That perpetual “thump, thump, thump” that you’ve been hearing since late Sunday night is probably your heartbeat attempting to return to a normal resting state after an hour of television – with some calling it the greatest television episode of all time – of course referring to the “Ozymandias” saga of Breaking Bad. Whether you’ve been watching from the beginning or binged to catch up with the exploits of Walter, Jesse, Skyler and others, Vince Gilligan’s epic tale of combustible entities working, living and lying in close proximity is a testament to our love affair with television over the last 10 years. Whereas TV once was given the glowingly obvious designation of “the idiot box,” it seems more and more people are forgoing trips to the cinema – chock full of sequels and pre-packaged franchises – in favor of contained seasons where a slow burn allows viewers to savor the intricacies that go along with getting to know characters in a more realistic manner than in the movies. While there is a long list of shows from the past that could have made this list – from shows like Homicide, Seinfeld, The Wonder Years, The X Files, M*A*S*H, Cheers, Hill Street Blues, The Larry Sanders Show, Twin Peaks, The Cosby Show and more – we decided to focus on shows that either started or last aired in the previous decade. These are our favorite TV shows from the last 10 years.
Set and produced in and around Baltimore, Maryland, The Wire originally premiered in June 2002 and spanned five seasons, concluding in 2008. Created by former police reporter David Simon, the series ran on HBO and chronicled different aspects of the city of Baltimore ranging from the drug trade and the docks to the city government, school system, and the media. Simon has said that show is “really about the American city, and about how we live together. It’s about how institutions have an effect on individuals. Whether one is a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge or a lawyer, all are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution to which they are committed.” The Wire itself didn’t actually receive amazing ratings when it was on air nor did it win any awards, but today it is regarded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, having received an average rating of 9.4/10 on IMDb. Personally this is the show that convinced me that truly captivating works of film were not restricted only to the cinema and that watching television could be a rewarding and worthwhile activity. Thanks to HBO’s wide-open content policy, nothing is dumbed down or censored and I’ve gone on to enjoy a number of their more recent offerings including Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and even Girls. Though to date I have not watched a series that quite measures up to the gripping brilliance of The Wire, with perhaps one exception…
Created and produced by Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad first premiered back in January, 2008 and has since won eight Primetime Emmy Awards—including three consecutive wins for Best Actor for Bryan Cranston, two wins for Best Supporting Actor for Aaron Paul, and four nominations for Outstanding Drama Series. Guinness World Records has awarded it the highest-rated TV series of all time, citing a Metacritic score of 99/100. If you haven’t already spared a Sunday evening to enjoy all that Breaking Bad has to offer, I really don’t think I can say anything in particular that will change your mind. For those of you who think five seasons is too short, I would have to agree. But that’s what makes the series so wonderful. AMC is no stranger to great TV, with shows like The Walking Dead, Mad Men, and the forthcoming Better Call Saul series, it’s no surprise Breaking Bad turned out to be such a winner for the network.
For years now, TV has been flourishing as a writer’s medium, whereas film is thought to be ruled via the sturdy perch offered up by the director’s chair. Having been named the best-written TV show of all time by members of the WGA, the president of the Writer’s Guild offered, “At their core, all of these wonderful series began with the words of the writers who created them and were sustained by the writers who joined their staffs or worked on individual episodes.” When The Sopranos first aired in 1999 and we were introduced to Tony and his exploits via intro music from Alabama 3 titled “Woke Up This Morning,” it was if emerging from a slumber where TV dreams were all pleasant, and we were about to experience nightmares for the next six seasons – but ironically that feeling of unease and unsteadiness as if aboard an analog tugboat was exactly what viewers would inevitably tune in for. Much of the praise and ingenuity can be attributed to creator David Chase who cut his teeth on shows like The Rockford Files and Northern Exposure, but part of the success has to go to HBO and their willingness to go in the complete opposite moral direction as characters smiling through capped teeth on network programs. Having attempted efforts like Dream On and The Larry Sanders Show before striking ratings gold with The Sopranos, their success can definitely be attributed to edgier network programming from the likes of Showtime, AMC and FX. The Sopranos is long gone, but the characters created is what allowed for expanded visits with the morally challenged. Only time will tell if Breaking Bad can close out a violent and at times canker sore tender odyssey in such a brilliant manner.
Using Mark Wahlberg’s meager beginnings to stardom as a loose storyline, Entourage brought an organic sense of the Hollywood life through the lens of four boys from Queens. Fledgling A-list movie star Vincent Chase and his comrades, Johnny, Turtle and Eric turned a blatant fantasy into somewhat of a believable reality as the show mimicked storylines of the back-end of Hollywood life. Whether it was hooking up with every model/actress any guy would jaw-drop for, or trying to fill in for that starring role, Vince was that dude. It’s not far-fetched to say many guys who watched the show wouldn’t mind switching places for a day. Male camaraderie couldn’t be defined any better by the show; the fellas had such an amazing rapport where water was just as thick as blood. HBO had my attention every Sunday during the season, and during that day the dilemma was always, “Where are we going to watch Entourage today?” Many people come to Los Angeles at an attempt to fulfill their fantasies – some may ponder that thought in their cubicle, but Entourage was an outlet that hooked those my generation and those before me with ease.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy an episode or two of Planet Earth, you’re really missing out. Five years in the making, it was the most expensive nature documentary series ever commissioned by the BBC. The series encompasses 11 episodes, each of which features a global overview of a different biome or habitat on Earth. At the end of each 50-minute episode, a 10-minute featurette takes a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges of filming the episodes. To capture all the footage required by the producers, 71 camera operators filmed in 204 locations in 62 countries on all seven continents, spending more than 2,000 days in the field. One of the aims was to build as much unique footage into Planet Earth as possible, including: The highest-ever aerial footage of Mount Everest and the Karakoram, desperate lions hunting and killing an African elephant at night, and unprecedented access to the dramatic Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico. And we’re barely even scratching the surface – I’ll keep this short: Do yourself a favor and put Planet Earth on your bucket list.