If I Ever Snort Milk Out My Nose, I Will Be Watching One of These
- Arrested Development: It rescued Jason Bateman from a career legacy of Valerie, launched Michael Cera, and made me afraid of hand-eating seals.
- Family Guy: It has not just funnier one-liners, but more of them, than all other shows combined. Also the only show to return to network TV after being cancelled for a full year.
- Modern Family: Every episode so far made me laugh out loud, and actually developed interesting, sympathizable characters.
One Is Enough
- Freaks and Geeks: Judd Apatow's movies usually go downhill after a hilarious setup, so the show might have soured fast after the first 18 episodes that made outcasts of every type cool. Launched Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, and Apatow.
Not For Heart Patients Or Anyone Else Bothered By Sudden Shocks
- Dexter: This rating might be due to the fact that I just watched Season 4 in one week, but no show on today produces season- or episode-length stories like Dexter. You'd think a show about a serial killer would be one-note, but Dexter's growth combined with excellent guest stars (John Lithgow might have delivered the best performance I've ever seen) keep the story, and the viewer, jumping.
- Veronica Mars: Definitely some mediocre stretches, but the pilot was the best premiere I've ever seen (even edges Firefly) for its gloves-off dive into the dirty side of 90210. Kristen Bell was amazing, and when the writing was good, it belonged in the next 2 categories.
Aaron Sorkin Is The Man!!!
- Sports Night: Probably the best two seasons of television that no one ever saw. Unsurprisingly plenty of sports, but also fantastic comedy and interesting dramatic detours, including incorporating Robert Guillaume's stroke into the storyline. Even the romantic angles were actually interesting rather than forced. The excellent cast's chemistry didn't hurt either. Netflix this. No, not later - the list will still be here - go and Netflix it NOW!
- West Wing: Even post-Sorkin, it eerily forecast most of the 2008 election storylines as early as 2005. In the Sorkin era, it redefined people's hopes beyond reality for politicians, and was so full of incredible dialogue and scenes that any 5 minutes cut for syndication always includes people's favorite scenes. Just a masterpiece. Also my favorite use of music to reinforce the big scenes.
Except For Joss Whedon, Who Is THE MAN!!!
- Angel: Before vampires were glittery mopers (gah!), Angel was a vampire with a sensitive side who was still, well, a vampire. The story soared in Season 2 as Darla made everyone's lives more interesting, but Seasons 1 and 5 used a mystery-of-the-week motif that kept bigger stories going. Joss' trademark dialogue and season arcs make this the second-most-rewatchable show in history.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Yeah, yeah, another high school show. But when you're watching catchy, lightning-fast dialogue, or season-long dramatic soaps whose endings aren't universally happy, well, this show got the modern trends going. And has the only watchable musical-special episode that I've ever seen. The characters and stories linger with you far longer than you expect, and you still can't flip the channel when you find a rerun (that might just be me, but I doubt it).
BONUS! Current Top 10
- Family Guy
- Modern Family
- Lie To Me
- 30 Rock
- The Office
- Stargate Universe
P.S. A coworker pointed out the Christa Miller Effect - every show she's on is hilarious. I'm not sure if The Drew Carey Show, Scrubs, or Cougartown belong on either list, but their peaks rival anyone's.