Sunday 20 July 2014

Trollish Delver's top 10 TV shows of all time

This is going to be a pretty self-indulgent post, but I'm feeling a little indulgent on this stupidly humid day. Today we're going to look at my top 10 TV shows ever. Don't forget to share yours in the comments, yo.

10. The Office (US)

Until I watched The Office, I wasn't really a Steve Carrell fan. I'm not sure what it was about him, but I didn't like it. Then I watched The Office and, yeah, I admit I really enjoy his portrayal of Michael Scott, Regional Manager at the Scranton branch of paper company Dunder Mifflin. The UK version of The Office doesn't appear on this list because, while I enjoy it, I think that with more seasons and a larger roster of characters the US version has much more time to ferment into something spectacular and hilarious. There are so many incredible moments, from Dwight's all-too-realistic fire drill (and the chaos that ensues) to Michael pretending to threaten to jump off the roof ("Dwight, you ignorant slut!"), The Office is consistently funny and highly quotable.

9. Arrested Development

You've never seen writing quite like this. Puns, wordplay, references and ridiculous situations make up the core that is Arrested Development. The series revolves around the Bluth family who lost their fortune and are struggling to regain it. At the centre of it all is Michael Bluth, one of the sons of the Bluth matriarch Lucile and on-and-off convict George. Michael is probably the milder character in the series, especially when you compare him to Buster, an extreme mummy's boy, Maebe, a conniving brat, and Gob (pronounced Jobe), a terrible magician. The references within references, tonnes of in-jokes and sizzling wordplay make this one of my favourite comedies.

8. Sleepy Hollow

Another recent show, but this one has proven to be a hit. Melding humour, historical conspiracy and a big dollop of supernatural weirdness, Sleepy Hollow is a batshit insane show that's completely self-aware. The first season debuted last Autumn, with the bizarre premise that the headless horseman has returned to Sleepy Hollow along with the guy who originally dispatched him: Ichabod Crane. Cue hilarious anachronistic hijinks as he teams up with hard-ass cop Abigail Mills as they uncover the secrets behind the headless horseman, the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the conspiracies originated in the time of America's founding fathers. Check out season two this year - it's going to be amazing.

7. Parks and Recreation

Parks and Rec suffered from a bumpy first season but really came into its own in later season. With an amazing cast of characters, lead by SNL veteran Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, head of the Parks department in Pawnee and aspirational politician. Throw in uber-man and staunch libertarian Ron Swanson, sweet-but-dense Andy Dwyer and his anarchistic wife April Ludgate, and Justin Timberlake wannabe Tom Haverford, you have a cast that just keeps it consistently hilarious. 

6. Spaced

Before Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End, Edgar Wright directed a little show called Spaced. It's kind of hard to describe, but essentially it boils down to two twenty-something Londonders, Tim and Daisy, becoming flat-mates and the adventures they have with their oddball friends. It's one of the funniest shows ever, with a constant train of movie references, geeky shoutouts and weirdly relatable situations. It's bizarre and endlessly quotable ("You shot me in the balls, Tim" and "Jar Jar Binks makes the Ewoks look like... fucking... Shaft!" are a couple that spring to mind). If you imagine a show like Big Bang Theory that celebrates geeks instead of shaming them - that's Spaced.

5. The Thick of It

Armando Iannucci's peek into the cut-throat lives of Downing Street politics contains some of the sharpest comic writing I've ever seen. The show is set around the bumbling idiots at the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship and the constant PR messes they manage to get themselves into. Of course, the highlight of the show is spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker, who constantly dishes out verbal waterboardings to all and sundry. It finished after four seasons, two hour-long specials and a film (In the Loop), but it's one that you can go and watch again and again.

4. Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Everyone and their mothers has seen Buffy. At its time it was one of the most refreshing shows around, with its mix of violence, comedy, teen angst and horror. We follow the eponymous vampire slayer and the 'Scooby gang' through years of Hellmouth-based turmoil set in Sunnydale - the worst tourist destination in the US. It had its slump near the end of its run, but all-in-all Buffy is one of those shows that demands an annual re-watch.

3. Firefly

The ill-fated sci-fi western masterpiece is arguably Joss Whedon's greatest work. Firefly follows a rag-tag group of mercenaries as they take any job they can get their hands on to keep them going. All the while they are avoiding the despotic Alliance and harbouring a fugitive girl who is also a human weapon. It's got all the sharp dialogue expected of Whedon coupled with amazing stories and well-rounded characters. Although it had a short run, Firefly has continued its story with the film Serenity and two comic book series.

2. Happy Endings

I seem to have a soft spot for shows that were cancelled prematurely, but with three seasons Happy Endings could have done worse. It's also one of the greatest comedies ever put to the small screen. It was billed as Friends in Chicago, but holy hell this is lightyears ahead of Friends. The story revolves around six friends and their lives. The writing is just spot on and there isn't a single episode that won't give you at least one belly laugh. Happy Endings has a tonne of heart and really has its finger on the pulse of young people who are making their first steps into becoming fully-fledged adults. Buy the box set now!

1. Blackadder

Now to my favourite TV show of all time. This is probably the show I have watched the most and it still has me in stitches: Blackadder. Now, I don't really count the first season, as it's just not very good, but if you watch from two to four then you're in for a treat. For those unfamiliar with Blackadder, the premise is that there is a dynasty of Blackadders throughout history, always headed by the brilliantly scheming Edmund Blackadder. From medieval England to the First World War trenches, Blackadder generally stars the same set of characters in each setting, the perennial being filthy dogsbody Baldrick, Edmund's servant. Every single episode is flawless and every character is a treat to watch, whether it's the psychopathic Queen Elizabeth I, the idiotic Prince of Wales or the arrogant war hero Lord Flashheart. In my mind, you can't get better than Blackadder.

Honourary mentions

House of Cards
Mystery Science Theatre 3000
Trophy Wife
Adventure Time
True Detective

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