Note: The Shield and The Wire are both highly recommended, but because both shows had ended in 2008, they are not included on this list (among many others).
(FOX – 2008 – Sci-Fi)
At first this show didn’t stick with many of us on the must watch show list, but the unique plots lured us back and now we consider it a must watch. This show is about a government task force tracking down paranormal activity with the help of a research scientist, Walter Bishop (actor John Noble), who has the characteristics of Frankenstein and the brilliance of Albert Einstein rolled into one, his sarcastic son Peter Bishop (actor Joshua Jackson), and FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Actress Anna Torv). Besides the X-Files element in this show, one of the things viewers will notice is the parent-child conflict specifically between Walter and Peter as they try to resolve cases. Fringe is big on conspiracies and some intense twists on “fringe science”. This show just stands out from the rest in its plot developments.
(USA – 2002 – Dramedy)
Background: This is the creator of the website talking, Nick Shin. Call me an idiot or ridiculous and I certainly deserve both, but I personally ignored this incredibly humorous show for about 6 years solely because of the title; not once did I give this show a chance before 2008. I thought the show was literally about a monk and the adventures inside the monastery. I figured how can a show about a monk and a monastery be remotely interesting. Bad assumption (don’t judge a show by its title?) On a random weekend in 2008, I was incredibly bored, had no commitments, and had all the time in the world. Thus, my introduction to Monk. Now onto why you need to start watching too.
Monk is one of those shows where every single person in the world can relate to its main character, Adrian Monk (actor Tony Shalhoub). How? 3 words, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Your situation may not be as, to put it lightly, as severe as Monk’s, but every person has some sort of OCD whether it be washing your hands in a certain way, putting on your socks/shoes a certain way, morning routine, bedtime routine, and on and on. The title character of this show works as an obsessive compulsive private detective and consultant for the San Francisco Police Department homicide unit. At one point, and (fans) correct us if we’re wrong, Monk’s nurse/assistant pointed out 120 or so phobias. What’s entertaining about this show is not only Monk’s brilliance and attention to detail on the field as he solves the cases, but Monk’s ability to deal with his numerous phobias throughout the show including the always humorous therapy sessions. It is the subtleties of Monk and the characters around him that becomes a laugh out loud moment. Each episode is a stand alone so start watching this show.
8. In Treatment
(HBO – 2008 – Drama)
Each episode of In Treatment features therapist Dr. Paul Weston (actor Gabriel Byrne) having a session with one of five patients. The casting for this little known show offers an array of characters ranging from teens to middle aged and singles to married couples. In Treatment displays a full range of emotions with superb acting that makes you care about and believe what you are watching. One of the more unique and riveting parts of this show is the portrayal of the therapist (Paul) going to his own therapist. The character development and the artistic storytelling is brilliant. This show might make you uncomfortable at times and it might take a lot out of you, but what we do know is that the combination of incredible acting, storytelling, and character development will get you hooked; don’t give up after one episode.
7. Breaking Bad
(AMC- 2008 – Dramedy)
Quite possibly the most entertaining show and most original show to watch right now, Walter White (actor Bryan Cranston – the dad from Malcolm in the Middle) quite simply is a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal lung cancer going entrepreneurial to raise enough money for his family. Well, the entrepreneurial part isn’t exactly what one might suspect and this is where the show becomes extremely entertaining. Walt decides to team up with a former student, whom Walt flunked, to get into the crystal-meth business. How’s that for unique writing? If you’ve ever felt you’ve been way in over your head, you will certainly enjoy watching this show as Walt quickly learns the dangers of competing with rival meth dealers.
6. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (IASIP)
(FX – 2005 – Comedy)
Remember Seinfeld? The show from the 90’s that everyone seemed to enjoy immensely due to its random plots and often commercial resolutions. The oft-imitated formula has been mirrored throughout the years, but one show in particular has nailed it on the head. IASIP is possibly the funniest show on television due to the obvious lack of rules or shame. We follow the lives of Mac, Charlie, Dennis, and Dee as they scheme and screw people over on an hourly basis. In the end, everything blows up in their faces in a commercial fashion. If there was ever a show that embodies the basic drives of the human nature within all of us, this is it. Just watch it. Now.
(HBO – 2004 – Dramedy)
We know, anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock knows about the show so we’ll try to make this one short. Entourage deserves a spot on any “best of” TV shows list. The only reason why the “professional” critics do not include this show is because of its target audience. There are just some out of the target demographic that do not want to watch quirky, douchebag-like, 20 (and 40?) somethings, and their adventures as a group. We know that it is extremely hard to argue that Entourage is the most well-written show or even best performed (although Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold is absolutely brilliant and the reason why you should start watching), but this show just entertains. It is mindlessly distracting and addicting.
(Showtime – 2006 – Dramedy)
How many of us have a dark side? A special side (mmmm, frites) that lays dormant within our mind and only comes out for special occasions. If you raised your hand, then you need to watch Dexter. Dexter is a forensic blood spatter analyst by day for the Miami-Metro Police Department (MMPD) and a serial killer by night. Before you turn to a different website in disgust, you need to know that Dexter has a conscious. As a youth, Dexter show signs of a sociopath, but his adoptive father, a detective for the MMPD, took those tendencies and taught Dexter to use them for the good of mankind, or in this case, killing people who have escaped their due punishment from the justice system. The show is in no shortage of thrills and suspense. Touching, clever, exciting, and often humorous, Dexter, is one anti-hero that every one can relate to, even if you don’t want to admit it.
(FX- 2007 – Drama)
Thought the show was canceled? Actually many of you reading this top 10 list realize it’s been awhile due to the writer’s strike. Well, it’s back and it’s wonderful. With the final episode of season 1 airing back in October 2007, the second season is (well, has been) officially back. Due to the hiatus, Damages has fallen off the radar, but this show absolutely deserves a “best of TV shows” nod. Damages is a legal thriller that stars Glenn Close as the brilliant and ruthless litigator Patty Hewes. The show revolves around Patty and her protege, Ellen Parsons (actress Rose Byrne). With so many legal thrillers on the air, it’s hard to describe how and why this series stands out head and shoulders above all the others. To put it simply, superb acting, intelligent writing, thought-provoking, an actual story line as opposed to one story per episode, and in true sense of the word, a thriller. The story itself is intriguing, but it’s the storytelling and the performances that really make this show a must watch now. We feel like this is still not doing the show justice….let’s see, you will never be bored watching this show; it is consistent from beginning to end. The folks at FX is doing something right and everyone needs to take notice.
2. Rescue Me
(FX- 2004 – Dramedy)
We all enjoyed The Sopranos. It made us feel bad and yet, so good. The ultimate anti-hero, Tony Soprano, was someone we hated and loved at the same time. Since it left television, where does one go to root for a likeable bad guy? The answer is Rescue Me. The main character, Tommy Gavin (actor Denis Leary), is a member of the NYFD. He is about as rough as they come and highly respected for his displays of bravery on the field.
Whether he is sleeping around with widows of victims from 9/11 (a large theme during the show), abusing drugs and alcohol, hitting people and being a sleezeball, one can see why Tommy Gavin is not a likeable fellow….on the show. However, we in the real world find ourselves enamored with a guy that is a coin-flip away from being cool or being a turd, just like Tony Soprano.
Here is a list of similarities between The Sopranos and Rescue Me
* Sopranos = New Jersey. Rescue Me = New York. You can connect the two.
* Drug and alcohol abuse
* Curse like sailors
* Violence towards strangers, friends and family
We are sure the list could go on, but it would distract the attention away from this show you need to watch. Feel free to comment if you find additional similarities and we will consider adding it to the list. Anyway, this is a tremendous show that only adds to FX’s taste in great shows. Watch it.
1. Mad Men
(AMC- 2007 – Drama)
Okay, you get it, we get it, Mad Men is a great show based on the countless number of critics and wannabe critics like ourselves. By now Mad Men (and AMC for that matter) has received the major props it deserves, but we cannot emphasize it enough. We would never have imagined the slowest possible drama on television topping our list of “must watch TV for 20093. Where’s the action, where’s the humor, where’s the convenient douchebag that we like to talk about, where’s the [insert additional analogies]. With all that said and the hype the show has been garnering since its debut, we still think Mad Men is an underrated show.
Definition of Mad Men as explained during the first episode – “In the 1950s and 1960s, the advertising industry was based on Madison Avenue in New York City. In fact, ‘Madison Avenue’ used to be slang for ‘the ad industry’. Madison/ad men was contracted into “mad men” by the mad men themselves.”
For those still doubting this top TV show to watch now, perhaps the very reason you are not watching this show is because of the time frame in history in which the story takes place; we admit, it was for us. The 60s was far before any of our times at Everything Topped, and based on the show the 60s was racist, sexist, unhealthy (based on the number of cigarattes the characters smoke every 5 seconds), and most importantly, a transition period. Actor Jon Hamm as the lead character, Don Draper, is brilliant as the creative director at Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency. Don struggles to stay ahead of the changing times and the young executives at the Agency all the whilst making the plays in the boardroom (and bedroom). The intense performances are portrayed not only in Don’s personal life, but also through the unique aspect of how people sell themselves in the ad industry. The characters are complex, sophisticated, and well developed. It’s a slow moving drama, yes, and many who are impatient and simply close-minded, will not enjoy Mad Men. Getting a truly accurate picture of a time when not many shows or movies are set makes this the top show you need to start watching for 2009.