totally top five 2k12: tv

The 7 Elements Required for Me to Watch & Enjoy a Television Show:

1. likable characters
2. humor (No matter the subject matter, no matter how dark, I MUST laugh.)
4. people who like/love each other and are not constantly cruel to one another
5. pleasurable dialogue
6. charm
7. a reflection of real life/myself/people I know

Even if I don’t mention it specifically, I promise that each of these five shows meet all seven of these requirements to varying degrees. I also like my TV to be diverse and to have female characters that are competent, interesting, and vital. Not all of these shows are as successful at that.

5. Teen Wolf [season 1 | season 2]

Let’s be real, Teen Wolf is terrible. The production values are awful, the special effects are B-movie-in-the-digital-age status, and the creature design is embarrassing. The acting isn’t always… great. The writing is 40% laughable. The continuity is so atrocious it actually makes all of genre television weep. Tragically, for me and the millions of other people trapped in this hellacious show, it’s also weirdly great?

The thing that hooked me was Stiles Stilinski the sidekick-foil who is probably easily in my top ten favorite fictional characters of all time list. And his relationship with the actual lead, Scott McCall because, as this list will rapidly attest, for me friendship is everything. Over time though it’s like… suddenly there are lots more things to love about the show — Derek Hale and his sassy Uncle Peter and Lydia Martin and Jackson Whittemore and Coach Finstock and Sheriff Stilinski and Melissa McCall (The adults on the show are great.) — and watching a group of teenagers navigate a bunch of weird-ass supernatural shit all on their own in the age of Google. It’s fun! It’s funny! It’s kind of gory! It’s terrible but really great! What do you want from me?!

4. Sherlock [season 1 | season 2] & Elementary [amazon]

I watched Sherlock way back in January and I watched it obsessively and intensely and forced my girlfriend to watch it with me and rewatched it and just generally loved it. The easiest way to hook me on a show is to write dialogue that feels good to listen to and Sherlock has it in abundance. There’s not a moment I don’t enjoy listening to everyone talk. The second easiest way is to make the show about friendship and Sherlock also has that in abundance. Friendship! Snarky, snappy dialogue! Attractive British people!

We started with Elementary when it started in the fall and it was love at first watch. Sherlock in New York! Watson’s a smart, awesome, beautiful woman! It’s Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller! Sherlock has compassion and insight and intuitive skills, but is brash and a little rough! Watson’s caring and quick and there to hold him back from going to far! Friendship! It’s great! Basically, sorry if you’re dead inside and can’t appreciate an erotic literary adaptation crime procedural on CBS.

I had not just zero interest in Sherlock Holmes before watching Sherlock, I had negative interest, but it’s so good it managed to hook me anyway. Even Elementary can’t convince me to care about the stories, but give me all the television. All of it. Give me a futuristic cyberpunk version where Sherlock’s an android and Watson’s a middle-aged, washed-up professional hoverboarder. I will be its number one fan.

3. Bob’s Burgers [season 1 | season 2]

Bob’s Burgers is the best animated show since the best seasons (3? 4? A few after that? It was a good era.) of The Simpsons and by far the best on network TV right now. Honestly, it’s one of the best shows on TV right now, period. It’s funny and it’s weird and it’s got a great voice cast and the writing is just really solid and refreshing and fun. I laugh a lot when I’m watching this and it’s the intense kind of laughing where I have to pause it to get my laughs out so I don’t miss stuff. I really love Tina and Gene and Linda and I love the family as a whole. The thing I love most about Bob’s Burgers though is that it depicts a pretty average family that really and truly loves each other. Family is basically blood-friendship, so you know I’m on board.

2. Ben and Kate [amazon]

Ben and Kate is the best show of 2012 that basically no one is watching. It’s so funny and well-written and the characters are all really awesome. They make mistakes and they learn from them in a way that doesn’t feel trite or sitcom-y. And — I hate people who say this because it just sounds like such a dumb, elitist thing — it feels really, really authentic. The characters just feel really human and genuine! It’s all about family and friendship and creating and living a life that makes you happy with a family you build from the people you love most in your life. I’ll be honest, I do a lot of crying during this show, both the happy kind and the sad-but-still-happy kind. And I really love it for it.

It has a full season pick up, but its ratings are really low and it’s so unlikely to get a second season and it just bums me out that a show this funny with this much heart and writing this good can’t find an audience. Or, really, I can’t believe networks are still operating on a model that relies so heavily on traditional ratings that don’t accurately reflect a show’s actual audience.


1. Suits [season 1 | season 2]

Suits is great. I mainlined all of it recently because USA helpfully put it all up online (and also made it available On Demand if that’s a thing you have available to you) because we had to put one of our dogs down and I was very sad and very unwilling to even think about reality. (This is only slightly different than how I feel on a daily basis.) I was hooked from the first exchange between Donna and Harvey because it was witty and charming and it was such a clear sign that the dialogue was going to be phenomenally enjoyable. The dialogue on Suits appeals to me in the same way that the dialogue on Sherlock does: I don’t understand it all because there’s a lot of technical jargon-y stuff, but it’s still wildly pleasurable to listen to.

As you must expect at this point, Suits is also about friendship. Harvey and Mike’s friendship and Donna and Rachel’s friendship and Donna and Harvey’s friendship. And all of the friendship. It’s also about pop culture references (which, I will admit, can sometimes get tired) and sort of smirky humor and they say “shit” a lot which is not a thing I thought you could do on USA! And also it has a really decent soundtrack.