So I became engaged in a heated debate the other day with a group of friends over the relative merits of television. One friend was a holdout who was caught by surprise with the recent switch to digital- she’d never owned a cable box, and didn’t care to start now. I thought that was a shame, and said so. And here’s why: Hands down, I think some of the most interesting stories are being told on television. A series opens up the possibilities of a much broader story and character arc than any film, in my opinion. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t some great movies out there, but I think some of the current TV programming beats the majority of films hands down.
Here are my favorites:
- Nurse Jackie: Granted, there have only been two episodes thus far, but wow. I have a hard time imagining a movie studio greenlighting a project like this. Edie Falco proves there’s life after Carmela Soprano, the supporting cast is great, and I can’t wait to see what happens. It’s the most caustically funny comedy out there right now.
- The Wire: Season after season this series paved new ground. I think it was the best police procedural ever made, and that includes Homicide, in which to be honest my interest waned halfway through.
- Deadwood: Shakespeare in the Wild West. Swearengen was one of the best villains ever written, complex, smart, funny- he stole the show season after season. It’s a shame this ended so soon.
- Mad Men: It makes one yearn for the days of three martini lunches. A brilliant portrait of life in America at a time when everything was about to change.
- United States of Tara: An Emmy is almost a given for Toni Collete in this role that allows her to chew the scenery. Roles like this for women of a certain age just don’t exist in film anymore. And Diablo Cody proves that Juno wasn’t a fluke, she’s a major talent.
- The Tudors: The trashiness is leavened by the period costumes and fine acting of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.
- The Shield: Dark, gritty, and one of the best and most realistic endings to a drama ever televised.
- It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: This show is so weird and out there I can’t get enough of it. You so rarely see cannibalism explored in two dimensions, alongside race relations, white guilt, and character so completely devoid of any sense of humanity.
Note that all of these air on cable networks- my argument for investing in a box over an antenna. Granted, there’s a lot of trash out there, but there are some true gems as well.
So I’m curious to hear what everyone’s current favorites are- there are many I haven’t listed here that are mainstays on my TIVO, but these are the ones I rush to see when they’re on.