This review will naturally contain some spoilers, those which do say *spoilers* next to them. So don’t get bitchy if you are stupid enough to read them and ruin a show for yourself.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
In life there are many questions, however one question stands above all others in importance. What would Larry David do? To people who have never seen Curb Your Enthusiasm, you have missed the best (see how it’s underlined for emphasis, so I really mean the best) comedy of its generation, and one of the best comedies ever.
The show is mainly unscripted and follows the hilariously brilliant Larry David playing a fictionalised version of himself (which incidentally is one of the greatest TV characters around) as he falls into awkward and crazy social situations which have a tendency to end in hilarious consequences, usually because of Larry’s own ineptitudes (which you find yourself agreeing with far too often, damn shmohawks).
What makes this show unbelievably excellent (other than Larry) is the way that each season has its own story progress. Whether it’s preparing for a stage show or making a Seinfeld reunion to get his wife back, each season has its own persona where every episode adds to the overall plot of that season.
In many ways Curb is similar to Seinfeld in the way the seasons are produced, it’s a bit like Seinfeld but more edgy and with swearing. Curb/Seinfeld should be the basis for all comedy shows to base how to write a proper well-structured season.
So why is it getting and honourable mention I hear you scream? Well the incredible season 8 was shown in 2011, we’re now in 2013 and so far there is no indication of whether or not there will be another season. So for me that is not a current TV show, even if it has not officially concluded. Nonetheless, if you have not seen Curb Your Enthusiasm as of yet, you are missing one of the greatest shows of all time.
Boardwalk Empire *spoilers*
I swithered about putting this in the top 5, but when I looked at my other nominees I kind of felt that there was a lack of diversity. However I don’t believe there is much between Boardwalk and No. 4 and 5.
Anyway this is a really good show and if I had made this list last year there is no doubt in my mind that this would have been top 5 no problem, but season 3 (which I did enjoy) was the weakest the show has produced so far. It felt like after they killed Jimmy at the end of season 2, they just didn’t really know where to go with themselves. I can understand that it is difficult to move on after you have killed off you second main character but the show just had a taste of another over exposed American TV show.
Gyp Rosetti was a great character and Bobby Cannavale (who played Gyp) was awesome, but Boardwalk fell into that classic TV hole where they introduce a new antagonist in the first episode and then boom he is dead by the last episode. It is a hole where it becomes obvious where seasons begin and end and it takes away the tension of anything this character does because you always feel that in the end the good guy is going to win regardless of how horrific the bad guy is (I’m looking at you Dexter).
Nonetheless Steve Buscemi is still epic in the role as Nucky and because they based the show on true events it allows for several passages for future seasons to go down. The potential for Boardwalk is almost endless (with notable characters like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, among others), hopefully season 4 is more along the lines of seasons 1 and 2, to get this great TV show back on track.
Right onto the real list.
5. Modern Family
Currently this is the best comedy on television. There is a reason that the cast of Modern Family tend to dominate the comedy nominations at the Emmy’s. Who is the main character is Modern Family? Is there one? Not really. Modern Family is very much a cast comedy, a show that does not rely on just one performance to carry the show ala Two and a Half Men with and without Charlie Sheen (is that show still on?…..really?……Jesus……).
Don’t get me wrong there are a number of standout performances from Eric Stonestreet, Ty Burrel, Sofia Vergara, Rico Rodriguez and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (who’s like 5 and is a better performer than Ashton Kutcher (damn Two and a Half Men sucks…….why is that show still on?).
Each episode is well constructed and each episode stands on its own. If there is a criticism of the show it would be that there is very little season plot and at times it goes in a circle with its storylines (this isn’t a surprise considering they have done almost 100 episodes, some of them will be similar). Nonetheless this is very much the best current comedy on TV and also the best show produced by American network channels.
4. The Walking Dead *spoilers*
It was a tight decision between TWD and Boardwalk to which would make the top 5, but TWD just edged it slightly. I like TWD; it’s a high action you don’t know what’s round the corner show that has a tendency to kill off its major characters without a second thought. Although loosely (and I mean loosely) based upon the comic book series of the same name, it has a tendency to go along its own line of progression which allows for more flexibility on popular characters or the loss of actors from the series.
It’s hard to make a zombie based show stand out, because it is such an over saturated genre, but TWD is easily the best. They tend to look at the emotional side of people as much as they look at the killing zombie side, and they do it well, which is why it is a cut above. The acting is generally good and the progression of the storyline tends to keep going but the show can be a bit inconsistent. On one hand you get incredible episodes such as the first four episodes of season 3, where stalwarts of the show are knocked off like they’re bit characters (Merle, Shane, Laurie among others) and the show is incredibly exciting and emotional.
On the other hand you get a lot of episodes where quite frankly nothing happens or they’re anti-climactic such as the season 3 finale or episode 9 from season 3. The second half of season 3 was not nearly as good as the first half of season 3, partially because they set such high expectations for the show but also because they clearly changed their minds on the governor (keeping him on for another season rather than killing him off). There have been introductions of new major characters throughout the show (Maggie and Hershel in season 2 and Tyreese in season 3) and it allows for the show to feel fresh. There are issues such as occasional plot holes and the tendency for the show to knock off their black characters just as they introduce new ones (T-Dog nooooooooo).
TV shows which do too many plot twists and OMG moments desensitise the viewer from what is going on, so something major happens and you’re like meh (cough*Homeland season 2*cough), and this is an area that the TWD really has to try and avoid falling into, who knows by season 5 it will just be Rick left with his split personalities, that could be a laugh maybe……
Anyway TWD is a good show and is well worth catching if for some reason you haven’t, but expect highs and lows in terms of your emotional state and your frustration as TWD manages to pull both at the same time. When The Walking Dead is good it is easily one of the best shows on TV, however it has too many low episodes too really compete against the top 3.
3. Mad Men
Just a great show. Don Draper is one of the greatest characters of all time. He’s everything. He is cool, a ladies man, successful, rich, handsome (oh god he is handsome), the guy has everything yet he is a depressed alcoholic who likes cheating on his wife on a regular basis. Regardless of all of this who doesn’t want to be Don Draper?
Don is by far the best character on the show and he is the focal point but to say he is the only character is a disservice to the rest of a very good cast. Roger is amazing as the useless lazy past his prime rich playboy, almost like a richer less successful or talented version of Don. Pete Campbell is a right dick, nough said. There is a host of other great characters like Joan, Peggy and Harry Crane to name a few in a show that is carried by its strong characters as much as by the style and nostalgia of the era it is set in.
Not much really happens in Mad Men yet that is ok, because you tune in to watch the characters as much as the actual show, and although quite often stories sort of repeat themselves (generally Don’s indiscretions) Mad Men still plods along quite nicely, always making you want more.
2. Game of Thrones
This show is excellent and if it weren’t for the greatness of no. 1 this would easily be the best show on television. People have commented that GOT is like a grownups Lord of the Rings but it is more than that. As great as LOTR is (and oh god it is great), GOT is only comparable in the fact that they are both fantasy.
Similarish (a word I have invented btw) to LOTR, GOT has a vast cast of characters each with a differing story progression that occasionally will interlink with each other in an intelligent manner, but GOT just does it better. A large part of this is the format in which the books have been written but more so because GOT is a 10 part series compared to LOTR being a 3 hour movie, it allows for GOT to go into incredibly great details of all its characters. Part of the greatness of GOT is that unlike some shows it does not rely solely on action scenes to sell the show to viewers.
The politics played in GOT is unbelievable, as characters posture themselves into positions to receive leverage and avoid betrayal from so called friends. Everyone is in it for themselves; add this together with the brilliant action scenes, incredible plot twists and very good acting from one of the largest casts on TV.
Season 3 which has just concluded covers the first part of the third book and there is already the structure set down for a further 3 seasons plus more once George R.R.Martin gets his finger out. Game of Thrones is a piece of television masterpiece and is not only one of the best current TV shows but will also probably go down as one of the greatest shows of all time.
1. Breaking Bad
If GOT is excellent then Breaking Bad is a masterpiece.
With the second half of season 5 (the concluding season) coming later this year, we will truly be able to judge if BB belongs in the pantheon of amazing shows such as the Wire and The Sopranos. Who would have thought that a TV show about an under performing chemistry teacher who gets cancer and decides one day that cooking crystal meth is a good way to leave money for his family after he is dead. It sounds sort of silly but the reality of it is that it is pure genius.
Walter White knocks the door to becoming one of the greatest characters of all time, and who would have thought that Hal from Malcolm in the Middle could reinvent himself so well. Jesse Pinkman as his gangsta (loose use of the phrase) sidekick/meth assistant is a great character to play off the apparent by the book ways of Walter White. The father son relationship that is created between the two is so well designed as Walter yearns to help save Jesse from his demons.
BB is not about cooking meth and dealing drugs. BB is about the relationship of a man as he strives to do what he perceives to be the correct decisions for his family and himself before he dies and how he struggles with these decisions and how they affect those around him.
What makes BB a cut above every other show is that you could watch all 54 episodes in a row and struggle to distinguish when each season begins and ends. I doubt from the start the writers knew where they would be by the fifth season but you honestly couldn’t tell the writing is that good. When watching BB you don’t question the moral decisions Walter makes, you understand them and you understand the way that each character evolves as the show progresses.
Breaking Bad has very few down moments in the series as a whole, it really is the best show on television. Depending on how season 5 concludes later this year, we could be talking about potentially the greatest show of all time.
There you go, the top 5 TV shows currently on television. What do you think? Have I missed a blatantly obvious show without realising it? Or have I got it spot on? Leave a comment and show your opinion it would be greatly appreciated.