Over the past few years, the television industry has blossomed and thrived in a way few have expected. Countless new series have been produced and, in turn, have collected an enormous, adoring fan base, sending the success of such shows to the dimension of ridiculousness. But what makes these shows so likeable? Well, of course they are all different in their own way, but the opportunity to invest yourself into some truly intriguing characters, a complex and harrowing plot and a new and fascinating world, and to be able to escape there whenever you want and have this luxury for what can be hundreds of hours of entertainment, there is no surprise really, when you think about it, that they have become so huge.
So, now I think is an auspicious time to reflect on this marvellous industry, and contemplate the top ten TV dramas that are at our disposal. I haven’t seen everything or even close to it, but I feel as though my experience as a TV binger, should be worthy enough to formulate a respectable shortlist…
Number 10: Boardwalk Empire
Starring Steve Buscemi and Kelly McDonald, Boardwalk is set in Atlanta City during the times of prohibition and offers an interesting insight into the 1920/30s. Buscemi plays Nucky, a corrupt city official, and he brings to life a twisted, menacing man very well. Bearing that in mind, characters in the HBO show may lack likeable traits and, henceforth, along with the oppressive greyness of the setting, it is at times tedious to watch. However, Jimmy, played by Michael Pitt, is fairly badass and his dealings with Al Capone are quite enjoyable.
Number 9: Peaky Blinders
Cillian Murphy takes a shot at TV drama with his leading role in Peaky Blinders. After World War One, Britain is a pretty messed up place, where crime and manipulation can get you a long way, and Blinders illuminates the danger of Birmingham at the time. Murphy puts on a great Birmingham accent and along with his dazzling blue eyes, he gives a good show. Blinders is bloody and cool and well worth the watch.
Number 8: Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is an incredibly popular show nowadays and oozes with gory violence, steamy sex scenes, ferocious swearing and a ruthless extermination of key characters. I have read all of the books and I must admit the show is a commendable adaptation, but it also offers original, innovative dimensions to the world of Westeros. The characters are well developed with excellent performances from several actors, in particular from Peter Dinklage and Lena Heady, and it is a fun watch to be sure.
Number 7: Fargo
Fargo is a dark comedy written by Noah Hawley and boasts an impressive cast including Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton and Colin Hanks. Set in Minnesota, the landscape of Fargo is blanketed with a relentless snow and the setting is a small, all American town, so it is an environment quite unique and barren and highlights the isolation of the characters and the cruelty of the story line. Kirsten Dunst is set to be cast in season two so it is clear the intentions of Fargo are ambitious and confident.
Number 6: Sherlock
Martin Freeman is a busy man it seems but is, without a doubt, a very capable actor, offering yet another, and entirely original, performance in Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch, in many ways, made a real name for himself with his performance as Mr. Holmes and the chemistry he has with Watson (Freeman) makes the show the treat it is. Some complicated, dark mysteries are posed to the famous detectives and it is a pleasurable experience for the audience to see the various plots unfold.
Number 5: The Sopranos
David Chase’s mobster drama is considered by many as the best TV show of all time. With some thrilling encounters among the forever brutal New Jersey mob and an exquisitely entertaining portrayal of a dysfunctional family, along with fabulous writing and brilliant individual performances, The Sopranos is a real work of art.
Number 4: House of Cards
Netflix and Kevin Spacey seem poignantly aware of the magnitude of audience interested in the new generation of TV, so they have teamed up to make a political drama. House of Cards follows the voyage of Frank Underwood, initially chief whip of Capitol Hill, on his journey to power, and identifies the corruption and ruthlessness of American Politics. Robin Wright plays his wife Claire in award winning fashion, and a Macbeth-like drama unfolds. The special thing about House of Cards is the way in which Frank directly addresses the camera for an intimate commentary of different situations, providing the show with a sophisticated style that older audiences may enjoy.
Number 3: Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad will go down as a classic and has defined Netflix and the way in which TV drama is created. Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul bring to life Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, two opposites, and the viewer enjoys a roller coaster of dark, yet thoroughly entertaining television. Breaking Bad is the quintessential television show as it has sublime character development, family debacles, drugs, crime, romance and humour. Although primarily Breaking Bad follows protagonist Walter as he fights his cancer with an obsession with power as a drug lord, Vince Gilligan’s master piece may also be perceived as simply, a love story between Walter and Jesse. Either way, Breaking Bad is top class.
Number 2: True Detective
Season one of Detective is a justly remarkable television experience. It was difficult to bump Breaking Bad into third but when recalling McConaughey and Woody Harrelson moping around the southern states of America, uncovering dark clues of an altogether sinister case, I had to put Nic Pizzolatto’s wonderfully written piece into second place. The performances of the main two are ground-breaking, the writing is exalted, the landscape is startlingly barren and ruthless and the mystery is utterly gripping. Season 2 offers a different experience, being set in a city rather than rurally and following several detectives rather than two, it is perhaps not as good as the first but Farrell, McAdams, Vaughn and Kitsch offer brilliant performances in their own right and make for an undoubtedly fantastic series.
Number 1: Mad Men
There is no question in my mind that Mad Men is the best TV drama of all time. Purringly stylish and abundantly sexy, the show set in the New York of the 1960s embraces the ad men of Madison Square Garden and the lavish and opulent lives they enjoy. Not only is it slick and cool to watch, but Mad Men tackles themes such as women’s and black people’s rights; alcoholism and family life. Jon Hamm plays Don Draper, a man too handsome and talented for his own good, and the journey he undertakes is harrowing to watch. He is joined by Elizabeth Moss, who plays Peggy, and along with a diverse and talented cast, Mad Men exudes with many mouth-watering situations and an unpredictable plotline. Written by Matthew Weiner and produced by AMC, Mad Men is number one for me and it will take quite a show to rob it of its position.
Admittedly, I haven’t seen The Wire, Orange is the New Black, Sons of Anarchy and a couple of other acclaimed shows but going by what I have watched, I’m pretty pleased with my top ten. If you disagree or have something to say, feel free to comment below!