The golden age of television

OK, so just to clarify the rules one more time. In the last few years television has gone through somewhat of renaissance, from something that is just there to eclipsing film as the exciting medium for storytelling. The Golden Age of Television is an attempt to try and capture the shows that have been responsible for this renaissance.

The shows have been selected through a mixture of appeal and influence. We have tried to limit it to the past 10 years , because that is when this resurgence has largely come about, however this does lead to difficulties. Generally any show that started before 1997 is out, but there are exceptions. For example Larry Sanders and Seinfeld are both out of the timeframe. Larry Sanders was pivotal in creating HBO as we know it so it is in, where as Seinfeld, while undoubtedly very influential but no so much in creating this ?Golden Age? is out. Confused? Excellent.

Obviously it is all very subjective (I mean Firefly??!? Phhhttt, what a joke), and we would love to hear your thoughts and comments. What should be in, what should be out. Tell us how wrong we are. We value your opinion, but remember – the envelope is always right?

THE OFFICIAL amended LIST:

Arrested Development
Buffy
Carinvale
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Deadwood
Entourage
Firefly
Futurama
Friday Night Lights
I’m Alan Partridge
The Larry Sanders Show
Lost
Love My Way
Nathan Barley
The Office
Oz
The Shield
Six Feet Under
The Sopranos
South Park
Weeds
The Wire

And by popular demand:

THE WEST WING!!!!

(the people have spoken)

THE PERIPHERALS:

Heroes (originally in, but tossed out on reflection)
The Newsroom (disappeared from the list at the 11th hour)
Sex And The City (again, unlucky not to be included)
The Games (the greatest Aussie comedy?)

76 Comments

  1. Here is my original list (before the envelope got involved and made the whole thing much more autocratic…)

    My Favourite Four:

    Sopranos
    Lost
    Carnivale
    Deadwood

    Best of the last 12 months:

    Heroes
    The Riches
    Friday Night Lights
    Brotherhood
    Big Love
    Life On Mars

    Great Comedy:

    Curb Your Enthusiasm
    My Name Is Earl
    The Office (both UK and USA versions)
    Futurama
    Entourage
    Weeds
    Arrested Development

    Other shows of interest:

    Prison Break
    Alias
    Harvey Birdman
    Nathan Barly
    Love My Way
    Rome
    Any season Of Survivor or The Amazing Race

    Favourite all time shows go to Twin Peaks for drama, and Seinfeld for comedy.

  2. Here is Brett’s list (*Please note – this was accompanied with both “off the top of my head” and “a few fall outside the bounds”. No justificaltion for the amount though…)

    Homicide: Life on the Streets
    Sopranos
    Oz
    Northern Exposure
    Six Feet Under
    Deadwood
    Entourage
    Huff
    Family Guy
    The Office
    Friday Night Lights
    West Wing
    Lost
    Heroes
    Dexter
    Arrested Development
    Scrubs
    Simpsons
    Seinfeld
    ER
    I’m Alan Partridge
    Boston Legal
    Dr Who
    The Shield
    Buffy
    Firefly
    X-Files
    Friends
    Parker Lewis Can’t Lose
    Eerie, Indiana
    Ed
    Futurama
    My So-called Life
    Brass Eye
    The Maxx
    Nighty Night
    This Life
    Sesame Street

  3. Futurama and South Park (??) is on the list but not The Simpsons? What rubbish! The Simpsons paved the way for adult animated programs, with The Simpsons South Park and Futurama especially would not exist!

  4. guywithoutaname says:

    My list would include:

    Harvey Birdman (Revamp of old Hanna Barbera cartoons)
    Mighty Boosh (Other mediums transferred to tv [stage show-radio show-tv])
    Rome (Visually amazing)
    Dexter (Nothing else like it on television)
    Nip/Tuck (Pushes boundaries of what should and shouldn’t be allowed on television constantly)
    Scrubs (Network show without laughtrack)
    Twin Peaks (Long story format done well)

    What do you think?

  5. Thanks for the thoughts guys, although Mike I think you missed this:

    “…any show that started before 1997 is out”

    No one is doubting the importance of The Simpsons, but it has been around 20 years now (and had it’s prime around 15 years ago) thus it’s exclusion. It’s like nominating John Howard for Young Australian of the Year.

  6. Could I just point out that my list started off the top of my head, just before going to bed, and then went through the process of not wanting to leave some undiscovered nuggets out. It was also sent off mere hours after the question came in to the Boxcutters mail box.

    If I knew it was going to be held against me six months later, I’d have been more specific about the bounds of my suggestions and added the shows outside of the initial enquiry as a specific rider to the list. That’ll learn me to be responsive and spontaneous.

  7. catbrain says:

    I can’t believe how dictatorial “the envelope” is being about TWW! Apart from the reasons already given, there are production methods that should also be considered – such as the single-camera continuous shots which were unique to the program and subsequently copied by others. Yes, it was idealistic and occasionally smaltzy, but it was the government that we all wanted at a time when The Idiot in real life was at the peak of his power and it played out the other side of the argument on our screens (something that seemed to be throttled in the mainstream American media at the time by the Neo-Con bully boys), as well as often providing an insight into the machinations and compromise required in such a position.
    Just frickin’ put it on the list, OK?!

    Huff was a great show and a really interesting exploration of the deterioration of relationships primarily from a male mid-life crisis POV. Very complex characters. I’m not sure if it should be included in GAT, but it’s certainly up there.

  8. I’m standing by Green Wing because it used fascinating production techniques in a revolutionary and thoroughly modern way, working to actually enhance the comedy and narrative. No aspect of the show would have worked, or even been possible, without this approach. If it hasn’t already influenced television comedy, it will soon.

    It cannot be easily described, but I’ll give it a go: Time is fluid. Not in the context of the show, but in the final package. A brief facial expression can be highlighted by slowing the ‘film’ speed at just the right moment. Gags can be heightened by carefully (and momentarily) speeding up the footage at very specific points. Every single scene employs this idea. Coupled with a soundtrack that cleverly indicates speed cues, the whole thing is an enormous mindfuck, but it works.

    Nope, can’t describe it.

  9. @Brett: You should know by now that anything you say or do will be held against you for a minimum of 6 months.

    We consider it a kind of sport.

    @Catbrain: There was nothing in that camera style you describe that we (in this country) hadn’t already seen in Phoenix, Janus, Wildside, and Blue Murder. Maybe we’re spoilt here but I don’t think we could honestly call it innovative.

    I loved the West Wing. I really did. It was a great show with some great moments to balance out the schmaltzy moments. It had some great characters and some fun bits of dialogue. It was fantasy-government porn but I don’t think it changed the way we watch or regard television (and neither, it seems, does the envelope).

    (PS The envelope’s favourite character was Mrs Laningham and I don’t think it could ever forgive TWW for killing her off.)

  10. This is from Jimbo which was in another thread but it has relevance here too.

    Right. That’s it. I’ve had it.

    NigelP, you’re the king. As I said last week, TWW managed to snare a huge audience while tackling heavy subject matter in a political setting. But no – clearly the televisual descendants of fucken Gilligan are far more worthy!

    Josh, sadly TWW was produced in the United States. Unfortunately, if you want to snare a huge audience while talking (walking and talking?) politics, the odd moment of schmaltz is probably going to be inevitable. I’ve managed to forgive just about every one of those moments in the first four series because the rest of it was so damn good. For fuck’s sake, we’re talking about a show which had one of its most dramatic and compelling and well-written episodes named after the number of an amendment to the US constitution! (And don’t tell me you weren’t clutching the arms of your chair when John Goodman snarled, “You’re relieved, Mr President.”)This show told the story of a presidential election – coherently somehow – while managing to avoid the detail of how on earth the presidential primary system works. (A hundred bucks to anyone who can thoroughly explain that to my satisfaction.) That’s just great story-telling!

    Yes, Don Henley sucks. But that was a big block of cheese day. So I think you’re forgetting the golden moments of Toby ignoring a bunch of globalisation protesters, Sam investigating an old case of espionage, and CJ with some crazy map makers who wanted to turn the world upside down. And that was just one episode!

    I also give you Ainsley Hayes, Joey Lucas, John Laroquette’s cricket bat, the old guy from the state department, Bruno Gianelli, Amy Gardner sitting on Josh Lyman’s stoop (and everything else she did), missing the motorcade, Karl Malden’s amazing Oval Office cameo, Matthew Perry showing off some fairly good acting chops as a Republican, Hoover’s good luck charm, Bartlet and Ritchie in the theatre foyer, Judge Roberto Mendoza, CJ and Simon, and Delores Landingham’s new fucken car!

    And you know very well, Kinal, that this list is just barely scratching the surface. So stop being so petulant!

    Show me another show which could not only stay on air but hold an audience in America after showing the president cursing God out in Latin in a cathedral.

    And then put it in the Golden Age of fucken Television ahead of the modern-day Ginger and Maryanne!

    Right. I think I’m done.

    Except to say that anybody who wants to use their mobile phone in a cinema better have a fucken heart to transplant or they can get fucked.

    Thank you one and all.

    Nice work Jimbo – good reasoning. Maybe we should reconsider? I’ll talk to the envelope (although Josh maybe more of a problem).

  11. Rob Boxcutter says:

    @Josh:

    Don’t you think TWW changed television by training the audience to work for its pleasure? Rather than explain the necessary background through the sort of exposition we all can’t stand, TWW just dumped you in the middle of it and maked you swim.

    Hard.

    And then, as an audience, slowly we discovered how enjoyable and fulfilling it was to work hard for our TV pleasure and eventually we hungered for it. Possibly this created the type of audience Deadwood then required to thrive (but remember, Deadwood was pay TV, TWW free to air network, so quite an achievement for TWW right there).

    A show that made public servants and public service sexy! That’s pretty amazing. A show that celebrated speech writers, eggheads and word nerds. Lionized them even!

    And going live to air with a “presedential debate” . . . Incredible!

    It should be in GAT simply for how it changed us as an audience, by raising our standards of viewing acceptability.

    Don’t you think?

  12. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” – guys you are seeing the Emperor’s new clothes with this one. Larry David may be a genius, but this self-indulgent, drivel is simply crap, crap, crap. At least Scrubs and Boston Legal were funny.

    If creating a show that is a comedy but isn’t funny, where the star can’t act to save himself and has cameos with famous friends, changes the way TV is, then I’d rather read a book again. Seriously.

  13. @Josh: WW perfected the “walk and talk”; whilst there were elements of it in the shows you mentioned, it certainly wasn’t used to any great extent – there wasn’t much tracking at all.

    I note you’re the only one arguing for WW’s exclusion; desperately trying to justify your position. Just face it, Josh – you are WRONG. Believe me, I understand how hard it can be to admit that, but your position is unsustainable – the people have spoken.

  14. Rob Boxcutter says:

  15. I’ve got to agree. The arguments for have been very convincing. The Wing should be in.

    And I have to say after a little contemplation so should Sex and The City and The Games.

  16. If creating a show that is a comedy but isn?t funny, where the star can?t act to save himself and has cameos with famous friends, changes the way TV is, then I?d rather read a book again. Seriously.

    Gold. I used to think that about Curb too, but it grows on you. However, there is definitely a place for it in the Golden Age of Television. It helped redefine what a comedy is. No Curb, no The Office, No Arrested Development etc etc.

  17. I’ve never watched an episode of WW (formerley TWW) but to @Rob Boxcutter’s “Boom!” I would like to add:

    Bam!

  18. So the envelope’s just come up to me and, head down, hands behind its back, staring at the ground and scraping the toe of its show at one point on the floor, mumbled something to me:

    —-“mmmph mmada wrong mmph mmph wing mmph mmph mppg age mmph mmph vision.”

    —-“What was that? Speak up. I can’t understand you when you’re being sookie.”

    The head came up and the envelope looked me in the eyes, tears streaming down its face, and more loudly than really necessary:

    —-“I said, maybe I was wrong and West Wing should be in the Golden Age of Television.”

    —-“But I’ve spent all this time and energy defending your position and now I’m the one who looks like an arsehole.”

    I yelled at the envelope as it ran away. My words seemed wasted because by now the envelope went to wherever it is it hides so I added, out of pure spite:
    —-“And nobody even thinks that you actually exist!”
    ___________
    So there we have it, people. The envelope has capitulated. West Wing is in the GAT list officially.

  19. Nice one MoBo.

    Zing!!

  20. Rob Boxcutter says:

    I’ve only watched a couple of Curb episodes but perhaps it earns its place in GAT by virtue of being an unscripted sit-mocumentary-com. Was it the first to do that?

  21. Working away at Boxcutters Central I just heard a voice sobbing from behind me:
    —-“Cou-hu-ould you puh-please ah-ask Ro-ho-ss to change the-hu offici-hil li-hist on the bloh-og?”
    I didn’t turn around.
    —-“I’ll ask him but I don’t know why I should do anything for you until you apologise.”
    Yes. I can also be petulant and I know I’ll never get an apology. It’s just not folded that way.

    @ROSS: can you please make the appropriate changes to the official list? Maybe keep the original list somewhere as a reference. Thanks.

  22. catbrain says:

    Excellent.

    And now that we’ve sorted that one out, I reckon we should move on to the argument for the inclusion of Top Gear.

    *ducks*

  23. Rob Boxcutter says:

    Great.

    So which show on the list does TWW bump off?

    hehehe

  24. And now… the Silver Age of Television: 1986-1996

  25. Josh, you’re a gentleman. I knew it was the envelope all along.

    Now, where’s Mika’s shredder when you need it…

    I’ve now taken my pills. Apologies for the outburst!

  26. Rob Boxcutter says:

  27. Rob Boxcutter says:

    Careful, Josh. It’s a fine line between admitting you’re wrong and being envelope-whipped.

  28. Crap, now I am getting it from the wife who is a few weeks behind and just realised The West Wing wasn’t on the list.

    Personally I say Firefly has to go to make way.

    And you want Top Gear on? Convince us.

    (I don’t want the arguing to stop now we have the Wing thing sorted.)

  29. David Boxcutter says:

    I’m with mrembach on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Ross, how do you figure that there would have been no The Office or Arrested Development without Curb?

    How do those other shows depend on Curb at all? Heck, The Office was created in Britain, and has absolutely nothing to do with the Larry David world. Plus, the BBC has been doing comedy like that for decades. I really don’t see the connection.

    Is there any evidence that the makers of Arrested Development or The Office were sitting around watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and suddenly came up with an idea for a new show?

  30. The only glaring omission in my opinion is Nip/Tuck.

    It’d be #1 on my list. Brilliant writing, acting, direction and pushes all kinds of boundaries. Easily the best show on TV.

    Thanks for the list… I can now work my way down it and watch the stuff I haven’t seen.

    NIP/TUCK FTW!!!11!!!!!

  31. David Boxcutter says:

    Listening to the podcast – have to disagree that The Daily Show is not worthy of GAT. It has had a huge cultural impact at a time when it was sorely needed. It’s also one of the first shows to really ‘grok’ the new media intertubes. Stewart and the gang talk about things like Youtube and Ted Stevens in a way that gives the impression that they actually know what they are talking about. Every other show is like ‘have you seen this new-fangled internet superhighway thing? Golly Geee-whiz, it’s high-tech!’

    It’s not just a comedy/satire show. It actually is a useful source of US news. I’m also a fan of The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, but these days I seem to be getting a lot more relevant news in 22 minutes of Daily Show than in 55 minutes of Newshour.

    Plus there are the spinoff characters – most obviously Stephen Colbert, but also John Hodgeman and the ‘shows within the show’ like Trendspotting with Dimitri Martin or even The Schmaily Schmoe with Schmon Schewart. Stewart and the show also has a great modesty and sense of self-deprecation.

    Anyway…

    I believe there’s a fundamental problem with the premise of GAT. I don’t think it can be anything other than a list of “our favourite shows”.

    You can try to rationalise it all you like, saying that you are only including ‘worthy’ or ‘groundbreaking’ shows. The problem with this is that depending on your perspective, either everything is groundbreaking or nothing is.

    For example, you all seem very fond of long-form HBO shows, and are inclined to call them all groundbreaking. But really, what have the Sopranos or other HBO shows done that Twin Peaks hasn’t already done? Sure there’s language and violence, but the structure and form has all been done before, and I don’t think that using naughty words is a significant enough difference.

    I think that Twin Peaks was truly groundbreaking for TV – but everything since then (with the exception of Reality TV and the animation revolution) has simply built on the foundation that Twin Peaks established of bringing a long story form, and cinematic sensibilities to film.

    If we go further back, is there anything that Twin Peaks did that hadn’t already been done in the works of Shakespeare or classic literature?

    So…

    What exactly was groundbreaking about Lost anyway? It seems pretty much like a standard TV drama to me. Oz? Just another prison show. Buffy is just Scooby Doo with actors instead of drawings. Futurama is just The Simpsons in outer space. The Office is just an extended Monty Python sketch about accountants and merchant bankers.

    So on and so forth…

    Face it guys, it’s just a list of shows you like. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s just no real criteria or consistency to the selections.

  32. We love ‘top n‘ lists though, don’t we? Look at 20 to 01, What a Year, My Favourite Album/Book/Film, every commercial radio station, etc. It’s all countdowns. People tend to hang around when a random mash of… stuff is framed as an arbitrarily ranked list.

    Perhaps we just like to see how popular (or elite) our own tastes are. The above chain of comments bears out this notion.

  33. How the hell can you not have seen Band of Brothers. And you call yourselves “TV nuts” Sheesh. And where was SPACED in that list, One of the greatest shows of all time and not even a mention.

    for what its worth.

    Drama:
    Deadwood
    Carinvale
    The Supranos
    Band of Brothers
    Twin Peaks

    Comedy:
    The Office (UK)
    Family Guy (abstract left field stuff is good)
    The Games (I still use this for teaching. Brilliant)
    Absolutely Fabulous

    Entertainment:
    Doctor Who
    SPACED (one of the greatest TV shows EVER)
    Firefly
    Buffy
    Life on Mars
    Lost
    Dexter

    Runners up
    Prime Suspect
    Ali G
    Jekyll

  34. David:

    Ricky Gervais has often stated what a huge influence Larry David has been on him. In fact Larry was one of only three heroes Gervais interviewed for his Ricky Gervais Meets specials (along with Christopher Guest and Garry Shandling).

    As for further influence look at the type of sitcoms that were coming out around the time Curb started in 2000 – Bette, Becker, Will & Grace, Bob Patterson, My Wife and Kids, 2 Guys and a Girl, That 70s Show, King Of Queens etc etc. Curb demonstrated that a sitcom could be single camera, no laugh track and most importantly not confined to a studio. It was shot fast and cheap, out there in the real world (or LA at least), a freedom Arrested them took up and developed upon.

    I reiterate no Curb, no Office, no Arrested.

  35. And also…

    “What exactly was groundbreaking about Lost anyway? It seems pretty much like a standard TV drama to me. Oz? Just another prison show. Buffy is just Scooby Doo with actors instead of drawings. Futurama is just The Simpsons in outer space. The Office is just an extended Monty Python sketch about accountants and merchant bankers.”

    Surely you’re just having a go? Is Nirvana just Bach too? It’s all just music…

  36. @Ross:
    Almost all of those things (single camera, no laugh track) Malcolm in the Middle did with a premier 10 months earlier and had the benefit of writers and actors! Surely that boosts it above Curb!

    **pulls the tiger’s tail**

  37. Well, I think there is a case for Malcolm to be in GAT – although it did have much more of a studio feel, rather than the DIY, independant, shot on the run feel of Curb and later Arrested.

    I’ll have to get onto Spaced and Band of Brothers.

  38. David Boxcutter says:

    Surely other sitcoms have been done without a laugh track and a studio setting – Beverly Hills 90210 immediately comes to mind, as does The Simpsons – which is basically a sitcom, albeit animated.

    Re: Curb, what’s the Larry David or The Office connection with Arrested Development? Why couldn’t that have been made without Larry’s efforts?

    Sure, I’m having a a bit of a go, but I think your music example is quite apt. Yes, it is all just music, it’s all just TV. If you’re going to use “breakthrough” as a criteria, then you have to make sure that all the list items are truly revolutionary. Yet you exclude things like The West Wing or The Daily Show for not being novel enough – but then go and include other shows which are barely novel at all.

    I mean, Weeds? I enjoy the show, but can’t see what is radically different about it than any other comedy/drama. That’s innovative and groundbreaking, but the Daily Show isn’t? Weeds is almost a throwback to the 70s, while the Daily Show enganges the new generation of media consumers.

  39. guywithoutaname says:

    @Marc Edwards: I totally agree. Nip/Tuck is often underrated and ignored because of the subject matter but its actually totally excellent.

  40. David ? I think we are coming from fundamentally very different points of view. If it is all ?just television? and you don?t agree that there has been a dramatic improvement in quality of certain television of the last few years then there is no golden age of television ? just a bunch of TV shows.

    What kind of sitcoms were there in the 70s like Weeds? When have we seen the suburban dream so savagely maligned? To me the whole story of this attractive, normal looking soccer Mum, who has balance being a housewife with the difficulties of being a drug dealer and the moral dilemmas that poses is completely revolutionary ? similar to why people like Desperate Housewives only good ? and that it does it in this single camera, no laugh track modern style, so not only is there no moral compass, but also no insipid cue as to what to find funny ? that is unheard of. In fact has there ever been a female drug dealer on TV? It was only 10, 15 years ago everybody was lauding The Simpsons and Roseanne as dysfunctional families (something until then not seen on television) and sitcoms all had a happy ending and a message in the end. Compare that to the end of Series 2 of Weeds ? I don?t want to give away any spoilers here, Channel 9 are to screen series 2 at some point ? but it is about as far from that as you can get, especially in regards to Peter.

    That is why Weeds is in the Golden Age of Television for mine ? because it something completely fresh and original and darker than any comedy we?ve seen on TV and very, very, very funny. But that is just me. If to you it is just another sitcom, like I don?t know, Will & Grace or Becker or whatever then like I said, fundamentally different points of view.

  41. Let’s remember a few things:

    1. This was a definition by example:
      We built the list to describe what we thought would fit into the criteria requested of us by one of our listeners. This included, quite importantly, a note about getting things on DVD for watching later. Only drama really has the repeat viewing value for DVD purchases. (And yes, comedy is included in drama as long as it is story based).
      The examples we’ve given do not include any non-drama shows.
      It’s probably for this reason more than anything that The Daily Show is not included. We all love the pants off it but it just doesn’t fit.
    2. This is not just a list of shows we like:
      Battlestar, Doctor Who, All Saints, Supernatural, Media Watch, America’s Next Top Model do not belong because they don’t meet the requirements we set; the very arbitrary requirements. I still disagree with the envelope on West Wing and think it succumbed to public pressure.
      The West Wing is a show I loved despite its many flaws (and, man, there were heaps) but it just doesn’t fit. Conversely, Six Feet Under is a show I have no consideration for whatsoever. You all know my feelings here. Yet, I understand why it’s on the list.
    3. What we’re trying to do here is create a definition of a time in Television like there are definitions of times in Cinema.
      I think this is a new time in Television and I know it’s not going to last. In Cinema we saw the raw as hell films by Hopper, Boorman and Hellman with their innovations in storytelling and style. Then we had the indie film set in the 80s. Unfortunately the money always came back to take the art away from the art.
      What we have in the Golden Age of Television is a list of shows that pushed the art forwards.
      That being said, there’s nothing wrong with liking the shows that also just entertain us or make us feel good about ourselves.

    Boxcutters exists because of the Golden Age of Television. If our TV screens were still filled entirely by the likes of Knight Rider, The A-Team and Scarecrow & Mrs King (ooh, and maybe Remington Steele — I loved that show), I don’t think the three of us would have thought there was anything worth talking about. That being said, if we look back to that time and we see shows like Moonlighting we can also see the kernel of what was to become the Golden Age.

    Does any of this make sense?

    I love the passion that everyone has displayed in this post. It’s what we created Boxcutters for and I want to see more of it.

    Also: Nip/Tuck? Green Wing? Really? What are you people smoking? And why has no one noticed that Brett had Nighty Night on his list?

  42. David Boxcutter says:

    I find the way the way you are including or excluding shows to be quite contradictory.

    On the one hand, you say that shows should be ‘different’ or groundbreaking, and on the other you seem to be saying they have to fit a formula. They are allowed to be ‘different,’ but not too different. But isn’t it radical departure which makes shows noteworthy?

    The exclusion of The Family Guy in favour of Futurama is probably the best example of this. Even though Futurama is the better show, Family Guy is the more radical, risk-taking show. Unlike even South Park, it has no fear of discarding narrative and indulging in surrealism.

    This type of thing is praised by you guys in Curb your Enthusiasm – the elimination of conventions like the laugh. But diverge from a plot-driven narrative, and that doesn’t seem to be cool with you. After all, that’s the main criticism Ross offers of The Family Guy. It’s just like dissing Curb simply because it lacks a laugh track.

    So, regardless of how much you enjoy the show, it’s more of a departure from the tradition established by The Simpsons than any of the other animations. but I think you just like Futurama more than Family Guy.

    Speaking of Curb, Ross wrote:

    Curb demonstrated that a sitcom could be single camera, no laugh track and most importantly not confined to a studio.

    I don’t see why this needs to be demonstrated. Everybody knows it’s possible to do this. As for allowing other shows to do this, I don’t really see it. Wasn’t the show a commercial flop? That doesn’t exactly encourage studios to follow in its footsteps. The other problem it had was that it wasn’t funny. Again, not something that’s going to encourage others.

    If anything, it was Arrested Development and The Office that showed that the approach could actually be successful and work, rather than being an egotistical indulgence.

    If to you it is just another sitcom, like I don?t know, Will & Grace or Becker or whatever then like I said, fundamentally different points of view.

    I don’t think it’s just like shows like that. But the main difference is that it’s good, not that it has any fundamentally groundbreaking or different properties. Every sitcom has its gimmick, and Weeds just happened to use marijuana. Was Alf groundbreaking because the main character was an alien puppet, rather than a human?

    As for the 70s – it’s not TV, but Cheech and Chong also used marijuana as their gimmick. Before you say it’s a ridiculous comparison, think about how each show reflects its era. Weeds simply reflects the miserable “emo” outlook and humourlessness of the late 90s-00s, while Cheech and Chong reflect the exuberance and hedonistic attitudes of the 70s.

    That is why Weeds is in the Golden Age of Television for mine ? because it something completely fresh and original and darker than any comedy we?ve seen on TV and very, very, very funny.

    Again, I remind you of Beverly Hills 90210 – very, very funny – and a dark, satirical take on Hollywood image-making and the morals of a consumer society. Years ahead of its time.

    As for savaging society and sub/urban dreams – the British have been doing edgy TV comedy for a long time. The Young Ones might have had a laugh track, but touched on many of the issues you claim are new. As did Monty Python. I think they probably did more savaging of norms than any of the modern shows.

    As for Josh:

    Boxcutters exists because of the Golden Age of Television. If our TV screens were still filled entirely by the likes of Knight Rider, The A-Team and Scarecrow & Mrs King

    Are you serious about this? I don’t remember any time when those kind of shows were all we had. I remember things like Monkey and Doctor Who, and of course Monty Python as mentioned above, stuff by Ben Elton, The Big Gig and The D-Generation, Astroboy, Quantum and Rubbery Figures.

    I think that it is a myth that there was ever a time when we only had the choice of trashy American stuff. There’s always been good stuff around.

  43. cool, atleast you guys started a debate!

    but, spaced and bsg have to be above shit like curb.

    anyhoo, for those wanting to see nathan barley, here are all the episodes:

    http://stage6.divx.com/videos/tag:nathan+barley

  44. Actually, my main criticism of Family Guy is that it isn’t funny.

    David – you’re not regular contributor Dishy in disguise are you?

  45. Again, fundamentally different David. Clearly (for all the reasons in my post a little back) I don’t see marijuana as just a gimmick in Weeds or Weeds as just another sitcom.

    ME
    Curb demonstrated that a sitcom could be single camera, no laugh track and most importantly not confined to a studio.

    DAVID
    I don?t see why this needs to be demonstrated. Everybody knows it?s possible to do this.

    Yes, but if nobody had ever done it before that makes Curb groundbreaking…

    Also, I think you can make a case that Curb has been far more successful than Arrested ever was, after all Curb is about to start series 6, while Arrested got axed after three. Regardless, influence and popularity often have little to do with one another.

  46. Green Wing? Really? What are you people smoking?

    Gah, if you can have Futurama you can have Green Wing. I’ve yet to understand how Futurama fits.

  47. @David:

    The Young Ones might have had a laugh track, but touched on many of the issues you claim are new. As did Monty Python. I think they probably did more savaging of norms than any of the modern shows.

    True, but with the sheer scale of content we have now it’s increasingly more difficult to reinvent the wheel. Back then you could sneeze and it’d be new and original.

  48. guywithoutaname says:

    @Josh: Never badmouth Nip/Tuck. Every season is better than the last.
    @FulltimeCasual: You can also see every episode of Nathan Barley if you search for them on Google Video

  49. I believe that there are a couple of shows that people are passionately arguing for, not because of their inherent merit, but because of how it makes them think about themselves. Loving a show like West Wing makes you feel smart. Everyone likes to feel smart. Especially if it feels like it is a bit of a select club. I think that Six Feet Under is valued in the same way. Unfortunately feeling good about yourself for keeping up with rapid dialog isn’t the same as them having made a show that changes the expectations that we have about TV.

  50. As someone involved in the early stages of the GAT discussion, I would like to throw my voice back into the mix and in doing so defend my mate Josh who seems to be receiving a an unfair beating on the blog.

    At the risk of being long-winded, can I start with a little background?

    A few months ago I asked the Boxcutters for some help putting together a list of great recent TV shows. The list was intended to serve as a guide in DVD rentals and Amazon purchases.

    I only had a foggy notion of what exactly I needed so I used this analogy:

    If I was in a coma for ten years then woke up to hear friends and family discussing TV shows I’d missed, I would want those people to provide me with a list of the shows I would need to see to be brought up to date. There would be no expectation that I would necessarily end up loving every show on the list but I would hope it gave me a pretty good coverage of the essentials so I could make up my own mind about my favourites.

    Brett was the first to respond and compiled a list that is still really useful. Yes he is a little ‘loose’ in his definitions but his list has already pointed me towards some wonderful stuff I would not have thought of and also reminded me about shows I had forgotten.

    The breakthrough though, was the structure that Josh (and the envelope) applied to the task. His criteria of: ‘demonstrated influence or effective change that contributed DIRECTLY to the new GAT’ was only ever presented as a rough set of guidelines but it took the selection process away from pure value judgements (“well, I like this one but that one is crap”) and gave it a rational framework to argue within. This is demonstrated by the fact that several of his personal favourites did not make the cut.

    Having said that, I actually sided with Ross, Brett (and some of the blog commentators) in several of the arguments that have ensued.

    I disagree with Josh on the exclusion of TWW, Sex in the City and maybe The Daily Show (although Josh’s latest blog argument on this one is pretty convincing) I also agree that Firefly does not qualify – even though I absolutely love it, but the real point is that these arguments have weight PRECISELY because they occur within a criteria framework that has conceptual rigor. We can (and do) debate the issue, but thanks to Josh and the fuckin envelope we have the parameters that allow us to start to apply meaning to mere disagreement.

    Thanks!

    Peter Boxcutter (AKA: PeBo – I’m very happy with both names)

  51. This is a postscript to my last comment, added because I’m all fired up now:

    In the end, there is no need for one single, definitive list.

    I would value multiple and varying lists from Ross, Brett, Josh, Dave Boxcutter and anyone else who wants to take the trouble (as long as it is presented in some sort of conceptual framework that allows me to read it and ‘calibrate’ it as more than just a banal list of someone else’s favorites).

    Peter (PeBo)Boxcutter

  52. Wow, you’re happy with PeBo?!? Josh swears black and blue you are against it.

    Hopefully too GAT is helping people discover quality television they may not have seen. I know personally I am looking forward to catching up with Band of Brothers and Spaced based on recommendations in this thread.

  53. Ross,

    The only problem with the name PeBo is the association with fly-spray but hey, I’ve been called a lot worse than that.

    P

  54. Rob Boxcutter says:

    Band of Brothers is certainly good television. Sort of like Saving Private Ryan, but over 10 (?) episodes.

    I had never heard of Spaced until now.

    What will we be arguing about this week?

  55. ross, if you’ve never heard of spaced til this week, then rejoice. you have 7 perfect hours of television waiting for you (just borrow the dvd i gave brett).

    and then, all you boys need some serious bsg time..

  56. and @guywithoutaname,

    yeah, nathan barley is available via the googles, but you’ll find the stage6 version are much higher quality… as is veoh.com

    its a shame really, pirating tv used to be such a chore, now its so easy it takes some of the fun out of it..

  57. I’m glad the people have spoken for me and managed to get West Wing included, but I’m also gunning for Sex and the City. I know when I accidentally stumbled across an episode late one night not long after moving to another country (completely unaware of its existence), I’d never seen anything like it before. And not just for the obvious reasons that have probably been mentioned, but also because I felt as though I was seeing real female friendship portrayed on the small screen for the first time. We didn’t have their money and careers or wear their clothes (or have such interesting love lives) but they spoke just like we did. About the things we did. In detail. And it was smart and funny. It’s probably not a reason for GAT inclusion, but it was a big deal for the women I knew seeing their secret lives portrayed on TV in an intelligent way. I’m guessing blokes probably take this stuff for granted because the stories have always been about them.

    Just wanted to say that. *gets off soapbox*

  58. Interesting points you make about SaTC, kerrie, and probably quite valid for inclusion on the basis of the last 10 years, but it’s not new to portray women in such a fashion – there are numerous British series that have done it over the years, and kicking back to the 70s in Australia there was an excellent soap called Certain Women – which is not to say that Australia hasn’t produced anything since, as Love My Way has done a great job (and is included in GAT). Perhaps it’s more about each show speaking to a particular generation or a particular culture.

  59. catbrain, you seem to have a head full of TV knowledge. My feeble TV brain has never heard of Certain Women. Agree that Love My Way does a great job in its portrayal of women – and suggest that the characters in SaTC are often little more than cliches and archetypes – but what made SaTC different for me was that female friendship is at the core of the show. Good point re: the generational/cultural thing.

    (I make it sound as though SaTC is my favourite TV show ever – far from it. And I grew really bored with it by the end, but in 1999 it seemed to have a big impact on a lot of people.)

  60. I think one of the things missing from the GAT was cultural significance. For example, comedy often works best when the audience has an understanding of the culture. As such, films like the Castle work well in Australia because we tend to get the cultural significance of specific cultural references. That does not always translate overseas. The Castle didn’t work in the US partly because they didn’t get the cultural significance of it. Similarly, a lot of the British stuff relies on an understanding of British culture. Without it, it can fail. Being British (and having lived in OZ for a good 30 years now)I tend to see both sides of the cultural sphere. But there are still things that Australians find funny that I don’t and visa versa. I don’t think you can omit a show based on the idea that because you don’t “Get it” then its crap. I don’t get “Kath and Kim” nor do I find it very funny. Yet its ability to affect a large proportion of the Australian audience is something worth thinking about. Neighbours I think is shit. Proper shit, but it has had a huge impact on both Australian and overseas audiences. As such it becomes an important text. “Acropolis Now” (and its variations) is another example of a text I would suspect as not working with audiences outside Australia, yet it has had an incredible impact with in the Australian TV landscape. It is one of the few TV shows which have presented ethnic diversity with in the mainstream (outside SBS). The significance of this should not be overlooked.

    Or perhaps I am being overly academic

  61. catbrain says:

    Cultural relativism? Texts? Next you’ll be mentioning spaces and we’ll be well on the way to an academic discussion…. *grin* Perhaps that’s what we need at this point: we’ve covered favourites; we’ve done the technical; now to theoretical. Bring it on.

  62. Wey-hey, I knew my media studies major would come in useful one day.

    The whole GAT thing is only there to generate discussion and expose some recent quality television. Of course there’ll be subjective differences. The West Wing bores the arse off me (and don’t start me on whatever the hell Curb Your Enthusiasm is), but if enough people can independently see value in something and explain that value, they’re worth listening to.

    The simple fact is that all texts are open to all kinds of interpretation, however valid that might be. I never ever understood what was so good about The Red Green Show, despite aboue half my friends telling me it was unmissable.

  63. LOL I can’t help myself. I teach Media Studies at University. Its in my nature to be academic. I could mention spaces. Hell I could mention the public sphere as well. Or I could even go with the Frankfurt School and Theodore Adorno’s “The Culture Industry”. (which is a text that is both right and wrong at the same time)But I will spare you that level of academic discussion.

  64. You teach? Where?

  65. A place starting with “L”

  66. Bugger. I went to an S.

  67. I went to a U and a V and also an R. This is just like Sesame St.

    I tried to watch Curb Your Enthusiasm but decided the gritted teeth and wincing weren’t doing me any favours and I stopped. Through sheer bravery I made it all the way through the first DVD before throwing in the towel.

  68. So, thanks to remembering via mentions several posts ago I finally got around to sourcing the Ricky Gervais Meets series that I was talking about way way back in this thread. I’ve only watched the one with Larry David so far but it is very interesting in outlining his writing process and how and why he does what he does etc and well worth a watch, if you are… well… if you are me I guess.

    While I completely understand why people wouldn’t like Curb, I find it staggering that I am the only person who seems to like it from the Boxcutters family. This is speaking in a general enjoyment capacity, not for the purposes of GAT. It’s like Seinfeld – it is so the stuff of life – the pain and suffering and torture of the every day, the ludicrous folly of existence. And it is immensely funny. Sure, not every ep, but when it is on song, which is often, it is hilarious.

    The other thing I don’t get is how many people revere The Office (UK) and detest Curb. It would make far more sense to me if you either hated both or enjoyed both. Strange.

    Very much looking forward to the new series.

  69. @Ross:

    The other thing I don?t get is how many people revere The Office (UK) and detest Curb. It would make far more sense to me if you either hated both or enjoyed both. Strange.

    Stereolab is influenced heavily by Can and Neu and Faust; I don’t like any of them, yet I love Stereolab.

    Perhaps I just need to see more Curb.

    On Gervais, has anyone here heard his podcasts and UK radio shows? It’s very easy to see where a lot of the Extras humour came from.

  70. catbrain says:

    I enjoyed Seinfeld until about season 5, but never for the character of George; similarly, I enjoyed The Office for the secondary characters, never for David Brent. I don’t mind CYE, but my enjoyment is strictly limited to very small doses. That said, I strongly agree that it should be in GAT, if only for its acknowledged influence on a number of other shows and writers; neglecting to include it would be going down the path of favourite shows again.

  71. rilestar says:

    A quick few words, if I may:
    Curb is hilarious.
    Family Guy is not funny. Re: its inclusion in GAT, another show about a family with an idiot Dad, that sometimes goes off on weird tangents, and which is funny, came before it.
    I tried watching West Wing once, and found it a bit boring. I am wearing a flame-proof vest.
    Re: Daily Show, Joshie, I find I can watch episodes again and again (they?re on right now whilst Jon is on vacation, and I still watch ?em), but I don?t believe that was in the original criteria the envelope specified. The main criteria was groundbreaking-ness (or should that be groundbreaking-osity?). I believe ground was broken, but of course, GAT is the Boxcutter?s thing, and I couldn?t care less that it?s not in.
    I love Futurama, and couldn?t care less that it IS in. Ditto Buffy, Lost, I’m Alan Partridge (a-haaaa), Arrested development, et al.
    All of you people complaining about what should and shouldn?t be in GAT should do your own podcast, and then you can have your own list.
    When I do my own podcast (and I won?t), Boxcutters will be in my Golden Age of Podcasts.
    I agree that television really has changed in the past ten years, and reckon you’ve done a good job of pulling out the shows that have been in some way responsible for this. Good work, guys.
    Twin Peaks was groundbreaking.
    The End

  72. Hooray!! Finally someone else can admit to liking Curb.

  73. catbrain says:

    Family Guy is not funny. Re: its inclusion in GAT,…

    For a minute there, I thought I’d missed something and it was in the list. phew.

    rilestar, we were asked for our opinions regarding the list. Despite the comments maybe occasionally getting a little assertive or defensive, I’m sure The Lads(TM) are loving how much discussion it has generated.

    You say you don’t care one way or t’other what’s on it; I, for one, would be very interested to know of any shows you might include that haven’t already been named. Care to share?

  74. Catbrain – your conciliatory tones have put me in something of a dilemma. Do I stick to my guns, and stubbornly refuse to second-guess The Lads'(TM) selections, or do I take up your lovely offer, and share a little, perhaps having a little cry?

    I might actually take the third option, which is to put my hands in my pockets, murmur “I don’t know, what do you think”, and kick at the ground a little bit.

    To be honest, hypothetically assuming for the moment that I had my own podcast (let’s call it “CutBoxers”) and was doing my own Golden Age, there would be a bunch of official ones that wouldn’t make my list, only because I haven’t really watched them, including West Wing, Friday Night Lights, Deadwood, Love My Way, and even (gulp) The Sopranos (though I’m planning on catching up with that via my brother’s DVD collection). I don’t have the download abilities, so I’ve generally had to rely on free-to-air (although we got Foxtel just recently), cutting out most of those delectably enticing HBO dramas.

    Those that I would definitely agree with are Arrested Development, Buffy, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Futurama, I?m Alan Partridge, The Larry Sanders Show, Lost, The Office, and South Park (mostly comedies, I just realised). I would probably add to that the Daily Show, My Name is Earl, 24, and Harvey Birdman (and possibly even The Colbert Report, which, although it was born of the Daily Show, is a step beyond and in some ways more “ground-breaking” than the Daily Show, since it mocks the bad guys seemingly from their own team). If someone was to wake up from a ten-year coma, I wouldn’t want them to miss those, to see how television had changed. Sex and the City (though I’m not a fan, because I’m, like, totally masculine) and Top Gear might also scrape through. There are other shows I like (I’m tempted to add Heroes), but not sure if they’d make the grade, criteria-wise.

    Since it’s taken me over a week to get back to you, you’d think I’d have thought about this a bit more. But I truly haven’t.

    Plus I, uh, don’t care…

  75. catbrain says:

    I think I mentioned somewhere along the line (not this thread, obviously) that I would plump for Gilmore girls: shotgun dialogue, an excellent ensemble cast, a story arc that continued all the way through every season (even if it didn’t finish quite the way Amy Sherman-Palladino would have wanted), completely believable characterisations – it had a lot going for it. I don’t know if The Lads have ever really watched it – perhaps it was all a bit too girlie for them. I’ve often been surprised by the people who have watched the show religiously, and not just for Lauren Graham.

    Out of the list, I would certainly agree with
    Arrested Development
    Buffy
    Curb Your Enthusiasm
    Lost
    Love My Way
    (even though Claudia Karvan as Frankie shits me to tears – I still think she’s just wrong for the part)
    Nathan Barley (why did it take me so long to find out about this gem??)
    The Office
    Oz
    Six Feet Under
    The Sopranos
    (just you try leaving this one off the list…)
    South Park
    The Wire
    The West Wing

    Deadwood I’m sure I’ll include when I actually get around to watching it; it’s been ages since I’ve seen any of The Larry Sanders Show and don’t really recall enough to comment; I wouldn’t include I?m Alan Partridge because, to me, it just smacks a bit of The Norman Gunston Show (yes, I know – it’s not the same, but there’s enough of a similarity with the gormless hosts for me to feel it’s nothing new, just new to the next generation).

    After contemplation and re-watching some eps recently, I would definitely include Sex and The City (good call, Jimbo), and I still reckon The Games deserves to be on there, if only for its freakishly prophetic nature – I pity John Clarke and Ross Stevenson that they’ve had enough contact with bureaucracy that they could predict what would happen with astonishing accuracy. In a similar vein I would consider Grass Roots, and a couple of other Australian shows – if only to give a parochial edge because, sometimes, I feel we are too eager to just eat up whatever is fed from the US; just because they spent a shitload more $ per ep doesn’t necessarily make it better. (But a bigger industry enables more programs to be made, ergo more will be better – hopefully – so I know the argument goes both ways.)

    One that I doubt many (if any) people will agree with is I Am Not An Animal, which I consider to be brilliant social satire with wonderful collage animation. A pity it only ran to 6 episodes.

    I would also go in to bat for Top Gear (yes, Ross – stop scoffing, it IS art; it’s also about passion, and I’m NOT a car person), except that it’s been going for nigh on 30 years, even though the current format only came about in 2001.

  76. Rob Boxcutter says:

    TIME’s TV critic James Poniewozik has recently posted a list of the 100 best TV shows of ALL-TIME.

    He details his guidelines for choosing, particularly in the short video interview accompanying the list.

    He gives a brief run-down of every show on the list, as well as a 30 second video clip.

    Shall we compare?

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