I'm not going to lie: I've watched some garbage. I'm a sucker for a good soap opera like Sister Wives. But there are a few TV shows, over the years, that have won a special place in my heart. What are they? I'm so glad you asked!
People who criticize this show due to Bill Shatner's over-acting or the ridiculous Tribbles are missing the point. I took a class in college that studied the cultural importance of such classics as Star Trek and Spiderman, and it was the single most useful college course of my career. Professor Trimble (fabulous man) would tell you that Star Trek depicted the basic struggle of the human mind to listen to logic (Spock), emotion (Bones), and ultimately weave both together in harmony in order to save the day and get the sexy girl (Kirk). Trimble applauded this show for showcasing a variety of races and cultures working together for a common good. Star Trek gave the world its first broadcasted interracial kiss, the inspiration for cell phones and tasers, and George Takei. What could anyone NOT love about this show?
This show still cracks me up. Marriage is not all flowers and sunshine and perfect kids and healthy parental relationships. It's about kids who flip the bird in their class photos, mothers who are tired of working and cleaning and managing the house, husbands who get laid off and worry about paying the bills, and the single funniest sister-sister relationship ever to grace the airwaves.
Roseanne: People who cannot handle conflicts, right away they run for the alcohol.
Jackie: Well, have another shot of pancake, Roseanne.
This show was ultimately about family, and let's face it folks, family isn't always pretty. (Mine is. But others are not.)
Jason used to make fun of me for watching this show, until he was in the room one day while it was on and got sucked right in.
Here's what I love about Survivor: It showcases human behavior at its basest and ugliest. People are manipulative, mean, lying schemers when there's money on the line. Oh, sure, not always: Survivor: Africa's Ethan Zohn came across as a genuinely nice guy, I suppose. But time and time again, it's the Richard Hatches of the world that make it to the end. (UPDATE: I met Richard Hatch on Nov. 2, 2013 and he is personable, friendly, and wholeheartedly delightful. I love him. Nobody is ever allowed to say anything bad about him in my presence, EVER. He deserves a million dollars.)
This show isn't all about rotten lying schemers, however. The physical competition, near-starving camp life, and intense social interaction does showcase the core human nature of the contestants, and some of them are genuinely good people (Lisa Whelchel, Rupert Boneham) that will restore your faith in humanity. Plus, the fact that the truly nasty ones (Russell Hantz) often don't win the million in the final tribal council will make you feel better about your fellow man.
I get it. It's a game. But you're not going to get me to betray someone's trust and destroy alliances on national television. My mother would never forgive me.
Thank God for re-runs and DVD. Alfred Hitchcock Presents was creepy, dark, and often offset by Hitchcock's delightful sense of humor, which he would interject before commercial breaks and at the beginning and end of each episode. Before I even knew this show existed, my mother would talk about this one episode, "Breakdown," in which a man is paralyzed in an accident and everyone thinks he's dead. My mother was (and still is) terrified that this would someday happen to her. Of course, everyone knows "Lamb to the Slaughter" with Barbara Bel Geddes, in which a wife murders her husband and feeds the murder weapon to the cops. But what about "The Big Score," in which a group of teenagers decide to rob a man, stab him during the robbery, and then find out later that he was a gangster, and now they're in big, big trouble? (I mean, more so than just the run-of-the-mill 'we robbed a guy and stabbed him' trouble.) Fun stuff.
How can I explain the appeal of this show? I suppose these two words sum it up: Daryl Dixon.
What would life be like after the zombie apocalypse? Would the survivors band together and work to save humanity? Or would a creepy guy with an eye patch try to establish a cruel monarchy, complete with zombie fights and heads in aquariums? Who knows? What I do know is that if all of this were to happen, you'd better have one crossbow-shooting, motorcycle-riding, "I'll kill my big brother if he turns into a zombie, but I won't like it"-thinking zombie slayer on your side. This is the beauty of Daryl Dixon. (Interesting side note: I don't find Daryl's portrayer, Norman Reedus, particularly attractive outside of this role. But as Daryl, he melts me like butter.)
It's not just all about Daryl. There's a cop who can't keep his s**t together, the cop's son that had to shoot his own mother in the head (which, by the way, made little Carl a whoooole lot more interesting), and the lady who escaped an abusive marriage, lost her daughter, started training to become more efficient with a knife and gun, and performed a few zombie c-sections to increase her medical skills. Who is this woman's closest ally? That's right, our resident hunk of awesome, Daryl Dixon.
I like Michonne, too, the mysterious, katana-weilding loner. But not in the same way that I like Daryl.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I believe that I once had a group of friends named Ross, Monica, Joey, Phoebe, Chandler, and Rachel. Sometimes I wonder what they're up to these days. But since I'm not friends with them on Facebook, I guess I'll never know.
Friends was fun because it made some of the harshest realities of life--divorce, losing your job, having a crazy boyfriend/girlfriend that none of your friends like, having to work crummy jobs just to pay the rent--hilarious. Life sucks sometimes. Having strong friendships help.
I've been thinking about this show more lately because two of my friends recently, unexpectedly, hooked up, a la Monica and Chandler. I'm feeling a little Phoebe-like. Happy for them, but slightly grossed out because I'm getting details about both of them I'd rather not know. Friends: it could happen.
Six Feet Under was the smartest, darkest, funniest show to ever air on television. An examination of interpersonal relationships between the Fisher family and their friends/lovers/coworkers that centrally takes place at the Fisher-Diaz Funeral Home, you will actually get angry at other TV shows for not being as brilliant as this one. Seriously. Think Michael C. Hall is amazing as Dexter? I'd argue that his portrayal of David Fisher is the most dynamic, realistic, and entrancing characterization ever to grace a television drama. He was so good that my sister still refuses to believe that Michael C. Hall, in real life, is 1. not gay and 2. not a funeral director.
To top it off, this show had the best series finale in the history of series finales. It made the M*A*S*H series finale look like an episode of Barney & Friends. Love Seinfeld's ending? Watch this series finale and you will soon be in therapy to deal with your shattered self-confidence when you realize how spectacularly dumb Seinfeld's finale really was in comparison.
So what have we learned today? We learned that Stacey likes some crappy TV (Survivor) and good TV (Alfred Hitchcock Presents). We've reaffirmed that she's a little shallow (Daryl Dixon is delectable, I tell you!) And we've learned that she will, in fact, fight to the death to defend the honor of the greatest television series ever made, Six Feet Under.
You've been warned.