The Decade's Best: TV series of the 2000s
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Best of the 2000s is a four-part feature in The Oklahoma Daily. The articles are based on the writer’s opinion.
15. “Andy Richter Controls the Universe” (FOX, 2002-2003)
One of a large crop of FOX programs that were canceled before their time, “Andy Richter” ran for two seasons and only 19 episodes before getting the ax. This was the best of Richter’s three failed sitcoms in the ‘00s, and despite its already-dated look, it’s surprisingly packed with sharp wit and an absurdist flair.
14. How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 2005-Present)
OK, the laugh track gets old really quick, but for all of its sitcom-y artifacts, “How I Met Your Mother” tends to subvert conventions more than stick to them with its expertly used flashback structure. Chief draw is Neil Patrick Harris’s outrageous womanizer Barney, but Jason Segel and Alyson’s Hannigan’s eye-poppingly adorable married couple Marshall and Lily are the true inexhaustible wellspring of laughs.
13. “This American Life” (Showtime, 2007-2008)
Based on the beloved Chicago Public Radio program of the same name, “This American Life” features some of the best true-life storytelling anywhere, and the show’s jump to TV did nothing to diminish its quality. Ira Glass remained his same diminutive and insightful self and the stories remained utterly compelling and fascinating. The TV show is officially on hiatus as of now, but the radio program is still a must-listen.
12. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO, 2000-Present)
The neuroses of “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David aren’t hidden behind any surrogate characters in the acerbic “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” David is self-loathingly hilarious, and the fact that this season featured the closest thing to a “Seinfeld” reunion we’ll ever get is enough reason for it to make this list.
11. “The Daily Show” (Comedy Central, 1996-Present)
Is it sad that a large portion of our peers regard “The Daily Show” as a primary news source? Probably, but that doesn’t make the withering satire presented therein any less potent, and Jon Stewart, who took over the hosting role in 1999 from Craig Kilborn, does faux-outrage like no other. Those who lean to the right might wish Stewart picked on their side a little less, but he’s proven equally adept at taking precision shots at just about anyone.
10. “Pushing Daisies” (ABC, 2007-2009)
Another unfortunate victim to network executive dimness, “Pushing Daisies” got saddled with the adjective “quirky” enough times to justify a ban on the word henceforth. Fans knew that beyond the candy-colored art direction and fantastical premise of a man who could bring dead things back to life, there were intriguing mysteries, a rapier wit and tragic love stories to spare. The show was canceled after just two seasons. If only there were someone out there with the magic touch to bring this gem back to life.
9. “Battlestar Galactica” (SyFy, 2004-2009)
Proof that science fiction television doesn’t have to belong solely to the realms of technological geekery or campy otherworldliness, “Battlestar Galactica” was more about top-notch human drama and complex moral issues, building further on the rich tradition of “Star Trek.”
8. “The Sopranos” (HBO, 1999-2007)
James Gandolfini’s towering portrayal of mob boss Tony Soprano heads up the brilliantly textured “Sopranos,” which in many ways redefined what television could be at the beginning of this decade. While the show may not have been able to quite maintain its quality in later seasons, its influence on television is undeniable.
7. “Extras” (BBC Two, 2005-2007)
Ricky Gervais’s “other” comedy from the decade shouldn’t be overlooked — it’s often breathlessly funny and its portrait of ambitious film extra, and later TV star, Andy Millman (Gervais) is painful in an entirely different way than “The Office’s” David Brent. A host of guest stars, including uproarious turns from Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, and Stephen Merchant as Andy’s smarmy agent induce painful, face-stretching laughter.
6. “30 Rock” (NBC, 2006-Present)
An outrageous behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a sketch show like “Saturday Night Live,” Tina Fey’s satiric and very silly “30 Rock” is jam-packed with jokes and asides that reward many repeat viewings. Alec Baldwin is doing the best work of his career as corporate exec Jack Donaghy, and Fey’s unassailable willingness to ridicule her own persona is hilariously never-ending.
5. “Lost” (ABC, 2004-Present)
For all of the frustration that “Lost” has caused its necessarily committed viewers, it’s more than made up for with a compelling ensemble and a labyrinthine plot that may be a result of the writers making it up as they go (which many have claimed), but is plenty riveting nonetheless. With its final season set to premiere in February, viewers may finally get some definitive answers, but don’t be surprised if all the sixth season uncovers is another set of head-scratchers.
4. “The Office” (NBC, 2005-Present)
Fans of the U.K. series feared another inferior remake from this side of the pond, but those fears were in vain, as the U.S. version has taken its own direction with just as many laughs and quite a bit more heart. Steve Carell’s Michael Scott has proven himself to be pathetic, arrogant and selfish, but warm-hearted and sincere almost as often. The ensemble cast is the best on television, with pitch-perfect characterizations from all of them, even the ones that only have a solitary line in some episodes (Creed Bratton, I’m looking at you).
3. “The Wire” (HBO, 2002-2008)
An immense achievement that dwarfs every similar program on TV, “The Wire” is episodic crime drama at its best, although it transcends the genre in so many ways, it’s hardly fair to lump it in with the “Law and Orders” and “CSIs” that have dominated this decade. The level of realism achieved by show creator David Simon may be unmatched by any other show ever.
2. “The Office” (BBC Two, 2001-2003)
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant created the kind of comedy that made you double over in embarrassment for the characters almost as much as in laughter. The oblivious David Brent is one of the best comedic characters in television history, and the deadpan manner in which the show extracted humor from the most banal of situations has not been matched since.
1. “Arrested Development” (FOX, 2003-2006)
It’s hard not to get just a little angry every time I think about “Arrested Development’s” fate at the hands of the clueless marketing folks at FOX who couldn’t get this show the audience it deserved. Fortunately, the three seasons that emerged from that fire (sale!) of incompetence are glorious, with the relatively normal Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) doing his best to keep his narcissistic and dysfunctional family from implosion. The sheer amount of intertextual references is astonishing, and it ensures extensive re-watchability potential, but it’s the singularly great performances — notably, David Cross, Jessica Walter and Tony Hale — that make “Arrested Development” the best TV show of the decade. Fingers crossed that the announced movie ends up happening.