My Favorites of the Decade 2000-2009, part 1 of 3 (TV Shows and Books)

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Summary: I list off my favorites from the decade, including my seven favorite TV shows, eight favorite books (and a bonus), five favorite movies, six favorite horror movies, five favorite music albums, and other things.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

(16:20:12 CST)

My Favorites of the Decade 2000-2009, part 1 of 3 (TV Shows and Books)

When I started out to write this list, it was "My eight favorite things from the past decade". Eight. Now it contains over thirty. That is ok, because I like a lot of things. I broke them down into several categories. Originally I thought about tossing in some sort of arbitrary limits (three favorite this, three favorite that) but I figured to just write what I absolutely enjoyed from the past decade.

Overall, with three exceptions, I excluded all things that had obvious ties to earlier products. This means that a show that became better past January 1st, 2000 or a book that got reprinted after that date was not eligible. Those three exceptions I will note in the below (as well as why). I also tried to exclude things that were "much the same" as something else I picked, which does, honestly, skew the list. For instance, both Black Books and the The IT Crowd should have been on here, but since both use roughly the same formula and were written and made by overlapping production teams, I forced myself to stick with one. Likewise, while there are easily a handful of other horror movies that are the bee's knees, I tried to go with the best out of a particular genre. This is most obvious in music, where I mostly picked out one album from each of the genres I listened to the most over the decade.

Which things made it? Well, read on! In no particular order...

TV Shows

Arrested Development: Only two and a half seasons long, manages more jokes and better characterization that pretty much every other "sitcom" in existence. From Tobias's constant accidental innuendo to GOB's petulant older brother act to the many, many escape attempts by George to the incestous but sweet love between George-Michael and Maeby; this show exposed the unfortunate truth of who wins in a war between quality and ratings on Fox better than any other, except maybe...

Firefly: The show was doomed from the start with episodes shown out of order and not enough support. Still, though, this blending of Western and SF was compelling and one of the more believable looks into the future of mankind. Plus, the cast was extremely personable, which did not hurt in the least. It did not survive its first season, alas, where most SF stumbles hard; so who knows how great it could have been?

Great Horror Family: This tragically overlooked 13-episode Japanese comedy combines homages and parodies of Japanese culture, Western perceptions of Japanese culture, horror cinema, sitcoms, and family values in a compelling arc about one family's standing on the gateway to the otherworld and all the crap they must be swim through becaue of it.

The Office UK: Perhaps the big debate of the decade was which was better: the UK or US version of The Office. My answer, far and away the British flavored one. Shorter, more to the point, subtler, darker, cleverer and more original. Few sitcoms will make you cry, hate the world, and feel uplifted much like this one will, as you watch a pair of men (Tim and David) descend into their personal hells.

Black Books: This one was sort of up against The IT Crowd as I mentioned above, but ended up winning out because the cast melds just a fraction better, the book motif appeals to me more, and the setting feels a bit more personable and low-rent. Had Spaced been an option though (it started in 1999), it would be the one, here.

Doctor Who's Restart: One of the three exceptions hinted at above, since it directly links back to the 40 previous years of Doctor Who's history; it made it because it both continues and reinvents the show it spawns from. The moral questions are steeper, the personal relationships (and character backgrounds) are deeper, and the Doctor feels just a tad freer and more human. The special effects upgrade doesn't hurt, though I'm still on the fence about the format change (rather than two or more "episodes" being parts of a larger mini-serial, it is now a straight hour long show).

Kamen Rider Kiva: Yes, the plastic nature of many of the effects are cheesy, and yes it went on about ten-episodes too long, but this installment in the long-running Kamen Rider franchise (most of the individual series, including this one, are standalone except for some motifs and similar main characters) combined elements of the past and present, lots of mystery about who sired whom, and a long discussion about certain broken archetypes (The wannabe Westerner, the over-achiever, the hot but flailing female, the quiet guy and girl, etc). In the end, once you get past the first few episodes, you really want to know just what the hell is going on.


Mark Z Danielewski's House of Leaves: I'll stow the "Now, books are divided" line, but Danielewski's more post-modern than post-modern novel combines a mixture of pop-cultural relevance, typographical misadventures, and a surreal horror story about a house much bigger "down below" than on the outside. Partially picked because of its discussion of mazes and labyrinths (a big topic for me). It's one of those books where you can find elements to explore in it well after you are done with it (some typos are on purpose, hinting at a different story, and the font changes are sometimes hints about the real meaning of things).

Cormac McCarthy's The Road: A hopeless novel about a man and his son trying to get to the coast after the end of the world. Everyone is starving and feeding off of each other. The prose ranges from bleaker-than-bleak to kind-of-hopeful-in-a-bleak-way. What's not to love?

Neil Gaiman's American Gods: I'm more of a Neverwhere junky, but AG combines elements of modern mythology, the road novel, horror, and the consequences of duty in what might be the best pro-American-soul novel ever written by a British man.

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The second of the three exceptions, this novel is part of a series that goes back to the previous decade, but it is here because, for me, this is the stand-out novel. It combines all the elements that makes Harry Potter worth paying attention to: teen angst, action, magic, mystery, and danger. It does it, also, without the being quite as a "kiddie" as the previous three novels and without the almost-too-much angst as the following three.

Carlton Mellick III's Sunset with a Beard: I probably wouldn't have thought of this one had I not recently about Eraserhead's tenth year, but since it was on my mind; it deserves the slot. A collection of short stories mixing together horror, social commentary, bizarro situations, and over the top imagery. It definitely sticks with you.

Neal Stephenson's Anathem: Had I went back from 1999 to 2009, then Cryptonomicon would have been picked. Nevertheless, Anathem, despite its detractors that complain about the neologisms, is a big geeky book combining personal drama and battles and suspense and lots of geek. Not for everyone, but I loved it.

Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom: One of the first books ever to be released for free, and I think the first one released under Creative Commons, it deserves some recognition for demonstrating a new way of distributing literature that does not destroy but enhances the old. Besides that, it is a damned good read with a whole lot of things to say about a whole lot of things. His Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is in some ways more compelling and in all ways more post-modern and experimental, and his Little Brother is possibly more important as far as content goes, but this one has that absolute joy of writing that first novels sometimes get. That's why I picked it.

Brian Keene's The Rising: Keene's take on the zombie adds mythology to a genre most noted for a bleak world-view. It does not, however, make it any less depressing. His zombies are fast, can use weapons, can talk, can plan, and soon vastly outnumber the humans. His novel is almost like a cousin of The Road. The hopelessness is contrasted against the quest of the main characters. Also precursors some of the "the other survivors are the real danger" moments in The Walking Dead and even Land of the Dead.

BONUS: The Library of American's Three Volume Philip K Dick Collection: The third exception, this three volume set of reprints (off of the top of my head, I think it reprints 13 novels across the three volumes, but I might be off by a novel or two) gets a nod because PKD is finally treated like an American literary figure and not just some stereotype of the paranoid hippy so strung out on drugs that he comes up with these outlandish plots. Like any good horror writer or SF writer, PKD was not spouting what he thought was real, at least not everything he wrote did he think was real; but he was digging under the skin of the American dream and looking at the unspoken things. He would have been 81-years-old a few days ago, had he not died early.



Si Vales, Valeo


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