As promised, below is a list of shows that I really, really like, but that couldn’t crack the top 10. The “Next Best” list, if you will. The same caveats apply here – these are mostly shows from the 21st century, I’m only briefly commenting on why I liked the show or didn’t quite like it enough to make the top 10 and I’ll, of course, avoid spoilers. In no particular order….
Six Feet Under:
Another HBO show (this makes 6 including the top 10), Six
Feet Under, while awesome, is just a notch below the others. This might be the darkest of the HBO
stalwarts, and rightfully so considering the show is based on a family that
owns, operates and lives on the property of a funeral home. Two great performances by Michael C. Hall and
Peter Krause, actors who also star/starred in other shows on this list.
Perhaps there is a theme here, seeing as though Justified is
the story of Raylan Givens, a throwback wild west US Marshall, played by actor
Timothy Olyphant who also starred in Deadwood.
Or maybe great actors just tend to make the shows they star in
great. Either way, Justified is a very
cool show, with a crazy good supporting performance by Walton Goggins, who, surprise
surprise, starred in The Shield.
Lost is an example of the network model really hurting a
quality show. By being a network show
(and for those of you who don’t know what that means, it just means a show that
airs on one of the big 4 networks – CBS, NBC, FOX and ABC), Lost typically
aired 20-24 episodes per season. As a
result, a lot of Lost episodes were lacking, as the show used the larger
episode order to focus on specific characters and their backgrounds; often a
weak point for the show. Nevertheless,
it makes this list, which means I really liked it. I had no problem whatsoever with the fact
that Lost introduced many, many mysteries that ultimately went unsolved;
probably the biggest complaint you’ll hear about the show.
The West Wing:
This is certainly the oldest show on the list, having aired
from 1999 to 2006. But it still holds up
fairly well, and is the staple show that all future shows about politics and
the White House would try to live up to.
Great dialogue and performances all around, with creator Aaron Sorkin at
the top of his game. It’s another
network show, so you won’t get the sex/language/violence that you’ll see on a
newer politically charged show like House of Cards (Netflix), but ultimately I
don’t think that hurt The West Wing.
The Good Wife:
Here is another show that I had virtually no interest in
watching, kept hearing it was good and then finally gave in and played catch
up. A quality legal drama that mixes in
enough other stuff to stay interesting, and has ongoing storylines that keep it
from being your typical CBS “procedural” where each episode has its own story
that concludes at episode’s end. Once
again, great performances, this time by Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski,
Josh Charles, Chris Noth and others, and probably the show that utilizes the
best guest performances/actors (especially great guest actors as recurring
judges). This is another network show,
so there are A LOT of episodes to catch up on, but they are a “quick watch.”
Homeland, of all the shows on this “Next Best” list probably
had the best shot to crack the top 10.
Season 1 was amazing and most of season 2 was just as good. But the show dipped a bit towards the end of
season 2, and then struggled in season 3 when it couldn’t decide what to do
with one of its main characters. Homeland
has just the right combination of terrorism and CIA spy stuff that if Season 4
regains the show’s early momentum, I may have to revisit my top 10 at some
point down the road.
Sons of Anarchy:
If you liked The Shield, then you are likely to enjoy
SOA. It was created by Kurt Sutter, who
was a staff writer for The Shield, and wrote most of the crazy, effed up
scenes/episodes from that show’s run, which is very evident here. I never
thought I’d enjoy a show about biker gangs, but again, that’s judging a book by
its cover. The show mixes the violence
surrounding biker gangs with some good family drama, and has arguably the worst
mother character of all time in Gemma Teller (Katey Segal). And by worst, I mean she’s a horrible and
nasty person (it’s a great performance).
Parenthood is basically Friday Night Lights, but instead of
high school football, you have a big nuclear family and all of its drama. It’s created by Jason Katims, the same guy
who created FNL, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. I’m not sure this is a show for everyone – if
you love Breaking Bad, Sopranos, 24, etc., then you likely will find Parenthood
lacking. There’s no violence or
suspense. Instead, it’s just a great
family drama with interesting performances.
Rumor has it the show is also a major tear jerker. But of course I
wouldn’t know that because I’m a manly man who doesn’t cry….
Likely the least popular show on this list by far, Treme is
a barely watched show set in a post-Katrina New Orleans. If you asked me to describe the plot, this is
pretty much all I could come up with: the show follows multiple characters
around in their life after Hurricane Katrina.
Clearly, not much happens plot wise, but Treme is still a super fun show
to watch. The performances are great –
it was created by David Simon, the same guy who created The Wire – so there are
a lot of the same actors from that show, including Clarke Peters (Lester from
The Wire) and Wendell Pierce (The Bunk).
They are both awesome. And the
music is great.
Dexter seems to be the show that most people were surprised didn’t
make my Top 10, or at least commented about how it was one of their favorite TV
dramas. Season 1 was fantastic, as was
season 4. 2 and 3 were good. But the rest?
Meh. By the 2nd or 3rd
season, all you really cared about was Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and whether he
would continue to get away with being a Miami Metro PD blood splatter analyst
who moonlights as a serial killer who only kills bad guys. 8 seasons of that was a little tiring. So were the supporting characters.
Shameless is clearly a drama, despite the fact that it was
placed in the comedy category for the Emmy awards this past season. And since I really like the show, I’m putting
it on this list. I would probably
classify it as a dark dramedy, as the show is based on the Gallagher family; a
bunch of misfits whose dad Frank (William H. Macy) is a disgusting drunk who
rarely makes it home at night. One of
the few shows where the kid actors carry the load successfully (though Macy is,
Finally, below are some new (ish) shows that have shown promise,
but will have to sustain that promise for a few more seasons before they are
candidates for the Top 10 or Next Best.
The Americans: Great premise: two Russian KGB spies pose as
a regular married American couple during the Cold War era. Season 1 was good. Season 2 was great. Could see this one rising quickly.
True Detective: Only one season and it was a doozy (do people
still say that?). Knock out performances
by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson and an interesting, dark premise
made this show a true breakout hit for HBO this year. However, it’s an “anthology series”, which
means season 2 will have an entirely new cast of characters and premise. Just yesterday, HBO confirmed that Colin
Farrell and Vince Vaughn are signed on for season 2. Sign me up as well.
Fargo: Another anthology series, Fargo successfully
adapted the Coen Brothers’ most iconic movie into a TV show that was
spectacular in its first season. If it
never aired again, Fargo would make the “Next Best” list – it was that
good. No clue what Season 2 has in
store, but I’ll be watching.
The Leftovers: The first season of The Leftovers just
concluded, and frankly, I loved it. I
don’t think it’s for everyone though, as it was very dark and depressing (Premise:
2% of the World’s population randomly disappears one day without explanation). Co-created by Damon Lindelof (Lost), it
introduced a lot of mysteries without answers, something Lost fans HATED. I clearly didn’t mind.
The Bridge: Another cool premise and setting – the “bridge”
being the one that connects Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas. The first season was good, but had its
weaknesses. Season 2 has been really
good so far, though no one is watching and FX hasn’t ordered a 3rd
Hannibal: An interesting “new” look at an old story –
that of Hannibal Lecter. The first 2
seasons cover Hannibal’s early years, before he was discovered to be a
cannibalistic serial killer. And season
3 will apparently cover the “Red Dragon” period. It’s a little weird, but in my opinion that’s
what makes it good – it’s not just an attempt to copycat the tired Hannibal
Rectify: Tough to explain this one. The premise: due to new DNA evidence, Daniel
Holden is released from prison after spending 15 years on death row. Not much action. Just a slow, interesting look at Daniel’s
reintegration process and the toll it takes on those around him.
Orange is the New
Black: Another show where I am sort
of “cheating”, in that, like Shameless, it was classified as a comedy for the
Emmy’s. It’s certainly a funny show, but
anyone who has seen it knows it is more drama than comedy. Everything about the premise would ordinarily
keep me away – a suburban 30 year old white girl ends up in a women’s federal
prison for a crime she committed years ago with her drug dealer girlfriend –
but I loved the first 2 seasons. Yes, I
like this show better than House of Cards, Netflix’s other big hit, which
frankly, isn’t even making this list.
So, what do you think? Other than House of Cards, did I miss any
shows that you think are great?
Hopefully you can use these lists as a place to go to when you are
looking for a new show to watch and don’t want to waste your time on a new
network show that will likely be cancelled in a month.
Thanks for reading!