Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Smartest Shows on TV?

Why are lists of "smart" tv shows always so stupid? Earlier this week, TV Guide gave us it's list of the smartest shows on TV. For those who don't want to be bothered scrolling through all the pictures, here's the list:

30 Rock
Battlestar Galactica
Big Love
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
How I Met Your Mother
Late Night With Conan O'Brien
Law and Order
Mad Men

I'd say, "yay" to Big Love, House, Lost, and Mad Men (at least, from everything I've heard about Mad Men). My thoughts on Battlestar should be well known to regular readers, suffice it say that the show's reputation at this point is overrated and undeserving. I do love 30 Rock, and given that it has managed to turn itself into a fascinating study on class, I'd say I buy it being on the list.

But as the other six? Damages I don't know at all, so I won't bother weighing in on, but How I Met Your Mother? Come on now. I've seen the show before and it's standard sitcom fare. Thank you TV Guide, but one little premise twist doesn't make the show brilliant. Then there's Conan, who I enjoy the most out of all the late night hosts, but would have trouble saying belongs in a list of smartest things on tv. There's CSI, which I know is supposed to have a lot of science, but I'm not sure what else actually makes the show so smart. There's Law and Order, which I can enjoy (although I prefer Law and Order: SVU), but I'd have trouble calling a show smart when it gets routine legal matters wrong on a routine basis. And finally, there's the Daily Show, my dislike of which I've voiced on and off of this blog for the past 8 years or so. Jon Stewart is always portrayed as some sort of a non-partisan, equal opportunity offender, which is just absolute baloney. Yes, the Daily Show makes fun of Democratic incompetence and scandals as much as it does Republican ones, but conservatives and Republicans ideas are routinely the butt of jokes, while liberal and Democratic ideas never are. For smart and funny discussions about news and politics, I'd take Red Eye over the Daily Show any day. It's more off the cuff, political views are laid out for all to see, and every sort of opinion and viewpoint is welcome.

To get back to our list, how is it possible that there's so much drivel on the list while South Park is noticeably absent? The Imaginationland trilogy is just as brilliant if not more so than anything done on any sitcom, ever. There's just no way in hell that How I Met Your Mother is a smarter show than South Park.


Blogger McMc said...

Here's my problem with the Daily Show. It's an entertaining show but it also can be an informative show. You're absolutely right in saying that it is not bipartisan and that the right is the butt of jokes more often than the left. With that said, whenever pressed about taking responsibility for the show's topics, Jon Stewart acts like people are insane. I remember one rant he went on where he said how stupid a notion like that was because the show on after him (Crank Yankers at the time) was a show about talking puppets.

I just don't like when people hide behind the cloak of invincibility when they know that their show is more than just comedy fodder. And when they try to be more too.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous rose said...

Am I the only one that never really appreciated South Park until I was 21 or 22?

I think a good litmus test for how "smart" a comedy is, is whether it gets funnier as you get older and presumably more informed. And I watch South Park episodes from 1998 that I haven't seen in a decade and they're more enjoyable than ever. A 15-year old clueless kid could enjoy south park just as much as adults of all political stripes because its hilarious.

If you like Jon Stewart its probably because you agree with his political views. I'd probably find it funny if some conservative sat their bashing John Kerry regardless of how funny he was. Luckily for Jon Stewart there's lots of young, college educated liberals that enjoy being told how stupid everyone who's not like them is.

3:01 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

McMc, give yourself a pat on the back because that's incredably insightful and exactly right. They want to have it both ways on the Daily Show, to be taken seriously when it comes to praise, but to play the comedy card when anyone gives them a hard time.

And Rose, being a bit older, South Park actually started when I was 17 or 18 and I didn't start watching it regularly until probably my junior year at UCONN. But you are right, South Park does age very well- just as, incidentally, the old episodes of the Simpsons ("Classic Simpsons" if you will) also hold up over time.

3:22 PM  
Blogger McMc said...

Well don't forget with South Park that the first few seasons were more childish humor. It wasn't until the later years that the "messages" started being played up a lot. As a teen I enjoyed the first few years then stopped watching religiously. Then I got back into it and just haven't turned back because it is so good.

4:11 PM  

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