|Alexis Bledel starred as Rory Gilmore in|
Gilmore Girls. Image from bitly.com/mMQEEt
by Elaine Dunaway
Let’s begin with the basics: I enjoy watching TV, but I wouldn’t call myself a television addict and I especially wouldn’t go so far as to call myself an authority. I do, however, have a tendency to get drawn in by especially great shows that speak to the obsessive personality inside of me. These are the shows that I watch from morning until 3:30 at night in an attempt to figure out what is going to happen; the shows that keep me dreaming little tangential storylines when I’m supposed to be focusing on schoolwork or work-work. I would like to share with you the TV shows which have made me laugh, cry, learn, or sit in awe over the past decade. (These are in no particular order, so please don’t be offended if Firefly comes in at five when Smallville comes in first.)
1. Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) – Where to begin? The bantering beauties of Gilmore Girls feel almost more like family than mere characters. I’m convinced Rory, Lorelai and I would be best of friends, plus, I really want to visit Stars Hollow and check in on Kirk and Luke. In addition to just personally feeling like I would fit into this world, I find it to be one of the more edifying dramedies on television. As in, I know lots of pop culture references or literary figures because I first heard of them on Gilmore Girls, got curious, and decided to go learn more about them. Thanks, Gilmores, for making me a more well-rounded person.
2. Smallville (2001-2011) – Telling us the story of young Clark Kent as he grows from high-school freshman to grown-up superhero, Smallville somehow manages to make comic book storylines palatable to men and women of all ages and viewing preferences. Case in point: I love it (and generally do not like comics), my mom loves it (who never likes comics), my dad likes it (who generally does not like anything that my mom and I like, TV-wise). From watching Clark battle freak-of-the-weeks in early seasons to seeing him battle much more formidable foes (like General Zod and Lex Luthor), Smallville combines the best of comic geekiness with a good dose of love interests (in the forms of Lana Lang and Lois Lane) and friendship (thanks to his best friend Chloe Sullivan and ties to the Justice League). All in all, I couldn’t ask for a more enjoyable combination.
3. Planet Earth (2006) – I grew up on Discovery Channel wildlife shows and had taken to bemoaning the channel’s migration to reality shows about motorcycles and redecorating when, one day, I turned on the channel to the most astoundingly beautiful footage of nature that I had ever seen. That was the day I saw Planet Earth. Five years in the making and shot with high-definition cameras, Planet Earth covers the main ecosystems of our planet – plains, forests, jungles, oceans, freshwater, etc. – and introduces you to the most stunning images you’ll ever see of those systems. Throw in David Attenborough (if you’re watching the BBC version) and Sigourney Weaver (if you’re watching the Discovery Channel version) as narrators, and you’ve got yourself a sure-fire winner.
4. The Office (2005-present) – This mockumentary weasels its way into your heart and doesn’t let go. Between Michael Scott and his cohorts, you’re guaranteed to cry, laugh, fall in love, and feel terribly, painfully uncomfortable – often all in one episode. I’m not sure what its future holds now that Steve Carrell has moved on to bigger and better things, but one thing’s for sure: nothing will erase the joy it’s brought to me over the past six years.
5. Band of Brothers (2001) – When I wasn’t watching Discovery Channel’s wildlife shows as a child, I was often watching History Channel’s WWII programming. Thus, it will come as no surprise that I was extremely excited about the breadth of wartime experiences Band of Brothers was able to cover. Additionally, this show was able to portray a very believable sense of brotherhood, wherein we all root for Major Dick Winters and Easy Company.
6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) – Buffy is that rarest of television experiences: a seven-season show that is consistent and well written throughout the entire series. The storylines are so tightly wound that you often get set-up for an event happening one or two seasons before the actual event (case in point: Dawn was hinted at in the middle of season four when she doesn’t appear until season five). Throw in the best unexpected musical episode ever and there’s really not much to dislike about Buffy. Plus, she kicks serious vampire ass and always has a witty comment to send them into their ashy afterlife.
7. Dirty Jobs (2005-present) – Mike Rowe is one of the most likeable people on the planet. Watching him perform the dirtiest, least-desirable jobs in the country just happens to be one of the most enjoyable experiences that cable has offered me in the past ten years. While reality TV generally makes my stomach turn, Dirty Jobs makes me want to see everyday people doing their everyday jobs, all the while seeing Mike Rowe gag and balk at the job he’s being told to do.
8. How I Met Your Mother (2005-present) – I have a confession: I’m not at all caught up on the current season. I do, however, love this show because of it consistently offers up some of the funniest one-liners and situations that I have ever seen. Barney Stinson should go down in TV history for being the most enjoyable scuzzball that ever walked the airwaves.
9. Firefly (2002-2003) – Joss Whedon never fails to deliver something interesting. With Firefly, he gives us a futuristic world which is simultaneously technologically advanced (spaceships, inter-planet travel, creation of new planets when need-be) as well as a throw-back to the wild, wild west. Gun-slinging space cowboys, without all of the overblown storylines and graphics which tend to make it into blockbuster movies with similar premises. Unfortunately, Firefly didn’t make it past its first season due to the evil that is Fox; however, it lives on in our hearts (as well as in its movie wrap-up, Serenity.)
10. NCIS (2003-present) – I couldn’t very well compose a list of television from the last decade without mentioning at least one crime-scene drama. I mean, they are on practically every channel in every time slot. Thus, I felt compelled to mention my favorite. Tony, Ziva, Ducky, Abby, and Gibbs manage to keep a character-driven storyline alive while bringing all of the gritty forensics of your average crime drama.
I know this list isn’t exactly in keeping with many of the more critical lists of the decade’s TV. It is, however, a list of what I consider to be quality entertainment that will bring new ideas to your life and fodder to your imagination.