TV is no longer a mindless wasteland

It’s been chic to bash network TV the past few years, and to be fair, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC have deserved every bit of it. Smart, challenging shows (I’m thinking specifically of Freak and Geeks and Arrested Development) weren’t given room to breathe and grow, while dreck like Two and a Half Men still continues to air.

Now, though, I find myself making time to fit some shows into my schedule, either in a real-time viewing or, more often, on my DVR.

Right now, I find time for:

Big Bang Theory (originally airs at 9:30 p.m. Mondays on CBS)

Gary Unmarried (8 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS)

Modern Family (9 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC)

Cougar Town (9:30 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC)

Community (8 p.m. Thursdays on NBC)

Parks and Rec (8:30 p.m. Thursdays on NBC)

The Office (9 p.m. Thursdays on NBC)

30 Rock (9:30 p.m. Thursdays on NBC)

Fringe (9 p.m. Thursdays on FOX)

Saturday Night Live (11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC)

Keep in mind that this does not include 24 or Lost, neither of which are currently on air. Once that happens, Lost bumps to the top of the “best of” list.

As recently as earlier this year, I would have argued hard and heavy that The Office and 30 Rock were, by far, the best comedies on TV, but now I’m seeing some signs of wear from them. Right now, I’d argue that Parks and Rec (which I didn’t like last year but have become a huge fan this season) and Modern Family (it is impossible to pick a favorite character out of this ensemble) have eclipsed them.

The two best shows, though, are slightly beyond the realm of network television, although one is a grey area, given that it will air on NBC later this season.

Friday Night Lights (9 p.m. Wednesdays on the DirecTV Network) continues its amazing run in its fourth season as the drama unfolds in a new direction. Yes, it’s pretty much a soap opera for men, but these characters are as real as the people I call friends, and sometimes the dialogue and acting are so heartbreakingly rendered I have to pause the TV to collect my thoughts.

The best show currently airing, though, is on at 8 p.m. Tuesdays on ESPN. 30 for 30 is a collection of sports documentaries highlighting ESPN’s 30 years on the air, with each one taking a closer look at a major sports story of a particular year. So far, we’ve seen Wayne Gretzky’s trade to Los Angeles, the Baltimore Colts leaving Indianapolis, the downfall of the USFL, the Ali/Holmes fight and Len Bias’ death.

Each episode highlights how sports often transcend a game or match and frames a larger look at the world in which we live. I highly recommend you check out the ESPN networks to find out when the reruns will be broadcast and add future airings to your schedule.

Please offer any other “appointment TV” suggestions in the comments.

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One thought on “TV is no longer a mindless wasteland

  1. what about dexter? mad men? there are some great shows out there that aren’t sitcoms or mindless sell out bullshit. well 30 rock is great. trying to recall what else….glee supposedly though i havent’ caught it yet. i had to delete all the episodes i tivo’d to make room. but i hear it’s great!
    ah been meaning to watch cougartown and modern family too. but if u haven’t seen mad men or dexter, wtf are u waiting for?

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