26 July 2004

My 10 Favorite TV Shows of All Time

I've decided to finally commit myself to this. Choosing between the top two is quite possibly the most difficult decision of my adult life. It was like picking between two kids. I know there's an analogy here, with some movie- Sophie's something? I bet it'd be funny if I could think of it...

  1. The Larry Sanders Show

    For me, the choice between Sanders and The Simpsons was minute, and it very well may be a choice I soon regret- but there is no denying this show. In my opinion, it's only peer for comedy writing for television anywhere, ever is The Simpsons. The cast is the best in TV history (better than Seinfeld), and "Hey Now" Hank Kingsley stands tall as the single greatest character in television history. Jeffrey Tambor is perfect in the role- pathetic, angry, old school comedy mixed with a dash of low-rate television persona. He loves Larry, he sucks up to him, he hates Larry, he yells at him. Commercial pitches on air killing the show, goofy non sequiturs in awkward moments saving it. The deepest, most pathetic and goofy person ever to populate a comedic program in American TV history.

    The writers, all former Letterman (and other various late night destinations) scribes, told the story of how a Late Nite talk show comes together- punk asshole writers, paranoia and self obsession, insane celebrity guests. Garry Shandling, as everyone else in the cast follows suit, was born to play Sanders, a pedantic and hilarious egomaniac trying to keep himself happy enough to push the show along. Featuring, in small roles, some of the great comic actors of their generation (Janeane Garofalo, Scott Thompson, Bob Odenkirk, David Duchovney, Mary Lyn Rajskub, Wallace Langham, Jeremey Piven) in some of their best performances. Rip Torn, as Artie- is the heart of a heartless show. My favorite. Phew. OK. Now, my other favorite.

    Favorite Episode: "The Roast"

  2. The Simpsons

    At this point, trying to explicate The Simpsons is like trying to take an original thought and point of view to the Beatles. The cultural impact is so huge and so impossible to over-estimate, it's almost ridiculous. My opinion aside, it's probably the single greatest television show of all time, period, end of sentence. The level of writing, acting, direction and satire is staggering and spread over 13 seasons. True, the show has been less than stellar for going on 3 years now- but the best years of the show- seasons 3 through 9, are the best of any show ever, and as such dwarf any regression that may have occurred in the last few seasons. Matt Groening made a show more popular than Jesus.

    Favorite Episode(s): "A Fish Called Selma," "A Milhouse Divided," "Homer At the Bat," "Marge Vs. The Monorail"

  3. Seinfeld

    It was a pretty good show.

    But seriously, just like Saved by the Bell, I've seen every episode, and it's true- they're not ALL great- but EVERY episode has something remarkably funny in it. It's way better than Saved by the Bell though.

    Favorite Episode(s): "The Beard," "The Librarian"

  4. Kids in the Hall

    Narrowly (over Mr. Show with Bob and David) my favorite sketch comedy show of all time, Kids was so great because it was so weird and subversive, and so funny. Liking them was like being into a band- the personalities, the aesthetic- they were like the rock groups that sprung up in the same early 90's era. They had a Pavement vibe to them.

    My favorite was Bruce McCulloch- but they were all strong in their own right. What made the show great above all other great sketch comedy shows was not just the writing- though that was nearly peerless- it was the acting. These are the greatest actors from a sketch comedy show I can ever remember. Never laughed during a sketch, never fell out of character, never once laughed at the people they were playing. All brilliant actors in their own right. It was fun loving KITH because it felt like you were the only one who knew.

    Favorite Sketch: "Cow Kicks Dave"

  5. Mr. Show with Bob and David

    I told you it wasn't far off from KITH. I'll never forget the first time I discovered the show on HBO in the middle of some weeknight after my family started getting the channel for free. I thought David Cross looked like Allen Ginsberg in his twenties, and something about Bob Odenkirk was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. For years I went without meeting anyone that knew of the show, something that has changed of course, due in large part to their success in other fields, and the internet. But for a while, this sketch comedy show was something that was 100% mine, something I loved and cherished cos it was soemthing I discovered on my own. Consequently, Mr. Show is how I discovered Tenacious D, as it aired directly after.

    I still think Bob Odenkirk might be one of, if not my absolute favorite comedy writer of all time. Meeting him was really cool- well, I shook his hand on the street. I told him my name so it met the official definition of a "meeting." Great, great show.

    Favorite Episode(s): "Goin' on a Holiday," "It's a No Brainer"

  6. Late Show with David Letterman/ Late Nite with David Letterman

    Ostensibly, this is a simple endorsement of David Letterman, someone who, along with Bill Murray, pretty much invented modern American humor. Blends of irony, sarcasm, anger and satire, Letterman took late night talk shows out of the realm of entertainment and revue and into the idea of straight, subversive comedy. Conan O'Brien is great- but Letterman is better. Leno, of course, couldn't sniff Dave's jock... much less carry it. I'd also be a fool not to mention his post- Sept. 11th comments in 2001, which was one of the most beautiful, honest, and loyal things I've ever seen on TV. I've rarely been as proud to love someone and their art as that moment.

    But let's be honest- he's one of the funniest people ever, and his show is as influential as it gets.

  7. Twin Peaks

    Without any doubt, the strangest, eeriest, most wildly inventive TV show ever on a network- or anywhere. A work of pure genius, especially in it's breakout first season. Det. DB Cooper is, to this day, one of TV's great characters.

    A mindfuck from word one.

    Favorite Episode: "The Pilot"

  8. Freaks and Geeks

    This show has made Wonder Years, though a great show, obsolete. Freaks does Wonder better- hitting not only it's era but the kids populating it on the head harder than any other of it's kind. It's funny, but it kinda hurts too- you either WERE these people, or you knew them. Everybody hurts in high school somehow, and Freaks empathizes with everyone- freaks, geeks, cheerleaders- even teachers. A beautiful TV show, and laugh out loud funny at the same time. Another gem in Judd Apatow's resume (Freaks and Geeks, Anchorman, Cable Guy, The Larry Sanders Show, Undeclared, The Ben Stiller Show, The Critic).

    Favorite Episode(s): "Tests and Breasts," "The Diary"

  9. Curb Your Entusiasm

    I have nothing but praise for a man who get so much comedic mileage out of being a completely insufferable asshole and making me sympathize with HIM at every turn. Furiously funny.

    Favorite Episode: "The Car Salesman," "The Nanny From Hell," "Krazee Eyez Killa"

  10. Beverly Hills 90210

    I make no apologies for this selection. The fact that this show failed to ever make a single bad episode is a stunning achievement. Don't doubt the greatness of this show- it will outlast us all as the cockroach/ styrofoam cup of modern TV.

    Favorite Episode: Literally IMPOSSIBLE to answer

Honorable Mentions- The Wire, The Sopranos, Chappelle's Show, Da Ali G Show, The Office, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Adventures of Pete and Pete.

That's it. I'm outta gas on this entry...

______________________________ |