Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time - What Didn't Make the List

Before I finish my list of greatest TV dramas of all time, I thought it was appropriate to take a moment to explain why some of the most popular and critically acclaimed dramas are not on this list.

Some of my friends have been taken aback by some of the absences so far from the list and have been surprised by some of my more obscure choices.  But when reading this list it is important to rememberBefore I finish my list of greatest sitcoms of all time, I thought it was appropriate to visit the issue of importance vs. greatness.

Some of my friends have been taken aback by some of the absences so far from the list and have been surprised by some of my more obscure choices.  But when reading this list it is important to remember:

For this list, I am looking at the best dramas of ALL TIME.  One of the big drawbacks of a show if it is cutting edge and modern.  That is because the modern becomes dated very quickly.  As CS Lewis said something akin to: nothing is so quickly out of fashion that that which is in fashion.  That isn't to say that modern shows don't make the list.  In fact, if you did an analysis of my picks, many of them are from the last 20 years.

Critics like the mighty John Nolte have said that while there appears to be a dumbing down of Hollywood movies, TV is the place with real complex story and character development.  And for the most part I agree.

However, there are a lot of shows that are not on this list for the following reasons:

X-Files, The Wire, Friday Night Lights, My So Called Life, Dexter, Fringe, Homeland, Sons of Anarchy, Babylon 5, The Shield, Boardwalk Empire, Justified, Twin Peaks, NYPD Blue, Deadwood, and Mad Men are among the shows that are outside my experience.  Should I watch them one day, the list may change.

I would also add to this The Twilight Zone.  By all rights, this show should be high on my list or any list.  I have certainly seen many episodes.  The issue with The Twilight Zone is that I do not have a strong idea of the series.  What I mean by this is that when I think back on a show that may have been a Twilight Zone episode, I cannot be sure if it was from that show or if it was an Outer Limits or Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  These other shows were also in the same vein and also lead to similar confusion.  I full admit this is a flaw on my part, but I was not able to overcome it before making this list.

Game of Thrones is a classic example of this.  There is fantastic writing, directing, and acting on this show.  But it is too filled with unnesccary ugliness.  It is a show I could never recommend and eventually its content overwhelmed me to the point where I had to stop.  House of Cards is the same.  When Kevin Spacey spit on a crucifix, that was my wife's TV Tap Out.  You can say the same thing about True Detective and Jessica Jones.

You would think I am referring primarily to Christian themed shows, and there are some of those.  But I'm mainly thinking of shows like The West Wing.  I binged watched that series and there are some truly great TV moments.  Some episodes I go back and watch several times.  But why the series is not on the list is ultimately because it feels like an 8-year lecture.  Even if you agree with the politics, you cannot escape the feeling that often Aaron Sorkin is treating you like a student in his TV classroom.  Glee was also this way, where any message they wanted to convey was lost in its preachy tone.

There are some TV shows where I am convinced that the producers have disdain for their audience.  I will write about this in an upcoming article, but watching the show feels like you are being punished for watching.  As mentioned above, Game of Thrones would be in this category too.  Included too would be ER and The Sopranos.

By "timeless" I don't mean that the show isn't clearly from a specific era.  But if a show truly has universal themes, ideas, and emotions, then it should still be rewatchable years from now.  Of course filming technology can improve, but the essence of televised storytelling is not in the amount of tools you have but in how you use them.  A lot of the great mystery shows from the 1970's and '80's are in this category.

Some shows have some great potential, but they haven't proven themselves yet.  I did put newer shows like The Flash and Daredevil.  But there are many others like iZombie, Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, Better Call Saul, Elementary, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow that have still much room to grow into their potential.

These are the reasons why some of your favorite shows are not on the list.

We'll see you next week for the # 2 TV Drama.

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