I’m Not Going To Do It
By now you’ve likely seen that list circulating of the “100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time” as published by an irrelevant pop culture magazine struggling to stay relevant. I won’t link to it. I won’t cite the source. I’ll just say that it’s my belief lists such as this are produced only to keep your sad brand alive, and to generate cheap impressions to keep advertisers happy. Whatever thought went into the ranking of the “100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time” was clearly eclipsed by the overwhelming desire to bait readers into debating the confounding results.
There is a very simple fact that cannot be denied when I read articles called “100 Greatest TV Shows Of All Time” or “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” There is no singular criteria by which you can accurately measure quality across genres. Comparing a Reality TV show to a Drama to a Comedy to a Talk Show does not work in terms of what is good, better and best. You run into the same problems when comparing Revolver to In A Silent Way to It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. Whether a list is composed by a single author or it is a survey completed by a random sampling of voters, there are way too many variables at play to trust the results.
In 2005 I posted my 100 favorite films of all time. The list was alphabetical because it’d be foolish to try ranking them (note to self: update this list). Instead I saved my rankings for genres like Documentaries or disturbing Horror movies. One time I even tried to find the most ’80s movie. I’ve ranked lots of the Greatest TV Shows of All Time before, but I’ve done so by breaking them down into genres like Drama or Animation. God knows how many nuanced lists about music I’ve written without trying to rank the Greatest Albums Of All Time. Isn’t it more fun to rank “Other Records Of 1971” or privately pressed records or nautical-themed band names? I think so.
Which brings me to this stupid list of TV shows.
First of all — and I have addressed this when listing my favorite TV dramas — how does one rank shows that are still airing? It was a television show that inspired the phrase “Jump the shark” specifically to describe the moment something good turns bad. Yeah, maybe the first two seasons of Broad City were great, but what if the next four suck? Are they just going to rewrite the list and pretend it was never the 91st best TV show of all time? If you were reading a book and after three chapters you called all your friends and told them it was the greatest book you’d ever read, would you put it down and leave the remaining seven, or twenty, or fifty chapters unread? What if by chapter 8 you were bored? What if unresolved events were cleared up in the denouement but you wanted the author to intentionally leave things vague. Now that book you thought you loved is stupid and the author is a piece of shit. Also, you’ve almost perfectly described the first season of Homeland. Brodie should have blown himself up. Instead we got three meandering seasons of a stupid love story with the least compelling ending possible. Christ, that show is garbage.
Next you have to address the omissions. The first one that leapt off my laptop at me was The Prisoner. After firing off several rage-induced messages to the friend who sent me the list I started thinking about other shows more worthy of inclusion than, say, Girls or Thirtysomething. Where’s The Abbott & Costello Show? Where’s Survivor? I know American Idol changed reality television by making it interactive, but Survivor first legitimized the genre? Furthermore, if I can’t convince you to construct the list using only shows that have completed their run, can I at least convince you that Sherlock is more worthy of inclusion than Portlandia, Key & Peele, or Eastbound & Down? While I’m at it, the fact that there would be no Sopranos without HBO taking a chance on Oz means maybe it should be treated with more reverence than In Living Color or Portlandia. Sorry I’m picking on your favorite show Portlandia fans.
Lastly, I suppose, I’ll address the Top 10. As a master Top 10 author I feel it is my duty to look more closely at it. Does The Daily Show ranking include the Craig Kilborn years? Just kidding, there’s no way it belongs in the Top 10 when David Letterman, Larry Sanders and Johnny Carson are all worthy of higher honors than John Stewart. One could also argue that Curb Your Enthusiasm is better than The Daily Show, but that would start us down the cross-genre comparison rabbit hole and I want to avoid that. Instead I’ll say the only problem I have with the Top 10 is Mad Men, a show that I will remember more for its look than its feel. Let’s be honest Mad Men nearly copied The Sopranos thematically, only it wasn’t as well executed.
I go back and forth as to whether The Sopranos or The Wire is the best television program of all time. It depends on how depressed I am feeling that day. Today feels like a Sopranos day for me. How does it feel for you?
Frank Ocean – Self Control [MP3]
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