It’s a new millennium and as such everything should be better than it was in the last 1000 years. That is theoretically how progress works.
Here’s a rundown of a few of the shows that have been on television throughout the first 12 years of the third millennium. If you haven’t seen them yet, you should.
Genre: Space Western
Firefly, a now cult show from the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was cancelled after one series because of low ratings. I put this down to one thing: Terrible terrible marketing. I recall seeing the ad. It had the crew (who obviously I was not familiar with at the time) sitting around a campfire chuckling together while the captain provided narration along the lines of “Hello, I’m the captain of Serenity. I have a doctor, a bodyguard, a pilot and a preacher. We pretty much just fly around space and enjoy each others company. Bye”. That’s not a word for word quote, but it was pretty close.
Of course, I did not watch the show when it aired, being completely put off by the commercial.
It was only a year or two later when a friend sat me down and said that I had to see this before promising me that the feature length first episode was worth my time.
Good golly Miss Molly was he right. An hour and a half later, I had a new favourite show. I bought the DVD box set based on one episode of awesome. The series only got better.
Imagine if Star Wars had just been Han Solo going on adventures with a selection of his smuggler buddies. It’s pretty much that and so much more.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Genre: Ad-libbed Comedy
Back in the 80s Larry David created ‘Seinfeld’, the hit TV show starring the comedian of the same name. He also included one of the greatest sitcom characters who has ever been: George Costanza. Costanza (or Art Vandelay as he liked to be called) was heavily based on David himself.
What ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ is, is essentially Seinfeld with George as the star, but Larry David playing him (or himself). He goes from day to day, getting irritated by the little things in life and the ins and outs of etiquette in society. Episodes are about things like being asked to take your shoes off when entering someones home or what the definition of a favour is.
I think a lot of people watch the show and think you’re meant to laugh at Larry David as he bumbles along offending his celebrity friends, but I think greater enjoyment comes from being able to relate to him and understand the way his mind is working.
If you are an American reading this, then you may not be aware that the wacky show starring Steve Carell was actually based on a much better show made for the BBC. If you knew that, I apologise for the generalisation.
‘The Office’ made Ricky Gervais the big name he is today. It was a kind of comedy that had not been seen before, relying on the quirks of real people rather than the exaggeration and twists on reality that comedy usually relies on. (Quite the opposite to the American variant).
After two series and a Christmas Special, Gervais ended the show. The story had been told and though there may have been life left in it, he chose the wise option of ending on a high note rather than flogging a dead horse the way America chose to.
Game Of Thrones
Genre: Fantasy Medieval/Feudal Style Drama
A rule of thumb is that anything with Sean Bean in it is a winner. This tale is told about an entire nation on the brink of several wars via the means of a number of the characters who will be at the centre of it all. Heads of houses, nobles and their closest servants who are either vying for power or looking to make peace all go on personal journeys in an attempt to see what they wish come to pass.
Though the amount of characters can seem daunting at first, they are gradually introduced, allowing viewers to get used to certain faces before throwing in a new one.
There are many well crafted characters, some to love and plenty to hate.
As you see the conflicts from both sides, it is rare that you would see any one side as totally good or evil, though some individuals may be. Joffrey is a clear villain, while his uncle Tyrion fighting for him is an honourable hero.
The story twists and turns, often throwing your expectations out of the window. The ride is a lot of fun and you can’t help but become invested in every tale presented. My own personal annoyance with the show though, is that despite two seasons having passed now, very very little has been resolved. It’s almost as though nothing has happened (which isn’t the case- a lot has happened, but nothing has been finished).
Genre: Sword And Sandals Action Drama
I was introduced to Spartacus: Blood and Sand via one of Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe type shows. He mocked it a little for its excessive sex and violence, but seemed to have overall enjoyed the experience. I simply had to see it for myself.
I missed the first episode, but saw the second and was hooked as soon as Dottore gave his famous welcome speech to the new recruits. Rarely has a show had me so excited that it became almost painful to wait a whole week for the next instalment. Now, since ‘Blood and Sand’, there has been a prequel season ‘Gods of the Arena’ and a follow up ‘Vengeance’. Series four is in production as I type. I am already on the edge of my seat.
Along with the sex, nudity (almost every female character and a lot of males) and violence (if that wasn’t enough) are well rounded characters involved in twisting plots where everyone has a story to tell and a part to play. There are power struggles, backstabbing (not only in the arena) and an almost endless amount of quotable lines.
‘Vengeance’ suffered some trouble from the tragic death of Andy Whitfield, the actor who played Spartacus previously. Whitfield had played the part masterfully and it was feared a replacement would either not be up to par, or simply ruin the show. Fortunately, the replacement, Liam McIntyre, did not disappoint. Another character, Naevia, was also recast which did seem to affect the series more negatively. On the whole though, the series remained strong and powerful.
I may be in the minority, but I actually prefer Spartacus to Game of Thrones. I find that Thrones probably worked better as a book, while Spartacus was designed as a tv show. Each series has an overarcing plot, with each character having their own subplot, while each episode also has a self contained story. Every story comes to a satisfying conclusion at the right time, while I feel Game of Thrones just keeps plodding on with no promise of getting anywhere.
Genre: Animated Adult Comedy
This is a slight cheat seeing as the show started pre-2000, but I find that the show only got better and found its stride after being around for a while. It’s the number one show for parody and satire of pretty much anything.
The show proves that cartoons aren’t just for kids and if you’re the sort of person who thinks that they are, then you need to rethink your life.
The show has an opinion on everything and isn’t afraid to let you know about it being an equal opportunity insulter. Some folks get a light ribbing while the likes of Scientologists and Mormons get torn to shreds.
Trailer Park Boys
Sometimes labelled as ‘South Park if the kids grew up’, ‘Trailer Park Boys’ is a Canadian comedy about the lives of some career criminals as they try to make the best of things for themselves.
Despite being thieves and crooks, the characters are lovable and you find yourself rooting for them. They don’t intend to hurt anyone, they just want to live a reasonable life and look after their own.
Ricky, Julian and Bubbles are the stars, involved in every caper, while their sidekicks Corey and Trevor are their fall guys and the ever present Lahey and Randy attempt to thwart them at every turn.
Almost every character is alcoholic and fond of weed, making drunkenness and getting high a quite regular occurence, fuelling failure when they try to act out their plans.
Every series is crazier than the last.
A sitcom with a twist. Everything you see is through the eyes of one of the two lead characters: Mark and Jez. As they go through life, facing its various struggles, you have a unique insight into their thoughts.
Everyone is a little bit of Mark and Jez. Mark is the uptight, socially awkward intelligent one, while Jez is a rebel without a clue type, into drugs, sex and music.
They live together in a flat, which makes for wonderful odd couple scenarios.