100 Greatest Television Series

95. The Wonder Years

Posted in 1980s,Dramas,Greatest TV Series,Sitcoms by Kirsten on July 31, 2009
Tags: , , ,

A groundbreaking single camera dramedy that mixed nostalgia, coming of age, politics, and family drama, The Wonder Years  remains a show I must watch whenever I come across it on TV.  A lot of it is probably because I was ten when it debuted after Superbowl XXII, and the things that Kevin Arnold and his friends were going through were things I was going through ( or about to go through).

It certainly was completely different than anything else I had seen on TV at that time. It could be sweetly funny and heartbreakingly sad with in seconds.  Due to it’s 1968 to 1973 time line, the Vietnam War was never far from the story ( Winnie’s older brother was killed in Vietnam in the pilot). The show also made good use of the generation gap, as the constant head butting between conservative father Jack and hippie sister Karen helped illustrate the turbulence of the culture of the time.

Mostly, I just loved how the show felt real. It never was wildly over the top with it’s ideas or it’s feelings. And it was grounded by the brilliant performance of Fred Savage, who was simultaneously awkward and sweet as Kevin.

And any show with that series soundtrack- that alone gets my vote.


98: Fringe

Posted in 2000s,Dramas,Greatest TV Series,Sci=Fi by Kirsten on July 24, 2009
Tags: , , , ,

I know some people are going to get on my case about having Fringe on my list. It’s only a season old, it struggled all last season, it seems  to be one of those shows you love or you hate, I’m still in the middle of catching up on all the episodes I missed during the season…

Yeah, well, awesome is awesome. Bite me.

It does remind me a bit of The X-Files, with it’s clinical tone and whacked out nut bar teamed with more grounded federal agents. It deals with similar phenomena as well- the unexplained aspects of the universe that human nature dictates we need to find answers for. I can tell you right now that it took me  a while to get into it, just like with The X-Files, even with the still adorable and surprisingly compelling Joshua Jackson in the cast ( granted, I was always more a Pacey girl than a Dawson girl, but I digress).

Ultimately, it’s among a new breed of Sci-Fi shows, that mixes self contained mythology, high concept drama, oddball humor, stunning visuals, and gutsy story telling. J.J. Abrams is so effing gutsy, the final shot of the season finale showed *SPOILER ALERT* the Twin Towers still standing in NYC ( and a great reveal of Leonard Nimoy as William Bell, which was too frickin’ awesome to bear). This show is great. Don’t try and tell me otherwise.

99: Due South

Posted in 1990s,Dramas,Greatest TV Series by Kirsten on July 24, 2009
Tags: , , , ,

Canadians like myself love to mock our television industry. It’s easy- the top rated Canadian program of all time is Hockey Night In Canada. Our homegrown industry has not been without it’s successes, but the failures are spectacular. There was 20 years between truly successful sitcoms in Canada.

We do, however, do hour long drama better ( think- Flashpoint,  the multiple  Da Vinci series, the multiple Degrassi shows, which are truly half hour dramas and not sitcoms, Street Legal),  and occasionally, we hit one out of the park. Due South is the one we hit out.

It’s a TV show that is very Canadian- the references alone are hilarious ( Forbisher, Fraser, Diefenbaker, the Jay Semko music, Dawn Charest, Mackenzie King, hockey, Esther Pearson, Red Green did a guest spot, ” Northwest Passage”, the veritable who’s who of Canadian actors in the four seasons) . I always have an amusing time watching episodes with non- Canadians and having them stare at me blankly while I’m laughing my ass off.  But tone and inside jokes aside, it’s not like the show is wildly groundbreaking in theme. It’s a cop show ( granted, one with a lot of humor and even some supernatural influences, and one mighty red serge). The crime of the week was always a bit over the top ridiculous, and then there is the suspension of belief you needed to think that Chicago PD would let a Mountie help them.

The true highlight in the series was the characters. Start with the headliner, Paul Gross’ charmingly straight arrow, by the book Benton Fraser. He would stand outside the consulate like a Beefeater, stone faced and dutiful, while people would have complete conversations with him. He was law abiding to a fault ( he would never shoot a gun, as he had no permit to do so… in the US, but cross the border on the Great Lakes, all bets are off, man). His trusting nature got him into many a sticky situation. Then there was the dirt tasting… among other things. He was a good cop who was also completely uncynical, a rarity on a cop show. Match him up with Ray Vecchio ( played by David Marciano), the more typical TV cop, and you got yourself a sweet buddy-cop pairing. Oh, and then the fabulous Diefenbaker, the deaf half wolf who can read lips. Genius right there.

Due South had been picked up by CBS to air in the States and the first season did air there. But they cancelled it due to low ratings. The show continued on for three more seasons in Canada, where it remains one of the top rated homegrown shows of all time. It left the air in 1999, due more to Gross’ desire to do other projects than anything else ( he would later produce and star in the now classic Canadian cable theater drama Slings And Arrows,  the movies Passchendale and Men With Brooms,  and is showing up this fall on US television as the devil in Eastwick). It remains in constant rotation though on Canadian cable networks specializing in classic TV ( it aired at one point on TVtropolis).