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TV (THE BOOK): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time

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Is The Wire better than Breaking Bad? Is Cheers better than Seinfeld? What's the best high school show ever made? Why did Moonlighting really fall apart? Was the Arrested Development Netflix season brilliant or terrible? For twenty years-since they shared a TV column at Tony Soprano's hometown newspaper-critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz have been debating these Is The Wire better than Breaking Bad? Is Cheers better than Seinfeld? What's the best high school show ever made? Why did Moonlighting really fall apart? Was the Arrested Development Netflix season brilliant or terrible? For twenty years-since they shared a TV column at Tony Soprano's hometown newspaper-critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz have been debating these questions and many more, but it all ultimately boils down to this: What's the greatest TV show ever That debate reaches an epic conclusion in TV (THE BOOK). Sepinwall and Seitz have identified and ranked the 100 greatest scripted shows in American TV history. Using a complex, obsessively all- encompassing scoring system, they've created a Pantheon of top TV shows, each accompanied by essays delving into what made these shows great. From vintage classics like The Twilight Zone and I Love Lucy to modern masterpieces like Mad Men and Friday Night Lights, from huge hits like All in the Family and ER to short-lived favorites like Firefly and Freaks and Geeks, TV (THE BOOK) will bring the triumphs of the small screen together in one amazing compendium. Sepinwall and Seitz's argument has ended. Now it's time for yours to begin!


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Is The Wire better than Breaking Bad? Is Cheers better than Seinfeld? What's the best high school show ever made? Why did Moonlighting really fall apart? Was the Arrested Development Netflix season brilliant or terrible? For twenty years-since they shared a TV column at Tony Soprano's hometown newspaper-critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz have been debating these Is The Wire better than Breaking Bad? Is Cheers better than Seinfeld? What's the best high school show ever made? Why did Moonlighting really fall apart? Was the Arrested Development Netflix season brilliant or terrible? For twenty years-since they shared a TV column at Tony Soprano's hometown newspaper-critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz have been debating these questions and many more, but it all ultimately boils down to this: What's the greatest TV show ever That debate reaches an epic conclusion in TV (THE BOOK). Sepinwall and Seitz have identified and ranked the 100 greatest scripted shows in American TV history. Using a complex, obsessively all- encompassing scoring system, they've created a Pantheon of top TV shows, each accompanied by essays delving into what made these shows great. From vintage classics like The Twilight Zone and I Love Lucy to modern masterpieces like Mad Men and Friday Night Lights, from huge hits like All in the Family and ER to short-lived favorites like Firefly and Freaks and Geeks, TV (THE BOOK) will bring the triumphs of the small screen together in one amazing compendium. Sepinwall and Seitz's argument has ended. Now it's time for yours to begin!

30 review for TV (THE BOOK): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    I received a free ARC of this from NetGalley for review. In this era of Peak TV I subscribe to a couple of streaming options that I could easily spend a month or so watching non-stop and still not get through the shows on my current watch lists. Meanwhile, my DVR is usually glowing red hot from all the recording its doing for the shows airing on the network and cable stations. So what I really didnt need read right now is a book that makes me want to watch more TV, but I'm still glad I read it. I received a free ARC of this from NetGalley for review. In this era of Peak TV I subscribe to a couple of streaming options that I could easily spend a month or so watching non-stop and still not get through the shows on my current watch lists. Meanwhile, my DVR is usually glowing red hot from all the recording it’s doing for the shows airing on the network and cable stations. So what I really didn’t need read right now is a book that makes me want to watch more TV, but I'm still glad I read it. Television critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz started sharing a newspaper column 20 years ago just as a revolution was about to occur that would change the TV landscape. Although they both moved on to other jobs they remained friends and had on-going debates about TV topics which has led them to come up with a list of the all-time best 100 TV shows. They cheerfully admit that this is a bit of a fool’s errand in that there’s something inherently flawed about comparing a show like All in the Family to The X-Files. However, they came up with a ranking system they both used to score shows on a variety of factors, and then used it to come up with their top 100 which they then explained in more detail in short essays about each one. They used some basic rules to keep it all somewhat in line: Only American shows that have ended were considered although there are some notable exceptions like The Simpsons and South Park which after decades on the air had enough material to adequately judge. Some shows with uncertain futures, like Louie, were included in case their creators never produce more. No reality TV was considered, and variety, skit, and talk shows were also deemed too hard to compare to scripted dramas and comedies. Longevity was also a factor because a brilliant show that only produced a handful of episodes like Firefly obviously didn’t have the burden of sustaining that level of quality over the course of many seasons so there was handicapping done in the ranking system to account for that. So after applying math and some logical rules to their exercise what did Sepinwall and Seitz come up with? A bunch of shows that’s pretty much what you’d expect if you pay attention to things like awards, reviews, and critic’s Best-Of lists. It turns out what is generally considered the best TV is still the best TV by their standards, and an unforgiving cynic might think this is merely a clickbait interwebs article taken to book form. However, what makes this interesting to me as a TV fan isn’t the rankings they gave or what shows did and didn't make the top 100 cut although that’s the kind of thing it’s fun to argue about over a couple of beers. My favorite part was an online conversation they had in which they debated how to rank the 5 top shows that tied in their ranking system. Through the course of that discussion they question how much a show’s innovation mattered vs. just doing something familiar as well as it’s ever been done, whether they had an inherent bias towards thinking of dramas as ‘better’ than comedies, and how to judge a show filled with peaks and valleys against a show that was consistently great but didn’t provide as many next level moments. It was a fascinating, often funny, conversation between two critics who know their subjects, have the skill and self-awareness to step back and ask themselves just what made these shows so great, and then follow those trains of thoughts to logical conclusions. Good criticism shouldn’t just be about giving a score or a thumbs up/thumbs down. It should make you think about what you like or hate, and why you like or hate it which not only teaches you something about the material but maybe something about yourself in the process. So while I found myself disagreeing with their ultimate conclusion it still gave me a lot of food for thought as well as a desire to go out and watch all of them again. The rest of the essays do a similarly good job of explaining why those shows were considered among the best while pointing out the flaws. They’ve got a real knack for explaining the appeal of a series and describing what made it special. (If anyone ever asks me what’s so great about Deadwood I’ll probably just have them read their description of it.) There’s also some effort made towards explaining what they meant beyond just being TV shows. For example, the article about I Love Lucy doesn’t just pay homage to it as a groundbreaking comedy, but also outlines how Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were true innovators whose impact on television from a creative and business standpoint went far beyond even what they did on screen as Lucy and Ricky. There’s also some bonus features like funny lists about things like the best and worst bosses on television. They also do lists of the best mini-series, TV movies, honorable mentions, and current shows that will probably make the Top 100 list after they complete their runs. The essays are filled with spoilers to the shows in the interests of discussing them fully, but it should be easy to avoid by skipping over any ones you haven’t seen it yet. Fair warning that the bonus lists do contain some spoilers, particularly one about the best character deaths so maybe skip those if you’re worried about such things. Taken all together this is a love letter to television written by two guys who appreciate how lucky they were to be in exactly the right place to help document a golden age.

  2. 4 out of 5

    HBalikov

    If you love the smaller screen over the movies, this book was written for you. I am not afraid to admit it; there are plenty of times that I would rather see another episode of something on the tube than hike myself to the movie theater. And, sometimes, it is just the timeframe; a 30, 45, or 60 minute episode is easier to accommodate than a 2 hour movie, even if its on the TV. Sepinwall and Seitz have invested more in their analysis than almost anyone I have come across. You may not always agree If you love the smaller screen over the movies, this book was written for you. I am not afraid to admit it; there are plenty of times that I would rather see another episode of something on the tube than hike myself to the movie theater. And, sometimes, it is just the timeframe; a 30, 45, or 60 minute episode is easier to accommodate than a 2 hour movie, even if it’s on the TV. Sepinwall and Seitz have invested more in their analysis than almost anyone I have come across. You may not always agree with them (What fun would that be?), but you will have to be on your game to be able to pick their reasoning apart. First they have a set of criteria; then, an elaborate but logical point system; following that is a long (and sometimes very funny) discussion between them as to how each evaluated the field; finally, there is their ranking with dozens of shows discussed at length. The latter part was my favorite. I was amazed how much more I learned about the TV shows I thought I knew. These two are really critics as well as enthusiasts and it becomes apparent very quickly how many levels above us poor mortals S&S fly around at. Obviously, this book could be read cover to cover but I bet you will, as I did, just search out your favorites and see where they rank and why. This is now my go to beside reader. If you have any interest at all, this is your book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    abby

    So what makes a great television show? How can anyone possibly narrow down all the possibilities to decide on the top 100 of all time? Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz attempt to tackle those questions in this book. As someone who isn't cool enough to be one of those "oh, I don't even own a television" kind of people, I enjoyed this book very much. I felt a bit validated that my favorites all made the list: Friday Night Lights, Scrubs, Parks and Recreation, Gilmore Girls. The honorable So what makes a great television show? How can anyone possibly narrow down all the possibilities to decide on the top 100 of all time? Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz attempt to tackle those questions in this book. As someone who isn't cool enough to be one of those "oh, I don't even own a television" kind of people, I enjoyed this book very much. I felt a bit validated that my favorites all made the list: Friday Night Lights, Scrubs, Parks and Recreation, Gilmore Girls. The honorable mentions list, however, feels like a bit of a cop-out so that the authors didn't have to chose, and so that they could stuff more of their work notes into the book. And there's a decidable bias toward shows that aired in the last 15 years. That said, the authors' write-up of each show is enjoyable to read, and they make their case for their rankings. There are also sections about miniseries, shows still in production, and live plays made for television. Ask your grandparents about that last one. This isn't the kind of book you read cover to cover, in part because it's too tempting to skip around to shows you've fangirled about (or maybe that's just me), and to shows you've meant to get around to watching (so you can impress your co-workers with the fact that you, too, now know who Don Draper is). But fans of American tv will find much to love here. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    An informative, opinionated delight. Sepinwall and Zoller Seitz put about as much thought as any two human beings could into how to rank TV shows, if you're going to rank them at all, and that thoughtfulness shows: you can argue with both their systems and its results, and I sometimes did, but you can't argue that they didn't try. They have a scoring system that gives out points for consistency, peak quality, influence on subsequent shows, performances, et al., and they even take into account An informative, opinionated delight. Sepinwall and Zoller Seitz put about as much thought as any two human beings could into how to rank TV shows, if you're going to rank them at all, and that thoughtfulness shows: you can argue with both their systems and its results, and I sometimes did, but you can't argue that they didn't try. They have a scoring system that gives out points for consistency, peak quality, influence on subsequent shows, performances, et al., and they even take into account the vexing question of how to score one-season wonders alongside shows that ran long enough that some unevenness is almost inevitable. It's also the kind of book that teaches you something about your own tastes. I knew that I slightly preferred dramas over comedies, but I didn't know how continuously surprised I would be at a sitcom's high ranking--not that I necessarily disagreed, but more that I tended to forget about them when assembling my own lists. That meant, happily, that I wound up marking a lot of shows to remind myself to check them out later. I knew I needed to watch Hill Street Blues, but... I need to watch Hill Street Blues. And My So-Called Life, Taxi, Police Squad!, Wiseguy... I was also endlessly impressed by the amount of knowledge Sepinwall and Zoller Seitz had at their fingertips, from the way the high level of creator-control on I Love Lucy revolutionized the medium to the fact that Friends is almost singlehandedly responsible for the plague of generically good-looking people on network TV sitcoms to the long history of cheeky fourth-wall breaking that each generation seems to think it's invented for the first time. Throughout, the authors' enthusiasm is infectious and their taste cheerfully runs the gamut of highbrow to lowbrow: they can praise the surrealist slapstick of Spongebob Squarepants and then write about the bleak realism of China Beach, can talk about teen masterpieces like Freaks and Geeks and old-school success stories like Gunsmoke, which I now feel like I've completely underrated all these years. In short, a tremendous amount of fun; a conversational, informative look at decades of good-to-great TV. And great material for arguments. My completely unscientifically determined, partly determined on the fly, and constantly shifting personal top fifteen (though the first three are pretty firmly ensconced in their positions), for what it's worth: 1. The Shield 2. Deadwood 3. The Wire 4. Mad Men 5. Community 6. Breaking Bad 7. Rectify 8. Justified 9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer 10. Twin Peaks 11. The Leftovers 12. M*A*S*H 13. Terriers 14. Arrested Development 15. Friday Night Lights

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This masterfully engaging book by two smart guys who really know their stuff is one of the most enjoyable reads I've had in a long time. Intelligent discussions of the very best of television, show by show, are wonderfully readable, as though one were a participant in those discussions and learning much from the insights of one's magnificently well-informed friends. Though they left out a few items from my own list of excellences from TV's history (the brilliant Combat!, the charming and moving This masterfully engaging book by two smart guys who really know their stuff is one of the most enjoyable reads I've had in a long time. Intelligent discussions of the very best of television, show by show, are wonderfully readable, as though one were a participant in those discussions and learning much from the insights of one's magnificently well-informed friends. Though they left out a few items from my own list of excellences from TV's history (the brilliant Combat!, the charming and moving Brooklyn Bridge), there's scarcely a show listed that doesn't deserve to be on a list of the most meaningful works in the medium. Fun, informative, revelatory, TV (The Book) was addictive, one of the most compelling "just one more page" experiences I've had in a long time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Teleseparatist

    You may have witnessed my reading of this book through my intermittent comments whenever I encountered something I disagreed with particularly vehemently (or that FACTS disagreed with). I am told that the faces I made reading were fairly amusing, too. I have a few quibbles with this book. A minor one is perhaps unavoidable: my list would have been different. But all in all, critics (and viewers) must surely be allowed to have different tastes and assessments, perceive shows as great based on You may have witnessed my reading of this book through my intermittent comments whenever I encountered something I disagreed with particularly vehemently (or that FACTS disagreed with). I am told that the faces I made reading were fairly amusing, too. I have a few quibbles with this book. A minor one is perhaps unavoidable: my list would have been different. But all in all, critics (and viewers) must surely be allowed to have different tastes and assessments, perceive shows as great based on different criteria and arriving at different conclusions re: whether a show succeeds at doing something or falls short of the mark. Moreover, what we like and what is great can be totally different: I am willing to concede that The Sopranos was, in some ways, a great show, even as I found it in turns boring and off-putting. But that's a clear case of YMMV. What, in my opinion, isn't are the following: 1) Willingness to go to great lengths not to address the fact that the series perceived as "great" are almost all made by white men and predominantly about white men. That is not accidental: there are objective reasons (overwhelming majority of prestige TV made by/for men and those demographics changing only recently) and subjective reasons (assigning more importance to stylistic than thematic innovation, for intance). Addressing those would have at least given some fig leaf to the overwhelming conservativeness (sticking to the masculine unless it's a critical darling or a sitcom) of the list (one that found space for Boardwalk Empire and Community, How I Met Your Mother and Hannibal (puh-lease) but not Weeds, or Damages, or even that zeigeisty mess of awfulness that was Ally McBeal, not to mention such outliers as Queer as Folk or The Sarah Connor Chronicles). (Generally the "(Un?)Likable Antiheroine Woman [usually 30 minute dramedy]" genre gets short shrift here, as though United States of Tara, Weeds, Nurse Jackie, Dirt, that Holly Hunter show whose name I never recall et consortes had never graced our screens!) 2) Willingness to be casually sexist (mentioning the age of Lucille Ball but not a single one of the main guys in the series described previously), to excuse sexism (well, M.A.S.H. is verrrrry feminist except for all the sexism but STILL) and to completely overlook misogyny (this is such an amazing show, truly shows human psyche in that episode where a female character gets graphically raped / murdered / mutilated on screen so that we can focus on how that affects the guy). 3) Factual inaccuracies. To list a few: Jessica Jones isn't a show that considers calling rape rape to be passe: on the contrary, Jessica naming her experience as such is a major plot point. Carrie Bradshaw's post 9/11 snow globe is a major moment of season 4, not 5, of Sex and the City. The plot of late seasons of The Good Wife is completely misrepresented in the description. And that's not even counting some very strange interpretations ("transphobic Pennsatucky" -> yes, it's her transphobia and not her homophobia that is so much on display; Prime Suspect was an anthology series? o_O) and lists the book creates (like calling Adama of BSG a great boss, or not putting Nikita on the list of best TV spies; come on). Back to YMMV [but if it does you are wrong]: It seems a glaring omission for me not to put Jane the Virgin in the main part of Works in Progress when UnReal, Kimmy Schmidt, Jessica Jones and Game of Thrones got in. Series this book encouraged me to re-visit or catch up on: Moonlighting (which I watched as a kid but don't remember anymore), Picket Fences (ditto), Enlightened (tried but didn't keep up) and Friday Night Lights. Series this book discouraged me from re-attempting: The Sopranos (the more I read, the less I want to put myself through it again), Deadwood. (Oh my everything, they found space for Dexter on the Certain Regard list but not for any of the shows I mentioned earlier on, I mean in what universe is that allowed to happen?) (And just one more thing: there's something so sad in the way in which this is a listibook. I do think they would have done a better job by having fewer shows described but in more depth, or grouping more thematically. I mean, I get why do it this way - it's fast, easy, sellable, readable, digestible - but if you go for shallow descriptions the least you could do is fact-check.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kris - My Novelesque Life

    RATING: 4 STARS 2016; Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group (Review Not on Blog) This book is a must for all TV fans - whether you agree with the writers or not - this will get your- binge-watching-self excited. These two writers debate what the "greatest TV show ever" is and they lay out reasons why or why not. I won't spoil anything, but there is also a chapter on new shows that could also join this list. ***I received an eARC from EDELWEISS***

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Owens

    * I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. * This was a very interesting book! I'll admit that the first thing I did was to look up some of my absolute favorite tv shows ever (Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, Community) to see how they ranked, and I was not disappointed! I understood why they weren't higher on the list and really enjoyed what Alan & Matt had to say about the shows. They brought up some very valid points, and went enjoyably in depth about * I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. * This was a very interesting book! I'll admit that the first thing I did was to look up some of my absolute favorite tv shows ever (Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, Community) to see how they ranked, and I was not disappointed! I understood why they weren't higher on the list and really enjoyed what Alan & Matt had to say about the shows. They brought up some very valid points, and went enjoyably in depth about with an impressively small amount of space (they had to be brief on many of the shows - otherwise the book would have been absurdly long). Each piece was well written, well researched, surprisingly quite funny, and just so smart. it's clear that these guys not only did their homework, but know how to write what they watched in an academic way that really gets to the particulars. The beginning of this book, which is a lengthy look at the top the top 5 shows on the list (because they all received an nearly identical score): Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Simpsons, Cheers, and The Sopranos. I won't tell you which one ended up being number 1, because half of the beauty of this opening essay is reading Alan & Matt parse it out and being pleasantly surprised by their conclusion. Their strategy/formula for ranking all of these tv shows makes so much sense, and actually makes me trust their final list completely. When reading these shows' essays I found myself nodding in agreement so often. They were delightful and critical, and in the end I felt validated for obsessing over some tv shows as much as I do. Because I tend to inhale tv shows and think about every little detail & nuance. It's nice to know I'm not alone. So if you want to read about all 100 of the shows, or just see what these critics have to say about a handful of your favorites, i do recommend this book. It is insightful, intriguing, in-depth, and well done.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Here's another book where I'm not the target audience. (Hey, that opening to the essay on The Simpsons, where the authors address the someone in the universe who hasn't watched the show? HI.) Still, I read this anyway, primarily because I really like Matt Zoller Seitz's movie reviews. The first thing I did was frantically skim the table of contents for the few shows I have watched. Then I spent two minutes annoyed that Farscape isn't included on the list of top 100 shows. (As someone who's Here's another book where I'm not the target audience. (Hey, that opening to the essay on The Simpsons, where the authors address the someone in the universe who hasn't watched the show? HI.) Still, I read this anyway, primarily because I really like Matt Zoller Seitz's movie reviews. The first thing I did was frantically skim the table of contents for the few shows I have watched. Then I spent two minutes annoyed that Farscape isn't included on the list of top 100 shows. (As someone who's watched maybe five of the shows highlighted here, that opinion is certainly less substantive than the opinions of people who've watched enough to write a book on the subject. And yet.) There's a certain irony here; I've read a lot of criticism of critics (who hasn't?), mostly in the vein of their inability to create something themselves, that they have to resort to critiquing. And here I am, entirely unable to make a list of top 100 shows, critiquing the critics. These are two distinctive voices, and that's made clear from the outset, when they debate the order of the top five shows (which, per their ranking system, all tied). There's a transcribed debate between both authors, hashing it out. It might be my favorite part of the book: I get the feeling, reading it, that I'm being allowed to eavesdrop on a conversation between two really smart people about how art is made and why it's important, through the lens of comedy vs. drama and careful plotting vs. messy ambition and scope and scale and humanity. The voices stay distinctive, too, which is interesting - they split most of the essays on specific shows, and about a third of the way through the book, I realized I could figure out which of the coauthors penned an essay before I got to the initials at the end. I didn't read this book knowing about that initial debate, though. I read this because I was certain there would be gems of analysis - and there are. Here are three random bookmarks: But it's hard to imagine a final moment better representing the totality of Deadwood than Al Swearengen up to his arms in blood, covering up one of the violent truths of building a civilization with one last lie agreed upon by all involved. [The Comeback reminded us that] comedy is often tragedy that happens to someone else, and that behind each joke, there's a grievance. But for that one year [season 2], Chuck was everything a young Chuck Bartowski might have fantasized a show about his life could one day look like.There are moments in reviews, as in works of art, where great critics hit on something so true that it's almost - beyond critique. (I'm still mad about Farscape, though.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marla

    If you like watching TV then you will find this book interesting. I enjoyed learning that I Love Lucy was the pioneer for the multi-camera concept. And I enjoyed reading about other shows that I just watched for enjoyment but never really noticed if they were doing something groundbreaking. Very entertaining. I won this book on Goodreads.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    ARC for review - EPD - September 6, 2016. What fun! I love lists - I love making them, I love reading other peoples, and while I've seen lots of "definitive" books about movie lists, this is the first really in-depth one I've seen about television shows and since we're in the golden age of television, this is a perfect time for such a list, which attempts to list and rank the one hundred greatest scripted (so no news shows, no reality) show in American (so no foreign shows) TV history. Obviously ARC for review - EPD - September 6, 2016. What fun! I love lists - I love making them, I love reading other peoples, and while I've seen lots of "definitive" books about movie lists, this is the first really in-depth one I've seen about television shows and since we're in the golden age of television, this is a perfect time for such a list, which attempts to list and rank the one hundred greatest scripted (so no news shows, no reality) show in American (so no foreign shows) TV history. Obviously any list like this is subjective, but the writers are both noted newspapers columnists on television and they try to use some objective criteria, to wit: 1. Innovation – was the show trying something that was or felt new? For example, “All in the Family” and “24” scored high here. “Parks and Recreation” scored low because it borrowed its “documentary” format from “The Office”. 2. Influence – how much impact did it have on the medium? Shows like “Hill Street Blues” and “Friends” were copied by many other series. A show like “Will & Grace” scored highly here because it reshaped attitudes toward homosexuality. 3. Consistency – how much did the quality fluctuate from episode to episode or over its run and how did it weather storms like cast changes (for example “Law & Order” 4. Performance – both how great were the actors and how well-crafted the characters, the authors give the example that here “The Sopranos” outscores “24” because even if you thought both James Gandolfini and Kiefer Sutherland did a great job, Tony Soprano was simply a better crafted, more layered character. 5. Storytelling – or, basically, according to the authors, everything else, direction, production design, music, etc and how is it executed. According to authors, “Hannibal”, “Twin Peaks” and “The Simpsons” prided themselves on doing something different every week while “Cheers” and “The Honeymooners” did more or less the same thing every week, but all five scored high here because they did what they did so well. 6. Peak – how great was the show when it was at its absolute peak? And based on that it's easy for a viewer to say to him/herself, "yeah, I really loved _______ but it doesn't really fit, based on those categories." One thing I found fascinating is that the two reviewers were in total agreement on the top five shows of all time. Amazing. They then spend a chapter sussing out where in the top five each should fall. I watched all but one of these shows (and watched the first season of that one) so I was fascinated to see their thought processes as they went through their movement of the shows before finally coming to an agreement (no spoilers here, you'll have to read it yourself. I was a little surprised at one of the choices, I'll admit, but they seemed absolutely certain.). Everyone will love seeing the authors praise some of one's favorite shows. For example, for me, there was "Lost," about which they said, "Lost aimed higher, wider and further than anyone could have expected from a show born out of the chairman of ABC's desire for a scripted version of Survivor. In the process, it demonstrated how thin the line in television can be between inspiration and insanity, and for fandom between love and hate. Only a show capable of moving us so deeply could make us so enraged when it screwed up.".....which is exactly how I feel about that show but I never would have been able to put it so well. In addition to the one hundred greatest shows they also include some honorable mentions and shows that they regard favorably for one reason or another (for example, they did not include in the one hundred any series that had not completed its run, which leaves out "Game of Thrones", but they felt it was worthy of discussion. I felt that maybe they discussed a few too many shows, perhaps diluting the effect of making it to the top one hundred and, though they generally did not include children's shows, they did include "Sponge-Bob Square Pants," yet there's nary a mention of "Sesame Street" - a terrible error in my mind. They also didn't include mini-series and made-for-TV movies, so there's a special section for those too, but again, they simply include too many (although no discussion of TV would be complete without mentioning "Roots" which they acknowledge was "the most important scripted program in broadcast network history." Absolutely true, but I don't think we need give the same importance to the good, but ultimately insignificant in TV history "Olive Kitteridge." Overall, though, the book was great fun. I read it straight through, but it would be a nice book to have around to leaf through on occasion or when you needed something that didn't require total concentration (though you would be missing out on some good insights about the shows and the times during which they aired). And, of course, the arguing! I'm using the book as a basis for a poll on my radio show in which my listeners e-mail me their five favorites. We'll probably go until the end of the year and then I'll review this book on the radio show, reveal the authors' five favorites and the top ten of our listeners. It's sure to be interesting!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jae

    I liked this! It really is more of a collection of essays (of the sort that each of the authors already writes for their respective publications, while not a duplication of any work they've ever done previously) than a book with a clear argument, but both of these men are super-smart about TV in general, and so it shouldn't be surprising that they had smart things to say about each of these shows. I enjoyed the sillier, more whimsical lists in between the more serious ones too. My only real I liked this! It really is more of a collection of essays (of the sort that each of the authors already writes for their respective publications, while not a duplication of any work they've ever done previously) than a book with a clear argument, but both of these men are super-smart about TV in general, and so it shouldn't be surprising that they had smart things to say about each of these shows. I enjoyed the sillier, more whimsical lists in between the more serious ones too. My only real complaint is that the book had a clear beginning/introduction, but no clear ending/conclusion (and I'm not sure whether this is deliberate irony or a coincidence, but the acknowledgements that appear where a concluding essay might have gone end with the sentence "It's okay to just stop" :P). But it's a fun book, and occasionally profound.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    You couldn't ask for a better thought-out overview of the best of American television. It's well justified, very funny at times and then will just hit you with a wallop (Sepinwall's entry on the trouble of The Cosby Show is both heartbreaking and enraging).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    This book isn't what I thought or hoped it would be. Didn't even finish it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

    A very well-written analyses of some of the best TV shows to appear on American television. Their list doesn't exactly match my own, but Sepinwall and Zoller Seitz both make very good arguments for why they ranked each show the way that they did. I'm even inspired after reading this to give "Breaking Bad" another go (and to rewatch the brilliance that was "Homocide: Life on the Street" very soon). I'm glad that they didn't shy away from adding "The Cosby Show" on their list, along with the caveat A very well-written analyses of some of the best TV shows to appear on American television. Their list doesn't exactly match my own, but Sepinwall and Zoller Seitz both make very good arguments for why they ranked each show the way that they did. I'm even inspired after reading this to give "Breaking Bad" another go (and to rewatch the brilliance that was "Homocide: Life on the Street" very soon). I'm glad that they didn't shy away from adding "The Cosby Show" on their list, along with the caveat that Bill Cosby has forever tainted any joy or laughter that the country ever got from watching it. "It was a great show, but one that nobody will want to watch again for a very long time." Damn him again.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Claire Dobson

    A few shows in there that I may now need to watch, i.e., Seinfeld and The Wire.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Hampton

    Though it can become monotonous during stretches of similar or unfamiliar shows, it's ultimately a must-read for anyone who sees television as something more than channel-surfing.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Girl

    A book both interesting and frustrating. The frustrating boils down to: a clear bias for male-authored and male-led TV shows; factual errors in describing some shows; and of course, pretending that numerical value can be assigned to quality (or that there can be any objectivity in such a ranking) (seriously). At the same time, though, it's a interesting look through the American TV landscape, from shows almost everyone has heard about to more niche creations. And the fact that the entries in A book both interesting and frustrating. The frustrating boils down to: a clear bias for male-authored and male-led TV shows; factual errors in describing some shows; and of course, pretending that numerical value can be assigned to quality (or that there can be any objectivity in such a ranking) (seriously). At the same time, though, it's a interesting look through the American TV landscape, from shows almost everyone has heard about to more niche creations. And the fact that the entries in this book are bite-sized makes it possible for it to be read in increments, at one's leisure, a piece here, a few pieces there.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bunny

    Saints are rare in any profession, let alone the entertainment industry, and chances are you adore the work of someone whose presence you wouldn't tolerate if you spent an hour getting to know them as a person. Received via Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. It should come as no surprise that the first thing I did upon receiving this ebook was quickly scroll to the table of contents to ensure my show was listed. It was. Authors start out on a good footing. Wait, Firefly, too? Saints are rare in any profession, let alone the entertainment industry, and chances are you adore the work of someone whose presence you wouldn't tolerate if you spent an hour getting to know them as a person. Received via Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. It should come as no surprise that the first thing I did upon receiving this ebook was quickly scroll to the table of contents to ensure my show was listed. It was. Authors start out on a good footing. Wait, Firefly, too? Oh, man, these guys are starting out at 6 stars, it's going to be hard to screw this one up. It would be unfair to label myself a TV buff. I love a good TV show, and I do get obsessive about the ones that really hit a nerve with me. I am always up for discussing shows, and learning every little thing about them that I can. An especially great show will even have me wanting to know more information about the writers, producers, and other works done by the crew. That being said, I'm also very picky, and very slow to get into a new show. It has to have a major draw for me, whether that be actors that are in it or directors and producers who I have trusted in the past. So, while this book is perfect for me, it's not going to be something I get rowdy about. "HOW DARE YOU PICK THAT NUMBER ONE WHEN CLEARLY YOU SHOULD HAVE..." Truth be told, of the top 10 shows on this list, I have seen episodes of three of them. That would be Cheers, Mad Men, and I Love Lucy. I've certainly seen scraps of some of the other shows listed (can you live in this day and age without having to watch the effing Simpsons?), but I would not say I'd watched any of them. Including All in the Family, which is shameful. Although I will give a huge cocked eyebrow of confusion at a list that says The Simpsons is the number one TV show of all time. Are you kidding me? You're kidding, right? I read the synopsis/explanation, and STILL don't agree. You want to include it in the top 10, whatever. Yeah, it's been on the air for 800 years, whatever. But not number one. I wouldn't even complain if Sopranos was number one, because despite never having watched it, I can appreciate what an impact it had. But Simpsons? Come on. Anyway. The top 100 list is put together extremely well. In the OH so pretentious introduction, the two authors explain their grading system. A lot of thought went into putting this together. Other than the top 10 (maybe the top 5), I would say the numbering system is negligible. Does anyone really care that The West Wing is only number 27? I doubt it. People are probably just happy it's on the list at all. Should Buffy have been higher than number 15? Absofreakinglutely. Can I justify it being in the top 10? Well, yes, I can. But logically minded people probably can't follow me on that road. The synopsis/explanation/essays about each television show are also well thought out. There's no consistency in length or strength of an essay. The authors wax philosophical on some shows, while other, often more deserving shows (FIREFLY) get barely a few paragraphs. Some shows are, of course, completely illogically put into the top 100. I can't even deal with the fact that South Park comes in at number 26, above shows like The Bob Newhart Show and The Wonder Years. In no universe does South Park deserve to be on any Top lists, unless they are, "Top 100 Shows I am So Fucking Sick of Hearing About and Why Are We Still Talking About Them." Number 26, my left ass cheek. The passage I quoted up top is from the section on The Cosby Show, and is, in my opinion, the absolute best summary of loving a problematic fave I have ever read. I cannot, in good conscience, refer to Bill Cosby as a problematic fave. He shouldn't be anybody's fave anymore. However, that doesn't take away from the lasting impact the television show had, and I am very appreciative for the time and thought put into the passage about the show, and the horrible crimes of Cosby himself. Now, all of this is all well and good. But once you get past the list, there's more to come. First we have the Works in Progress section (because the top 100 is devoted to shows that have ended only). I appreciate this because they get to pay tribute to Game of Thrones, but hilariously, that is literally the only show on the WIP list I have watched. At all. I haven't even heard of some of the others. But then we come to the "Etc" section. This section can best be described as Paying Lip Service To Everyone Who is Going to Write us Letters. "Alan, you know the readers are going to give us holy hell for not putting Sons of Anarchy in here." "Yeah, but it just doesn't belong in the top 100." "But still. We're going to hear about it." "Alright, fine, let's throw in something about one season. Which one?" ::throws dart:: "Season 2." "Oh, we should talk about Chuck." "Chuck? Chuck sucked, Matt." "Your face sucks." "Fine, if we're only talking about season 2 of SoA, we're only talking about season 2 of Chuck." "FINE." "FINE." "Your mom's face sucks." Seriously, almost every show that has ever been in existence is listed in the Etc section. Total fan lip service. But above all else, my one huge, major, very real complaint about this book? Is that it's going to be freaking impossible to get my hands on all of these shows to marathon them. Because the synopses have me so wanting to. Where do I get my hands on the original Miami Vice? Anyone?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Very entertaining.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Blaine Duncan

    If you're a fan of television or if you just want a list of shows to watch, this is as good as it gets. Both authors are varied enough for all tastes. I loved pretty much all of the essays, even on shows that I haven't seen.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Warning: You will read this very fun, expertly written book about the best TV shows of all time and want to watch television immediately from now until the end of time.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leland Horton

    I read this small bites at a time when I needed breaks from other books, but chomped down the final 2/3rds (avoiding another book that slowly but increasingly lost my interest). Once I really dug in TV The Book was hard to put down, and I kept telling myself, One more show and then Ill go to bed. Of course I enjoyed reading the essays of the shows Ive watched and loved, there were essays that changed the way I viewed shows I was less fond of or revealed shows I wasnt aware of that I might have I read this small bites at a time when I needed breaks from other books, but chomped down the final 2/3rds (avoiding another book that slowly but increasingly lost my interest). Once I really dug in “TV The Book” was hard to put down, and I kept telling myself, “One more show and then I’ll go to bed.” Of course I enjoyed reading the essays of the shows I’ve watched and loved, there were essays that changed the way I viewed shows I was less fond of or revealed shows I wasn’t aware of that I might have enjoyed. I would have rated Justified much higher.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Seth Kupchick

    This is a terrible book of criticism, just really bad. The opening salvo, a really convoluted gmail correspondence between the two critics may say all that needs to be said about this slapdash project that feels like nothing more than two newspaper men anthologizing themselves. I'll admit they are knowledgable about TV and if we were sitting in a coffee shop they could school me with information so I don't knock them for this, and that might be the only reason this piece of trash got two stars. This is a terrible book of criticism, just really bad. The opening salvo, a really convoluted gmail correspondence between the two critics may say all that needs to be said about this slapdash project that feels like nothing more than two newspaper men anthologizing themselves. I'll admit they are knowledgable about TV and if we were sitting in a coffee shop they could school me with information so I don't knock them for this, and that might be the only reason this piece of trash got two stars. But really I have no idea why this book exists except to turn on a foreigner or a cloistered academic to some shows he/she might've missed. It's important to stress that the goal of this book, if there is one aside from a paycheck from a publisher, is to canonize television as if it was a fine art. They go way top heavy on every serious HBO show of the last twenty years and if memory serves me well "Deadwood," "The Soprano's," and "The Wire," all make the top ten of ALL TIME, so there you go. I know that criticism is subjective to a degree and though I don't like any of these shows (I can only understand the inclusion of The Soprano's) a couple of them just seem ridiculous, but so goes the impetus of this book. Categorizing best of lists is never easy and you are always going to make someone mad, but it's very clear from the start that these are pretentious baby boomers who rejected the TV of their childhood and only got happy when it started becoming something closer to movies, but movies aren't TV. I don't really know how you do a book about TV without celebrating the garbage, both good and bad, since that is a lot of the joy of watching TV. There are no guilty pleasures in this book, just none, and though I glazed over at their complex rating system (it had something to do with innovation, creativity, consistency, cultural import, etc., and then they came up with some number) the ratings meant nothing to me. Even the sections, "no doubt about it, classics," and "groundbreakers and workhorses," seemed completely interchangeable to me, nor do I think they went very far in clarifying them. In high school, I was a big fan of Dave Marsh's reviews for every rock n' roll record, and while he probably didn't hit them all, he also didn't try to sum up the best 100. A lot of the joy of reading that book was not only the good reviews, but the bad ones, and this book doesn't give you that pleasure. You only get to read about relatively obvious choices without any of the joy of knowing what these critics really thought about Mork and Mindy, Family Ties, Three's Company, Laverne and Shirley, Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, etc. Their omissions make it clear that these shows were far too mediocre to compete with the heavyweights, even though they defined my entire generation. To say this book is for boomers only, would be the understatement of all time and that's generational warfare that I don't need to think about. I'm one of the biggest TV fans ever and thought this book could give me a week or two of fun, but it didn't give me even a day. If they want to turn TV into high art that's their prerogative, but I doubt the museum of television in Beverly Hills is even this pompous. This brings me to my final point: given the pomposity of the book I'd expect the essay's to be a little more sociologically poignant. I know these critics have done their homework and know plenty of facts about their favorite shows, but that's different than really tying together big conceptual political ideas and framing them in a review. Maybe that would've made this useless reference book a little more entertaining, or meaningful. I know everyone is not Pauline Kael but it seems like they could've tried a little harder, and why I'm pretty sure a lot of the neat summations were written long before they sat down for their magnus opus, TV (The Book), not a bad title but a misnomer because the text is lacking any humor. The cover is also good and like I've learned about marketing, "title, blurb, cover," and you're there.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Janine

    THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!!!!! I was hooked on this one from pretty much the very beginning, where in a section called "The Explanation," the authors talk about how they created the list of the 100 best TV shows, and then segue into "The Great Debate" in which they battle it out over the order of the decided top 5: Breaking Bad, The Simpsons, Cheers, The Sopranos, and the Wire. Although I loved the list as a whole, this section where they discuss in-depth the top 5, and which is really #1 and why is THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!!!!! I was hooked on this one from pretty much the very beginning, where in a section called "The Explanation," the authors talk about how they created the list of the 100 best TV shows, and then segue into "The Great Debate" in which they battle it out over the order of the decided top 5: Breaking Bad, The Simpsons, Cheers, The Sopranos, and the Wire. Although I loved the list as a whole, this section where they discuss in-depth the top 5, and which is really #1 and why is absolutely amazing. It feels like sitting with some of your best friends, debating the merits of your favorite TV shows and episodes. Assuming you're a TV person, of course. And if you know me, you know...I am a TV person. I wanted in on the debate! It was just so interesting to see Sepinwall and Seitz go back and forth arguing with one another (and sometimes with themselves) while determining the "best" show of all shows. Seriously, it was great. It was also great reading about each show on the list individually, and seeing how they ranked. There's something so vindicating about seeing a show that you adored on the list, and having someone put into words what was so great about it better than you probably could have. Admittedly, there was plenty of skimming and skipping throughout the book, for a couple of reasons -- 1) there were shows I haven't seen (like The Wire, Oz, and the Americans just to name few) that I have every intention of finally getting to one day and didn't want spoiled for me. And 2) There were some shows that I either just didn't know, or had no interest in, so I skipped over them. However, there were also shows that I was never all that interested in, and then after reading about them here, I felt like I needed to reconsider their merits. There were even a few I had forgotten about entirely, that I really wanted to go back and watch now. One of those was China Beach, which I remember watching with my mom as a kid. And yet, I know with 100% certainty that I did not "get it" then. Reading about it here made me so badly want to track it down and watch it with my now 30-something eyes and mind. Another one I know I'll be revisiting sooner rather than later thanks to this book is My So-Called Life. I definitely remember watching that, but again was maybe just a tad too young (and naive) to be the intended age group. I'm sure it would mean so much more now, as much as I loved it then. The other thing I loved about the book was that there were lists throughout -- things like "Best TV Mom/Dad," "Best TV Car," "Best TV Theme Song," etc. I also liked that they had further show lists outside of the official 100 -- I particularly appreciated their list of "Works in Progress," of shows that are still currently on the air that have potential to break into the 100 someday. My biggest gripe(s)? There was absolutely no love (or even mention, outside of it being included in a long list of shows inspired by The Twilight Zone) for Supernatural, and very little appreciation for Sons of Anarchy. Both are two of my favorite shows, and while I know the list has to be limited, the fact a show like Supernatural is going into its 12th season should count for something. And so should the audacity and heart of Sons of Anarchy (more than just season 2 of the show, which does get an honorable mention in a section called "A Certain Regard"). Anyway, my gripes are minor, and obviously personal preference plays into a topic like this as well. But, my ability to not only recognize, but have watched the vast majority of these shows confirms I probably need to find another hobby --- and yet, I won't, because this book also reminded me how many shows I still need to watch! TV addict for life!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    Three and a half stars. Alan Sepinwall is my "go to" for tv advice and he really steers me wrong. I was quite excited to read this, then, because I was hoping for nuggets on new shows to watch. As I read deeper into the book, I found myself enjoying the descriptions of shows I've watched but finding too little information on shows I hadn't. So, a good reference book but not a great read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Teena in Toronto

    In the late 90s, the authors worked together covering TV for New Jersey's largest newspaper. Their careers have gone in different directions but they have come together to write this book. They start with a lengthy debate about how to pick the best show of all time. They ranked the shows (each author was assigned 10 points in each category ... the top show got 112/120 points) according to: * Innovation * Influence * Consistency * Performance * Storytelling * Peak The 100 best shows are grouped as: * 1 - In the late 90s, the authors worked together covering TV for New Jersey's largest newspaper. Their careers have gone in different directions but they have come together to write this book. They start with a lengthy debate about how to pick the best show of all time. They ranked the shows (each author was assigned 10 points in each category ... the top show got 112/120 points) according to: * Innovation * Influence * Consistency * Performance * Storytelling * Peak The 100 best shows are grouped as: * 1 - 10: The Inner Circle * 11 - 50: No-Doubt-About-It Classics * 51 - 75: Groundbreakers and Workhorses * 76 - 100: Outlier Classics * Works in Progress (current shows) * Miniseries * TV Movies * Live Plays Made for Television The discussions about the shows are at a high level. I watch less TV now than I have in the past and there were shows listed that I had forgotten about. There were some older shows on the list like "I Love Lucy" and "Gunsmoke", right up to shows that are still on today. One thing that bothered me, though, was when they covered "Maude". They talked about some of the events of the show like when Arthur started drinking and lost his business, etc. This is incorrect. Arthur was the next door neighbour and it was Walter, Maude's husband, who this happened to. Once I read that, the authors and the book lost some credibility with me. Blog review post: http://www.teenaintoronto.com/2016/09...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Meredith Ann

    This book isn't for everyone and it was a bit tedious to read at times but the payoff is worth it. Of course, my tv-shows-to-watch list is even longer now. I can only Sepinwall & Seitz write more books together in the future, as well as continuing their excellent tv journalism.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    So you take two of the top TV critics going right now, they come up with a point system to rank shows, and then they write about them. Pretty foolproof. They also say some things about current shows that haven't been around quite long enough to establish where they will wind up in history, and other great shows that just fell short, and great TV movies and miniseries, etc. So this becomes a pretty good compendium of great television. Like any list of the greatest (fill in blank), there will be So you take two of the top TV critics going right now, they come up with a point system to rank shows, and then they write about them. Pretty foolproof. They also say some things about current shows that haven't been around quite long enough to establish where they will wind up in history, and other great shows that just fell short, and great TV movies and miniseries, etc. So this becomes a pretty good compendium of great television. Like any list of the greatest (fill in blank), there will be room for disagreement (and this is my one SPOILER ALERT: there are two shows that weren't mention in the runners up that I would have chosen. Leave It To Beaver belongs in the Top 100 and Green Acres is worth an honorable mention), but, on the balance, they cover so much awesome television. Granted, they stick with episodic, scripted shows, but that allows for a sequel! The entries themselves are almost always well written, although a couple fall short, but there were more that I wish were even longer. So this was a fun read that made me wish I had (a lot) more time to check out so many great shows that I've missed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris Williams

    Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz are the best television critics working today, and this tome about their picks for the 100 greatest shows of all time is possibly the best piece of television criticism written. It's not a slapdash effort; it's a heavy, essay-filled long read that argues for television as just as vibrant and essential an art form as film, and takes steps to establish a television canon. The book would be worth it just for the opening 30 pages or so, in which the two hash out Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz are the best television critics working today, and this tome about their picks for the 100 greatest shows of all time is possibly the best piece of television criticism written. It's not a slapdash effort; it's a heavy, essay-filled long read that argues for television as just as vibrant and essential an art form as film, and takes steps to establish a television canon. The book would be worth it just for the opening 30 pages or so, in which the two hash out the standings of a five-way tie for first place; I won't spoil what wins, but it speaks to the book's brilliance that I both totally agree and understand why people may balk. This is an insightful, meticulously researched book, but the secret sauce is that the critics are also fantastic, funny writers who let a love for the medium flow through everything. They're just as knowledgeable as any Ph.D. scholar, but they write with the joy of someone who grew up with eyes firmly fixed on the. A fantastic, essential read for any fans of pop culture and criticism.

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