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The Best TV Series 1999-2008, #10 and #9

By Bert Ehrmann
April 17, 2009

It seems a bit odd to think this, but The Sopranos premiered on HBO a full decade ago last January. That series was groundbreaking in so many ways, the least of which for HBO was that it turned this once backwater pay cable channel into THE destination for innovative TV series. Which got me thinking; if one assumes that The Sopranos marked the start of a golden age of TV ten years ago, what were the other nine great series to air over the last decade? Please note: this is the first column of several that will follow over the course of this year.

Battlestar Galactica

#10 Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009)
When I initially heard that SCI FI Channel was in the process of updating the original Battlestar Galactica (BSG) series I was skeptical to say the least. The original BSG hadn’t aged that well over the last 30 or so years and I could only imagine that the remake would follow the same space-opera formula of the first. But I was completely wrong. The BSG update shattered the stereotypes of just about every sci fi series that had come before, and instead of relying on overused concepts of “good and evil” painted both the “good” and the “bad” guys in various shades of grey.

In the BSG update, there was no heroic space captain always striving to do right in the face of evil. In BSG there was just a guy trying to keep everyone he was responsible alive for who sometimes made bad decisions. And there were no bumpy headed stereotypical alien enemies crawling the galaxy, in BSG the aliens were really robots who were indistinguishable from us who’s one real difference was religious in nature. 

BSG also threw away every sci fi convention away of how a series was supposed to be shot and instead made the entire series, both inside and out, look as if it were shot handheld documentary style. Cameras would zoom around to capture the action, sometimes filming things in and out of focus, which only added to the realism of the events presented on screen.

 

The Sopranos

#9 The Sopranos (1999-2007)
To call The Sopranos possibly the most influential drama of the decade would not be an understatement. Both on how many other shows would find themselves being compared to the series or other series that were created by writers who originally found work on The Sopranos.

But The Sopranos is also influential in that series creator David Chase never wavered from his vision of the show. Storylines never softened and we never sensed that lead character Tony Soprano was ever going to be able to conform to social norms or be anything but a suburban psychopath who fooled himself into believing that the terrible things he did were for the greater good.

Some might argue that The Sopranos is nothing more than an update on The Godfather series of movies and to a certain extent I can agree with that. But on the other hand there were places that a series like The Sopranos could go over the course of 80 some odd hours of story that couldn’t be told in the eight or nine hours covered in The Godfather movies. In The Sopranos, we could almost live with the characters, and discover just what self-centered jerks they really were.

It always bothered me as to just how many storylines of The Sopranos were left dangling season to season never to be resolved. Most series do their best to tie up any loose story ends that might be present over the course of a show, but to the writers of The Sopranos this never seemed to be an important factor to them. As the series played out over the years all these dangling story elements started to get to me, to the point where I almost gave up the show. Then I came to the realization that maybe this was the actual point of The Sopranos that endings do not matter. It’s everything that happens on the course of the journey that’s really important. 

The best shows of 1999-2009 #8 and #7 are coming soon – I promise!