The 10 best, ever
1. China Beach (ABC, 1988-91) At a time when films and literature inevitably portrayed Vietnam vets as psycho killers or gibbering nut cases, this drama showed what the war was really like for the men — and women — who fought it.
2. The Sopranos (HBO, 1999-07) Producer David Chase stood American gangster mythology on its head, then used it as a lens for a searching examination of American culture, politics and economics.
3. Friends (NBC, 1994-2004) This funny, loving show was the first to grasp that American mobility has created family units linked not by blood but a shared emotional core.
4. American Dreams (NBC, 2002-05)
5. The Wire (HBO, 02-08)
6. Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1975- ) This video-guerrilla reimagining of the variety show was so profoundly influential that nobody can even remember what TV was like before it came along.
7. The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis (CBS, 1959-63) A sitcom about two young Baby Boomers trying to pick up the string of their lives after getting out of the army that provided a little-noticed warning of the cultural upheavals on the way for America.
8. Twin Peaks (ABC, 1990-91) Surrealist and paranoid, this serialized show about an unsolved murder in an isolated town smashed virtually every rule about the way television told stories.
9. The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959-65) Not every episode holds up well, but at its best this sci-fi/fantasy anthology offered a potent deconstruction of human nature.
10. Green Acres (CBS, 1965-71) A New York lawyer spouting civics-book twaddle about the mythic qualities of the American heartland goes there to become a farmer, only to be mocked, cheated and driven nuts by the wily locals. A wildly underrated sitcom that subversively mocked every adult myth of pre-Woodstock America.
The 10 best of 10 years
1. American Dreams (NBC, 2002-05): A drama about two Philadelphia families buffeted on the winds of the 1960s captured the decade’s moments of wonder as well as those of pain.
2. The Wire (HBO, 2002-08) A searing drama of urban dysfunction and the futility of America’s war on drugs.
3. Arrested Development (Fox, 2003-06) Nothing on TV was funnier, or less watched, than this send-up of corporate perfidy.
4. Being Human (BBC America, 2009- ) A darkly funny tale of a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost longing for their old lives, a tale of cold, dead noses pressed up against the window pane of humanity
5. Dexter (Showtime, 2006- ) A serial killer whose bloody murders are less terrifying than his belief that without evil, there could be no good.
6. Homeland (Showtime, 2011- ) Is the returning American POW a homicidal al-Qaida mole? Or is the CIA officer who suspects him a nutcase paranoid? A stunningly intense study of our post-9/11 world.
7. True Blood (HBO, 2008- ) When the world’s vampires come out of the coffin to take their place among the living, there’s a lot of kissing. And even more biting.
8. The Good Wife (CBS, 2009- ) Feminism without political cant as a political wife rebuilds a life shattered by scandal.
9. 30 Rock (NBC, 2006- ) NBC comics turn on their own network in the most ruthlessly funny workplace comedy of all time.
10. Penn & Teller’s Bull---! (Showtime, 2003-2010) ’60 Minutes’ with a potty mouth, featuring a pair of investigative magicians busting PC common wisdom on all sides of the political spectrum.
The five most brutal reviews the past 10 years
1. (tie) The Real Housewives of Miami (Bravo, 2011): “...At last we will get recognition for our unacknowledged but indisputable achievements: Our indolent trashiness. Our incandescent superficiality. Our establishment, beyond the shadow of a scientific doubt, of the inverse ratio of breast silicon and IQ points...”
1. Miami Social (Bravo, 2009): “...I’m not saying it’s so bad it’s good. I’m saying it’s so bad it will make you regret being born with eyes...”
3. Robbery Homicide Division (CBS, 2002): “...acting as Neanderthals must have done it around the fire, snarling and grunting and beating on their chests...”
4. Unan1mous (Fox, 2006): "... Nine people carefully screened for low IQs and swinish behavior are locked in an underground bunker until they all agree to award $1.5 million to a single contestant...a solid bid to win the Most Unpleasant Reality Show of All Time award...”
5. Dominick Dunne Presents: Murder in Greenwich (USA Network, 2002): “...proves that infamous perjurer Mark Fuhrman is a bigger liar than ever....Fuhrman, who gets a producer’s credit, also uses it to make himself look like the real victim of the [O.J.] Simpson case, which would almost be entertaining if it weren’t so infuriating...”