There are so many good stories on television these days. With the art of storytelling reaching its climax, it’s hard to choose favorites. But, in the spirit of storytelling, I’ve chosen a number of television shows from the last couple decades that, I feel, epitomizes the idea of amazing storytelling. Now, bear in mind that this is an extremely biased top 10 list, and while there are so many others that would make “top” lists across the globe, but these particular shows have story arcs built in that seem to do everything right and have left a lasting impression on me.
10. Vikings: Vikings is a show on the history channel that follows a father and husband as he proves himself as a warrior and a leader to himself, his family, and the rest of his tribe. This show is outstanding because of the historical authenticity that the history channel has to offer, while still presenting the show with game of thrones style cinematography. The writing really shines as we see the world unravel around the main character, even though he’s unaware of the betrayal that surrounds him. Although the main character is a bloodthirsty, savage, viking, you can’t help by relate to this loving family man.
9. Dollhouse: The writer of Dollhouse, Joss Whedon, is an outstanding science fiction writer, and although he’s moved on to bigger and better things, Dollhouse is no exception. At first the premise sounds a little strange, an organization that brainwashes “willing” individuals so they may sell their reprogrammed bodies as spies, assassins, companions, hookers, criminal investigators or the criminals themselves, or anything else a client can imagine. As you watch the show and come to realize that, maybe the organization isn’t as evil as you first thought, and you’ll quickly be proven right and wrong in so many ways. Dollhouse makes you question the validity of human rights and you’ll marvel as the characters create connections that bleed through their brainwashed personalities and sparks a worldwide conspiracy. Tell me that doesn’t sound intriguing.
8. Spartacus: The Starz show Spartacus is based on historical events, but given an… interesting presentation. Spartacus is filmed in a style similar to the movie “300” and combined with excessive nudity, language and violence. While all that is great on its own, the story shines as everything he knows and cares for is ripped out from under the main character and no matter what he does to improve his situation, and to be reunited with his wife, things only seem to get worse. The story begins by exploiting the glory of combat and the death of slaves fighting in the gladiatorial arena, then quickly moving into a tale of revolution, love, freedom, humanity, brotherhood, and glory. It truly is a classic tale of tragedy and redemption, reminiscent of ancient mythos. And for those history buffs who know how the true tale of Spartacus goes, it becomes all the more interesting, knowing the fate of all those involved.
7. Doctor Who: Now, I absolutely love Doctor Who, and I would love nothing more than to throw this show into the top 5, there is only a couple things preventing this. The first is that there are still so many questions I have about the over arching story and the main character, the Doctor. The second is that a few of the most recent seasons have been plagued by a number “filler episodes” that hold little water against the episodes with climactic plot twists and huge reveals.
Doctor Who is the story of a Time Lord, an ancient alien race who can travel through space and time. The Doctor, as he is known, is the last of the Time Lords and spends his nearly immortal life traveling to and saving planets, lives, and entire civilizations. Little is known about the doctor, but throughout the seasons bits and pieces of the mysterious man are revealed, creating even more mystery while giving us a bit of insight into the eccentric, fascinating, “brilliant,” and amazing character he is. The unique thing about The Doctor is that Time Lords have the ability to regenerate when near death. This means that when they regenerate, they take on a new personality that has different looks, likes, dislikes, etcetera, while still keeping past memories. This is a great way to keep the story running and unfolding, but can be an issue when you become attached to a particular doctor and then they suddenly change into a new actor, but this does open the way for someone new to take on the iconic role and be a part of something amazing.
6. Dexter: Dexter is an outstanding story about a blood spatter analyst working for the Miami police department, who enjoys murdering criminals in his spare time. Now, normally, a serial killer is the antagonist of a story, not someone you would root for, but Dexter is a special case. He’s one of the good guys. He rids the world of criminal trash, while trying to blend in by attempting to achieve a life of normalcy. Dexter desires to have feelings, love, and to live a normal life, but his “dark passenger,” his serial killer side, prevents him from having these things, but it doesn’t stop him from trying.
The tale gets truly interesting as this ‘monster’ who could never achieve such things, begins to care for someone, actually makes friends, has a family and is able to have a “normal” life. Now, he struggles with his dark passenger competing for his time and attention against his everyday life. If that doesn’t make you want to go buy the DVDs right now, then I’m sorry, but you’re missing out on what good story telling is. A past season did suffer from a bit of a dull streak, but the final season reared its head, started off with a bang, and ended beautifully, although some saw it as rather heartbreaking. I’ll say no more. But, life will never be easy for a serial killer; family, friends, police and even other serial killers aren’t going to let him go so easily. Good luck, Dexter.
Coming very soon, because I know you can’t wait to see which show has the honor of sitting in the number one slot, will be part two of this epic list. Some show placements will be obvious, others may surprise you. If you think you know which shows made it into the top five, or think one of these should have, speak up!