Posted by: Nathan | January 30, 2009

The Best of Television

I present to you, dear reader, what I think is the best of what’s on television. I hope you find my list useful because crappy TV is ubiquitous.  All times listed are Mountain Standard Time because I live in Colorado and no one ever lists things in MST.

10. 30 Rock. Thu, 8:30 pm, NBC. I watched this because it’s on right after The Office. I don’t yet love the show, but it consistently makes me laugh. Tina Fey is a talented writer, and I love Alec Baldwin as her boss.

9. Jeopardy!. M-F, 6 pm, ABC (where we live). The best game show of all time is always mentally stimulating and interesting. When I don’t know the correct responses (which is often), I learn a lot. What else do you need?

8. Project Runway. Wed, 8 pm, (currently out of season) Bravo. I hate reality television as a rule, but I make the exception for Runway. Yes, it’s a show about fashion. Yes, most of its contestants are jerks. It’s likable, however, because unlike most all other reality shows, the participants need talent to win. A lot of talent. “Make me a fashionable dress by midnight using car parts” talent. I disagree with the judges half the time, but it’s a fun ride and a creative show.

7. The Colbert Report. M-F, 10:30 pm, Comedy Central. Colbert is The Daily Show‘s smarter, more enjoyable fraternal twin. While I tire of Jon Stewart’s incredulous whining, Colbert is ever-hilarious. I love his stuck-up shtick (especially when he takes the applause for every guest), and his interviews are always awesome. This is especially the case when the interviewee doesn’t realize how goofy Colbert is. Of all the fake news shows, this is the best, and it’s almost invariably better than anything on CNN.

6. Masterpiece. Sun, 9 pm, PBS. What better way to kick off your week than with high-quality productions of the best stories ever told? Masterpiece almost always lives up to its name, especially when it’s Masterpiece Classic or Masterpiece Mystery!. The contemporary third of the programming year isn’t as good. They just finished airing a two-part production of Wuthering Heights, and it was impressive. J and I also first found the Miss Marple series through this program. There needs to be more of this kind of TV.

5. The Soup. Fri, 8 pm, E!. Bad television DEMANDS to be mocked. Thankfully, Joel McHale and the folks at The Soup agree with me. This show compiles a half hour of the dumbest garbage on television and relentlessly makes fun of it with hilarious results. Every week is different. The show can be crass (using reality TV clips? Really?), but it’s well worth it. One wishes the show were a full hour.

4. Flight of the Conchords. HBO. I don’t know what time this show airs because I don’t get HBO, but if you do, you need to watch this show! The musical misadventures of New Zealanders Bret and Jermaine are off-the-wall and full of laughs. The deadpan dialogue dovetails neatly with the absurd content of the show. And the songs–the songs! I have the first season on DVD and can’t wait to see more. Brilliant!

3. Pardon the Interruption. M-F, 3:30pm, ESPN. The four-letter network is brimming with poor programming these days as it has consistently altered its content away from substance and systematically fired or lost its talent. It saddens me to say this, but it’s true, that PTI is the only show worth watching on ESPN anymore (live events excluded). PTI is excellent because Tony Kornheiser (Kyle’s boy) and Michael Wilbon (my boy) are everything sportscasters should be. They always have the right mixture of humor, substance, insight, analysis, and–thankfully–sanity. They don’t spend the entire show speculating about what may happen. They react to the news, and never over-react–a trait that sadly missing in all media these days. Love this show.

2. The Office. Thu, 8 pm, NBC. This is currently the best comedy on TV. The hi-jinks of Michael, Jim, Pam, Dwight, et al. were brought to my attention by my brother and Kyle; I finally listened and bought season one. I subsequently bought all the other seasons because it was so good! The character interactions are priceless, and the ridiculous situations are comic gold. Who couldn’t love the Jim/Pam saga? The show is at its best when Jim and Dwight are at odds. This season hasn’t been as good as others thus far, but The Office is still must-watch TV for me.

1. Lost. Wed, 8 pm, ABC. If you are not watching this show, you cannot conceive of the quality of programming you’re missing. This show is consistently moving, suspenseful, engaging and surprising. The characters are superbly crafted and acted. The plot keeps a staggering amount of plates spinning, yet the show never comes apart. The writing on this show is unmatched in current programming. This is season 5 of 6, so I suggest you jump on board while you can. It’s a great idea to catch up via DVD if possible, but don’t miss out. Wow.

If I’ve forgotten some of my favorite shows, I’ll add them later. Now, dear reader, what currently running shows am I missing out on? American Idol and everything on MTV is right out.


  1. HOUSE: Seriously. Where do I begin. Hugh Laurie is amazing. The writing is great. I can’t do the show justice. We started watching with the 3rd-to-last episode of season one, and used Bit Torrent to get all caught up before the season finale. Even now in season 5, the show is better than ever.

    BIG BANG THEORY: Barenaked Ladies wrote and performed the theme song. Done. Ok, but seriously, what a great show. Easily my favorite sitcom right now. Geek humor (real geek humor, that actually makes sense instead of just being made up). Certainly not for everybody, but I HIGHLY recommend it.

    HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER would probably make my top ten with no troubles. Certainly THE OFFICE too, but you mentioned it. I might sort out the rest and post again later.

    Oh, and I love watching JEOPARDY, but don’t like Trebek. Not that the show would be as good without him, I’m just saying I don’t like him.

  2. You’ve got some excellent shows on that list. I don’t know about MASTERPIECE, but I trust your taste. I’m not as big on THE SOUP, either.

    I have to disagree that COLBERT is betterthan THE DAILY SHOW, although it’s still excellent. I find TDS to be over the top at times, but I resonate with it’s humor more. The best stuff on TDS is when they make fun of the media. Or when they pull out an obscure clip from the past that creates such fine cognitive dissonance. Most recently, this happened when they compared parts of Obama’s inaugural to one of Bush’s to show that the rhetoric hadn’t changed all that much. Very good stuff.

    In order from 1-10, I would put my favorite TV shows thusly: The Office, Lost, PTI, The Daily Show, Top Chef, 30 Rock, Chuck, Psych, How I Met Your Mother, and Project Runway. Honorable mention to House, Inside the Actor’s Studio, and The Biggest Loser (although the frequency of commercials is excruciating)

  3. Hey! I Love your blog! I have you on my home page, so I can keep up on Your latetest thoughts. Does that make me your number one fan? Ha Ha!I am slowly but surely becoming more web. savy and having a good time doing so. HOWEVER NOTHING beats the sound of your voice, my son. I think Lost has long gone over the deep end for my taste. ALAN AND I do like Crusoe alot and I like Project runway. We have also joined Net Flix and will be getting the first season of The Office. I am still struggling to relearn typing so forgive my many errors. My patience is about used up so will say goodbye for now. LJE

  4. I don’t know how, but I forgot SCRUBS. I’m really astonished; it’s one of my all time favorites. I guess it’s the fact that it moved networks and was off the air for awhile. I would put it at #3 and bump PROJECT RUNWAY off the top 10.

  5. I think my TV top ten would go something like this:

    10. Grey’s Anatomy: getting a little worn out on it as it gets soapier. Patrick Dempsey’s character is still the highlight.

    9. Samantha Who: This show is hilarious. I don’t watch that many sitcoms, but Christina Applegate hits it out of the park. Her mom is also great.

    8. Anthony Bourdain – No Reservations: Bourdain has the best job in the world, traveling around the world and eating. He’s so cynical and grumpy, yet you can tell he’s really fond of the people he meets. Very good writing, as well.

    7. Private Practice: This one is a good guilty pleasure. Really like Kate Walsh and the cast, but I’m afraid I’ll get tired of the writing, like with Grey’s.

    6. Masterpiece Theatre: Ditto what Nathan said. It’s a wonderful respite from all the in-your-face stuff that’s on TV. And no commercials!

    5. What Not to Wear: I never get tired of it. I love seeing the inner and outer transformations that the women go through. Stacy and Clinton are so good at what they do.

    4. Top Chef/Project Runway: Whichever one is on, I watch. The best reality shows on TV. I like them both for different reasons, but I think T.C. wins out slightly due to much less drama.

    3. The Office: I only watch it on DVD, so I haven’t been keeping up with this season. Love it, though. Steve Carell is a genius!

    2. Bones: I’m a new convert, and now I’ve got all 3 seasons on DVD. Love the writing because it’s different and develops the characters realistically. Does all the crime procedure stuff but with a lot more human interest and humor.

    1. It’s gotta be LOST. I’ve been on the island with them almost since the first episode. I’ve never paid as much attention to a TV show. Complex, brilliant, well-written and acted. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

    Honorable mentions to: The Amazing Race, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Monk, and 30 Rock.

  6. Good stuff, all. I almost added Scrubs to my list, but I don’t follow it faithfully. I always enjoy it when it happens to be on. I’ve heard only good things about House, so maybe I’ll have to look into that one more.

    J & I used to watch How I Met Your Mother, but it loses out to Jon and Kate Plus 8 in that Monday time slot. Not sure which I prefer of those two; J likes the latter. JKP8 is a fun show as long as Kate isn’t too grumpy or hard on Jon, and she’s getting more and more that way.

    Samantha Who?, eh Karen? That, like Chuck and other shows is one that I don’t watch because I can’t figure out its premise and am too lazy to bother. Top Chef is also doing quite well among y’all. Is the host really a chef or is she just eye candy? I’m guessing eye candy.

    It’s fun to hear what everyone watches!

  7. I miss PTI a lot, I must say…I love that show.

    I don’t know what to do about Lost. Everyone says it’s great, but I’ve never seen an episode. Then people tell me not to watch anything new, just watch 4 SEASONS of episodes and get caught up…that would take me forever! Plus, I’m not going to spend the money on them. In the end, I think I’ll just stay out of the pool, I suppose…

    I love Charlie Rose. He’s on PBS around 10:30 central. He brings on very intelligent & influential guests from a variety of backgrounds in current events, politics, literature, music, etc…and they discuss issues for an hour! No commercials, just intellectual banter. Good stuff

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