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    Sunday, July 30, 2006

    The ten best shows of the 21st century

    10) Curb Your Enthusiasm - Is it heretical to say that I like Curb more than Seinfeld? I don't care because I'm saying it anyway. Season Five's penultimate episode "The Ski Lift" was the funniest thing I've seen in about fourteen years and the rest of the shows are also pretty... pretty... pretty... pretty... pretty good.

    9) Battlestar Galactica - I usually wouldn't watch sci-fi on a dare, but add a twist (e.g. Firefly) and I'm likely to give it a chance. So if you're like me, just imagine Battlestar as a provocative and brilliant war drama that just happens to also be set on a spaceship in the future.

    8) The Shield - Michael Chiklis's rogue cop Vic Mackey usually gets the attention, onscreen and off, but I'm more intrigued by the people caught in the crossfire - Dutch, Claudette, Shane, Lem, Acevada, Corrine. It's always riveting and often disturbing to watch them maneuver a world where good and evil only come in gradations.

    7) The Simpsons - Bitch and whine all you want about how The Simpsons hasn't been good since Season [insert single-digit number here]. Even if it's not hitting the Everest peaks of, say, Seasons Five and Six, the show still runs laps of clever around almost anything else on the air, animated or otherwise.

    6) Lost - I'm not proud to admit it, but I've spent entire days reading message board threads debating the possible meanings of Jack's tattoos or whether Vincent the dog is secretly evil. It's no surprise though. Other than The X-Files and Twin Peaks, no show has ever been as steeped in mystery, mythology and speculation. Add in the flashbacks, the war of faith and science, and the characters' hidden connections, and you have a show that's truly singular.

    5) The Sopranos - There's not much I can say about it that some adoring critic hasn't written already. Still, what makes The Sopranos so enjoyable for me is that it simultaneously celebrates the Mob lifestyle while postmodernly critiquing pop culture's obsession with it. By alternating between bloody hits and analysis with Dr. Melfi, we get to have our cannoli and eat it too.

    4) The Office (BBC Version) - Sure, they have teeth like smashed windows and monstrosities like blood pudding, but can you argue with a nation that's produced Gang of Four, Ali G, The Prisoner, Monty Python, the Streets, Ken Loach, the Smiths, and of course David Brent, unequivocally the greatest character to storm TV since Homer Simpson?

    3) The Daily Show - Can you believe now there was a time when people wondered if The Daily Show could survive Jon Stewart taking over for Craig Kilborne? Survive? Craig Kilborne? As it turned out, Kilborne was just a smarmy Pete Best while Jon Stewart proved to be all four of the Beatles combined.

    2) Arrested Development - Take a moment to consider just a few of the topics Arrested Development broached to painfully hilarious effect: corporate corruption, Korean adoption, mental retardation, closet cases, cousin-love, boyfights, never-nudes, a seal eating Buster's hand, a sword cutting off Gob's fingers, the Blue Man Group, alcoholism and Christian evangelism. Now go send Fox another vicious letter.

    1) The Wire - The Wire may well be my favorite program in television history. Creator David Simon has the eye of a documentarian and the scope of an epic novelist, tackling the rough streets of Baltimore with intelligence and subtlety to spare. From backalley junkies to backroom councilmen, the show anatomizes the complexities of crime and the challenges of being "good police." Even on HBO, it's amazing that it's survived so long.

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