My Favorite TV Shows!
by Kristin Battestella
I hope you’ve all enjoyed our Anniversary Countdowns!
When drafting all I Think, Therefore I Review’s Tenth Anniversary Top Ten Lists, however, I realized that some of my favorite shows are actually programs I’ve never reviewed. To rectify the lack of favoritism, here’s a bonus countdown of My Favorite Television Shows!
Ironically, you can click through to read full length and by season reviews of these Honorable Mentions, which have been reviewed at I Think, Therefore I Review:
Now then, here they are – I think. Lists such as these are always subject to change! I mean, there are still Are You Being Served?, The Sopranos, Rome, Frasier, Dallas, V, and Seinfeld but I digress.
My Ten Favorite Television Shows!
10. Hornblower – C.S. Forester’s novels are also some of my favorite books, eva! This 1998 – 2003 series of television movie productions from A&E were not always perfect adaptations, for the later two fold Lieutenant Hornblower with inserted characters cheating on the literary mysteries were not as close to the written source as the original Midshipman film quartet was. Seriously, fight me on the “Who pushed Captain Sawyer” debate. That said, the seafaring revolution, continental action, naval battles, dynamic storytelling, and spirited lead Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) combined for some damn fine award winning period drama that remains timeless entertainment. In today's era of franchise everything, the only real trouble with this series is that A&E went to crap and never finished bringing the entire novel canon to the screen. I protest!
9. The Twilight Zone – I used to stay up late at night and watch Rod Serling's 1959-64 classic on my giant little thirteen inch television set back in the days when we only had five channels and PBS would play the National Anthem before shutting off at 2 a.m. Maybe it is easy to say a child would be surely shocked by all the speculative twists and moral ironies from the boob tube's infancy. I thought this was such heavy stuff that didn't deserve to be on in the wee hours when no one would see it. Granted, there is a certain nostalgia that comes with the dated technological aspects and early television production – the word 'robot' was mispronounced and airplanes were afraid of stop motion dinosaurs. However, thanks to advanced storytelling and innovative television techniques, the perennial episodes herein remain provocative science fiction for a reason. My favorite has always been “The Invaders,” but recently, I've been leaning towards “The Howling Man,” and “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” is as timely as ever.
8. Buffy The Vampire Slayer – I have actually reviewed this 1997-2003 series in lengthy detail, albeit stopping and starting on a marathon or two during the show's weaker plots and dated flaws when not raving over “The Body” and “Once More, with Feeling.” However, through all the good and bad, proms, high school, college, vampire boyfriends, dark magic, death, and kid sisters, this remains an empowering paranormal package with groundbreaking television moments today's audiences might take for granted because they live in a post-Buffy, girl power world.
7. The Mary Tyler Moore Show – Indeed this award winning 1970-77 series is a show that never fails to put a smile on my face. If I go a week or two without catching a television airing, I get an itch for a witty, nostalgic Mary fix. While it is easy to cite “Chuckles Bites the Dust” or “The Last Show” as must see favorites – and with very good reason – I find myself often quoting charming moments per episode, like when Sue Ann forces everyone to sing Christmas carols for her premature holiday feast in “Not a Christmas Story” or when cranky boss Lou Grant takes half the veal prince orloff and has to put it back in “The Dinner Party.” When Mary's mother says “Don't forget to take your pill” in Season Three's “You've Got a Friend,” both Mr. Richards and Mary both answer, “I won't!” Hehehe. It's that kind of pushing the envelope wink that keeps on giving. Ironically, I didn't like this series as a kid. However as I've gotten older, the groundbreaking sophisticated comedy and progressive characterizations have only gotten better thanks to the well balanced sentimental, then toeing the line statements, and forever laugh out loud hysterics.
6. The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross – I’ve been watching this cathartic PBS and art instructional essential for thirty years – but I could not paint if my life depended on it no matter how effortless, gentle, and heartwarming our gnarly, tree hugging, animal loving teacher. Today's audiences have made Bob Ross a mellow pop culture icon, perhaps for the implied, grass-esque, counter culture undertones or the humorous “beat the devil out of it” two-inch brush cleaning. Every episode has a pretty picture wrapped in charming witticisms to get you through your day – unless, of course, Bob goes through all the trouble of making a beautiful, unusually shaped print in an oval and then sticks a giant tree out of the frame! If you haven't seen The Joy of Painting, no one can really explain it to you, because it isn't about the landscapes, wet on wet technique, and the artistically controversial use of oils with acrylic gesso so much as the “happy little clouds,” Pea Pod the Pocket Squirrel, and being blessed by a friend and told to have a good day before being reminded that we need darkness in order to see the light – both on and off the canvas.
5. Star Trek: The Next Generation – I had to seriously consider if I like this 1987-1994 follow up more than the Original Star Trek. This first sequel series in the long running franchise takes everything that made the Original's serious science fiction for adults and runs with it thanks to Sir Patrick Stewart's diplomatic Captain Picard and in depth storytelling developments regarding the Klingons, Q, and The Borg. One never has the sense that we are watching a very special episode wrapped in science fiction allegory, but every hour provides a memorable nugget – which is difficult to do in a weekly series without seasonal arcs or ongoing storylines and underdeveloped female characters. Thankfully, timeless episodes such as “The Measure of a Man,” “Sarek,” “Yesterday's Enterprise,” and “The Inner Light” raise the emotional genre stakes while early dated episodes and now technological errors don't interfere with an always at the ready marathon. Whenever this is on television, I have to stop and see what episode it is – even with commercials because, “There are four lights!”
4. The Golden Girls – With different family members, inconsistent plot points, and a house floor plan that never makes sense, the continuity of this amazing eighties staples is bemusingly nerve-racking. Did a misprint make Angela Angelo? How could Miles be a professor all those years but really be in the Witness Protection Program? How did they exit their kitchen in the back to get to the garage in the front? Nonetheless, there are a select few people with whom I can carry on entire conversations in Golden Girls references. The comedy writing for Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia remains top notch, and each episode has a quote for any situation, be it “From the pit of my stomach to the porcelain of the bowl...” and “The moon is hanging awful low in the sky tonight, isn't it, Busty?” or the now ironic “Who do you think you are, Donald Trump? You don't own this casino!” I never get tired of watching the progressive topics of “Sick and Tired,” “Adult Education,” or “Isn't It Romantic?” and the taut humor is largely handled by the four leads by letting the chemistry and wit play without resorting to any gimmicks. Well, except for the murder mystery in “The Case of the Libertine Bell,” but “Look fluffhead, why should I deny being in denial? I never said I was in denial. You are the one who said I was in denial, and don't you deny it.”
3. Dark Shadows – As if there was any doubt of my love for this gothic soap opera complete with bad sets, flubbed dialogue, borrowed plots, and hokey special effects! Chuckle all you want, but this fly by night sixties production remains spooky thanks to paranormal storytelling, complex time travel, an entire company of supernatural characters, and a morose atmosphere that's been oft imitated but never equaled. At over 1200 episodes, this is a massive viewing undertaking, but you can click through to some of my in depth critiques on vampire Barnabas, werewolf Quentin, governess Victoria Winters, and pesky witch Angelique.
2. Homicide: Life on the Street – “Ho, ho, Homicide. Our day begins when yours ends.” This 1993-99 critically acclaimed but should have won more awards series loosely tied to the Law & Order franchise is unlike any other cop show before and maybe since thanks to intimate camera angles, jump editing, a decidedly Baltimore feeling, and the simple notion that solving the case is both the biggest and least important thing for these quirky, struggling people in blue. The shootouts, corruption, violence, racism, sexism, abuse, religion, and social commentaries are tackled with season arcs, multi part episodes, and state traversing crossovers as well as with one kill, shows that never leave the squad room, or hours with just three men in an interrogation booth alone. On a whim I reviewed Season Four and have notes for other years, but to every person who inquires about the often forgotten yet increasingly timely and sometimes disturbingly prophetic Homicide, I merely implore them to watch the first thirteen episodes. If “Night of the Dead Living,” “Black and Blue,” and “Three Men and Adena” don't captivate you, nothing will. And that's before “Crosetti,” “Hate Crimes,” “Sniper,” “Justice,” “For God and Country,” “Narcissus,” and “Subway,” but I'll stop. After all, “You go when you're supposed to go, and everything else is homicide.”
1. Blake’s 7 – Avon, Servalan, Orac. The Liberator. In speaking of my favorite television shows, anybody who knows me probably would have immediately mentioned this somewhat obscure 1978-81 British science fiction serial, because once seen, this is a series you will never forget. Granted, that's partly due to the bad seventies costumes, hair curlers for weapons, upside down special effects, and not one but three characters that are really just flashing lights. I kid you not. Likewise memorable in these fifty-two hours, however, are the SF with a capital SF allegory, loyal versus amoral characterization and interplay, commentaries on drugs, technology, or totalitarian regimes, and downright Shakespearean designs on what is at it simplest just meant to be Robin Hood in space. The score and opening title sequence are also sweet! I grew up taping this series with my dad off PBS late at night, and those videos are pretty worn out now. Yeah, they had British accents, but I was more awestruck that people didn't speak with this kind of sophistication anywhere else on television. “They murdered my past and gave me tranquilized dreams!” “Avon, for what it is worth, I have always trusted you from the very beginning.” Sniff! Ironically, series star Gareth Thomas found the plots increasingly hokey, but I can't think of any other series that so effortlessly handles how inaccurate its title became as an integral part of the series thanks to stunning teleplays such as “The Way Back,” “Star One,” “Rumors of Death,” “Sarcophagus,” “Terminal,” “Orbit,” and of course, “Blake.” As cryptic as that sounds, anyone who has watched this series knows exactly what I mean. Honestly, the only thing lacking in this excellence is a proper North American release.