We’re a little freaked out that it’s almost 2015. The decade is half over! To try and make sense of time passing the Recorder staff is going to write about their favorite stuff from the past 5 years in a few installments between now and the end of the year. This month we’ll wax rhapsodic about our favorite TV shows that have aired new episodes since 2010.
Um…I watch TV. Really. Uh, like, I never missed an episode of How I Met Your Mother? Or The Office? I don’t want to write about Walking Dead because it tanked after that first season, though somehow got MORE POPULAR.
I dunno. I don’t watch TV. (Editor’s Note: DO BETTER! -Bean) (Additional ed. note: Let the record show that Travis is in fact in training to become a TV writer. -Meryl) (ADDITIONAL additional ed. note: Travis does indeed watch TV. Just mostly sports. Which is very dramatic. -Andrew) (Final editor’s note: NO EXCUSES! MUST DO BETTER! -Bean)
Community might be a stock twenty-something’s answer, but it’s a wonderful show. It’s original, it’s sharp, it’s meta as hell, and its uneven/inconsistent/troubled history is the stuff of legend that any cult TV show should have. At its heart, though, it’s a show about family, and that no matter how mean-spirited people can be, circumstances can still draw disparate strangers together and turn them into loved ones who will fight with paintball, pillows, and D&D to protect their family. Because it will keep on chugging, we live in the brightest timeline. #SixSeasonsAndAMovie
This was at once difficult and easy. I went straight to Louie. Then thought of alternatives. But no, I am still me and this choice is still Louie. The series springs from the brain of producer/writer/director/actor Louis C.K. and is a rumination on his life as a divorced dad and stand-up comedian. But those ruminations can go in any direction. Episodes can be farces, naturalistic dramas, low-key romances, or surrealist interludes. Uniting all of those disparate styles is Louis C.K.’s drive to use this series as a forum to explore the human condition. He seems to know he’s no wiser than anyone else, but he got this platform anyway. Might as well be honest and focus on something meaningful in that case. He’s turned that into art of the highest order.
(Hat-tip to Mad Men, Bob’s Burgers, Community, Parks and Rec, Hannibal, Fargo, Justified, and Happy Endings. Had to mention my beloved runners-up.)
It’s been gone for more than a year, but I still miss Breaking Bad. Few shows were, or have been, as consistently good and binge-worthy. I didn’t think I’d like this show but was convinced to try season one on DVD in 2011. I proceeded to devour two and three, and then bought four the day it came out. From then on, a group of us gathered for weekly viewings until the show’s finale last August. It was by far the closest I ever got to appointment television this decade, gasping with friends over plot twists and drop-the-mic lines of Walter White’s, and then reading recaps and analysis the next day. I’ve never been more invested in a show, emotionally or otherwise. And even though I honestly thought it was an Onion article when I first read about it, I still can’t help but look forward to the Saul spin-off.
(Runners up include Parenthood, Parks & Rec, and Portlandia — all the P’s fit to view.)
I remember freshman year of college, when a big question in TV was about the rebooted Daily Show. Would it survive the transition from Craig Kilborn to Jon Stewart? Fifteen years later, we might instead wonder what TV would’ve been like without Stewart’s Daily Show? For one thing, we would not have my pick for the past half-decade’s best TV show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Last Week Tonight distills the comedy-news format from The Daily Show’s opening segment into a more potent concept — and then expands it to a 30-minute show. Doing so allows the Oliver & company to provide surprisingly in-depth journalistic segments, even if the extensive research is done in the name of better jokes. Though the focus may be on comedy, Last Week Tonight echoes and updates the satire-laced American tradition of journalism that’s existed since Ambrose Bierce penned his Devil’s Dictionary.
The start of the half-decade also marked when I shifted my free time to writing, so it takes a giant event to put me in front of the television. The Hollow Crown, the BBC’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s history plays, is such an event. Although the production values are impeccable, The Hollow Crown shuns the epic battles and spectacular visuals of recent Shakespearean film for a depiction of the pre-Tudor Britain, even the metropolis of London, as a dark, wintry, place; a land of barren uncertainty where intimacy is valued, words carry weight, and human drama thus runs suitably high. The first series, covering Richard II, Henry IV (Parts I and II), and Henry V successfully conveys the intermingling of stark realism and sublime poetry with help from a perfect cast, including Ben Whishaw as a sensitive Richard II, Tom Hiddleston as a charismatic, emotionally honest Prince Hal/Henry V, and Simon Russell Beale hobbling, blustering, and provoking pathos as a definitive Falstaff. The second series, covering the Wars of the Roses and featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III, should live up to its predecessor.
I love The Mindy Project because it has good fart jokes and plenty other physical humor: main character Mindy Lahiri shaves her arms and nose hairs and announces she has “the biggest cans in town.” Still, the humor doesn’t draw attention to itself in an obnoxious way, a la laugh tracks. It’s often more contextual. A running joke about Danny, fellow Ob/Gyn and Mindy’s love interest, is that though he’s young, he acts like an old man: he owns a pair of reading glasses that snap together at the nose. Best of all, I love that Mindy is a smart, successful Ob/Gyn, who’s stylish and competent but is sometimes a mess: she’ll lay tragically on the floor of her office when she’s upset–something I wish I could do, but the open-floor plan in my office discourages such tragic gestures. I doubt that’d stop Dr.Mindy Lahiri.
(Ed. Note: Becky isn’t one of our regular writers, but has covered TV for us before and watches SO MUCH OF IT – Bean)
I probably watch more TV than everyone else in this article…combined. So after all those days lost, my choice for show of the past half decade is Mad Men. It is simply not like any other show on the air. Its complex elliptical story lines, its attention to period detail, and its amazing technical accomplishments (just look at the work Janie Bryant does on those costumes) are all without peer. The series transcends simple stories about men and women who are unhappy in life by layering in a historical context that makes every line, look, and plume of cigarette smoke shimmer with meaning. The people of Sterling Cooper don’t know what their lives mean in the moment, but that just makes them more resonant to viewers today. Also, it is ridiculous that this show has not won even one acting Emmy.
Shout-out to Hannibal, which is my runner-up. #FannibalForever