Artimidor's Essential TV Series

by Artimidor | created - 07 Jun 2012 | updated - 7 months ago | Public

Gathered on this list are all kinds of series produced for TV, including mini-series, regardless of genre and time they were produced, and which I personally recommend and consider essential viewing. So you might find sitcoms as well as mystery, sci-fi and even horror here, but key to being listed are always the innovative approach and that the quality holds up. Consistent quality of course is debatable, as there are always ups and downs in long-running series, however shows that jump the shark after some very good seasons or merely rehash the same things over and over again are not considered.

Reviews to the shows will be added bit by bit. I hope you enjoy what you find here and get the one or the other inspiration out of my personal favorites.

Latest additions: 2017/03/08 ~ #08 - Still Game (2002-2018) 2016/10/09 ~ #06 - The Singing Detective (1986) 2016/10/03 ~ #05 - Decalogue (1989-1990) 2016/06/30 ~ #04 - Frasier (1993-2004) 2014/06/21 ~ #25 - Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge (1994-1995)

Artimidor Webmaster of the Santharian Dream

P.S.: Feel free to make suggestions and recommendations or check out my other lists:

* Art's 111+ Movie Masterpieces, Reviews & Trailers * Complete Film Ratings by Director * Unforgettable Moments (cinema's finest scenes)

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1. The West Wing (1999–2006)

TV-14 | 44 min | Drama

Inside the lives of staffers in the West Wing of the White House.

Stars: Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, John Spencer

Votes: 53,600

Sophisticated, educational, creative, dramatic, humorous, consistent, top-notch Creating a show about politics is a tremendously bold attempt to begin with. Even more so if you do it in the US and decide to depict White House staffers which represent just one side of the political spectrum, in this case the Democrats. And there's always the question whether such a show would get a proper audience, as once the creators take their job seriously a lot of the things shown on screen might go over the viewer's head. Aaron Sorkin however simply achieved the impossible and went backstage right into the West Wing, took no prisoners, and made it through seven seasons. The show doesn't set out to work along the partisan divide, but shows everything US politics are made of, from the self-assigned imperative to get things done, over the deals with senators who work with or against party lines, congressional debates and filibusters to the reaching across the aisle, and much more. After all there are humans working in the White House as well. Domestic affairs, international crises, staff troubles, personal struggles - the oh so common traps and seemingly hopeless situations government and the people working for it often find themselves in are confronted head on, sometimes with an audacity and directness one can only applaud to. Advised by real house staffers of the Clinton era, Sorkin's brilliantly designed episodes ooze depth, sophistication and humor at the same time, they humanize those sitting on the hub of power, make us appreciate their work and let us understand their troubles first hand. While the rich, high quality dialogs in the corridors resemble more improvised dance routines than discussions, they capture the hectic atmosphere wonderfully, and the drama that unfolds through them is consistently first rate.

Excellent shows depend on good writing and excellent casting, and the "West Wing" ensemble is unbeatable in this respect as well: Martin Sheen as the president and John Spencer as his right hand are supported by Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, Rob Lowe and Janel Moloney to name just a few prominent faces. Innovation is right there with this show - or who else would dare to air an episode showing a presidential debate between two actors live on TV? To summarize it with the inimitable words of President Bartlet's Chief of Staff Leo McGarry: Watch this!

Air Date: 1999-2006, Episodes: 154 (7 seasons), 42 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

Bartlet talks with God

Walking to the Hill

The West Wing Dialog Dance

Highlight Episodes: Noël (2.10), Two Cathedrals (2.22), Twenty Five (4.23), Shutdown (5.8), The Debate (7.7)

2. The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)

TV-PG | 51 min | Fantasy, Horror, Mystery

Ordinary people find themselves in extraordinarily astounding situations, which they each try to solve in a remarkable manner.

Stars: Rod Serling, Robert McCord, Jay Overholts, Vaughn Taylor

Votes: 56,438

First row ticket to your imagination If there is ever a series that impersonates the power of excellent writing then it has to be the original "Twilight Zone" anthology by screen-writing legend Rod Serling, no doubt about that. The pivotal factor for that assessment not only lies in how well the construction and dramatization of plot is often executed throughout the series, but also in the ingenuity and diversity of the stories, their depth and unbeatable re-watchability. Together with the no less prolific sci-fi and mystery masters Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont Rod Serling's stories entertain, mystify, puzzle, enchant, while at the same time they are suspenseful, surprising and provide well thought out denouements or mind blowing twist endings. Plus they have something to say, or at least offer thought provoking material to the viewer to consider. And it's all wrapped into a 25 minutes package that allows us tiny glimpses into other realities. Said realities may not be so different from our own given the premise that "Twilight Zone" episodes often set out with a common situation and inject in it a fantasy element that makes us look at what we have taken so far for granted in a new light. Sometimes these story devices are cloaked as regular dramas, sometimes in science fiction, thrillers or horror tales, yes, there's even the occasional comedic episode, and many of them play well as allegories. Strong characters are a given (the cast list reads like a who-is-who of the greatest TV actors of the sixties), and they tend to ask fundamental questions: Who are we? Where are we? Why are we here? What if...? or What is future, what is past? How does the mind work? When and how do we live and when are we dead? All those questions are being dealt with, and of course also the numerous smaller ones, all those that lead us to ask the big ones.

"The Twilight Zone" has been remade twice by now as a series and once in a film, but all the rehashing only produced mere shadows of the original, which has a timeless quality in the first place. Especially the striking black and white photography contrasts beautifully with the shows of today where you'll find colors, effects and high definition, but little of substance. Yet beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, and those who want to see behind facades know that the real stories are not on the screen to be consumed like fast food, but linger on in your head. Rod Serling just waits at the ticket booth to offer you entrance to your own mind. For that's what it really is all about, that what they all call... "The Twilight Zone".

Air Date: 1959-1964, Episodes: 156 (5 seasons), 25 min. (seasons 1-3 and 5), 51 min. (season 4)

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

DVD Scene Montage

Nightmare as a Child Opening

Obsolete Closing

Deaths-Head Revisited Opening

Highlight Episodes: And When the Sky Was Opened (1.11), Third From the Sun (1.14), A Stop at Willoughby (1.30), The Howling Man (2.5), Eye of the Beholder (2.6), Nothing in the Dark (3.16), Nightmare at 20.000 Feet (5.3)

3. Carnivàle (2003–2005)

TV-MA | 55 min | Drama, Fantasy, Mystery

During the Great Depression, an Oklahoma farm boy and a charismatic minister learn that they are key players in a proxy war being fought between Heaven and Hell.

Stars: Michael J. Anderson, Adrienne Barbeau, Clancy Brown, Debra Christofferson

Votes: 39,134

Unmatched masterpiece between gritty realism and epic fantasy Ah yes, only the good die young. Whether it's James Dean or a multiple award winning HBO show, the wisdom applies in both cases - the demise of the latter of course thanks to the lack of paying viewers, and what doesn't make considerable profit is canceled regardless of quality. Thus Daniel Knauf's exquisitely conceived and meticulously prepared mystery show "Carnivàle" ended already after two out of the planned six seasons - but posthumously it has gained the nimbus of immortality among the fans, just like good old Jimmy. Maybe it's a good thing, as "Carnivàle" ended on a very high note, which seems difficult to top. And while there are also cliffhangers and some open questions when it is all over the main storyline of what Knauf referred to as "the first book" is concluded and key answers are given. Knauf also provided documents on character backstories and hinted on what might have happened in further seasons, so the interested fan will at least find a bit of satisfaction by searching the internet.

So what is the fuss all about? In a way "Carnivàle" can be described as John Steinbeck's realistic "Grapes of Wrath" meets Stephen King's fantasy/horror hybrid "The Stand". Yet while the series has many elements of both great epics, reducing it to these elements doesn't do its ingenuity justice. Yes, there's the American dust bowl of the 1930s featuring prominently and there's an apocalyptic confrontation with supernatural elements taking place, but in between and at the heart of it all lies a portrayal of a historic carnival with its superbly developed characters rarely seen in this intensity on the TV screen. Don't look for superheroes though, fast action or a firework of effects. Powers and dilemmas of the chosen are only revealed and understood bit by bit. The show actually excels in a beautifully slow paced exploration of mystery themes with breathtaking cinematography and intensely atmospheric musical pieces, there's a small shocking dose of horror added, all woven into an intricate mythical tapestry that provides the necessary depth. All those things are to be enjoyed even more the second time around. As for the casting: With "Management" the show has one of the most fascinating mystery "characters" (well, that's all you need to know for now), the legendary "Twin Peaks" dwarf Michael J. Anderson gets his starring role here and fully delivers, then there's the always impressive Clancy Brown, Nick Stahl in his best role and Patrick Bauchau plays the enigmatic Professor Lodz and partly even steals the show. If you have time for character development and want to take in a whole magical world, then "Carnivàle" it has to be. Enjoy it, learn to appreciate what a wondrous feat Daniel Knauf accomplished with these 24 episodes. And shed a tear for that day when HBO traded away wonder for reason - and called it quits.

Air Date: 2003-2005, Episodes: 24 (2 seasons), 45-60 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

Season One Opening Dialog

After the Ball

The Carnivàle Convoy

Season 2 Trailer

Highlight Episodes: Milfay (1.1), The Day That Was the Day (1.12), Los Moscos (2.1), Outskirts, Damascus, NE (2.8), New Canaan, CA (2.12)

4. Frasier (1993–2004)

TV-PG | 22 min | Comedy

Dr. Frasier Crane moves back to his hometown of Seattle, where he lives with his father, and works as a radio psychiatrist.

Stars: Kelsey Grammer, Jane Leeves, David Hyde Pierce, Peri Gilpin

Votes: 64,063

Best written and performed American sitcom to date While "Frasier" is in fact merely a spin-off of the shrink character established in the long-running "Cheers", he's quite different in his own show. Which is a good thing: Years after leaving his favorite bar in Boston, Frasier works as a radio psychiatrist in Seattle; he's older, also more mature, oh, and at the same time his naivety concerning matters of the common man is easier exposed. Plus, he'd still eat a worm if someone were to give it only a French name. Frasier might be short-tempered, single-minded and self-absorbed at times, but he has his heart in the right place. As far as women are concerned he's charming, but all in all mostly hopeless, which on the other hand is part of the fun for the viewer as it makes him even more lovable and easier to connect with when keeps messing things up - despite the best of intentions. Then again he's snooty as ever, and has found a brother he never admitted to have in "Cheers". And then there's dad with a hip problem who has permanently pitched a tent (or rather a tasteless chair) in Frasier's postmodern apartment. Aside from considerable taste differences to the culturally spoiled brats dad also brings his terrier Eddie with him, primarily good for winning staring contests with irritating shrinks.

One thing soon becomes perfectly clear when watching the series: Kelsey Grammar (Frasier) and David Hyde Pierce (his brother Niles, psychiatrist too by profession) unmistakably form one of the rare comedic dream teams one finds hard to get tired of even after 11 years. Thanks to the brilliant writing staff especially the early seasons sparkle with witty comebacks, acid remarks, hilarious situations only snobs may chance upon finding themselves in. Furthermore the show sports a level of intelligence and cultural references that are entirely absent from many American shows, particularly sitcoms, served with frantic pace and spot-on delivery. While "Frasier" has a certain highbrow angle that lends the series its uniqueness, it can nevertheless be enjoyed on multiple levels: aside from sophisticated remarks of the side-splitting kind there's also slapstick and farce in the mix, and even the weaker episodes blow comparable situation comedies still out of the water. The sophistication that permeates the show clearly has something to do with the fact that "Frasier" turns out as a highly re-watchable offering, yes, even an addictive one, for there's always something new one can pick up in re-runs. That, and the fact that the characters are drawn so incredibly well makes the show an absolute winner. From physical therapist Daphne, Nile's desperate infatuation, over Frasier's producer and sleep-around Roz to station manager Kenny right down to the easily irritable Bulldog and the 11 seasons long unseen Maris, Nile's wife and doom - the writers gave all of these people recognizable personalities, even the invisible ones. Just like Frasier's radio sessions in fact give sound psychological advice. Instead of a quick laugh and fast food for the soul, you get the fun plus food for thought to go. And maybe an urge to grab some coffee. In that respect we close the circle, lift our cup and say: Cheers!

Air Date: 1993-2004, Episodes: 263 (11 seasons), 22 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intros

Extro (performed live by Kelsey Grammer)

Celebrity Callers

Best of Frasier Season 1

Niles' Solo

More Favorite Scenes

Highlight Episodes: The Matchmaker (2.3), Daphne's Room (2.17), The Innkeepers (2.23), The Two Mrs. Cranes (4.1), Ham Radio (4.18), The Ski Lodge (5.14), Something Borrowed, Someone Blue: Part 2 (7.24), Goodnight, Seattle: Part 2 (11.24)

5. Dekalog (1989–1990)

TV-MA | 572 min | Drama

100 Metascore

Ten television drama films, each one based on one of the Ten Commandments.

Stars: Artur Barcis, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Aleksander Bardini, Olaf Lubaszenko

Votes: 17,081 | Gross: $0.10M

At the very heart of the matter of moral dilemmas With "The Decalogue" former documentary filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski and writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz tried their hands on an innovative TV concept for Polish television with the main focus on addressing moral issues the individual is facing. The result is a seminal series of ten small films where the protagonists are confronted with various dilemmas, forced to make decisions with ramifications on their own lives and the lives of others. Each of these films is a little gem in itself, and the entire lot put together provides even more weight. The episodes don't necessarily represent each of the ten Christian commandments as the title of the series might suggest, but rather it's a healthy mixture of them all, of universal value and accessible to everyone. Made in Poland in the eighties, before the time Kieslowski became known to a broader audience, the films' strong point is to show the lives of ordinary people living in the same block of buildings, doing their everyday business. Add in a dramatic ingredient dished out by fate or caused by human nature - death, illness, tragedy, hope, love to name examples - and a person's life takes another turn, gets unhinged or shifts focus. Paths formerly unexplored need to be considered and taken, often by the individual alone.

One of the great things about these small films is that "The Decalogue" uses actors you'll probably never see anywhere else again (unless you explore Kieslowski's other works), a fact that makes all these stories look as if they are taken straight out of life, portrayed by and meant for actual living people. Also due to the more bleak East bloc environment where existence is at the forefront of people's concerns, the tales can actually focus on the people involved and their issues, they are down-to-earth, raw, gritty, sometimes quite simple, yet often deep and indefinitely thought-provoking. Thus "The Decalogue" contains everything that matters when it comes to moral decisions which Hollywood blockbusters with similar themes sorely lack.

Air Date: 1989-1990, Episodes: 10, 55 min.


Highlight Episodes: Decalogue Four: Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother, Decalogue Five: Thou Shalt Not Kill, Decalogue Six: Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

6. The Singing Detective (1986)

415 min | Drama, Musical, Mystery

Tormented and bedridden by a debilitating disease, a mystery writer relives his detective stories through his imagination and hallucinations.

Stars: Michael Gambon, Patrick Malahide, Joanne Whalley, David Ryall

Votes: 3,796

Deep, deep down, under someone's skin... There's a mystery buried somewhere: Somewhere between an embittered, hospitalized writer, suffering from a debilitating skin disease, and the overconfident detective of the pulp novel he once wrote. There's mystery surrounding a betrayed father, a suicide, a son having to cope with the contradictions in his young existence, trying to break free. There's also a dame and a body, there always is in a noir scenario. And there are all those memories, fantasies and nightmares of a tortured soul. Unable to move from his bed, our writer becomes the focal point of the story, who sees, hears and struggles with things between reality, fiction and hallucinations, slowly connecting the dots along with us: Down at the docks a foghorn blares, though it sounds like a whistling train... Make sure to bring your imagination to help him solve the puzzle!

Dennis Potter's masterpiece "The Singing Detective" is as good as it gets when it comes to creating intelligent television. Not only does he manage to successfully combine film noir, musical, comedy and drama, he also injects existential depth into it that makes one feel deeply for a cynic on the way to his redemption. Suspenseful and entertaining, the multi-layered spectacle draws the viewer in, a viewer, who might feel lost from the very beginning, but will see sympathy grow, despite or maybe because being thrown around between the hospital reality, a constantly changing book plot, flashbacks and escapist adventures of the mind. Potter's wizardry lies in gradually expanding the context, allowing themes to transcend their confines, bleed into threads of seeming parallel worlds, and resonate more and more with each episode. Actors play multiple parts, scenes are repeated in variations - and we are reminded to look for more than just a plot. Thus "The Singing Detective" continues to grow on the inclined watcher with every repeated viewing, for one because of Potter's ingenious screenplay, but also thanks to Jon Amiel's flawless direction and especially Michael Gambon's towering performance. "The Singing Detective" is nothing short of a landmark, controversial for all the wrong reasons at the time of its release, but well deserving to be rediscovered as the pinnacle of Potter's outstanding career.

Side note: There's are of course also mysteries buried somewhere between Dennis Potter and Philip E. Marlow (who seems to have misplaced an "e"), between a writer who suffered from psoriatic arthropathy like a certain character he created and his Chandleresque creation. There's mystery surrounding the outright denial that "The Singing Detective" is autobiographical and the dozens of biographical coincidences. Just one more layer to add to a legacy looking for a hobby detective. Feel free to sing along...

Air Date: 1986, Episodes: 6 (min-series), 58-76 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Dem Bones

I'm Gonna Buy a Paper Doll

Teddy Bear's Picnic

Highlight Episodes: Skin (1.1), Heat (1.2), Who Done It (1.6)

7. Heimat - Eine deutsche Chronik (1984– )

90 min | Drama, History, War

The village of Schabbach experiences the shifting fortunes of Germany from 1919 to 1982.

Stars: Marita Breuer, Kurt Wagner, Rüdiger Weigang, Eva Maria Schneider

Votes: 2,773

There's no place like home, bittersweet home Here's something about people. About common folks living their daily lives in the tight-knit community of a small village - farmers, blacksmiths, shop keepers, politicians, their wives and children. The place is Germany, more precisely the Hunsrück region near the French border, where nothing particularly world changing happens, yet it's the center of the world for the few who are born, grow up and die there. The time we get to meet these people for the first time is the early 20th century. Starting in 1919, right after the end of World War I, we see defining moments of family life for several decades in Edgar Reitz' 15 hour long epic mini-series "Heimat", right until 1982 when a generation comes to its inevitable end. It's a journey a director has rarely attempted before in terms of scope, done with dedication, intensity and fervor dealing with all those things usually left out in dramatizations of an epoch, where the focus lies solely on the big, flashy events, but the trivial is neglected. Contrary to that "Heimat" follows a host of minor characters step by step, with a regular mother substituting for a "heroine". Main subjects of the series are the family ties and estrangements throughout the years passing by while the world around changes and the Hunsrück people with it, for good or for worse. Alternating rhythmically between black and white and color photography and a subtle, but haunting score by Nikos Mamangakis, Reitz manages to remind us at the same time how far away and yet how close a past reality is - the memories accompany us, the memories remain, the memories are what we build upon.

The "Heimat" series is as much an art project as it is high profile television entertainment and an indispensable historical document. As despite the fact that the material is fictitious it is based on meticulous research, feels earthy, direct, involving and relevant, and is presented with style. In Edgar Reitz' career it was only the first major work before continuing on with the "Heimat II" and "Heimat III" series and finally the film "Die andere Heimat". In all these additional projects he explores Hunsrück lives even further as they traverse into the 21st century, building on characters introduced in the very first series. By doing so Reitz still comments on this work of reference, adding even more and more intricacy and depth to it. A life's work not to be missed.

Air Date: 1984, Episodes: 11, 58-139 min.

Excerpts/Previews: The Heimat Trilogy Trailer (English subtitles)

Heimat - Part 1, Teaser (German)

Intro Episode 4 (German)

Highlight Episodes: Die Mitte der Welt (1.2), Weihnacht wie noch nie (1.3), Heimatfront (1.6), Der Amerikaner (1.8)

8. Still Game (2002– )

TV-14 | 30 min | Comedy

Cult Scottish comedy about the lives of two OAP's Jack and Victor and their views on how it used to be in the old days and how bad it is now in the fictional area of Glasgow, Craiglang.

Stars: Ford Kiernan, Greg Hemphill, Paul Riley, Gavin Mitchell

Votes: 4,023

One Foot out of the Grave Back in the days NBC's "Golden Girls" pioneered in discovering a fresh comedic potential according to the premise: Pensioners are also entitled to some post-prime fun before a career-move that involves pushing up the daisies. Especially when they're operating from Miami, Florida, of course. Now picture this as good old Sophia would say: How about we give the whole retiree idea more edge, relocate the girls to Scotland (complete with heavy accent), change their gender and language to something way stronger and offensive (yet in its own way endearing), and replace the picturesque Miami-scenario with fictional *beep* Craiglang "somewhere near Glasgow" with prospects being hee-haw as a Scot would say. You'll see: The fun refuses to concede defeat. Quite to the contrary. Welcome to "Still Game"!

Spun off from Ford Kiernan's and Greg Hemphil's sketch show "Chewin' the Fat", "Still Game" features strong 70+ characters ranging from the comedic widower duo Jack and Victor (Kiernan/Hemphil) over curmudgeon Winston, blabbermouth Isa and tight-arsed Tam to Indian-born shop owner Navid, who sports a rare talent for one-liners of the side-splitting kind. Now pleasures may be limited for old duffers, but life goes on and as such revolves around the local waterhole "The Clansman", the bookies, and the grocer's, with Isa's rumor mill working incessantly. Romance is a mere footnote. In that sense "Still Game" is not that far off the mark as real old geezers go. But in Craiglang there's a bright side to the shadow of old age: Death for example is a constant companion, accepted and dealt with in creative fashion (two words: hypothermia sweepstakes), and in the meantime as far as shaping the rest of one's life is concerned: disaster, small or large, is always around the corner. "Still Game", while out-and-out hilarious, occasionally dark-humored and sometimes over-the-top in a memorable way, also has its powerful dramatic moments. Character developments feel palpable and add another layer to the show and depth one wouldn't want to miss. The nine year long pause between season 6 and 7 is hardly noticeable. Following popular demand, "Still Game" is back again, as stand-up comedy and sitcom. So brush up on your Scottish, or turn on the subtitles. You don't want to miss this.

Air Date: 2002-2016+, Episodes: 50+ (7 seasons), 30 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro (Season 2) (Season 7)

Isa "Sherlock" Drennan

Winston at the Bookies

Best Moments

Highlight Episodes: Hatch (4.5), Hogmanay Special: The Party (5.7), Fly Society (6.2), Lights Out (6.3)

9. The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)

Not Rated | 60 min | Documentary, History

A comprehensive history of the medium and art of motion pictures.

Stars: Mark Cousins, Juan Diego Botto, Aleksandr Sokurov, Norman Lloyd

Votes: 3,484

2011: A cinematic odyssey to be reckoned with First off, yes, Mark Cousins is quite the character. The Irishman has a heavy accent, his idiosyncrasies need to get used to, and he makes the one or the other factual mistake in a gargantuan task covering no less than the world wide development of film in all kinds of directions within 15 hours. Piece of advice: Get over it. Because above all Cousins' passion for the subject clearly shows and makes his "Story of Film" saga essential viewing for anyone even remotely interested in motion pictures, novices and pros alike. However, be prepared that this is not a mere history of film, no conventional preaching/heavily analyzing documentary à la Scorsese's "Personal Journey Through American Film", where everything is laid out as clearly as possible before you. Rather this is a journey seen through the eyes of a film lover like you and I, a film lover, who focuses on key points regarding innovations of filmmaking technology or directorial creativity that advance the medium's development. Cousins, as filmmaker and critic, weaves an intricate impressionistic tapestry of the medium, he observes, points out, shows connections, helps you to see and think yourself. And the latter is what film is all about. The documentary also sketches the defining moments across the globe when film is being used for the first time and then transformed effectively by the various cultures, moments when new lines of thought are born in order to inspire whole generations of movie makers. Ranging from Hollywood's closed romantic realism over Japanese classicism, Russian avant-garde, life reconquering the screens via Italian neo-realism, you've got the French Nouvelle Vague, the Iranian New Wave, Bollywood and African curiosities often completely unknown to the rest of the world.

No other film about film is as encompassing and bold as this one, taking a holistic approach, fiercely intent on expanding the horizons of its viewers. And it succeeds - if you let it. The famous ones, the unknowns, the forgotten directors - you get all your introductions here. Cousins aims for showing you what's out there in terms of film, how these works relate to the world around them, the traditions they have emerged from and how looking beyond the rim of your cinematic teacup will help you to appreciate the phenomenon of motion picture to the fullest. The series - or the 15 hours monster film if you prefer to see it that way - is best enjoyed as the perfect companion piece to Cousins' own 500+ pages book "The Story of Film", written before he set out on his actual world wide journey to visit locations and filmmakers. And if you are as passionate as Cousins regarding film you're likely to return to this fascinating story - wanting more.

Air Date: 2011, Episodes: 15 (or one continuous film), 60 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Trailer


The Iranian New Wave

The Exorcist segment

Yasujiro Ozu

Interview with Marc Cousins

Highlight Episodes: No particular one, the film/series is an odyssey - and nevertheless forms a unity.

10. Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969–1974)

TV-14 | 30 min | Comedy

The original surreal sketch comedy showcase for the Monty Python troupe.

Stars: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle

Votes: 55,690

And now for something completely different Among the many things Monty Python has anchored in the collective consciousness of late 20th century TV viewers is the perfect formula on how to make a perfect transition from one thing to the other with no logical link whatsoever - and use considerably fewer words than in this introduction. Clearly the Pythons were ahead of their time with innovations like this. Or by beginning a show at its end, leading up to a breathtaking start. Or by glorifying canned meat into something ubiquitous and inescapable by writing a song about it - the product that would give the daily shocking content of our e-mail inboxes a proper unmistakable name. Or by aborting a sketch due to exceeding silliness, by continuing after the credits have rolled or by introducing artful, however out-and-out off-wall animation as just one of the many ingredients in order to go for something completely different. Monty Python swims against the tide of the typical punchline laughs. It stands for the perfect cross between surrealism for humor's sake, for encompassing absurd comedy somewhere between triviality and existentialism, with a tad of innuendo-laden references (wink, wink, nudge nudge, say no more), functioning also because it hit a nerve back then in 1968 and hasn't lost any of its cultural relevance almost 50 years later. Nowadays, when people are reading reviews for the lack of having anything better to do, they might not expect the Spanish Inquisition to show up (nobody does!). But they just did, and that's thanks to Monty Python - the guys who also wrote the killer joke where 13 people looked at two words and had to be sent to the hospital. Dangerous stuff!

It's a sure bet that you'll still find people whistling Sousa's military march for no apparent reason for many years to come. Even when the members of this incomparable comedy troupe are gone to meet their maker, are pushing up the daisies, have rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. Whatever you do, the Pythons are a great reminder that the last laugh is on you. I'm sure that was what occurred to Graham Chapman as well when he participated in his own funeral and the rest of the gang just made a high caliber comedy show out of it, Python style. Can't kill them, I tell ya.

Air Date: 1969-1974, Episodes: 45 (4 seasons), 30 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intros]Intros

The Parrot Sketch

The Ministry of Silly Walks

The Lumberjack Song

Déjà Vu

The Killer Joke

Highlight Episodes: Full Frontal Nudity (1.8), The Money Programme (3.3), Dinsdale! (2.1), How Not to Be Seen (2.11)

11. Father Ted (1995–1998)

TV-14 | 25 min | Comedy

Three misfit priests and their housekeeper live on Craggy Island, not the peaceful and quiet part of Ireland that it seems to be.

Stars: Dermot Morgan, Ardal O'Hanlon, Frank Kelly, Pauline McLynn

Votes: 31,481

Three priests, two writers, one heavenly masterpiece When the sitcom idea to portray the adventures of three priests in Ireland - a drunk, a dimwit and the main character in between - was pitched to TV executives, the reaction was lukewarm at best. Religion, a joking matter? Impossible! But well, "The Vicar of Dibley" with comedy heavyweight Dawn French worked, so the OK was given, all doubts aside. And thus it so happened that Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, writers with an edge, set out to delve into the rural conservative catholic setting and run the gamut, starting from the custom sitcom weirdness to out and out absurdity in the parochial house somewhere on Craggy Island. Not with the intention to ridicule the catholic church, but to follow through with everything it has developed into, to satirize its reality and at the same time humanize its unbalanced shepherds. Interestingly, it works.

"Father Ted" gets off with a slow start, but once the characters and writers have hit their stride comedy-wise, the series delivers like no other. The Fathers Ted (Dermot Morgan), Dougal (Ardal O'Hanlon), Hackett (Frank Kelly) and Mrs. Doyle (Pauline McLynn) stumble from one farcical situation into another and the punch lines get sharper and wittier the longer the journey lasts. There's slapstick, well timed cartoonish back and forth, strong language and directness thanks to the naivety of the characters, yes, there's even cursing among priests and still it's entirely inconspicuous thanks to the changing of a vowel. And we get subversive social commentary served the fun way and it's, pardon the pun, a hell of a ride. If you book your trip to Craggy island you'll witness priests struggling through lent, have a crush on a lady visitor, go on a disastrous unholy holiday, turn into racists by trying to demonstrate the exact opposite and help to heal a depressed sheep. You can learn from priests how to get people to watch a raunchy movie thanks to their campaign against it, or how to kick a bishop up the arse - just pretend it never happened. Intrigued? Then off you go to visit undiscovered land in this highly original, creative, addictive and outright hilarious sitcom, a comedy milestone that will last for ages.

Air Date: 1995-1998, Episodes: 25 (3 seasons), 25 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

A Dent in the Car

Father Ted the Racist

My Lovely Horse

Bishops and Religion

Highlight Episodes: Hell (2.1), Are You Right There Father Ted? (3.1), Speed 3 (3.4), Kicking Bishop Brennan up the Arse (3.6)

12. Thriller (1960–1962)

50 min | Crime, Drama, Horror

Anthology series hosted by Boris Karloff that originally told ordinary tales of crime and mystery, but later became a showcase for gothic horror stories, many of which were based on works ... See full summary »

Stars: Boris Karloff, Richard Peel, Henry Daniell, Lillian O'Malley

Votes: 998

Thrilling throwback to the golden age of horror Never judge a book by its cover, and the same applies to TV programmes as well. Because what we've got here is not so much thriller fare in the traditional sense - this only applies to the early and mostly poor episodes of this 60s anthology series. From then on pure gothic horror reigns, it's all about magic, mystery and supernatural happenings at their very best, typical thriller stuff just makes up the seasoning for the remainder of the show. And as a real treat it's all hosted by the great Boris "Frankenstein" Karloff himself, horror icon of the first hour - back then in the 30s, the golden age of horror, when Universal invented the monster movie. Karloff is also the reason why executives eventually went for the U-turn and gave the audience what they really wanted: sinister suspenseful drama in haunted castles, dubious figures crossing foggy moors, cemeteries that become alive, strange encounters in spooky old houses, skeletons in the closet all inclusive. Monsters, wizards, witches, ghosts, murderers, demons, even the devil and the grim reaper have gathered to send some shivers down your spine... The whole package comes in crisp black and white cinematography, complete with eerie shadows, thunder and lightning, and it's all about mood and atmosphere.

With all these tasty ingredients for an exquisite horror show at hand the likable grandfatherly Karloff himself isn't satisfied with just presenting, but joins the cast on several occasions. With him on the show starring in several episodes is one of the greatest unsung villains in film history, Henry Daniell, among other things in an unforgettable pairing with Ted "(Addams Family's) Lurch" Cassidy, also William Shatner shines twice, as does John Carradine, and there's always the character actor in perfection Edward Andrews to name just a few prime examples of audience favorites. In short: "Thriller" became a show inspired by the fans of classic horror, with everything that represents it, as is also made clear by listing some writing credits: Robert Bloch ("Psycho") contributes no less than ten episodes, there's Cornell Woolrich ("Rear Window") in the mix, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont (both writers along with Serling on the "Twilight Zone"). Furthermore included are adaptations of classic Poe tales or e.g. another version of James M. Cain's classic "Double Indemnity". Head musician of the show and thus crucial for sustaining atmosphere is no other than the legendary Jerry Goldsmith in absolute top form. Sounds thrilling? It is! Guess in a way the title is not that misleading after all...

Original Air Date: 1960-1962, Episodes: 67 (2 seasons), 49 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Pigeons from Hell Intro

The Complete Series - Promotion

Scene from The Grim Reaper

Scene from Dr. Markesan

Highlight Episodes: The Cheaters (1.15), The Hungry Glass (1.16), Well of Doom (1.23), The Devil's Ticket (1.29), The Return of Andrew Bentley (2.12), La Strega (2.17)

13. Fawlty Towers (1975–1979)

TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy

Hotel owner Basil Fawlty's incompetence, short fuse, and arrogance form a combination that ensures accidents and trouble are never far away.

Stars: John Cleese, Prunella Scales, Andrew Sachs, Connie Booth

Votes: 72,611

British tour de farce romp in perfection There's at least one good thing to be said about grumpy, bad-tempered, miserly and above all rude hotel managers whose main problem with life, the universe and everything is that there are actually guests checking in at their hotels and behaving like they want to enjoy themselves. And that is: Their mere existence inspired John "Monty Python" Cleese to make a timeless comedy show out of it. Based on a real character he had the pleasure of clashing with during his Python days, Cleese's Basil Fawlty is the paradigm of a misanthropic manager with little patience, a bossy wife and an airhead of a waiter (he's from Barcelona!) who has no idea what's going on. Rather our irritated manager stumbles from one farcical situation into the next, and small, at first insignificant incidents develop to full-blown dramas in the pressure-cooker environment of the hotel. Naturally there is no way back once the wheels of an impending catastrophe are set in motion, and scene by scene things pile up and up in each episode towards a crescendo of an ending that releases all the built up tension in an ultimate comedic explosion.

Masterfully written, perfectly constructed, flawlessly acted and side-splittingly funny, "Fawlty Tower's" twelve only existing episodes are pearls of British humor and put the bar pretty high for shows that tried to follow in its footsteps. Curiously the first pitch was even rejected by the executives, not taking into account that what sets "Fawlty Towers" apart from other sit-coms lies primarily in the delivery. John Cleese's very physical slapstick dominated performance is a tour de force, his nervous balancing act on the brink of raving madness is absolutely priceless to watch. The likeable and well-meaning, but constantly confused ("¿Qué?") waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs) on the other hand represents the perfect counterpoint to the always steaming Basil and the sour-sweet chemistry between these two works like a charm for the audience. Apropos steaming: House-dragon Sybil, Basil's wife, is fiery in her own way, but only when it comes to her husband, while waitress Polly (Connie Booth, Cleese's wife at the time) is the voice of normalcy in the madhouse. All these characters are so well defined and strong in their own right that the script can play with them like notes on a piano, resulting in a comedic symphony of rare intensity. And on a high note the series also ended after its "only" twelve episodes to become a cult phenomenon that teaches us among other things that less is often more when it comes to comedy.

Original Air Date: 1975-1979, Episodes: 12 (2 seasons), 30 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

Basil's Best Bits

Basil vs Manuel

Car troubles

Communication problems

Highlight Episodes: The Builders (1.2), The Wedding Party (1.3), Gourmet Night (1.5), Waldorf Salad (2.3)

14. The Office (2001–2003)

TV-MA | 30 min | Comedy, Drama

The story of an office that faces closure when the company decides to downsize its branches. A documentary film crew follow staff and the manager David Brent as they continue their daily lives.

Stars: Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis

Votes: 82,420

Mockumental comedy revolution Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant's rather unexpected 2001 baby in form of a mockumentary portraying an English workplace was one of the key moments of post-2000 British television. This is not another uniform situation comedy pulp with a new setting and/or accentuation, but brand new territory. And you better be ready for it as the punchlines aren't served on a plate, complete with canned laughter to give you an indicator on when something is intended to be funny. The humor lies in the format, the situation as such, generated by the mere presence of a camera team. Meant to capture the goings-on of everyday office life for a documentary this voyeuristic outside force - and thus indirectly the viewer - serves as the perfect catalyst to bring the true hierarchies, relationships and confrontations in the business life context to the forefront. Gervais himself plays David Brent, the boss of a small paper company, who sees himself not only as an unrecognized, highly talented entertainer, but is also so full of himself that he redefines comedy in the process of presenting himself in front of the camera. Actually he gives the word cringeworthy new meaning. In his office the usual stuff happens you might have witnessed in a similar environment: sucking up, skirmishes among colleagues, practical and dirty jokes, an office romance, the fear of the closing of the branch, redundancy looming. "The Office" has the look and feel of real life, and the actors, especially Martin Freeman (as Tim) and Mackenzie Crook (Garreth), complement Gervais' tour de force brilliantly. Just as in real life this small series has it all: humor in all variations, even if it's over the top, a bit of drama and even a dose of melancholy. Must-see.

"The Office" was remade for the US market by NBC starring Steve Carell in the lead, with Rainn Wilson in the role of the weirdo/bootlicker combination and John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer standing in for Martin Freeman and Lucy Davis' office romance. Sticking close to the original at the beginning, and highly entertaining for most parts of the early seasons, the American version however more and more forgets its origins and turns into a regular, increasingly infantile sitcom and eventually jumps the shark halfway through its nine year run. Ricky Gervais knew when to call it quits.

Air Date: 2001-2003, Episodes: 14 (2 seasons + 2 specials), 29 min., 44/52 mins. (specials)

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

Garreth's stapler

Brent takes over the training session

Advice from Keith

Brent's Dance

Highlight Episodes: Training (1.4), Charity (2.5), Christmas Special (3.1, 3.2)

15. The Cosby Show (1984–1992)

TV-G | 30 min | Comedy, Family, Romance

The goings-on in the life of a successful African-American family.

Stars: Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Malcolm-Jamal Warner

Votes: 28,173

Bridging the racial and generational divide The mother of all family sit-coms was aptly named after Bill Cosby, the "TV Dad of All Time" (according to "TV Guide" among others), who stars in the role of Cliff Huxtable, an upper middle-class African-American obstetrician living in Brooklyn, New York. Upper middle-class African-American? Not that such a constellation is a very common sight. However, by presenting a working family life of blacks in this milieu, Cosby makes the difference, breaks traditional stereotypes, constitutes a positive example, raises awareness by portraying normalcy where you wouldn't expect it. It is the same Bill Cosby who wrote TV history by playing a secret agent back then in the Sixties in "I Spy" at the side of his white partner, portrayed by Robert Culp. Showcasing an African-American in a leading role? In 1965 such outrageousness even led to bans of the programme by a couple of stations in the American south. Well, in other circles Cosby was rewarded with three consecutive Emmys. For exactly that show: "I Spy".

Later on Bill Cosby wouldn't submit his name anymore for Emmy consideration as competition between actors wasn't what "The Cosby Show" was all about. Five consecutive seasons ranking as #1 American TV programme however made clear that Cosby was on to something with his new sit-com. The show hit like a bomb and worked for African-Americans, Americans, and, well, eventually the rest of the world. Especially because entertainment and education have never been as indiscernibly close together as in a programme like this, where style, intent and themes succeed on multiple levels. "The Cosby Show" has become legendary as it works not only across the racial, but also across the generational divide with ease, and a comedic powerhouse and role model like Cosby never dates - it was funny in the Eighties, for kids, parents, grandparents, and still is. Cosby ad-libs, Phylicia Rashad as his wife complements him beautifully and with verve, the kids are adorable and grow to own personalities in front of your eyes. "The Cosby Show" tackles a wide range of issues you might expect from a family programme - coming of age problems, social ones, right down to dyslexia, teenage pregnancy and divorce. Never preaching, but realistic, always with humor. Cosby, father of five, has seen and lived through it all, including the death of his own son who was shot by an armed robber. He knows how to spell family values. In other words: Need advice on parenting? Then do yourself a favor and watch "The Cosby Show". Your kids will thank you. No joke.

Air Date: 1984-1992, Episodes: 201, 25 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro Season 6

Car troubles

Birthday present

Regular people

Going for a ride

Sex education with Olivia

Highlight Episodes: Slumber Party (1.22), Happy Anniversary (2.3), The Dentist (2.16), Off to See the Wretched (6.23), And So, We Commence (8.24)

16. The Prisoner (1967–1968)

TV-PG | 50 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

After resigning, a secret agent is abducted and taken to what looks like an idyllic village, but is really a bizarre prison. His warders demand information. He gives them nothing, but only tries to escape.

Stars: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat, Peter Swanwick, Peter Brace

Votes: 10,759

Are you a number? Or a free man? This is the one. The show that everyone thought would be just another special agent series when it aired, and it wasn't. Far from that. The show with an extreme sixties look and feel, while at the same time injecting futuristic ideas, all around alternative, bizarre and psychedelic, even or especially when seen in the 21st century. Among its stars: a water filled balloon, named Rover, that substitutes for a special effect. This is the show that turned out to be labelled postmodern, broke its format and demanded from its viewers to think as individuals, not to be a number among numbers in the mass audience of mindless watchers out there. The show that forced its creator and lead actor to go into hiding after the final episode aired. A series that was way ahead of its time as they say and that still yields a thousand different interpretations in a thousand different people. This is the one. The cult show that is "The Prisoner".

Brainchild of Patrick McGoohan who was fed up with doing just another typical agent show and even rejected the Bond role, opted to go for something fresh, but used the metier he was already familiar with to convey his ideas. As in real life McGoohan's alter ego resigns from being an agent, only to find himself trapped in 'The Village', referred to only as No. 6. He is kept in check by mysterious people headed by a constantly changing No. 2 who want 'information'. Possibly there's an even more enigmatic No. 1 pulling the strings in the background... It's a great premise, and that's just the beginning. Shot on location at the unique Welsh seaside resort of Portmeirion the choice of the place alone already mixes a-historical beauty with sharp irony when seen in conjunction with the background story. Also "The Prisoner" doesn't shun from heading in entirely different directions episode by episode: it's action packed and cool, however substantial, chock-full with philosophical issues and features mostly brilliant allegorical storytelling ranging from psychological warfare, brainwashing, reality games, even a fairy tale and a western are in the mix and surrealism at its absurdest but most effective. It should be pointed out that the series is groundbreaking in many respects and yet far from perfect. That however is part of its appeal. What initially was planned only as a series with a handful of episodes by McGoohan and producer Markstein was blown up to 17 very uneven segments. A curse and a blessing indeed, as there are parts in it that work like a charm and others that appear tedious and strained. But all in all "The Prisoner" is the perfect thinking man's buffet to pick from and start discussions, with the episodes serving as the springboard. Most of all the series offers insight in what stands between man and his freedom, it even finally provides a definitive answer to the always present question: "Who is number 1?" If you don't know yet, or need a reminder: Be seeing you - in the village!

Air Date: 1967, Episodes: 17, 50 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro/Background Story


Trailer "Arrival"

Trailer "The Chimes of Big Ben"

Talk among prisoners

Dem Bones absurdity

Highlight Episodes: Arrival (1.0), The Chimes of Big Ben (1.1), Many Happy Returns (1.6), Fall Out (1.16)

17. Seinfeld (1989–1998)

TV-PG | 22 min | Comedy

The continuing misadventures of neurotic New York City stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his equally neurotic New York City friends.

Stars: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander

Votes: 212,009

"Seinfeld" or: How to make something out of nothing Declared openly and even in the show as the "show about nothing" by its creators, this American sitcom of the Nineties nevertheless has it all. At least everything you might expect from an exceptional comedy that succeeds to connect directly with its viewers and at the same time tries to push the envelope of what's feasible to do on television. But however out there "Seinfeld" episodes might seem, they are mostly superbly written, acted with style and often delivered with impeccable comic precision. Especially the writing of the cleverly intertwined plots easily trumps anything comparable American sitcom productions have to offer, as aside from Seinfeld and David the credits range from Peter Mehlman over Carol Leifer to Larry Charles, forming a strong backbone to what constitutes "Seinfeld" as an American TV institution and reliable catch phrase provider.

Based on real-life experience of its writers Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (both initially stand-up comedians), "Seinfeld" is about a stand-up comedian living in New York named Jerry Seinfeld, played by, duh, Seinfeld himself, and his queer friends, one of them - might sense a pattern - Larry David's alter ego. Even the goofball and border-line insane Kramer character, always out of work, always full with ideas what one should do and shouldn't do, is based on an actual annoying acquaintance of Larry David. And on top of that one of the show's story arcs centers around introducing a "show about nothing" to the NBC executives, just the way Seinfeld and David did in real life. Well, maybe the pitch in the episodes isn't reproduced exactly, but that's the point: Exploit the own life, even the tiniest things, condense it to the funny bits and push the result to the absolute side-splitting limit. Furthermore "Seinfeld" is known for not shunning controversial topics (the award winning masturbation episode comes to mind, homosexuality is elegantly touched upon, even death has a role etc.) It all works as long as it's in good humor and the audience can identify with the characters. And that's what good situation comedy is all about: Funny, identifiable characters in no less hilarious predicaments we can all relate to from own experiences. Turning nothing into something - that's the art of "Seinfeld".

Air Date: 1989-1998, Episodes: 172 (9 seasons), 23 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro (The Note introduction)

Kramer home alone

Funniest Seinfeld moments, Part 1-4

Highlight Episodes: The Contest (4.11), The Outing (4.17), The Marine Biologist (5.14), The Opposite (5.21), The Soup Nazi (7.6)

18. Only Fools and Horses.... (1981–2003)

TV-PG | 95 min | Comedy

Comedy that follows two brothers from London's rough Peckham estate as they wheel and deal through a number of dodgy deals as they search for the big score that'll make them millionaires.

Stars: David Jason, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Roger Lloyd Pack, Buster Merryfield

Votes: 38,372

Who wants to be a millionaire Peckham-style According to the BBC poll of 2004 "Only Fools and Horses" is nothing less than "Britain's Best Sitcom", and this despite pretty heavy competition in a country blessed with comedic innovation. People kept returning to the re-runs of the show, and so the series was continued, stayed on the air for 15 years, turning into a national institution. "Lovely jubbly!" Del Boy would say! The latter is played by David Jason, on his side is the younger brother Nicholas "Rodney" Lyndhurst, and they both represent the wheeling and dealing Trotters Independent Traders ("TIT", an acronym that's easy to remember). The actors grew with and into the series, and even the death of another main cast member couldn't hurt the birth of a true legendary sitcom. Quite to the contrary: tactfully made part of the series grandpa's sudden departure brought the remaining TV family on the screen and in front of it only closer together. Responsible for it all was a rather unlikely source - John Sullivan, the common man with a working-class background, who left school at 15, dabbled in various low-paid jobs before he became a writer of comedy. Packed with real-life experience, imagination and determination to prevail his scripts got better and better, but were regularly rejected by the BBC. But well, eventually in 1981 he came through to his audience - and next year he was a millionaire... Or something like that.

"Same time next year we'll be millionaires" is at any rate Del Boy's declared credo. He's a self-assured cockney market trader, never short on fresh ideas on how to make the quick buck. Against all odds he has sworn to take care of grandpa and his younger brother, "that plonker!" (translation: not as sharp), even though you should pardon Del's French, and you can take that literally. "Only Fools and Horses" however is more than funny situation comedy, it's also a strong drama, complete with character development and story arches, a continuing tale about family ties as becomes apparent throughout the run of the series when the humor sometimes takes the back seat. There's lots of hilarious stuff happening, but thoughtful moments are interspersed, and they add realism to the characters that never seems out of place. The secret according to (Sir) David "Del Boy" Jason himself: The characters are real people who just happen to be funny. Indeed. A show to relate to and laugh along with, created by someone who knew his people and wrote for them.

Air Date: 1981-2003, Episodes: 65 (9 seasons), 30-95 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

End Credits music

A certain famous bar moment

Reaching the nuclear bunker

The chandelier

Highlight Episodes: Go West Young Man (1.2), A Touch of Glass (2.7), Tea for Three (5.4), The Class of '62 (7.4), Modern Men (8.2), Time on Our Hands (8.3)

19. The Black Adder (1982–1983)

TV-PG | 195 min | Comedy

In the Middle Ages, Prince Edmund the Black Adder constantly schemes and endeavors to seize the crown from his father and brother.

Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Brian Blessed, Elspet Gray, Tim McInnerny

Votes: 31,070

Historical joyride throughout the centuries Brainchild of Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson, the British television sitcom "Blackadder" (1983) was designed from the get-go as something entirely different in the cliché dominated realm of comedy. What the world still needed was sitcom period drama that shed light on history and... er... rewrites it a tiny wee bit in the process, the fun way of course. And thus anti-hero Edmund Blackadder, Duke of Edinburgh, was born, and he set out to have some questionable adventures at the end of the British Middle Ages at the court of King Richard III and IV. A lot of dramatic licence was taken, scenes were filmed on location and Shakespearean dialogue used (he even gets the credit!), all that adds authenticity, sophistication and flavour to the unique approach of historically themed comedy. A great premise, however the first series didn't quite deliver. Yet when writer Curtis was joined by Ben Elton as co-writer in series 2 the show hit its stride: The setting was moved to England during the reign of Elizabeth I and Atkinson reincarnated as the great-grandson of the original character, not anymore as a bumbling idiot, but a shrewd and cunning individual, albeit - as would become traditional - always on the losing side. Two further instalments have the character in similar varieties in the so-called time of Regency (18th/19th century) and finally in the trenches of the Western Front in World War I, where serious issues are addressed with hilarity. An excellent ensemble cast complements Atkinson's tour-de-force (all of them playing multiple roles) with pre-fame Hugh "Dr. House" Laurie, Stephen Fry, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson and the fan-favorite Tony Robinson as Baldrick, the ever loyal, yet not exactly intellectually blessed servant of master Blackadder throughout the ages.

"Blackadder" is the kind of comedy that offers the viewer a plenitude of delicacies one rarely finds in regular TV sitcoms, which focus too much on well-known formulas, trite jokes and forget about a proper setting and strong characters that can invigorate the comedy deriving from the given circumstances. "Blackadder" on the contrary has a historical setting to begin with, culture, politics and depth, Shakespearean and foul language at the same time, well-formed characters and irreverent scripts that are rife with sarcasm and cynicism that have a tendency to spit out well buried truths no one else has dared to utter in a more direct way. In other words: "Blackadder" is a most for everyone who takes comedy seriously.

Air Date: 1983-1989, Episodes: 24 (4 seasons) + 3 specials, 30 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro (Series 1-4)

A Bout of Insanity

C is for Contrafibularity

General Melchett Visits the Troops

Highlight Episodes: Bells (2.1), Beer (2.5), Ink and Incapability (3.2), Duel and Duality (3.6), Corporal Punishment (4.2), Goodbyeee (4.6)

20. Six Feet Under (2001–2005)

TV-MA | 55 min | Comedy, Drama

A drama series that takes a darkly comical look at members of a dysfunctional California family that runs an independent funeral home.

Stars: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose

Votes: 106,630

Inspiration for life through the dead and buried Following the success of his multiple award winning picture "American Beauty" (1999) writer/producer Alan Ball got the opportunity to delve even deeper into the American soul - in series format, allowing much broader stories to be told, and with no strings attached. As it was HBO who ordered the series there were no taboos off-limit, and by request of the network's entertainment president Carolyn Strauss the scripts were welcomed to be a "little more *beep*ed up" than the usual Hollywood fare... Alright then, so there you have it: the edgy full package of controversial themes permeating (American) society on a plate, ranging from sex maniacs over psychotic parents-children relationships with incestuous touches, to abortions and gays as main characters. Hypocrisy abounds and of course there's violence, drugs, foul language, shock and awe, peppered with spectacular horrible deaths.

Admittedly, all that might sound a bit off-putting for a serious drama series if that's all there is to it. However, "Six Feet Under" proves to be much more than a collection of weirdos in grotesque situations. Actually, it's a family show, or rather about a family, and that is key. In its center is not a clichéd dysfunctional sitcom inspired "pseudo-unit", rather "Six Feet Under" deals with the turbulent, fragile lives of real people confronted with real problems and the choices they have to make in life, and it's not always pleasant. The show is a coming of age drama on multiple levels that happens in the ever present face of death, as the Fishers are owners of a funeral parlor. With the territory come tragedy, hardship and emotions in troves, and it all adds to home made problems. What's special about the show is that thanks to great writers like Ball black comedy and surrealism are mixed in, so that you get your fill of amusement in the unfolding drama, and of course the given somber undertones. Always thought-provoking and often on a tightrope walk, but rarely over the top, "Six Feet Under" also shines with an outstanding multiracial ensemble cast (Peter Krause, Rachel Griffiths, Michael C. Hall, Mathew St. Patrick, Freddy Rodríguez, Frances Conroy etc.) that allows the characters to live and breathe. You cannot pay the show more tribute than admitting that once the curtain goes down at the final episode it feels like a serious loss to have to say good-bye to the struggles of the characters, their idiosyncrasies, their hopes and dreams. The series has extremely strong moments that succeed in confronting you with everything life entails, your own mortality included, actually especially that. The show's recipe: The more you think about the inevitability of death, the stronger your lust for life, and in each funeral there's a reminder thereof.

Air Date: 2001-2005, Episodes: 63, 55 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

(Don't Fear) The Reaper

Remembering dad

Angelic death

Series Finale, Sia Breathe Me (spoilers!)

Highlight Episodes: Pilot (1.1), A Private Life (1.12), Nobody Sleeps (3.4), That's My Dog (4.5), All Alone (5.10), Everyone's Waiting (5.12)

21. Peep Show (2003–2015)

TV-MA | 25 min | Comedy

Mark and Jez are a couple of twenty-something roommates who have nothing in common - except for the fact that their lives are anything but normal. Mayhem ensues as the pair strive to cope with day-to-day life.

Stars: David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Matt King, Olivia Colman

Votes: 43,322

The trivial sublime, sitcom-wise Wouldn't it be funny to be able to look inside people's heads and get to the bottom of their true thoughts and motivations? Especially when we're dealing with so varying characters from the opposing ends of the spectrum. On the one hand we've got an uptight, conservative, serious yet neurotic and therefore often panic-stricken Mark and on the other the careless, unemployed freeloader, self-declared musical genius and no less paranoid Jeremy aka Jez. For some unfathomable reason these two have come to the conclusion that they have to share a flat. Probably just for the viewer's sake. The good thing: They bring all their idiosyncrasies, obsessions, hidden agendas, weird passions or long cultivated apathies, angers, dirty fantasies and what not with them to have everything at hand whenever a big clash is needed. Hopes and dreams? Not so much. Jez is happy with doing practically nothing at all, bone the occasional chick as soon as the opportunity arises and enjoy booze and shroom parties - the more the better. Mark's aspirations are limited as well and primarily center around the girl of his heart. But it's complicated, because it's of course Mark himself who makes it that way.

This all we see and hear firsthand, because, yes, writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong let us peek inside these guy's heads, and their internal monologues aren't always pretty. They're rude, direct, oftentimes offending, transgressing, but mostly hilarious, as there's no censorship inside one's head. Neither when we watch. However, situations that emerge might be awkward, embarassing and cringeworthy almost good old Ricky Gervais style. "Peep Show" is also a sitcom that shoots from an innovative hand-held POV perspective, which makes the illusion perfect that the viewer is as close to the characters as he/she can possibly be, and thus it feels alive and constantly on the move. The series is and could only be British, as as such it is bold, cynical, shameless, but fresh and cool at the same time, attacking every sitcom cliché head-on. That situations sometimes go too far is inherent in the show's approach of riding wild, so viewers should be prepared for the most outrageous possible outcomes. In short: "Peep Show" has succeeded in making the trivial sublime for a couple of seasons if we follow an image from Harvey Danger's intro song, but it has also suffered along the way. The sharply distinctive protagonists from the first seasons have changed, and some of its zest has gone. Still a must-see, if only for the first seasons.

Air Date: 2004-2013, Episodes: 42 , 24 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro Season 1

Intro Season 6

Jez' job interview

Mark in therapy

Jez for charity

Discussing music theory

Highlight Episodes: On the Pull (1.3), Dance Class (2.1), Sophie's Parents (4.1), Handyman (4.4), Mark's Women (5.6)

22. The IT Crowd (2006–2013)

TV-14 | 25 min | Comedy

The comedic misadventures of Roy, Moss and their grifting supervisor Jen, a rag-tag team of IT support workers at a large corporation headed by a hotheaded yuppie.

Stars: Chris O'Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson, Matt Berry

Votes: 112,154

Ich... bin... ein... Nerd! Pre-dating its American nerd-centered sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" by a year, the British take on geeks in the form of "The IT Crowd" is not only more original than its US counterpart, but also outrageously funnier. While you know exactly what you get in a US series which repeats the same recipe over and over again for more than 20 episodes per season and then continues to do so for several more until even the die-hard fans have enough of it, the complete "IT Crowd" only has 24 episodes to begin with. Some of them even don't work quite out, but the rest is pure indefinitely re-watchable comedy gold.

Graham Linehan of "Father Ted" and "Black Books" fame wrote, directed and even shows up himself in the series, fearlessly tackling nerdiness, IT and relationship management issues always with his finger on the pulse of the times. Well, and wherever it suits him. As the humor is all over the place, is sharp, zany, occasionally absurd and has a directness and an edge to it that is sorely absent in comparable series. The IT trio consisting of the laid-back Roy (Chris O'Dowd), real-life challenged Moss (Richard Ayoade) and the naive head of department Jen (Katherine Parkinson) play so well off each other that stitches of laughter are guaranteed if you're accustomed to similar situations in your workplace. Another highlight is Noel Fielding as the dark presence called Richmond, and even though characters like Matt Berry (as Douglas Reynholm) push the envelope a bit too far, the overboarding aspects are easily forgiven due to the brilliant writing by Linehan. Never before have the words "Ich... bin... ein... Nerd" sounded so poignant than here.

Air Date: 2006-2013, Episodes: 25 (4 seasons + 1 special), 25 min., special 48 mins.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

Anti Piracy Warning

IT Advice

New Emergency Number


Highlight Episodes: The Red Door (1.4), The Haunting of Bill Crouse (1.5), The Work Outing (2.1).

23. The Vicar of Dibley (1994–2015)

60 min | Comedy

A boisterous female minister comes to serve in an eccentricly conservative small town's church.

Stars: Dawn French, James Fleet, Trevor Peacock, Gary Waldhorn

Votes: 9,606

Two knockers, one comedy heavyweight, halo optional If Mathews' and Linehan's "Father Ted" is the clerical comedy with a touch of the surreal and never ending absurdity, then Richard Curtis' "The Vicar of Dibley" is family fare in contrast endowed with a lot of heart, charm and warmth. Not in itself a bad thing if your main concern is to have it funny, as for very different reasons it's no less engaging or lacking side-splitting humor than the groundbreaking adventures of Ted & company on Craggy island. Curtis' writing transformed Rowan Atkinson into the dastardly snarky "Black Adder", made puppets deal heavy blows in "Spitting Image" and is responsible for the most successful British comedy features to date. And he did it again in the "Vicar of Dibley", blessed be his soul. Aside from partly bold and mostly hilarious writing the show succeeds thanks to a theater trained ensemble cast that couldn't have been chosen any better, a very fresh scenario (woman minister conquering ultraconservative domain sitcom style) and there's edgy social commentary modeled after a courageous real life female vicar. The latter only might have the disadvantage not to be as funny in church as the glorious Dawn French portraying a priest on church inspired TV.

Ah yes, the French is coming! To Dibley! That's what it's all about. The parish council consisting of the overbearing head conservative plus dimwit son, a pedantic minute man, Letitia, "floral supervisor" with a decisive lack of taste, stuttering Jim and farmer Owen with, let's say, a lot of love for animals, well, they all aren't particular happy about a change. Aside from the local verger. She has a rather unique view on life, the universe and everything anyway. So it takes a while for the locals until it dawns on them that this new minister is actually not as bad as she might appear at first. In retrospect that progressive development is one of the brilliant things of the series: It stretches over more than a decade with multiple specials throughout the years, so that characters grow, fall in love, marry, even die, and along the way the once questioned role of the female vicar becomes more and more indispensable. Warning: You might not be a Christian yet, but with this one you seriously risk conversion!

Original Air Date: 1996-2007, Episodes: 24 (2 seasons + 12 specials), 25 min., specials 10-60 mins.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro music

Comic Relief 2013

Highlight Episodes: Winter (3.2), The Handsome Stranger (5.1), The Christmas Lunch Incident (1.8)

24. Star Trek (1966–1969)

TV-PG | 50 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise explore the galaxy and defend the United Federation of Planets.

Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols

Votes: 63,391

Boldly goes where no sci-fi series has gone before Here's where it all began - the legendary franchise which still stands strong today nearly half a century after its conception. There's a loyal fan base spanning multiple generations by now, conventions keep the love alive and studios produce further material and rake in troves of money. Star Trek boasts a legacy of multiple TV series and motion pictures of varying quality continuing where the original characters Kirk, Spock and McCoy once set out - nowadays the zeitgeist however dictates that adventuring in space has to be dominated by special effects, quick cutting and convoluted plots, detrimental to the outset of the franchise. The original series cannot deny its roots in the mediocre sci-fi dramas of the 50s and 60s, and therefore comes off in many ways as dated, cartoonish, hammy, however has much more to offer than its successors: an unbeatable combination of wit and charm, interesting characters, adventure stories and strong morality tales often presented as allegories delivering powerful social commentary on contemporary issues.

"Star Trek" as a brainchild of Gene Roddenberry, a screenwriter with a positive futuristic vision for a change, exemplifies its peaceful and humanitarian approach in ever way possible: The year is 2260 and utopia has become a reality - poverty and war have been eradicated, the United Federation of Planets serves as peacekeeping force and its 'Prime Directive' is that no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations is allowed to occur. Conflicts are primarily solved without or minimal use of force, crews include all ethnicities, races and creeds - Russians, African-Americans, Asians, even aliens like Vulcans. The latter bring logic to the mix, which counterbalances the human emotion, and only together they all succeed. "Star Trek" has many an episode that is over the top and whose premise doesn't hold up, but the series makes it up with deliciously delivered dialog and humor, highlight of course being the bantering between the dry Mr. Spock and the snippy McCoy. There's much less technobabble than in the later series, but a lot of imagination and some breathtaking concepts thanks to the creativity of the writers who lay the foundations of a whole realistically constructed universe. Among those writers a certain D.C. Fontana, a female first rank sci-fi writer, an oddity until then unheard of. A premiere in "Star Trek", as was William Shatner's sneaked in first interracial kiss with Nichelle Nichols. So don't say "Star Trek" isn't inspiring...

Original Air Date: 1966-1969, Episodes: 80 (3 seasons), 49 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

End Credits

Clips from 'Balance of Terror'

Clips from 'The Doomsday Machine'

Clips from 'Tomorrow is Yesterday'

Spock vs. McCoy

Highlight Episodes: Balance of Terror (1.14), Space Seed (1.22), The City on the Edge of Forever (1.28), Mirror, Mirror (2.4), The Doomsday Machine (2.6), The Trouble with Tribbles (2.15)

25. Firefly (2002–2003)

TV-14 | 44 min | Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them.

Stars: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin

Votes: 217,776

"Stagecoach" in space Whenever there's a show conceived that is hailed as a masterpiece by an enthusiastic fan base but fails as far as the ratings are concerned, it gets canceled. Such happened to Josh Whedon's "Firefly", the sci-fi series often dubbed "Western in space", which indeed went west just after 14 episodes. Yet concerted fan reaction resulting in strong DVD sales finally brought the characters back for one more time to the big screen, so that with the "Serenity" movie at least a couple of loose threads could be resolved. Even though the concluding action packed picture perhaps wasn't the perfect end point to a series that thrived on episode based character development, at least the short-lived saga now has a beginning and an end, and that's reason enough to be thankful for anyone who likes his sci-fi with a twist.

In Whedon's own words "Firefly" tries to bring the drama of the pioneering days depicted in John Ford's classic "Stagecoach" to space, capturing a gritty tale of renegades who had fought on the losing side of a war and now hire themselves out to do all kinds of jobs in a universe with an uncertain future. Said universe is still very much like Earth in the 21st century, only that mankind has extended its reach into space and spread its problems, inadequacies and animosities in the process. "Firefly's" reality is undoubtedly dystopic, dirty rather than pristine as is the common cliché and the three dimensional characters of the Serenity reflect the insecurities of the times with their internal struggles making their place in the world believable. Also the show is beautifully crafted and shot mainly with hand-held cameras adding to its realistic look and feel, especially in on-board scenes with tight spaces. And while there's technology and enough special effects that enhance the experience, these aspects don't dominate, but let the characters live. It's really all about these very different people and their relationships on the ship around which Whedon's creative mind has built a universe that fits them like a glove and coincidentally is also sci-fi. Most of all it's suspenseful, entertaining, thrilling, with dark secrets making up the main story lines, there are even philosophical themes touched upon - and a strong dose of snarky humor. An oddity perhaps, but it shines brilliantly.

Air Date: 2002-2003/2005, Episodes: 14 (1 season) + 1 movie, 42 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro with lyrics

Out of the airlock

Fan made season 1/character introductions trailer

Serenity movie trailer

Highlight Episodes: Our Mrs. Reynolds (1.3), Ariel (1.8), Out of Gas (1.5), Objects in Space (1.10), Trash (1.13)

26. Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983–2004)

60 min | Comedy, Drama

The adventures of a gang of British workmen abroad. Combines black and white humour with moments of drama, poignancy and drunkenness. In series 1, the lads head to Germany seeking work, and... See full summary »

Stars: Timothy Spall, Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy, Kevin Whately

Votes: 2,395

One for the lads When the first series of "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet" aired in Britain Lady Thatcher reigned the United Kingdom with her iron fist and work was scarcer than ever. As the Dire Straits would later put it in "Why Aye Man", the soundtrack of series 3: Many had no way of staying afloat, so they had to leave on the ferry boat - economic refugees, on the run to Germany... And here we have the story of the construction workers from Newcastle. With that premise the scenario is set for one of the greatest lads centered series that ever hit the television screen. Their journey over the years leads the guys also to Spain, Arizona or Cuba to name just a few locations, but these are just changing backdrops. The camaraderie is the same throughout all the lads' escapades, and that's what it's all about. The character mix is crafted beautifully by the writers and then played exactly by the right men for the jobs. The selection of the magnificent seven ranges from the man of action and thus unofficial leader Dennis (Tim Healy) over Neville, heavily dominated by his marriage vows (Kevin Whatley), womanizer Wayne as his counterpart (Gary Holton), loudmouth and oddball Oz (Jimmy Nail) to the bashful, boring and bumbling Barry (Timothy Spall), the gentle giant Bomber (Pat Roach) and finally to Moxey (Christopher Fairbank), who has his own troubles with the law.

"Auf Wiedersehen, Pet" deals with the working class, portraying the day to day life from laying bricks to drinking in the evening, but it's TV for everyone interested in good drama peppered with working class humor. And the brickies know how to build their stuff on reality. An alternative to artificially constructed, highly polished studio productions, "Pet" features guys that feel like lads, complete with heavy accents, and while it all is very eighties, the first two series definitely hold up and are as engaging as when they aired. Too bad that with the death of a key cast member things went downhill from there in the subsequent episodes made more than 15 years later. While series three still is good, the rest of the episodes cannot compete in any way with the original series. Nevertheless, if you're fed up with crime shows and high budget TV from the US rehashing the most common denominator recipe again and again, then take a nostalgic look back, and join the lads' visit to Germany - 'cause that's livin' alright!

Air Date: 1983-2004, Episodes: 40 (4 seasons, one two-part special), 50-60 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intros (Series 1) (Series 2)


The Magnificent Seven

Oz Explains Margaret Bloody Thatcher

Series One Montags

Highlight Episodes: Private Lives (1.7), A Home for a Home (2.5), Marjorie Doesn't Live Here Anymore (2.8), Scoop (2.10)

27. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000– )

TV-MA | 28 min | Comedy

The life and times of Larry David and the predicaments he gets himself into with his friends and complete strangers.

Stars: Larry David, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman

Votes: 81,666

Comedy improv exercise of the Larry David kind The title already says it all: Creator/writer/actor Larry David makes perfectly clear that one shouldn't expect another "Seinfeld" from him, the show that he co-created, wrote and voice-acted in as well. Instead he goes for an experimental approach: He injects ingredients once already used in "Seinfeld", like sitcom fiction based on derivates of real persons, makes it all improvisation-based, and forms something entirely unique out of it that pushes the envelope - not in the laugh-out-loud style, but rather the cringeworthy way: In "Curb" Larry David is in fact Larry David and doesn't need to hide anymore behind a character named George. Even though it's a fictionalized Larry David - the character still has a lot of Larry himself, and he is direct, outspoken, awkward and embarrassing, basically exemplifying a lot of what many might carry in themselves but are more comfortable to watch on screen done by someone with a real name and goes through as a comedian. If social rules and etiquette have always been a thorn in your side, you'll be pleased to find a militant ally here. "Curb", like "Seinfeld", is a "show about nothing", with real life at the core, even though in this case it means the life of a well-off Jewish writer whose working schedule is somewhat unclear - not really the norm. But despite the apparent differences to the regular person one can nevertheless more and more relate to Larry the more one gets to understand the character in the course of the series and see him at loggerheads with a plethora of guest stars.

The key element why "Curb" works of course is precisely why it is not a regular sitcom, the fact that it defies what we've been used to see in situation comedies: The show is not shot on sound stages in front of an audience, but in Los Angeles, there are no canned laughs, no scripted jokes. What's scripted are merely outlines, the actors ad-lib throughout and bring spontaneity and freshness to the scenes, which makes common comedy fare look staged and dated. "Curb" doesn't always succeed, but it feels organic and closer to life - and what more could you possibly ask for than to laugh at a slice of life, because it's just so true?

Air Date: 2000-2011, Episodes: 80 (8 seasons), 30 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro/Extro music

How not to open a package wrap

Subway hero

A meeting with Jason Alexander

Highlight Episodes: Interior Decorator (1.5), Thor (2.2), The Grand Opening (3.10), The Nanny from Hell (3.4), The Black Swan (7.7)

28. Twin Peaks (1990–1991)

TV-MA | 47 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.

Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook

Votes: 146,250

Mythical murder mystery meets soap opera - and turns cult phenomenon The owls are not what they seem in the world of Twin Peaks. And it's not only the owls - after all this is a David Lynch series. For starters, the idyllic small American town feels like a throwback to the fifties judging by its nostalgic vibe, the themes prevalent in the show, the jazzy music that is in the air (thanks to the great Angelo Badalamenti), and it's all intentionally so. The fifties was a time that tried to re-establish perfect family life and all around community wholesomeness, and yet under the surface conflicts simmered in society's underbelly - like in Twin Peaks where under the appearance of perfection evil rears its ugly head. Everywhere secrets are wrapped in secrets, and one of the wrapped secrets is the body of homecoming queen Laura Palmer...

Even if you're aware of this premise it won't prepare you for the incomparable mix of melodrama, horror, camp, surrealism and the supernatural that awaits you in Twin Peaks, as "Twin Peaks" is like no other show. And there's more. Because despite all the darkness and even mythical depth of evil that slowly creeps into the series and adds a bizarre, cryptic turn to the course of events, what dominates the show is its all around quirkiness, the soap opera-like banter, the strange situations and above all an eccentric humorous quality, a far cry from any regular crime series drama. Lynch on the one hand goes all the way to depict the primeval existential fears and the horrid things that dwell, thrive in us and corrupt us, but he uncovers these abysses not primarily through hard facts, but by dream-inspired investigation that link subconscious experiences to brutal criminal realities. On the other hand the dark humor Lynch injects elevates the show to a mesmerizing and fascinating hybrid of two extremes. This all wouldn't work if Lynch couldn't manage to weave a unique spell around the viewer that seduces him into a reality permeated by mythical truths that can be taken as profound and lightweight at the same time.

Focal point of course is FBI Agent Dale Cooper whose idiosyncratic methods to find a murderer are based more on intuition than logic, but he's just one of the oddball characters that make "Twin Peaks" a real treat: Meet - among others - e.g. Deputy Andy (Stan Laurel inspired), FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole with a hearing problem (Lynch himself), a dwarf, a giant and a shady presence with the common name Bob to name just a few. If you're looking for something you have never seen before and probably will never see again, a crime show between hilarious soap opera and existential profoundness with mythical undertones, then "Twin Peaks" will do the job. Side effect: A possible sudden craving for cherry pie and damn fine coffee. (And an urge to see the controversial movie that was made as a prequel later. Enter at your own risk!)

Air Date: 1990-1991, Episodes: 30 (2 seasons), 47 min.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

Trailer Season 1

Cooper dictates

The Log Lady

Audrey's Dance

Highlight Episodes: 1.3, 2.1, 1.8, 2.9, 2.21, 2.22

29. Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge (1994–1995)

TV-14 | 45 min | Comedy, Talk-Show

A mock of a TV show where the host is rude to many of his guests.

Stars: Steve Coogan, Rebecca Front, Patrick Marber, Steve Brown

Votes: 4,844

Getting to know Alan Partridge British actor Steve Coogan's versatility ranges from his talents as impressionist, playing multiple roles (and this includes a female character!) in his stand-up comedy over voice acting, writing and producing and even starring in very serious feature roles like the Oscar nominated "Philomena" (2013) - and whatever he does, he does it with fervor and consequence. In this spirit his alter ego wannabe "star" Alan Partridge was born, a fictional TV personality at first known for radio programmes and an infamous regional chat show, which would be "Knowing Me, Knowing You". An unlikeable character developed that Coogan slips into regularly in his stand-ups as well, later he based a TV series on him and brought him to the big screen. But it all started in earnest with these few chat show episodes. So what's so special about Alan? Well, Alan Partridge is the type of character who's so full of himself that his shameless displays of narcissism combined with his social awkwardness make his interviews prone to go further downhill without even having started at a notable high point. Partridge is one of the first who understood how to make cringeworthy comedy work for the audience, he's embarrassing, politically incorrect, condescending, pompous and whoever shares time with him on screen, he or she is not the issue - it's basically all about him. Throughout the show numerous fake guest stars help us to familiarize us with the phenomenon that is Partridge, but even then he sneaks in guest "stars" that are "famous" for being his namesake, and quite regularly minor and major catastrophes hit the show which eventually goes out with a bang - literally!

The appearances of Alan Partridge over time in different formats vary considerably in quality, but all of them contribute to the manifestation of Coogan as a comedic genius in his alter ego. Not even a misfired bullet can kill off Partridge's career, just like Coogan himself can dodge media bullets with elegance as his superb "Everybody's a bit of a *beep* sometimes" performance shows in his 2009 stand-up, which is as snarky and to the point as Alan Partridge's tongue has an aptitude to screw up royally and with precision. Check that one out to get the picture. And on that bombshell recommendation we'll leave you to discover Alan Partridge and the man behind it. Once you get into it there's only one word to describe what you've been missing so far: A-Haaaaa!

Air Date: 1994–1995, Episodes: 7 (1 season, 1 special), 45 min., preceded and followed by various radio show and stand-up appearances, the TV series "I'm Alan Partridge" (1997, 2002), the web series "Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge" (2010-2013), special programs and the feature film "Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa" (2013). Also essential for everyone who can't get enough of Alan P.: "I, Partridge" (2011), a brilliant mock-memoir in book form written by Coogan and company.

Excerpts/Previews: Intro

Roger Moore disaster

Final talkshow accident

I'm Alan Partridge Best Of

Highlight Episodes: 1.1, 1.6, 1.7

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