I never got there on my previous post, which was already too long. The second solution to the problem of Top Five All-Time Shows list is to make a whole bunch of Top Five All-Time Shows Sub-Lists. So here I go:
Top Five Shows That Were Brilliant Until They Went Totally Off the Rails
1. Game of Thrones — Best sci-fi/fantasy show of all time, or incoherent nonsense? Viewers who stayed through the end got both!
2. The X-Files — Science fiction and fantasy shows seem especially susceptible to going off the rails. Maybe that’s because so many of them start off with a huge, mind-blowing concept, and start running before they’ve figured out where it’s going.
3. Arrested Development — Has any show gone from elite to unwatchable faster?
4. Downton Abbey — Jen insists that Downton Abbey does not belong on this list, but once Anna was done so wrong,
5. Lost — I guess I don’t know if this was brilliant before it went off the rails. Anybody who didn’t know by the middle of season two that the creators didn’t know where the show was going deserved what they got.
Top Five Shows I Hate That Everybody Else Seems to Love
1. The Office (American version) — I will die on this hill. There were moments, sure. But most of the comedy was just bland and obvious, and not half as subversive and deliberately cringey as the British version.
2. House of Cards — In an early episode of Netflix’s first real breakthrough show, slimy politician Kevin Spacey gets a brick thrown through his window. It is so bleedingly obvious that he is behind the attack himself, for political purposes, that it seems like that can’t possibly be the point of the episode. And yet, 45 minutes later, the shocking twist is dramatically revealed that he paid someone to do it himself, and isn’t he diabolically clever. Unintentionally hilarious, but not enough to hate-watch.
3. Peaky Blinders — A boring waste of Cillian Murphy’s talents.
4. Boardwalk Empire — If Mark Zuckerberg programmed an AI to write TV scripts by feeding it scripts of The Sopranos and Deadwood, it would end up with something more interesting than Boardwalk Empire.
5. Big Bang Theory. I can’t keep this up. Everybody’s entitled to like what they like. I don’t need to ruin it with snark.
Five Three Shows That Are Still Going
1. Andor — I cannot shut up about how good this show is. The only Star Wars film made in the past 35+ years that was genuinely good without any huge caveats was Rogue One, which treated the characters like human beings. Tony Gilroy returns to one of those characters here, in a show entirely different than everything else they’ve done with the franchise on Disney+. Here is a twelve-episode meditation on the on-the-ground effects of living under a fascist regime, and on the development of an effective Rebellion to fight the Empire in spite of hopelessness. The writing in this show is some of the best I’ve seen in any sci-fi/fantasy media of any kind, and definitely the best writing of the entire Star Wars franchise, original trilogy included.
2. The Crown — This show has a chance at my actual, all-time Top Five when it’s all done. I didn’t love the latest season, but the first four were good enough that a strong sixth might put it there. Considering the challenge of maintaining a consistent tone when changing all the actors every couple of years, it’s astounding they’ve been able to do it this well for this long.
3. Stranger Things — One critic I respect says this should not make the list, because it has fallen too far since season one. It’s a valid point. After the first or second season, it was bound for certain top-ten territory, but not any more. Still, it deserves a chance to come back with a solid concluding season.
Five Shows I’m Embarrassed Not to Have Seen, In No Particular Order
Sandman — I was absolutely in love with this comic when I was in high school, and yet I have only seen the first episode. Teenage me is furious, but I just haven’t made the time.
Lovecraft Country — I can’t believe that I didn’t see this in time to be outraged when it was not renewed for a second season. Honestly, I feel partially responsible.
Sons of Anarchy — I already have too many sympathizing-with-horrible-human-beings type of shows in my life, but I’m told this is good.
The Americans / Homeland — Two different shows that I constantly get mixed up with one another. One of them is supposed to be amazing, but I’m not sure which one. Thus, I watch something else. Someday I’ll get it figured out.
Hannibal — Mads Mikkelsen is always brilliant, and yet serial killer shows/movies are just not my thing anymore.