Monday, March 05, 2012

The Best TV Drama of the Last 25 years.


I was going to discuss this soon, but this site is doing it for me with greater minds than mine.

http://www.vulture.com/2012/03/the-best-tv-drama-of-the-last-25-years.html

Today is THE SOPRANOS V. SIX FEET UNDER. (Wow, I must say Tony et al have sort of faded for me)

The site will go on with head to head choices for several weeks.

My choice for the best TV drama ever is Friday Night Lights, which didn't have crime as a crutch to lean on. Just pure Texas football and the greatest cast, writing, and direction I have ever seen.

Thanks to Jason Pinter for pointing this out.

44 comments:

Steve Oerkfitz said...

The Wire would be my first choice.On network TV I would go with Homicide.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My big five would me FNL, The Wire, Mad Men, Homicide, Breaking Bad.

Chad said...

I was always a big fan of I'll Fly Away. Sometimes I don't think anyone else remembers that show but me.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

I should have included Breaking Bad. FNL never did it for me. Seemed like Dawsons Creek with football.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I wonder if oddly enough most of its fans were female.

I sure do remember it. Regina Harper and Sam Waterston. It came and went too quickly.

Todd Mason said...

Everyone's correct so far except for overrating SIX FEET UNDER.

ONCE AND AGAIN, THE GOOD WIFE, HOMICIDE, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, AMERICAN PLAYHOUSE, CHINA BEACH, ST. ELSEWHERE, GILMORE GIRLS on broadcast...THE WIRE, THE SOPRANOS, DEADWOOD, BREAKING BAD, THE CORNER and just maybe PEACEMAKERS or 1 CENTRE STREET or DEAD LIKE ME on cable, with such series straddling cable and broadcast as FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and BABYLON 5 at least nudging the bottom of the list, along with such series as THE HUNTRESS and THE X-FILES and the Elmore Leonard-derived series JUSTIFIED, KAREN SISCO and MAXIMUM BOB. (Some of these had pretty weak seasons, and certainly there were too-cute elements to the likes of THE SOPRANOS, but when they were on their game, they were great.)

Which, of course, begs the question of the sitcoms, ranging from SCRUBS to SONS & DAUGHTERS to (arguably) WONDERFALLS, which also could nestle among the dramas.

Todd Mason said...

Of course some here, at least, remember I'LL FLY AWAY, Chad...particularly considering how much better it was than THE HELP apparently is. I also remember it as the only dramatic series so far to migrate from NBC to PBS with an original series finale (though THE PAPER CHASE, like IFA, was rerun in repeats on the public network, TPC's post-CBS episodes were eventually on Showtime).

James Reasoner said...

I've probably said this before, but FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS was great for the first half of the first season, then somebody said, "Nah, it's too hard to get this right. Let's just go the easy route. Nobody but people in little Texas towns will know the difference."

It's still an excellent series, indeed one of the best, but the things they got wrong still irk me a little.

If DEADWOOD had ended after two seasons, I'd say it definitely belongs. But that third season still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Right now I'm thinking JUSTIFIED is the best thing I've seen in quite a while. All time, who knows? Good Lord, I'd be liable to say GUNSMOKE.

Todd Mason said...

No...FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS in no meaningful way resembled DAWSON'S CREEK, except that both had teen casts in part. EVERWOOD with football, maybe. A bit like saying CHINA BEACH was GENERAL HOSPITAL with shelling.

James Reasoner said...

Oh, wait a minute. 25 years. I can't count today. Forget that GUNSMOKE comment.

Chris said...

The Wire and Deadwood, for me.

Dave Zeltserman said...

There have been so many good ones, but if I'm just picking one it's Northern Exposure. My favorite cable drama was Brotherhood, but it was short lived.

Heath Lowrance said...

I'd say Justified and Battlestar Galactica. Also, I'm one of those viewers who really loved Lost.

Heath Lowrance said...

Oh, and Walking Dead really has the potential to make the list, if they maintain the current level of quality.

Anonymous said...

Good choices, especially things like I'll Fly Away, the first two seasons of Deadwood, Homicide, Dead Like Me (I thought we were the only ones who watched it), China Beach.

Never watched Friday Night Lights as I've said before, and not a big fan of Six Feet Under (though I did like the cast).

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Love Justified but too early to be a contender. Deadwood and Homicide are terrific. Oh, did I love Northern Exposure despite its occasional cuteness. Dave, you are the only person other than use to mention BROTHERHOOD. I am so glad to see the bad (?) brother turn up on AWAKE.

Brian Lindenmuth said...

Hands down The West Wing (at least the first 4 seasons) and Terriers for a left field choice.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, China Beach. Why don't they rerun dramas? Watching them rented from my library really take any vigor away. BG-watched first two seasons and then lost track of it. Loved two seasons of LOST and again, lost track of it. Was that 2008 writer's strike to blame for inadvertently sabotaging a lot of shows?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Terriers was a huge mistake. I liked WEST WING but Sheen got on my nerves after a while. So sure he always got it right. I suppose presidents are like that but I like self-doubt.

Todd Mason said...

Oh, it was the writing (and the ignorance/misrepresentation) that sank THE WEST WING (as opposed to SPORTS NIGHT, which at least didn't ?unintentionally? lie about its subject/milieu). I managed to catch one TERRIERS or maybe two, and it did look promising.

CHINA BEACH was rerun for a year or so on Lifetime. It and HOMICIDE were the only things I watched on that station at the time, since they'd already dumped the interesting-enough ANY DAY NOW.

Anonymous said...

When Leo died it was basically over. The first few seasons were pretty great, however, even though he did get pompous and preachy at times.

Northern Exposure, the first couple of seasons. I like Justified too but will see where they go from here. It's hard when you lose a great character like Mags.

We watched Lost to the bitter end (and yes, it was bitter) but it just never lived up to the initial promise. And speaking of same...we really did like season 1 of Heroes. Boy, did they blow it after that....

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

And since no one else has mentioned them, let me name St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues.

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

Having seen the pilot of LOST, I felt everything I saw afterward lived down to the original lack of promise...but I agree about HEROES...completely off the track very quickly. HEROES's Tim Kring is also responsible for the wildly uneven CROSSING JORDAN (brilliant episodes interspersed with idiotic ones) and the new TOUCH.

Todd Mason said...

Except that I did mention ST. ELSEWHERE, Jeff. It was brilliant after the weak first season (the creator/producers Brand and Falsey were fired, and they went on to do better with I'LL FLY AWAY and the first season or so of NORTHERN EXPOSURE).

pattinase (abbott) said...

HILL STREET BLUES seems to have invented the modern police drama to me. And St. Elsewhere treating medical personnel as flawed people.

michael said...

There are quite a few worthy of the title Best in 25 years (1987-2012, if I did my math right). BABYLON 5, WEST WING (for the fantasy elements alone), JUSTIFIED, SHERLOCK, to name those I can think of at the moment.
But here is one that died to soon but could have made a difference: RAINES. It is available to watch on most downloading services.

RAINES ran less than eight episodes on NBC and starred Jeff Goldblum as a cop who solved murders by getting to understand the victim. He would see them based on just what he knew and as he (and us) grew to know the victim, the ghost would change. No mystery has ever made the victim less of a plot device and more a real person. You experienced the grief the detective felt for the victim and how little closure really means.

Todd Mason said...

I'd suggest that NYPD, the relatively shortlived 1960s series, and then the better episodes of KOJAK and POLICE STORY laid a Lot of groundwork for HILL STREET BLUES, but HSB certainly took an insouciance to the matter that Bochco and company had picked up while working on the likes of COLUMBO and THE ROCKFORD FILES. And ST. ELSEWHERE certainly could touch back to M*A*S*H and a few others, but certainly ST. ELSEWHERE took everything to a new level after Bruce Paltrow took over.

pattinase (abbott) said...

HAS ANYONE ELSE'S BLOGGER COMPLETELY CHANGED IN ITS METHOD FOR POSTING.

Todd Mason said...

At least two times has it changed on my blog in the last week or so. More looks different than is different in my case.

pattinase (abbott) said...

If;s not gone by tomorrow, my post might all be on the comment section. Damn, blogger.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Todd - missed your comment, though I know you've mentioned St. Elsewhere before. They had some wonderful crossover episodes with other MTM shows (Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart).

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

SCRUBS had a little reunion of ST E cast in one episode.

Deb said...

Just reading all these comments makes me realize how little TV drama I've watched. Of those I have, I'd pick TWIN PEAKS (up until they discovered who killed Laura Palmer) as my favorite drama. I love the reruns of LAW & ORDER (especially the ones with Jerry Orbach), but I never watched the show at night when it first ran.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And you're probably the better for it.

Todd Mason said...

Well, many of the Orbach episodes were the best ones of that series. It was pretty solid, for a while. (Today's COMEDY BANG BANG podcast, with Paul F. Tompkins portraying Ice-T, defined L&O: SVU as offering a cast of cops portrayed by "beautiful female models and gnarled, beat up male character actors," with "Ice" chiming in to note, "And me.")

pattinase (abbott) said...

The first few years were good. I liked the Noth/Orbach team a lot. Then they fell into the ripped from the headlines plots and I lost interest. Especially after seeing a story I knew about on there.

David Cranmer said...

I would have no clue on picking a TV show. I guess I would vote for THE SOPRANOS or DEADWOOD.

Todd Mason said...

Yup...though Noth/Orbach/S. Epatha Merkerson actually started a few seasons in...and they managed to improve reliably again in the last season or two, after going into a long slump (basically starting about the time Steven Hill quit), with scattered good episodes througout.

Anonymous said...

The highlight of course was the Briscoe-Munch meetings with Orbach and Richard Belzer, whether on L & O or on Homicide.

Jeff M.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've enjoyed the episodes I've seen. I hope I can catch it in reruns at some point.

Paul D Brazill said...

I'd add Twin Peaks, Cracker, Boys From The Blackstuff, Our Friends In The North, Gangsters to the list.

Mike Dennis said...

The writing on JUSTIFIED is top-caliber and hard to beat. The characterizations on BOARDWALK EMPIRE are also of the first rank, thanks to a hand-picked cast. And I think THE SOPRANOS broke the new ground that these two shows now walk.

There were some great older dramatic shows, like STUDIO ONE and THE FUGITIVE, but most of the older shows, IMO, relied much more on formula than writing and character. So as much as I like old TV, I have to say the newer dramas are among the best shows ever televised.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Just like lots of the old crime novels relied on formula. Whodunnit rarely produces a great novel unless it's combined with great characters and atmosphere IMHO.

Yvette said...

There are two series that I always consider the best of everything I've seen: BRIDESHEAD REVISITED with Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews - a series, really. Though, I suppose you'd call it a mini-series.

And -

THE WEST WING. I can watch Wing to this day with almost the same enthusiasm I felt the first and second times. Such a great cast. Such a beautifully acted show.