Tuesday’s Top Five – TV Shows

It’s another double post Tuesday and on my first day at home without the girls, finding the time to write a couple of posts was easy (and you should see the kitchen, it’s sparkling, actually it’s potentially Pine-o-clean ad worthy).  I had promised this top five list a couple of weeks ago, but then I couldn’t decide on the final two entries so I put it off for a week.  I’m still not sure I’m 100% happy with my selection and I think I’ll probably change my mind in another couple of weeks, but as of today these are my Top Five TV shows.  I have restricted my list to shows aired in the last decade purely because my memory is too sketchy if I go back further than that, but feel free to make suggestions of older shows that I really should take note of.

1. The Wire

(Image from here)

This American show just sneaks into my ten year limit, first airing in the states in 2002.  As far as I’m aware it has never been shown on Australian TV, I discovered it via DVD which is my preferred viewing option anyway, no ads and you can watch as many episodes as you like in one sitting (makes for some very late nights).  There are five seasons all of which are good, but for me seasons 1 and 4 were the best.  All five seasons are set in Baltimore but each season focuses on crime and corruption is a different aspect of the city: the drug scene, the port, local government and bureaucracy, the school system and the newspaper business.  This makes each season quite unique, but always with some connection to the previous season and with many of the same characters.  The characters are the heart of the show, Detectives Jimmy McNulty and Kema Greggs (a feisty female detective) among others, drug lord Stringer Bell and stick-up man Omar Little from season one are all complex, multi-layered personalities and are really just the tip of the iceberg in a long list of fabulous characters played by mostly unknown actors.  This show is gritty, chock full of swearing and street talk – which sometimes require subtitles to understand with that think Baltimore accent – and often violent.  It’s one that you can really get your teeth into, there is nothing light or family-friendly about it!  The Wire is king of the cliff-hanger ending forcing you to skip straight onto the next episode or season if you, like me, lack the will power to stretch it out.  Apparently this series never rated particularly well, but has since found critical acclaim as one of the best TV shows ever made – is that a bit like an artist finding fame and fortune after death?  For me, I think it will take a remarkable show to take the number one spot from the Wire, and I don’t feel hopeful of finding such a show in the near future.

2. Sons of Anarchy

(Image from here)

I mentioned that The Wire was violent, but it’s nothing on the violence and sex in the Sons of Anarchy, another American show telling the tale of the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club (SAM CRO).  This one first aired in America in 2008 and season five is currently on air there.  It has been shown on Aussie TV recently, on Channel 10s sport station ONE, but I only discovered it on DVD having been recommended it by another mum from playgroup.  The show follows the story of Jax Teller, son of one of the nine founding members and first president of the club, as he negotiates his role within the club and discovers some shocking family secrets along the way.  Jax is troubled by the workings of his club, in particular the gun running and is looking for a way to change things while working under current president and step father Clay Morrow.  His mother, Gemma Teller (aka Peggy Bundy) will do anything to protect her family and the secrets that have gotten her to where she is.  The show is set in Charming, northern California, and the club pretty much runs the town, including the local police force.  There are twists and turns I never saw coming and like The Wire each episode finishes with some major question unanswered leaving you hanging for more.

3. Underbelly (but only season 1)

(Image from here)

I think we all know what this one was about, the gangland wars in Melbourne between 1995 and 2004.  The cast for season one included just about every well known male actor in Australia and once you had the characters all sorted out it was an intriguing insight into the under world of my own city.  It is based on real events and people which makes it all the more compelling – did I mention one of the arrests happened just a few blocks away from here, thankfully before we moved in.  I should also add that Mr Good looks remarkably like Carl Williams, I always say I’ll go as Roberta Williams if we ever have a fancy dress party to attend and he can go as he is.  I did also watch season two, The Golden Mile which was okay, but I really didn’t like season three, Razor, and only watched the first two episodes before it lost me for good.

4. Downton Abbey


(Image from here)

Quite a different series from the first three, this period piece is so much more than beautiful mansions, extravagant dresses and wealth dripping from every scene.  There is intrigue, sabotage and class warfare.  The contrast between the lives of the Crawley family of Downton Abbey and their staff is at time stark. This together with the complicated system of inheritance which will see the Abbey and all its wealth and assets bequeathed away from the family with the lack of a male heir as well as the political climate of pre-war England makes for a memorable series.  I am looking forward to season two, soon to be aired in Australia.

5. The Circuit
 File:The Circuit Promo.jpg(
(Image from here)
This little known Australian series (two short six episode seasons) was aired on SBS in 2007 and follows lawyer Drew Ellis who joins the Kimberley Circuit Court in remote northern Australia.  Ellis is also grappling with his own cultural identity, being indigenous, but separated from his land and people for most of his life.  The court, with magistrate Peter Lockhart (Gary Sweet) travels around several outback communities bringing the judicial system with them – judge, prosecutors and defense lawyers included.  Much of the series examines the legal issues facing the indigenous population as well as the difficulties of administering justice in such remote locations.  The characters are wonderful and the scenery even better.  I only wish there had been a few more seasons.

Just missing out on this list was also Crownies, premiering on the ABC last year and following the early careers of five solicitors working for as public prosecutors and my pick for lighthearted Saturday night viewing Doc Martin – I love Martin Clunes.  And if we go back a bit further I would also add Corelli, another ABC drama from the 1990s, starring Hugh Jackman and Deborra Lee Furness.  I haven’t included any comedies in the list, mostly because I struggle to find any that hold my attention for more than a few episodes (they just seem to rehash the same storyline episode after episode), but there was one that stood out for me, Outnumbered.  Ever seen it?  Very funny take on family life in the suburbs.

I have quite a list of shows that I really want to see, so I suspect my list will change frequently.  Top of my to watch list is the Sopranos (I missed this the first time around) and Mad Men which I am really looking forward to.  So, what makes you turn off the computer, stop tidying the lounge room or folding the washing and really watch something?

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9 Responses to Tuesday’s Top Five – TV Shows

  1. Liz says:

    Of all the shows you talk about Top 5 and otherwise the only one I’ve seen is Downton Abbey and I love it too. My Top 5 would be quite different and may be slightly longer than 5 because I simply couldn’t decide between a few. My favourite TV show of all time has to be The West Wing – loved absolutely every minute of it but then I do like a bit of politics. Running a very close second would be Sea Change which mum sent me on video (yes that does date it a bit doesn’t it) when I lived in London – I have watched the entire series a good 10 times I reckon and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it. A couple of fabulous BBC productions would make my list – Pride And Prejudice and State of Play were both perfect TV and obviously completely different but both were fairly short series so I’m not sure if they count. Another great TV dramatisation was Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (have you read the book yet?). Going back a bit in time I do remember having to watch Ally McBeal every week without fail but that is a very girly addiction as was Sex in the City. For me the best things on TV from this year have been Homeland which I thought was really really good and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysterys which I’ve been loving if for nothing else but the fact that she has the same china that my grandmother had well that the fact that I also have a slight crush on Jack…. Oh and I’ve just remembered another one – I’d love to see Twin Peaks again if only to see if it was as good as I remember it.

  2. Barbara Good says:

    Liz, West Wing is on my list of series to watch. I missed it when it was on, not sure why as I too love politics (I love Yes, Minster/Prime Minister and the Aussie series Hollowmen which I probably should have mentioned, though both of these are very different from West Wing). Sea Change is another I enjoy, though was never dedicated to it. My absolute favourite mini-series (perhaps I should have specified that I wasn’t including these) was the BBC Pride and Prejudice, you’re right it was PERFECT. I had it on video, but watched it so many times the tape warped, I now have the DVDs. Even Mr Good has watched it several times. State of Play I haven’t seen, but will try to get my hand on it now.

    I do also remember watching Ally McBeal, but I was never really into it, Callista Flockhart really annoys me. The Miss Fisher series I feel like I should like, the period and the strong female characters seems like my sort of program, but I just haven’t gotten into it at all. I’ve seen about three of the episodes, but I find them implausible and without depth, I always feel like some major aspect has been left unexplained, especially in the most recent episode set in the circus. There seems to be little if any background and the victims appear somewhat inconsequential to the story. I think my sister was watching Homeland and enjoying it too.

    I would highly recommend the Wire to everyone (as long as you’re not easily offended that is) just as an example of really well made tv, such a refreshing change from most things I see on the box these days (I say in the voice of my father).

  3. Liz says:

    I loved Yes Miinster etc too, and the Hollowmen I thought was wonderful- I thought they were going to make a second series of it but they don’t seem to have – perhaps they’re waiting for the Libs to get back in. With Miss Fisher – there have been references to the back story involving her sister in quite a few of the episodes but I guess you probably have to have seen them all for it to make sense. I like the sound of the Wire although my violence threshold these days is pretty low. I will definitely seek it out.

    • Barbara Good says:

      I was talking to a friend of mine about Miss Fisher – she loves it too and has read some of the books too. I was saying how I just hadn’t gotten into it after missing a lot of the episodes (I thought they were stand alone), she thought if I’d watched the whole series I wouldn’t have the issues with it, which sounds like what you’re saying too. Perhaps i should see if I can get them on DVD, that seems to work better for me.

      As for the Wire, it can be pretty violent and first season especially, that might put you off perhaps.

  4. Very interesting – I haven’t seen much on your list. Will prioritise The Wire now – just in time for the upcoming late-night-feeding sessions.

    Like Liz, I’m a die-hard The West Wing fan. Watched it when J was born, and seriously – I grieved when I finished the last season. The Hollowmen was also really good, I agree 🙂

    When D was born we turned to The Sopranos, which I enjoyed to a point, but I got bored along the way and we didn’t get through it all. My big mistake was Dexter – bought the first season and got seriously freaked out watching it while feeding in the middle of the night. I didn’t realise I was such a fraidy-cat!

    My latest obsession has been Mad Men. It really is as good as people say!

    • Barbara Good says:

      I think the Wire would be great for late night feedings as long as you don’t mind the language and some violence – though not scary like Dexter. That was one thing that got me through all those middle of the night sessions, something good to watch. I remember my MCHN suggesting I find something good to watch when I was lamenting all that time I was spending up with Miss Three in the middle of the night when she was a baby – she really was a terrible sleeper.

      I really must get the West Wing, I’m sure I’ll love it. That’s interesting that you lost interest in the Sopranos after a while, some series just don’t know when to call it quits do they. I’ve just started Mad Men too, I’m really into it, Mr Good isn’t convinced just yet – I don’t think it’s fast paced enough for him.

  5. Oh, I forgot to mention a recent series that ran on the ABC, “The Straits”. We really enjoyed that too – worth picking up on DVD.

  6. Pingback: Slow Living 2012 – Month Five | The New Good Life

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