The 20 Best TV Shows of 2005


Overall, not a bad year for an entertainment entity long written off as a cultural wasteland. There's some definitive new growth among the arid averageness.

Some 2005 TV tidbits. Of the 20 shows selected, nearly half are comedies. Hour long dramas make up the next biggest batch with seven. The Big Three networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — account for only four entries total, while Fox has more than double the number (if you include the FX entries). While the broadcasters can boast a majority of the shows (11), cable is more than holding its own with a noticeable nine. Rupert Murdoch's media empire is the overall winner, with four entries in the top 10 while reality TV continues to be the biggest loser (only two entries, and none in the top spots). Comedy Central owns the talk show title, placing both of its seminal news satires on the list, while a quartet of excellent animated fare proves that, unlike its cinematic counterpart, the hand drawn medium is far from dead on the small screen. Overall, not a bad year for an entertainment entity long written off as a cultural wasteland. There's some definitive new growth among the arid averageness.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force
(Cartoon Network)

Reveling in its nutty own internal logic, Aqua Teen Hunger Force is one of Adult Swim's most accomplished 15-minute blasts of nonsense. In case you're just tuning in, the show is about living, breathing, swearing fast-food products who also happen to be pretty much the worst superheroes ever. Even Frylock, the straight man of the group, made a recent verbal reference to dropping all pretense of solving crimes (which, if you go way back, was sort of the show's original premise). Can't wait for the movie!
Jesse Hassenger PopMatters review Amazon

Rescue Me

There is a sense with certain TV shows that what you're watching is the realized aesthetic vision of a single creator (or perhaps a small team), rather than a committee. NYPD Blue had that, as did The X-Files, and everything Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams have put on the screen. Rescue Me is a sleeper show in this vein, with a peculiar tragicomic tone all its own. Denis Leary writes, produces and stars as Tommy Gavin, a New York City firefighter literally haunted by the events of 9/11 — you couldn't find a more entertaining mess on television this year.
Glenn McDonald PopMatters review Amazon

Grey's Anatomy

Scheduled immediately after Desperate Housewives, this 'Sex In The Hospital' soap is riddled with faults, and yet remains consistently fun and engaging. Absurdly, Grey's Anatomy's biggest fault is its lead character and narrator, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), who manages to be both annoying and bland at the same time. So all credit to the writers and the supporting cast of intern peers and senior doctors -- of whom Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) is the prize. Of course, Grey's Anatomy isn't House, but then what is.
Roger Holland PopMatters review Amazon

The Colbert Report
(Comedy Central)

A spinoff of sorts from The Daily Show's alpha correspondent, The Colbert Report is deep-cover satire of basic cable's news-and-commentary cult of personality. Just like the personalities he satirizes, Stephen Colbert's willfully under-informed host wants to frame the debate and set the agenda. The show is attempting something very interesting — rather than react with gags to today's headlines, it wants to parody the way in which media itself creates "news." Only the agenda this time... is laughs! Bitter, rueful despairing laughs, yes, but still. The Colbert Report is still finding its rhythm, but in terms of potential and ambition, this is one to watch.
Glenn McDonald PopMatters review

Family Guy

I've read lately that Kevin Smith, the South Park duo, and almost everyone who works on The Simpsons absolutely loathe Family Guy. Well, fuck them if they can't take a joke. This is the most consistently funny show on TV today, and Lois Griffin is infinitely hotter than Marge or Cartman's mom. That's all. End of message.
Roger Holland PopMatters review Amazon


Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet, Patrick Stewart — these are just a few of the big names you'll see in the premier season of Extras, the most gut-busting BBC comedy to come from the other side of the pond since The Office. Like said show, it was also created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and stars Gervais as Andy Miller — a guy who has given up his day job to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. Andy spends his days hanging around movie sets with his best friend Maggie (Ashley Jensen) in dire pursuit of a speaking role, while Maggie pursues a boyfriend among the casts and crews. Their ambitions often lead the two friends into awkward situations which, like The Office, frequently fuel the hilarity.
Jennifer Makowsky PopMatters review Amazon

Everybody Hates Chris

Garnering comparisons to The Wonder Years and The Cosby Show, this season has proved that everyone indeed loves Chris. Toted as one of those rarely successful nostalgic shows that mix a healthy dose of comedy, childhood angst, and familial warmth, Everybody Hates Chris is the autobiographical account of "the funniest man in America" Chris Rock's teenage years in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn during the 1980s. Rock's brainchild is a brilliant, complex amalgamation of race, class, and coming of age, fitted into a 30-minute sitcom timeslot. Each episode, Chris (played by the delightfully talented Tyler James Williams) has to somehow make right the "Herculean" tasks that plague him: from his responsibilities at home as the eldest child (trying to keep his siblings quiet while his father sleeps, not eating the big piece of chicken, keeping his sister out of trouble) to negotiating his survival in Bed-Stuy, or as he calls it, "the center of the crack epidemic". It's no wonder that anyone who enjoys intelligent comedy probably loves Chris.
Courtney Young PopMatters review Amazon

Degrassi: The Next Generation

Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel have been spawning cult hits with nigh-exclusively 'tween audiences for years; Canada's Degrassi one-ups them all by keeping it real. Well, sort of; this epic soap covering the lives, loves, and sexually transmitted diseases of over a dozen growing teenagers indulges in its share of melodrama and hyperbole. But even when it borders on silliness, Degrassi wins us over by refusing to offer easy answers or happy endings.
Jesse Hassenger PopMatters review Amazon

The Amazing Race

2005 was a great year for fans of the The Amazing Race. First of all, Season Seven allowed all right thinking people to travel vicariously to all kinds of really cool exotic places and dream of murdering Reality TV Slebs Rob and Amber in each and every one of them. Next, The Amazing Race Family Edition took us on a non-stop tour of North America and introduced us to the fun and wacky Linz family, the Bransens (three cool girls who wanted the Linz boys baaaad, and their drip of a father who wouldn't have lasted ninety seconds with Megan Linz), and the inutterable awful Weaver family. If you want to learn more about the Weavers, look up the words "cant" and "hypocrisy" in your dictionary. They'll have their own special sections. If you want to see more of Rob and Amber, give it a couple of months and they'll no doubt be hawking a sex tape on the Internet. If you want to see the best reality show on TV, keep your eyes peeled for the next season of The Amazing Race.
Roger Holland PopMatters review Amazon

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Shamelessly manipulative, over the top in both its premise and its presentation, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition traffics in something that there is just too little of in today's modern media: heart. Not just the kind of emotion that comes from a fluffy human interest story, or that's derived from granting 'wishes', but from the spirit of goodwill that pours out of a desire to help — and a new 8,000 square foot mansion. It's the cynical thing to mock and ridicule this show and its sentiments, but there is no faking that weekly reaction when the families watch their former abode being destroyed. Those looks of astonishment are the myriad of personal memories slowly dissipating... and dying. It's what makes the third act reveal so thrilling (and keeps the tear ducts flowing and flowing). For these hopeless, helpless people host Ty Pennington and his creative crew represent a reprieve from Fate's cruel confines. This real estate enrichment may not be buying happiness, but it seems to be temporarily easing the pain — and there's nothing wrong with that now, is there.
Bill Gibron PopMatters review Amazon

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