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August 29, 2006

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Joshua James

I haven't seen The Wire yet, but it's on the to watch list.

I really, really liked OZ, though it was brutal, it was beautiful, too. I'd put that right up there. Sopranos was great, but it lost me the last couple years. Ditto with Six Feet Under and a couple of other shows like it.

So I'd have to nominate LAW & ORDER as my personal best hour long drama, which has been running for 14 years and never seems to grow old and is also about the two things it promises, Law and Order.

Whenever there's an episode on that I haven't seen, I have to watch it. It never seems to age and it's something to see the headlines of today on television. The Iraq war was first criticized by Jerry Orbach, a first for a fictional character, before any other fictional character. The show is something, it really is.

Rob

What About Brian

Kyle

I haven't seen The Wire either, but I'd say Twin Peaks hands-down. Funny, layered, incredibly rich, well-acted, self-aware, visually stunning, great use of music, etc., etc.

Ian W. Hill

I have the first three seasons of THE WIRE coming up in my Netfliz queue, and I'm really looking foreward to it.

I'm behind TWIN PEAKS, certainly.

And THE PRISONER.

COLUMBO doesn't really count, as it was a series of 90-min made-for-tv films run in rotation over the course of a season as part of the NBC Mystery Movie, but I'll count it here anyway.

And as a precursor from some of the people behind THE WIRE, HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS.

My other favorites go as usual into genre, and the use of genre as metaphor/commentary, so I'm a huge fan of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and BABYLON 5.

FIREFLY is big for me, but it didn't live quite long enough or go far enough to judge the same way.

And the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is still a hair too spotty as yet, and hasn't been on quite long enough, maybe, but I still have hopes.

Zay Amsbury

In order

1. The Kingdom (Lars Von Trier's series)
2. The Prisoner (60's genius)
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (you know)
4. The Wire
5. Deadwood (the dialogue is absolute perfection)

Runners up: Oz, Firefly (didn't last long enough to say), Battlestar Galactica, Homicide

jaime

I have trouble coming up with any single hour that can beat an episode of The West Wing in its prime. It's just so good.

If we're allowed to take season-long arcs into account, Alias, too.

In terms of what's on the air, Grey's Anatomy is consistently fantastic.

(And yes, I love Buffy too.)

Abe Goldfarb

Gotta say, without having seen much Wire, Joss Whedon's Buffy takes the cake. I've been munching my way through the full box set, and five seasons in, I don't think I've ever seen a show with such a comprehensive universe. Or one with a more rock-solid ensemble cast. Or one, frankly, that channels the ridiculous into such deep, rich seams of emotion. Is the dialogue a little flip and samey? Yeah, kind of like how teenagers talk when they've read a book or two. Are the effects dreadful? Sometimes, yes, but Doctor Who was guilty of same and has my undying love (the first season of the revamped Who with Christopher Eccleston is flawed, jerky and all in all absolutely superb). I keep catching myself looking dopey and weepy at the most unusual times, which is usually a sign that something's working an odd magic on me.

In addition, having been tied up in Whedon's superb Serenity, Firefly makes the list in a second.

A newer hour-long that's been kicking my ass is Green Wing, a bizarre hospital-set comedy produced for Britain's Channel 4. Sort of a remedy for the self-serious Grey's Anatomy, it's about a bunch of horny, distracted surgeons and their intersecting canoodlings. In theory quite ordinary. But, but, but...it moves according to no rules of comedic or dramatic momentum I've ever seen, has the most ticklingly tricksy visual scheme of any show in the last few years, is written with a truly distinctive sensibility, has buttock-clenchingly good music, is acted with such aplomb that sometimes you have to rewind out of sheer admiration to see how the cast set up a particular joke, and makes people write run-on sentences. It's worth the time, and I think BBC America's been showing it. Mark Heap's portrayal of the sexually stunted Dr. Statham belongs in a museum (I've never seen a man dementedly play the recorder in his underwear before). Season two will have to be evaluated, but this is heading for legend.

Otherwise, I don't actually watch much. But what Deadwood I've seen has nailed me to the floor. Stunning stuff.

isaac

Interesting, Abe, that you praise BUFFY's acting, because most people I talk to love the show *in spite* of its acting, which I always thought of was (like LOST and 24) kind of bad-to-the-point-of-being-its-own-style.

Other BUFFY fans reading this thread... what are your thoughts on the acting on the show?

i ask this as someone who has watched a few episodes, admired the writing a bit, but never gotten into it. I'm told this is because I have watched post-season-5 episodes only.

Joshua James

Buffy's acting was spot on and part of the reason the show worked - for comparision, one only need to rent the film version of Buffy, starring luke wilson and Donald Sutherland and see how people who think they know what teens act like as opposed to those who really know.

Plus, there's an unaired pilot of Buffy, with different actors playing willow, etc, that one can find on youtube, it's fascinating, whedon shot it to show he could do it as a show.

Buffy would have made my list, had I gone on, but they did indeed lose me after season five or so -

Mark

The order is always subject to revision:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Veronica Mars
Freaks and Geeks

I just started watching Six Feet Under (Season 1) and I really like it. I don't really watch much television, which is why my list is so short. There's many shows that I've just never seen.

jaime

Aside from Alyson Hannigan, I never found the acting on Buffy to be particularly stunning. (Okay, James Marsters had some great moments, too - picking up the money Buffy threw at him in the alley behing the Bronze in 'Fool for Love' always gets me.) The greatness of Buffy (and I'm someone who watched it all the way through on DVD) to me is the language it created - the way the characters spoke, interacted, the rules of the world. (More interesting in a social sense than a world-with-vampires sense.) It was also fantastically consistent. And this shouldn't be discounted - really, really fun. It was never 'high quality' like Alias or The West Wing, but it was really really good.

hpmelon

Deadwood - Brilliant writing, direction, acting.

I was also addicted to The West Wing - but that's because my fantasy self liked to pretend that Bartlett was really the person running our country.

Malachy Walsh

Um, what about The Sheild? Informed by racial and cultural politics, blunt, ugly as it has to be and always pushing the envelope.

It's hard to believe when you watch some of the episodes (Aceveda's sodomization at the hands of some crank heads, for instance) that it's actually on TV.

James

Well, in no particular order, here are my favorites:

* Six Feet Under
* The West Wing (first 4 seasons only)
* Twin Peaks (minus that shitty subplot in the 2nd season with James on the road meeting that woman)
* Firefly
* Would the original "Twilight Zone" count? Only 1 season was in the hour-long format, and I don't know if you'd call it "drama."

George

Certainly THE SINGING DETECTIVE is up there (six fifty-minute episodes). Other than that, on American television, it's hard to beat the very first season of THE SOPRANOS, absolutely splendid. And self-contained, since it wasn't conceived as a continuing series beyond the first thirteen.

You can also put me down for HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET. And ST. ELSEWHERE, a meta-drama that, as it went on, questioned all of the assumptions of the form.

Kyle

Buffy's one of those shows that makes me lose all objectivity. I'll throw on a disc from season three to keep me company while I'm folding clothes or something and within 15 minutes I'm screaming "Buffy lookout!" as if I've never seen the episode before. Which I have. So in that respect I'd say the acting is effective, along with all the other elements that make it work on me the way it does. Except for David Boreanaz and Juliet Landau, but I still like them in their roles even if they occasionally come off a bit schlocky. It does seem all of a piece; there's something sort of PLAN 9 about the show's look at times; the sets are often not thoroughly convincing and the ghouls can sometimes be ridiculously rubbery, but again, all of a piece, and perhaps a testament to stylistic continuity and strength of character and story, I guess. I turned on it a little when Joyce died, though; it just got a bit dark and I thought I was being toyed with in that Dawn storyline. I think all that happened around season five, so I'm with you on that one, Joshua.

LOVE Freaks and Geeks. Tragic it got canceled.

freeman

Homicide. Best show of all time. The Wire, the Shield, are just other versions of Homicide.

Battlestar is brilliant.

So say we all.

Abe Goldfarb

You know, I'm with George on The Singing Detective. It has a performance of Shakespearean awesomeness by the great Gambon.

That must make the list.

isaac

I guess I didn't mean to count miniseries!

In which case, "I, Claudius" definitely should be on the list.

Not as good as "The Wire" (of course) but good.

Mike Ahn

The Name of the Game
The Red Skelton Show
McMillan and Wife
The Carol Burnett Show
Fishing With John

Abe Pogos

Isaac, I knew you didn't mean miniseries and I thought George was cheating when he mentioned "The Singing Detective", but now that the rules have been bent somewhat (and because you already mentioned "I Claudius") I'd like to throw in Dennis Potter's earlier series, "Pennies from Heaven" (which demonstrated that The Teddybears Picnic is one of the creepiest songs ever written.)

Also a couple of other great British dramas from the Thatcher years, "Boys from the Blackstuff" and my favourite show of all time, the nightmarish political thriller, "Edge of Darkness".

Mike, thanks for mentioning 'The Name of the Game". It's been many years since I saw it but it was pretty damn good.

shana

Six Feet Under
House
Firefly
Freaks and Geeks
My So-Called Life

Mike Ahn

Sorry - I didn't catch that it had to be a drama. So Red and Carol are out, as is Fishing With John.

There's also Police Story which was better than Big Vally and Mannix. But not as good as Banacek, which unfortunately ran out of clever plots after only a couple seasons. Best work George Pepard ever did, short of The Blue Max.

And then there was Space: 1999, which should have earned Martin Landau and the much-maligned Barabara Bain his-and-her emmies. But the brits always had it over us on sci fi, such as having Moonbase Alpha in UFO populated with spandex-wearing babes in purple wigs. How well Gerry Andersen saw the future that was the year 1980.

But I digress.

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