs about the world. Vintage Cavett shows have been a draw on various cable channels over the years precisely because of the wide-ranging nature of the conversation, which has not dated as much as the political digs of, say, Carson. Plus, because these people had something to say and Cavett knew how to get those things out of them, it's still interesting to see what people in the '60s were thinking about. We could use a similar show on a major network now.

Best season: Not really applicable, but look for his late-night talk shows, not his morning or primetime shows.

Best episode: Two of his finest conversations, with John Lennon and Yoko Ono and Lucille Ball, are both up in their entirety on YouTube.

Did you know?: Cavett moved to CBS at the end of his ABC run and put on a variety show.

Available on DVD?: A handful of collections of some of his best conversations are on DVD.

63) The Shield
FX, produced 2002-present

What: The first basic cable show to really seize on to all that The Sopranos had opened up as possible for television, The Shield was a raucous show about very bad cops who wanted to protect people but also wanted to take their own share off the top. Anchored by a riveting Michael Chiklis performance, the series took every cop show and action movie ever and made them all grist for its mill. If Andy Sipowicz was willing to do anything to get a perp to talk, Vic Mackey* was REALLY willing to do anything to get them to talk. Never subtle, The Shield was occasionally a bit too over-the-top, but when it was on, it was thrilling, fun, complex TV that asked us just how far we were willing to go to be safe. Vic Mackey would get good results, but did we REALLY want him in our corner?

Why: The Shield is a bruiser of a show, and that occasionally holds it back from being all that it can be, but its performances are so great, and its plotting is completely perfect, for the most part. The Shield probably isn't as complex or thought-out as, say, The Sopranos, but it makes up for that with sheer gusto, simply plunging forward in big, compelling stories that arc across whole seasons or just a handful of episodes. Because it's so adept at building storylines for all of its characters, The Shield never wants for something interesting to cut to, and that means that most of its characters have become incredibly well-developed, especially Dutch, Shane, Claudette and Mackey himself. The series' bigger issues were what kept it compelling; at some point, Mackey was going to have to be taken down, but did we really want that to happen? While some of the attempts to soften the character were a bit hamfisted (I mean, did he REALLY have to have autistic kids?), Chiklis' work was so strong that he made it somehow believable that Mackey kept escaping just by the very skin of his teeth. The show also attracted A-list guest stars, including a memorable turn from Glenn Close, of all people. Creator Shawn Ryan took the cop show and gave it a kick in the ass with a show that never really let-up. That's what it was. Bruising.

Best season: The fifth season, sporting an incredible guest turn from Forest Whitaker, tightened the noose around Mackey's neck and then made it even tighter. Compelling television.

Best episode: "Postpartum," the fifth season finale, is an episode that leaves you gasping and kills off a series regular in probably the most heartbreaking scene the series has filmed.

Did you know?: Shawn Ryan wrote the pilot script on a whim while working on Nash Bridges. His agent sent it around, similarly on a whim, and both were surprised when FX wanted to pick it up. In the process, Ryan almost singlehandedly invented the new way that young writers break into the TV business -- through spec pilots.

Available on DVD?: The first five seasons are available.

62) 24
Fox, produced 2001-present

What: Fox's bold, enthralling and frequently dumb real-time action series traced the ethical dilemmas and cliffhanging action of a group of counter terrorism agents who were willing to do literally anything to save the world. The series plays off of their interpersonal conflicts and relationships, but it mostly just wants to portray an action-packed ride that blows past the suspension of disbelief and heads right toward making the audience giggle in delight at the preposterousness of it all. Filmed beautifully and utilizing split-screens to great ends, 24 makes the most out of its real-time gimmick. It, perhaps, didn't seem as though the series could have made it past its first season, but Jack Bauer and his pals have saved the world six times now, with at least one more time in their future. 24 is one of the most influential shows of the decade.

Why: Here's the thing about bad seasons. A bad season doesn't utterly ruin everything that came before unless that bad season plays up flaws that were always present in the series' conception and execution before, making it easier to see the flaws in prior seasons. The sixth season of 24 brought out just how strange, strained and ridiculous the real-time concept could be and just how much the show used its characters as chess pieces, regardless of how much fans of the show loved those characters (brief break for Luke to rhapsodize about Tony and Michelle). It made it harder to go back and watch earlier seasons, simply because it was easier to see those flaws always present in the show's design. So 24, which might have been up in the 40s on an older list, now sits much lower, buoyed by just how many other shows it has influenced. It's a wonder that 24, which is famously made up by the writers as they go along, works at all. Usually, these sorts of serials require intense plotting to make sure that everything makes sense, but the seat-of-the-pants approach of 24 does give it a bit of freedom to ditch storylines that aren't working as quickly as they come up (something that a much more intensely plotted serial like Lost has trouble doing). 24 is still a strikingly gorgeous show, and the performance of Kiefer Sutherland is an iconic one, if not an especially incredible one. And I'll always look back on the show with quite a bit of nostalgia -- I mean, who could forget the time Jack's wife died? Or the time the nerve gas got loose in CTU? Or the time Kim was threatened by a cougar? 24 has never been perfect, but it's always been an entertaining and thrilling show, well-served by its real-time gimmick. Here's hoping it either pulls itself back together or doesn't go on too long.

Best season: Season two took the real-time gimmick of season one and used it to invent the 24 we know -- about a group of agents dedicated to saving the world at any cost, nothing else there to stop them.

Best episode: "Day 1: 11:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m." is one of the most shocking season finales of all time and one of the first episodes ever to kill off a series regular who didn't want to leave the show. The final shot is harrowing.

Did you know?: The series employs cameramen who are not told where the actors are going to go when. This forces them to scramble to catch the action, often giving the show the appearance of news footage or a documentary.

Available on DVD?: The first five seasons are available. Season six is available later this year.

61) Saturday Night Live
NBC, produced 1975-present

What: Not given much of a chance of success, Saturday Night Live revolutionized what people watched on the weekends. When they were supposed to be out partying, they were staying home to watch the original cast, still one of the most storied casts in the history of television. SNL was a collection of wacky skits, musical performances, political satire and (in the first season and change) Muppets. One of the most successful shows of all time with young audiences, SNL continues to draw an audience, year in and year out, even when it's pretty bad. Uneven by its nature, SNL bounces from good years to terrible years, good skits to terrible skits. Few television shows are on long enough to have eras, but SNL has at least six of them, if not more.

Why: So I don't really like sketch comedy. Just a personal thing, I'm sure, but I don't like how uneven it is by its very nature. And that's why I've never been a huge SNL fan, though I'd wager I've seen most of it, right up until this lame, disappointing set of seasons in these last few years. But there's no denying the show's influence on the popular culture. SNL sketches and quotes and jokes have so permeated the culture, largely driven by baby boomers and Gen-Xers, for whom the show was essential, that to try to rank the show any lower than this would just seem silly. That said, SNL is just too uneven for me, and I think too many of its seasons have been too bad to rank it much higher. The show has launched so many great talents that I don't want to make it sound as if it deserves disparagement (I mean, who doesn't love Bill Murray, Will Ferrell or Tina Fey?), but for all of the show's influence, it's ALWAYS been uneven (check out the season one DVD set if you don't believe me) and it's always been trapped by its format -- switching over to more taped pieces might make the show a hair better, honestly. But that wouldn't be what the show has always been, and I do appreciate that the show is keeping the flame of live television alive, even if the illusion that anything can happen is mostly just that. Saturday Night Live isn't as essential as it once was, but it's too influential to ignore.

Best season: It's hard to pick a season, so I'm going to say that the seasons from the late '80s, for the most part, were the show's most consistent. In those seasons, the writing wasn't quite as sharp as it could be in other eras (especially in those first seasons), but the ratio of funny-to-crappy was much more in favor of funny.

Best episode: My favorite recurring SNL segments are probably Celebrity Jeopardy and TV Funhouse. Sad, I know. Also, sadly, I really like Toonces the Driving Cat.

Did you know?: Salt Lake City NBC affiliate KSL does not show Saturday Night Live.

Available on DVD?: Seasons one and two are on DVD, complete and uncut. The series also boasts a number of "best of" DVDs.

The list so far:
61) Saturday Night Live
62) 24
63) The Shield
64) The Dick Cavett Show
65) Monday Night Football
66) Mad Men
67) The Rockford Files
68) Undeclared
69) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
70) 30 Rock
71) NYPD Blue
72) Sports Night
73) The Phil Silvers Show
74) The Office (US)
75) Green Acres
76) Frasier
77) The Waltons
78) Friday Night Lights
79) The West Wing
80) M*A*S*H
81) The Bob Newhart Show
82) Everybody Loves Raymond
83) Sex and the City
84) The Price is Right
85) Big Love
86) The Amazing Race
87) Futurama
88) Everwood
89) The Cosby Show
90) Beavis and Butthead
91) Firefly
92) Leave it to Beaver
93) Alfred Hitchcock Presents
94) Picket Fences
95) Veronica Mars
96) WKRP in Cincinnati
97) Project Runway
98) How I Met Your Mother
99) The Adventures of Pete and Pete
100) Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Today's Christmas tune: Everybody likes "White Christmas," but do you like it IN FRENCH? Find out! If you like it, consider buying the excellent compilation I found it on.

Tomorrow: New-ish shows that could make future versions of this list -- assuming I made future versions of this list, including twee-ness, camp-osity and goofiness.

*--Originally, I said his name was Frank Mackey. I blame the eggnog.


Bobby said...


My Galactica prediction the other night was predicated on the statement that you were only including shows that "debuted on American television". Galactica aired on the BBC well before it hit our shores.

Myles said...

Mad Men may be the first show the HFPA has entered into the Golden Globes race due to its newness that I actually agree with (The other two, Damages and Californication...uh, not so much). The series is just so tightly wound, and I look forward to continuing to tell people about the series.

Good to see some newer shows on this part of the list - The Shield is on my list of eventual catchups. But allow me to be the first to challenge your choice of 24 Season, if only because signalling "Jack Bauer saves the world" was actually what pretty much killed Season 2 (And 4, and 6) dead. There was a reason Season 3 went to a somewhat more localized threat, and was much better because of it. Plus, while it's DAMN close, Chapelle Scene > Mason Scene.

And admittedly, I think "Hard Ball" is pretty much the perfect 30 Rock episode. Greenzo is fine and all, but I definitely prefer an episode that is based less on a guest star or two. Just a general rule.

Dan said...

Actually, BSG debuted on Sky One (a subscription satellite channel with links to Rupert Murdoch), not the BBC.

Sky helped finance the first season and consequently got the world premiere. They still air BSG now, but about 2 months after the US showings. I don't think they help out financially now, either.

Todd said...

BSG was a unique case in that the bulk of its run was primarily funded by U.S. money. Anyway, didn't the miniseries premiere on U.S. TV? I don't get too tied up in technicalities, to be honest.

Myles: I think the first two-thirds of season three are right up there with the worst 24 has ever been. The last eight episodes are just about the best it's ever been, so you can't write it off entirely, but there's just too much of an attempt to keep the story tap dancing along in those first 16. 24 was bound to become unsustainable either way, but I think the "Jack Bauer saves the world!" format had more juice in it than the "small, localized threat" format. Season two manages to capture nearly every American fear post-2000 election and Sept. 11 and turn them into something almost cathartic. The show's ended up being a right-wing favorite, but season two captured the political complexities of the war on terror better than any show 'til BSG debuted, even offering up a false war driven by corporate greed (scripted two months BEFORE the Iraq invasion). A lot of this is standard-issue conspiracy theory stuff and therefore not usable as policy basis or anything, but it resonates, man. Also, I'll take season two's weak link (Kim vs. the cougar) over season one's weak link (Terri vs. amnesia) any day. At least the cougar subplot KNOWS it's stupid.

Nick said...


Just a correction to make to your great post : "The Shield"'s protagonist is named Vic Mackey, not Frank Mackey.

tom said...

To be fair, Vic Mackey could probably be related to Frank "TJ" Mackey (the Magnolia character). They have the same disposition.

Todd said...

Thanks for the correction. I hate when I make stupid errors like that.

Must have had Paul Thomas Anderson on the brain with the impending release of There Will Be Blood!

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the song is in Spanish.

apple said...