Top Ten (Scripted) Shows (Currently) on Television

These are in no particular order … or rather, they are in alphabetical order:

Archer1. Archer: What’s not to love about a snappy, well-drawn cartoon about a monomaniacally self-centered secret agent with a mommy complex? Absolutely nothing! ‘Edgy’ is an overused superlative, but nails this 007 send-up perfectly. Insider tip: pay attention to the running gag of non sequitur scene transitions, with one character starting a sentence only to be finished by another character talking simultaneously in another, often loosely-related scene. Clever stuff, brothers.

Breaking Bad2. Breaking Bad: Walter White is a very interesting and unusual stand-in for the contemporary ‘everyman.’ When he finds out he’s dying, rather than seek redemption, he (to use what we’ve been told is a bit of vernacular of the Southwest) ‘breaks bad,’ turns to the dark side, or more specifically, uses his talents as a chemist to manufacture the very best meth. Originally, he sets out on this path for somewhat noble intentions: to provide enough money to take care of his wife, handi-capable son, and infant daughter, but having tasted the forbidden fruit (and having endured a lifetime of Caspar Milquetoast-esque defeats and failures), Walter begins to embrace his inner Bad Man, complete with a doppelgänger persona known only as ‘Heisenberg,’ as in the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty. This summer (2013) marks the end of Walter’s journey, and we’re sure that it’s going to be an epic (in every sense of that word) thrill ride. (Possible) SPOILER ALERT! Here at the HUB, we’re betting the house that Jessie’s taking Walter down, though with this show you never know who’s going to buy the farm, get the ax, or emerge victorious, especially when it comes to that Mad Genius of the Molecule, Walter Hartwell White!

Futurama3. Futurama: We are sad to say that this resurrected workplace comedy set roughly a thousand years into the future is coming to an end this year, though it has come back from the dead at least once before, and it’s still all over the filler programming that cable stations use in the 5-8 p.m. and 11-1 p.m. ‘not-prime-time’ window-watching hours. Birthed from the minds of The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and his creative buddy David X. Cohen (who actually invented the word cromulent), this cartoon has parodied just about every aspect of science, fiction, and science-fiction. Here at the HUB, we are huge fans of Doctor John A. Zoidberg, a fiendishly funny Ashkenazi crustacean, rating him one of the top ten characters in television history (list soon to follow!).

Justified4. Justified: How can a show that’s based on an Elmore Leonard story and character not be good? It can’t (not be). Best bit: at some point in almost every season, it all comes down to the quick draw… and nobody’s quicker on the draw than Raylan Givens, the U.S. marshall working out of the Lexington office in the Blue Grass state of Kentucky (though he spends most of his time down in Harlan County dealing with ne’er-do-well ‘friends’ from his childhood. Raylan’s a local boy, after all).

The Killing5. The Killing: Like the Scandinavian country from whence it originated, this extended potboiler is damp, chilly, and permeated with an atmosphere of gloom. Unlike most cop shows, this one takes the long view, stretching cases over multiple seasons (so far, anyway), allowing for richer character development and online fan speculation–though we were getting a little tired of speculating on who killed Rosie Larsen. Future seasons might limit case-solving to a 13-episode arc, we’re betting. At its heart, these are tales of damaged people seeking redemption either through acts of violence or bringing perps to justice, and everybody… and we mean everybody… has dark secrets eating their lunch as they fumble through an overcast Seattle looking for ways to leave the past behind. Deep stuff.

Louie6. Louie: This one is not easily pigeonholed. Yes, it’s a sit-com, and yes, it resembles a lot of other sit-coms from the past. Seinfeld comes to mind, as it is eponymously titled after the main character, features a standup comedian doing a standup routine based (at least tangentially) on the episode’s action, and is situated in Manhattan. But unlike the sunnier Seinfeld, Louie veers off into the darkly surreal, and relies much less on supporting characters to carry the comedic load. This is a show about the Life and Terrible Times of Louis CK as he tries to find love, raise his two daughters in New York, achieve career success, and steer clear of the dread that seems always to be hovering at the peripheral edges of his scary world. Side note: Louie is a one-man production crew: writing, directing, producing, editing and almost everything else that goes into making a show for TV.

Mad Men7. Mad Men: What can you say about a show that’s won just about every TV award there is, changed fashion, sparked endless debates about men, women, the meaning of life, the turbulent Sixties, and, almost single-handedly slam-dunked the case for contemporary basic cable television as the producer of High Art? In 2009, the inimitable ‘Don Draper’ (or Dick Whitman, if you’re a stickler) was named by Ask Men magazine as the most influential man in the world. In the world! We could gush for days about what makes this show relevant, important, must-see TV, but instead we’ll just encourage you to watch. There is nothing on TV that comes close to it. Nothing!

th8. Saturday Night Live: Coming up on 40 years of producing some of the smartest, culturally-relevant satire on television, SNL is the soul of American comedy TV. The show has also produced almost every major comedian of the late 20th, early 21st centuries, to include: Bill Murray, John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Phil Hartman, Rob Schneider, Ben Stiller, Dennis Miller, Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Fallon, Michael Myers, Dana Carvey, Will Ferrell, Christopher Guest, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tracy Morgan, and on, and on, and on…

Venture Bros.9. The Venture Bros.: Although similar in tone and content to Archer, in so many ways it couldn’t be more different. First, it’s produced by two guys in a dingy office in Brooklyn (or somewhere in New York) with little more than a computer and a pair of imaginations. It’s a spot-on satire of such ‘boy adventurer’ comics as Jonny Quest (actually, it’s nearly a rip-off of Jonny Quest), while still reaching out to any genre even remotely related, including James Bond’s secret agent, superheroes, monster-based horror, etcetera, etcetera… Added bonus, the show features some amazing music by the mysterious J. G. Thirlwell!

Walking Dead10. The Walking Dead: A global phenomenon! We live in the age of the Zombie Apocalypse, and nobody does it better, and nobody gets out alive! (Or rather, dead, unless they’re offed a second time by one of the handful of survivors of a vaguely-explained virus-y thing-y). Well, as we said, vaguely explained. All we know for sure is everyone is infected, so everyone goes full-on ‘walker’ in the end, and that means nobody dies for very long, unless, of course, they’re killed again. The show is based on a comic created by two boys from Kentucky, Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore (though they’re not on good terms these days, as the two split before the big money and artist Moore lost out on the big payoff to story creator Kirkman, who is now a bona fide television personality with the after-show Talking Dead).

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