Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Best Written Television Series Of All Time?

The Writers Guild of America has published a list of the 101 best television series. Writing for the Guild, Paul Brownfield praises character development:
Then, as now, it comes down to character—from Lucy Ricardo and Archie Bunker to Andy Griffith and Andy Sipowicz. There are kinships across generations—from The Honeymooners to Roseanne, say, or from The Twilight Zone to Lost. Regardless of the year, or genre, what emerges is a common dynamic between show and audience, the kind of lasting intimacy that writers telling episodic stories are uniquely able to achieve.
As a teacher, I agree with Brownfield's sentiments, but I'm not sure the programs were listed in order of the best character development. That quibble doesn't really matter. Lists like these aren't about the best series or the best characters. These lists exist for a single purpose: people like me get to argue about slights and irrational high ranks.

The Top Ten contains no real surprises.

  1. The Sopranos
  2. Seinfeld
  3. The Twilight Zone
  4. All in the Family
  5. M*A*S*H
  6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  7. Mad Men
  8. Cheers
  9. The Wire
  10. The West Wing
I might want The Wire to be a little higher on the list, but that's a quibble. Some purists might want I Love Lucy in the top 10; it came in at 12. Those same folks might be apoplectic that Lucy lost out to The Simpsons at 11.

Let's go to my biggest complaints. Friday Night Lights was ranked 22; House was ranked 74. I'd switch those. I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but 49 is pretty high. I'd put it somewhere in the 70s.  I also thought Friends and The Larry Sanders should have been in the bottom half not the top 25. Deadwood came in at 32. I would not have put it on the list at all. Twin Peaks came in at 35 but should have made the top 20.

The best part of the list is confirmation of one of my long held biases, so no one should argue about this placement. It's obvious and unarguable. The original Star Trek is superior to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Uhura were simply better characters than Picard, Riker, Troi, and Data. Star Trek came 33; TNG came was ranked 79.

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