Once a week I deviate from my usual focus on becoming happier, healthier and more productive to write about something different. Today I rank my picks for the top television dramas.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
My Top 10
1. Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad is the greatest television series ever made. Period. No show is perfect, but the second half of the final season is as close to flawless as television gets.
2. Game of Thrones
I fell in love with the TV series first, which drew me to the books. Now I love the books even more and I’m in the unfortunate position of comparing the two. This inevitably highlights the flaws in the show. Some seasons are better than others, but the first 15 minutes of 2016’s season finale just might be the best television you will ever watch.
3. The Wire
When you watch the first few episodes of The Wire, you wonder what all the fuss is about. At first it seems like a tropey cop show. But by the end of the first season you’re hooked, and the show continues to get stronger. As a former journalist, I was particularly impressed with how real the newsroom scenes felt.
4. Orphan Black
Orphan Black is the best television drama you’ve never seen. Tatiana Maslany’s acting in multiple roles is extraordinary. (The image accompanying this post shows Maslany in four of her characters). The plot is complicated, but the writing is strong. It’s filmed in my home town of Toronto and the final season began last night.
5. The West Wing
This show presents the hopeful side of U.S. politics — the optimistic opposite of what we see in House of Cards. With everything that’s going on in Washington today, we need Jed Bartlet more than ever.
6. Orange is the New Black
I almost gave up on this series after the first season, partly because I just wasn’t that interested in the Piper / Alex storyline. But the show has continued to get stronger as the plot focuses more on other members of the ensemble cast. I haven’t watched the latest season yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
7. Mad Men
Mad Men‘s strength is it’s subtlety. The show resists the temptation, so common in most television drama, for “water coooler” plot developments. There are few deaths or disasters. Instead, characters develop in small ways over long periods of time. But the primary narrative of the show is as deep as it gets: one man’s battle for his own soul.
8. Six Feet Under
On the surface, it’s a show about death set in a funeral home. But really, this is one of the best dramas ever made about family dynamics.
9. Better Call Saul
If you like fast-paced shows, you may not like Better Call Saul. The prequel to Breaking Bad moves slowly. But the writing is brilliant; the directing is artful and the depth of Bob Odenkirk’s performance as Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman is extraordinary.
10. Star Trek: The Next Generation
I’ve always loved Jean Luc Picard. He is probably the fictional persona whose character and leadership skills I most admire. If you can make it past the boring pilot, you’ll be hooked on this show.
The Handmaid’s Tale: It was hard to keep it off the Top 10 list, even though only a handful of episodes have aired.
The Crown: This is another show that could move into the Top 10 list after it’s second season, expected in November.
Dexter: This show starts strong, peaks in the fourth season (Trinity) and then, sadly, gets pretty awful.
Narcos: Like The Wire, this show artfully switches between the criminals and the cops, with two very strong seasons in the books.
House of Cards: I’m still hooked on this show, but it peaked in the first episode of the second season. The show’s weakness? The main character started in such an extreme place that there’s been little room for character development.
The Fall: A chilling story of a serial killer. The first two seasons are particularly strong before the second season ends with a cliffhanger that strains credulity.
Shows I haven’t seen
Here are some shows that will be on some people’s top 10 lists, but aren’t on mine because I haven’t seen them yet — or haven’t seen enough episodes to rank them.
Twin Peaks, Doctor Who, The Sopranos, Lost
So what do you think of this list. Tell me I’m crazy in the comments below.