Monday, August 22, 2005

It's Drama Time. Who Tops the List? Plus it's TV on DVD Monday!

All hail the television drama. It can make us cry or laugh or both and sometimes at the exact same time. In its finest moments, the television drama can move us, inspire us, make us think, make us feel, or simply entertain us. As you can probably tell by now, drama is my favorite TV genre, which makes this list both easy and difficult. There are just too many excellent dramas on television currently, but alas, they must be narrowed down to the cream of the crop. Here are my top 5 picks for the best dramas on television.

5. Medium (NBC)- This show does an excellent job of blending Allison's (Patricia Arquette) home life with her ability. The realism in her marriage to Joe (Jake Weber) and day-to-day struggles with her three children doesn't paint life as a cake walk like many other shows. Allison has to make important choices between using her ability to help D.A. Devalos (Miguel Sandoval) solve cases and going home to tuck her kids in at night. Husband Joe is always there to pick up the slack, even if he feels neglected himself sometimes. Two stand out episodes: "I Married a Mind Reader" (Allison helps solve the old murder of a television star) and "Coming Soon" (Allison is convinced a good Samaritan is really a child murderer leading her to discover her dreams aren't always about the present).

4. Lost (ABC)- What more can you say about a show that helped save a network, inspired five supernatural new shows, and received 12 Emmy nominations in its first season? One of Lost's charms is its originality. It's difficult for a show that wants us to believe that there are polar bears on a tropical island, a heard but never seen monster, a mysterious set of numbers, the "others," and a host of other unexplainables - to grab a huge chunk of the mainstream audience and become a commercial success. But, Lost managed to do just that with its compelling storylines and fascinating characters, proving that good television is driven by good writing. I know I'm in the minority, but I wasn't expecting to learn what was down the hatch in the finale. I'm always up for a good cliffhanger, even if it pains me to wait all summer to get it resolved. Two stand out episodes: "Walkabout" (Locke's (Terry O'Quinn) past is explored and we learn he used to be in a wheelchair) and "Numbers" (Hurley's (Jorge Garcia) past is revealed along with the significance of certain numbers).

3. Veronica Mars (UPN)- This show would probably be higher for me if I had seen more than four episodes, but I think the same fact should give you an idea about the quality of this show. After only four episodes, scratch that and make it one episode, I was hooked. This is definitely the best show you're not watching, and one of the best shows on television. Veronica (Kristen Bell) is so well written and played by Bell that you can't afford to miss something this good. Seriously, it would be a crime. Even Buffy creator Joss Whedon is singing its praises. The dialog is smart and funny. Bell is a rare talent that doesn't let her undeniable cuteness get in the way - Veronica is one tough cookie! Two stand out episodes (keep in mine I've only seen four): "Clash of the Tritons" (Veronica must defend herself when she's accused of selling fake IDs - this episode is a stand out alone for the hysterical scene at the police station between Veronica and Sheriff Lamb) and "Ruskie Business" (Veronica works two cases involving matters of the heart while helping Logan (Jason Dohring) track his mother's credit card).

2. Cold Case (CBS)- Hands down the best procedural on television. It blends the gripping cases with the detectives' personal lives in a nice finely tuned balance. It's my personal favorite show, but the number one pick edges this show in the overall quality category. The cases are interesting journeys into the past complete with music from the year of the murder and excellent sets, costumes, make up, hair, and attention to time period dialog. One case from this season even dared to take us back to 1932 and the era of bootlegging. Kathryn Morris shines as Det. Lilly Rush giving her a believable tough edge despite her irrefutable cuteness. Stand out episodes: "Mindhunter" (Lilly tracks a serial killer whose trademark is to decapitate his all-female victims) and "The Sleepover" (Lilly opens the 1990 case of a young girl found dead after a sleepover party).

And finally.....drum roll please...

1. Everwood (WB)- This moving drama about the quirky characters that inhabit the fictional town of Everwood, Colorado never fails to move us and make us think. Even though the show started out focusing on Dr. Andy Brown (Treat Williams) and his relationship with his son Ephram (Gregory Smith), the show shifted to a more ensemble feel with interesting characters that don't always make the right decisions. Everwood is a family drama at its heart, but not nearly as afternoon special-like as old timeslot lead-in 7th Heaven. The show is driven by its real characters, these are people we can imagine getting to know. Sometimes we want to pull Amy (Emily Vancamp) aside and help her, and other times we want Dr. Brown to suffer for his bad decisions. These are not cookie-cutter perfect characters, they make mistakes just as we do - and therein lies Everwood's unmistakable charm. Stand out episodes: "Oh The Places You'll Go" (Amy graduates from high school while her mother battles cancer) and "Where the Heart Is" (Andy considers leaving Everwood to accept a position in Chicago).

Honorable mention goes to Alias, Law & Order: SVU, and Without A Trace. So, those are my picks. Do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment with your picks.


*Mischa Barton, Matthew Fox, Debra Messing, William Petersen, and Quentin Tarantino are the latest additions to the list of presenters for next month's Emmy Awards telecast. They'll join Emmy host Ellen Degeneres when the awards air live September 18th on CBS.

*NBC's reality ratings stinker The Law Firm will finish out its run on Bravo starting August 30th. The show only aired a few times on the peacock network before it was axed. The full 8 episode season will run for six weeks on Bravo.

*ABC Family's newest summer hit Beautiful People is setting up a Melrose Place reunion. Grant Show will guest star as star Daphne Zuniga's (both of Melrose Place) estranged husband. Look for the reunion on the show's September 26th season finale.

*And finally, it's TV on DVD Monday. The cancelled ABC teen drama Life As We Know It's first and only season (and partial at that) will be on shelves tomorrow. Also, look for The O.C's second season and Six Feet Under's fourth season both out tomorrow. For more releases, visit

That's all for today. Be sure to tune in tomorrow as I run down my favorite comedies. Plus, all the latest television news.


tati said...

I don't have to say I completely share your love for Cold Case ;), so I won't even go into this one. Veronica Mars... well, I've seen half of an episode and to be honest it didn't catch my attention but everyone is talking so much about this show, I'm really afraid I'm missing out something good. Even though I'm not supposed to add another show to my schedule, I'll see if I can give this one another chance. Oh, Everwood. I have contraditory feelings towards this show. I love it when it comes to Drs. Brown and Abbott, but the other kind of bother me. But, like I said on the CC forum, it's kind of growing on me, so who knows. Before this comment gets absurdly long (too late for that, but anyway) I just wished you had written more on Law & Order: SVU: this show has become my second-favorite procedural. It's so intense, in a way that CC isn't (not saying it's better, but I think you know what I mean). And the actors do such an amazing job.
When you get the time, I'd like to know if you enjoy any classic shows from the 50's to the 80's. Just a suggestion. :)

Rambly said...

Very quick cuz it's past my bedtime! Awesome countdown. Needless to say, I share your love for Cold Case. I wish I could see more of Veronica Mars and Law & Order: SVU. This is kind of an off comment, but I hadn't considered "Lost" a drama. Not quite. I love it (part of why I've refused to watch it--it would so catch me and I don't have time for TV!), but isn't it more "science fiction"? No, not quite, either. I like Everwood, too, though it's a bit TOO tragic sometimes (like now with Amy's mom getting cancer). But I like to see the characters... they're so cool and flawed. I love Andy Brown. He began as a pr*k but I've never seen anyone try so hard to make it up...

TVFan said...

Great idea Tati! I'll definitely do a "throwback" edition probably next week after I finish the week of favorites. My number five pick was between Medium and Law & Order: SVU, but I decided on Medium because of the more character heavy nature of the show. I'll try to do an edition on SVU in the future as well. I couldn't agree more about Andy Brown Rambly. So true. Thanks for your comments!

1980champs said...

I don't understand how people can flip through the channels on, what used to be, Monday night, see Everwood and want to change the channel. Very few shows have ever had such outstanding writing, brilliant cinematography, and professional all wrapped in one. The 1st four seasons of The West Wing, aka the Sorkin years, is up there as well as Sports Night, News Radio (yes those are comedies, but brilliant writing), Housewives and Lost. My single favorite thing about all of these shows is they are all intelligent. In, what I believe, is the dumbing down of television with advent of reality shows (not all, but most) and the extreme popularity of the CSI shows, it's great to see that networks and production houses are still serving up great, thought-provoking shows like Everwood, Houswives and Lost. I will now step off the soapbox.

Magnolia said...

I love Everwood, I enjoy Cold Case, and I think Lost is *fantastic*, but if you had seen a few more episodes of Veronica Mars, especially the last four episodes of the season, methinks you would have put it at the top. I actually thought Lost was a better show for the first half of the season, but VM stepped up the pace and was on fire (literally!) during the last few episodes, while Lost sputtered and got a little, well, lost.

Everwood, on the other hand, just sails along on its own pace and that works well too, but it never thrills me the way that VM does in the best episodes. VM has just as much pain and angst as Everwood, even more actually, but somehow packs in so much humor and biting wit as well. It's like Everwood is in the slow lane and VM is zooming along the autobahn.

My list of favorite dramas would probably be 1) VM, 2) Lost, 3) Everwood, and 4) House. (If GG or DH were considered dramas instead of comedies, they'd be in the mix but probably after the top four.) The O.C. is a lot of fun, but I can't honestly say I think it's the "best" of anything. Rescue Me on F/X is really good and so is Battlestar Galactica, but I'm late to the party with those cable shows and haven't seen enough episodes to add them to the list. I like Cold Case and Without a Trace but procedural shows never pull me in like more serialized dramas because I'm not as emotionally invested in the stories.

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