Jeffrey Malone’s 50 Favorite TV Shows of All Time

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You can learn a lot about people from their favorite television programs. TV viewing involves spending a lot of time with fictional characters and more or less forming relationships with them. Who we choose to spend our time with says a lot about our own personalities. With that in mind, here are the current standings for my 50 favorite shows of all time.

Arrested-Development-Season-5

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Best Episode of the Season: Parks and Recreation Season 7

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Leslie&Ron&Sax

“Leslie and Ron”
One of the worst habits of sitcoms in their later years is retconning character development. It is always ill-advised to revert characters back to their original iterations, even if they’re the versions that fans fell in love with. In the first few episodes of its final season, Parks and Rec appeared to inexplicably be guilty of this as a time jump found Knope and Swanson at their most antagonistic ever. But then the heartbreaking backstory was revealed in a blowout bottle episode, and their friendship and our faith were restored.

Will I Ever Think Aubrey Plaza Deserves an Emmy?

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april-ludgate-aubrey-plaza-parks-recreation

This may seem like a silly thing to ask, since it is something that I am in control of – I am not decrying the fact that the Television Academy has never honored Aubrey, but that I myself have never thought she quite deserved that honor.  But it is not so silly when one considers how serious I am when I wonder what would happen if I were in charge of the Emmy winners.  Aubrey Plaza’s performance as April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation is undoubtedly unique and entertaining enough to garner multiple Emmy nominations, which she has not received, but which she would have received if I had been in charge.  She is SO unique and SO entertaining that when viewed independently of all other contenders, I do not know how I could ever vote against her.  But there are other strong contenders in the Supporting Actress in a Comedy field, and the way that competition has played out suggests that the fates are simply not in Aubrey’s favor.

Here’s a year-by-year breakdown of how the race would have played out if I were in charge:

-2009: I did not watch Parks and Rec‘s first season, nor does it seem like I ever necessarily should.  From what I can gather from the episode synopses, April did not yet play that big a role anyway.

-2010: “I would be completely behind the absurdly idiosyncratically deadpan Aubrey Plaza winning here,” I wrote … “if not for Jane Lynch.”  Once upon a time, Glee was a halfway decent show and Sue Sylvester was more or less the best character on TV for a year.

-2011: Glee wasted no time in beginning its descent into oblivion, and Jane Lynch was harmed by her show’s decline more than anyone else in the cast.  “This would have made room for Aubrey,” I reasoned, “except that Alison Brie became even more essential to Community,” a show which had quickly become the best on TV.  (It’s possible that Alison was already that good in Season 1, and I just didn’t completely notice at the time.)

-2012: Another year of Community at the top of its game, another year of Alison Brie blowing my mind.  Further against Aubrey’s favor, I finally realized exactly what Alison’s co-star Gillian Jacobs was doing.  “[O]h how I wish I could also pick Aubrey,” I screamed.

-2013: The marked decline of Community should have cleared the way right for Aubrey … except that I believed (unlike a lot of critics) that Parks declined even more than Community. However, April was actually the least harmed during Season 5.  But, though she was never bad, she did not often enough get the screen time to be great.  This year has been wacky enough that I would actually be in favor of Toks Olagundoye of The Neighbors , an excellent performer on an otherwise decent-to-merely good show.

So, Aubrey’s most consistently major competition has been Alison Brie.  Thus, for her to break through and be number one for the year, then likely at least one of two things will need to happen:

1. Community will need to remain in decline.

2. Community will need to be cancelled before Parks and Recreation.

With the returns of Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna, Number 1 is now less likely.  So that leaves us with Number 2, which not only seems possible but probable, considering how Community is perpetually on the bubble.  But somehow it keeps surviving, and if there is a bump in quality, it may even be more likely to survive again (Dan Harmon vowed at Comic-Con that he was going to “do everything [he] can to get us the sixth season”).  And Parks and Recreation is not too far above the bubble itself, really.  I guess the solution here is … A TIE!

Now, onto the real Emmys and making that tie an actual occurrence!  I know plenty of people who would enjoy the sight of Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza standing next to each other.

Best Episode of the Season: Parks and Recreation Season 5

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Season Analysis: Parks and Recreation is interested in protecting the status quo at this point, and that could be fine, but for a show with as high a standard as Parks, it really wasn’t fine in Season 5.

Parks-and-Recreation-Jerry-Retires“Jerry’s Retirement”
Parks and Recreation could learn a lesson about how to write for Leslie Knope by paying attention to how it has written Jerry Gergich.  P&R had a bit of an issue in Season 5 in that basically everything always worked out for Leslie.  Sure, she has had some headaches as a city councilwoman, but for the most part, her past year has been astoundingly successful.  Jerry has hardly had this same success, but he has managed to achieve his main life goal of retiring comfortably.  But apparently once upon a time, he had other life goals, like having lunch in the executive dining room and meeting a former Pawnee mayor.  When Leslie isn’t able to help Jerry achieve these goals, he is still basically happy.  But Leslie still feels the need to make sure Jerry is doing well, which leads her to his house, where she spends breakfast with the Gergiches.  They flip through photo albums and sing songs, and Leslie witnesses just how much his beautiful wife and beautiful daughters love him – about as much as any husband and father could possibly be loved.  That is how you maintain the status quo and remain entertaining.

The Best Sitcoms of the Past 30 Years

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The past few weeks, Vulture has been has been having a bracket-style “Sitcom Smackdown” to determine the best sitcom of the the past 30 years.  Yesterday, The Simpons was chosen as the winner.  Today, however, Arrested Development was crowned in the readers’ bracket.  Here’s how I how I would have ranked the shows that were in contention.  (I haven’t been a regular viewer of all of them, so for some, I had to guess based on reputation.  I’ve indicated how much I’ve seen of each show in parentheses.)

1. Arrested Development (seen every episode, most – possibly all – multiple times)
2. Seinfeld (seen most episodes, most of them multiple times)
3. Community (seen every episode at least twice)
4. The Simpsons (started watching regularly in season 11, seen a handful of episodes from before then)
5. Cheers (only seen clips)
6. The Larry Sanders Show (not sure I’ve even ever seen clips)
7. Louie (started watching regularly in Season 3)
8. 30 Rock (seen every episode)
9. The Office (seen every episode)
10. South Park (seen several episodes here and there)
11. The Cosby Show (only seen clips)
12. Roseanne (seen a few episodes)
13. Friends (seen a few episodes)
14. Malcolm in the Middle (watched it regularly until it moved to Fridays, then lost track of it)
15. Golden Girls (seen bits and pieces)
16. Sex and the City (walked through the room while my sister watched it a few times)

Some Good Shows That Could Have Made It:
-The Wonder Years – More of a dramedy, and thus it initially feels weird to include it a best sitcom discussion, but it was excellent.
-Parks and Recreation – If I were going to leave out one of the late 00’s/early 10’s NBC Thursday standbys, it wouldn’t be Parks and Recreation.  Actually I probably wouldn’t leave out any of them.
-Curb Your Enthusiasm – Maybe it loses influence points by virtue of its Seinfeld connection, but it is still curmudgeonly hilarity to the nth degree.
-It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – It’s strange that a show with a decidedly anti-mainstream sensibility has lasted 8 seasons.  It feels like it should have been a one- or two-season cult oddity.  That it’s not is surely some sort of accomplishment.
-NewsRadio – I’ve never seen it, but from what I’ve heard it was the little quirky comedy that could of the nineties.
-Archer – Comedy may be subjective, but Archer is the most purely funny sitcom on the air right now.
-King of the Hill/Beavis and Butt-Head – Mike Judge, never getting any respect.
-Frasier – The best spin-off of all time was different enough from its predecessor to earn recognition all its own.
-Futurama – The best sci-fi sitcom of all time.  Not that there have been that many of those, but this is still no faint praise.
-Family Guy – Before it became weighed down by a shock for shock’s sake sensibility in its current state, its mess of pop culture-saturated cutaways was innovative.
-American Dad! – What was once a Seth MacFarlane also-ran has now surpassed its predecessor.
-Murphy Brown – I’ve never watched, but I’ve heard that while it is a bit dated, it is worth remembering for how important it was at the time to the TV landscape.

Some Good Shows With Fewer Than Three Full Seasons (And Thus Not Meeting Vulture’s Criteria):
-Bob’s Burgers – Currently the best show on Fox’s Sunday animation block, and possibly the best show on TV right now.
-Stella – A one-season wonder that may have limited appeal, but if you are part of that appeal, then you are devoted to it.
-Flight of the Conchords – When I first read a review of FOTC, Gillian Flynn said that the show it most closely resembled was Stella.  So I was immediately on board.  But despite its uniqueness and surreality, FOTC is goofy and lighthearted enough to appeal to the masses.
-Happy Endings – I’ve never really watched Friends, but Happy Endings totally out-Friends Friends, doesn’t it?
-Girls – It provokes strong reactions from a great varitey of people – that is like the definition of great art.
-Enlightened – I haven’t started watching this, but I’ve been hearing several times this year that it’s the best show on TV right now.

Best Episode of the Season: Parks and Recreation Season 4

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Season Analysis: Parks and Rec continued to be one of the best comedies on TV, with strong performances all season particularly from Nick Offerman (who remained basically the same as Ron Swanson, just more awesome) and Aubrey Plaza (with April actually, shockingly, growing and maturing).

“Citizen Knope”

Leslie Knope cares a great deal about everyone she has ever met, because she puts forth a full effort in everything that she does, and thus she just cannot help herself.  So of course she always gives everyone the most thoughtful Christmas gifts possible: for Andy – a gold Mouserat record, for Donna – a leather-print robe, for Tom – a watch and a tiny throne (since he couldn’t get tickets to the Watch the Throne tour), for April – a painting of her killing the Black Eyed Peas, and for Ron – a button for closing his office doors.  The gift of socks for Jerry was the nicest touch: a classic make fun of Jerry gag, but also sweet, as Jerry is apparently so boring that the gift of socks indicates that Leslie truly understands him.  With Leslie suspended from work in the wake of the scandal with her and Ben, she finds herself in the unusual situation of not being able to take care of everything and then some.  Therefore, the dual Christmas gifts from the rest of the Parks Department of the gingerbread version of city hall and volunteering as Leslie’s campaign team could not have been sweeter, in that this was the perfect moment for everyone else to step up and show Leslie that they could take care of her just as she has always taken care of them.  It was one of the purest examples of friendship inspired by Christmas that I have ever seen on any sitcom.

Thursday is the Best Night of TV Ever!!!

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Year after year, Thursday continually proves itself to be the most loaded, most rewarding night of television, and I feel like singing that out in a blog post.  Here are all the shows that I have regularly watched on Thursdays this season (September 2011-now), ranked in ascending order of quality (of the current season).  And, for your entertainment, I have also included a memorable quote from several of these shows from their current seasons.

12. The Secret Circle
11. The Office (“I haven’t had this much fun since seeing Zoo E Desk Channel at the Cocarella Music Festival.”)
10. The Big Bang Theory
9. Up All Night
8. Awake
7. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (“Dennis is asshole. Why Charlie hate?”)
6. 30 Rock (“I finally understand the ending of The Sixth Sense. Those names are the people who worked on the movie!”)
5. Billy on the Street (“I LOVE MERYL STREEP!”)
4. Archer (“Thanks, Holly Hindsight.”)
3. Beavis and Butt-Head (“Masturbation frequency dialed in.”)
2. Parks and Recreation (“Anyone want to go to JJ’s for some after-dinner omelettes?”)
1. Community (“Boopy doopy doop boop sex!”)

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