03 December 2009

Noughtie TV shows

I recently stumbled across the Telegraph's top 100 TV shows that defined the decade (what with it being in its last month) - it's a bit of a hodge podge that includes some big american TV shows with worldwide appeal that didn't actually air terrestrially here, while being mostly Brit-centric and including some very minor British shows

So I thought I'd do my own version according to the same lax rules and try to improve it a bit by doing it in sections, because what's the point ranking genres against each other? We shall see how it turns out...

(hat tip to From the North.. blog for pointing me to it)

I shall start with...Comedy and I think then I'll do Animation separately after, so I don't get cries of 'where's South Park/Family Guy etc' so, onward - sections are of no particular length, so I'm hoping 'reality TV' can be brief, if intense


20. The Kumars at no.42 (BBC 2001-6) The successor to Goodness Gracious Me was as important for its cultural impact as much as its critical success, even if the comedy was fairly benign

19. Trigger Happy TV (Channel 4 2000-1) HELLO!? YES, I'M IN THE CINEMA!...You had to be there, red fox

18. Malcolm in the Middle (Fox 2000-6) There aren't many decent Fox comedies out there, but Malcolm in the Middle was a classic that went global and won various awards

17. Scrubs (NBC 2001-8) Not much point counting the butchered ABC version after this classic - Scrubs was the Friends of the noughties - countlessly repeated on daytime and digital TV, couldn't really miss it, oh and it was a good laugh

16. Outnumbered (BBC 2007-) A surprising entry for a show that's only produced 13 episodes (and isn't Fawlty Towers) and spent its first season on late at night, but its obvious quality shone through and got everyone watching this brilliant improv-comedy by the second series (and buying the first en masse)

15. Marion and Geoff (BBC 2000-3) Although a bit forgotten now, this Rob Brydon monologue-fest was a big hit in the early part of the decade

14. Da Ali G Show (Channel 4 2000) ah, is it because I am black? Hard to ignore this ridiculous send-up that appealed to both the intelligent and the illiterate, and of course, gave the world Borat

13. Peep Show (Channel 4 2003-) Excruciatingly painful comedy about two pathetic losers, its sheer brilliance could have you in tears, but its 'alternative' appeal has kept it restrained to younger people and late nights, reducing its impact (and 13 just felt right for Mark, you know...)

12. My Family (BBC 2000-) This mild sitcom is not particularly edgy, and lost it's appeal many years ago but spending a decade as the BBC's mainstream family comedy is no mean feat

11. QI (BBC 2003-) This intelligent game show made a nice change from the usual dumbed-down rubbish, without being elitist, and became a quick hit with anyone who considered themselves to have a brain

10. Mock the Week (BBC 2005-) The satirical stand-up show is one of BBC two's biggest successes and has done a good job in taking over from the aging HIGNFY as well as launching several stand-ups

9. Extras (BBC 2005-7) - Gervais' second big hit was a more usual sitcom, I didn't realise it was so long ago already...

8. Gavin and Stacey (BBC 2007-) This quaint, off-the-cuff little comedy about Essex and Welsh people that started life on BBC 3 somehow became a household staple that we all watch at Christmas

7. Brass Eye - paedophile special (Channel 4 2001) - Few single episodes can cause such an impact as Chris Morris' send up of tabloid hysteria

6. The Daily Show/The Colbert Report (Comedy Central 1999-) Both shows made their name as the major American voices of satire during the Bush years, lampooning the ridiculous right-wingers of Fox

5. Bremner, Bird and Fortune (Channel 4 1999-) The major British voice of satire during Bush/Blair years

4. Curb your Enthusiasm (HBO 2000-) Yet another masterpiece from HBO, so painfully funny it could almost be British

3. Little Britain (BBC 2003-6) This at-times vulgar and repetitive sketch show somehow became a mainstream staple on the BBC, and a worldwide hit, thanks to its many catchy catchphrases

2. The Thick of It (BBC 2005) The incredibly produced replica of the New Labour spin machine won't have you laughing out loud, but rather terrified, a worthy successor to Yes, Minister

1. The Office (BBC 2001-3) Need I say more? Gervais' and Merchant's mockumentary was not only brilliant, but groundbreaking

Animations (I felt this deserved a separate section seeing as how many there have been)

7. The Simpsons (Fox 1989-2126) I had to include it, didn't I? While the show has arguably not produced anything of worth in the whole decade, it was still there! Making a 2007 movie blockbuster at the same time, which was equally as rubbish

6. Robot Chicken (Cartoon Network 2005-) Certainly not the most mainstream of shows, but it's developed into a worldwide cult hit

5. American Dad (Fox 2005-) Seth MacFarlane's second big hit is arguably better, considering it has actual plots, but is also still very, very silly

4. Family Guy (Fox 1999-) Dumped by Fox, but saved by fans and DVD sales, this thoroughly annoying show featuring random surreal clips seems to have been wildly popular

3. King of the Hill (Fox 1997-2009) This well-observed comedy about a mild-mannered conservative family from Texas is deceptively brilliant

2. Futurama (Fox 1999-?) Another show Fox tried to dump, but the comedy prospered and lived on to provide a show much better than the contemporary Simpsons episodes, as well as some legendary characters and catchphrases

1. South Park (Comedy Central 1997-) It was big in the late 90s, with its major film coming out in 1999 - but the fact remains that several of its best episodes came out this decade and even after the mainstream success waned it's remained very popular , and arguably better now that parents have stopped whingeing (since that generation of precious children are now probably the adults who watch it)

(Overall I would rank the animations as fairly low as important for the decade however)


8. Traffic Cops (BBC 2003-) I'll be honest, I have no idea which one this is, I stole it off the Torygraph as a representative of those many inane police shows that are really propaganda

7. Monarchy (BBC 2007) Typical royalist bilge turned into a national scandal when the production company misrepresented our dear queenie in a trailer, had the tabloids salivating like Pavlov's dogs

6. The Power of Nightmares (BBC 2004) Ah remember this? Exposing Blair's lies about terrorism after the Iraq invasion, the irony of course, is that Labour used this exact title for its own sodding advert about global warming (which was banned)

5. The Blue Planet (BBC 2001) Let's face it, any Attenborough documentary, made in any decade, makes it in

4. Living with Michael Jackson (ITV 2003) 'That's ignorant'....This is that one with Martin Bashir, caused a bit of a stir if I remember correctly

3. Pedigree Dogs Exposed (BBC 2008) This was one of the most memorable BBC investigations in many years, it was strange considering the common knowledge that pedigree animals are more inbred than your average royal, but it certainly had an impact on people and resulted in Crufts getting a very bad press and being dumped by the Beeb

2. Coast (BBC 2005-) Quite impressive how much material you can get out of one little island's craggy coastline, one of those BBC two programmes that most intelligent people quite like

1. Planet Earth (BBC 2006) David Attenborough is still going - and about the only thing worth watching in HD


This is very tough, what 'defines' a decade - popularity, or quality?

15. Shameless (Channel 4 2004-) Comedy or drama? This show set in a Manchester council estate is delightfully funny, while being well-observed and realistic (apparently)

14. Cranmer (BBC 2007, 2009) It seems odd to include such a minor drama (compared with CSI, House etc) but this is a British list and it was pretty defining

13. CSI (CBS 2000-) Like it or not, this pretty crappy cop show about forensics is the most popular franchise in the world, the modern day general interest cop show

12. The Trial of Tony Blair (More4 2007) This imagined future of Tony Blair expressed a lot of the nation's outrage at the run-up to the controversial Iraq war, and seems to be a little too fondly remembered by a lot of people

11. Bleak House (BBC 2005) Another critically acclaimed costume drama, if there's one thing we can do, it's dress-ups!

10. 24 (Fox 2001-) More Fox...and it just keeps going, this initially ground-breaking series made waves all over the world, it labours a bit now, and there's little to take from what is effectively die hard for your tv screen, but it works...

9. Battlestar Galactica (SciFi 2003-9) Not many sci-fi shows can boast such an impact on wider culture - this re-imagining of the cheesy 70s show, whilst not a massive ratings winner by any means, inspired debates about humanity, religion and human rights, as well as winning truckloads of accolades for its storytelling and acting (and making sci-fi credible)

8. Band of Brothers (HBO 2001) Effectively Saving Private Ryan for the small screen, had a similar effect on the audience and is on many DVD shelves and often repeated on TV channels around the world

7. The Wire (HBO 2002-8) Praised as the best show in the world by people cleverer than you or I, but it's lack of mainstream interest kept it off most people's radar, hence it's lower position (commence egg throwing...)

6. Spooks (BBC 2002-) One of the few top-notch dramas to come out of Britain recently, this modern spy thriller was our saving grace

5. Desperate Housewives (ABC 2004-) Surprisingly the Torygraph left out one of the most popular shows in the world, featuring an ensemble cast of women and a dead narrator, in what is a very witty comedy-drama about suburban life - surely it's very influential?

4. House (Fox 2004-) Hugh Laurie puts on an accent and suddenly Blackadder will never be the same again as we watch this limping, drug-addicted, cynical, medical genius work his magic

3. Lost (ABC 2004-2010) The happenings on the mysterious island have enticed millions around the world, as well as pissed off quite a few, but nonetheless it remains a truly global show and has sparked it's own sub-genre

2. The West Wing (NBC 1999-2006) The Torygraph put this as its top drama, it's just a matter of taste I guess

1. The Sopranos (HBO 1999-2007) - I went for the mafia family for the fact that it's the most watched cable show ever, and had the most reach


Big group, this

17. Bargain Hunt (BBC 2000-) Who would've known rubbishy daytime TV about flea markets could be so defining, this show gave the world David Dickinson and was pretty popular for a few years, inspiring other nonsense such as Flog It and Cash in the Attic, as clearly people were a bit too obsessed with quick money back then

16. Location, Location, Location (Channel 4 2001-) Sigh, such drivel, but it was indicative of our fascination with house prices, late 2007 put an end to all of that

15. Jeremy Kyle (ITV 2005-) ITV finally gets a show in, and it's the British version of Jerry Springer, exposing the very worst of our society while Kyle behaves like a complete tosser - it's surprisingly watchable

14. Harry Hill's TV Burp (ITV 2001-) Another ITV show that became surprisingly popular - this rehash of Tarrant on TV became a family staple, winning Baftas and being exported globally

13. 100 Greatest Britons (BBC 2002) It was big back in the day and is the pinnacle of all those public-voting shows (although I personally preferred the greatest comedy - Blackadder all the way!), the public weren't even that bad - the BBC deliberately giving prominence to people like Brunel and Darwin prevented the list becoming too much of a joke, Churchill won in the most surprising upset since England went out of the world cup

12. Soccer Saturday (Sky 1994-) Technically started way back, but didn't become big until the vast majority of people could get Sky Sports News with the rise of digital TV, Jeff Stelling and friends' comical banter drew millions away from the BBC's ancient football focus show

11. Spongebob Squarepants (Nickolodeon 1999-) Any show which has the lines 'Who lives in a pineapple under the sea...' and 'absorbent and yellow and porous is he' deserves a spot as the defining kid's cartoon of the decade

10. SM:TV (ITV 1998-2003) Although Ant and Dec left in 2001, virtually destroying the show at that point, (and ITV Saturday morning kids' shows) it has a recognised golden age from 2000-2001, which really felt like it was a lot longer back then, it was easily the best kids' show in decades, and of course, gave us Ant and Dec, who were that show

9. Grand Designs (Channel 4 1999-) More on our fascination with property and having a good nose around other people's homes

8. Who do you think you are (BBC 2004-) This 'genealogy show' proved to be a highly popular franchise which has been taken up across the pond and in various other countries, more of that nosey-parker stuff that seemed to dominate us

7. Deal or No Deal (Channel 4 (+ various worldwide) 2005-) Oh god, no! Sorry, but it's impact was phenomenal for a gameshow, and it brought Noel Edmonds back from the grave...fortunately only a few such shows can claim to be important

6. The Weakest Link (BBC 2000-) - Who would've thought dressing up Anne Robinson as some sort of dominatrix would work so well on daytime tv, this show epitomised our strange fascination for being cruel in the early noughties

5. Jamie's School Dinners (Channel 4 2005) - Already a well-known celebrity chef, but this show catapulted Jamie Oliver into politics and saw him meeting world leaders and become a champion for childhood obesity and food ethics

4. Life on Mars (BBC 2006-7) Yet another renewal to define this decade (as the one that couldn't think for itself, perhaps) this time it was the seventies - the public lapped up the nostalgia...and political incorrectness

3. Doctor Who (BBC 2005-) Technically a drama, but it's really light entertainment for the family - the resurrection of the longest running sci-fi show in history proved surprisingly successful and a Saturday night staple

2. Strictly Come Dancing (BBC 2004-) The return of ballroom dancing on tv proved remarkably popular, the show became a worldwide hit as dancing with the stars (I've decided it's not 'reality' tv as it's celebrities doing an act)

1. Top Gear (BBC 2002) - Biggest entertainment show..............in the world, this re-invented motoring show made Jeremy Clarkson Britain's number one choice for PM, and is watched by an estimated 350 million (men)

Reality TV

This is the biggie, truly the concept of reality TV itself defines this phenomenally lazy decade more than any other, and of course, launched pretty much in 2000

10. Castaway 2000 (BBC 2000-1) God, this was an awful show that was the BBC trying doing its own version of reality TV in a non-tacky way, it bombed, and yet - Ben Fogle...why??

9. Survivor (ITV 2001-2) Considered to be the 'original' reality show coming out of the US, this show was actually a massive flop in the UK, despite the media hype - clearly we did have some taste, but it remains pretty definitive because of said hype back in 2001, and the fact that it still running in the US, and various other places, after 20 seasons...

8. Britain's Got Talent (ITV 2007-) Another Cowell creation, you could argue it wasn't that defining, more minor than the other talent shows, but it's gone global, and of course gave us Susan Boyle...because ugly people shouldn't be able to sing, or something

7. The Osbournes (MTV 2002-5) So this is why Sharon Osbourne was a judge on one of those pop shows...

6. I'm a Celebrity...put me down get me out of here! (ITV 2002-) How is this stuff still going? Basically Big Brother but with minor celebrities and nastier challenges in the jungle, people apparently still watch it

5. Wife Swap (Channel 4 2003-9) Yet another one that falls firmly in the category of 'getting off on other people's misery', mixing families with completely opposite lifestyles resulted in the best type of car-crash TV - the fights at the end were especially beloved

4. Masterchef (BBC 2005-) The reinvented version of the drab cookery programme from the 90s proved remarkably successful as people seemed to gain an interest in reality cooking shows over the ones where we watch a load of people sleep, it went global and became ridiculously popular in Australia, among others

3. The Apprentice (BBC 2005- US: NBC 2004-) Something we imported from them for once, but improved by actually having an entrepreneur as the boss rather than some wealthy landowner, anyway, this show went from minor BBC2 reality show to full-on household favourite about a bunch of shallow, backstabbing whingers being fired...we still love the cruelty

2. Pop Idol / Popstars / X Factor (ITV 2000-) Let's face it, they're all the same, and X Factor remains popular for some reason, despite the shows only ever giving us one major musical act, millions vote via premium rate phone numbers and fill ITV's coffers, also see American Idol and various other exported versions

1. Big Brother (Channel 4 2000-2010) You know it, and absolutely perfect dates as well - this show may be utter dross, and barely watched by anyone any more, but the first couple of series had the nation hooked, we grew tired of it years ago, but it was defining, no doubt about it (and it gave us Jade bloody Goody)


That's only 77 - I wanted 90 and to leave the last ten blank for your own entries, but I don't see the point filling it in with stupid shows like Two pints of Lager... - how is that late night rubbish 'definitive' anyway?

One hundred is such a pointless number to aim for, but I have no doubt missed some (many) so please feel free to offer suggestions, and of course disagree...it's only opinion after all

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