Tuesday, September 16

TV Week! (Part 2: Top 20 Shows Of All-Time)

Here now, the first half of my Top 20 television shows of all-time. As was the case with A Lifetime Of Shows, I stuck mostly to well-known and at least somewhat-popular shows from my nation of birth (with the exception of one later on, I believe). This is 100% personal preference, and continues to change by the minute as I write it up. Appreciate it as entertainment, please.

Let's go.

20. King of the Hill

The Simpsons has been the de facto standard as far as cartoons go for the last 20 years, so when another show comes along that beats it at its own game, it's quite a historic moment. However, that's exactly what King of the Hill did for at least back-to-back seasons in the span of 2003-2006. A brilliant take on rural living by Mike Judge, one of the underrated kings of satire, KOTH is now the second longest-running animated show in television history, which is saying a lot, considering FOX's fickle nature. At their best, you forget you're watching a cartoon (the show could easily have been shot live action) and immerse yourself into the completely-believable world of mild-mannered, straight-laced everyman Hank Hill; placed just under Homer Simpson in the world of iconic TV dads.

Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: In homage to the scene where a herd of Emu attack Bill, I sometimes randomly shriek "They're bitin'!" at random intervals.

19. Malcolm in the Middle

Malcolm got a lot of flack for starring legitimate douchebag Frankie Muniz, but I'll defend this show to anyone unfortunate enough to call me to task. Malcolm was originally billed as a live-action Simpsons, and while I understood the term to be endearing, they sometimes went places more bizarre and emotionally deep than anything ever done in Springfield. What I enjoyed most about Malcolm was that they threw absolutely everything at the wall every single week; the insanity notching itself further and further, yet feeling normal within the confines of their universe. The nonsensical cold openings, the non-laugh track, filmstock production and single-camera cinematography were just a few of the ways that Malcolm was slightly groundbreaking in consideration of what was to become of the American sitcom.

The constant side-plot of Francis skipping around the nation was always a welcome diversion from the household storylines (his time in the Army and Alaska being personal favorites), and an ensemble cast that essentially made Muniz the weakest character week after week (Jane Kaczmarek and Bryan Cranston were nominated for Emmys almost every season, and the show won 7 Emmys for the 7 seasons it was on). I've always felt that Malcolm was criminally overlooked as far as their efforts were concerned, and can virtually guarantee that this is a show that's begging to be rediscovered and appreciated on DVD.

Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: It's always fun to talk like Malcolm's handicapped friend Stevie, taking deep breaths in between each word of a sentence. "Can...you...pass...me...the...sour...cream...and...onion...dip?"

18. 30 Rock

In 2007, 30 Rock did something that I thought it would never do: It surpassed The Office as the Funniest Show on Television; even winning a Best Comedy Emmy for their efforts. Then in 2008, it did the same exact thing again, leading me to proclaim it the best comedy since Arrested Development (and the closest thing on television that resembles it). Each week, I watch 30 Rock with the same breathless appreciation that I did for Arrested; a silent applause for the genius it takes to write such brilliantly funny material on a week-to-week basis. The casting of Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan in their respective roles are television perfection, and Tina Fey's relateable lead role is something we all thought she was more than capable of pulling off. After their opening season, they found their stride in a big way, and I think that 30 Rock has done everything indicative of an instant classic.

Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: Anything in a Tracy Morgan voice that ends by acknowledging the person your speaking to by full name. Something like, "I'ma put a baby in you, Emily Mills!"

17. The X-Files

The X-Files single-handedly brought sci-fi back to network television. Well, good sci-fi, at least. Each week, they pushed the envelope, pushed the boundaries and pushed the imaginations of millions, drawing on past horror and sci-fi anthology shows to produce something altogether different and all-encompassing. Some episodes were deep and intelligent. Some were extremely violent and bloody. Others were terrifying. Despite the lackluster final seasons, The X-Files is a true classic; a show that most of us remember fondly and typically always shows up on these sorts of lists.

Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: Okay, this is cheating, as it comes from the X-Files themed episode of The Simpsons. Mr. Burns' "I bring you love!"

16. Cops

If you consider that COPS has been on the air for the same amount of time as the entire FOX network, you begin to see not only the magnitude, but the very real idea that the show could run forever. For some, it's a false display of the worst behaviors of society. For others, it's a shocking reminder of our de-evolution as a species. For most, however, it's the funniest show on television, and like Patton Oswalt says, I'm more or less a Trekkie for this show. I can instantly tell you what city they're in and what's about to happen by merely viewing the opening monologue. Like The Simpsons, I can't really imagine a world without COPS, and thanks to syndication, I'll probably never have to.

Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: "You like 'dat crack, don't you? Don't lie to me; you wouldn't be down here if you didn't like 'dat crack!"

15. Tales from the Crypt

I didn't get HBO until my early teen years, and Tales From The Crypt was my first experience to the previously-unseen world of 'adult' programming. Now that I'm older, I know that Tales was anything but 'adult;' a hilarious, tounge-in-cheek anthology show created by brilliant producers and starring some of the world's most well-known celebrities.

Tales From The Crypt took horror, comedy, over-the-top absurdity and brilliant storytelling (most taken directly from the DC comics which bore the name) and created a legacy that my generation adores. One week, we could see something side-splitting, (like 'Carrion Death,' starring Kyle McLaughlin in a solo role), and the next we could see something that made us sleep with the lights on (the absolutely terrifying 'Television Terror,' starring Morton Downey Jr. in a self-deprecating role, or 'And All Through The House,' a Christmas-themed favorite). The variety-show aspect was just one of the many reasons why Tales From The Crypt will always be appreciated by millions of horror fans.

Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: Cramming as many puns into a sentence as possible while doing the Crypt Keeper voice, normally during breakfast.

14. The Office

The Office is currently enjoying their status as the most popular comedy on television, and they deserve the praise. After all, in just four short years, they went from a line-for-line British remake to a critical darling to an award winner to an absolute ratings powerhouse. I credit NBC for giving them the chance to mature, although the choice seems relatively easy to make in hindsight.

Shows like The Office, in my opinion, still represent the future of American comedy, not a fading genre of cringe-humor that will eventually make way for the revival of the 'traditional' sitcom. Where shows like Arrested Development only attracted a fringe crowd that was actively seeking something different, The Office has infiltrated the mainstream through all-encompassing writing, creating a Trojan Horse effect that (hopefully) gets casual comedy fans expecting more from their 30 minute sitcoms. It's an amazing thing when I can agree with my mom on the merits of a televised comedy, and that's exactly what The Office does. That's truly special.

Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: "I bumped my elbow against the wall and now my elbow has a protuberance."

13. The Kids in the Hall

One of my biggest comedic influences came by the fortunate instance of finding myself awake at 2:30am on a Sunday, accidentally catching a syndicated repeat of a Kids In The Hall Episode. This was my generation's Monty Python; 5 guys that did absolutely anything and everything they wanted on a weekly basis, hitting every corner of the spectrum along the way. Their studio audience sketches were always on par with the best SNL material. Their filmed pieces ranged from head-shakingly absurd to awe-inspiring brilliance. The versatility of a guy like Mark McKinney was incredible. Their cult following nearly demands annual live performances and high DVD sales.

Again, much like Monty Python, there was really no gray area concerning your opinion of The Kids In The Hall. You either got it and stuck with it through thick and thin, or you hated everything about it and refused to understand. To me, anyone that watches and appreciates The Kids In The Hall instantly knows a lot more about me as a person. Whether that's a good thing is still yet to be determined.

Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: Far too many to mention. My old band even wrote a song called 'Rod Torfulson's Armada Featuring Herman Menderchuck,' all about not 'making it.'

12. Friday Night Lights

I can already hear the bitching from people thinking I put a two-season show like Friday Night Lights too far up the list. It is at this point where I'd recommend A) Making your own list, and B) Watching this damn show already.

I said this yesterday, and I'll say it again today: Season One of Friday Night Lights is the greatest season of television I have ever seen. Better than Season One of Lost. Better than Season Four of MST3K. Better than the final season of The Fugitive. I watched it when nobody around me watched it. When everyone was convinced it was a show about nothing more than football. Slowly but surely, my living room started to fill up on Friday nights, as the deepest, smartest, most emotional, most beautiful, best acted, best shot and best written show on television won people over one at a time. Hell, NBC believed in the show so much, that they released the Season One DVD for $20 with a money-back guarantee.

Watch the pilot episode. Download it, buy it on iTunes, rent it; I don't care how it gets in your living room, just make it happen.

Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: "Listen son, this ain't about yeeew."

11. The Adventures of Pete & Pete

If there was ever a show in my life that defined 'nostalgia,' it would be The Adventures Of Pete & Pete. To this day, I long to live in Wellsville, where it's perpetually Autumn, indie rockers are living on every block, and your own personal superhero is always there when you need him. Too smart for most kids to get at the time, yet too silly for a mainstream audience, Pete & Pete understood exactly what it was like to be a kid growing up, and yet found a way to capture youth and nostalgia in a surreal, modern-day setting, where the adults were always ten steps behind and authority was always meant to be questioned.

This October, like I've done for the last three Octobers, I will bust out my Pete & Pete DVDs and not only remember the greatest Nickelodeon series in history, but try to remember how amazing it was to be an adolescent in the early 90's. Damn, what an amazing show.

Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: Since 2001, I've named every computer I've ever had 'Artie.' The strongest computer.....in the world!

Thanks for reading; sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

TOMORROW: TV Week Continues With The Conclusion To The Top 20!

Anyone who tells me that The Kids In The Hall wasn't created in my nation of birth will be shot in the face.
The Office and 30 Rock should be higher. I say that having not yet seen the top ten.

King of the Hill has grown on me; it's on every afternoon when I get off work, thanks to my wife. And now I like it.
30 Rock is incredible. However, I hate Malcolm in the Middle.
It's nice to see Kids in the Hall gettin' some lovin'. Ditto for Emily Mills.
I didn't know you are Canadian.

My favorite KITH quote: Tramp! She's a tramp! She's a tramp! She's a trampoline girl!
Yes! Pete and Pete! If I can only remember some quotes from that show besides Artie.
You either got it and stuck with it through thick and thin, or you hated everything about it and refused to understand.

I fall solemnly into the "hated everything about it" category.
Oh, and I heart Polaris.
I feel the need to join the pile of KitH love. Own it all on DVD. Saw the latest tour in Milwaukee in April. All of 'em are getting on in years, but the material is still fresh as ever.

You, sir, have now earned my devotion and respect.
Fantastic. I love earning devotion.

Another busy day for me, so I can't hang around the comments too much, unfortunately. Loving the conversation, though.
"Can't have a conversation...without a whole lotta milk-a..."

Go to YouTube and do a search for the KiTH sketch "Love and Sausages." Then thank me later.
1. The "Love and Sausages" sketch (I assume that's the totally obscure b&w one) is, by far, one of my all-time favorite KitH bits. I quote it far more often than is likely appropriate.

2. Something like, "I'ma put a baby in you, Emily Mills!"

I am both flattered and horrified. Thank you.

3. "The Adventures of Pete and Pete" was seriously, like, not only the best Nickelodeon show ever, but one of my top favs of all time. Seriously, I want Luscious Jackson to play my school dance! And I, too, dreamed of staying up for days to prove a point to parents. Never did try staring at the sun to make me sneeze, though. Maybe that's where I went wrong.

4. Because of you, I will add "Friday Night Lights" to my Netflix cue. You're welcome. Now go rent the BSG mini-series. You're welcome. ;)

Pete & Pete marathon, CDP Headquarters this October. Book it!

I think you'll appreciate everything that's done so well in FNL, Emily. Lemme know what you think.
I've never heard of Pete & Pete. But then again, I lived a deprived life. For example, we didn't have a Fox affiliate where I grew up so I totally missed 90210 (a big deal for my age group) and the beginning the Simpsons.

That said, I can still see 30 seconds of any MASH episode and tell you what happens in the rest of the show. My brothers and I call each other if we happen to catch The Captain Tuttle episode in syndication. It's that good of a show!
I was a HUGE fan of "Pete and Pete".

For awhile I believed I had imagined the entire thing, but cause everyone I talked to never heard of it..

I apparently know a lot of crazy people.

Who hasn't heard of Artie?
Behold! The magical dancing powers of Artie!
I had the sound off, but doesn't Pete say something about Artie being attracted to the song like a 'giant funk magnet?' Hilarious.

My Artie impression is the tops.
Yes, I must say your Artie impersonation is quite superb.

My favorite thing about P&P is that it taught me it's okay to call people "blowholes."
Alas, 'Pete and Pete helped prepare me for my own experiences with marching band. (<--nerd)

"I am a dot. I am a dot. I am a dot..."

(Two for one- The guy who played Artie also voices Cotton Hill and Kahn in 'King of the Hill'.)
Indeed. He was also on the ill-fated HBO series, Carnivale.

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