…Nay, the decade. That’s right, because 2009 is almost over, people all over the world are making up their best-of-the-decade lists. (These are sometimes an excuse to subtly bash the decade that we just lived through, as when the majority of critics picked Raging Bull, released in 1980, as the best movie of the ’80s — clearly implying that the rest of the decade stunk.) We’ll be seeing a bunch of them over the next couple of months.
To start with, over at the AV Club, Todd has a list on a very worthy subject: The 10 best one-season wonders of ’00s TV. I personally would have moved Karen Sisco from the honourable-mentions section to the top 10, but it’s a fine list of shows. One thing a lot of them seem to have in common is that they were similar, on some level, to a more successful and popular show, often on the same network, but turned out to be too gentle or quirky or edgy to reach the same audience. (I don’t put Wonderfalls into that category, though; Bryan Fuller shows are all about him putting his wild ideas on TV for as long as they can last.) The list omits one-season shows that made the AV Club’s overall best-of-the-decade lists, leading to much comment-section rage of the “Where the hell is Firefly” variety.
One reason why decade lists are hard to make in the TV field is that there is no clear cut-off point. Is Freaks and Geeks a ’00s show or a ’90s show? (It’s not on the AV Club list, so it must have been considered a ’90s show for those purposes.) Technically, it’s about half and half. The Sopranos had most of its run in the ’00s, but you could call it a ’90s show, and in many ways it feels like one. Personally, I tend to feel that in most circumstances, shows should be considered a part of the decade they began in, no matter how late in the decade they began. That’s because even a show that began at the very end of the ’90s tends to have some ’90s cultural residue no matter how long it lasts. For a historical example, you can look at Dallas vs. Dynasty. Dallas always had a bit of the ’70s clinging to it, at least for as as long as it was any good. Dynasty was pure ’80s in every way. Murphy Brown started in 1988, became world-famous in the early ’90s, but was a very ’80s show in tone and look. And Freaks and Geeks is a show set in the ’80s, which had a gigantic influence on popular culture in the ’00s, yet it is, stylistically, a ’90s show. It’s all rather confusing, really.