The Best TV of the Decade: Part Two
Catch up with the first part of my list right here!
Most of this decade, it feels, has been a hopeless search for an anthology horror show that doesn’t actually suck.American Horror Story shat the bed pretty consistently on that front, and others, like the silly Slasher, just didn’t have the truly nightmarish horror weight that I was looking for.
Enter Channel Zero. Based loosely on popular internet creepypastas, it sounds like the kind of bad idea that’s going to flame out in half a season, never to be spoken of again. But, four seasons in, and Channel Zero is only getting a stronger handle on its psychological horror, and turning in some of the leanest, scariest horror on television right now.
Nick Antosca and company have found a common thread in the stories they choose to tell under the Channel Zero banner: trauma. Now, I’ve written about horror and trauma and why I think they’re just a match made in hell before, but Channel Zero is perhaps my favourite example of the way it can work without getting repetitive. A focus on superb monster design, committed performances from lesser-known actors who come with no previous-show baggage, and on actually disturbing the audience instead of just hurling buckets of gore at them elevate Channel Zero to one of the most consistently and brutally effective horror shows of the decade.
I’m quite sure that my partner would leave me if I didn’t put The Americans on this list, and he’s got a point, you know?
I don’t go for traditional dramas so much these days, because I’m horny for genre TV and nothing else in the world, but The Americans is just so fucking good that it overrode any doubts I might have had and strong-armed its way into the best TV of the decade.
I mean, where to even start with this show? Starring Matthew Rhys and Keri Russel as a pair of Russian spies living undercover in America, it’s high-stakes drama from the off, with high-level espionage and world-changing political intrigue, but, as with all the shows I really love, its the emotional throughlines that really make this show work for me. Rhys and Russel and magic together, and the extended cast (including Noted Character Actress Margot Martindale) consistently delivers on heartbreakingly human stories that weave through this gorgeous tragedy of a story.
I fucking love Bojack Horseman. So much so that I have a hard time sitting here and trying to quantify exactly why I like it so much. I mean, I could point to the amazing voice acting, the intricate and brilliant comedy, the ambition and unflinching deep-dives into what addiction, trauma, and mental illness really do to a person.
But that would be overlooking just the sheer emotional brutalising that Bojack Horseman has had on me over the course of its five-and-a-half seasons – it’s on this list because I can’t think of a show that I have more consistently come back to when I feel like I need something outside of me to tell me that things will probably be alright, that someone has been where I am before and that they survived it. Yeah, if you’d told me that, at the end of this decade, an animated sitcom about a horse with a long face would be the most meaningful show I had found over the course of these ten years, I would have said you were a dumbass. But it is I, the woman who relates to a sad horse, who is the true dumbass, for ever doubting the might of Bojack Horseman.
If The Simpsons is my favourite show of all time, and it pretty much is, then it only makes sense that I would put its natural successor here on this list, right?
Bob’s Burgers is one of those warm, comfortable places to which I return when I need a hot bath and a long hug. If Bojack Horseman is where I go for developmental discomfort, Bob’s Burgers is where I go when I need someone to cuddle me and tell me that it will be okay afterwards. And the more I realize that I’m anthropomorphising these TV shows, the more I realize that I may need to actually talk to more human beings in real life, probably. But then I wouldn’t have time to write these thousand-word blog posts on TV, and where’s the fun in that?
But anyway! Bob’s Burgers has spanned the full length of this decade, and in that time, its proved itself the brilliant family show that we as millenials have needed to fill the gaping voids in our stressful little lives. Sweet, heartfelt, but with all these deliciously spiky and surreal edges that stop it getting too gentle, and packed with musical numbers that will pummel their way into your head whether you fucking like it or not, I just don’t have enough good things to say about this show. The art of the good sitcom is truly a delicate and difficult balance, but Bob’s Burgers is the show this decade that proved we still have the capacity to get it totally right.
And I really think that what is to come for the show is going to be better than what we had to endure over the course of these ten years. That’s how I want to go into the next year and the next decade – with a little hopeful optimism. Jodie Whittaker is the Doctor, Chris Chibnall seems to know what he’s doing, and I hope that one of my favourite shows in the world is going to be as great as I always remember it being when I first came to love it. Maybe I’m just a hopeless romandoc, but here’s to another decade of great television – and I hope you’ll be enjoying it along with me right here at the Guignol.
So that’s the first half of this list! Any shows you agree with? Any you don’t? Any you would put on your best-ofs that I have missed? Let me know in the comments below and, as ever, if you like this article and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon!
(header image via NME)