My Top Ten Favourite US Shows

It is strange how quickly times change and tastes and trends come and go. For some, this applies to fashion, for some, it is music and for others it is films and TV. In 2007, I wrote a blog post detailing my favourite US TV shows which seemed to dominate my TV viewing (with UK shows only accounting for a quarter of my viewing). One year later, I wrote another post updating my preferences, with the list looking familiar and different at the same time. And now, just under two years on, here is my list again with analysis below.

First off, here are my lists from 2007 and 2008 (in no particular order):

2007

Frasier

Grey’s Anatomy

Project Runway

Desperate Housewives

Ugly Betty

Lost

Prison Break

Nip/Tuck

Six Feet Under

Sex And The City

America’s Next Top Model

Friends

2008

Frasier

Project Runway

Ugly Betty

Grey’s Anatomy

Prison Break

Nip/Tuck

Six Feet Under

Sex And The City

America’s Next Top Model

Friends

Looking back on that, its clear to see that whilst Desperate Housewives and Lost started out really well for me, but eventually they were not able to sustain my interest. I am surprised that Prison Break held on to a spot in the top ten though Project Runway was a welcome addition to the group. Grey’s Anatomy remains the one series I always mean to watch but never get around to and recently, have lost total touch with. Other shows such as Sex And The City, Six Feet Under, Nip/Tuck and Friends showed quality writing that didn’t date quickly and felt as fresh and relevant as the first time I saw it. Similarly, America’s Next Top Model showed its formula was still strong as ever and remains one of my favourite programmes.

As with each year, I’ve decided not to put the programmes in any particular order (as I can’t decide!) and have marked all new entries with a *NEW*. So, here are my ten favourite US shows for 2010:

Nurse Jackie – *NEW* – Last year (2009) in New York, I remember seeing posters for this outside the subway stations and on the side of buses and not thinking much of it. When it finally made its way to the UK on BBC2, I watched the first episode and was hooked from the start. With the lead character being quite likeable but having some questionable morals, this programme quickly became the jewel in the crown on BBC2’s Monday night schedule. I love the way the characters are written, the performances by the actors and just the way every minute of every half hour episode is crammed with quality without being too dense. I cannot wait for Season Two.

Frasier – Still hanging in there, despite the threat of Family Guy, Frasier is still one of my favourite shows and all the more of a treat as I don’t get to see it often but when I do, it feels like meeting an old friend and catching up. In addition, I haven’t seen many of the earlier episodes which makes watching Frasier even more fun – definitely one of the best ways to start a day (as it is usually on in the morning in the UK)…

Nip/Tuck – I have to be honest, I have neglected Nip/Tuck, only because there were so many other programmes which seemed demand my attention more and in addition, I find I like to watch Nip/Tuck seasons in their entirety as a box set rather than follow it week to week. The fact that I have resolved to watch all of Season 3 (I left it mid way and yes, I am that behind!) and get up to speed with it all, shows this programme has that addictive factor and I’m sure I will tear through those box sets once I get started. Now if only I could find the time…

True Blood – *NEW* – Surprise, surprise, another project from Alan Ball finds its way into my top ten (Six Feet Under being the other). Sexing up the vampire genre and providing a solid adult alternative to Twilight (which I don’t mind and have read the books and seen the films) True Blood was an instant hit with me and though the whole mystery thing in the first season caught me by surprise (I really didn’t know who it was!), the second season was totally compelling and just went from strength to strength. With the third season starting with a bang and showing no sign of the ride stopping, True Blood has secured a place in my top ten with apparent ease and no doubt, as long as the writing and pace stay as they are, it will remain a firm favourite.

The Wire – *NEW* – “Have you seen The Wire? It’s amazing!” – it seemed at one point, you couldn’t move for the number of people praising this programme and bigging it up as the must watch programme of the time. That was until Xmas 2008 when I got the Season One box set and settled down on a cold winter night to watch it – and was instantly hooked. I could immediately see this was no flavour of the season show but one for posterity. The writing is so good it has created a benchmark of its own and the way it made the viewer work and interact with the programme is something I doubt will ever happen again in television in my lifetime. I greedily finished all the box sets as soon as I could but have every intention of revisiting them and watching this again and again. For those new to it, it comes armed with such heavy expectations, it may disappoint. But for those who get into it, they will understand why this will be one of my favourite television shows forever, no matter what happens.

Gossip Girl – *NEW* – When I saw the first episode of Gossip Girl, I was exasperated by the number of ad breaks and annoyed at how everyone seemed far too mature in the programme. Fast forward to Summer 2009 and after a holiday to New York, I wanted to watch anything and everything to do with the city and Gossip Girl slalomed into my life and took over. Slowly working through the first season, I first realised I was obsessed when I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about the show – always a good sign. After that, there was no looking back as I tore through Season 1 and 2 to get up to speed with Season 3, so that I could watch it each week on first transmission and like half the world, I now eagerly await Season 4.

With amazing fashions, a gorgeous cast and the location (have I mentioned that already?) Gossip Girl feels like it was made for me. Added to this that I met Ed Westwick before I started watching the show and Chace Crawford and Taylor Momsen (who play Nate and Jenny respectively) a few months ago, I am now a fully fledged Gossip Boy. Gossip Girl may not stand the test of time (ie will I be as enthused in five years time like I will about The Wire?) but as a show that allows one to live in the moment and for pure escapism, it is perfect. Again, new converts may not understand the fuss but for those that are fascinated by the inhabitants of the Upper East Side, the obsession is understandable.

America’s Next Top Model – New Girls, New Judge, New Drama as Cycle 14 of Top Model informs us and about time too. I really do feel like I have missed something when I don’t see this show but for a while, even a hardcore fan like me, Tyra Banks worshipper, had doubts about the show when I didn’t agree with some of the winners (Saleisha – really?) I cannot be the only person who felt some of the judging was erratic to say the least. But ANTM has survived its identity crisis and is as addictive as ever, and has emerged stronger.

With fashion heavyweight Andre Leon Talley on the judging panel and the prize for the next cycle reported to be a cover of Italian Vogue, it seems like ANTM has finally won its place in the high fashion world that it has always coveted.  With the terrific trio of Tyra, Mr J and Ms J still intact 14 cycles in, there is plenty of life in this format. The key to ANTM is innovation and reinvention and as long as this continues, this will remain a firm favourite of mine.

Six Feet Under – Before The Wire, Six Feet Under was my ultimate bible of quality drama and this hasn’t changed – I love both shows equally and this is another series I intend to revisit as moments from this show seem to crop up in my mind all the time in everyday life. SFU was one of the first shows that I watched that really broke all the taboos and like The Wire, was an education of sorts in television drama writing, showing how to push the envelope without compromising on quality – this is one of my most treasured box sets and will always be a special series to me.

Sex And The City – Speaking of treasured box sets, here is another one that I cannot live without. What started out as joke with my friends, where two or three of us watched this and then discussed, has become a global phenomenon as it seems everyone else was doing the same. Yes, the first film wasn’t great and the second one wasn’t much better (though both entertained) but this was a bloody good show. The writing, the fact I don’t like Carrie Bradshaw as a character, New York as a background, the fashion…

One of the reasons I persisted with watching Gossip Girl was the constant comparison to Sex And the City, with some even calling it the new SATC (steady with the epithets there!). I could go on and on about it but perhaps the best compliment I can offer is that I can dip into any episode of any season and be transported into a different world and still learn something new from the end of it. This show will never go out of style, nor will it ever leave my top ten.

Friends – How could I not include Friends? This is the one that started it all off for me – once a week, I would look forward to this on a Thursday night and for the week after, repeat the jokes with similarly obsessed friends. Not since Neighbours had watching a programme been so important to me and in the entire run, I only ever missed one episode and that was because the video recorder failed to record on time (and in karmic move, all VHS was doomed to extinction thereafter!). Since then, I have seen every episode and it is beyond disturbing how I can recite lines and jokes before they play out on screen.

Of course, Friends has been replayed continuously despite ending in 2004 and for many, has turned from unmissable to unbearable. Still, I maintain that after a hard day or as a programme to watch on a Sunday morning or on a lazy day, Friends is unbeatable. As it moves from terrestrial to a cable channel next year (in the UK that is) as someone who doesn’t have satellite television, I am sure absence will make the heart grow fonder and if anything, that ridiculously over priced box set (which is now much more affordable) may find its way onto my shelf – but in any case, Friends’ place in my heart is always secure!

So, my 2010 top ten:

1)    Nurse Jackie – NEW

2)    Frasier

3)    Nip/Tuck

4)    True Blood – NEW

5)    The Wire – NEW

6)    Gossip Girl – NEW

7)    America’s Next Top Model

8)    Six Feet Under

9)    Sex And The City

10)  Friends

What do you think of my Top Ten? What are your favourite US shows? Post your thoughts below…

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