Need a new box set? Here’s another 20 shows that might just make the cut…
Pranking at its very finest. Who could forget Johnny Knoxville planting a dildo under his jeans and going for a walk? Or testing stun guns on each other? Or dropping coffins out of hearses? Or, or… God there was so much.
Though not entirely like the last days of school, Skins was certainly more realistic than a lot of the shite peddled to teenage audiences. Drink, drugs, sex, ridiculous relationships, parental issues and peer pressure were all thrown into this over the top E4 hit and TV was all the better for it. The reaction in America from parents and pressure groups to the franchise was so overwhelmingly negative it simply pushed the show into the realms of the unmissable.
Period dramas don’t have to be exclusively for the ladies. Sharpe, a Napoleonic war epic starring Sean Bean, remains the quintessential historical action adventure. Based on the books by Bernard Cornwell, the series sees a clutch of British soldiers shoot and stab their way around Europe while simultaneously breaking down class barriers. It’s proper chest thumping nonsense.
Two and a Half Men (2003-Present)
Admittedly this isn’t the funniest or smartest comedy on TV, but it is perhaps the most representative of its stars. In fact, Charlie Sheen (playing pretty much himself) re-found the fame he’d been missing since the early ‘90s thanks to a serious of real life episodes which almost identically mirrored his Two and a Half Men character. The little fat kid was funny too.
Ally McBeal (1997-2002)
When this series was good it was up there with the best of them. A glossy American legal drama with an awesome ensemble cast (the ever excellent Robert Downey Jr included) Ally McBeal’s titular character constantly had her life thrown into turmoil both in and out of the courtroom. Smart and at times a little surreal, Ally McBeal paved the way for numerous imitations.
The Office (2001-2003)
For better or worse The Office made an international star of Ricky Gervais. His portrayal of David Brent, the general manager of a paper merchant, is probably one of the best comedic turns since Fawlty Towers. The arrogance, the incompetence, the delusions of grandeur and the dark loneliness of his position all help to make this the most uncomfortable British comedy of recent years.
Prison Break (2005-2009)
Suspend your disbelief, sit back, grab a drink and some popcorn and look forward to enjoying this ludicrous thriller. While there’s plenty of prison escape to whet your appetite, you can also look forward to a little conspiracy bunkum, some nice chases and enough action to keep the bloodthirsty far from bored.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-Present)
You don’t really need to know much about the real life Larry David to enjoy this fictionalised account of his life. Cantankerous and petty, the show’s Larry David delves from one social disaster to the other with such a lack of grace it’s sometimes difficult to watch. Crowning moments include an obituary he manages to arse up and some ludicrous improvised exchanges with Ted Danson.
Lars Von Trier’s CV is a strange one to say the least. Yet amongst all the controversial films there’s a Danish TV gem which oozes atmosphere. Set in a Copenhagen hospital, The Kingdom mixes real life melodrama with a unique slice of the supernatural. Disturbing and eerie though the encounters in The Kingdom are, this is also laced with Von Trier’s wry humour. The inferior American remake doesn’t even come close.
Life on Mars (2006-2007)
Life on Mars proved to be a bit of a catalyst for the BBC’s drama department. Since the time travelling cop show hit our screens they’ve realised that making unique and interesting TV isn’t impossible. Whether they’ve bettered this though is debatable as John Simm and Philip Glenister put in career best performances.
Still Game (2002-2007)
Yaaassss something made in Scotland that’s actually funny! Better than the sum of its parts, there’s slapstick, Scottish in-jokes and a cast of carefully crafted stereotypes to enjoy. Chief amongst its achievements is the fact that the main characters are pensioners yet their exploits are as funny to a teenager as they are to their parents.
I’m Alan Partridge (1997-2002)
Seldom has a comedy series lasted so long with such an odious, unloveable character at its centre. Alan Partridge (failed TV presenter and DJ) wades through each episode inadvertently or intentionally insulting everyone he meets. In Alan’s world farmers are incestuous, the Irish are “bucktoothed simpletons with eyebrows on their cheeks”, Toblerone’s are addictive and the best Beatles album is ‘The Best of the Beatles’.
Sex and the City (1998-2004)
Long before Christian Grey appeared on the scene, Samantha Jones was about as kinky as they come. This much-loved series revolved as much around the shoes as it did the sex, making it a stylish point of reference for women the world over. However, there was far more to Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals than Cosmos and credit cards. Cancer, infertility and single parenthood were just three of the life issues tackled by the fab four, who are sorely missed from our Friday night TV schedules.
The Inbetweeners (2008-2010)
The Inbetweeners film was always going to struggle to match the constantly cringe worthy comedy of the series. Sixth formers Will, Simon, Jay and Neil are spectacularly believable characters and as every episode unfolds their antics induce flashbacks to the more embarrassing incidents of our own lives. And that’s what makes this essential viewing.
For a decade this safe sitcom was pretty much the most popular thing on television. It made overnight stars out of its six twenty-something leads, got the whole world gripped on the original Beauty and the Geek romance between Rachel and Ross, and had hairdressers rubbing their paws together as women clamboured to copy Jennifer Aniston’s latest hairdo. Monica, Chandler
et al aside, James Michael Tyler’s performance as bleach blonde barista Gunther stole the show on many an occasion.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005-Present)
There’s something deeply disturbing about this American comedy. Each of its egotistical protagonists is as odious as possible. Charlie stalks a waitress and screams a lot. Dennis is vain and sexually deviant. Dee is desperate and deluded. Mac is obsessed with his muscles and Frank is … just not right. Throw in plots involving glory holes, phantom poops and sex in garbage dumpsters and you’ll get a better picture of what this is all about.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Blonde cheerleader type Buffy Summers is the antithesis of your typical horror movie slasher victim. In fact, the pint sized protagonist is easily the most deadly character in this supernatural teen drama. Brilliantly written by Joss Whedon, this critically acclaimed show gave us all great grownup gothic fun. Strangely considering its premise, it deals with issues like loss and sexuality better than most mainstream teen shows.
Prime Suspect (1991-2006)
Seldom does a series (especially one created by ITV) look as if it could hold its own on the big screen. Prime Suspect almost certainly could. Although only a handful of episodes were shot over its fifteen year lifetime it perfectly showcases the challenges both personal and professional faced by Helen Mirren’s tough talking detective.
30 Rock (2006-Present)
30 Rock made one star (Tina Fey) and resurrected another one (Alec Baldwin). A quick-witted comedy surrounding script writers working on a sketch show, 30 Rock manages to cram at least as many laughs into a single episode as an actual hit sketch show would.
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