Seven TV Shows To Last You A Lifetime

Seven Shows To Last You A Lifetime

If you were stranded on a desert island…

No, scratch that. The glare from the sun would be so annoying.

If you were locked in a dark room with a comfy armchair and a huge HD screen and you only had seven television series to last you the rest of your life, what would they be?

Here’s my list. My pick of the 7 Essential Television Shows.

Before I get into the list I want to tell you that I’m going to cheat right off the bat: this is going to be a list of television shows from the last 20 years, since I need to give myself a time frame and I haven’t extensive knowledge of classics like M*A*S*H or The Honeymooners or Dallas etc to include them.

#7 THE SIMPSONS
 

Watch it on your own, watch it with your family. There’s something for everyone, it’s the funniest, sweetest show I’ve ever seen and even though the last few seasons haven’t been able to hold a match to the first fourteen or so years, even when it’s bad, it’s just mediocre but when it’s good, it’s, as the tiger says, GREAT!

#6 VERONICA MARS
 

The greatest travesty of the Emmy Awards is not the fact that they ignored Firefly (that was all on FOX), Buffy, The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights (the series, not just handing off nominations to Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler as a way of saying “here’s some recognition for your series that just ended, no thanks to us, now piss off”) and a myriad of other shows.

No, the greatest travesty of the Emmy Awards was when they ignored Kristen Bell’s portrayal of Veronica Mars. It’s easily my favorite performance by a female actor in any television series (maybe) ever, because it’s quite possibly my favorite television character ever in what is one of my favorite shows ever (at least in its first year, with a few notable exceptions in season two….season three you say? I can’t hear you).

Bell took on a character who should have been impossible to play: smart, savvy, standoffish, a cold hearted, and made her into a sympathetic turbine of vulnerability and strength. This was a girl whose best friend, the sister of her boyfriend, had been murdered. Her father accused the girl’s parents, got himself fired as sheriff and had to start up his own business. Her mother, ashamed, left the family. She was shunned by everyone she had ever known, and when she tried to show defiance by turning up at a party she was drugged and raped. When she reported the crime she was literally laughed out of the police station. This is all established in the pilot episode.

Veronica Mars was a petite crime solver, who used brains and gumption, not unbelievable karate skills, to get herself out of tricky situations. The show had itself an onslaught of awesome supporting characters, the best father daughter duo ever, great writing from the brilliant creator, Rob Thomas.

It was defied by its dark, almost macabre, sense of humor. There was none of this melodramatic angst shit that turns most television shows to mush. Veronica Mars used humor as a defence mechanism. And Kristen Bell knew how to deliver a line.

#5 THE WEST WING
 

This is the show that made me fall in love with television. My mother gave me the first four seasons when I was a teenager, and I watched them all in an unhealthy fortnight, then turned around and watched them all again, and again until finally, I wore out the DVDs. I just never realized how much I loved television, the medium itself and the potential for storytelling it has which, when done well, is in many ways unmatched by movies, theatre and maybe even books.

Aaron Sorkin has never written anything as good as the first four seasons of The West Wing, and there are few shows with an ensemble so uniformly strong. From Martin Sheen to Allison Janney, from Bradley Whitford to Rob Low, from Dulé Hill and Richard Schiff to John Spencer, to a great collection of guest actors and supporting cast, The West Wing is a funny show, sometimes a sad show and a show that makes you realize that there’s nothing cooler than being smart (except everything I just said).

#4 BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
 

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

This show is great not because it’s a sci-fi show, but because it is, on its most basic level, one of the most humane shows ever, asking some tough questions: Who are we really? Where do we come from? What is our destiny, and can we change it? What is sacrifice? What is the meaning of family? What would you choose between protecting those you love, or all of humankind? What is the nature of creation and who can determine the status of creation versus creator?

Don’t worry. It’s not all such a downer. Number Six (a really hot Cylon in a red dress) has a spine that glows red when she’s having sex. I mean, come on! If The Wire had had that, it would have so made my list!

#3 MAD MEN
 

Why this show is so good has been said by so many people far more eloquent than I am, but I just want to put this show where it belongs, on a list of essential television shows. It finished off what The Sopranos started, in cementing television as a medium for thoughtful and engrossing storytelling that could, in quality, rival the film world. Film always had an upper hand where production values were concerned, but thanks to Matthew Weiner’s meticulous attention to detail, television is finally starting to catch up. I cannot wait for the day when we get television shows as beautiful and stylishly shot as a Paul Thomas Anderson movie.

#2 BREAKING BAD
 

I believe this is the best television show on right now (yes, even better than Mad Men and The Secret Life of the American Teenager). Bryan Cranston is giving a performance which is outshining almost all other male performances not only in recent television (arguably all of television history), but in recent movies too.

He is aided of course by a stellar supporting cast with the brilliant Aaron Paul as Walter’s sidekick Jesse leading the pack, showing us all how to leave a decent voicemail. The fact that I can overlook some truly crappy subplots (hello shoplifting housewife you absolute yawn) just shows what a wonder the actors, stellar directors, Vince Gilligan and his writing team have turned the show into. I love this show.

#1 AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER
 

We shall forget that racist shiteousness that had M. Night Shyamalan taking a huge dump on top of the pure joy of this television show. Running on Nickelodeon, this is the most beautiful show I’ve ever seen with characters so complex in their personalities, relationships and ever-changing loyalties that it makes you think that most programmes for adults are synonymous with programmes for idiots.

But really, it’s a show about teenagers who “bend” (i.e. control) the elements of the world: air, fire, water and earth. One of the characters becomes a bloodbender! How’s that for escapism? Watch a few episodes of this amazing show, about a boy who discovers he is the last surviving avatar (ie someone who can control all four of the elements) and has to take down the tyrannical Fire Nation using his powers and accompanied by a ragtag group of teenager bender. It’s the ultimate form of entertainment, just what you’d need to spark the ole imagination in a dingy dark room for the rest of your life.

Notable Omissions:

Twin Peaks, My So-Called Life, Freaks and Geeks, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Skins (first generation), The Wire, The Office (UK and US), Misfits, LOST, Arrested Development, Alias, Scrubs, South Park, Friday Night Lights and about a million others which I cannot think of right now. Wow.television this decade especially has been pretty damned delectable.

Like my choices? Dislike some? Think I should burn in hell for putting together such a blasphemous piece of utter garbage? Let me know your favorites and any of the shows I’ve left out in the comments below!

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