Since I did this list two years ago, eighty percent of the shows I loved ended or were canceled or moved to Yahoo. Thankfully television is a non-stop fountain of good (and bad) shows. So here’s another Top 11 list excluding Pro-Wrestling. (See Why I Love Pro-Wrestling for that)
1. Gravity Falls
Released by Disney, this cartoon is endearing and really funny. The characters are so well rounded as well as intelligently written. The jokes come fast and furious and the writers have a knack for hitting you with a quick tag after something sad or endearing happened that catches you off guard. Speaking of endearing or sad, it’s not always the happiest show. Sure, we’re not talking deep agony but characters get angsty, frustrated and angry at one another. On top of that, there’s a complex X-Files like mystery arc going on in the show and often a mystery or paranormal happening of the week.
2. Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail
I have watched a lot of stand up shows since discovering them in the early nineties. They usually consist of one comedian doing a long set or several comedians doing short sets, edited for television. Most of the lesser known comedians stand in front of a backdrop with their name on it. This show is not that. I am a huge fan of both Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani separately from their podcasts and stand up routines. They have put on a weekly comedy show in the Meltdown Theater in the back of Meltdown Comics for years. Just recently they got a deal with Comedy Central to film it. Short clips of the stand up acts are intercut with the comics hanging backstage and shooting the bull. It’s really, really entertaining.
3. Rick and Morty
This show is absolutely insane. It should be, it comes from the mind of Dan Harmon (Community) and Justin Roiland (Accomplished Voice Actor) who are long time friends. I think I’ve mentioned how big of a Dan Harmon fan I am but I hadn’t really experienced much of Justin Roiland. Justin Roiland plays the two leads, a boy and his mad scientist grandfather, and is an amazing voice actor. He usually does high squeaky voices for his roles but in this he does a ten year old boy and mimics and embellishes Dan Harmon’s speech pattern to portray Rick Sanchez, mad scientist. I can’t push this show enough. It’s kind of an unexpected hit.
4. Once Upon a Time
I am a huge fan of fairy tales, myths and legends. More than that, I’m actually a huge Disney animated films nerd. So what happens when you take myths, legends, fairy tales, Disney and real life and throw it in a blender? A show I binge watched the hell out of. The novelty that sucks you in is getting to see your favorite characters in a different light (Bisexual Mulan, anyone?). What kept me around was the great acting and compelling stories. The story is that all of these legendary characters have been thrust into the real world and merged with mundane people. The way the show operates is that each episode is divided between the present and a series of flashbacks. The present scenes forward the central plot and the flashbacks help to flesh out the characters’ history.
This show surprised the hell out of me. When I heard that there was going to be a Green Arrow origin show, I thought that it would be like Smallville. Smallville was often good but just as often it was “good enough”. Smallville also often felt soap opera-ish and succumbed to the CW formula more often that not. Arrow feels different. It feels a lot more like the great work that’s being done by Marvel Studios and also the great work at DC Animated. The show has been through so many twists and turns that I honestly do not know where it is going next.
6. Adventure Time
It feels like this cartoon has become a national obsession. I know that it became an obsession of mine for a little while when I found out about the Marceline/Ice King storyline. Tears nearly fell people. The show is funny, weird, sad and exciting all at once or sometimes just in various combinations of the four. It certainly does not hurt to have John DiMaggio voice one of the major characters of the show. I have rarely seen a cartoon of this magnitude maintain such a consistent mythos that it can draw from. Even so it’s very accessible for the first timer and there are several jumping on points.
7. Doctor Who.
The show that literally keeps reinventing itself to stay fresh. I held off on writing this because I had not started watching the new series but now I am four episodes in. It remains brilliant and an entirely different dynamic from the Matt Smith era and the David Tennant era or any era before it. Peter Capaldi brings a lot of gravity and dry, dry humor to the character that it’s such a pleasant surprise when we’re hit with a bit of silliness now and then. A lot of people claim that one Doctor is better than the other but I can’t decide. It’s always shaky going from one Doctor the next but once you get a few episodes in you should be sold.
8. The Blacklist
James Spader is a very loveable asshole on this show. Even though it is increasingly hard to tell who is a good guy and who is a bad guy, The Blacklist is an amazing show. It has an ensemble cast but the show would have been nothing without James Spader. I thought that this show would be just another procedural, just this time with the CIA instead of law enforcement officials. On the surface, the Reddington character is very much like Richard Castle or Patrick Jane. A maverick outside who eventually becomes accepted by the authorities because of how good they are at solving crimes. Not so here. After an entire season we are no closer to discovering if the central character is a good guy or a bad guy. I really like that.
9. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD
I am huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as created by Disney and Marvel Comics (although Disney only became involved a few movies into the process). Since this show is connected to that universe, I wanted to devour it before it even hit the plate. I was a huge fan of Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson from the MCU and he remains a huge selling point for the show. The ensemble is strong but really keeps me coming back are the subtle and not-so-subtle connections to a greater universe. To have Glenn Talbot or Maria Hill or Victoria Hand or any number of minor characters from the comics show up fleshes out a universe that is already getting pretty meaty. This show has steadily gotten better as it has progressed and I suspect that will continue to happen.
This is your usual procedural like the ones I alluded to above where an outsider consults with law enforcement and helps them do a better job. In this show, Dr. Daniel Pierce is a neuroscientist and an unmedicated schizophrenic. Since we follow the character of Dr. Pierce, we are never quite sure what is real and what is brain chemistry. The show’s strength relies mainly on Eric McCormack (aka the only person stomachable from Will and Grace) who puts in really strong performances. He is assisted by a great ensemble cast. Rachael Leigh Cook kicks major butt as a tough but loyal FBI agent named Kate Moretti who is also a major highlight of the show.
Once again, I love fairy tales and myths and this show comes at them from a different angle than Once Upon a Time or most shows that I have seen. This show posits that the creatures from the tales were always there among us but were able to hide their true natures from humanity and blend in. The Big Bad Wolf is a clock repairman down the street and the three little pigs are arson inspectors downtown. Through the main character, a human who can see the true natures of these creatures, we see glimpses into a completely foreign society buried within our own.
Some that didn’t make the list:
Community – because it left Television and is now an internet show .
Game of Thrones – because you root for somebody and then they die.
True Detective – because the season ended and I’m wary of how Season 2 will go.
Sherlock – I think of the series as mini-movies not television episodes. Excellent series, though.
The Daily Show and The Colbert Report – It was hard leaving them off but they’re great.
Other shows – I either don’t like them or have not seen them yet.
Tags: Adventure Time, Agents of Shield, Arrow, Dan Harmon, Doctor Who, Gravity Falls, Grimm, Jonah Ray, Kumail Nanjiani, Marceline, Marvel, Meltdown, Once Upon a Time, Perception, Rick and Morty, The Blacklist