The 10 best drama shows of the last decade – tv vegetable

No really this is, the ten best drama shows of the last decade. If you’re looking for something to watch, check the list to see if there is anything you haven’t seen.

Or in other news I wanted something more lighthearted to write about today. Something I thought might add a little information about my interests in terms of tv, relevant to the tv vegetable posts. So in an additional feature for my new tv vegetable section, here is the list. The rules for this one are:

  • The show must have had episodes in the last decade which unfortunately excludes British classics like “The Singing detective”, or “Boys from the Blackstuff”, and would include “The X-files” although that is not in the list.
  • The show must have aired more than the first season. This therefore excludes good one offs that got cancelled after a season such as Terriers (this is on Netflix streaming so check it out if you missed it), and the recently cancelled HBO show Luck (cancelled due to a third horse death during filming, not due to ratings or creative disputes, it is even possible this show might yet be back).
So the list will be as follows and to add a little  more to it, they are in order, starting with what I consider to be the best:
  1. The Sopranos – ” Woke up this morning… got myself a gun”. Really for me this was a super close call between this and the number two selection. But as modern dramas go, the Sopranos led the way. With no commercials on HBO, the sopranos was a film on tv, but with the increased running time, came much deeper characters. It went against being episodic in nature with each episode being essentially an instalment of the whole season, rather than an episode per se. There were individual stories in episodes, yes, but never self contained. You needed to see a whole season to get it. Many shows since have followed this model, but The Sopranos made it popular. – Then there are the characters, Tony Soprano himself, a beast of a man, but as we followed his viewpoint, someone we could sympathise with whatever bad deeds he did. Paulie Walnuts, Sal, Uncle Junior, Carmella, Ralph Cifaretto, the list goes on. This also gave the “no-one is safe, anyone could die model” which shows like “A Game of thrones” have today. The Sopranos was full of classic moments and scenes. I would list some but this blog piece might never end.
  2. The Wire – Almost the top spot. Easily the best show giving viewpoints from multiple characters, easily the best cop show, giving equal time and billing to the villains. Except there are few villains as such, only characters forced into bad deeds as a victim of the circumstances they were brought up and live in. Even the cops have their bad moments, the characters are all shades of grey. Across the five seasons (each one with a different focus area), perhaps no show examined the American experience (or cultural pie) as well as this one. If you have never seen this show and don’t mind having a slightly slow moving, but highly detailed show, you really should check this out. Be introduced to Mcnulty, Bunk, Stringer Bell, Omar (I think I read he was President Obama’s favourite character in a drama), Prez and a whole load more. A true modern classic.
  3. Mad Men – The first entry that is still going, and about to restart in just over a week (yay!). Set in sixties Madison avenue advertising men, this show examines the America of then, through the eyes of now. It tears down the misty eyed view of that time, showing it to be just as awkward if not more so, as now. This show has a lead character in Don Draper, a drinker and womaniser, but very clever ad man. He has difficulties and troubles, successes and muck ups. We get to see it all in it’s fabulous vintage glory.
  4. Justified – Currently broadcasting the third season. Perhaps the only onscreen place to capture Elmore Leonard’s characters and dialogue like they sound on the page. It stars Tim Olyphant as US Marshall Raylan Givens, who seems destined to be stuck in rural Kentucky. He’s the “Hillbilly whisperer” as his colleagues would have it. It’s a little like a modern day Clint Eastwood western. It manages the balance between episodes that are self contained, yet still having an overall story arc, perhaps better than any other show. It’s worth watching for the dialogue alone. Prior to watching, I never thought this show would be that much. It’s now like a guilty pleasure without the guilt. It’s brilliant.
  5. Breaking bad – A show I only started watching on re-runs before they broadcast the forth season, so I’m a relative newcomer. A master of tension, and focussing on a few characters. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are superb as the two main characters Walter white, and Jesse Pinkman. If you want to know why being a meth producer or meth supplier can ruin you (and how?), watch this. N.B. The first season almost made me wander round greeting people with “Yo bitch”. You kind of have to see it.
  6. Deadwood – HBO’s western loosely based on real characters, and a real place (Deadwood Milch). This was sadly cancelled prior to a final season due to production costs, yet it still features in the list. It has more swearing than any show ever but don’t let that put you off. You will soon get used to it, and the rest of the dialogue more than makes up for it, almost Shakespearian in places. Fabulous looking show, great characters, little details, again, no character is safe. Tim Olyphant is in this one too, as Seth Bullock, but Ian Mcshane is arguably the best character, a real smart nasty piece of work called Al Swearengen. Many of this cast have since appeared in Justified.
  7. 6 Feet Under – A great show set around a funeral home and a family trying to rebuild itself after the death of the father. Each episode started with a death of some kind (often leading you to guess the how), which would be the body being worked on or connected to family members that would appear in the episode. It was however much more than this each family member experiencing a journey of their own for example Michael C Hall (who went on to further success in Dexter) as the gay brother trying to find his way, or Lauren Ambrose as the screwed up younger, artistic sister. The show even had a proper ending.
  8. The West Wing– Aaron Sorkin political dialogue in full flow. If you don’t like his style, you likely won’t like the show. However this was a clever political drama and foreshadowed Obama becoming president, in this case with Jimmy Smits. Maybe not the full depth of drama and empathy as some of the other shows listed here, but often fast paced and clever instead. Elizabeth Moss who was the presidents daughter had further success in Mad Men (as Peggy Olsen).
  9. Treme – Co created by David Simon who was one of the creators of The Wire. Another slow moving, but detailed show, this time set in New Orleans beginning three months after hurricane Katrina wiped most of it out. Well written, well acted. It has several actors who were in the wire and also best supporting actress oscar winner (2011), Melissa Leo.
  10. The Walking Dead – Zombies and some surviving humans. Based to some extent on the graphic novel. Good with tension, very good with make-up. It perhaps does not have enough depth on all the characters, but makes up for this with zombie visuals, and all that comes with it. About to hit the season two finale tomorrow.

So there is the list. There are some other shows around the edges. I’ve not seen Battlestar Galactica, but this is reckoned to be very good. It is on Netflix streaming so I may try it out soon. The Shield was excellent in beginning but misses out due to losing the plot a bit in it’s final two seasons. It did have an ending, but didn’t quite do it for me. Walton Goggins went from this to Justified (he was / is excellent in both)  Game of Thrones I absolutely love, but it is simply too new. If the second season is as good or better than the first, this might be replacing something above. Rome was good but after being cancelled for the end of the second season, had to rush a bit to finish things off. Boardwalk Empire, was a close call, excellent in places but a little lacking in tension for me. Plus they killed off my favourite character at the end of last season so that might take away something for me. Terminator: The Sarah Connor chronicles was much more fun than I thought it would be, and might have been a contender had it not gotten cancelled without an ending. Lost was top fun but had a crappy ending that didn’t explain enough for me and just didn’t do it justice for me either. That was a shame as the shortened final seasons had mostly been a joy.

And that is it. Disagree?

See you next time on tv vegetable.

Lexicon word of the day: venerate.


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