The new Doctor Who reviews
April 14, 2005 10:06 AM   Subscribe

The new Doctor Who series has been airing on BBC Television for three weeks now. And it is "good TV" Most all of the reviews are startlingly positive, far more than I've seen for a television series in a long, long time. What is most striking is that many of the commentaries about the "New Who" state that it is just plain ole' good television that combines something intelligent, something scary, something mysterious and something balls-out fun. In our world of reality television, what other series would you classify as being "good tv"? What makes for "good TV"? (Link goes to a fan site that has re-printed and linked to numerous reviews)
posted by tgrundke (90 comments total)
Northern Exposure was "good TV." We could use something like that again, but I'm sure we'll be stuck with CSI: Branson instead.
posted by sourwookie at 10:15 AM on April 14, 2005

Didn't the "New Who" just quit the show? I can't find a link right now, so I might be mistaken.

Freaks and Geeks makes for 'Good TV.'
posted by hughbot at 10:18 AM on April 14, 2005

Oh so that's what all the fuss is about.

I thought it was a new reality show about Pete Townshend's new career as an orthodontist.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:19 AM on April 14, 2005

china beach was good tv.
posted by juv3nal at 10:20 AM on April 14, 2005

I thought Pete Townshend was more interested in pediatrics?
posted by Jart at 10:23 AM on April 14, 2005

posted by Robot Johnny at 10:24 AM on April 14, 2005

I only watched the first episode of the new Who... and hated it. Rushed pace, daft plot, overacting all round. Apparently (from what I gather from talking to other people about it since) I am completely missing the point.... oh well. I never really rated the original, so I guess I'm not the target audience.
posted by stumcg at 10:25 AM on April 14, 2005

Naturally enough, another BBC offering, Wire in the Blood is, as far as I'm concerned, the best crime drama on TV.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:27 AM on April 14, 2005

I'm all over Deadwood . Engaging characters, solid plotlines and some of the finest profanity you'll ever hear - I swear it borders on the poetic.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 10:29 AM on April 14, 2005

I like the BBC series "MI5" when I can get it - It plays intermittently on the A&E Channel here in the states. Combines drama, potboiler investigations, and LeCarre-esque intrigue in a show that depends on its viewers to be paying close enough attention to catch plot-important clues the first time round. This distinguishes it from most US crime dramas (*cough Law & Order cough*) in which each important development is shown and exposited in dialog at least twice, often with a thorough discussion of the ramifications for the slow-witted.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 10:33 AM on April 14, 2005

Offtopic: I have a memory that after the first episode of DW aired, there was an FPP asking people what they thought. I didn't read it at the time since here in Canada we're behind and I hadn't seen it yet. Now I would like to read that thread but can't find it. Any help?

This is a chatty topic, and I imagine it might get snarky later, but for now I'll just plug Corner Gas as much as I can. Best thing on television, unfortunately only available in Canada (though Season 1's on DVD and I imagine there's torrents). Comedy done exactly right.
posted by livii at 10:36 AM on April 14, 2005

Battlestar Galactica, the new one. Don't hate me....
posted by eurasian at 10:39 AM on April 14, 2005

A big second for MI-5.

The Wire.

Carnivale has me interested at the moment, although I'm only halfway through the first season.

I liked the new Battlestar Galactica a lot more than I thought I would.

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares is a nice change of pace from your normal FoodTV fare (only four episodes, though.)
posted by Cyrano at 10:42 AM on April 14, 2005

Livil, previous discussion of Deadwood here. Apologies, meant to put it in my original post.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 10:43 AM on April 14, 2005

What I find impressive about the new Who is that while the pace is very torrid, the dialogue is sharp and succint and to the point. I've got quite a collection of "Classic" Who episodes on VHS and DVD (stop yer snickering, i am a closet nerd) and watching "Classic" episodes back to back with the new ones is almost painful. It took 90 minutes of drawn out corridor chases and megalomaniacal laughs from cardboard stereotype characters.

The new Who seems to get across solid messages, engaging story lines and decent characterisation (as best you can accomplish in a 45 minute episode).
posted by tgrundke at 10:44 AM on April 14, 2005

As far as "good tv" - did anyone get to catch Fox's short-lived "Keen Eddie"? Thankfully it was picked up by Bravo for its 14 episode run, but I found that series to be an absolute blast to watch.
posted by tgrundke at 10:45 AM on April 14, 2005

Oops - thanks for the link, insects, as that's interesting too, but I meant discussion of Doctor Who. That'll learn me to use short forms!
posted by livii at 10:51 AM on April 14, 2005

I'm quite enjoying Robot Chicken, of which torrents can be found here.

Shouldn't this question be on Ask.Mefi?
posted by furtive at 10:56 AM on April 14, 2005

I'm still enjoying Arrested Development (link w/ embedded video), but I think the world blew its good-TV-being-renewed Karma for this year when HBO announced there would be another season of The Wire. It sounds like this Sunday's episode of AD will be the last.
posted by Gimpson at 11:02 AM on April 14, 2005

Three cheers for Carnivale, I'm madly addicted. I've got to see the new Who, but it will always be hard to sway me from Tom Baker.
posted by moonbird at 11:02 AM on April 14, 2005

moonbird -

i think you'll find Christopher Eccleston to be immensely fun to watch as the new Doctor. The pace of the show takes the most getting used to - things move along quickly in the new Who and you almost feel like you're being swept up by the mania, pace and excitement of everything. I find it immensely enjoyable.
posted by tgrundke at 11:05 AM on April 14, 2005

Cyrano and Moonbird, I will add a third vote for Carnivale. The second season was one of the most satisfying TV experiences I've had in years.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:05 AM on April 14, 2005

Northern Exposure, definitely. One of my all-time favorites.

The first season of Alias was a lot of fun. Now it's just bad BAD tv.

This new show Eyes with Tim Daly and various other hot women and men has been fun and sharp so far.
posted by papercake at 11:08 AM on April 14, 2005

another vote for MI5. It's like 24 without the real-time gimmick and mostly self-contained episodes instead of serialization.
posted by juv3nal at 11:14 AM on April 14, 2005

You know those online petitions to save cancelled TV shows that next-to-never work? Well, Fox Broadcasting has created one for Arrested Development.

If Fox has to create a petition to save its own damn show, what hope does it have?
posted by unsupervised at 11:33 AM on April 14, 2005

I just watched season 1 and 2 of Shameless and was thoroughly entertained.
posted by sp dinsmoor at 11:36 AM on April 14, 2005

Firefly. The first time I saw "Out Of Gas", I sat there in amazement for a good ten minutes afterwards.

And while Spooks (call it MI5 all you want, BBCAmerica...) is interesting, it doesn't hold my attention as much as Hustle, which is by the same company, but deals with con men instead of spies. Sort of a weekly version of Ocean's 11 without having to look at Brad Pitt, Matt Damon or Julia Roberts.
posted by Katemonkey at 11:38 AM on April 14, 2005

Dr. Who is good. So is Deadwood. But Arrested Development is currently the best show on TV.
posted by graventy at 11:40 AM on April 14, 2005

I'm looking forward to Law & Order: Supply Department. It'll be a gritty streetwise look at refilling staplers and requesting more paperclips.

But seriously: I can't get enough of Futurama on DVD.

and I'll tell you what makes for good TV... aspiring models having pillow fights!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:41 AM on April 14, 2005

It sounds like this Sunday's episode of AD will be the last.
I'm sorry ... what??? I'm an Ameerican with no cable, and it's the only example of 'good tv' I can think of.
posted by kanewai at 11:45 AM on April 14, 2005

I also enjoyed watching season one of BBCs The Coupling (definitely NOT the american version). And who can forget The Office, they're selling a dvd set with Season 1 and 2 plus the Xmas specials for $49.99cdn at HMV in montreal.
posted by furtive at 11:53 AM on April 14, 2005

I also think that Deadwood is the best thing on TV right now. The biggest surprise for me was the new UPN show Veronica Mars, that certainly combines the intelligent, the mysterious and the balls-out fun.
posted by lazy-ville at 12:00 PM on April 14, 2005

Haven't seen Wire in the Blood and I'm not sure I know what makes for 'good TV', but for 'fantastic TV' and the best crime drama I've ever seen, The Shield is not only going strong into it's fourth season, but continues to blow away everything I've ever watched in the way of serial drama. It's crazy, insane TV, and I've never been able to recommend another show as heartily. Been meaning to pick up The Wire as well, because I hear great things.
posted by the_savage_mind at 12:02 PM on April 14, 2005

I was pleasantly surprised by the American version of The Office and I've been catching that when I can. Scrubs too. I wouldn't describe either as great, but they're both watchable.

We went cableless a while back, and I'm using Netflix to catch up on old series that I missed the first time around. I like The Wire enough that I'm going back and watching David Simon's old series Homocide, and I can't wait for the second seasons of Deadwood and Carnivale to make it to DVD. I keep hearing good things about The Shield, so maybe that should go in the queue too.
posted by Gimpson at 12:03 PM on April 14, 2005

Oh, forgot to plug The Venture Brothers. I caught the pilot when it aired and was unimpressed. Then while back in the States in February, a friend showed me the entire season. I could not stop laughing. So wrong in such a right way. Imagine a dash of Hardy Boys thrown into the world of old-school Johnny Quest, with a helping of Doc Savage as the father of the Dr. Quest stand-in (and what a psychological shadow he casts on his son). All with the sensibility of The Tick (it's created and mostly written by a former Tick writer, with some eps written by Ben Edlund). Only much darker. Characters like Dr. Girlfriend and Girl Hitler would steal the show, except that Brock Samson is the greatest character ever. Totally unreconstructed, un-PC secret agent type with a mullet and a '68 Dodge Charger as well as psychopathic and hyper-sexed streaks a mile wide.

As for Deadwood, I loved it first season, and the second season finally picked up after the interminably clunky exposition and dialogue-based setup of the first three eps. But I still have problems with the stylized dialogue... it's so heavy and stilted for me at times. Still watching though. And Al Swerengen was as compelling a character in the first season as Vic Mackey of The Shield. Which is an amazing feat. For anyone who likes the show, I highly recommend Pete Dexter's novel, Deadwood. He's a phenomenal author, and that's one of his best books, IMO. Centers on the arrival and eventual murder of Hickock. When I caught the first ep of Deadwood I just assumed it was based off the book, though the creator has never once mentioned it in an interview. I find it hard to believe he wasn't heavily influenced, though. The feel and the language are so similar, although I find Dexter's writing superior (which isn't surprising and isn't a knock on the series since it's a novel, not a TV show)
posted by the_savage_mind at 12:20 PM on April 14, 2005

Interesting list being compiled here. You know, one measure of quality is how long something lasts or remains entertaining or relevant. Many of these shows will still stand up to viewing years from now.

The reality stuff is just going to look ridiculous and awkward, like old game shows do now. Watch an old Dating Game or some such, ouch, they're actually painful to look at.
posted by scheptech at 12:31 PM on April 14, 2005

that's a good point, scheptech. there are certain television shows that will always always always find syndication because they were just good and they don't seem dated. i believe that there's an old phrase that an episode of "I Love Lucy" is always airing at every hour of the day somewhere on the planet. There's a reason for that.

There are other great shows that stand the test of time: All in the Family, Cheers, Taxi, etc. I agree that reality TV will find a very very limited syndicated market.
posted by tgrundke at 12:42 PM on April 14, 2005

It's an oldie, but one of the greats for me is I, Claudius. Watched it the first time on PBS at age six or seven with my mom by my side. And she'd already read the Graves' books, which are fantastic, so she knew what we were in store for. I came in and sat next to her when it started, and I still bless her for not shooing me away. Thank God my folks never dumbed things down for me. My favorite other shows at that age were The Six Million Dollar Man on the one hand and Jaques Cousteau and Cosmos on the other. PBS has been so good to me, which is why it's so sad to see the Republicans dismantling it. At age 11 they rented me Seven Samurai and blew my fragile little mind, not to mention sending me on an eternal Kurusawa jag.

Then I watched I, Claudius again a few years back when it was released on DVD. So god-damned amazing. Incredible writing, unbelievable acting, and for intricate, bizarre, complex and horrifying Italian family interactions, The Sopranos never even came close. If you haven't seen it, Netflix it or buy it. It's a keeper.
posted by the_savage_mind at 12:52 PM on April 14, 2005

I only watched the first episode of the new Who... and hated it. Rushed pace, daft plot, overacting all round. Apparently (from what I gather from talking to other people about it since) I am completely missing the point.... oh well. I never really rated the original, so I guess I'm not the target audience.

Well the original had daft plots and overacting as well, so it's pretty much the same old Doctor Who, except the pace is somewhat faster. I'm liking the series so far, it sort of reminds me of watching Star Trek:TNG, they've managed to update the series but keep some of the cheesy tone of the original.

There does seem to be a lot more intellegent, dramatic television on nowadays. I think this is being drived by DVD sales (see this brief blurb Who Cares About Ratings? It's DVD Sales That Count). There are a lot of shows out there with multi-episode arcs that are being kept alive by DVD sales, 24 comes to mind.
posted by bobo123 at 12:54 PM on April 14, 2005

Spaced (particularly Season 2) was one of the greats in my mind - I think pretty much everyone I know has watched that with me and everyone agrees it was one of the greatest shows on UK TV. It also was indirectly responsible for Shaun Of The Dead so a big "Yay!" goes out to it.

Second on my list would have to be The Shield - probably the best cop show I have ever seen (since I can't remember any episodes of Homicide : Life on the Street anyway). Never has a bad cop been so good as Vic Mackey.

Oh, and anything with Chris Morris.
posted by longbaugh at 1:07 PM on April 14, 2005

The Wire, The Office and Northern Exposure. NE was a good show that was occasionally freakin brilliant. David Chase went on to do The Sopranos of course. Another show with great music and flashes of genius.

And old Columbos.
posted by vronsky at 1:13 PM on April 14, 2005

An old buddy in college arranged several screenings of I, Claudius and Twin Peaks. I never joined his I, Claudius group, but I did get hooked on Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks is one of the few television DVD sets I own.
posted by Gimpson at 1:21 PM on April 14, 2005

Hard to find but a real jewel is Lipstick on Your Collar by Dennis Potter. And Lonesome Dove. Both are miniseries but too good not to mention.
posted by vronsky at 1:24 PM on April 14, 2005

imho, the best tv going right now would include trailer park boys on bbc america...a fine low budget offering from nova scotia canada. all 4(so far) seasons are now available on dvd if you look around. it's f'n genius. takes most people a few minutes(or episodes) to really get into it, but well worth it...bubbles is my hero. on the more mainstream tip, nip/tuck on fx is a great show. lost is also a really good offering from the big four...i know, "blah blah blah...lost sucks" and all that...give it 3 or 4 episodes and you'll be sucked in. i tried to resist...but it was futile. my last one is a show called wonder showzen on mtv2...i haven't laughed so hard in years. a combination of puppets, old dubbed over educational films, cartoons...and don't forget the roving child reporter segment...theme song "kids on the beat, kids on the beat....beat kid, beat kids!". not to be missed. hi-larious.
posted by cloudstastemetallic at 1:27 PM on April 14, 2005

ReGenesis kicked ass up and down the block. There are bio-horror stories coming out these past few weeks that are eerily close to things that happened in ReGenesis. Scary stuff, indeed!
posted by five fresh fish at 1:39 PM on April 14, 2005

I like Lost. Am I even less cool now? It's my favorite show after The Amazing Race.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:43 PM on April 14, 2005

less is more...thus more cool, or cooler...or, err, uhhh...hold on, let me see here. carry the one, to the 3rd power, ok...if my computations are correct, your now a watercooler. wait, that can't be right.
posted by cloudstastemetallic at 1:50 PM on April 14, 2005

I am a sucker for mysteries so for me great TV is the old Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy Brett and Poirot with David Suchet. Also Inspector Morse with John Thaw and Prime Suspect with the Helen Mirren are classics. Lovely!
posted by madokachan at 1:52 PM on April 14, 2005

And yet not one of you mentions Dead Like Me?! That show was awesome. Get the DVDs, watch, enjoy. Then get all sad and bitter because they canceled it.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:17 PM on April 14, 2005

For mysteries, I'm a huge fan of the cable series Nero Wolfe. Great stuff.

And yeah, old Columbos too. Also the first season of Kojak is pure gold (and now available on DVD!). Some of the best lines on television. Kojak, speaking to the criminal they finally caught: "When I was a kid, we used to come down here to the docks to play a game. We'd try to see who could catch the ugliest fish. I just won." Or something very close to that, only written better, and with Telly's incomparable delivery. Oh yeah, who loves ya, baby?
posted by the_savage_mind at 2:22 PM on April 14, 2005

I dig Lost. It's a good time. I'm usually pretty high though.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 2:34 PM on April 14, 2005

Nero Wolfe is a lot of fun, more because of the characters rather than the mystery. The show has a tendency to bring up clues that are not shown to the audience, unlike the Poirot series that repeats on A&E. But again, seriously, if you haven't seen Dead Like Me, go watch it. Download it, whatever. Maybe you can join in on the complaining people are doing to get the show back on the air.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:40 PM on April 14, 2005

The Wire, no doubt.
Danger UXB was great fun.
And Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
I can't say I found much in Dr Who to interest me. Except for the silly Daleks.
Deadwood...God, you people. You mustn't have an ounce of pioneer blood in you.
posted by nj_subgenius at 2:42 PM on April 14, 2005

Gilmore Girls. Just shut up. It's fiendishy addictive and the only thing I watch on TV-with-adverts. Yes, I am a complete girlyman, in the "30-somethings compulsively watching post-adolescents in foreign educational settings" sense of the word.
posted by Sparx at 2:57 PM on April 14, 2005

That's funny you should mention the thing about the sudden clues, TwelveTwo (and I agree about that as well as the fact that it's the characters that carry the show for me), 'cause I adored the Poirot books as a kid, but upon rereading a couple a few years back, I got pissed off at that very fact.
posted by the_savage_mind at 2:57 PM on April 14, 2005

Throwing my two cents in for Firefly, Dead Like Me, Northern Exposure, BBC's Coupling, and Lost. Great stuff. Actually Lost started off strong but is slipping. Most of the rest y'all mentioned must be on cable, and I don't have cable. I wait till things hit DVD. Netflix is much cheaper and doesn't piss me off like cable did.

Netflix just sent me a copy of Deadwood Season One Disc One. so I'm about to have an opinion on that one, but don't know yet what that opinion will be. I have no opinion on Arrested Development. Never watched it. After Fox cancelled other shows I've enjoyed (Firefly for example), I have difficulty bringing myself to support the network in any way.

I don't watch The Sopranos even on DVD, because the protagonists are members of organized crime and that just doesn't interest me. I also refuse to accept that the Godfather series deserves to be considered one of the greatest of all time for similar reasons. I'm sure it's my own loss. I'm content with that.

I never liked Alias. Completely broke the ceiling on suspension of disbelief and not in a good way. The new Battlestar Galactica? You're kidding, right? Starbuck is NOT female. Dammit! If you want a real brain twister though: The Prisoner is still one of the most creative and intriguing works ever to come out of Great Britain. Awesomely surreal: makes Jennifer Garner look like Shirley Temple in comparison.

I've always been a fan of Doctor Who as far back as I can remember. PBS used to play them late at night when I was a kid. Now I'm trying to catch as many on DVD as I can. It's been so long since I've seen them, watching them again is like getting something completely new. There's a curious charm about what they accomplish with such a low budget. Yes the suspension of disbelief is very high, but that starts with the premise so, one knows it going in. I'm looking forward to seeing the New Who, whether it sucks or not. It's one of those few franchises that can't seem to jump the shark, because even when it's bad it's still good in its own dubious way.

Oh. And Colombo could do no wrong. Always a good time to be had. Same with Perry Mason and to a lesser extent, Kojak. The best television of all time though: Rod Serling's Twilight Zone. In almost a century of television now, I've yet to see anyone top Rod Serling, on either side of the Atlantic.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:58 PM on April 14, 2005

I second? third? Wire in the Blood. Just started a new season on BBC America. Excellent excellent series! (Of course i think Robson Green is the best thing since sliced bread so i may be biased here...!!)
Oh, and BBC's Coupling is just hysterical.

Not a snark or a troll question but i sincerely want to know how come BritTV is so so superior to AmTV in the comedy genre at the very least? Can any American sitcom/comedy compare to Hyacinth Bucket's perfomance in Keeping up appearances? What's the closest to Fawlty Towers that America has/has had? Oh...and perhaps my favorite "Carry on Laughing" series. I'm honestly curious if there are any comparable shows out there coz if there are, i'd really like to get my hands on a few dvds.
posted by ramix at 3:13 PM on April 14, 2005

My So-Called Life was heart-rippingly good.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:46 PM on April 14, 2005

I think that America has quite possibly brought itself into parity with British comedy if you're willing to accept cartoons as equivalent. Simpsons, Family Guy (granted, there's a lot less agreement with that one), Futurama, Zim (again not such massive agreement), Venture Brothers (at least for me and my friends, South Park (until this season) and a number of others. For me, animation is where it's at for nine-tenths of American TV comedy. Not the same kind of humor, because that's impossible to pull off, but of a similar calibre in my opinion.

Then there are some great shows like the Gary Shandling spoof on the Tonight Show (spacing on the name at the moment), Curb Your Enthusiasm, and some older ones that I love at their best like WKRP, Cheers for some seasons (many, actually), Taxi, and the Queen of Them All, I Love Lucy. Oh, and The Honeymooners. There's more shit to dilute the pool, but when you pick out the gems, I think there's a hell of a lot of first-class funny American television. And yet I loves me the British humor with its unique voice as well.

Okay. Too much posting for me. Time to sleep.

Oh, one last drama series plug... Angel seasons 1-5 are sooooo worth owning. Such great character development, stories, action, humor and human suffering. And 2-4 make up the most amazing three-season arc I could imagine (dunno if there are any other three-season story arcs out there). Wesley is one of the greatest characters ever, and his actor is astonishing in his range of drama and comedy. Now I'm done for real!
posted by the_savage_mind at 3:57 PM on April 14, 2005

Firefily (cancled: fox), Keen Eddie (cancled: fox), Invader Zim (cancled: nick), Southpark and Mythbusters.

Probably a dozen others that i'm not thinking of, but for me Firefly deserves the seat of honor. Thankfully the movie is coming soon.
posted by quin at 4:03 PM on April 14, 2005

Well, shit, if we're listing every TV show we love, I've got more...
Lost, Amazing Race, Firefly, Buffy, South Park, Scrubs, Carnivale, The L Word (guilty, guilty pleasure), Gilmore Girls, Simpsons, Desperate Housewives. *breath* Twin Peaks, Babylon 5, ST:DS9, Family Guy, Futurama, Farscape Farscape Farscape. *whew*
posted by graventy at 4:49 PM on April 14, 2005

Has nobody mentioned Aqua Teen Hunger Force yet? Just got turned onto that one.

In the UK Monkey Dust crushes anything before it, Peep Show (nothing to do with Joe Matt, comics fans) is great and the filming makes it work really well, Two Pints of Lager continues to be revoltingly funny.

They've just started showing Trailer Park Boys (last week) on Paramount in here. Looked like something worth getting into.

I could go on...
posted by i_cola at 4:52 PM on April 14, 2005

Monkey Dust torrents be here. Go fetch!
posted by i_cola at 5:00 PM on April 14, 2005

cancled == canceled. wow, i must be tired.
posted by quin at 5:05 PM on April 14, 2005

I found Monkey Dust kinda wore itself out a bit after a few episodes, but the initial impact is brilliant

In my book, Spaced is still the best British comedy of the last few years, though Peep Show gave it a good run recently.

And from across the pond, Six Feet Under stands head and shoulders above everything else for me. I don't want to spin a cliche, but nothing else has ever made me both laugh out loud and have tears in my eye at some point in Every. Single. Episode.
posted by anagrama at 5:46 PM on April 14, 2005

I so don't get the appeal of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The animation quality is beyond dismal, the humour isn't there for me, and I don't get the point.

FWIW, the Southpark episode a couple weeks ago that scathingly addressed the Schiavo media orgy was superb; certainly the best of the few SPs I've viewed.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:48 PM on April 14, 2005

argh, missed longbaugh's ealier props for Spaced. Ah well, it deserves another mention. As does Chris Morris, but that goes without being said.
posted by anagrama at 5:49 PM on April 14, 2005

Shows like Six Feet Under and Carnivale make me wish HBO was kosher with CanCon regulations.

That said, we've had some pretty good Canadian drama recently. I'm currently hooked on This is Wonderland, which (roughly) is to Law and Order what Mash is to ER.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:35 PM on April 14, 2005

In any case, I'm loving the (american?) market shift back to dramas from stand-up-comedian-starring sit-coms.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:37 PM on April 14, 2005

Does Good Eats count?
posted by Uncle Ira at 8:01 PM on April 14, 2005

Surely the Amazing Race is the best US Comedy at the moment, the editing of the show makes it a classic spoof. We loves it.

Office, Spaced, Little Britain , League of Gentlemen,Phoenix Nights ( not seen new series yet) , Alan Partridge, Day Today, Brass Eye , SlackBladder quality comedy per capita in UK higher maybe there's nothing else to do there than take the mick ?
posted by doogyrev at 8:03 PM on April 14, 2005

the_savage_mind "The Larry Sanders Show" Great show, great parody of talk shows. Carson era Tonight Show to be exact (Phil==Ed McMahon.) It was truly a great show!
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:15 PM on April 14, 2005

And if we are listing off great shows, what about the Daily Show as of late? (And Eerie, Indiana. :x )
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:17 PM on April 14, 2005

Arrested Development is very funny, Veronica Mars is pretty good, and Teen Titans is often much, much better than a show called "Teen Titans" has any right to be.
posted by furiousthought at 9:29 PM on April 14, 2005

Harvey Birdman.

As for the new Doctor Who series, I've enjoyed the first 3 episodes thus far, with each getting progressively better. The first wasn't all that promising but I thought it could've have been much worse. New shows (yes I know it's not actually new, but it's in a new run) usually need some time to find their feet, i.e. Enterprise, which has gotten so good it's been cancelled.

The views expressed above are, of course, entirely subjective.
posted by juiceCake at 9:52 PM on April 14, 2005

furiousthought Teen Titans is well made in that same well cared for manner that made the fox produced animated series of Batman shine. But I still feel embarassed watching it due to its name.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:12 PM on April 14, 2005

Heh, fun topic.

"The Larry Sanders Show" Great show, great parody of talk shows.

And if we are listing off great shows, what about the Daily Show

I'll say the former, one of the greats - the latter no, reason: long term relevance.

Larry Sanders had great characters, people you'll be able to recognize 10 or 20 years from now. The general buffoonery of both Larry and Phil is priceless and very human.

Daily Show can be excellent but it's highly topical, really right-now, you gotta be up on your current affairs to appreciate. I think a Daily Show re-run in 20 years is going to be incomprehensible to the next gen. Be like Bob Hope making Eisenhower jokes.
posted by scheptech at 10:37 PM on April 14, 2005


Every morning at 0800 hours, the President of the United States is given a report that outlines the most active international and domestic threats against the United States. This document is called the Threat Matrix. To combat these threats, the President, through the Department of Homeland Security, has created a highly specialized, elite task force whose mission is to keep our country safe from enemies determined to destroy our way of life.

"Threat Matrix" is a one-hour drama about this team whose expertise and use of cutting-edge technology helps them fight the many faces of terror. Taking audiences behind the headlines and into the world of homeland security, "Threat Matrix" dramatizes what we are doing in the world of homeland security, why we are doing it and whether or not it is working.

(who says Americans can't do comedy?)
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:07 AM on April 15, 2005

Oh and Drop The Dead Donkey gets kudos as well - a comedy series based in a newsroom written pretty much on the fly (the episodes were usually filmed within a day or two of the news taking place). It was like a Daily Show sitcom but so much more evil.
posted by longbaugh at 12:22 AM on April 15, 2005

Six Feet Under and Carnivale are two shows I just cannot stand. Literally, I can't watch them for more than a short period of time without either getting twitchy or falling asleep.

With the former, I enjoyed maybe the first half season before I felt it just wandered off into gratuitous soap opera world. And then every time I would check back in on the series in subsequent seasons, that feeling just got worse and worse. Cheap emotional manipulation seemed to be the operating principle ruling over everything else, at least for my taste.

And I honestly tried watching a couple episodes of Caranivale, because the concept seemed so interesting to me and the cinematography looked so beautiful. Plus a good friend recommended it. But man, if they could bottle that show and sell it, I would stock up just to get me to sleep those nights I'm having trouble. I am a patient, patient man. I like Kubrick, Kurusawa, and Tarkovsky films quite a bit. I can do slow. Carnivale just killed me. The pay-off just isn't worth the pain for me. Both these shows obviously have their good points... I just can't take their bad points.

Add me to the Daily Show and Firefly lists. I've been watching the former since the first season, when Beth Littleford was jerking off hogs on television. Somehow it managed to turn from a sophomoric (but funny!) little show into the most brilliant humorous criticism of culture and the lack of human intelligence on TV. I'm dumbfounded that it's American. As well as proud. So many great 'correspondents' over the years, but Stephen Colbert is an Olympian god.

Meanwhile, a single season (an aborted season, yet) of Firefly somehow became my single favorite sci fi series of all time. I liked it soooo much better than Farscape, which I enjoyed. I'm certain the Western feel had something to do with it, but such a mixing is usually just such a bad gimmick for flavor. The cancellation was just such a crime.

Ah, and greatest anime series of all time for my tastes? Cowboy Bebop. Subtitled, not dubbed (I don't know how anyone can take dubbed anime seriously... any seriousness goes right out the window for me to hear that kind of dialogue actually spoken instead of reading it with sombre Japanese delivery accompanying it). I know it's overexposed now (personally, I think its success is a great thing... get them youngsters hooked on classics!), but I remember waiting on edge with a friend for each new DVD of the series to become available for import at one point. Seriously. He'd call me up from his store and say 'It's in.' and I'd freaking rush over to his place the moment work ended. There'd be four episodes of bliss, and then the fucking comedown of knowing we had months to wait for the next installment. That's TV crack for you. The purest televised pulp, mixing so many subgenres and classic influences so beautifully and with such balance. I've stayed away from watching it now for a few years, because I don't want to kill it by repetition. Looking forward to popping that one back in again a few more years down the road.

Am I sick for posting more on this thread than any other in recent memory? The funny thing is I watch only two shows right now with any regularity, Shield and Deadwood. And they'll both be over fairly shortly. That's two hours of television a week for me, for thirteen weeks out of the year. Minus the sporadic football (soccer) game. And I manage to download an occasional Daily Show for kicks. That's my TV. I'm not a junkie. Really. No, really, I MEAN it. You gotta believe me!

Oh, Bill Moyers' NOW was a saving grace of beauty and sanity the last few years. I wish him nothing but happiness in his retirement, though I miss him so. Ahhhhh, okay. I'm a junkie. Just a picky one. So sue me.
posted by the_savage_mind at 1:29 AM on April 15, 2005

Kurosawa, damn it. That's twice I mispelled his name. For shame.
posted by the_savage_mind at 1:31 AM on April 15, 2005

All the great shows seem to get cancelled (at least over here in the UK)...
Firefly, Dead Like Me, Jake2.0, Odyssey 5.

I also quite liked the 4400 - only watched a few episodes, and now have all the DVDs to go through.

Agree that things like Northern Exposure, Drop the Dead Donkey, Coupling were funny - my parents also used to rave about "ThirtySomething", but I was too young to understand/appreciate it.

What is it that makes good TV? Dunno - humour, believable characters, interesting script/dialogue, good acting. Even something basic like having such a cool premise which has heaps of potential...

Does the act of cancelling a show make it more cool? :-)
posted by Chunder at 2:05 AM on April 15, 2005

The 4400 is pretty good. They only made 5 episodes, but a second series has now been comissioned and is being shot as I type.
posted by bap98189 at 3:12 AM on April 15, 2005

Does the act of cancelling a show make it more cool? :-)

Definitely. Supply and demand. Martyrdom. Artists vs evil stupid money grubbing executives. Oh yeah, absolutely.
posted by scheptech at 6:40 AM on April 15, 2005

About the only recent TV programmes I'll drop everything to watch are Doctor Who, Scrapheap Challenge and Dick and Dom In The Bungalow.

The first season of Curb Your Enthusiasm has to be the best comedy I've seen since Fawlty Towers - yes, it really is that great.
posted by dodgygeezer at 8:57 AM on April 15, 2005

The Daily Show is, IMO, must-see-TV for the intelligent, "reasonable" crowd, ie. the majority of American that is not caught up in right- or left-wing extremism.

I note that the season-closing episode of Scrubs was such that the series could be cancelled and no one would have hard feelings. I would be utterly content were it to be replaced by something equally good.

This is, I think, where American TV gets it all wrong: too many episodes per season, and too many seasons per show. There's this idiotic need to wring every last bit out of every last show, as if it were going to be impossible to ever produce another quality show again. We end up with these interminably boring seasons where there's simply nothing fresh going on. Witness Friends for about half its life: it should have been killed long, long, long before it was.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:10 AM on April 15, 2005

My So-Called Life was heart-rippingly good.

"This life has been a test. If it had been an actual life, you would have received actual instructions on were to go and what to do..."
posted by feelinglistless at 3:23 PM on April 15, 2005

I didn't get on with Spooks (MI5) and don't have time for Hustle, finding them both far too glossy, something I don't seem to mind as much with US TV, but dislike in shows from Britain.

I have been meaning to check out Deadwood, and am currently enjoying Veronica Mars.

Does the act of canceling a show make it more cool?

The coolest thing on British TV recently, Outlaws, was cancelled after it's first series, despite a Bafta Nomination (A fate shared by the same production companies Buried. For anyone legal shows, or Phil Daniels it's well worth checking out, tightly controlled half hour episodes with a great cast and fantastic ska soundtrack. The BBC never backed it properly when it moved to BBC2 but thankfully a DVD has just been released in the UK.
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 4:44 PM on April 15, 2005

Upstairs Downstars
I, Claudius
To Serve Them All My Days
The Sopranos
Freaks and Geeks
Fanny and Alexander (made for TV originally)
The Honeymooners
All in the Family
The Office (UK version. US version is growing on me.)
The Charmer
Rumpole of the Bailey
Prime Suspect
Curb Your Enthusiasm

In my opionion, the best TV in the 70s/80s was coming out of the UK. Not it's coming out of the USA, and it's almost all being produced by HBO. Did any of you watch the short-lived "Freaks and Geeks" on NBC? Great TV (available on DVD). It SHOULD have been on HBO. If it had been, it would still be on the air.
posted by grumblebee at 7:28 AM on April 16, 2005

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