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February 10 2009

Buffy cracks AOL's Best TV Shows Ever: The '90s. Comes in at #4 out of 40, sandwiched between Ross and Rachel and Homer.

Who, who, and whom? :-)*
Im glad Dawsons got a mention, it was epic at times.
Hey, I actually agree with a lot of the ones towards the end. I may not like some of the shows, but hell if they aren't popular.
Great list...but ER before The Simpsons?? Personally, I think The Simpsons is the greatest TV show, ever. Definitely better than ER.
I think The Simpsons is the greatest TV show, ever.


But you would have to find some way of distinguishing and saying :The Simpsons Seasons 1 to say 9 or something, because for the filth they are throwing out with 'The Simpsons' name on it in the last 5-6 years to be thought of as 'Greatest Show Ever' would be a travesty.
Well, ER is on my personal 'best shows ever' list just after Buffy and way above The Simpsons but ymmv, imho etcetera. ;)

I have to agree with some of the comments on there.. why no Fresh Prince love? Other than that the list has pretty much every US show I watched (or wasn't allowed to watch) in the 90s.
Where's the West Wing? And ER before the Simpsons? Blasphemous.
Yeah, no 'The West Wing'. Although: was that a nineties show? I forget (and find myself too lazy to use google or walk to my DVD cabinet ;)). Funnily enough, Spots Night did make the list. Still have to watch that sometime.

And yeah, Beren77, I agree. Dawson's Creek was awesome at points. I wonder if I'd still feel the same if I rewatched, but when I watched it as a freshman in college, it totally spoke to me (because, let's face it, the Dawson's Creek crowd talked more like 18-25 year olds, than like high school students ;)) and I loved to just sort-of wallow in the drama of it all :).
1999-2006 for West Wing. Loved Sports Night! Shows the potential that Sorkin lived up to on West Wing and almost completely failed to live up to in Studio 60, IMNSHO.
Buffy is the TV series that I have watched over and over, so would have to say it is #1 for me, mainly because of James Marsters as Spike and David Boreanaz as Angelus, not big on Angel.
I did not see The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on that list. What's up with that?
I think that question answers itself. Neat trick, that.
Buffy
Angel
Simpsons
Law and Order

That is all.
I wonder if I'd still feel the same if I rewatched

Its funny you say that. Ive recently been watching it from the start with, of all people, my mum. She and I share a love of lots of shows, all Whedon shows, Scrubs, Arrested development, Battlestar... and I thought (after many years of kinda 'keeping it to myself') that I would see how she liked it. Seasons One and Two were shakey at times but in the end she was well and truely on board. Season Three, on the other hand... has caused both of us problems. It GETS epic, I know. It ends TRUELY epic. But sadly, I was so shocked by how poor the first 1/3 had been (Jack on the Football team, Jen a cheerleader and that quaterback 'freshman Henry being in love with her) that I had to actually stop watching it with her for the time being. It was almost cringingly badly written - and as much as the Pacey/Joey thing had been like, a surprising twist at the time, watching it now, the ONLY scenes where they are involved are specifically about the two of them becoming close and my mum even said already that she thought they were about to get togehter, so I dont know if its going to have as much impact on her as it did on me at the time. Anyway, I have to bite the bullet and get back to it soon and we will see.
On another note, I know the general concensus seems to be that the two years in college were 'jumping the shark' years, and in fact at the time when I first watched it I kinda totally lost interest, But when I finally got around to watching them a few years ago on dvd, KNOWING that it was gonna be 'kinda crap', I actually REALLY enjoyed it, and the two year arc is IMO up to the standard set by the first four.
Glad to see Sports Night get some love. But Seinfeld? On top? Again? Bleh.
Re Dawsons Creek: I'd agree that season three is where it gets dicey. I never watched it all the way through but saw episodes here and there. It was being repeated on a channel recently and I sat down and watched. First season I loved (although I really always found Dawson annoying), second was good in parts but the third season really lost me and I stopped watching (I have seen parts of the other seasons and the final episode so don't really feel like I'm missing out). The Joey/Pacey thing seemed to be there from the start with me (wasn't there an episode in S1 where he realises he likes her but that Dawson saw her first or something?) but then I was watching with the knowledge that they ended up together.

I do think rewatching is the main test of quality in a series (though not always, I know The Sopranos was quality but feel no need to rewatch it) - at least so far as something becoming someones favourite. I've no doubt that I've seen every Buffy episode about 20 times (and much the same for Angel) and it still stays fresh for me (as long as I don't watch continuously!). And I love to rewatch ER as well which is why it ranks so high on my own personal favourites list.
For me, the truly epic part of DC was how Pacey and Joey fell in love, and its impact on Dawson. Thats the meat of the show. Thats the end of season 3, but sadly to get there you have to sit through all the other subplots of S3 that just fall flat. But S1 and S2 are truly great too, Pacey and Andie, for instance, is fantastic. S4 was about dealing with the aftermarth of the end of S3, and is interesting, but not epic. And the show kinda 'ends' at the end of s4 in much the same was as Buffy kinda 'ends' at the end of season 5. The last two seasons of both are kinda like "and then..." In the case of Buffy, it is (in my opinion but of course not in others) TRULY EPIC in season 6 and still wonderful in season 7. As I said, Dawsons in s5 and s6 are like its own seperate universe, but still highly entertaining. If you do like it and havent seen all 6 seasons I do hope one day you give them all a go.
And you are totally right about rewatchability being the true acid-test of a TV show. But you also make a good point about The Sopranos, wonderful to watch but I have no desire to watch it through again. But at the end of the day (despite what the morons out there in non-whedon land think) Buffy will always be a 'better' show than the Sopranos, as it is infinately rewatchable and is plain and simply of more 'value' because of it. (For the record, thats also why 'Arrested Development' is the greatest comedy of the last decade. You know, I hear people talk about 30 Rock being in league with AD, but having watched the first 2 seasons of 30 rock in the last few weeks, I have to say in all honesty I did not laugh out loud ONCE, as much as I did enjoy it and look forward to seeing more. Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey are great in it and im sure the deserve all the awards they keep getting (although personally I would have given them to The Office, which has been wonderful these last few years) but I cant see myself wanting to REwatch 30 Rock.

[ edited by Beren77 on 2009-02-11 03:09 ]
Wow, Buffy made 2 more lists here. If you keep clicking through the slideshows, Buffy/Spike/Angel make the top 20 love triangles at #7 and Buffy/Angel make the top 20 "lovebirds" at #5. As a side note Veronica/Logan also made this list at #10.
No CSI? Huh.

Not in the 90's at all.

But at the end of the day (despite what the morons out there in non-whedon land think) Buffy will always be a 'better' show than the Sopranos, as it is infinately rewatchable and is plain and simply of more 'value' because of it.

Um, these non-Whedon land "morons" rated Buffy at #4 and Sopranos at #10.

Also--subjective lists are subjective. I laugh out loud at 30 Rock all the time. Arrested Development just doesn't quite do it for me. I recognize that both are interesting and inventive, and that anyone who dismissed either as "rubbish" or "badly written" would be talking through their hat. But as to which is, in the end, "better"? That's just a matter of which hits your particular kind of funny bone.
Um, these non-Whedon land "morons" rated Buffy at #4 and Sopranos at #10.

Im talking about the people out there who talk about shows like The Sopranos as like the high water mark of televsion, but dismiss 'Buffy' as a 'silly show' for the 'less intellegent' amongst us. There are many, many, many people out there like that I have found. Nothing to do with the people who made this list. Just to clarify.
And yes, each to their own :)
Im talking about the people out there who talk about shows like The Sopranos as like the high water mark of televsion, but dismiss 'Buffy' as a 'silly show' for the 'less intellegent' amongst us

I guess lists like this one show that those people are losing the critical battle. I don't tend to hear blithe dismissals of Buffy much in the real world, I have to say (except from people who don't watch TV at all--people who'd be as likely to offer blithe dismissals of The Sopranos as of Buffy), although it certainly was a problem when the shows were actually airing ("you watch what?"). You wouldn't find the LA Times, for example, devoting all the excited "The Dollhouse is coming" coverage to a show by someone who was generally regarded as a lightweight.
I have trouble with this. Mainly, I think, is the difference between drama shows and comedy shows. I consider both Buffy and Seinfeld to be tied for the greatest show of all time, with The Simpsons (Seasons 1-10) coming in 3rd, and King of the Hill 4th. (No one agrees with me on this for some reason.) But I look at Buffy and then Seinfeld, and they are too different to even compare. That is the one thing that irks me about these lists, is that I guess I can't choose between all-out comedy and drama.

I think if forced to choose, though, I would rather live in a world without Seinfeld than a world without Buffy. So I guess that does make it number one in my book.
snot monster - sadly in my experience I run into dismissive people all the time. If im ever talking with some random person about television and I mention 'Yeah its good but its not up to, say 'Buffy' standard' - they immediatly react with this expression of shock and bemusement, that I would even CONSIDER using 'Buffy' as an example of good TV. Has happened to many times for me to care to think about :( Its very sad.

[ edited by Beren77 on 2009-02-11 04:05 ]
But at the end of the day (despite what the morons out there in non-whedon land think) Buffy will always be a 'better' show than the Sopranos

Heyyy, I may well be a moron (I'm hardly the best judge of that, after all) but I do consider myself a resident of whedon-land (???) and much as I adore Buffy I do think The Sopranos is the "better" show. But these things are all, obviously, a matter of opinion, right?

Did this list basically include every single successful and / or critically acclaimed series of the nineties? It seemed like a really long list....
I'd rank Buffy and Angel above all else in the 90s. There were other good shows, of course, but those two are head and shoulders above the rest for me. My desert island shows.

I still get a lot of "Buffy? Angel? You're kidding me!" comments. I get them from people who don't watch TV at all. I also get them from people who think that good TV begins and ends with "serious" cable shows or "realistic dramas" (read: earnest and non-genre'y). This irks me no end, as much as I appreciate The Sopranos, for example. (But I'd disagree with you on whether it's a "better" show than Buffy/Angel, catherine. Take away the extra HBO budget and luxurious production time, and ask, which show invades my dreams and burrows deep into my marrow? The answer is easy for me. Of course, 'tis all subjective. Understood.)

Still, you're right, snot monster. A lot of the coverage of "Dollhouse" has started from a place of "this comes from an intelligent mind." That's refreshing, even if a lot of people out there haven't caught up.
I just find The Sopranos and Buffy too generically different to be able to "rank" them (it's like "which is better, strawberries or steak?"). Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, BSG, Buffy, Angel, Firefly...all I can say is that I'm really, really happy that all those shows got made. Which is "best"? Well...they all do the thing they do incredibly well.
Another list! Bring on the pain [/Angelus]

It's good that Buffy is high up on someone's list. Horrible that any list of great shows would include Party of Five and Ally McBeal. Remember that topic awhile back that asked if Supernatural was a better show than Buffy? Brian Lynch was one of the first people in here to say "No." Emphatically, no. There were a lot of good shows in the 90s. But great? Buffy ought to always be in the top five of any list.

Also, I have to say this being a big David Lynch fan. Twin Peaks at 20? 20? [I know, there's an echo in here] ... 20?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [/Gordon Cole]


[ edited by vampmogs on 2009-02-11 04:23 ]
Tonya J, you're right! Twin Peaks would be in the top 5 in my list. I keep forgetting that was from the 90s. It often seems like it's from another dimension.

Yes, apples and chicken, snot monster. I still like to have fun comparing merits of various shows. My ultimate rubric, after many years of silly mental comparisons, is "invades my dreams." So I put Buffy/Angel on top. It's all subjective and all a game - within the ranks of great shows, that is. Sorry, but "Charmed" according to any measurement is a worse show than "Buffy." I defy anyone to disagree! :)
I haven't encountered that condescending attitude towards Buffy that some of you have. Well, except from an old boss, but I chalked that up to radically different tastes in everything. It seems like such a critically acclaimed show... but I guess I've just been lucky enough not to meet any of the "You're kidding me"-ers.

If I were less sleepy I'd love to get into what makes a good show and how we decide if one show is better than another. Maybe it's silly to say that I think The Sopranos is "better" as if I'm clear on what I mean by that. Strawberries and steak indeed. I agree with Beren77 that Buffy is more re-watchable. It's the most re-watchable show I've ever re-watched ;). But I don't think I'd call that the acid test for quality. Maybe an acid test? I think it's the most lovable show I've ever watched (or re-watched), but I also had a lot of frustrations with how sloppy it could be, in terms of plot particularly, but also consistency and its philosophy and... well, I've always felt it was an utterly wonderful, very flawed show. Whereas The Sopranos, episode after episode, struck me as a piece of perfection. But no doubt at all that having more time enabled that. Seven seasons, 22 episodes per season, no year off or anything like that, I'm willing to make allowances for where I felt Buffy failed ;).

I'd say Buffy is strawberries and The Sopranos is steak and thank goodness I don't have to choose between them :).
Just gonna chime in to say watch the name calling. We don't call people who disagree with us morons here.
If I went by dream invasion, Buffy would absolutely come out on top, phlebotinin! I used to have so many dreams where I was the slayer. Violent nights. I'd wake up so traumatized when my vamps didn't turn to dust but just... lay there.
Just gonna chime in to say watch the name calling. We don't call people who disagree with us morons here.

Pshaw, that's the most moronic thing I've ever...

... um, good point.
ust gonna chime in to say watch the name calling. We don't call people who disagree with us morons here.

Just to defend myself, I was meaning to call the people who claim Buffy to be a silly show morons. And I stand by that. All the way. I didnt mean that people who think 'x' show is better than Buffy were morons. Came out slightly wrong.

To start another discussion - I recently watched all three seasons of Deadwood, and found them to be - like the general concensus - fantastic. But it occurred to me midway through the series that as wonderful as it was, as much as I loved the characters (Calamity Jane was IMO one of the best written and acted characters I have EVER come across in television, period.) there was SOMETHING missing. And that something was humor. There was NO humor in the show (or very little, some of Jane's monologues were brilliantly witty and fun) and, taking general TV as the baseline, thats fine. Its a drama. But - having watched Buffy, you KNOW inside you that it IS possible to have wonderfully deep drama and still have room for knock-you-down funny. So thats another reason why I think Buffy will always have to be deemed 'better' than straight drama or even straight comedy. I LOVE the Sopranos but it brought X amount to the table. Buffy brought X+1.

[ edited by Beren77 on 2009-02-11 04:50 ]
This is one of the few lists I've read that I can agree with. I'm not a fan of all the shows listed but they did make large impacts or are quite memorable. I definately think Roseanne is deserving of a top spot. That show broke all kinds of ground.
But Buffy remains for me, the best show ever.
No humor in Deadwood? Seriously? You and I were watching different shows, Beren. I was cracking up from the first five minutes of the first episode, as soon as the prisoner tells Bullock, "I'd like to suggest an idea to you, sir, that I pray as a Christian man you will entertain on its own f*ckin' merits." So, yeah, humor, like quality, is oft times in the eye and ear of the beholder(/behearer?).

Decent list, although it woke my sleeping friendsaphobia. And, yes, Twin Peaks = Top 5 material indeed.
SoddingNancyTribe, as I said, there is some funny moments scattered around, but on the whole, there is very little humor. (WU, SWIGIN!)
Kudos for genre inclusion (including Twin Peaks, still a genre unto itself) and BtS in the top five. Also for including My So Called Life, South Park and NYPD Blue, the pioneer that made possible all the gritty realism cop shows to follow.

I strongly disagree with the top three (The Simpsons and ER deserve a spot, but not nearly that high on the list, IMO), but Seinfeld at the top of yet another list?? WTF???

Now for my real pet peeves: reality shows just don't belong anywhere near any list except "the worst things that have ever happened to TV". And the insipid Friends (just my very strong IMHO, Friends fans) not only ahead of Buffy, but The Sopranos, down at number ten?

The West Wing started in 1999 but ran for six seasons, so maybe it will get a place on their list for this decade. If not, there is no justice.

And no Six Feet Under? Bah humbug.
And I don't think it's too much to ask that B5 should have been included, so far and away a better show that Star Trek TNG.
Buffy is number one for me, so far above everything else and probably always will be. But saying that, the fact that it made number four on a mainstream list is a little bit of a miracle and makes me very happy.

YAY!
Without the West Wing, this list is pretty bogus. And I think X-Files, My So-Called Life, Ally McBeal and Twin Peaks are ranked too low. But it's great to see Freaks and Geeks get a nice high ranking. :)

[ edited by rilynil on 2009-02-11 17:12 ]
I must weigh in: Deadwood was hilarious, utterly hilarious. And I see your friendsphobia and raise you one, sodding. Yes, the funny vs. not-funny is all in the eyes and ears of the beholder.
I think it's the most lovable show I've ever watched (or re-watched), but I also had a lot of frustrations with how sloppy it could be, in terms of plot particularly, but also consistency and its philosophy and... well, I've always felt it was an utterly wonderful, very flawed show. Whereas The Sopranos, episode after episode, struck me as a piece of perfection. But no doubt at all that having more time enabled that. Seven seasons, 22 episodes per season, no year off or anything like that, I'm willing to make allowances for where I felt Buffy failed ;).

I think there's a lot to this, but it raises an interest question about how one goes about judging a show's overall merit. "Highest average level of quality" or "highest peaks attained"? Like you, I'd say that Sopranos was, in some sense, truer to itself throughout. That's easier to do in a reality-based show, of course (giving "reality" some broad limits, of course). It's difficult in a fantasy show not to occasionally end up going down blind plot alleys where you suddenly realize you've broken some previously established "rule" of your world. But I think more to the point is just the sheer grind of churning out so many more episodes in a season. Network TV ends up having to draw on weaker writers and having to throw up on the screen hastier work. Imagine a Buffy with a quarter of the scripts by Joss, say. (Oooh...imagine!)

But there are certainly episodes and runs of episodes in Buffy that just dug in deeper into my psyche than even the best Sopranos episodes. So....meh; I'll stick with strawberries vs. steak, I guess.

That said, I want to be clear that when I talk about subjectivity I'm not just throwing my hands up and saying "it's all subjective." I think there's a point at which we can agree that certain things are well done or poorly done--it's just those last (crucial) few yards of the race that get sorted out subjectively. "I can see that this is very well done of its kind, but I'm just not interested in this kind of thing" or what have you.

I probably wouldn't rank Friends quite as high as these guys do, but I do recognize how unbelievably sharp the writing on that show was--at least in the first few years. If you're a Friends skeptic you should rewatch some late S1 or S2-S3 episodes. Look at the way the writers regularly establish three simultaneous plot lines in each ep, have at least one of them further the main story-arcs of the season, make sure that each story line is given sufficient oxygen to have us care about its resolution, and then--and this is the amazing part--have each line intersect with the others in ways that allow them to reflect or shed light on each other. And all that in 22 minutes. Just at the level of structure it's like listening to an unbelievably complex piece of baroque music.

Oh and Deadwood is one of the funniest shows of the last decade. Of course, you often laugh while you're recoiling in horror or about to bury your head in your hands, so I can understand why Beren77 has forgotten how funny it could be.
Exactly, snot monster. You're spot-on with regards to Friends. It has always astounded me how many posters here don't like the show, as I always thought the writing was top-notch (at least in the first few seasons) and the type of humor was at times - but certainly not always - reminiscent of what Joss was doing in early (say S1-3) Buffy. There's a lot of humor there that's verbal instead of visual (which is the way I like my funnies) and most of it is a lot more funny because of the characters themselves. The humor reflects on the character saying the line and is either revealing about said character or so "characteristic" that it wouldn't work any other way. It also usually reflects on the situation at hand, giving the characters more depth and reality while being funny. This is something that - for instance - How I Met Your Mother is currently also employing and which 'The West Wing' also used to great effect to lighten their more heavyhanded discussions. It's also one of the things I liked least about Buffy's fourth season. The show started to be more prone to "slapstick" and the humor went from typical and - usually - empowering to - at times - demeaning (especially, but not exclusively, in the case of Xander, which is, of course, a well-known discussion in the fandom and not one I'm looking to restart here :)).

As for Buffy, I agree it wasn't always consistent in places. Not having seen much of 'The Sopranos', I can't really comment on the comparison, but I never actually felt that Buffy fell through some kind of basis line where the quality was just simply too low. Even the worst episodes feature some great lines, some solid acting or a nice central premise. The effort was always there, even when the end result fell flat. I imagine that those are just the types of problems that get sorted out and solved beforehand if you're making a cable show with fewer episodes, but the fact that those episodes are there, do not diminish the show as a whole. At least not in my mind.

As for Deadwood - I really need to buy me those DVDs sometime ;).
I think its a good point that I may tend to forget lots of the humor in Deadwood. Its true, thinking now, that there were humourous moments, but its the humorless 'tone' I think im refering to. Its SO intense sometimes that you forget the lighter moments. So I take back my NO humor comment. But I stand by the general message that Buffy, by bringing in GENUINE comedy (lines that were plain and simply jokes) to a genuine drama, and at times genuine thriller, that makes it rise above the crowd when talking about what shows are the 'best'.

[ edited by Beren77 on 2009-02-12 00:20 ]

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