Hold onto your hats, it’s time for part one the Top 10.
#10 – 24
It’s cheesy, but amazing.
Apart from Jack Bauer being the hardest man in the universe, never needing a bite to eat, a quick drink or a trip to the toilet, and being beaten to death (literally on one occasion) in one hour and fine in the next, the brilliance in 24 lies in the escalation of events.
It’s like a video game come to life; there’s the Level One boss who gets vanquished four hours into the day, but then once he is, it turns out there’s a bigger and badder boss for the next four hours. Rinse and repeat until the final quarter of the day, where at least three of Jack’s co-workers have died heroic and/or gruesome deaths, his poor daughter Elisha Cuthbert has been kidnapped at least once and he’s saved the life of the US president a couple of times, and Jack finally gets to face off against the biggest baddest boss there is.
And the confrontation almost certainly takes place at a dock or shipping yard.
#9 – Jonathan Creek
There have been 28 episodes and every single one of them – from the debut episode with the murder of Colin Baker all the way through to the recently broadcast Easter 2013 special – has been great.
But then, when you think about it, it’s written by David Renwick, who was of course the writer of the brilliant One Foot in the Grave, so it shouldn’t be a surprise at all.
Jonathan Creek has survived the departure of two leading ladies and yet has managed to carry on without a break in its stride.
If you’ve not seen it, it’s on Netflix and is well worth your time.
#8 – Columbo
Many other people completely disregard it without ever watching it.
My friends are like that; they turn their noses up at it like it’s a lesser form of entertainment. I asked my uncle for the boxed set for Christmas a few years ago and he scoffed.
But these people are missing out.
An episode of Columbo – especially the earlier ones before the 80s/90s reboot which was hit and miss – is one of these things that you can happily watch again and again.
It’s such a brilliant concept. You could argue that it’s as formulaic as many of the TV Series’ that I’ve left out of this list, but seeing Peter Falk play off against a new murderer (often played by Patrick McGooghan) in every episode brings its own individual charm.
It also has a certain time capsule feel to it, as you see into the nicest homes in all of Hollywood as they were in the 1970s, an era that feels almost alien now.
And I think that’s another aspect of it I like; it’s not gritty. If Columbo pitted his wits against scumbags every week, it wouldn’t be half as good, but watching him slowly break yet another member of the upper classes with his disarming charm is just terrific.
Moreover, not every episode ends the same way, despite what some people might think. There’s such a big difference between the tone of the episode with Leonard Nimoy as the villain compared to the one with Janet Leigh for example.
A marvellous show.
#7 – Breaking Bad
And it is.
My brother was at me for months to give it a shot, but the basic plot synopsis – a high school chemistry teacher gets cancer and starts selling drugs – doesn’t really scream “Watch Me”.
The thing is though, this is one TV show that has developed as it has gone along. While so many work to a formula, whether it’s episode by episode or season by season, Breaking Bad has been one long running, ever unfolding story since it began.
What precludes it from the Top 5 though is that at times, that long running story slowed up a little bit too much. For all the amazingness of the Gus Fring storyline, there’s been too many episodes about Jesse’s depression or Skylar’s decline.
But Brian Cranston is beyond brilliant as the ever more evil Walter White. It’s not often you root for the main character to get his comeuppance and be killed off. The only other example I can think of is John Cena, and sadly, that’ll never happen.
#6 – Dexter
Dexter is such a great concept for a show, and even though it peaked creatively with the Trinity Killer, it’s still going strong today.
In an era where there’s so much to watch and keep you entertained, it’s difficult to get genuinely excited about a single episode of anything.
The finale of last year’s season of Dexter was one that I genuinely got excited for.
That might not sound like much, but it’s a rare event these days.
Sure, it’s easy to criticise or parody the show; after all, there’s plenty of ridiculously stupid things that have happened in it over the years, but I take it as part of the charm.
When both Dexter and Breaking Bad leave our screens this year, television will be worse off as a result.
And One That Doesn’t Make The List
Private Practice though is a show I devoted a good few years to; I watched it I think for four seasons before just getting bored with it.
People criticise Grey’s Anatomy for being a show for women, and it’s really not, but Private Practice…it kinda is.
There’s only so many episodes you can watch where the dame off Judging Amy acts all “cooky” while Addison falls in love with the wrong guy yet again before your mind melts.