Break out your party hats, ’cause Xandrama has been up and running for over one month! Because of this INCREDIBLE accomplishment, I no longer feel guilty doing a cop out-I MEAN…I felt it was time to showcase some of my personal favorite television shows and why they are so great. Let’s begin:
Being expelled from Stanford University due to his roommate’s false accusations of cheating, the intelligent Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) has become an unmotivated computer support technician at an electronics store. Years later, Chuck’s old roommate sends him “The Intersect”, the government’s secret database, which gets sub-planted into Chuck’s mind. With all of the CIA and NSA’s secrets in his head, Chuck is thrust into a life of espionage as he tries desperately to cling onto his normal life.
This action/spy show is a perfect blend of comedy and drama. Zachary Levi does an excellent job playing the awkward yet charming protagonist, the action sequences are very well choreographed and visually impressive for a primetime television show, and it has some of the most engaging/enjoyable filler episodes of any drama I’ve seen. While the show’s quality declines heavily in the final season in my opinion, the majority of Chuck is an incredibly fun ride.
9. The Arrowverse (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl)
It’s no surprise that the shared universe I’m doing a retrospective on is in my top ten. I won’t go into too much detail (I’ll save that for Thursdays) but here are a few surface thoughts. All of these shows are very enjoyable to watch. Because of the shared universe and similar heroic themes used in different ways, each show offers something unique to the table. Arrow utilizes very grounded storytelling with an emphasis on the dark and gritty. Supergirl tackles being capable of combating larger then life threats while still trying to maintain one’s humanity. Legends of Tomorrow follows a group of misfits and outcasts coming together as they try to prove their worth. My personal favorite, The Flash, demonstrates the importance of responsibly using the gifts we are given. Check out my Retrospectives for my more in depth thoughts.
8. Once Upon a Time
To add on to awkwardness of the child she gave up for adoption ten years ago showing up on her doorstep, Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) takes his birth mother, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) back to his hometown of Storybrooke, a place where every fairy tale character was ripped from their home and cursed to forget who they are. Not believing Henry but becoming more attached to him, Emma stays in Storybrooke as she slowly realizes that Henry’s tall tale is actually true.
A fantasy drama with a lot of nods to Disney, Once Upon a Time is the equivalent of a snow ball being rolled down a mountain. It starts off very small and self contained, but as the show progresses, the stories become more and more grander, complex, and engaging. What’s most enjoyable about this is the many subversions it makes from the typical fairy tale stories. Changes can come in the form of different backstories, creating sympathy for villains, turning heroes into villains, and turning very unimportant characters into the epitome of cool. For instance, Rumplestiltskin in fairy tales is nothing compared to the morally ambiguous and frightfully fun mastermind Rumplestiltskin in Once Upon a Time. The show is currently making some VERY big changes next season so we shall how that affects the show’s quality, but for now, Once Upon a Time is an engaging show with unexpected, subverting twists along the way.
7. Rick and Morty
The marvelous misadventures of a drunkenly cynical mad scientist and his easily swayed grandson.
Where. Can. I. Even. Begin. With. This. Show. Rick and Morty is an absolutely HYSTERICAL adult animated comedy. Justin Roiland, Dan Harmon, and their writers prove to be masters of unexpected comedy not to mention the stellar voice acting talents who deliver the jokes perfectly. It may appear to be basic animation at first, but the unique and distinct artistic designs of the interdimensional worlds and creatures prove otherwise. Top it off with some off the cuff improvised lines every now and then, and you’ve got a show that always feels fresh and original.
6. Avatar: The Last Airbender & Legend of Korra
In a world where people can bend the elements Water, Earth, Fire and Air, the balance is thrown into chaos as the Fire nation begins it’s plans for global domination. Only the Avatar, the only person capable of bending all four elements, had the power to bring balance back to the nations, but ends up vanishing in the midst of the chaos. A hundred years later, a new Avatar has resurfaced, a twelve year old boy named Aang. Together with his new friends, Aang sets out to master the elements so he can thwart the Fire nations efforts and bring balance to the world.
In my personal opinion, Avatar: The Last Airbender is the greatest western animated television show of all time. The world created around this show is incredibly unique, influenced heavily by a plethora of Asian cultures. The animation is beautiful, showcasing a lot of vibrant colors and utilizing actions scenes that feel incredibly realistic, as if a live action version could easily be reproduced based on it. For a show intended for a younger audience, the themes that this show explores are incredibly mature, much more so then some of the shows you would see on primetime television. The best that animation and storytelling has to offer.
5. Doctor Who
Again, due to me discussing it multiple times, it’s no secret that this is on my top 10 list and I will not be going into too much detail when describing it. As mentioned in previous blogs, Doctor Who is a show with limitless potential. As a time traveling show, all of history is up for game when it comes to the plot of each episode, as well as the imaginative ideas as to what the future may hold. It utilizes a ton of clever writing, creative and unique alien and world designs, and an incredibly likable protagonist.
4. 3rd Rock from the Sun
Four extraterrestrial aliens are sent down to earth to pose as a suburban family to research human behavior.
In my opinion, this show is one of the best classic sitcoms of all time. Having only recently watched this show from start to finish, for a twenty year old show it holds up incredibly well. It’s an excellent example of a “fish out of water” premise due to the alien characters having to deal with human problems with absolutely no clue how to solve them. The comedy is cleverly written and features great comedic acting from the likes of SNL alum Jane Curtain, French Stewart, a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the incomparable John Lithgow. An out of this world show.
3. Parks and Recreation
In the small town of Pawnee Indiana, overachieving and easily excited Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her coworkers maneuver their way through the ridiculous yet surprisingly accurate world of government.
Parks and Recreation is one of finest comedies of all time. Its mockumentary style is hilariously used to the fullest, its satirization of large national issues on a town wide scale lead to many great comedic episodes, and it has one of the best casts of any television show (Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, Aubry Plaza, Nick Offerman, and Rob Lowe just to name a few). Its greatest strength is the character chemistry. Every actor plays well off each other, leading to any combination of two characters in a scene resulting in humor aplenty. While the first season, consisting of six episodes, is okay, the minute the second season starts, the show becomes AMAZING.
2. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage
Part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these three shows take step back from the larger then life films and take a look at the world from a more grounded, yet dark and gritty level. They may feature superheroes, but none of these shows feel like a they’re solely a superhero show. Daredevil is a crime and legal drama, Jessica Jones is a psychological detective noir, and Luke Cage is a gangster blaxploitation show. The action scenes are incredibly realistic, utilizing some of the best fight choreography that I’ve seen on television. Not to mention they have some of the best villains that put the Marvel Villains from films to shame (Wilson Fisk, Kilgrave, and Cottonmouth are all acted and written incredibly well). With The Defenders coming out later this month, I look forward to these shows finally colliding together. What’s that? There’s a fourth show? Iron what? Never heard of it.
Having been disbarred and suspended from law for pretending to have a degree, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) enrolls in Greendale Community College. Forming a study a group of misfits in hopes of romantically winning one of his fellow classmates, the study group finds themselves roped into the ridiculous, over the top world of Greendale.
This show has a ton things going on for itself. The writing is not only funny, but always focuses on being clever and utilizing meta humor. Even though the show follows the typical sitcom tropes and cliches, they acknowledge that it’s following them. Sometimes they’ll even state it out loud to hammer in the fact. But by doing so, they’re allowed to poke fun of and change up the sitcom formula. Second, the acting is spot on. From veteran actors like SNL’s Chevy Chase to the comedic duo of Donald Glover and Danny Pudi, all of the actors have a true understanding of comedic timing and have excellent chemistry amongst each other. But most importantly and the reason that this show stands out for me comes down to this: it’s fearless. Dan Harmon and the other writers were not afraid to be different and change up the show from time to time. Sure, one episode can be a simple story about college life that will be enjoyable for all audiences. But then they go crazy by dominating entire episodes with elaborate games of paintball taken way too seriously, stop motion Christmas specials, clip shows that utilize footage from episodes that don’t exist, and not to mention the parodies of other well known genres and content from the likes of Law & Order, Glee, and Goodfellas just to name a few. Community proves to be not only be an ode to all things pop culture, but demonstrates the proper mentality of how to write television.
And that’s my list. What do you guys think? Any of these shows in your top ten? Do you have your own top ten list you’d like to share? Leave a comment below and let’s get this conversation rolling.
Until next time, this is Xander signing off.