The Top 5 TV Shows of the 2000s
Without drifting in hyperbole, TV in the last ten years has been really rather good. It’s easy to lose sight of it sometimes in the midst of the cultural gulag that shows like The Valley or TOWIE have imposed but we may just be living through one of the golden ages of television. The upsurge in shows in the new millennium that treated TV as an art form has been nothing short of amazing to see. So here, in the fresh new dawn of 2013, are the top five shows from this side of the 2000s that made watching TV something we didn’t have to be ashamed of anymore.
Now, by way of a disclaimer, this is by no means a comprehensive list – there will be some out there outraged that their favorite show didn’t merit a mention, (after all the only thing the internet loves more than lists is getting outraged about them) but here are some of the finest TV viewing available. If your show didn’t make the list, it isn’t a slight – I’m just a writer and I’m on a deadline, after all there is a lot of TV to watch.
5. Six Feet Under (2001-2005)
Let’s start things off on the right cheery note by talking about death. Well, it’s what Six Feet Under did for four years and did it incredible well. For a major network to put out a show that’s primary focus was on mortality already ranks as an incredible ballsy move. Throw in some top notch writing, (Creator Alan Ball was famously told to make it more f***ed up by HBO) and a dream ensemble cast including Michael C Hall and Peter Krause and the show hit award season paydirt. The first two years of the show alone garnered 11 Emmy nominations – in brief, nobody can say this is bad. The show ends in truly spectacular fashion, the last episode ‘Everybody’s Waiting’ was nominated for five Emmys alone.
Final Verdict: For fans of great acting, amazing writing and people who aren’t afraid of big complicated ideas. Watch it, for the finale alone which is one of the finest ways of finishing a TV show ever.
4. Sherlock (2010- )
I sense a few people may be a little shocked at the inclusion of Sherlock. No ‘Homeland’ , No ‘The Killing’ but rather a re-boot of a Victorian detective story. Allow me to explain – as someone who loves TV it became a little dispiriting to watch US TV continue to get progressively better and British TV just sort of stagnated. Compared to US TV the Brits looked old-fashioned, stuck in the past and just out of their depth. Thankfully the 2000s showed signs of reversing the trend and when the re-vamped and re-booted Dr Who (Just missed out on a place here) found a home on BBC America suddenly it started to seem that maybe us Brits could start to be proud of the TV we made. Then with Sherlock in 2010 it turned out we could be more than just proud, we could make TV that was just spectacular. Occasionally in the making of a TV show magic just happens and with Sherlock the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson proved to be damn near miraculous. The writing is pin sharp as both Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss are both huge Holmes fans and the end result is TV that is exhilarating to watch especially when the quality of writing is matched by the outstanding central performances. Yes, there have only been two seasons, done in short 90 minute episodes but this is already a British institution proving once and for all that British TV can be a global success.
Final Verdict: Watch it for the chemistry between the two leads, the new sex symbol of Cumberbatch and mysteries that are captivating till the final reveal.
3. Dexter (2006-)
Michael C Hall stars again, proving, if nothing else, that he has a very very good agent or maybe just a knack for picking projects that turn out to be top-notch telly. For those who haven’t seen it the initial premise of the show may seem to be a little low brow as it smashes together two genres, the police procedural and the serial killer into a gloriously glossy package. Fortunately though this isn’t just popcorn fare as under the cover of the idea of a blood splatter analyst as serial killer the show manages to get in issues such as childhood trauma, emotional repression and even highfalutin ideas around justice and revenge as well as a healthy dose of dark sly humor. Michael C Hall is a chillingly real serial killer, all dead eyed charm and desperation to fit in and the rest of the ensemble cast is largely flawless with Jennifer Carpenter as Dexter’s adopted sister being the stand out star.
Final Verdict: Watch it for Michael C Hall getting away with it, the great location of Miami and the complex ideas wrapped around slick genre presentation.
2. Breaking Bad (2008 – )
Some actors are just plain unlucky and can spend years plodding along in character roles without ever getting the recognition they deserve. It seemed such a fate was going to befall Bryan Cranston till he signed on to play the lead in a new show called Breaking Bad. The set-up for the show is brave for TV, Cranston plays a chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and decides to secure his family’s financial future by selling meth. The more sharp minded will notice this put Breaking Bad on a very limited life span, unusually for TV shows that prefer to keep characters in stasis for years in order to keep churning out episodes. This show on the other hand is all about change, taking it’s lead character from being Mr Chips and turning him into Scarface, (in the words of the show’s creator.) It’s violent, often deeply morally ambiguous and never less than completely addictive to watch. Cranston gives a career defining performance and by the time the fifth and final season airs he will have earned his new place at the top of the acting hierarchy.
Final Verdict: Watch it for Cranston and the often uncomfortable questions this raises about what is good and bad and how we as society define these things.
1. The Wire (2002- 2008)
The best show on TV in the last ten years and quite arguably the best show on TV full stop. Charting the fall of the post-industrial city of Baltimore, the Wire is unlike any other TV show you’ve seen. Ostensible a police procedural the show follows a mammoth cast of police, drug dealers, kids, teacher and politicians trying to survive in the new millennium. There are no good guys, or bad guys in this show, just people trying to do whatever it takes to survive, trapped as they all are in the various power structures of the city. It unfolds like a novel, introducing its cast of expertly written characters so that we all become invested in every single one. Without giving more spoilers, all I’ll say is this – I’m actually jealous of people who haven’t seen it, because they will get to watch it for the very first time. It is THAT good.
Final Verdict: Watch it. Just Watch it.