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23 July 2015 @ 06:37 pm
All-time Favourite TV Shows 2  
I was editing my television ranking post and it got TOO LONG! Let's have here the shows from M - Z.

Mad Men [Ranked]
It's over! How odd. I've had a strange relationship with Mad Men. Sometimes starting to watch an episode felt like a chore, but once I got to it, I tended to enjoy it. There were a few episodes that I hated, and there were some episodes that I absolutely loved. Mostly it retained a very high level of quality. I have a history of loving the female characters on this show and hating Don Draper. Overall I am content with the ending (unlike a lot of others, it seems): I feel that it wrapped up things nicely, gave a suitable amount of fan service, and even in its frustrating aspects was true to what Mad Men was as a show.

Mad Men is clearly a product of careful love. It has (mostly) great writing and acting, stylewise it's unmistakable even if the fashion changes throughout the show, and some of the moments captured are visually stunning. The pace is slow, yet intriguing, and manages a steady vibe and atmosphere - and when there are changes to the pace, it tends to make sense (as in, it supports storyline or setting changes). For an analytic mind it provides many thematic conversation points to ponder about. However, I also understand that Mad Men is not for everyone and not for every mood. Oh and just to make sure you all know, I hate Don Draper.

I'd like to give special love to my complex ladies Peggy, Joan and Betty, and little Sally, and from the male cast I'd like to give a special nod to Vincent Kartheiser's Pete Campbell - that... disgusting, unintentionally hilarious little snake that I still couldn't hate, likely because of how well he was portrayed by the actor.

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD [Disappointments]
Unlike some, I've enjoyed the show since it started, although I agree it has improved since those days, too. It's fun and has also become increasingly dramatic and epic. I absolutely love the cast and characters, and the characters have grown so much, become more complex, and I root for them so much. (If The Sopranos is the show with characters you don't want to become friends with or have a drink with, AoS is the exact opposite.) Their relationships with each other are also interesting to me, and I think I like how little actual romance there has been so far. Without spoiling any details, I love what happened with Ward; I think his arc really elevated the show and reveals that the showrunners are willing to go Places with the storyline, and that makes it more intriguing.

I've enjoyed the humour in the Marvel films of recent years, and Agents of SHIELD gives me that on the telly. I do feel that television as a medium gives me a better chance to truly connect with the characters than the limited time on film, so this show is great for me.

I'm not sure how well I will remember the show ten years from now, and how it will wrap up, but right now I'm enjoying it a lot, and that's what counts!

Update 06-17: I think at some point the writing quality just dropped a lot. Finally, at one point, I was watching this show and Rectify at the same time and... going back to AoS after Rectify was just painful. It was no longer fun. It truly pains me to abandon this show because there are, or were, so many characters and actors that I really like still... Some said the writing became better again, but unfortunately, I just can't justify wading through the bad parts when I've got so much good stuff to watch. The competition is too tough. So sadly, I am officially giving up on AoS...

Mindhunter [Ranked]
Well, considering years back I started watching Criminal Minds because the profiling of serial killers intrigued me, it's probably no surprise that I would be interested in a show that depicts how this profiling got started at FBI in the first place. Overall, I was really pleased with it. I think the main characters all bring something to the table; Holden was somewhat vanilla at first, but that changes. The killers that they interview are suitably creepy. The show seems to spend a lot of time in the ethically grey areas, which makes sense. Also, I am SO HAPPY to see Anna Torv of Fringe fame on a really good show that's also thematically interesting to me. It's really all a fan could ask for: another great opportunity for a beloved actor. ♥ The violence against women in the crime photos and crimes described (but not shown) are disheartening, but I guess there's no way around that, since most serial killers do target women.

I have great expectations and hopes for the future of the show; I worry about praising a show too much after just the first season (when we know there are plans for more; s1 finale does not work as a series finale), but I think if you can handle crime shows, this one's worth checking out. A word of warning that some viewers felt that the first episode or two were slow.

Mr. Robot [Disappointment]
When I started watching this show I knew it as something that was considered a dark horse and unexpected gem among the new batch of shows in 2015. It does have unexpected or at least well executed twists and turns, but I still don't feel as though it lived up to my expectations. It took several episodes for me to start seeing the greatness that others had advertised. I did quite like it and I'm somewhat curious about the next season, however. I think someone that didn't have the expectations that I did would very much enjoy it.

Update 06-17: I watched the first three episodes of seasons two and realized I did not care at all about what was going to happen. To the characters, to the world depicted in the show, nothing. I had no emotional connection. All style, no content? Again, some say the rest of the season is better, but I just can't be arsed. I seriously had no interest to keep going.

Orange is the New Black [Ranked]
Haaa. I binge-watched through the three seasons in just a few weeks, which for me is super fast. I heard from others that the show drops a bit in quality by season 3, but I genuinely enjoyed all of it, aside from minor criticisms like some storylines could have been dropped earlier. It's a little insane how much I enjoyed watching this show.

OITNB takes place in a women's prison, the kind where people who committed 'lesser crimes' go (yeah yeah, I'm not using legit legal vocabulary). The main character is Piper, a rich white girl whose entrance to the prison is also our introduction to its world, and (thankfully) she eventually comes to share a lot of screentime with other characters with a very different background. (I initially only watched the pilot and did not like it, and I think Piper and her fiancé had a lot to do with it. It took me over a year to decide to watch the second episode, which I then loved.) The show employs flashbacks to tell us more about the inmates, sometimes revealing why they got convicted and other times only providing a character study, and both approaches are quite welcome. It is a colourful bunch of unique and complex characters, which is likely why I got into the show so much. Some of them have fascinating character arcs. Piper herself goes through a transformation that I love to see in a lead female character. She is so not a Mary Sue.

I would describe OITNB as a dramedy - it definitely has strong dramatic storylines, but it also has a lot of comedic silliness and I think if it was purely interpreted as a drama it would certainly seem shitty, since it's not very credible as a realistic portrayal of prison life. But in the personal stories of the characters it can get very real and painful. One of the episodes in season 3 was so effective that it might never leave me. I wish I could say what it was about, but I was completely blindsided by it and it ended up being very effective, so I'd rather just recommend you to watch the show with all its tears and laughter. I think it's well worth it!

Update after season four: I feel like I shouldn't have binged through the season so quickly, because I feel that in the end it ended up having a small impact and I don't remember many details of what happened in it. I liked that there was focus on new characters, though. I still enjoyed the show, but I think I feel more hesitant about naming it "one of the best".

Update after season five: I really enjoyed the prison riot season, with all the ugly, dirty, and beautiful that it showed. It made me think again that I care about these people, and all through the season I was worried sick that something horrible would happen to them. (Well, except those who were being awful.) That made the experience rather suspenseful. If s4 felt like a bit of a nosedive, this one went in the opposite direction for me.

Orphan Black [Ranked]
Clones! Tatiana Maslany is amazing at portraying a crapload of clones with unique personalities - you seriously forget that it's only one person doing all of the roles. The show has some fun mysteries and shock moments and interesting characters. As with many shows on my list, despite the show being a drama, it also has funny moments. Season 2 felt a bit all over the place and unbelievable, and by season 3 I needed to take a break because of a shifted focus that I wasn't excited about. However, I did end up finishing it and by the end was enjoying the show again. Season 4 introduced new villains and got quite exciting at times, but it's also got a bit stale how new deeper networks keep popping up out of nowhere. I think the show should end after the next season, to be honest, instead of trying to keep building up new secretive organizations on top of old ones. Anyway, Alison, her husband, and Felix are amazing characters and give me much joy.

I don't think Orphan Black is a top quality show when it comes to writing; the viewer has to be willing to forgive some things happening that don't seem very plausible. But the good moments are lovely, so I'd recommend it as a 6.5/10 type of show that may at times become even 9/10 because of fun character moments.

OZ [Ranked]
There is a side of me that is fascinated with horror and evil and crime (in theory! not in real life!) and OZ is the perfect mixed candy bag of violence, hope destroying injustice and ruthlessness, yet also moments of satisfying ass-kicking. OZ is a (rather unrealistic) show about a male prison ward with some of the most fucked-up and dangerous criminals and as one might imagine, this often results in brutal clashes and their brutal outcomes. But it isn't only about power struggles and personal feuds inside the prison. Certainly the show has many mind-blowing moments, great acting and fascinating characters. But more than anything it is very well made. Starting a new episode to me felt like diving into a dark pool from the deep end. It's hard to explain OZ as an experience, probably because it's been quite a few years since I watched it... But although it could be brutal, it was also impossible to look away. A viewer that can handle violence will enjoy this show, I think. But be prepared, it gets pretty awful.

Back in these days HBO still also showed male genitalia, not merely unnecessarily naked women like today. Hooray for penis wiggling on television. I miss u.

Shortly put this show is extremely violent, but in an intriguing, high quality and deliciously crushing way, haha.

Update 06-17: I started re-watching the show this spring for a while and made it to somewhere in season two. I think the storytelling started getting a bit wobbly earlier than I'd remembered, so I dropped the show a few ranks. I also could not keep watching when I remembered some of the things that were going to happen to Beecher and I realized I had no real desire to go through that again. Still an entertaining show, but probably not one I will want to watch again.

Popular [Ranked]
When I was a teen, Popular was a TV show about an American high school in which the main story was based on the popular cheerleader Brooke suddenly becoming step sisters with the unpopular Sam. Except probably more from Sam's perspective. A lot of different teenage/life issues were handled on the show in a quirky way; think Glee, but more amazing and without singing. (I mention Glee because, if I recall correctly, Popular was by the same showrunner.) The popular kids aren't 100% evil and the unpopular kids aren't 100% perfect. As time went on the show became more and more batshit insane, aka super entertaining, but maybe it's for the better that it was cancelled after two seasons because some of the plans for season 3 sounded sketchy. Despite the show's general craziness, it featured some things that I found rather easy to relate to. Sam's obsessive bitterness towards Brooke hopefully made me better may ways; I think a lot of the less popular kids harbour some dislike or even hate towards more popular kids whether it's truly earned or not. I was definitely an alternative kid myself and thought being 'different' was the coolest. But it's such a silly concept because, well, define 'different'.

Anyway, I still often think about this show, and it provided the perfection of a character that is Mary Cherry. I would recommend it for people who like enjoyable things. (... No, seriously.)

Rectify [Ranked]
I finished watching the first season, so I'm entering the show on the ranking. Rectify is a rather depressing, heart-breaking show about a man who has been on death row for 19 years, but released after new DNA tests. His return home is complicated. The show is not easy watching, but quite beautifully written and greatly acted. Definitely a character study more than anything. I'm placing it last on my list for now because I actually tend to like more joy in my shows, it's a personal preference. But that doesn't mean that this show isn't worth watching.

Update 06-17: In season two, the beautiful heartbreak continues. I really came to appreciate the show during its second season and it rose from spot 38 to 18. I still have not fully caught up with the show, so it may go up still once I see even more. I kind of expect it to. This show is so, so well done and acted and ah.

Skins [Honorable mention]
This show was initially on the "disappointments" list, and I'm not sure why, maybe because I haven't watched all of it and don't plan on doing it? But I harbour no ill feelings. Anyway, Skins is a very over-the-top show of teenagers going through some fucked up shit. The first season of it was probably genuinely great (as in "would recommend"), and the rest was enjoyable but in a different way, perhaps. It did get very extreme and even strange at times. Some of the characters and situations remain very memorable and still come to my mind at times, so it had some special quality and power about it. The show featured three different 'generations' of teens with a mixed reception; I'm not going to diss any of the generations because I thought they all did a good job, they were just different. Skins was a pretty unique show, but mostly just... weird fun, also for those who enjoy pain. Quite a few of the actors who had their first big role on this show have moved on to have pretty impressive careers; I did find that the show provided material for great young talents to be discovered. Jack O'Connell is probably my favourite.

The Sopranos [Ranked]
I felt like I needed to justify why The Sopranos is so low on my list despite it often topping lists ranking the best shows ever, so the write-up in my notes focused a lot on what I didn't like about the show. Looking back on it I don't like those notes, so let's try rewriting this thing.

The Sopranos, if you are not familiar, focuses on mafia in the US, and especially on the fictional Sopranos family. The main character, Tony Soprano, is an awful sociopath who also suffers from panic attacks and seeks psychiatric help for it. That is where the series starts. Most of the characters aren't really likable at all, and most of them will die (I don't consider this a spoiler because the show is rather famous for it). If you like someone initially, fear not - they will be revealed as selfish, entitled, materialistic, self-pitying, and lacking of self-awareness eventually. And they will likely die. This isn't the kind of show you watch to see characters you'd like to have a drink with or be friends with. These characters are horrifying each in their own way, even Tony's wife and kids (even if I don't consider Meadow as bad as the rest in the end, but she definitely has flaws and issues as well). Because of this The Sopranos may be a challenging viewing experience at times, and to me there were moments when it felt like a chore to continue watching, since I wasn't really sure I cared what happened. But the show is, generally speaking, very well-written, intriguing, awful (in a darkly entertaining way) and has great acting. It feels like the actors are living and breathing their characters; I'd like to give Edie Falco some special props because I find her character (Carmela, Tony's wife) quite subtly complex and she portrays this perfectly. I mean, initially it is easy to perceive her as a sort of 'typical Italian-American mobster housewife' (whatever that is), but she has quite complex motivations and aspirations and issues with morality; but she is also filled up with the same deluded bullshit that makes it possible for this criminal lifestyle to thrive as it is supported by wives that pretend they don't know where the money is coming from, and if they do, eventually they don't care because it allows them to live like a queen.

It must be evidence of the show's richness how much there is to talk about when discussing the characters and storylines. What I personally didn't like much was... The obligatory titty ratio that Game of Thrones continues to have today, all of Tony's fuck toys that were way too hot for him (because of how predictable it all was in a tiring way: "oh a hot lady? He's going to fuck her zzz"), that the fact that people were killed off so casually resulted in it becoming more surprising for someone to survive than not, and so the deaths were eventually not that shocking, especially when usually there were several episodes or even seasons of story arc that made one think "this isn't going to end well for him/her". I hate that one of the mobsters got away with beating a 19-year-old prostitute to death with a tsk tsk and then later got killed for killing a horse - which is also awful, but come on! Hey guys, it's okay to beat girls to death, but don't you dare hurt the animals! That's where the line goes!

But yes. The Sopranos is a great show, that can't be denied, but I feel there were others I've enjoyed and looked forward to watching more, even if they are not nearly as critically applauded... So that's why it ranks where it ranks. But I would recommend it to anyone who watches television with a mature mind because there really is a lot to chew on - even if the question you are asking is as simple as "why am I watching this" or "why was this show made".

Stranger Things
Stranger Things, to me, was a cute little show with scifi elements in an awesome '80s setting, but not that much more than that. I know, it's getting a lot of praise from the fandom circles, but I wasn't blown away by it. The friendship between the kids was the best part, probably.

Survivor is the only reality show on my list, but well earns its spot. It has over 30 seasons now, not all of which I have seen, but I am content with how much I have. I catch up every Thursday morning on the latest episode and look forward to each season. Basically, I still get excited about Survivor. It's so good. It's hard for me to say what exactly about it is so fascinating; I enjoy the strategy, sure, but not as much as many others, and some castaways are entertaining, sure, but only a few are selected to my selective list of "favourite players". I think, especially these days, it boils down to Survivor being done with heart and genuine love for the show. The people involved genuinely want to create the best show possible with what they have and this shows in how the episodes are edited and how every aspect of the show from challenges to the planning of twists is made. Jeff Probst, even with some flaws, is a legend as a host and should be winning best host awards left and right every year. Certain little things are frustrating; I think the white-straight to non-white-non-straight ratio of casting is still not quite balanced to the extent I'd like it to be. Some seasons the editing is so focused on one player that if you don't happen to like that particular player, watching is hardly enjoyable (Samoa is one of the seasons I have not seen; no way am I subjecting myself to that much Russell). But besides that, when Survivor is good it's so fucking amazing and makes me laugh out loud and clap my hands and getting that reaction out of me is no easy feat. I will probably keep watching Survivor as long as they keep making it.

Top of the Lake [Ranked]
Top of the Lake is a beautiful and disturbing experience. It only has one season so far. I think I knew it was going to be an interesting show when I saw that the girl whose story starts the show is (half-)Asian instead of a blonde blue-eyed one. And btw, that girl acts so freaking well. Elizabeth Moss, who does the lead role and was previously known to me as Peggy on Mad Men, is also amazing and possibly cemented herself as one of my favourite actresses in this. I don't want to reveal anything about the story, but there is an ambivalent feeling of hope and hopelessness that is quite lovely. I also did not expect the show to be as dark as it turned out to be in the end. Worth mentioning is that the story is set in a gorgeous place (New Zealand). I would recommend it, yes!

True Blood [Disappointment]
True Blood - shortly put a show of humans, vampires and other supernatural creatures, and a whole lotta sex and violence. I started and continued watching this show for a while for it being cracky insane fun, but I suppose it got overwhelmingly so even for me, so I ended up quitting. The way Stryfe was describing the viewing experience as painful towards the end makes me glad I stopped when I did, but I'm sure it also continued to have some fun cracky moments up until the end.

True Detective [Disappointment]
True Detective (first season) is a show where two cops with mismatching personalities, during a period of seventeen years, try to solve a heinous crime that continues to lead them further into darkness. I think I would like True Detective more if it didn't have the blatant obligatory tits and ass and if I could understand all of what was being said. That fucking mumbling. But artistically, the first season of True Detective was great, acting was top notch and the main characters had a delightfully complex relationship (so it wasn't a typical cop bros type of thing). The show somewhat fed that side of me that enjoys dark and fucked up stories. It's rather high quality television, but I think season 2 will show whether the show as a whole is really worth caring about for me or not. -- I have now seen the first episode of season two of True Detective which has an entirely new setting, and does not interest me at all. I really don't think I'll catch up, so I've removed the show from the ranking.

Twin Peaks [Ranked]
Twin Peaks really is something special with its beautiful aesthetics, quirky and loveable (and hateable) characters, and the intrigue of solving crimes... And it has supernatural elements, but that might be my least favourite part of it, which may not mean great things for how I will feel about the show overall. I didn't finish watching before taking a break from HBO Nordic (where I was watching it) because at some point during season 2 - around midway, I think - things started feeling a bit... much. I was pretty much binging it up to that point, so I probably need a break and when I return, maybe I'll love all of it again. Right now, at this point, I feel like if the show had ended at the solving of the very first murder, I might have considered this one of the best shows made. Now, well, we'll have to see. But in the end, I'm glad I finally checked out this show; I definitely understand people's love for it and its characters. And Kyle MacLachlan is extremely dashing and loveable in this.

Vikings [Ranked]
I have now caught up with Vikings, just before new episodes are supposedly coming out soon? Anyway, I find the show rather enjoyable with many intriguing and complex characters, but I do also have complaints. For instance, I have no idea how it is possible for there to be any vikings left alive considering how they get slaughtered to small numbers, it seems, every other year, or some shit. [Spoilers from this point on!] How Ragnar still has any people left is a mystery to me. I understand that it's a show about vikings, but sometimes the slaughter and violence is just way excessive. Also, WHY DO ALL THE BABY DAUGHTERS DIE. Are the show runners immune to little girls? What in the actual fuck. Does the show have interesting female characters? Yeah, the about three that manage to stick around. Jesus. But yes, obviously I care, that's why I complain so much. I do really enjoy this show, I practically marathoned it unable to watch other shows in between.

I don't consider the show a realistic portrayal of vikings, but I have learned to know some new things about them as a result from watching the show; I had no idea exactly how far vikings ventured, for instance. So that has been cool.

Athelstan is my sweet prince.

The Walking Dead [Disappointment]
I wanted to like this show so much because post-apocalyptic settings are some of the most intriguing to me; the psychology of dealing with the loss of security and comfort, battle for survival, and having to test one's own limits morally, physically, and emotionally. However, when it comes to The Walking Dead, let's say I grew tired of the characters being 'intellectually challenged' and constantly making bad decisions. One of the better examples of this might be Andrea, whom I expected to become a badass female character (and hoped for it because I liked the actress), and... Nope. Sometimes I see gifs and little stories of the show that make me want to pay attention again, but I don't think those little moments are really worth wading through all the mud.

Westworld [Ranked]
Westworld is a very well-made, aesthetically pleasing, intriguing, well-acted show that raises questions about the ethics of artificial intelligence and humanity. It's easy to get hooked on it. There are also mysteries that also, I think, get answered to a satisfying degree by the end of the first season. Its ranking might be a bit high for now, since it has only been one season so far, but it is a rather enjoyable show.

The Wire [Ranked]
The Wire, in my eyes, is the perfect television series. It wasn't love at first sight; it took me a few episodes to get into the groove of The Wire because, well, I'd never seen a show like it before. The Wire had it all:
- Complex, lovable, flawed characters, including ethnic minorities; sexual minority characters whose sexuality was more like a side-note than their most important quality; strong female characters. Even mentioning them like this feels a bit weird because it doesn't feel right for the characters to be boxed into certain categories. But I know these things are a selling point to some people, so if mentioning them can get someone to watch the show, it's worth it.
- Engaging storylines that were all tied to a bigger picture (each season had a separate focus, yet it felt like the same show)
- 'Good guys' didn't always win - or rather, even if there was a victory, it was bittersweet and didn't necessarily lead to any improvement. The line between good and bad was rather blurred. Even the best intentions could lead to a disaster... As happens in life.
- No punches held back, but no gratuitous violence or nudity, either. If something truly violent happened, it was a significant part of a storyline (like what happened to Omar's boyfriend) and not just done for shock factor.
- The show provided powerful social commentary and brought up issues with politics that I'm sure continue to be a problem everywhere in the world; the selfish need of those in power to look good and have their personal ego stroked at the expense of justice and the lives of less privileged people.
- Humour. It wasn't really in your face, rather, it was natural and humanized the characters. Not to mention those moments when something that happened was so absurd that one could only really laugh at it.
- The poetry. The show is very well written and filled with amazing quotes.
- The show is so rich that upon a re-watch it only becomes more enjoyable and you're likely to pick up more things than you did the first time around. Kind of like with a great book or film.

Honestly it's a bit strange to me that people have only recently started to talk about how television is the new great quality medium for telling stories with shows like True Detective emerging. The Wire already showed what television is capable of a good while ago. I love, love this show, and while I would LOVE for there to be more amazing shows like it so that its place at the top could be rivaled, I'm afraid it will still take a while for another The Wire to emerge. As great as shows like Breaking Bad are, they are still only focusing on white people and especially white men, and this fact alone puts them below The Wire, to me - there are more stories to be told out there, and I'm waiting for someone to take a risk (while it being a COMMERCIAL risk is probably a myth) and deliver another hard punch.