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Reader Poll: What Are Your Top Five Favorite TV Shows?

If there’s one thing I learned from the writers’ strike, it’s that American Gladiators is a poor, crippled, mongoloid excuse for a replacement for quality scripted television.

Oh, and I also learned that I’m a hell of a lot more productive when I’m not spending several hours every day trying to stay on top of my shows.


My DVR’s season pass currently lists forty TV shows. That’s 4-0. One the one hand, it’s not like I’m trying to watch forty shows per week. The list includes include Fall, Summer, and midseason-replacement series, but… still. That’s a hell of a lot of hours spent every year with LCD emitters frying my retinas.

Forty seasons of television per year. That’s just too much time worshiping at the Temple of (Boob) Tube. Just think of all the the things I could have accomplished with my life in the 100+ hours I’ve sat watching episodes of The Apprentice. (Yeah. Pretty scary when I put it like that, isn’t it?)

It’s not like I’m suddenly going to become one of those people who gets rid of their TV just so they can incessantly talk about how great it is not having a TV. No way. I love TV too much to ever fully give it up. But I am going to make some serious cutbacks. Starting with upcoming Fall TV season, I’ve decided to cut the fat out of my TV-watching diet so that the only time I spend in front of the tube will bring me unadulterated joy. Anything else is just wasting my time.

With that in mind, I went through the exercise of hacking and slashing through my season pass list until I was left with the selections I’d make if I were absolutely limited to following exactly five television shows:

  1. The Office – Need I say more?
  2. Lost – Damn, this show is good again. Really good.
  3. Friday Night Lights – I hope I don’t regret this. I’m only on season one.
  4. Beauty and the Geek – The most charming, funny, and fun reality show on TV.
  5. So You Think You Can Dance – What American Idol would be if it were sincerely entertaining. With hotter contestants.

Didn’t expect two out of my five to be reality shows, but… there it is. These are all shows that still have the power to make me positively gleeful.

I would have had a harder time narrowing down the list if there weren’t so many of my favorite series ending their runs this year: Battlestar Galactica, Jericho, The Wire, The Batman, Legion of Super-Heroes.

Shows I had a difficult time eliminating: Terminator, Reaper, Chuck, Life, Ninja Warrior, Mad Men, Burn Notice, The Unit, My Boys.

I had a pretty easy time letting these shows go: Smallville, Heroes (!), American Idol, The Apprentice, Transformers Animated, Dirty Jobs (if you’ve seen thirty episodes, you’ve seen them all…), Family Guy, Human Weapon, Spectacular Spider-Man, Saturday Night Live (I can always catch the highlights on the interwebs), Witchblade, Death Note, Real Time with Bill Maher. Breaking Bad, South Park (losing me this season), Daily Show/Colbert Report, 60 Minutes, How I Met Your Mother, Rescue Me (once-brilliant, it lost me last season), My Name Is Earl, Breaking Bad.

I’m surprised how many shows were so easy to cross out. But when I started thinking in terms of: “Which TV shows are genuinely fresh, entertaining, and bring me joy… and which shows merely help me pass the time?” …the decisions got a lot more simple.

What say you, fellow TV-addicted people? If you had to slash your TV time to just five shows, what would they be?

27 comments… add one
  • Nathan D April 3, 2008, 9:23 pm

    You really have that little faith that Heroes can come back from mediocrity? And BSG, you consider that not worthy of the season pass because you’ll be watching it “live” anyway?

    Really the only thing I think you are clearly making a mistake on is Daily Show/Colbert Report — I suppose in reality it has been quite a while since I have seen either, but how will you know what’s, you know, happening in the world? ;)

    I still am sticking with the “DVD Only” approach — if a show isn’t something people are still saying was good a year later, it ain’t worth my time….

  • Great White Snark April 3, 2008, 9:47 pm

    Yeah, not feeling it with Heroes. First season was fantastic, but I don’t think it’ll ever have the “wow” factor again.

    If you look at the post again, I’m watching the last season of BSG. I’m not putting the plan into effect until the Fall.

  • Nima April 4, 2008, 12:05 am

    My shows would be:
    * 30 Rock
    * Reaper
    * Hardball with Chris Matthews (2x a day!)
    * America’s Next Top Model
    * Anything that involves people fighting in an “ultimate” fashion

    The Office? Really? This current season (4) is sucking hard, and the one before it was kind of touch and go.

    You don’t think Tim Kring will fix stupid-ass Heroes next season?

  • Great White Snark April 4, 2008, 12:55 am

    Nope, still not optimistic about Heroes. Tim can talk about how he figured out how they screwed up season two all he wants, but they’ve lost me. Ish.

  • Daryl Tay April 4, 2008, 12:57 am

    My 5 shows:

    Prison Break
    Dirty Sexy Money

    Very close:
    Pushing Daisies

  • Great White Snark April 4, 2008, 12:59 am

    Also good ones, Daryl. I forgot to mention, Pushing Daisies would be one I’d have a tough time letting go of, too.

  • Shannon April 4, 2008, 5:45 am

    My one show would be: Lost.

    And then if I wanted to add another 4:
    The Office
    30 Rock
    Big Love (HBO)
    Curb Your Enthusiasm (if it comes back for another season)

    I’m on the fence about Heroes, but I’d probably drop it in favor of the list above.

    This is a nice thought exercise. It’s good practice to cull the season pass list every once in a while. We are taping South Park and Terminator but we never watch them.

  • nickolai April 4, 2008, 8:46 am

    I’m embarrassed to commit to writing what my ‘top’ shows might be. But here goes…

    * Law and Order: SVU
    * Law and Order
    * Project Runway / Top Chef
    * The Biggest Loser
    * Law and Order: CI

    I suppose I would also throw America’s Best Dance Crew up there. But the point stands, this is a truly un-geeky TV roster. Help me…

  • lovelain April 4, 2008, 9:47 am

    wow, that’s a tough choice. i guess for me:
    -ninja warrior
    -family guy
    -jericho (i just can’t give up completely yet)

    can’t resist also listing top 3 shows that have been canceled. even though i’ll never see them again, i still love them:

    -tough crowd w/ colin quinn
    -the 4400

  • Cindi April 4, 2008, 10:39 am

    GWS, you deleted “Mad Men”? My sweet Jesus, have your lost your mind?

    I could only pick 3 that would absolutely have to go on the list:
    1) Mad Men
    2) Lost
    3) Grey’s Anatomy (sorry! sorry!)

    Vying for spots 4 and 5: In Treatment (strangely addictive), Tell Me You Love Me (also strangely addictive because I perhaps relate a little bit too much to some of these couples, even though they annoy the hell out of me), Flight of the Conchords, and yes, Desperate Housewives (1st season only). Oh, and *possibly* Battlestar Galactica.

    Shows that would definitely be in the top 5 if they were still on the air: Rome, Notes from the Underbelly.

    We have 33 shows in our Season Pass Manager. But keep in mind that a good portion of these are dictated by my son: Teletubbies (strangely calming after a long day of work), Thomas & Friends, Jack’s Big Music Show, Backyardigans, Oswald. And don’t even get me started on my husband’s shows…

  • Paul April 4, 2008, 12:40 pm

    I don’t watch a lot of new TV. The only shows I HAVE to catch are:

    1. Battlestar Galactica (even though they were losing me last season)
    2. Venture Brothers

    I used to love Frisky Dingo but the second season sucked compared to the first.

    I guess I spend a lot more time either writing or playing Rock Band/Halo 3/Call of Duty 4 than watching TV

  • Shithead April 4, 2008, 12:55 pm

    Flight of the conchords
    Curb your enthusiasm
    The Office
    American Idol

  • Great White Snark April 4, 2008, 1:38 pm

    Wow, quite a reaction! Clearly you guys take your TV as seriously as I do… and it warms the cockles of my… whatever.

    @Shannon: Agh! How could I forget Big Love? (I had to get a new cable box and reset my season pass list.) That’d be another on my “tough to let go of” list.

    @Nickolai: Hey, dude, no worries. Law&Order is totally where it’s at. If you live in 1995.

    @lovelain: You’re a woman after my own, geeky heart. But why’d you have to twist the knife in my gut that was Carnivale’s cancellation? Lordy, that was a great show.

    @Cindi: You’re such a girl. So… job well done. I respect your choices, with the obvious exception of Desperate Housewives. Which is… well, you know. Flight of the Conchords is another I enjoyed moments of, but never really connected with. Enjoyed the soundtrack more than the show. Oh, and Rome? =The Awesome.

    @Paul: If I had an Xbox 360 (click those PayPal donation buttons!), that’s exactly how I’d be spending my time, as well.

    @Shithead: I wish I had Showtime so I could enjoy all the glorious T&A showcased on Californication. It’s like Rome, but set in modern-day Hollywood.

  • Paul April 4, 2008, 2:07 pm

    GWS… I was tempted to send you a dollar today.


  • Patrick D. April 4, 2008, 7:06 pm

    I actually weened myself down to the really crucial shows a couple seasons back when I was watching too much television. All I watch religiously now are (in order of enjoyment): Doctor Who, The Office and Scrubs. I watch other stuff if The Wife is watching it, but I can take it or leave it.

  • lovelain April 4, 2008, 9:23 pm

    gws, carnivale’s cancellation was definitely a tragedy. that was the only time i really got involved in a “save my show” thing. i still kinda dislike hbo because of it (then they canceled lucky louie, which i dug too).

  • Nima April 5, 2008, 1:39 am

    Oh, I forgot about Showtime. I freakin’ love The Tudors. There are boobs in EVERY episode. I’d swap out The Office for it.

  • anim8or April 6, 2008, 10:29 am

    Right now, since the strike has shut down pretty much every good show.

    Family Guy
    Dexter (again, because Journeyman was canceled)

    Dexter is probably the best show I have ever seen in my life. Although it may be because I have always wished I was a vigilante serial killer. Dexter is what batman would be in real life.

  • anim8or April 6, 2008, 10:31 am

    oh… and you have to watch the Showtime Dexter not the dumbed down and cleaned up network version.

  • Great White Snark April 6, 2008, 11:31 am

    Man, oh, man. How could I forget about Dexter. (The Showtime version, of course.) Definitely on my ‘tough to let go of’ list. Might even be number six.

    By the way, anim8or, best line of the day: “…because I have always wished I was a vigilante serial killer”

  • jenna May 8, 2008, 8:46 am

    if i had to pick
    1. ghost whisperer
    2. csi: new york
    3. gossip girl
    4. desperate housewives
    5. army wives

    there are more as well
    pushing daisies, criminal minds, medium, veronica mars , moonlight, teenage kicks, waterloo road and lois and clark new adventures of superman i know some of them are cancelled but i love them and teenage kicks and waterloo road are british programs so u probably have never heard of them if your from america

  • Sara August 6, 2008, 1:29 pm

    The Office
    30 Rock
    Firefly (now and forever!)
    Medium (sue me)

  • Sara August 6, 2008, 1:30 pm

    The Office
    30 Rock
    Firefly (now and forever!)
    Medium (sue me)

    I’m anxious to see Pushing Daisies return, it was the one show of the new crop last year that actually kept me coming back for more.

  • Chelsea S. August 12, 2008, 10:10 pm

    The Office
    South Park

  • Ahanovich December 12, 2008, 4:15 pm

    No show will ever beat Ninja Warrior… except maybe Gossip “jailbait-galore” Girl

  • Ano monous January 9, 2009, 12:42 pm

    I love heroes! grey’s anatomy and desperate housewives
    1) desperate housewives
    2) 3) heroes and grey’s anatomy the same!

  • John Hatcher July 6, 2009, 12:33 pm

    1) Miracle.
    2) Numbers.
    3) X Files.
    Actually, those are the main things I actually watch.

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