Our weekly “Top 5 Tuesday” column of random stuff. This list comes from Parker Hageman.
For this week’s #Top5Tuesday, I decided to list my five favorite TV shows dating back to 2010 but first a sick brag: I don’t watch a lot of TV. Not in the super douchey “we don’t OWN a TV” way or in the “I’d rather read a book or take a walk outside” total jabroni move, no, it’s just that time won’t allow it once you start procreating. With my commitment split between child-raising and attempting to watch all 162 Minnesota Twins games a year (plus spring training), there is little time to spend in from of the warm glow of the ol’ Vizio.
Now, I could find ways to maximize my TV consumption – like add a TV in the kitchen like Dan did – but I was raised in a family that almost forbade watching TV during dinner. My family went to great lengths to make sure we didn’t spend too much time around the tube. My Dad would famously cancel the cable during the school year to keep us from the temptation of vegging out. Later, when I was in high school and he was sick of calling to cancel and then re-up, he installed a padlock on the room in our house with the only cable box in it, keeping it secured until homework was completed. Think about that. That’s some hardcore suburban parenting. That’s probably modern day child abuse.
I like TV a lot. I do. I just don’t love it. These shows, however, I have made a point to record to watch. Here are my Top 5 TV shows since 2010:
- The Walking Dead
Definitely not perfect. Over the years, I’ve noticed I have spent a lot of time scrolling my phone for extended periods when the show delves into some filler backstory or tries to give eventual zombie food some character depth but there is enough to keep me coming back each week. I think it is because I’m enamored by the makeup, the special effects and the squeamish predicaments the characters are in like Rick hiding underneath a tank as an entire city of walkers tries to claw at him while he contemplates blowing his brains out for a brief moment.
I’m also mesmerized by the fact that this series is set in modern time but there is nary a mention of the word “zombie”. Like, pop culture is rotten with zombie shows and movies and pub crawls. If this sort of event were to suddenly happen – the dead coming back to life and eating people – wouldn’t someone be like “I’ll be damned, zombies. Just like all those movies. Oh sweet irony.”
Now with 6 seasons, the show is suffering from a little repetitiveness as each season seems to follow a similar arc: Rick lead’s the survivors to a safe spot. The safe spot is not that safe. They have to leave that safe spot. Main characters dies or causes an issues when they make a supply run. The current season sort of deviates away from that, choosing to follow one event from several different viewpoints rather than a linear storyline.
Based on an Elmore Leonard short story “Fire In The Hole”, the series follows US Deputy Marshal Raylan Givans, played by Timothy Olyphant (who is playing a young Clint Eastwood), trying to take down the criminal underworld of rural Kentucky. (Well, it is set in rural Kentucky but, c’mon, we all know that is Southern California which pisses me off to no end.)
While there are some running storylines and reoccurring characters, the show is one that often wrapped things up neatly at the end of each episode which, for me, is usually lame. FX’s Justified brought in a glut secondary criminals that kept the show fresh – Jere Burns’ Wynn Duffy, Mykelti Williamson’s Ellstin Limehouse, Michael Rapaport’s Daryl Crowe Jr and Sam Elliott’s Avery Markham to name a few. Of course, it took the full 78 episodes to track down the show’s main bad guy. Walton Goggins’ portrayal of scripture-spoutin’ bad guy Boyd Crowder is one of the best antagonists created in a long time. At some points you root for him, at others, he’s so smarmy that you want to choke him.
Series creator, Graham Yost, cut his teeth in the TV business by writing for the late 1980s-early 1990s Nickelodeon series “Hey Dude”. He also wrote Speed, Broken Arrow and Speed 2: Cruise Control. So there’s your Justified trivia for the day.
Dark but with plenty of humor, Fargo has quickly become my favorite running TV show. Created by Noah Hawley whose credits include novels rather than script writing, the first season was good but compared to where it went for the current second season there is no comparison of how much stronger the show is now. The inaugural season followed a plot that felt similar to the movie – even tying in the ice scraper-in-the-snow-field where Steve Buscemi buried the money in the Coen Brothers’ flick. Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard is essentially William Macy’s Jerry Lundegaard but there are new additions. Billy Bob Thornton played a terrific assassin. All good.
This season is still playing out but it is an absolute gem. Tied loosely to the original season through an event referenced as “Sioux Falls”, this season goes back to 1979 for an all-out bloodbath between a crime family from Fargo (the Gerhardts) and the KC mob trying to take over the Gerhardts’ territory. Caught in between are Peggy and Ed Blumquist (Kristen Dunst and Jesse Plemons), your run-of-the-mill couple from Lavurne, Minnesota (one of the great aspects of this show is the references to various towns in Minnesota that no one outside of the state knows exists). Great writing is the hallmark of the series but if you watch one scene from this show, make sure to watch the opener to the seventh episode, “Did you do this? No, you did!”
- Mad Men
From beginning to end, this series felt like the most complete show ever produced. It gave viewers what felt like a realistic glance into a 1960s workplace, family and community. The characters were all amazing. I’m still not sure I understood everything that was said but I feel smarter for having watched it.
- Breaking Bad
There are a lot of shows which start with promise but then fizzle out they try to figure out ways to extend the series. Lost is the epitome of that. Fantastic concept but it quickly struggled to maintain a cohesive narrative with all the plot lines it shot out early in the show. Still, the episode Expose in the 3rd season might be my favorite despite the reaction of the regular viewers and critics who considered it a “waste of time” because it failed to move the story forward. To me, the Hickcockian/Twilight Zone-y tale of being buried alive was a much needed change of pace for the series that had grown repetitive. (That said, the show dragggggged on for another few years and was capped off by a poorly conceived finale, at which point most of America had already checked out.)
I bring that episode up because it was Lost’s 63rd episode overall. Breaking Bad, on the other hand, was able to tell the entire story of Walter White in just 62 crisp episodes.
Like Lost, there was a few “filler” episodes. Season 3’s “Fly” was not considered an audience favorite but critics loved the idea. While cooking meth in Gus’s industrial warehouse, Walter White notices a fly and becomes obsessed with contamination of his facilities. Symbolism, ya know.
Some of Breaking Bad’s plots and scenes were damn near torturous. There were moments of stomach-turning tension thinking that at any minute his DEA brother-in-law or a various drug lord would arrest or kill Heisenberg, Jesse or one of their loved ones. Then there was the transformation of White from the hero into the villain or his change from “Mr Chips to Scarface” as show creator Vince Gilliam put it. The 2013 series finale was a perfect end to what was a very good series.