The good folks at The Broke and the Bookish have a weekly meme post called Top Ten Tuesday. This week’s topic is favorite movies or TV shows. So here are ten TV series I’ve seen every episode of. These may be the only ten shows I’ve seen the entire run of. I go through phases where I watch very little television, and it was tough to come up with ten of these.
1. The X Files (1993-2002). Possibly my favorite television show ever, and notable for its long run. I watched it religiously back in the day, but it makes this list because my wife and I watched every episode in syndication the first few years we were married. My favorite episode is the one where we see that the Smoking Man had a hand in the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are awesome, of course. Mitch Pileggi is just as good, and this is the first show I remember seeing him in.
2. The Shield (2002-2008). This one is a close second for “best ever” in my mind. I can’t think of a better police drama. The cast is stellar, the writing is good, and the camera work was exceptional for a basic-cable original series at the time. The best part about it: it put Walton Goggins on the map. It’s one of those rare shows that manages to pull off an anti-climactic, unsatisfying ending but still gives the characters exactly what they deserve.
3. Copper (2012-). A BBC show about New York policemen in the Five Points during the decade after the Civil War. New York’s never looked so much like London on the screen. This is one of my favorite currently-running shows. I’ve never regretted following it for one minute, and I am eager to see how it ends.
4. Justified (2010 – ). Another gem, this one an Elmore Leonard story translated into 5 seasons of awesome television. Set in Harlan County, Kentucky, it’s all about the relationship between U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens and his childhood frenemy Boyd Crowder, a cunning and thoroughly ruthless professional criminal. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are phenomenal together. The acting and the dialogue are so good, it’s easy to forgive the uneven quality of the long story arcs from season to season. And it has a theme by Gangstagrass:
5. Sons of Anarchy (2008- ). This show is the creation of Kurt Sutter, who was a writer on The Shield during its entire run and produced the last two seasons. Interestingly, it’s set in the same continuity as The Shield. It follows the family drama and criminal enterprises of a gun-running motorcycle club in Northern California. It’s one of those shows you have to look at as a whole to appreciate because the male lead is the weakest part of the show. Charlie Hunnam just doesn’t carry the tortured complexity of Jax Teller. Ron Perlman, Katey Sagal, and an impressive lineup of supporting actors (including Mitch Pileggi and Walton Goggins) still manage to make this show too good to miss. And then there’s the music. The music is very, very good.
6. Breaking Bad (2008-2013). I didn’t follow this show from the beginning. I dismissed it after the first few episodes, then picked it up near the end of the second season and realized it was so good I had to go back and start from the beginning. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are simply fantastic together as two meth cooks who become so good at it they have more money than they can ever launder, and the series ending is one of the most appropriate I’ve ever seen.
7. The Borgias (2011-2013). I’m talking about the Showtime version with Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia. The series opens with his accession to the papal throne through bribery and blackmail, and it just gets better from there. Francois Arnaud and Holliday Grainger are good as Cesare and Lucrezia (surprisingly so at times). But the real highlight of this show so far has been Sean Harris, who plays Micheletto, a cold-blooded assassin and retainer of Cesare Borgia. (Edit – I didn’t realize The Borgias had been cancelled when I wrote this. I’m obviously disappointed about that.)
8. Boardwalk Empire (2010-) I’ve loved Steve Buscemi since the days of Reservoir Dogs. He’s the most charismatic unattractive actor I can think of. He’s brilliant as Nucky Thompson, who’s both the boss of the Atlantic County, New Jersey, Republican political machine and one of the biggest bootleggers on the East Coast during Prohibition.
9. The Tudors (2007-2010). Another show that refused to be done in by an inadquate male lead. Johnathan Rhys Myers over-acts his way through this series as Henry VIII of England from beginning to end. He comes across as melodramatic, and he only seems to be able to manage two or three facial expressions. The supporting cast, production, and plotting are good, though. I thoroughly enjoyed this series, and I consider it re-watchable.
10. Lost (2004-2010). This one’s on the list because it was on my favorites list right up until the last half of the final season. Five and a half years of honestly enjoyable entertainment has to be worth a mention. The casting was good, and the plotting was great at times. It was bizarre and intriguing. My problem with the show isn’t merely that it had an unsatisfactory ending that failed to answer a lot of questions. That’s often true of tv series endings. My beef is that Cuse and Lindelof spent six years building one of the most energetic television fan bases of all time, then gave us an ending so bad, it felt like they weren’t even trying. When it finally ended, I felt like a sucker for spending so much time on it. To this day, I refuse to watch anything which includes their names in the credits.