Top 10 TV Series of All Time: Part II

Last week, I presented the first half of my top ten television series of all time. This week, I will be highlighting numbers 5 through 1 on my list. As I said before, this is my personal opinion only. First, I will present some honorable mentions.

  • Game of Thrones
  • Mad Men
  • The Wire
  • Dexter

Now, without further ado, here are what I consider to be the five best television series ever made.

5. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

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Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is a particularly unique entrant on this list. Firstly, I would argue that it is far and away the greatest spinoff in television history. Virtually every other spinoff I have ever seen has been frankly insulting to the original show from which it was spawned. However, SVU outshines the original Law and Order in ways that can’t be understated. The cast, the stories, the character development, everything about SVU is magnificent. The iconic status that this show has reached can be demonstrated very simply. Approach nearly anyone (particularly people ages 13-30) who watches television regularly and say the words “In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous,” and there is an astronomical chance that they will be able to recite the remainder of the show’s introduction flawlessly. I generally find myself drawn more toward shows focusing on the other side of the law, but SVU is just so good that it has to be mentioned on this list. Even through all of the cast changes over the years, SVU is still the greatest police drama ever made and is more than deserving of a place on this list.

4. Friends 

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I don’t want to hear about The Office. I don’t want to hear about Seinfeld. I don’t want to hear about Arrested Development. Friends is the greatest comedy series ever made. The story of six friends in their mid to late 20’s trying to find their way in life in New York City is both compelling and hilarious. I think, to some extent, that every group of friends can relate to at least one of the show’s characters, as well as the group as a whole. That sense of relatability is part of what makes Friends so great. The show premiered 24 years ago and is arguably just as iconic now as it was back in 1994. Although there are a few storylines that do not age particularly well, Friends has maintained its popularity in ways that no other TV show ever has. It will continue to bring laughs and joy to more and more generations to come.

3. The Sopranos

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Before I start, I must confess that I have not watches all of The Sopranos like I have all of the other shows on this list. However, I am currently on the 4th season and I can say, with absolute certainty, that it is deserving of at least a top 3 spot. The impact of The Sopranos on television is unparalleled, in the sense that it started the popularity surge in the anti-hero. Tony Soprano is the original Walter White, Don Draper, Dexter Morgan, etc. What I love most about the ensemble of characters in the show are their complexities. Not a single character on this show is one-dimensional. They all have their own agendas, their own shortcomings, and their own sense of their own humanity. The Sopranos doesn’t glamorize mob life. Instead, it presents all sides of it: the violence, the money, the delicate balance between the Mafia family and the family at home. Everything about this show is great. I already know how it ends and I can definitively say that it is both terrible and brilliant. Watch the show and you will understand. It really is a must see.

2. The West Wing

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I spent more time than I care to admit deciding if The West Wing was going to be number one or number two. Ultimately, it just barely lost out. That does not, however, take anything away from the show’s greatness. As far as political dramas go, it will never get any better. The West Wing is hands down the best written television series of all time. The witty and genuine dialogue goes unmatched in the world of TV. The show is driven by the strong performances of both the main and secondary cast. The show’s driving plot lines center on real world issues and the people trying to solve these issues, making the show that much more compelling. For some reason, I have found that a lot of people have never seen this masterpiece of a show. I urge anyone who hasn’t yet seen it to find the time and watch it. You absolutely will not regret it.

1. Sons of Anarchy 

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If Tony Soprano was the original anti-hero, then Jax Teller is the ultimate anti-hero. The son of the founder of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Jax Teller is forced to balance out his role as a leader of a violent motorcycle gang with his role as a new father. The story of Sons of Anarchy draws heavy inspiration from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The show does an outstanding job of using subtle foreshadowing mixed with great, intense dialogue and heavy amounts of violence to create a story unlike any other ever put to television. The ending of Sons is what I consider the single most artistically beautiful ending to a television show ever. The deeps symbolism is the kind of thing someone like me, who loves to look for the deeper meaning in everything, lives for. Simply put, Sons of Anarchy is the greatest television series of all time.

Thanks for reading! If you haven’t read part one of the series yet, check it out here.

My twitter: @BigRedAFerg

Mid-American Culture Twitter: @M_American_C

Top 10 TV Series of All Time: Part I

A few weeks ago, I wrote a two part series on what I consider to be the 10 best movies of all time. Given how much I enjoyed writing that piece and the fair amount of success it had, I have decided to do a similar series on my 10 favorite television series of all time. Similar to my previous series, the first week will feature 10-6 on my list, as well as an honorable mention. Week two will feature numbers 5-1, as well as a list of other shows I felt could have been in contention. This list excludes shows like The Daily Show, mainly because they are not really TV series. Please note that all opinions in this piece are my own. Just because your favorite show isn’t on here, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad (although, it very well might be).

Honorable Mention: House of Cards

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If I had made this list a year ago, House of Cards would have been number one, without a shadow of a doubt. In my opinion, it is most likely the best story ever created for the small-screen. The complexity of the characters and the phenomenal writing create something that has never been, and very well may never be, replicated. I have seen the entire series to-date a total of 5 times. I absolutely love it. However, after the Kevin Spacey scandal, I feel that the show simply lost a lot of its appeal. I tried to re-watch the series again after the scandal and it just didn’t feel the same. The psychopathic tendencies of Spacey’s Frank Underwood just felt all too real to have any legitimate entertainment value. With that being said, the show itself is amazing and deserves mention on any list of this nature.

10. Burn Notice burnn.jpg

Although it is probably the least recognizable show on this list, Burn Notice was spectacular during the entirety of its 7 season run. The show is centered around a blacklisted spy who attempts to reassemble his life by connecting with old friends, as well as old enemies, from his past. Interesting characters and witty dialogue, as well as over the top action sequences make this show truly memorable. The series finale holds a place among the all time greats and I feel that Burn Notice is more than deserving of a place among the most underrated television series of all time.

9. Friday Night Lights

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I cant say enough about this show. Friday Night Lights is the best sports-based TV drama of all time. However, it is also so much more than that. The show provides a deep look into the trials and tribulations of adolescence, particularly in small-town America. FNL took a concept that could have grown very repetitive very quickly and turned it into a show that always felt fresh and new. If you exclude the god-awful murder storyline (I seriously have no idea what the hell that was), the show absolutely never misses its mark. The relatability of a show about growing up in a small, high school football crazed town makes the show truly appealing and I think that is what makes the show so popular. It is definitely something to add to your list if you’ve never seen it.

8. 24

24

Growing up, I thought 24 was the absolute best that television had to offer. Now, in my early 20’s, I still think that it is definitely up there. Each season of this thriller takes place in a single day (hence the name 24) of the life of government agent Jack Bauer. I have to say, this man has some eventful days. Kiefer Sutherland is one of my absolute favorite actors and he does a masterful job of portraying the immensely patriotic, heavily flawed, and extremely lethal Bauer. Sutherland is supported by an ensemble of very interesting secondary characters and an always interesting array of storylines that keep the show interesting. 24 is a must watch for any fan of thrilling drama series.

7. Breaking Bad

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I know what you’re thinking. It’s probably something along the lines of “how could you put Breaking Bad so low on the list? It should be number 1!”. I have to confess something. I didn’t like Breaking Bad as much as everyone else seemingly did. At some point in the future, I will detail all of the issues I have with the show. For the purposes of this list, I will instead focus on the good. The early seasons of the show are some of the best television ever produced. The character development is indescribably good and the tension some of the show’s scenes create is unparalleled. Breaking Bad absolutely deserves a place among the giants of television. Its merit can not be questioned. Number 7 is a fitting place, in my opinion.

6. Avatar: The Last Airbender 

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Avatar: The Last Airbender is the absolute high-point of Nickelodeon. SpongeBob couldn’t hold a candle to this masterpiece. Growing up, Avatar was my favorite show. I think a lot of the beauty of the show is its wide appeal. I remember my mom being genuinely invested in the show and even enjoying it almost as much as I did. A few years ago, I re-watched the entire series again and found it to be just as enjoyable as it was when I was a kid. Watching Aang, the show’s protagonist, slowly develop into his immensely important role in the show’s universe is incredible to watch and the story is told flawlessly. I will almost certainly go to my grave pondering the fate of  Zuko’s mother. A show has to have a real impact to create a mental dilemma like that. Although it is an animated series with a much younger target audience than the other shows on this list, Avatar: The Last Airbender is an epic series that anyone, regardless of age, can enjoy.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to come back to Mid-American Culture next Wednesday to see Part II of the series. In the meantime, check out some of the other great content from our writers!

My twitter: @BigRedAFerg

Mid-American Culture Twitter: @M_American_C

Why Professional Wrestling Is Struggling In Today’s Culture

Professional wrestling has been a cultural staple in the United States, particularly in the South and Mid-Western parts of the country, for decades. Being a 90’s baby and the son of a huge professional wrestling fan, I grew up watching wrestling during what I believe to be the best time in the history of the sport. During a significant part of my childhood, wrestling was everything to me. I idolized the wrestlers. I collected the action figures (to this day, I still have literally hundreds of them boxed up in my garage). I proudly wore my replica championship belts. I watched WWE programming religiously. Wrestling was my greatest childhood passion.

meeee

However, wrestling gradually began to lose its appeal to myself and many other fans. At the time, I blamed my loss of interest on my discovery that the outcome of the matches were scripted and the departure of some of my favorite wrestlers from the sport. My recently rekindled love of wrestling has led me to reconsider this. I believe that a cultural shift and the industry’s attempts to keep up with said shift are more to blame than anything else.

 attitude

Wrestling was arguably never more popular than it was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The sport was at its peak during the “Monday Night Wars”. The Wars were actually a competition between the country’s two top wrestling promotions, World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment (then known as the World Wrestling Federation) for superiority over one another. The Monday Night Wars led to the beginning of the Attitude Era in the WWF. The borderline vulgar, often profanity-ridden, and violent storylines that came from the Attitude Era are some of the most entertaining content ever created by a wrestling promotion. Not only were the storylines great, but the characters were iconic and the viewer could really identify with them to an extent. Who didn’t want to give their boss the finger and pound beers like Stone Cold Steve Austin? Who didn’t want to have the charisma and swagger of The Rock? Who didn’t want to be as rebellious and controversial as the D-Generation X faction? No other point in wrestling history could even hold a candle to the Attitude Era.

rock austin

However, the sport took a drastic decline in the years following. After the demise of WCW, World Wrestling Entertainment stood as the only major player left in the world of professional wrestling. This led to a noticeable decline in quality. The crude, bloody action sport that wrestling was gradually declined into a series of watered-down matches between mostly goofy, generic characters. The change was undeniable. Ratings and house show numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years. These loses cant be blamed completely on the decline in quality, however. Even the less violent matches between the lower card wrestlers during the Attitude Era were great. So what is the issue?

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I personally believe that much of the problem is the change in culture in the last two decades. Ultimately, political correctness is a good thing. Simply put, it basically promotes common courtesy and respect being expanded to everyone regardless of who they are. It makes the community a better place. But, wrestling is not about that. Wrestling was so great during the Attitude Era because it provided viewers with an escape from all social norms. Fans could live vicariously through the wresters and experience things that are not plausible in the real world. As WWE became more mainstream and family friendly,    it strayed further and further away from what made it so great. While trying to move in a safer and more commercially acceptable direction is commendable, this alienates a vast percentage of the sport’s core fan base. The proof is in the numbers. The sport just isn’t the same.

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With that being said, it is important to note that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. That light comes in the form of  a man named Paul Levesque. Better known by his in-ring name Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H), Levesque was a focal point of the Attitude Era. As a member and eventual leader of, the D-Generation X faction, Triple H played a key role in some of the Era’s most controversial moments. Levesque is also the son-in-law of WWE owner Vince McMahon. Many believe that Helmsley will eventually take over the company. This could lead to an instant resurgence of the things that made pro wrestling the cultural icon it is today.

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Only time will tell if WWE will return to its attitude-filled roots, but the future of the sport is certainly bright. Regardless of all of the flaws in the current WWE product I mentioned above, the current roster is arguably more athletically talented than ever before. With the right kind of help from the creative team, the wrestling promotion could easily return to its former glory. While the Attitude Era deeply contrasts what political correct culture is about, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Professional wrestling is scripted and predetermined. It is done for the sake of entertainment. Entertainment needs to continue to push boundaries. The world of professional wrestling can do that by bringing back what made it so edgy and exciting, despite pressure to conform to social pressure. While it does not need to turn to the gory, uber-violent, and often outright offensive content of a promotion like Extreme Championship Wrestling, WWE  does need to recapture some of the grit it exhibited during the Attitude Era. This kind of sports entertainment could succeed, and even thrive, in todays culture. It is time to bring the attitude back to professional wrestling and that’s the bottom line…….

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Twitter: @ BigRedAFerg

Embracing A Stranger Culture

A look at how a popular Netflix show has altered public perception of a game that has been played for decades.

Stranger Things: Embracing a Stranger Culture

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In 2016 we had a phenomenon of “nerd culture” and nostalgia hit us like a ton of bricks when Stranger Things was released on Netflix. It was an immediate hit among people of all ages, young people were drawn in by the story of kids tracking down the bad man and saving the day like in the old sci-fi movies that came out in the 80’s and 90’s, and the show also appealed to people who were the age of the stars in ’84, the year the show is set. The show focuses on a group of kids who are trying to rescue their friend from another dimension that was found by an evil scientist and defeat an evil monster from said dimension

Demogorgon

While the show is an insanely good example of excellent writing and the Duffer Bros have killed it with their story. That is not going to be the focus of this short article. At the beginning and end of the first season of Stranger Things, we see the main characters playing Dungeons & Dragons, a game that was incredibly popular among the more nerdy groups of kids in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Since then, the game stayed pretty far away from popular culture, bar a few episodes of Community which also had an eclectic and somewhat nerdy point of view on the pen and paper tabletop game.

Community D&D

Now, with this new phenomenal show, Stranger Things, we have a group of “nerdy” kids playing a nerdy game at the beginning. However, through the course of the season, ideas, terminology, and even strategy from this nerdy game were incorporated into the very real and present danger that was plaguing Hawkins, Indiana (the inconspicuous town where the gate to the other dimension is created). New life was breathed into this game because of the series. And people across the country who aren’t “nerds” began to have a newfound interest in this “nerdy” game of Dungeons & Dragons.

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At Lipscomb University in Nashville, I know of at least 5 groups of people who have begun to play Dungeons & Dragons drawing inspiration from the Demogorgon and other references to the game that are included in Stranger Things or Community. And in South Point, Ohio the hobby store is sold out of Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbooks.

Original D&D Manual.jpgWhile many still aren’t on board with the game or don’t see the appeal, there are a lot of people who used to see it as just a thing for nerds but have gained interest after it was seen in a new way and related to the dangers that the characters faced in Stranger Things. As the show continues and the references to D&D are present like they were in Stranger Things 2 (The Second Season of Stranger Things), I believe that the previously “nerdy and unpopular” game, Dungeons & Dragons will begin to lose it’s “nerdy” label and might eventually become a part of popular culture.

Sawyer C. Stephens

 

The Definitive Top 20 Spongebob Squarepants Episodes: Part II (10-1)

Ahoy, mateys! In case you missed my last article, I started counting down my top 20 Spongebob episodes, and you can check out 20-11 here. Today I’m gonna finish off the list and reveal my top 10 episodes. So, let’s dive right in!

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Continue reading “The Definitive Top 20 Spongebob Squarepants Episodes: Part II (10-1)”