The Best TV Series 1999-2008, #8 and #7
By Bert Ehrmann
July 17, 2009
This is the second column of many that will chronicle the ten best TV series 1999-2008. What's come before is #10 Battlestar Galactica and #9 The Sopranos.
#8 Spaced 1999-2001
The 1990s are known as one of the golden eras for the sitcom. Series like Frasier, Seinfeld and Friends are all considered modern classics. Though I may have watched my fair share of these shows, I never felt as if any of them spoke about my generation or particular stage in life. That was until I saw the UK series Spaced.
Created and written by Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes, Spaced captured just what it felt like to be a "20 something" living at the turn of the last century. I could relate to Pegg's character Tim Bisley as a struggling artist still working at his part time college job unsure as to what to do next. And who couldn't see parts of themselves in Hynes character of Daisey Steiner, a writer with dreams of stardom but missing the crucial work element?
Spaced shares a passing resemblance to the works of Kevin Smith (unsure about growing up, relishing pop-culture such as Star Wars, etc.) but the series certainly isn't a copy of Smith's work. If anything, Spaced tackles the same subjects and themes through different life experiences.
Spaced has achieved a certain level of cult status here in the US but was never quite able to break through to a mainstream audience. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if people knew of Pegg and Wright via their films Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007) and may recognize Hynes via TV appearances on shows like Doctor Who rather than from Spaced.
The series would have two separate seasons totaling just fourteen episodes. But each episode of Spaced is lovingly crafted and the heart and soul of the creators shine through each episode.
#7 Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1997-2003/
Veronica Mars 2004-2007
All right, you caught me — I cheated on this one. But I found it hard to include the series Veronica Mars without also adding Buffy the Vampire Slayer as I'm not sure that you could have one without the other.
It took me years before I was finally able to get into the Buffy series, and believe me I tried. I found it hard to suspend my disbelief over the central premise of a series about a teen girl fighting vampires with martial arts. It wasn't until I was able to see Buffy from the start, and finally experience the story from the beginning, that I was able to finally appreciate the show.
Buffy marked a turning point for smartly written TV series that empowered women/girls to kick just as much butt as the guys. Which brings me to the series Veronica Mars.
At a superficial level, Mars looked like just about every other teen drama that aired on the old The WB network. But unlike the other similar shows of the same period, Mars had an interesting combination of both pop elements along with a serious dark undertone. Kristen Bell, as the high school age title character, and her private detective father investigated things as innocent as stolen tests and cheating students to serious crimes like rape and murder.
Veronica was the smartest character in the show and she always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone, be they teen or adult. That was until the incredible twist season one ending that had her trapped in an overturned refrigerator ablaze with no rescue in sight.
Mars is one of those series I think the fans will spend years debating "what if?" What if the series had lasted a few more years until Bell had become a recognizable star? What if the UPN network, where Mars was moved after The WB dropped it, had shown a bit more faith in the series and had put a few more ad dollars behind it? What if?
Interestingly enough, one of the "what ifs" was answered on the last DVD set for the series where it was revealed that if Mars would have survived to a fourth season it would have skipped ahead a few years in time focusing on Veronica post-college as an FBI agent.