Television is the ultimate blessing. Vaccines and loved ones and all dressed chips are lovely too, but television is the pinnacle of blessings upon this earth. If it wasn’t, A.Side would be on an Etch-A-Sketch and not your cable package. Plus your favorite God told us TV was the tops and who are you to deny them, right?
As a number of classic (and not-so-classic) programs turn 10 in 2018, we thought we’d do the lord’s work and place a spotlight on 25 TV series that debuted in 2008. Some of these entries are stone cold classics, others are curiosities of their time and some exist just so you can half-watch them in one big binge while nursing a hangover. All are better than reconnecting with your estranged loved ones or getting around to using that gym membership. Let’s take a glance back, shall we?
Still going strong in 2018, Murdoch Mysteries focuses on the titular Detective William Murdoch solving assorted mysteries around the turn of the 20th century. Using a Wishbone-esque level flexibility in terms of historical accuracy, this retro crime drama will happily usher in celebrities of the time and throw in some modern Canadian celebs to keep Nana happy. A gentle watch.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Deserving of more than its original single season run, the BBC and HBO combo effort The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency features Jill Scott (yes, that Jill Scott) as Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s first and only female detective. The smart and savvy Mma Ramotswe solves mysteries, navigates courtship and just all-around anchors this delightful comedy-drama stuffed with tons of familiar faces including Anika Noni Rose, Idris Elba and David Oyelowo. Clutch it to your chest and never let this series go.
Vampires, faeries, werewolves and the most baffling assortment of alleged Louisiana accents share the stage for Alan Ball’s outrageous and message-oriented dark fantasy adaptation of Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries novels. Home run swings abound on the surprisingly durable series that was never shy about going big or going bloody with HBO’s restriction-free boundaries getting a lovely lil’ workout. Your mileage may vary, but those that adore True Blood were happy to sink their teeth in for seven whole seasons.
Less Than Kind
Television doesn’t really hang out in Winnipeg for much longer than a Dunder Mifflin business trip, but quietly brilliant CityTV dark comedy Less Than Kind spent four seasons in Manitoba capital. Boasting Kids in the Hall great Mark McKinney as showrunner, the series placed a spotlight on the delightfully dysfunctional Belcher family and their existence in the city’s north end. (One wonders if the Belchers from Bob’s Burgers are related.) Maury Chaykin served as the patriarch in the first two seasons of this Gemini-winning program before he passed on.
The Millionaire Matchmaker
Patti Stranger is the brash matchmaker that tries to pair up assorted “millionaires” with eligible singles in this delightfully shameless reality offering. The format’s pretty straightforward. Some rich dude (traditionally looking for a “Jessica Biel type”) WANTS TO HAVE IT ALL but can’t find love. Matchmaker Patti goes through a bunch of drawn out drama finding suitable matches and things normally fizzle out by the time the cameras turn off if not earlier. It’s reality romance with all the tacky highly-edited trimmings.
This seems like as good a time as any to point out that the bros-n-ghosts investigative series Ghost Adventures has been alive for ten years running. Sentient Affliction t-shirt Zak Bagans brings paranormally inclined viewers into haunted areas and makes a big fuss about how scary said area is. You’d think the program is beyond parody, but Kroll Show’s Ghost Bouncers managed to accomplish the feat not long after.
Life On Mars
We were hogwild for Americanized UK imports in the aughts and that included the sometimes frustrating, sometimes surreal, yet frequently intriguing ABC spin on England’s Life on Mars. The U.S. go-around sees New York detective Sam Tyler (Jason O’Meara) hit by a car and “sent back” to 1973 to fight crime and try to piece together what exactly was going on with this time travel mess he’s got himself in. It’s not as sophisticated or restrained as its British counterpart, but the U.S. version has Harvey Keitel, Michael Imperioli, and Gretchen Mol farting about plus an insane willingness to go to silly lengths in the name of its premise. You will either howl or punch your fist throw several walls come the finale.
Ashes To Ashes
Sons of Anarchy
Kurt Sutter’s edgelord-esque brand of TV isn’t everybody’s cup of tea (or someone’s it’s no one’s cup of tea if we’re talking The Bastard Executioner), but Sons of Anarchy enjoyed an extended stretch in the sun as a critical and cultural choice. The FX drama follows an oultaw biker gang and the challenges that come with the lifestyle. Brotherhood, betrayal and vigilantism all loom large over top of the show’s existence with an impressive collection of talent (including Charlie Hunnam, Katey Segal and Ron Perlman) to keep you company.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta
Unquestionably the best entry in the Real Housewives franchise, the Atlanta version of the formidable reality juggernaut launched in 2008 with the combo of NeNe Leakes, DeShawn Snow, Shereé Whitfield, Lisa Wu, and Kim Zolciak as the focal points. In addition to be blessed with NeNe launching as a bonafide pop culture figure, we would later be treated to Kim’s pop offering “Tardy For The Party” which towers alongside K-Fed’s “PopoZao” and Heidi Montag’s “Higher” on the Mount Rushmore of TMZ-approved musical moments. Ladle all that drama over me, RHOA.
The Life and Times of Tim
Not all animated offerings are loved equally (there’s a reason you haven’t thought of Allen Gregory in seven years), but the scraggily drawn Life and Times of Tim still has its hooks in many a heart a decade on. The HBO animated sitcom follows hapless 20-something Tim and the series of binds he puts himself in. It doesn’t help that Tim has a weakness for saying and doing things that puts him into cringeworthy social interactions. Tim’s emotional pain continues to be our comedy gain.
Clocking in at a resilient five season run, Fringe was a lifeline for viewers seeking out a worthy supernatural network drama. Ushered into existence by the team of J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, this Fox offering focuses on the “Fringe” division of the FBI that attempts to solve, understand and often simply survive the unexplained. As is customary with sci-fi fare, the program mutates to something a touch more serialized as the events progress. Joshua Jackson is in it, so set up your old Tiger Beat pin-up posters accordingly.
Tucked into the web side of dear departed Manswers gathers Spike was a series of TV shorts that featured what everyone comes to the internet to see: Hardcore pornography scenarios that are also quite wholesome and contain nothing in the way of fucking, sucking or nude cornshucking. Brought to life by future Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn and his brothers Brian and Shawn, this sly take on porno tropes takes adult entertainment scenarios and delivers on the storyline aspects instead of the inevitable graphic sex. Think “Helpful Bus” rather than “Bang Bus” and you’re halfway home.
1000 Ways to Die
While we’re on the subject of Spike projects of yore, the former TNN and current Paramount Network struck gold in 2008 by giving the public what they want: Stories of dumbasses getting ultra-killed in embarrassing or surprising ways. Each episode features a number of unexpected forms of death (often with details changed in the name of storytelling) accompanied by clumsy reenactments and experts weighing in on why Chad or Becky farted themselves into an early grave.
The Return of Jezebel James
Existing in the gap after Gilmore Girls, but before Bunheads and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Fox series The Return of Jezebel James ranks as more of a curio in the acclaimed television writer/creator’s career. Axed after just three episodes, the multi-camera comedy revolves around a successful kids books editor (Parker Posey) and her request for her estranged sister (Lauren Ambrose) to carry her baby. The program’s more of a pub trivia note at this point, but it has its own unique charms even if the sample size was decidedly limited.
Generation Kill, Rolling Stone writer Evan Wright’s Invasion of Iraq embed experience turned book, was moulded into a seven-part 2008 miniseries guided into being in part by The Wire mastermind David Simon. This gripping HBO offering presents a warts and all depiction of the events the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion encountered during Wright’s embed. (Speaking of which, Wright is played by Oz’s Lee Tergesen, which isn’t too shabby.) Vivid, intense, often funny and every bit as relevant today as when it aired, Generation Kill more than holds up.
Let the humiliation wash over you. The hell that is teenage life is squeezed for ample laughs on the UK sitcom The Inbetweeners. The coming-of-age comedy revolves around a gaggle of lads and the minefield of navigating high school dilemmas ranging from sex to peer acceptance to teacher apathy. It’s the sort of program that will either have you howling because you can relate or crawling under your living room’s floorboards because you can REALLY relate.
I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant!
Premiering as a one-off special in 2008 and morphing into its own Discovery Fit and TLC offering a year later, the screaming title of the program delivers on its promise. For anyone that’s dealt with pregnancy scares, I DIdn’t Know I Was Pregnant! is infinitely more chilling than Black Mirror, but with the added bonus of bad dramatizations that produce surprise mini-humans. Somehow this pseudo-doc series is a bit less troubling than Paris HIlton’s My New BFF.
Hospital dramas got the gleefully melodramatic send-up they deserved in 2008. Series co-creator Rob Corddry stars as a doc dedicated to his craft and his clown face paint in a medical facility filled with the horniest, tensest and most emotionally damaged co-workers you could hope to find. Born on WB.com in 2008 and reemerging on Adult Swim in bite-size 11 minute chunklets two years later, the comedy boasts an obscenely stacked cast to court comedy obsessives. In addition to Corddry, Lake Bell, Erinn Hayes, Rob Huebel, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally. Malin Åkerman and Henry Winkler comprise just a fraction of the famous faces that roam the halls.
TV continues to trip all over itself in a bid to reboot and revive existing properties, but it’s not like that trend is anything new. In 2008, the none-more-90s teen drama Beverly Hills 90210 was reborn for the millenial set developed in part by Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas. The overarching theme remains the same (rich kids, trendy Beverly HIlls high school, industrial strength drama) but with some very late ‘00s problems added in to the mix. Consider this the equivalent of a time capsule buried on campus grounds.
It sounds like a fever dream now, but there was a time where Simon Baker was being groomed for American superstardom. Said superstardom didn’t happen, but we did get the affable Australian giving us cheesy TV goodness in the CBS procedural The Mentalist. In the series, Baker plays former(?) mentalist Patrick Jane that uses his knack for reading people as a consultant for the cops. He has a serial killer to track down in the process too for offing his wife and daughter, but it’s still easygoing mystery lite fun that can be absorbed while folding laundry.
Award voters went berserk for John Adams when it debuted, something that might have to do with everyone getting hot and bothered over the sight of Paul Giamatti getting dolled up like a U.S. Founding Father. The Tom Hopper directed mini-series collected thirteen Emmys and four Golden Globes for its somber look back at America’s first Vice President and the assorted challenges he faced during his political life. The seven-part series leans more on storytelling flourishes than a hard and fast adherence to the exact events, so be sure to warn any ghosts from the 18th century if they’re going to be watching John Adams with you.
Do you have an embarrassing medical issue that you want help with? Embarrassing Bodies can help! This British doc series features a collection of doctors helping real life patients with their mortifying medical issues and pulls no punches on showing the graphic symptoms (bring on the parade of lacerated anuses) or the surgery afterwards. Often, a new treatment technique or an in-depth report documenting a bunch of lads throwing up on each other’s dicks in Ibiza is tossed into the mix. Science!
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The space people you like do things in this! (Sorry, not well-versed in Star Wars things, but I imagine you can sort out for yourself if you are. If so, this qualifies as A Thing™.)