[Blogged by Jeremy Grayson]
[The Best Shows of the What?]
Come near the end of every year, the crop of Internet denizens who comprise the serious television community take to their typewriters and make their case for what they believe are the television shows that best made the last 365 Earth-cycles worth sitting through. They label these lists with titles like “Best Shows of the Year” (an objective-sounding designation, despite the fact that it’s very rare to find any two lists that are alike), and post them on their respective websites/blogs/forums/YouTube channels. Said lists are promptly shredded to pieces by other Internet denizens, who complain about the omission of Show X and the inclusion of Show Y. This in turn leads to foul name-ascribing, intelligence-questioning, and all the other things that make the Internet the charmingly lovable place it is. Then another 365 Earth-cycles pass, and they do it all over again.
When the Blog was introduced to Critically Touched at the start of this year, Mike suggested that a possible topic for an article would be “TV’s Best Shows in 2014”. And for a brief time, I bandied with the idea of writing such an article myself. Unfortunately, given that every other television fan and their grandmother are making “Best Shows of 2014” lists around this time, I just couldn’t work up enough enthusiasm to get beyond the idea that my opinion would be lost in a sea of like-mindedness. (To a critical writer, that’s the scariest thought imaginable.)
So I sat down and placed my chin on the back of my hand to give the impression that I was thinking about this. And eventually, my attempt at thought bore fruit. I thought about “Best of the Year” lists, and “Best of the Decade” lists (which, as you may recollect, were insanely popular in 2009), and then I happened to look at the calendar and notice we were almost halfway through the decade that made up the Twenty-Tens.
And then that creepy little voice that lives inside my head said, “Jeremy, how about we do a ‘Best Shows of the Lustrum’ list?”
“A ‘Best Shows of the Lustrum’ list?” I replied. “That’s brilliant! Only… what’s a lustrum?”
For those as uninitiated as I was when I first came up with this idea, a lustrum was what the ancient Romans termed to be “a period of five years”. This is a convenient term, because it breaks down longer time periods, gives me an attention-grabbing and important-sounding title, and saves me from having to call this list something cumbersome or forced like “Best Shows of the Half-Decade” or “Best Shows of the Last Five Years” or “Why I’m Awesome, Part VIII”.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, this is a long way of saying that I’m about to write a list of what I feel are the best shows of the first half of this century’s Teens – or, as will be referred to from here on out, the lustrum. Specifically, I will talk about the shows which aired from 2010 to 2014 – a total of 1,826 Sun-cycles – and made those years their most bearable. While I certainly expect there to be some disagreement with some of my choices, I feel confident that the nature of my list will at least keep me from being drowned out by my fellow denizens. (That is, until The AV Club rips me off. Sigh…)
Over the next three weeks, I will reveal my choices, fives picks at a time, beginning with Numbers 15 through 11 next Sunday, continuing with 10 through 6, and ending with the all-powerful Top Five. Those who frequent the forums can probably guess some or most of my choices – and possibly even my #1 choice – but I hope there will be at least a few surprises.
Oh, and… yes, I’m aware that last week I mentioned on my “Top 25 West Wing Episodes” article that I’m not a big fan of lists. And yet here I am making a list. But the thing is, I’ll be writing several paragraphs about each of my picks, so that this whole thing will look less like a list and more like a series of small articles. That makes it okay. Trust me.
As with “Best of the Year” lists, I’ve culled together a set of rules for my picks for this project. Some may be obvious, but I feel they all should be stated anyway, to keep things clear and refined. As follows:
1. I’ve only included shows I’ve watched. This is pretty much a no-brainer, but I’m tossing it off anyway, mostly because many readers don’t know which shows I have or haven’t watched, or what the extent of my television viewing is. I do watch a lot of TV, but I’d be lying if I said I watched half the critically beloved shows that have aired in the last five years. For example, I have never seen Game of Thrones, Justified, or Orange Is the New Black. Thus, I formally apologize to all the fans of that show who will be reading this list (of whom I know many). As a sign of good faith, however, I have used a Game of Thrones screencap for the banner pic of this introductory post. No need to thank me. But do it anyway.
2. I’ve only included shows I like. This one may also seem obvious, but I’d like to point out the difference here between “Favorite Shows” and “Best Shows”. This list, as you’ll see, is a mixture of both objective quality and personal preferences, but in the end, I chose to leave out any shows that didn’t personally resonate with me. I understand that shows like Homeland and Modern Family have many ardent fans, but I’m just not among them.
3. Shows will be judged based on their offerings in the current lustrum. Specifically, this means shows will be judged by the quality they exhibited between 2010 and 2014, and not before. For example, you may notice that How I Met Your Mother is not on my list. Now, I love the 2005-2009 seasons of How I Met Your Mother, and it would have certainly earned a spot on my list of the previous lustrum’s best shows, had I made one. But I was not nearly impressed with the show’s 2010-2014 seasons. Thus, it is not on the list.
4. Shows cannot be brand-spanking-new. This one’s a bit controversial, but I’ve decided to place a debut limit on the shows here. All the shows on my list premiered before 2014, mainly because I want to see if initially good shows can establish and maintain a firm ground over time. Usually, they can, but my instincts are always on the suspicious side.
Well, that about does it for preliminaries. Tune in next week for the first installment in my three-part saga of chronicling the 15 Best Shows of the Lustrum!
Jeremy Grayson is a freelance writer and reviewer for Critically Touched. He’s also standing right behind you. Ha! Made you look.