Saturday, May 8, 2010

Best Writing On Television That I Know Of

I don't watch Glee, Fringe, Lie To Me, Ugly Betty, How I Met Your Mother, Two & A Half Men, any ABC comedy, anything on the CW, nor anything on AMC, TNT, or TBS that isn't a rerun of Law & Order or Family Guy. Though I believe I watch a lot of TV, what I do watch is a relatively small segment of the medium when compared to what other avid couch potatoes absorb. That is why I can't make an adequate "Best Of" list. Maybe Glee is actually good. Maybe Tyler Perry's House of Payne is pretty funny.

So I'll instead write a brief list of what I feel are examples of excellent writing one can find via the television, Hulu, Netflix, and the like. Why am I doing this? I'm bored...and there's nothing on TV.

Parks and Recreation - This has been the most consistent of the NBC Thursday night lineup. In its first full season there has not been one bad episode. Characters and relationships have been examined and expanded and Leslie Knope has provided a passionate, heartfelt, and hilarious soul to this new series. It has surpassed The Office, its predecessor. Because it does not rely upon a central relationship or character the way The Office did, it has potential to remain as consistently funny. Give this a chance if you haven't.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia - While season 5 was the weakest, this series is still the best comedy since Seinfeld. No sitcom in recent memory has made me laugh as hard. This show has no interest in warming your soul with subtle messages of love and peace. This show simply wants to make you laugh and it always succeeds. The worst episode of Sunny is better than almost everything else on television. The comedic timing, coupled with the superb dialogue and characters make this something everyone, young or old, should give a try.

Community - this is probably the most heartfelt sitcom since Tony Danza was still a star. The brilliant diversity of the cast and their ongoing in-jokes and conflicts, coupled with a strong sense of self-awareness and irony, make this one of the best new shows in a very long time. The most enjoyable hour on television (apart from Lost) is Thursdays from eight to nine and it's because of Community and Parks and Rec.

Family Guy - I'm very hot and cold with Family Guy. Overall, I love it, but there are periods when I find it completely obnoxious and I avoid it. Then it comes back into my life and I love it again. It came back this season with an episode that finds Brian and Stewey trapped in a bank vault together. While I haven't seen much of the season, this episode alone is enough to put Family Guy up there as one of the best written series on television. Apart from being hilarious, it examined two characters with a level of depth and craft I haven't seen since...I wanted to finish that sentence with something good but I simply can't remember the last time I was so impressed by a simple series of dialogues between two characters. And it's a cartoon! This fact makes it that much funnier and worthwhile.

Dexter - The writing on Dexter is incomperable. Its titular character is quite possibly the most interesting protagonist in the history of the medium. While the show does an excellent job creating intense conflicts and dier scenarios that test Dexter's abilities, it always comes back to examining his tortured soul, his psychosis, and his issues with an untrustworthy father. If you want to watch a 12 Part film with unrivalled performances and writing, see Dexter.

Archer - This is a hilarious comedy most appreciated by fans of James Bond and the spy genre. But that isn't a prerequisite. I've never seen an animated series so properly replicate the kind of comedic timing one finds in live-action. The dialogue is fast, the awkward pauses slow. This show has a cool 60s art style and an unending stream of vulgar, witty, ironic, sardonic, and intelligent jokes. If you have Netflix Instant watch, definitely check out the first season.

Honorable mentions go to Party Down (also on Instant Watch), Californication, Lost, 30 Rock, and South Park. These shows didn't make my list of best current television writing for a number of reasons. Californication, Party Down, and 30 Rock are shows that are so successful more because of their main characters and the performances of their actors and less because of the actual stories involved, I believe. South Park simply hasn't been having a great season, though their writers are the most daring on television and, during a great season, possibly the best.

And then there's Lost. After Season 4 Lost stopped caring about writing and started caring more about its own mythology. It became self-referencial and self-explanatory. I'm not writing that seasons 5 and 6 haven't had great episodes and occasionally great, original writing. I'm simply suggesting that seasons 2, 3, and 4 were the writer's brightest moments.

Live long and prosper.

No comments:

Post a Comment