When it comes to the visual medium, both short form as well as long form present their own unique challenges. One can tell a more in depth story with a television show, but more often than not you have blips of wasted content that is garbage. Sometimes a show can end so badly that it is insulting. Other times it can finish off on the highest of notes. Here are my top 10 best and worst television shows of all time. I have excluded news programming or sports coverage for this list. Beyond that, all genres are fair game. And I will just say this upfront, “Seinfeld” is not on this list. Sorry, I know that I am in the minority, but to this day I do not understand the fascination with that show.
10. (Best) “Parks and Recreation”:
In an era which shaky cam documentary comedies have become more popular than standard studio sitcoms, perhaps the most kind hearted is “Parks and Recreation”. Under the leadership of Amy Poehler a, let us just say ‘eclectic’, group of individuals try to make the town she loves better every day. Several careers were launched as well as found a resurgence due to “Parks and Rec”. It does admittedly take a sub-par first season to find its footing, but once it does this is classic. The show, created by Greg Daniels, will give you a warm feeling one moment then nearly crack a rib laughing the next. Add in Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, my second favorite character in comedy show history, and you have all of the fixings of a show you can watch forever.
10. (Worst) “Scrubs”:
Another product of non-studio audience comedy, “Scrubs” is essentially the opposite of “Parks and Rec”. This Zach Braff medical farce vehicle is all over the place, filled with actors who are either completely miscast or, quiet frankly, suck at acting. The writing is a dried up well of slapstick and bad puns. On top of that watch two episodes, any two, and the editing becomes unbearable. Characters often pause as if they were shooting in front of a studio audience just to let you know this is supposed to be funny. Here’s a hint, write a joke that is actually funny!
9. (Best) “Carnivale”:
When my friend Scott recommended for me to watch “Carnivale” I was curious as to what the premise was. He said; it is about good and evil, simple as that. The only show on this list to have been cancelled before getting the chance to see it’s full story arc through, “Carnivale” is without question one of the oddest endeavors you will ever witness. It is also one of the most rewarding. Set in the Great Depression era, a young Oklahoma farm hand who joins a traveling carnival and a seemingly sinless preacher become two tent-poles in the battle between heaven and hell. You can see why HBO nixed this one because it is out there. But this is also an excellent look at the strangest parts of society as well as faith.
9. (Worst) “Baywatch”:
Let us be honest, any heterosexual man between the age of 30 to 50 that claims they did not touch themselves while watching “Baywatch” is 90 percent probably lying. It did serve a purpose. Hot chicks run in slow motion. The problem is, after 2 to 25 minutes, depending on the guys’ stamina down there, what the hell else is worth tuning in for? “Baywatch” is a porn film light that actually pretends to be built on real actresses instead of actual porn films that just fake it. The plot lines are ridiculous. David Hasselhoff can’t act to save his life. Don’t get me started on the spin-off shows. And the female life guards are more suited for a Playboy spread than running a scene with dialogue. I am not attacking their personalities. They could be great people in real life for all I know. But stay in your lane. “Baywatch” is no doubt one of the dumbest pieces of television ever, but also a good release for a 14 year old boy hitting adolescence.
8. (Best) “Six Feet Under”:
On the surface, “Six Feet Under” is one depressing beast of a family drama. Every episode opens with somebody dying. If you can sift through the tears, “Six Feet” shows one how precious life is and no matter what, good or bad, never take a moment for granted. The Fisher & Sons Funeral Home family business sees not just tragic stories from its customers but also goes through their own ups and downs. Nobody in the family is perfect just like none of them are bad. They are just people, and ultimately we all have to die sometime. Father Time has never lost.
8. (Worst) “Mr. Robot”:
Go at me all day with how ‘intelligent’ the hit Rami Malek show “Mr. Robot” is. The first three episodes certainly appear so. Then one gets to the fourth and realizes this is nothing short of a shitty knock-off version of “Fight Club” (don’t get me started on how overrated that movie is). The only good thing to come out of this horse up its own ass series is Rami Malek. For those of you who think “Mr. Robot” is intellectual, particularly those who love its gritty realism, do yourself a favor and go back for a second viewing. Once you know what happens, actually think for just a moment. Just a guess, but I would venture a bet one will be saying “That doesn’t make sense!” at the screen more often than not. Because it doesn’t.
7. (Best) “Sesame Street”:
In what world does one not have the most prolific children’s program ever on this list. This monster began in 1969 and remains a childhood staple. There are so many different aspects or iterations of stars, side characters, and relevant guest hosts that continue to make “Sesame Street” relevant as far as teaching young ones to be kind. Everyone knows the main characters and everyone who grew up with the show has one to connect with. I loved Big Bird, The Count, The Cookie Monster, and Bert & Ernie. Yet my favorite was always Oscar The Grouch because he was cool living in a trash can, just chillin’. The Jim Henson creation is still hard at work producing quality television for kids. Let us hope it never ends.
7. (Worst) “The Jerry Springer Show”:
The exact opposite of “Sesame Street” has got to be the all-time bottom of the barrel when it comes to daytime television, “The Jerry Springer Show”. A former City Councilman, Mayor of Cincinnati, and convicted of soliciting a prostitute, Springer decided to get out of the political game and start a talk show. Turns out that broadcast became one of the most popular watches this side of “Oprah” in America. “The Jerry Springer Show” was must see TV in the 90’s. Unfortunately, it is also complete exploitation that even the biggest strip club owner would dream of being able to do. And that isn’t limited to the guests. The audience is getting dry throats as they scream “JERRY, JERRY, JERRY, JERRY!” And this show got a spin-off!? Nothing wrong with having fun and people agreeing to do stupid things will always exist. Taking advantage of them for now going on nearly 30 years, go screw yourself a-hole.
6. (Best) “The Twilight Zone”:
Of all the crazy, futuristic, wild shows that came out of the 60’s era, the best is easily “The Twilight Zone“. Popular mind-benders such as “Black Mirror” would not exist today without the O.G. “Twilight Zone”. Opening and ending with Westbrook Voorhis, television watchers were transported to a place that was unthinkable. The past, future, present, and even space were not off limits with oddities happening each week. “The Twilight Zone” changed the game as television was still coming into its own. Everyone was able to have their own favorite episode. Mine, “Time Enough at Last”, the 1953 classic about a man who hates society. When he survives an apocalypse he, well I won’t ruin it for you. Without a doubt “Zone” is a corner stone of the structure of modern Sci-Fi writing.
6. (Worst) “Cavemen”:
Please oh please tell me you forgot about this absolute bomb of a sitcom. The insurance company Geico hit it big with their early 2000’s ad campaign centered around sophisticated Neanderthals. Excellent piece of marketing. Why in the world would you think that would be a good sitcom? Cancelled faster than they could even shoot it, 2007’s “Cavemen” is a great example of not understanding what quality entertainment is. The show is not offensive by any means, but what the hell are we going for in this scenario? Was the second part in the trilogy going to be about the Gecko hanging out with his pals on the pond? Please call your Advertising people Geico. Stay away from making creative things.
5. (Best) “The Daily Show With John Stewart”:
The Comedy Central network will always have its program “The Daily Show”. It is not news, rather comedy, yet people they piss-off will always take offense. The ultimate iteration was Jon Stewart. He remains the all-time great when it comes to late night comedy news shows. Just ask more than half of the late night hosts not on Fox News or CNN. Stewart was able to make a point and at the same time have fun. To all of the right wing people, go back and watch his criticism of Obama videos. You will be surprised… Combine that with his stout backing of 9/11 first responders fighting for healthcare and you have perhaps the best talk show host of my generation.
5. (Worst) “Two and a Half Men”:
Where to start with this absolute garbage that I do not understand why it was so popular. Charlie Sheen is a complete scumbag, and for some reason CBS decided that it would be fun to make a sitcom around being a dick in “Two and a Half Men“. Then, when Sheen went full on douche bag again, they replace him with Ashton Kutcher. Cool. Whomever thought up this show sucks. For those who are not a-holes and actually think it holds up as being good ‘family’ comedy, I apologize, but you are incorrect. “Two and a Half Men” is like playing musical chairs with people that might not be the greatest dinner guest.
4. (Best) “Breaking Bad”:
A gymnastics coach needs to look no further than how to teach one the concept of sticking the landing. The ridiculous concept of a chemistry teacher becoming the most bad ass Meth dealer in the southwest with the help of his drug addicted ex-student while also fighting cancer is hard to swallow. Turns out it is phenomenal storytelling. Star Bryan Cranston delivers at every step of his descent into darkness, never losing that last tiny little bit of good. His partner Aaron Paul battles a number of things throughout the pair’s journey, but does not succumb to evil. “Breaking Bad” should not have gotten past the first season. Thank goodness it did, and the rest is television history.
4. (Worst) “Entourage”:
Do d-bags truly know that they are d-bags? I am not trying to belittle, it’s an honest question. They have every right to live just like us all. “Entourage”, the popular HBO show produced by Mark Wahlberg (SHOCKER…) is the story of a bunch of guys who attach themselves to the one friend in the group who gets famous in Kevin Connolly. Nonsense ensues, agents and studios get involved, and homeboys screw each other over. Some good jokes are had, but ultimately what is the point? What is the viewer learning other than these guys are self-absorbed? Similar to say a movie such as “Top Gun”, this is a show I would never want my daughter to date a guy who thinks that it is the best show ever type of stuff.
3. (Best) “The Sopranos”:
While not the original, the idea of rooting for the bad guy became globally excepted once again with “The Sopranos” phenomenon. Many believed the story of Tony Soprano and his family to be typical gangster stuff. It wasn’t. Once you get hooked the story of the Soprano clan is Shakespearean in nature and will have you along for the ride until an ending that divided viewers. I found the cut to black that had millions of people crapping their pants brilliant. I mean for goodness sake the show literally opens with a fat Italian gangster grabbing a newspaper in his driveway. On multiple levels, the story of the Sopranos crew, blood related or not, is layered. Never mind the typical snitch or inside narc stuff. Creator David Chase’s masterpiece is about showing how you truly get through a day, even if it involves shooting a person or going to therapy.
3. (Worst) “Keeping up With the Kardashians”:
Why are these people famous? I am not trying to be condescending. I am genuinely curious as to why the Kardashians are so famous. Yeah, they sexy, gotcha. But they have no discernible talent, are completely self-centered, and are one of the most boring group of people in the world. Do they actually have an original thought that does not focus around branding? Oh, my bad. I placed the word thought in a sentence about the Kardashians. If a black hole of nothingness could be placed on screen, it would be called “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”. At least the bitches get cray every once in a while (non-scripted of course, wink-wink).
2. (Best) “The Simpsons”:
The first family of animation still has yet to be topped. “The Simpsons”, whether it is your favorite personally or not (Yes I hear you “South Park” junkies yelling at me), America’s funniest group of misfits still remains the gold standard. Creator Matt Groening birthed comedy perfection suitable for all ages with a group consisting of the quiet one, smart one, crazy one, and motherly one. Oh, I almost forgot, Homer Simpson. The best comedic character in television history. Tack on the crazy side characters such as Krusty the Clown, Flanders, or Mr. Burns and hijinks are bound to take place every Sunday night. What celebrity can truly call themselves an icon without appearing on “The Simpsons”? Now I need a doughnut.
2. (Worst) “Melrose Place”:
Yes, yes, “Melrose Place” made actresses such as Heather Locklier and Courtney Thorne-Smith household names. Um, I don’t necessarily have a punch line here, was more wanting to give you the facts. Look, daytime soap operas are never going away as long as housewives need an escape from their crazy children, fat husband, and ‘OH MY GOD CAN I PLEASE CHOKE YOU!’ in-laws. The problem with “Melrose Place” is it is so much stupidity that it runs circles around the other daytime shows, and they decided to put it on primetime! Resurrections, incest, and switching men are just a few of the bad plot lines here. And on top of that, the cast during the show’s seven year run are phoning it in so hard that, other than when they are making out, do not even seem to be attempting to try. Thank goodness for pretty people.
1. (Best) “The Wire”:
Cops are not all good. Gangsters who kill people are not all bad. “The Wire”, based on multiple true stories believe it or not, is about all levels and aspects of drug trafficking in a prime port town location and the affects it has on the community. It is not just the dealers running the corners doing the damage. This spans from grade school kids all the way up to politicians. Some cops are alcoholic and promiscuous yet they fight the good fight at the end of the day. Other cops are a-holes who’s only concern is clearing a case no matter how it is done despite who goes down in their office. Some dealers, while they will kill, live by a code. Others are evil or crazy and will slow kill somebody with cuts and cigarette burns. It is all part of the the game. And we haven’t even started on the corrupt lawyers, judges and politicians. When it boils down to it, “The Wire” is the greatest example ever of the idea of grey area. To claim that a kid selling crack on a corner is anymore or less dangerous than a person simply trying to make it through the day is wrong. To think that a heroine addict is always your enemy is wrong. There are pimps, assholes, and tricks in all walks of life (metaphorically). The question that “The Wire” asks is very simple. What are you going to do?
1. (Worst) “Lost”:
Pardon my French, but J.J. Abrams’s “Lost” was the biggest ‘GO FUCK YOURSELF AND GIVE US MONEY!’ festival in television history. You’re gonna start off with an amazing opening complete with a black smoke monster and random people trying to take one of the stranded survivors from the plane’s kid, great! Call me intrigued. We’ve got a hidden ladder that leads to an Australian dude with a code that could save the world. Ok then. Plus we’re flashing back to multiple characters’ past. Who doesn’t love a good back story. Then you arrive to the last three seasons and you realize how utterly stupid “Lost” is. Did they just get pushed to make more episodes because of money, loved going on vacation in Hawaii, or was it simply made by idiots? Whatever the case, “Lost” is the reason why I learned that no matter how good a show is don’t be afraid to call it a day. Sometimes you just have to say ‘Yeah, I’m done’.