So the big news in my life is that I've moved out, and on top of that, I can't afford cable, so I don't have television anymore. Which really isn't a problem, considering in the last couple years, I've been drifting away from TV. I managed to watch the shows I wanted to watch via DVD or via other means (ahem), so I don't really need to watch TV anymore. In the spirit of mourning a friend, I'm going to list, in no particular order, five of my favourite TV shows ever.
It's like a huge sprawling novel about life in the mafia in New Jersey. Complex, funny, suspenseful, intricate, very symbolic and very engaging are all words I use to describe this show. When it first began in 1999, I didn't have access to HBO, but my mom's friend did, and we borrowed her VHS tapes, copies made of the show. That started my intense addiction to the show. It wasn't until about the fourth season when I began to watch the show with a more critical eye. I graduated high school and graduated from university in the time it took for this show to finish, and both institutions gave me the power to analyze and understand The Sopranos on a more detailed level. After every episode, I would pour over the details and discern meaning from seemingly random images and events, which to me, is the sign of a great work of art. It certainly helps that the show itself is entertaining on a superficial level, as well. This certainly isn't Finnegans Wake.
Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law
Using an old Hanna-Barbara cartoon as a launching pad, this short 11 minute show positioned a superhero as a lawyer, and had him taking famous characters as clients. A simple, albeit high concept, the show capitalized on the trend of nostalgia that Family Guy and Robot Chicken are beating like a dead horse. The show was mind-boggling funny and used its supporting cast to the best possible degree. There's tons of quotable dialogue, and hilarious situations and memorable characters. It's definitely not Ulysses, but it continues to entertain me.
Six Feet Under
I tend to watch shows that have big complex overarching plots, like The Sopranos, or The Venture Brothers, or The X-Files, and I've never really been into family dramas. But one exception to the rule is the outstanding Six Feet Under. Created by American Beauty writer Alan Ball, it's the story of a family who owns and operates a funeral home. Of course, the family is dysfunctional, and the fights and arguments stretch over handfuls of episodes, but at its core, the entire, overarching story is one of the family's redemption in the face of their own personality problems and quirks. Built from solid acting, three dimensional characters, and an uncanny understanding of "the human condition", this is a tremendous show. The finale is probably the only thing other than Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey that makes me blubber with tears.
As I write this, the third full length direct to DVD film, Bender's Game, came out. I purchased it via gift certificate I got from my mom (thanks, Mom) and I watched it with my g/f. Not only is Futurama the funniest, smartest, best animated show that currently runs on TV, but it's the geekiest. Family Guy plays off its nostalgia factor, whereas Futurama uses geek knowledge and geek culture. The more obscure, the better, it seems. It also has a heart at the centre; the romance between Leela and Fry is what pushes the show forward, just like the romance at the heart of The Office (the UK version). And it's just plain funny.
The best sitcom ever. Endlessly watchable, endlessly quotable, and endlessly influential. There was never a sitcom like it before. Oft-imitated and never duplicated, Seinfeld is the apex of American situation comedy. Its jargon and inner language has forever infiltrated the real lexicon of the world, and there ain't no turning back. Nobody learns any lessons and nobody grows; it's the anti-sitcom, while at the same time embracing everything about the sitcom. I can't really say anything new about the show, as many other critics have examined the show better.
So those are the five TV shows that I can't really live without. There are plenty of runner-ups, including The Venture Brothers, Gilmore Girls, How I Met Your Mother, early Simpsons, and of course, a billion British sitcoms that I don't have time to praise.
Goodbye, TV, I'll see you again.