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March 13 2012

The Greatest TV Drama of the past 25 years - Round one. Buffy VS Deadwood

I admit, I could never get into Deadwood, so this pleases me mightily.
There is only a very, very tiny handful of TV shows in the world I'd pick over Buffy, why oh why must they pair it with one of them in round one? ;_; (Deadwood is three-way-tied with Firefly and The West Wing as my favourite show of all time).

[ edited by Loki on 2012-03-13 10:21 ]
Not even close. And I like Deadwood.
Not really a fair match, since Deadwood was cancelled early with unresolved plot lines.
OK, I know this is going to be controversial, given the nature of this site, but if the category as broad as "best drama series", it's gonna be The Wire. Followed by Firefly, obviously. :)
After reading how much people liked Deadwood, I tried it on DVD. I lasted 20 minutes. By the third episode of brutal violence I was convinced that it was not the show for me. To me, it all seemed over the top in a story telling way. I believe the reason one watches/reads a story to be entertained or changed in some way. (In the best of worlds, preferably both.) Well, as an answer to entertainment, it was a fail for me. And I really didn't feel the need for the experiences and changes that were happening to my insides. I felt brutalized. Paying attention to the news does enough of that for me, I don't feel the need any more.

Buffy for the win.
This is an impossible choice. I bow out.
Too bad Six Feet Under lost out to The Sopranos (but to be suspected, I suppose) and The West Wing lost to The X-Files. That, to me, was less expected. I blame those pesky post-Sorkin years.

At least Buffy and Breaking Bad survived the first round. I like Friday Night Lights and Deadwood well enough, but Buffy and Breaking Bad are in a league of their own. Hope these two become the finalists.
The West Wing lost to The X-Files


With all due respect (this usually signals that one is about to say something incredibly disrespectful), that's a load of crap. The West Wing is so vastly superior to X-Files that it's hard to even quantify. I say this as someone who watched and very much enjoyed The X-Files (Yes, I know this is all subjective, but c'mon...).
Since the central theme of Deadwood is what life is like in a society that has some order but no law whatever, repeated episodes of brutal violence are essential, not gratuitous. There are aspects of Deadwood which are exaggerated for artistic purposes (the ornate but very profane language, for instance). The violence seemed to me to be historically accurate, though I'm not an expert on the period.

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with people who don't choose Deadwood for entertainment. The Wire is even grimmer.
I think it's hard to judge any HBO show having just seen one or two episodes. You need to commit a full season, even two, to get the job done and even begin to like/love them. I love Deadwood. I love that world - it's brutal, grim, but still kinda funny and optimistic. Obv, I go for Buffy though. (Which, honestly, is a lot darker than Deadwood ever was).

[ edited by Jaymii on 2012-03-13 19:33 ]
I really like Deadwood, but for some reason have struggled watching more than the first season. I'm currently on my second attempt to watch it and have tailed off at the same point. It is really good though. I wouldn't have even said it was particular violent; certainly less so than The Sopranos. Definitely grim though.

The X-Files beating The West Wing? Complete insanity. It was good and incredibly influential, but the final seasons (or four) were pretty awful, whereas The West Wing was great right up to the end (no matter what anyone says.)

[ edited by Vandelay on 2012-03-13 19:22 ]
A very, very hard choice.
Yeah, I loved all of West Wing, though the Sorkin years were superior in most respects. West Wing Lite was still pretty brilliant, with folks like Eli Attie turning in brilliant work to help take up the Sorkin-slack.
wldmr, I love BtVS more, but The Wire is probably the greatest drama ever on TV. It's gotta win.

... but I love BtVS in a way that is blind and adoring. So I'm rooting for it all the way.
I'm really disappointed Six Feet Under lost to the Sopranos. It is one of the few shows I'd put at Buffy caliber. I found Six Feet Under to be one of the most thought provoking and emotionally resonant I've ever seen and I watch a lot of television. It really pushed my way of thinking about moral issues and death in particular. Beautifully rendered characters with a series finale unrivaled by any in my opinion.
I found Deadwood pretty off-putting the first time I tried it--watched two episodes I think. But I kept hearing about how good it was, and the second time around I fell in love with it. Those characters are just burned into my consciousness. And I agree with all the praise for The Wire, too. Amazing show.

But BtVS was my first TV love, is my only desert-island requirement (TV-wise) and I doubt anything could ever beat it for me. Except Firefly.
Deadwood is an incredible show, with richly drawn characters and some brilliant writing. However, Buffy still wins. Even though Buffy isn't solely a drama, its dramatic moments are up there with the best dramatic television ever made. I like Deadwood very, very much, but Buffy has The Body. It wins.

However, if/when Buffy comes up against The Wire, it is going to have a problem. The problem with this poll (for BTVS) is that it specifies 'Drama'. Buffy will always be so much more than drama. The Wire, peerless as it is, was always going to struggle to pull off a musical episode. (That said, a singing and dancing Omar is a thought that's going to linger long and warm.)

Genre can be a useful concept for considering relative merit, but it's also frustratingly blinkered at times. If it was 'merely' a poll trying to find the greatest show of the past 25 years, then it would be a fairer fight for BTVS. As the poll stands, though, The Wire is in my mind, the rightful claimant of such a title. (And for what it's worth, The West Wing is thus surely the most over-qualified silver medallist in the history of everything.)

Sigh. Buffy's breadth and depth might make it hard to classify, but that's a small price to pay for its breadth and depth. Polls come and go. Quality endures.
I love Firefly dearly, but why is is that a fair amount of people rank it higher than Buffy? It was a great short run of episodes and had so very much potential that was miraculously explored Serenity, but I don't get how seven years of Buffy and all those years entail don't trump Firefly. Why do people like Firefly more than Buffy?
Buffy may have more good episodes than Firefly, but it also has more bad ones. In some ways, it's a proportion thing. Quantity != quality.

But people just have different tastes, and the two shows are very different beasts. Some people like one and some like the other. (I think one reason I prefer Firefly is the way it pulls me into its universe. Buffy is still sort of in the real world, and, well, I'm a sci-fi fan.)
Glad to see I'm not the only one dissapointed or outraged about the Six Feet Under and The West Wing losses. Not that I'm happy to see you dissapointed, but shared pain is half the pain (or 1/4 of it in this case) and Vandelay, zeitgeist, and miroir_noir, that's good company to be in.

No Breaking Bad fans around here?

There is a lot of The Wire love. Suppose I might have to try it out one day.
What, no In Treatment fans here, either? :-)For me, it was the best show of the last 10 years and one of the best I ever saw. Only Buffy better, imho.

(I also do not get the Firefly > Buffy either, but that's just me).
Spike, my first vampire love and the only reason I stayed with Buffy the last 4 seasons. I tried Deadwood and just could not get into it, bought season 1 and never even finished it.
the Groosalugg, I love BB too! It's kind of a heart-breaking show, but I find it too intense/harsh to re-watch or really have cuddly feelings about.

And do watch The Wire -- it's like a one of those giant Victorian novels or sprawling Russian classics in televisual form. It's not perfect, and it takes about 2 seasons to warm up, but at its peak, it's amazing. It's a Dickens novel, only about Baltimore instead of 1800s London.

as for BtVS vs. Firefly, the former not only owns my heart, it's seriously one of the best TV shows ever. The latter had great episodes and was probably the most perfectly formed of Joss's shows right from the beginning (like it sprung fully formed from his forehead like Athena), but it never got to fulfill its potential. BtVS did, and in spades.
@dottikin
I know what you mean about Breaking Bad. I think it is brilliant and have been absolutely shocked by some of the character and plot developments. It's stark and amazing and the acting is consistently excellent, but I don't really want to rewatch it. I don't want to see those things happen again to (or by) those characters.

On the other hand, Buffy also has shocking character and plot points, but I absolutely love rewatching it. I feel like part of the gang, and rewatching is like getting to hang out with old friends again. Knowing what's going to happen makes it more fun rather than less.

Perhaps it's due to the creators intentions with the characters. Joss has said Buffy was conceived as a character you would fall in love with and care about very deeply. Whereas Vince Gilligan has talked about creating a character in Walter White that you would follow despite finding him repulsive. (I'm totally paraphrasing, and perhaps getting it a little wrong, in both cases).
My non-whedonverse top 3 is 1. The West Wing, 2. The Shield and 3. The Wire. So yeah, consider me a bit surprised as well that The West Wing lost out to The X-Files - which I also watched and loved, but which can't even hold a candle to The West Wing. So: I'm definately with zeitgeist on this but then, what else is new? ;)

Have to say though, that however much I love The Wire, I'm always surprised it gets named as the best drama show of all time, every single time. Don't get me wrong - it's very, very, very good. But so is - for instance - The Shield. Or Buffy. Or The West Wing. These kind of shows are certainly the television elite. But however much I try, I can't figure out why The Wire gets singled out every single time, in terms of quality, while for me all that seperates these shows is a matter of taste.

I, for instance, love The Wire more with my mind, than I do with my heart. It's complicated, has great scenes (arguably some of the best in television, period) and a few memorable characters. It's engaging, gritty and, above all, real. But it doesn't tug on my heartstrings quite as often as Buffy or The West Wing, doesn't make me cry and laugh out loud like those shows and despite all the moral questions it poses, it doesn't tear me up inside like the moral greyness in The Shield does.

So with the undeserved exit of The West Wing, I'm now firmly rooting for a Buffy/The Shield finale.
Have you seen any Breaking Bad yet GVH?

Speaking as another Whedon fan who considers The West Wing his favorite non-Whedon series of all time, I'd highly recommend it, especially as the violence and moral greyness probably won't pose a problem for you (I haven't seen The Shield yet, but I guess these things are definately part of that series too).

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2012-03-14 17:24 ]
With the exception of Buffy (I love Deadwood but would have picked Buffy over it), I guess I'm going to go against the grain in this discussion. While I saw some good episodes of The West Wing, it never really captured me like it clearly did many of you. I remember the 4th season premiere. I watched it with a friend I was visiting who was a big fan. I thought it was ordinary or even bad and I wondered what all the fuss was about. The X-Files fell apart in the last 2 seasons but overall I'd rather watch it than The West Wing.
I love Six Feet Under too (own the box set) but think The Sopranos is even better. In fact I've seen a lot of antipathy toward The Sopranos in the black over the years and it confounds me. I think the writing, acting, directing, etc. are as good as any TV show one could name.
I've never seen The Wire or Breaking Bad...looking forward to seeing both of those shows.
Yefa - just so you don't feel alone, I had the same experience with The West Wing that you had (although with different episodes). It didn't draw me in at all. I also, even with the last two weak seasons, prefer The X-Files by far. Unlike you, I've never seen a single episode of The Sopranos. However, I can tell you that, if you loved Six Feet Under, you'll also probably love The Wire and Breaking Bad.
I tried watching The West Wing, but it was so American. It was no Quentin Durgens MP.

Okay, now we find out how many old Canadians post on Whedonesque.

I love Deadwood, but Buffy is in my heart.
I know that this story is about to fall into the void that is non-front pages of the Black, but just want to add to the Breaking Bad love. It really is something special. I've only seen the first two seasons, but I can already see me considering it to be ranked amongst one of the greats for years to come.

As for what I would consider the greatest show, it is a tough call between Six Feet Under and The Sopranos.

The West Wing's highlight is the writing and the interaction between the characters. It has some fantastic stand alone episodes, but I find a lot of the ongoing stories to be mostly forgettable. As for Buffy, it will always be my favourite and my first TV love, to steal jcs's phrase, but it does come a worthy third on my list.

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