Saturday, February 19, 2011

TIME's Top Ten

This is, according to TIME, the Top 10 of the actual TV Shows:

This sprawling social drama has dozens of characters and, really, only one--Baltimore, Md. The fourth, finest and most heartbreaking season focused on four inner-city schoolboys, serenaded by the drug trade, failed by every institution meant to protect them and facing choices that will make or doom them for life. Meanwhile, it expanded on the show's novelistic tapestry of cops, politicos, junkies, bureaucrats, ministers and hustlers. No other TV show has ever loved a city so well, damned it so passionately or sung it so searingly.

It's not just the other Office anymore. The remake of the great British sitcom has found its own voice, satirizing the culture of coffee, cubicles and Chili's with heart and laser precision. The deep bench of its cast provides a pointillistic taxonomy of American office life (who doesn't work with an Angela, a Kevin or a Stanley?). And the wistful Pam-and-Jim almost-romance--all together now: Awww!--threatens to give the Sam-and-Diane saga a run for its long-unconsummated money.

Call it an underdog, a dark horse, a seventh-round draft pick--just don't ignore the fall's best new series (based on the book and movie) any longer. This high school football drama is a moving, warts-and-all portrait of life in hard-up Dillon, Texas, nailing the fine points of small-town politics and faith that TV too often romanticizes or ignores. It's a poignant picture of what a championship team means to a town that can't afford to wait till next year.

TV's most philosophical entertainment--or most entertaining work of philosophy--piled on plot curlicues like the toppings on an oversize novelty sundae. Maddening as its mystery could be (O.K., so the smoke monster was set up by the Others who live by the four-toed statue and--hang on, let me grab a pencil ...), great writing, tantalizing details and ever richer characters made it a yarn worth getting more deeply entangled in.

The only thing wilder than the Wild West, it turns out, was the appetite of civilized capitalism. Gerald McRaney was a captivating villain as George Hearst, the mining magnate and misanthrope who brutally assimilated the gold-rush camp in this expertly written work of sagebrush Shakespeare. (No other TV show is so wonderful just to listen to, swear words and all.) Backstage dealings have apparently denied the series a fourth season--an epilogue has been promised--but it rode into the sunset memorably.

Come for the polygamist, stay for the thespians! The story of a Salt Lake City, Utah, man (Bill Paxton) and his multiple wives was a surprisingly sympathetic treatment of religious fundamentalism and a master-class acting showcase. Ginnifer Goodwin, Chloƫ Sevigny and Jeanne Tripplehorn portrayed a complicated "sister-wives" dynamic, while Harry Dean Stanton was supporting character of the year as a deliciously snaky cult leader.

A high-minded war turns into a brutal quagmire. Terrorist sleepers turn the public paranoid. And the victims of an attack find themselves sacrificing liberty to defend it. Sound like any planet you know? The topical parallels became deeper and more chilling in Seasons 2 and 3 of this thinking viewer's space opera. It's like the Iraq Study Group report with starship fights and hot-looking robots.

No capes, no masks, no problem. The live-action comic book about ordinary folks discovering extraordinary powers transcended geek appeal with a crisp, focused plot and a dose of humor. Special honors go to Masi Oka, who, as time-traveling cubicle jockey Hiro, stood in for every kid (and grownup) who has ever wished he could close his eyes, squint really hard and save the world.

Justice is murder for Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a part-time sleuth and--oh, yeah--serial killer who learned young to put his deadly urges to productive use by slaughtering only bad guys. Hall's composed, self-aware performance is flat-out stunning, and so is the treatment of this psychoprocedural's central idea: Is it a man's thoughts or his actions that make him good or evil?

Charles Dickens' greatest novel yielded Masterpiece Theatre's greatest co-production in years. The adaptation captured the disparate tones of the sprawling legal tale--satire, romance, melodrama--and deftly handled its numerous stories. Even at eight hours, it flew by, lofted by Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) as an aristocrat nursing a secret heartache. Bleak, yes, but brilliantly so.


  1. i think Dexter should be number one

  2. Time is sooo wrong, i'm sure they got paid for saying these things.

  3. I haven't heard of any of these! Are they all american shows?

  4. Never watched any of those. I'm always on the computer sadly.

  5. You need some seinfeld all over the place :P

  6. Entourage should be on there, and dexter should be higher.

    Friday night lights, lost, heroes, and big love suck

  7. i must start to watch The Wire.. a lot of people talk me about it. and now this top ten...

  8. the office is great, lost is excellent

  9. I've never heard of bleak house. I'll have to check that out.

  10. The Office is one of the few shows I find funny now a days.

  11. Yeah, you forgot about Breaking Bad, but cool blog tho

  12. I cant believe this list, the fact that dexter is so low and House is nowhere to be seen is criminal. Bloody time magazine, they just get money for old rope.

  13. Nice top ten man although i not really agree on everything. Why isn't chuck in your top ten that an awesome show! i would sure recommend you that

  14. I don't agree with these at all. Needs more office.