In the world of Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO etc, choosing 5 TV shows that I love above all others was a challenge. There are some shows that are critically acclaimed that aren’t here because, well, I didn’t like them. The ones that you’re expecting are The Wire, Breaking Bad and possibly The West Wing. All great shows I’m sure, but I wasn’t that into them so they don’t make my list. Feel free to lambaste me in the comments, on Twitter and Facebook and tell me why I’m wrong. So, here we go….
5- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
First aired in 1993 and running for 7 Seasons, this is my favourite Star Trek TV show. The Next Generation runs it close but DS9 has the edge in story telling for me, because for the first two seasons, it follows the usual Trek format of separate, 45 min long stories with no real overarching story. It’s set on a former Cardassian space station, positioned at the mouth of a wormhole leading to the distant Gamma Quadrant. However, in the last episode of Season 2, we are introduced to the Jem’Hadar, foot soldiers of The Dominion. This is when everything changes. Through their shape shifting abilities, The Founders (leaders of The Dominion) set about destabilising the Alpha Quadrant, overthrowing governments and using their Jem’Hadar to ultimately rule the galaxy. We are from then on treated to some of the finest writing Star Trek has to offer with episodes like “In the Pale Moonlight” in which Captain Sisko submits a log entry essentially confessing his sin of lying to the Romulans to draw them into war. It is an interesting, thought provoking and dramatic piece of television that transcends the genre and shows that not all characters have to be totally good or totally bad. Aside from a few shaky early episodes, DS9 is Star Trek at its very best.
4- Generation Kill
Many films and TV shows have been made about Vietnam, WWI & WWII but the 2003-2011 war in Iraq is less explored. in 2008 however, HBO & the creators of The Wire brought us an eight part mini-series based on Evan Wright’s book of the same name. Evan was a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, embedded with the 1st Recon Marine Division whilst they began their invasion of Iraq through to their arrival in Baghdad. What follows is not your typical, flag waving jingoistic nonsense or a bunch of war porn. It is a realistic, honest and accurate account of what it was like for the men who served in this conflict. It is at points hysterically funny, deeply troubling, heartbreakingly sad and sometimes uplifting. We get to see the challenging situations these men faced, and not all were of the enemy’s creation. Alexander Skarsgard delivers a standout performance as Sgt Brad Colbert and James Ransone is incredible as Cpl Josh Person, Brad’s Humvee driver. You spend eight episodes with these guys in an enclosed space and feel every emotion with them. It’s an extraordinary show that is a must watch.
3- Game of Thrones
What can you say that hasn’t already been said. A complex, political action packed epic that is getting better and better. I want to give special mention to two of the finest episodes shown on TV. The Rains of Castamere, in which the vast majority of the Stark family was brutally wiped out in a Lannister ambush is one of the most shocking and scarring things I’ve ever watched. The fact that there’s no music after the episode as the credits roll make it even more impactful. I sat there dumbstruck for a good 30 minutes afterwards. The Battle of the Bastards also ranks highly because it features the immensely evil Ramsey Bolton getting eaten by his own dogs. It also features one of the most heart-poundingly claustrophobic and tense battle scenes ever. Spectacular stuff.
2- Band of Brothers
Back in 2001, producers Steven Spielberg & Tom Hanks got together with HBO and the BBC to bring the true story of Easy Company, 506th Airborne Infantry to the small screen. Charting their experiences from D-Day (with flashbacks to their training two years previously) to the eventual fall of Berlin, we met men that it was impossible not to like, love, root for and feel an immense sadness and loss if they did not make it. This features such an impressive cast (who were largely unknowns at the time) that the quality of performance is top drawer from every single man in every single episode. Seriously, have a look at the cast list, it’s like a Hollywood who’s who. Rightly though, the real stars are the men on whom the story is based, and their heroic efforts, some of which are interviewed before each episode. Just listening to them speak is enough to bring a lump to your throat.
1- Battlestar Galactica (2004)
I love Battlestar Galactica. I love the way it is proper grown up Sci-Fi. I love how the initial escape from the destroyed 12 Colonies turns into the search for the mythical “Earth”. I love that the Cylons are not just mindless robots like the 80’s version but now look human, and they have a plan. I love that there are characters who behave like real people and not just the way you’d expect good guys and bad guys to behave. I love the fact that there are characters with shades of grey, moral dilemmas, political dramas, space battles, betrayals, prophecy and some truly breathtaking moments. I love the music, the actors, the creators, the ships, the design of the sets, the costumes, the technology, the dialogue. I love Battlestar Galactica.