The Guardian has recently published a list of the 50 Greatest Television Dramas of all time. As I’ve written before, I don’t watch an awful lot of TV because almost all TV is awful. But I am a sucker for a well-written series containing genuine character development and unexpected plot lines. They only appear very occasionally, but when they do they can hold their own against a good novel or film.
The Guardian’s list contains a fair few shows that I’ve never seen and plenty that I have seen and don’t rate. For instance, the over-hyped Mad Men (No. 4 on their list) I found dull as dishwater and never made it past the third episode. Shows such as Prime Suspect (#19) and Inspector Morse (#30) seem flat, lifeless and formulaic to me. Especially if you’ve got something like The Wire (#14) on the list which demonstrates that you can make a show about the police without it being a hymn to law and order; a hagiography of The Cop… see, for example, Hill Street Blues (#33) or — in the words of Hakim Bey — the “most evil TV show ever”.
I was glad to see that Buffy The Vampire Slayer (#22) made the list, even if it’s a lot further down that I think it deserves to be. I noticed there was some controversy about that in the comments that followed the article (though you can stir up a hornets nest of dissent over at The Guardian by suggesting that the sky might be blue and rain a bit wet). I firmly believe that those who decry Buffy have either (a) never watched it beyond flicking into it for five minutes as they channel surf between Celebrity Big Brother and How Clean Is My House; or (b) been unable or unwilling to see beyond the 90210 with Monsters facade that covers this incredible piece of work.
There’s no way I could make a top 50 TV shows list as I don’t think there’s half that number that I’d consider even watchable, let alone worthy of recommendation. But as a brief response to The Guardian, here’s my Top 15 (I thought I’d only be able to produce a Top 10 and was surprised that there were as many as 13 that I consider genuinely worth recommending… the last two made it in as much to make up the numbers as anything else; fine shows but not essential).
- Buffy The Vampire Slayer (including Angel, the spin-off)
- The Wire
- Breaking Bad
- Twin Peaks
- Six Feet Under
- Veronica Mars
- The X-Files
- Battlestar Galactica
- The West Wing
- Lie to me