Thursday, November 5

The CDP's Top 10 TV Shows Of The Decade (10-6).

"You want to know the best part about childhood? At some point, it stops." -Malcolm In The Middle (2000)

Here we are; the first half of my favorite television shows of the decade. First, a few ground rules.

This list, along with any other list in our Decade In Review, is my own, personal list. It's not a cultivation of reader votes, demographic surveys and Neilsen ratings; it's my favorite television shows that began production at some point after January 1, 2000.

Secondly, I made a point to limit this list to national shows; no cable and premium stuff (with one exception). This is precisely why you will not see shows such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire or Six Feet Under on here (and because I've never actually watched any of those shows).

Let's go.

#10 - Mythbusters (DISC)
Ran From: 2003 to Present

Mythbusters gets to be the only exception to my 'No Cable TV/Scripted-Only' rule. Currently in its 7th Season, I thought for sure that a show like this wasn't going to fly when it first debuted. Sure, I was obsessed with Urban Legends, and the idea that a couple of SFX /Science Whiz/Inventor-types were going to actually replicate these stories and see if they possess even a shred of possibility was more or less my idea of the best television show ever.

Fortunately for me (and for the Discovery Channel), this show was a smash hit, continues to be one of the most popular shows on the network, and the premise virtually guarantees they will never run out of material to test. From dumb luck, to movie magic, to old wives' tales to flat-out absurdity, the Mythbusters crew takes everything seriously, and to their logical (and often explosive) extreme.

When Mythbusters premiered, they took on the Urban Legends that had been around forever. In recent seasons, they've taken on the Internet, viral videos and other miscellaneous lore (you know those YouTube trolls that scream 'Fake!' in the comments of every clip? Yeah, these are the guys that find out for sure). Despite being the voice of truth, reason and Science, they also remain one of the most exciting and rebellious shows of the genre. Let it be known that I had faith from the very beginning.

#9 - Grounded For Life (FOX)
Ran For: 5 seasons, 91 episodes

It's probably going to be hard for me to explain this one. Why is Grounded For Life, a standard, run-of-the-mill, woefully overlooked sitcom with a freaking laugh track doing on the Decade list of a guy like me?

Well, for starters, the opening theme was performed by the band Ween, so you're already off to a good start. The cast was top-notch; honestly one of the best casts for a standard sitcom since Roseanne, maybe. Their disjointed storytelling style (typically Act III, Act II, Act I) kept even the most cliche'd plotlines fresh, and the family was genuinely believable in their dysfunction and dynamic. The sitcom is only a dead art because it's been driven into the ground in a formulaic way. However, when done solidly well (this argument can easily be made for Everybody Loves Raymond or Fraiser), it's proof that we'll probably see sitcoms like this 50 years from now.

#8 - My Name Is Earl (NBC)
Ran For: 4 seasons, 96 episodes

I always felt that My Name Is Earl was a FOX show at heart. After all, virtually everything about it owed a debt of gratitude to Malcolm In The Middle. That being said, I loved Earl because it never felt like it belonged on NBC's 'Must-See Thursday.' It was fairly dirty for a network comedy. Almost all of the characters were unlikeable or unable to be related to (most of the town were alcoholics, criminals or sexually deviant in one extreme or another). Even Earl, our hero, gave us constant reminders of how low he sank up until the point where he won the lottery and promptly got hit by a car.

Much like The Simpsons, as the series went on, Camden County continued to grow as we learned more and more about the inhabitants of this bizarre oasis. In tune, the series took more chances and nose-dove into the surreal (Earl spent an entire season behind bars, and the bulk of another one in a coma). And while I feel the series ended (or was canceled, more appropriately) before the premise could get too stale, I legitimately enjoyed every week of Earl.

On a side note, Earl was the only 'Must-See Thursday' show that my mother refused to watch, which had to have meant it was doing something right.

#7 - House, M.D. (FOX)
Ran From: 2004 to Present

I have a theory about House. For as much as FOX promoted this medical drama about a brilliant-yet-flawed doctor and his young band of miscreant geniuses, I really don't think they could have expected it to be as huge as it became. After all, this premise has been done into the ground, medical dramas were saturating the networks in 2004, and...what did House have that we haven't already seen a million times elsewhere?

Hugh Laurie. That's what.

In 2004, Laurie was a relatively well-known actor in Britain, but couldn't have been more of a stranger in the states (I'll bet there's still some fans of the show that don't realize he's an Englishman). In 2009, he's one of the highest-paid actors on television (at least $350k an episode), a two-time Golden Globe winner (but a zero-time Emmy winner? Is that right?), and arguably the best actor on television. House also averages 16 million viewers a week, which was enough to make it the #1 show on television for a month following its Season 6 premiere. Wow.

I'm sure FOX knew they had a hit on their hands, but I don't think anyone would have predicted that.

#6 - Malcolm In The Middle (FOX)
Ran For: 7 seasons, 151 episodes

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 all feeling quite 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 promise that this is a show that's begging to be rediscovered and appreciated on DVD.

There you be; the first half of my Top 10 Favorite Shows Of The Decade. Sound off in the comments section, enjoy your day and come back tomorrow, as we close out the Decade In Television and wrap up the countdown.

I thought Malcolm in the Middle was a good show, too...there's a sitcom right now called 'The Middle' which is a direct rip-off - it even has a kid cast as the youngest boy who resembles the kid from Malcolm in the Middle. Very blatant.

House? Meh.
Donal Logue was one of the best things about those VH-1 "I Love The..." shows when they first started. What the hell happened to him?
I think The Middle is now off the air. And I think the mom is/was the narrator, not the kid. But that's the only difference.

I like Earl but it wasn't going to last. I'm surprised the strung it as long as they did.

Never watched House. Is that wrong?
The Middle is definitely still on the air--we watched it last night :) I actually think it's a very funny show. Lots of obvious similarity to Malcolm in the Middle, but it's very smart and funny in its own way. I like how the mom basically realizes at the end of every episode that her life is hopelessly painful and she has very few reasons for even continuing with it.
The character of the youngest boy on The Middle whispers the final word in a lot of his sentences, which is something my son has done for a while. Up until I saw the show it didn't strike me as odd. But weirds me out.
Donal Logue played a police captain on Life, a show regrettably canned last year. To me Logue is the kind of actor that I personally like, as if he's a friend or something. I can be watching something terrible and absolutely hate it, but if he pops on screen I'll immediately change my opinion to "it's not that bad."

I made it a point to watch the first few episodes of House because I really liked Hugh Laurie in Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster, and while I enjoy the show I don't generally make it a point to watch. I could do with less of the other characters and more Laurie.
MAUS - Typically, those kinds of kids end up the most 'normal.' I'm digging The Middle in a traditional sense, but Modern Family has been blowing it out of the water each week.

HOSS - Not really; if you've seen one, you've seen them all. It's a good formula, though.

WALLROCK - You may have hit the nail on the head with Grounded For Life; the cast seemed actual, and I really dug all the actors. I like Donal Logue and Steven Root in absolutely anything.

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