Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – A Little More Television

CamMuch like Jaimie I too got rid of my cable. I made the move about five years ago and survived on Roger’s rentals and rabbit ears. When digital conversion took place I had to buy a digital converter and that managed to bring in a half a dozen channels. Like anything that plugs in it soon crapped out and I haven’t bothered to replace it. In the course of five years I went from a 500 channel, PVR-driven three TV world to a DVD player and an old 28” special. It’s funny how easily you adapt when certain options are not there.

Blockbuster ClosesIt was a pain when all of the local video (DVD) rentals places closed as the Roger’s of the world wanted you to rent movies direct from their cable system. No cable, no movies. Soon I was to discover that you can order pretty well any DVD box set from the public library. For older series it only takes a matter of days but for the new ones you can wait months. Using the right combination of “holds” on their system you can pretty well keep rogers-video-rentalyourself occupied with a myriad of series at the same time. We just finished season one of “Boardwalk Empire” and season two should be here next week. This lull gave us time to see part two of season six of The Sopranos while we still await the debut seasons of “Downton Abbey” and “Sons Of Anarchy”.

Recently The Writer’s Guild Of America released their 101 best written series of all-time. It is quite an interesting list and can be seen here:


When the list was released we were in the middle of re-watching the entire 86 episodes of The Sopranos, which became a little surreal with the sudden death of James Gandolfini as we headed into the final few episodes. While the WGA list includes all genres of TV I have narrowed it down to my favourite “box set” series that never ran on network television. Maybe at a later date I will discuss the merits of The Honeymooners, The Twilight Zone, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart. Shows still in the running to make this list, once they reach their conclusion, might include “Breaking Bad”, “Boardwalk Empire” and “Mad Men”.

1.       The Sopranos

TonyWas brilliant, the best 86 hour movie ever written. Gandolfini shone as the painfully-complex Tony Soprano and the cast of regulars, and one or two season guest stars, played as perfect foils. The ending upset many at the time but after repeated times it works perfectly. The series ran just long enough to stay on point which can’t be said for far too many other series. Damn near television perfection.

2.       Fawlty Towers

Fawlty TowersThe Brits know how to make a graceful exit. Two seasons, 12 episodes in total and every one of them is still as watchable today as they were over 35 years ago. John Cleese was phenomenal as the beleaguered hotel manager Basil Fawlty. Great supporting cast, including Cleese’s one-time wife Connie Booth and maybe the funniest overall series writing ever.

3.       The Wire

The WireI was late to The Wire but now proudly own all five seasons. A gritty cop show set in Baltimore that delved into a different facet of city life in every season. Policing was the overall theme but the show exposed corruption at not only the police force but the education system, the ports, the media and ultimately politics. I was stunned to find out at the conclusion of the series that actors Dominic West (“Jimmy McNulty”) and Idris Elba (“Stringer Bell”) were both Brits.

4.       The Office (U.K.!)

the-office-uk-7I could not stand the U.S. adaptation of this show, and, unlike their far superior British parent, it long overstayed its welcome. Once again, the beauty of the Brits, make it short, snappy and get out when the going is good. Ricky Gervais and the often overlooked Stephen Merchant wrote the best series since “Fawlty Towers” and assembled a perfect supporting cast. Subtle, innocently offensive and painfully insecure “The Office” was awkward and uncomfortable to watch but a brilliant case study in human nature.

5.       Freaks And Geeks

Freaks and GeeksThis show deserved at least one more season but ratings said otherwise. Eighteen great episodes of high school life in 1980, of which only the first 12 were shown during the debut season, the last six appeared well after the fact. If it had been set in 1976 this very well could have been my school. From the stoners to the Zep fans to the “mathletes” and jocks every aspect of teenage life was beautifully captured by Judd Apatow. There was a pseudo follow-up series with “Undeclared” (which was the beginning of the rising Canadian star that is Jay Baruchel) but it didn’t contain the same magic as “Freaks And Geeks” (although it would still make my Top 20).

6.       Arrested Development

arrested-development-2Could very well be the greatest ensemble cast in American comedy history with each character very unique in a very twisted way. I have not yet seen the “final” season and eagerly await a DVD release of the Netflix only version. I loved pretty well everything about the show from the Ron Howard narration to the recurring  loose “seal” theme.

7.       Six Feet Under

Six-Feet-Under-six-feet-under-357683_1188_541I wasn’t really sure if I was going to like this series but once I got into the characters I was hooked. It bravely went where few other shows would go with a funeral home as a base, multi-racial gay relationships, infidelity and death (which opened every episode). The ending may be the best ever for a dramatic show and brilliantly brought the show to a conclusion.

8.       Extras

Extra's S2Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant strike again with Gervais portraying a struggling actor and Merchant as his hapless agent. Two quick seasons and it was over. If you only see one episode watch the one in which David Bowie is the guest star. Actually everyone who appeared as guest star (including Kate Winslet, Chris Martin, Orlando Bloom and various others) were perfect for the premise of being an “extra”.

9.       The Larry Sanders Show

larrysanders-772677Broke all of the rules and set the stage for the new style in which comedy could be shown on television. Was the forerunner for shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “30 Rock”. Garry Shandling was perfect as the talk show host and Rip Torn and Jeffrey Tambor provided the perfect sidekicks.

10. Lost

LostThe show is almost not worthy of the Top Ten due to its awful ending but the first three seasons were some of the best television ever. Strong characters, great writing and something to scratch your head about in every episode. It really is too bad they could have not come to a better conclusion.

Some honourable mentions go out to “The Tudors”, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”  and “Absolutely Fabulous”.

Some series I would have like to have seen not being cancelled before their true conclusions were reached include “Carnivale”, “Rome” and “The Borgias”.

The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll are proud to be presented by The Bovine Tiki Bar. The bar and BBQ opens daily at 4 PM and the BBQ rocks until 10 PM. Cocktails available after 10.


Cam’s column appears every Thursday

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DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.


One Response to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – A Little More Television”

  1. Jo Waites Says:

    Another great series that I enjoyed was “Damages” with Glen Close as a cold and calculating lawyer. Guest stars included the star who played “Becker”. Can’t think of his name. There are five seasons. It was on HBO but now I think you have to buy it.

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