Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The Times '50 Best US Television Shows' and why lists like this seem out of touch

So last week The Times printed a list of their top 50 US television shows in recent years. They were broad in the term ‘recent years’ which allowed programmes that have subsequently finished such as Six Feet Under and Sex and the City to appear. The motivation behind this article seemed to be to demonstrate that US television is where the quality lies rather than from the UK, and that it is imported TV that is allowing television to be taken seriously again. Now there are several issues that I have with this sentiment one being that the imports from abroad have been consistently good for at least 10 years if not longer (Friends and ER did start 15 years ago after all, with other shows such as Twin Peaks and Hill Street Blues going back even further). It may be that with tools such as the internet, DVDs and cheaper multi channel packages that these have become more accessible to an overseas market but I believe that the sentiment that this is something more recent is incorrect.

The notion of how ‘worthy’ television is and whether it can be taken seriously is another which jars with me. Yes there are now hours of reality television and in a multi channel era there is always going to be much more on television that might be considered to be trash (however one persons trash is another persons treasure, for example I love the channel E! for escapist fun and at no point do I believe it to be something serious). I would just suggest that this list would be better suited as one to demonstrate that yes there are good shows that are coming out of the US but that this is not a new thing and it shouldn’t necessarily be coming from an angle which suggests cultural elitism.   

Another point is, is that the programmes that are exported tend to be the most popular and well produced ones, not shows such as ‘The Cougar’ or other reality titles such as ‘Axe Men’ and ‘Tool Academy’. So of course the television that we get from abroad is going to seem of a much higher quality as some of the ‘crap’ is going to have been filtered out. Although if you watch The Soup with Joel McHale he will watch all the ‘bad’ reality shows for you and show you the best bits (I highly recommend this show).

The people involved in making these quality shows that are exported is another area that should be considered; like the films that come out of Hollywood, it is not only the efforts of American talent that makes these but are generally made up of an international body, television is just like this with many non-Americans in leading roles in your favourite shows.

You should check the list out for yourselves and see if you agree with their choices, I myself do not agree with quite a few points and disagree with some omissions including The Daily Show and Fringe (especially as Dollhouse is on the list when it hasn’t even aired in the UK yet), I’m happy that they have shown both Chuck and Friday Night Lights love but like any list like this there is always going to be arguments as to why certain things should be higher than others. I guess the point of a list like this is to promote discussion and debate which it has definitely prompted with me, as you can tell from this entry.


Find the list here: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article6061203.ece



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