I love Top Ten lists. As cliche as they have become for anyone with hands, a keyboard and the internet I still find them so much fun to read. Whether they’re terribly put together, lack any amount of research, or(in rare occurrences) are fantastically detailed they are regardless a fun little time killer for anyone. In terms of my personal Top Ten here I wanted to tackle television. It’s a broad medium that has been a part of the majority of our lives and of course we all have our favorites. Our favorite genres, our favorite series, our favorite characters, we all have them. So, enough stalling, this is my Top Ten Favorite T.V. Series.
10: King of the Hill
Probably not the kind of show people expected on my list or maybe any Top Ten list for that matter. Still, I love “King of the Hill”. It’s one of the few series I have watched numerous times over and is again one of the few that I will actively sit and watch again when it airs. For a lot of the younger readers, or anyone who just hasn’t watched it in a while, you may not really like “King of the Hill”. Hell, I hated this show as a kid. It felt slow and really mundane compared to the more hyperactive shows of this kind like “The Simpsons” or “Futurama”. That said as I grew up I really started to like it a lot more. The humor within the series was more adult without needing to be edgy like the majority of adult animated shows. Everything about the characters and the settings were a slightly exaggerated take on modern families and society without having to be biting or overly criticizing in it’s approach. Overall “King of the Hill” stands as one of my favorite shows not because it’s deep or intellectual, but because as I get older and more cynical I always come back to this show and it always entertains me. If you haven’t watched it in a while go, sit and relax with it for a while and you may find you respect it a bit more as a show, if you’re still young or immature(pretty much any of my colleagues) then give it a few years.
9: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
I criticize shows like “Family Guy” for their immature and overall unfunny usage of shock and anit-humor quite often. In fact that’s precisely why I love my previous pick so much, because it stands out among that crowd of reprocessed, shocking(but no longer shocking) schlock. That said, “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” is one of the raunchiest most low budget comedy series currently running and I cannot get enough of it.
To put it simply while those other shows tend to work with anti-humor, essentially repeating something unfunny enough times until it is funny, “Always Sunny” is just straight up raunchy shock humor. Even saying that it’s shock humor, though, isn’t really accurate either as the humor doesn’t come from how much it can startle an audience, but rather just from the general terrible natures of it’s characters and world. These are awful people doing stupidly awful things in a world inhabited by equally awful people. It’s more of an exaggeration of all of humanities flaws and idiocies than it is shocking.
I heard it once put that “Always Sunny” is like “Seinfeld” on crack. It’s not really a show that’s about anything, it’s just a group of people in mundane situations reacting in the most absurd, illogical ways possible and yet in the back of your mind you know there’s someone out there just like that. Plots revolve around such things as buying a boat or even just going to a baseball game, it just throws in its characters and goes from there. With the oddity and rauchiness from this show I’m lead to describe it slightly differently from what it had been described to me. It isn’t just “Seinfeld” on crack, it’s “Seinfeld” on ALL of drugs.
8: Katanagatari(aka Sword Story)
Lets be honest here, I really struggled to make a full ten. Now, I watch a lot of TV both for my article and simply because I wholeheartedly enjoy the medium. Yes I love reading and I love writing, but I can’t help but reject that simpleminded view point of “One is better than the other”. There’s a lot of crap out there and no side is left unstained, trust me. I value all of the various forms of entertainment for their own strengths and I recognize the fact that some things are best pulled off in a book while some are best pulled off in a television show.
“Katanagatri” is 100% best executed in this form of media. I had seriously almost forgotten about this little gem and nearly resorted to making a Top 9, but as I sat down to write this I remembered how much of a surprise this show turned out to be for me. I seriously went into this show for no more reason than that it looked pretty. Oh boy does it ever look pretty, easily one of the best on this list in that regards, but what I really found surprising was the story and the characters hidden underneath that beautiful shine.
You will get lost in this show, both visually and intellectually. For a series only shown once a month for twelve months it has a lot to cover in each episode and boy does it ever. For a series based on the premise of swords and fighting it’s surprising deep with its more political and tenuously ethical story with a lot of each episode focusing on the conversations of the characters as opposed to fighting. And again, you will get lost. For a series with this much talking it does a damn good job at sucking you in and is almost designed to be rewatched in order to fully enjoy it. All of that tied together with very quirky and interesting characters and a(yet again) surprisingly bitter undertone makes Katanagatari favorite series to watch again and again.
Having just recently ended “Eureka” is one of the newest editions to my list of favorite series. I find it hard to define why I love Eureka so much without making it sound overly goofy so I’ll try my best to break it down the way I see it. Eureka is a science fiction series made by people who love science fiction. It manages to take the common tropes of the genre and flip them upside down. Eureka to me has always come off as a satirical take on the sci-fi genre that actually still takes itself seriously. As I said this is a series made by people who obviously love science fiction making the satire more out of love than out of any malice.
Despite this it’s not presented as a series that makes fun of sci-fi, but rather a legitimate sci-fi series in its own right. Taking various tropes and twisting them, making them less obvious and ultimately fitting them into the wide and breathing world of the show. The way I make it sound makes it come off as being a comedy and yes it certainly is funny, but “Eureka” also knows exactly when to be funny and when not to. It knows its strengths and even knows its weaknesses and is more than willing to poke fun at both. What blows me away probably the most is “Eureka’s” way of taking mundane science fiction elements and turning them into major plot points. Any number of Sci-fi shows can have an episode or two surrounding accidental time travel or a virtual reality, but “Eureka” manages to make these basic plots have major impacts on the larger story creating real backlash from even the most basic of weekly adventures.
Beyond all of that “Eureka’s” true draw always was and always will be its characters and its charms. It’s about a town and that feeling comes across well making you truly care for these characters. It manages to portray the sense of community and grounded daily life intertwined among all of the bizarre and unorthodox events tied to the little town. With three different time-lines, a virtual reality, five seasons and one wacky little town “Eureka” is place you’ll want to visit and never leave.
So I wanted to give a small shout out to “Eurek’s” sister show “Warehouse 13”. I marathoned both of these shows back to back and “Warehouse 13” came out as probably the bigger surprise. I ended up choosing “Eureka” for the spot for a pretty simple reason, it’s complete. Yes, “Eureka” came to an unfortunate and abrupt end, but overall it is a complete series and with “Warehouse 13” having far fewer episodes under its belt I felt it’d be better to go for “Eureka”. That said “Warehouse 13” is still a fantastic series which given a few more years(god willing) will undoubtedly make it onto my list.
6: Mahou Sentai Magiranger
You know I’m a bit proud of myself, Only about half of my list is predictably Japanese in origin and further more it took me this far in to reach a tokusatsu program. I’m sure the abundance of toku and anime throughout the list will alienate some of you and depending on the audience anyone else may just be annoyed to find a stark lack of tokusatsu. On a personal level, while I tried to make this list diverse, I do count tokusatsu and animated programming among the list. Yes, I’m sure there’s several out there who would argue to great lengths how such shows should’ve be listed together, but at the end of the day it’s all television and it’s all entertainment.
That said I tried to limit the larger franchises such as Sentai to only single series so of course I went with my all time favorite Sentai series “Magiranger”. This one is admittedly a bit uncharacteristic for me as it really is unabashedly a kids show. It’s silly, it’s goofy, there’s slap stick and visual humor galore and yet despite all of my pessimistic cynicism this really is my favorite series out of this franchise(and trust me there’s been some damn serious series).
So why do I like it then? Well, it’s fun! Yeah, the kind of humor you find in this kind of series is a bit outdated, but regardless of that “Magiranger” actually does it exceptionally well. That’s not to say it doesn’t also have a nice plot as well. In fact the pacing and overall assembly of the story in “Magiranger” is one of the most solid out of any Sentai series let alone a kids show. To add to that the characters are all very fun and while they aren’t the deepest character’s they do avoid the trope of unlearning a lesson taught to them in other episodes. In fact what’s really the selling factor for this series are the characters and their relationship to one another. Unlike most Sentai series were a team is assembled from strangers or at best from friends “Magiranger” is about a family who learns of their powers and grow together. The bond is already there and it’s clear that they all care for each other, and without the need for the characters to associate themselves with each other it opens up room for many more and varied situations and plots. And I have to be honest, speaking as someone who comes from a large family I really connected with the characters. Their personalities in relation to their placings in the family made sense and are actually quite realistic, if not exaggerated. Honestly I managed to see elements of my own family within the characters which made the development and the sentimental moments between them all the stronger for me. Overall “Magiranger” is a series that simply exudes happiness. For a person who’s interests usually dwell upon the pessimistic and bitter having a series that I love and that simply makes me happy is always welcome.
5: Digimon Tamers
Good lord, talk about a series that left an impact on a kid. There are a lot of people that claim this to be the best the Digimon franchise and for good reason. “Tamers” managed to take a series that was admittedly a step above your yearly shonen schlock and turn it into some you could take seriously, something that had legitimate depth to it.
Unlike a lot of the series of this type “Tamers” managed to instill a sense of not only responsibility, but hardship and even at times despair. Giving realistic consequences to the fantastical and science fiction filled plot allowing for the series to have an overall grounded feeling to accompany and balance out its childish whimsy.
As I said one of the major trends within the story is its hardship, it’s consequence. Things are never as simple as simply believing in yourself and attaining a greater power always comes with its own backlash. Growing as a person, as a being, takes time and hard work and sometimes you fail. “Tamers” manages to capture this feeling within a children’s cartoon and is unapologetic in its significantly darker more serious tone than that of its predecessors. For any child growing up or even an older viewer looking back “Tamers” does a phenomenal job at capturing the more significant aspects of our lives. The sense of wonder, the growth of responsibility, dealing with the loss of family and friends and overall captures the growth and coming of age that everyone eventually endures.
Baccano: a word in Italian meaning racket or an uproar. Probably the perfect title for a series as messed up as “Baccano!”. It’s a series where the beginning is the end, the end is the middle and the middle is somewhere near the beginning. It has no specific protagonist or antagonist, it just throws its abundance of characters in a mixing pot and dumps the contents right out onto your T.V. screen. It’s an absolute mess in the best way possible. Creating a story that bounces around seemingly at random until it finally comes to a whole at the very end, or was it the beginning?
The premise of “Baccano!” is surprisingly simple, you follow a number of individuals in 1930’s America who are all gathered onto a train heading for New York. It’s aboard this train that a mysterious and historic incident took place consisting of psychopathic gangsters, explosive happy bootleggers, a mysterious mass murderer, and a number of people with a secret connected to Satan and the mythical elixir of immortality. With the spastic, random storytelling method and some of the best characters I’ve seen in any show “Baccano!” is an incredibly fun experience that only benefits more from multiple watch-throughs.
It’s really hard to explain “Baccano!” in any manner. The series originally derives from a series of light novels written by Ryohgo Narita, a man who’s work consists of a unique blend of historic and modern day settings with elements of European and Japanese folklore mixed in. “Baccano!” and its sister series “Durarara!!” are fantastically odd series with characters and settings derived from both eastern and western cultures making them into series that can be truly enjoyed by any side.
3: Doctor Who
What’s that? “Doctor Who” on a list of favorite television series and it’s only number three? What is this heresy? Well, yes a few years ago I could have said without any doubt that “Doctor Who” was my number one favorite show of all time. While I’ve certainly taken up some gripes with this series over the last few years I cannot deny that this was and still is a series that can intrigue and surprise me. While my complaints will certainly continue to grow, hopefully so too will the series itself and it’s that hope that it may that keeps this series on my list today.
While I’m not a subscriber of the ideal that “even bad Doctor Who is good Doctor Who” I can wholeheartedly attest to there being something in nearly every episode to enjoy. Even if it’s two minutes at the end of a Christmas special there’s usually something there to remind you of just exactly why you love this series.
It’s a series that spans generations and is more of an anthology than a straight up science fiction series. Doctors changes, companions change, episodic seasons can be followed by steeply plot driven seasons and you may not even bat an eye. It’s remarkably cheesy and over the top and absolutely revels in that fact. “Doctor Who” has stood for decades as a show that could go just about anywhere and any when, with countless possibilities for adventures and yet through all of its changes its managed to keep relatively the same level of silly good fun. Is “Doctor Who” my favorite show? No, but regardless of my criticisms it remains an impactful element within my life and every year you can be sure I’ll be along side the rest of the fans awaiting newer and better adventures.
2: Avatar: The Last Airbender
There’s not really much left to say about “Avatar” that hasn’t already been said by other people. It is one of the most expertly paced, well written shows to come out in the last ten years. Between its beautiful artwork, a blend of many various cultures, to it’s brilliantly written characters and plot it not only sets the bar high for animated television, but for television in general. It’s so rare to find a series that expands so far outside of a single demographic and actually succeed in being a great program.
Personally I missed the Avatar craze during its first airing and only came across the series after much deliberation a couple years ago. I will admit to being one of those people to write off children’s programming after got to a certain age and “Avatar” came off as being yet another pointless cartoon on Nickelodeon. Boy was I wrong. As I said before this series is more than your typical Nickelodeon fare and to write it off as something simply goofy or childish is doing it a great injustice.
Like I said what can I really say, “Avatar” is just a great series. Incredibly paced, drawn, written and acted with my only complaint being that I just want more. Luckily for us all we have the sequel series and with any luck the “Avatar” goodness will keep on going for a long time to come. Seriously go watch it, to sit here and tell you its plot would be to deprive you of the journey that the series takes you on, but like “Doctor Who” it’s a series that’s set itself up to continuously reinvent and re-imagine itself for future fans to come.
1: Keitai Sousakan 7
There’s not many people who have ever heard of “K-tai”, even within the toku community it stands as a bit of a rarity. Walking the line between J-drama and tokusatsu “K-tai” tends to fall under a lot of people’s radars and I have to say that’s really unfortunate, but I can kind of understand. It’s not a series coming out of any of the major franchises and isn’t particularly action packed. It truly is a drama with an admittedly wacky science fiction premise. In fact, before watching this I was only familiar with the mascots of the series, the sentient walking phones. So I actually assumed this to be an anime until I sat down to watch it. It was pretty standard fare, with some teen angst and a bit of mystery tossed in. That is until the final scene of the first episode. That final moment was enough to not only shock me, but hook me in for good with this series.
Thank god it did too. Over its 45 episode run “Ketai Sousakan 7” develops its plot at a pace unlike most typical tokusatsu, developing it’s characters and its mystery at its own pace while creating a connection to its audience. I really cared for the characters within the series and even the sentient walking cellphones, as silly as that sounds, were actually well developed and serious characters. They really managed to instill a lot of heart and emotion into even the most minor of characters creating a cast of people that can truly be cared for.
Similar to “Avatar” I really hate to spoil too much of the plot of “K-tai”, even more so here as I really feel like it’s a series holds much more meaning depending on the viewer’s own experience with it. It’s the kind of series that made me realize the outcomes that were eventually going to be reached and yet at the same time almost made me put myself into a state of denial as I really didn’t want it to end. Even after its end my reflection on the whole of the series made the plot and the flow of everything far more clear, pointing out things I had not even picked up on until it had already ended. Above all I am not ashamed to say that this is one of the few series to be able to move me to tears as I had manly tears streaming from my eyes during the entirety of the last hour and a half. It’s a series that’s easy to love if given the chance, is surprisingly symbolic given the time, startlingly dark and down right shocking and actually manages to make you resist watching it through to the end. Not only because of what you know in the pit of your stomach to be coming, but because you simply don’t want it to ever end.
So that was my Top Ten Favorite T.V. series of all time(or maybe just till next week). All of the series I listed have affected me in some way, be it through humor or something far deeper. Regardless these are my favorites, shows that I can always fall back on to simply make me happy. Feel free to comment on any series that you find particularly important to you. Like I said I love seeing people’s lists of their favorites of just about anything so post away.