What You Should Be Watching On Television

While spending a few hours on Facebook the other day I stumbled on to a discussion on my friend and comedian Nick Cobb’s page.  He was asking for a new show recommendation and friends of his were offering suggestions as to what they thought the best show of the last decade was and what the best show currently on is.  There were some sensible answers and some real awful answers.   Here are some examples and shows that did not make the cut:


House – who are you my parents? 

Lost – you are too stupid to appreciate the list I am putting together

Rome and Deadwood – these are the people that in a music discussion of the best band of all time would ignore the obvious rule that you MUST say Rolling Stones or Beatles (my favorite band is Guns N Roses, but my answer would be Rolling Stones).  Those who drop Rome and Deadwood – a good and a very good show, respectively – are the people who drop Nirvana in a “best band” discussion.  Shut your mouths and just accept that sometimes, like a broken clock, American culture gets it right.

John Adams – it’s a miniseries. read Nick Cobb’s question.

The Mentalist – seriously?  CBS is the network that produces dramas to make Jay Leno fans feel smart.

True Blood – a show that like Glee, seemed to realize that their main demographics were women and gays and decided – to hell with writing – we’ll just get everyone on this show in a gym, skimp on story and consistency and still draw ratings as long as we amp up the sex, gore and campiness.  Headed down a path of awfulness this season.  The real shame is that Alan Ball, who created a television masterpiece in Six Feet Under, is also listed as a creator of True Blood.  My guess is that after Six Feet Under he made a ton of money, found himself a trophy wife/husband (no idea what his sexuality is) and after season 1 of True Blood said – “Hey, you are shallow and pretty dumb – wanna write this show for me? Most of it is written in a book already – you will just have to add more breasts, blood and campiness?  What’s campiness?  Well you know when you think something is good? Right, like Paul Walker or Dexter – just write it with that same feeling.”

Dexter – I made it through one season.  Some of the worst acting I have ever seen.  Michael C Hall should die poor and be remembered for David Fisher than collect paychecks with that cast of nothings (though I hear John Lithgow was good in later seasons – too bad I give a show one full season to at least entice me.  It didn’t).

Special Note – Why I have no faith in Showtime – You may notice that Dexter is the only Showtime show even mentioned by me.  That is because Showtime is stupid.  Their shows are made with the following concept – can we write one character, line up one credible actor or actress and surround him or her with mediocre writing and acting?  Yes, well then we want to make your show!  Even USA at least says “CharacterS welcome.” Showtime’s phrase should be “Character welcome as long as long as character brings mediocre humor, drama and/or co-stars.”  I hate Showtime in all its forms – Lakers, Cable Television, etc.  If HBO, AMC, USA and Showtime all went to school together, HBO would be the Harvard bound quarterback, AMC would be the slightly arrogant and nerdy valedictorian, USA would be the guy who chicks inexplicably liked and Showtime would be a Goth kid.  No, it would be the girl that dates the goth kid, but is not goth herself.  Loser.

Treme – wake me up from my coma – have they cancelled it yet?

Mad Men– Mad Men to me is once again, like sushi – it is something that lots of people like, but also something that lots of people like to say they like because they want to be people who like things like sushi and jazz and other overrated things.  Mad Men is a well done show.  But like Treme, Mad Men sometimes feels like a documentary on early 1960s life, which can be somewhat boring.  I found Season 3 of Mad Men (until an admittedly great finale) to be an excruciatingly boring endeavor.  I often defend shows like The Wire by praising its authenticity, but it helps that there is actually some intriguing plot development to go with the realism. 

So here for all of you is the definitive list of what shows from the last 10 years you should watch.  It is objectively correct.

1) Six Feet Under – Funny, moving and the most realistic look at relationships and human fears of any show ever made, by far.  if the show feels “too gay” for you, rent Queer As Folk, watch it and then re-start Six Feet Under.  f the show is too troubling or upsetting for you then it is working.  And it is widely and justly considered to have the greatest finale in television history – take that MASH!

The Fisher Family will change your life.

2) The Wire– Would be number one, but Six Feet Under is just more personal.  If this show is too slow for you, then watch The Shield and consider yourself ignorant.  If the show is too black for you, watch Southland and consider yourself slightly racist.

3) Arrested Development – The best comedy I have ever seen.  Nothing is actually close, especially this decade.  So naturally it only made it three seasons on television.  I blame the South.

4) The West Wing– If this show is too political for you, then you are dumb.  As impressive as the dialogue, plot and acting is, the details of the show are incredible. To say nothing of the fact that they basically predicted the election of Barack Obama before he had even announced his candidacy.

5) The Sopranos – The first of the Big Three for HBO (Seriously in an 8 year period HBO dropped Six Feet Under, The Wire and The Sopranos on America – to me that will go down as the greatest accomplishment in original television programming).  Sopranos, unlike The Wire and Six Feet Under did not quite end in a way that met with its overall impact and quality.

6) Breaking Bad– the best show on television right now by a mile.  It is dark, filled with tension and excitement, well acted and yet feels incredibly plausible and realistic at the same time.  This is the first drama I have seen that clearly indicates that HBO has dropped the ball recently.  Mad Men gets mentioned as the one HBO let get away (especially because that might have meant naked Joan!), but Breaking Bad is so superior to Mad Men it’s a joke.  More entertaining without sacrificing anything in terms of writing or acting quality.  If the show can finish with way its first three seasons began then it may move towards the top of this list.

Here's an objective truth about a show about a scientist - Breaking Bad is the best show on television.

I feel I must mention Eastbound and Down (but only 1 six episode season to show so far) and I have not seen In Treatment – an HBO show that has been highly recommended to me.  Other than that those 6 shows above will entertain you and raise your expectations for what television can do.  Then when you are done with them you will look down on most other people’s television show opinions like only a condescending six-foot-seven comedian can.


The Return Of The Cave Man

Whenever people talk with fear about radical Islam in the Middle East they speak about how it is a fringe element of the faith that wants to bring modern society back to the 9th century.  We fear this because it comes with repression of women, suicide bombs, etc.  But the more I look at American pop culture it seems we are hell bent on doing the same, but with our own American style.

The fastest growing sport in America is Mixed Martial Arts. I know defenders of this sport will call  the guys great athletes, but that doesn’t cover up the fact that it is basically just brawling for the enjoyment of a mob.    It reminds me of the scene in Gladiator when Derek Jacobi’s character is discussing how Rome is the mob and Caesar will be applauded by the mob for giving them bloody games.  Well, I guess we’ve come full circle.  Watching highlights of these MMA events convinces me that we are less than a century away form Gladiators coming back. 

UFC Champ and future Aryan leader in a prison movie or prison: Brock Lesnar
UFC Champ and future Aryan leader in a prison movie or prison: Brock Lesnar

Twenty years ago, prescient film pioneer Jean Claude-Van Damme did a movie called Lionheart about underground fighting clubs for big money.  20 years later the clubs are out in the open and cleaning up on pay-per-view.   Are we 20 years from the number of movies that showcase races or fights to the death (usually involving prisoners) becoming reality? 

A man ahead of his time
A man ahead of his time

Frenemy, ginormous and staycation are now in the dictionary, so this is not just a testosterone fueled movement.  Idiots of all classes, races and genders seem to growing exponentially and continue to win.  The movie Idiocracy, by Mike Judge, shows, through two accidental time travelers over the next 500 years, society getting dumber and dumber to the point that a porn star is elected US President, popular shows on television simply involve people getting hit in the nuts and people can barely speak properly.  Judge may have overshot with 500 years.

The head of Merriam-Webster's new word committee
The head of Merriam-Webster's new word committee

Twitter has shown us the way to communicate with each other in short bursts.  So in 50 years perhaps we will simply communicate with emoticons or high-tech equivalents of grunts, believing technology automatically means better, but not realizing social skills have eroded to the point that we are more at ease instant messaging each other than actually communicating in person.

This is what we will all eventually look like on the inside (and some of us outside as well)
This is what we will all eventually look like on the inside (and some of us outside as well)

Last year I thought there was hope when The Dark Knight elevated a traditionally mindless genre, the action/comic movie to something artistic and elegant.  But this year’s #1 movie is Transformers 2 which appeals to the basic attraction to visual and aural stimuli with base humor and nothing else.   So after a year that gave us Obama and The Dark Knight (my two favorite things from 2008) it appears that tales of the idiot’s demise were greatly exaggerated.  Time to go tweet.