Greetings and recriminations, and welcome to a very special edition of the Law Blog. Today, I will be putting the recently, dearly-departed show The Americans into my personal top ten fave television shows.
You might ask yourself, “Self, why is this being shared.” And the answer is twofold- one, I feel like sharing- THE MORE YOU KNOW(tm). Two, when I am the boss of everyone, my personal top ten listicles will be required reading. So ... get in front of the curve.
Without further buildup, here are the rules to the TOP TEN GREATEST TELEVISION SHOWS OF ALL TIME THAT YOU SHOULD HAVE WATCHED AND WILL FEEL MOAR STUPIDER IF YOU HAVEN’T.
1. The show must be complete. In other words, maybe you like that Mr. Robot. Maybe you think Game of Thrones is awesome. Well, sorry buddy. Not eligible. I call this the Dexter Rule. Any promising first season of a television show can be thoroughly destroyed by ensuing seasons, until the last season is just a fiendish attempt at trolling the remaining viewers. Like any Hall of Fame, we can’t prematurely judge a show.
2. It must be American. Or American-y (productions in Canada or abroad that are mainly for American audiences and in English count as well). There is so very much good television from so many parts of the word, that the inclusion of some shows would lead to endless chaos. Call this the Borgen rule, with the “Look kids, it’s Vancouver” exception.
3. It must be a drama, or a dramedy (mainly a drama). This is not because comedies are unworthy, or less than dramas- but they are different. It is exceptionally hard to rate them against pure dramas, and I’m not even going to try. This is the 30 Rock rule.
4. It must be a series that is not only complete (see rule 1), but ran for two seasons or more. That means no miniseries, and no shows, no matter how beloved, that were cancelled too quickly. Call this the Firefly rule. In addition, a show will be docked if it was ended prematurely. See also, Deadwood.
5. The show will be judged from all episodes holistically, but sticking the landing matters. As you will see from my top ten list, I like shows with both finite endings, and ambiguous endings, but sometimes later episodes of the show make the rest of the show not quite worthy of the list. You can call this the Lost or the X-Files Rule.
6. Shows are not given special bonuses for being ahead of their time, for the most part. That means that this list will be mostly full of recent shows. It’s unfortunate, but true. Call this the Twilight Zone corollary. (An excellent show that would make this list if given any kind of bonus).
7. I am not trying to be a hipster; shows make it on their merit. I would love to say, “Hey, the Wire isn’t all that. Treme is really where it’s at, man.” But that would make me a lying liar.
8. A show has to be, you know, thoughtful and good. I like binging Spartacus with the best of them, but it’s not ... a great show. It’s fun. Fun is good. But fun doesn’t make a show top 10. This is the inevitable law of CW.
9. I have to have watched the show. Is Six Feet Under good? Maybe! Did it have an amazing, all-time ending? Quite possibly! Some day, I will know. That day is not today.
So, here it is. This is the product of maths, and therefore cannot be argued with, although you are welcome to make a case in the comments. Also? This is not an ordinal list; the rankings are not in order.
1. The Leftovers. Perhaps the best finale ever, and the best show no one watched.
2. Rectify. Rectify looked at the Leftovers’ terrible ratings, and said “Hold my beer.” Their tagline should have been, “Just as depressing as that other show you don’t watch, but with less magical realism!”
3. The Americans. The show that consistency delighted in denying viewers what they wanted, and instead giving them the show they deserved.
4. The Sopranos. The all-time classic, and the show that started the good TV revolution. And the ending was perfect- fight me.
5. The Wire. The great American television show.
6. The Prisoner. I cheated. This isn’t American. Rules were made to be broken. If I was following the rules, I would probably but in BSG.
7. Mad Men. This is to television what Chekhov is to plays.
8. Breaking Bad. Perhaps the most exciting show on this list.
9. Buffy/Angel. Cheating again and putting this in as a twofer.
10. The Shield. The most vulnerable show on this list, and it isn’t aging well. That said, the last few episodes remain perfection, and the acting remains top-notch.
And there it is. Perhaps the most noticeable aspect, IMO, is that there is a strong prevalence of anti-heroes on the list. Arguably, starting with The Sopranos (which kicked off our current craze), the Wire, Breaking Bad, the Americans, and the Shield are explicitly about anti-heroes. Mad Men, Rectify, and the Leftovers are, at best, ambiguous.
So ... thoughts? Novelties? Party tricks? And if none of those, did you watch the Americans?