Television in the 2000s

When all the critics got together for today's Floridian section to deliver their decade-ending top 10 lists, I went a different way (flip over to that section, if you're interested in what I came up with). • But that doesn't mean I didn't have a top 10 list of shows from this decade. So allow me to take a little real estate on ETC to outline my Best TV Shows of the Aughts. • (Feel free to take any disagreements online, to the Feed blog at blogs.tampabay.com/media or the Feed's fan page on Facebook.)

The Sopranos (HBO)

1 The best combination of acting skill, writing prowess, explicit content and compelling subject matter. On its face, HBO's explicit drama was about a mob family; surging in subtext was the tale of a modern patriarch hitting the skids, drowning in mommy issues, a curdling marriage and contemporary cultural noise.

Mad Men (AMC)

2 Fittingly created by a former Sopranos writer, this series also refuses to spoon-feed its audience, charting America's evolution from the buttoned-down '50s to the explosive '60s. Our vessel for this journey is another famously flawed hero, philandering, masterful advertising executive Don Draper, an expert at crafting attractive lies whose own life is built on the biggest myth of all.

Survivor/American Idol (CBS/Fox)

3 These two series chart the evolution of the so-called reality TV genre, starting with Survivor's startling 2000 debut (back when stranding people on a deserted island for entertainment seemed edgy) and ending with Idol's dominance as the most-watched show on television. Turns out, young audiences find regular people freaking out in contrived situations more entertaining than a bad sitcom; welcome to the 21st century.

The Wire (HBO)

4 A sprawling tale of life in West Baltimore's drug-infested badlands — notable for refusing to demonize its criminal and drug-addicted characters. Fueled by creator and ex-journalist David Simon's eye for damning details, it feels like a documentary tour of the worst corners in urban life, from the ruthless drug trade to a hidebound police force, corrupt political system, crumbling schools and a withering, disconnected newspaper. Like an updated mix of Charles Dickens and Upton Sinclair.

The Daily Show (Comedy Central)

5 Worshipful critics praise Jon Stewart's trenchant commentary on media and politics, wrapped seductively in comedy stylings, as a damning reflection on traditional media. But Stewart cuts through the noise in ways traditional journalists cannot, zeroing in on Fox News' deceptive editing of video from tea party rallies and skewering Barack Obama for wavering on a public option for health care coverage. Who knew the successor to 60 Minutes would be a comedy show? Which leads to …

60 Minutes (CBS)

6 This is still the best home for in-depth journalism on TV, though it is now littered with stuff like Steve Kroft's soft-gloved profiles of President Obama and Lesley Stahl's badly timed story lauding Bank of America president Ken Lewis. But you won't see better reporting on the war on terror, world famine, Medicare fraud and other serious stuff Dateline NBC is too busy chasing true crime stories to handle.

Chappelle's Show (Comedy Central)

7 An increasingly diverse TV nation deserves a comedy show that can skewer race, pop culture and media deftly as Dave Chappelle's freaky showcase, ranging from a blind white supremacist leader who didn't realize he was black to joking that his $50 million deal led to barbers charging him $11,000 for a haircut. When the pressure of success led him to quit the show midway through taping its third season, his legend only grew, though TV got a little smaller.

The Simpsons (Fox)

8 For 20 years now, some of TV's sharpest comedy has come from a family of yellow, animated suburbanites, led by the biggest buffoon in the history of the medium. Recent episodes have fallen from the show's groundbreaking heights, but a legion of comedy writers and performers have come from the show's ranks, spreading its influence beyond the latest Homer-chugs-beer joke to build a legacy worthy of TV's longest-running sitcom.

Sex and the City (HBO)

9 Before the housewives got desperate, this show weaved compelling entertainment from the struggles among a band of female friends to negotiate love, career and family in an urban playground.

Lost (ABC)

10 What other TV mystery could keep fans guessing for five years, while weaving a convoluted tale that pushes the boundaries of storytelling on network television? Thanks to this show's time-traveling, spiritual-tinged story lines — is the mysterious Jacob we met last season actually God? — the story of 48 people stuck on the weirdest tropical island in the universe has only grown more compelling as its final season nears in February.

Television in the 2000s 12/26/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 26, 2009 5:35pm]

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