22 April 2009

Reviews are fun

I just saw this rather silly review in the Times, of the top 50 US shows

The premise is basically that American TV is currently putting British TV to shame, with the advent of shows like House, Lost, Desperate Housewives, The Wire etc..

So the author finds 50 shows as examples of this

Only I see a problem - why is the author including shows like Sex and the City (39), which ended five years ago? It may have just had a Hollywood film out but it is certainly not a current TV series, by his logic I get to include the original British version of The Office (ended in 2003) in my list of current British shows

The author is pretty clearly at pains to suggest there are 50 programmes better than any British fare currently out there, and he is grasping at straws to prove his point by using shows that are long gone and shows that are also complete shite

Pushing Daisies comes in at 37 - despite being critically acclaimed (purely by critics), the show was axed and never achieved an audience in America or Britain (it was "too sickly for some", as Daniel puts it) - how exactly this makes it better than the successful American Office (49), Desperate Housewives (47) and even Reaper (50) is beyond me

It's not even that he's putting some oddities in as filler - he has the long-finished Six Feet Under at 17, I agree it was a good show but it finished a good few years ago, and The West Wing at 5! In it's heyday in the early 2000s, the show was wrapping up just as shows like House picked up steam, I will leave 24 (4) alone as it is still running, and I never enjoyed it much, so I'm biased, but personally think it was best in the early years and is hardly all that any more

The inclusion of shows like The Simpsons (6), South Park (8) and Scrubs (33) - while all good products in their day, also demonstrates a massive flaw in his argument - none of them produce anything nowadays - Scrubs has suffered for two or three seasons and was only dragged kicking and screaming to a new, final, final series (on a new network) this year, and can anyone seriously say The Simpsons have made anything decent since the turn of the millennium? I know he does, but he's clearly an idiot, especially as he could've put in the far more recent Futurama - the idea that The Simpsons is the 6th best thing you can find from America right now is ludicrous, historically it will probably always be a top ten American show, but none of the recent tripe counts

It's not as if I'm being pedantic here - I'm happy with his inclusions of The Sopranos, The Wire and Battlestar Galactica, which have all recently finished - they are still contemporary - but a lot of his selections bring up the question of why he doesn't bring in 90s shows like Friends, Frasier and Seinfeld, I mean what's the huge difference between their period and the aforementioned show about four elderly shoe-obsessed nymphomaniacs in Manhattan? (for example Sex and the City ran from 1998-2004, Friends from 1994-2004)

I think at the heart of this is a perfectly valid argument that American TV has produced a lot of great shows in the last couple of years, at the forefront of that are House (23), Lost (7) , BSG (2), The Wire (1), The Sopranos (3), Desperate Housewives, Heroes (30) et all - these help give a general opinion that there's masses of quality coming from across the pond right now in my mind - but his list is bulked up by crappy shows that haven't even made it across the Atlantic, are old, are rehashes of the same formula (eg. Bones and The Mentalist) or just plain failures

This is without even questioning his opinions - we can all argue with him whether The Wire or BSG are any good, but this is much worse than pure difference of opinion - the article is based on flawed logic and is poor journalism, based solely on the author's obvious dislike of current British television, which he doesn't attempt to defend for the sake of balance

I could easily throw in The Office, Peep Show, The IT Crowd, Bremner Bird and Fortune, Extras and The Inbetweeners as examples of recent British triumphs straight off the top of my head, even Top Gear would be applicable by his standards

I note that most of my choices are comedies - I don't know whether that's my taste coming through or a natural British inclination towards comedy - but equally you could easily argue that the best American productions are almost solely dramas - on the comedy front they really only have Curb your Enthusiasm (10) and The Colbert Report, against a far greater number of British comedies

It's also fairly unsurprising when you consider that the British are far more famed for their comedy than dramas - simple budgetary concerns mean that shows the size of Lost are impossible as British productions, note the brilliant Rome series - a joint production by BBC and HBO, with a mostly British cast and a British director, but only a 15% share of the costs coming from the Beeb (still a whopping $15 mill)

While I think about it there has also been Life on Mars and Cranford as examples of British drama recently - and when you consider that British shows are generally only a quarter the length of a US season it's unsurprising that US ones outweigh the Brits in exposure

This is a poor article that reflects the author's own view of declining British TV more than an objective appraisal of American TV (his obvious dislike of Desperate Housewives and its begrudging place of 47th, despite being one of the biggest hits, is testament to that)

My Opinions (See, I haven't even got on to that yet) - top 10 US shows

I would include
The Wire
, despite not being a fan, as I respect it and its fans, it's just not my cup of tea
Lost has to be in there
House is sheer brilliance
BSG just makes it, mainly for being the best sci-fi I've seen, even if it did drag for about three years
Prison Break - I don't know how this missed out on the list when it's first two seasons were brilliant and it only started in 2005, the subsequent series have been pants - but just forget about those, they are like Enterprise to the original Star Trek
The Sopranos, one of the best dramas out there
Desperate Housewives, for the fact that everyone seems to watch it
So that's seven really good shows, and I'm out of proper ideas
So I have to now include Heroes, even if it did lose the plot after one season and was over-hyped
24 just gets a mention, personally I think it is too old (was really big in what...2001-04?) but it's still being watched by an army of fans
and really what else? I can think of many more great shows, but none that are 'current' - so I leave my last slot blank as everyone has their opinion

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