Mar 29, 2013

(Full Rankings) Stephen Strenio's Five Star Netflix TV Shows Countdown

Thanks everyone for reading about the best 27 television shows ever made! That I also happened to rank on Netflix! Plus some extras! Here is the complete list so that you can be all like "NO WAY! Freaks and Geeks is way better than The League!"

Next week begins the countdown of the 125 best films ever made! That I also happened to rank on Netflix! No extras, 125 is already large beyond comprehension!

The ranked list (H stands for Honorary, because I hadn't rated it on Netflix!):

1. Evangelion
2. Avatar: The Last Airbender
3. Boy Meets World
4. Home Movies
H4. Cowboy Bebop
5. Futurama
6. Archer
H6. Trigun
7. Batman: The Animated Series
8. Arrested Development
9. Invader Zim
10. Samurai Jack
11. The League
H11. The Simpsons
12. Ducktales
13. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law
14. Freaks and Geeks
15. Firefly
16. Frasier
17. Pinky and the Brain
18. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
19. Fawlty Towers
H19. Gargoyles
20. Elfen Lied
21. The Critic
22. Parks and Rec
23. Flight of the Conchords
24. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
25. NewsRadio
26. Space Ghost Coast to Coast
27. FLCL
H27. Animaniacs

I am confident in a lot of these rankings, especially around the top and bottom of the list. I don't think I will ever enjoy a television show as much as I do Evangelion. I think NewsRadio is really good and you should watch it, but if you don't you're not really missing out on transcendent art. But a couple of things in the middle maybe got messed up. Here's why:

First, I love cartoons. This should be obvious, as the top two, 8 of the top 10 (and both of the honorary top 10), and over two-thirds of the list are animated. So, you know, maybe you like humans or something. I don't know.

Second, I haven't ranked as many TV shows as I have movies, so I feel like I probably missed a lot more than I made up for in the Honorary list. The X-Files, the Wire, the Twilight Zone, the West Wing, Law & Order, and a lot of other programs aren't here because I haven't rated them on Netflix, not to mention some of my favorite shows: Top Chef and Top Shot.

Finally, there are a lot of TV shows that I just haven't watched. The Wire is the only HBO show I've seen (and I haven't finished it, so I haven't rated it). I haven't watched enough Mad Men to have an opinion on it. I never really watched Friends or Seinfeld. I'm not into Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead or basically anything that's currently airing. It is possible that I should just watch your favorite show because it's better than everything on my list. Recommendations are appreciated!

Mar 27, 2013

(3-1) Stephen Strenio's Five Star Netflix TV Shows Countdown


Hello Readers,

To relax, I have ranked the over 150 TV Shows and Movies that I gave a Five Star rating on Netflix. These are all shows and movies that I would gladly watch again and I strongly encourage you to watch them. You will probably not see many of your favorite shows or movies, because, while I have watched some 700 movies and shows, I have not seen them all, and my viewing has been skewed. As an example, I have never watched The Sopranos or Inception. So, you know, tell me about things that aren't on the list and then I can tell you I never watched it (or that it isn't really any good). Here is some of the rankings, with as much of a description as I can stand to write.

Today is the best group of TV shows.


3. Boy Meets World
Boy Meets World is the best sitcom ever made.

I would not be surprised if this show is never equaled. Not just because of the consistently superb quality, the pathos, the one-liners and the character development, but because of logistics. Put simply, I don't think that there will ever be a sitcom which takes a cast of adolescents and watches them grow up for seven years (Ben Savage had just turned 13 at the beginning of their seven-year run). As I discussed previously, a cast of characters earnestly trying to figure out their place in life is enough to set a tv-show apart from the masses. And to watch actors who are probably doing exactly the same thing only adds to the power of this search for life's meaning.

The support of a sitcom framework for this show allows Corey, Shawn, and Topanga to deal with the most important issues there are. Death, Love, Friendship, Betrayal, Family. All I want from art is to have it force me to care. Boy Meets World made me care.

2. Avatar: The Last Airbender
In three seasons, Avatar creates one of my top three fantasy worlds, creates dozens of fully-realized characters, and has an entire (brilliant) hero's journey while addressing war, pacifism, enlightenment, genocide, loneliness, kidnapping, justice, honor, redemption, extinction, industrialism, imperialism, patience, love, hate, and every kind of quest there is.

Avatar doesn't just make you care about the main characters. By the end of the series, it isn't likely that Aang is going to be the character you care the most about. Not because you don't care about Aang, but because you'll care about Sokka becoming the leader he always thought he was, Katara's quest for justice and peace, Toph's independence, Zuko's honor, Azula's need for something but she can't ever tell you what, Appa and Momo's friendship, or just Uncle.

As fully developed as any work of fantasy I've seen, if you like Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, any martial arts movie, any Joss Whedon show, any comic book, any adventure series, or anything that I also like, you should watch Avatar.

It's also hilarious.

1. Neon Genesis Evangelion
This is my favorite television show of all time.

I said above that I want art to make me care. Really, I want the art that I consume to trigger powerful emotions that I can feel in my whole body.

Evangelion is oppressive.

There is a plot and whatever, but the mood just sits on your chest, squeezes your head. There's so much isolation. There's so much anger. There's so much guilt and shame and jealousy and confusion and pain and pain and pain.

Evangelion is to Voltron as The Scream is to this fresco.

You should be watching it now instead of reading this.

Mar 25, 2013

(8-4) Stephen Strenio's Five Star Netflix TV Shows Countdown


Hello Readers,

To relax, I have ranked the over 150 TV Shows and Movies that I gave a Five Star rating on Netflix. These are all shows and movies that I would gladly watch again and I strongly encourage you to watch them. You will probably not see many of your favorite shows or movies because, while I have watched some 700 movies and shows, I have not seen them all, and my viewing has been skewed. As an example, I have never watched The Sopranos or Inception. So, you know, tell me about things that aren't on the list and then I can tell you I never watched it (or that it isn't really any good). Here is some of the rankings, with as much of a description as I can stand to write.

Today is the second-best group of TV shows.

8. Arrested Development
Arrested Development is a comedy that acts like an HBO drama. There are hints dropped, plots built, characters developed, mini-arcs, arcs and mega-arcs. It got a little bit too self-referential, but it was always brilliant, hilarious and I don't think there's been a better live-action comedy ever made.If you like jokes, this is the show for you.

7. Batman: The Animated Series
This is the best Batman I've ever seen. I honestly prefer this to The Dark Knight Returns. It's better than the Christopher Nolan movies. It's just, you know, better. It's also the best at detectives and the best at noir. Again, theme song is relevant. If you like Batman, and you probably do at this point, you should watch this.

6. Archer
My second favorite H. Jon Benjamin show, Archer is a pitch-perfect satire of James Bond. It's got the hate-friends thing that's stuck in the zeitgeist right now, violence, sex, international intrigue, parent-child relationships, drugs, dramatic irony, self-referential comedy and cyborgs! Probably only above Arrested Development because I like cartoons so much and a bias to more recently seen shows.

5. Futurama
The Simpsons probably wouldn't have been this high, because Futurama is better. I say this, knowing that the Simpsons is quite possibly the most important television show of all time and certainly the most important show of my life. Futurama is better because the setting is able to do so much more and because it wasn't the most important show on TV. Not only is there the brilliant social satire, the wonderfully complete characters, the perfect one-liners of the Simpsons, but there's time-travel, robots, aliens, space-ships, mutants, werecars, parallel universes and every trope you've ever heard of. Also, the episode about Fry's dog is one of the best episodes of television ever made.

4. Home Movies
My favorite H. Jon Benjamin show! Brendon Small is one of my favorite artists. This show about a child who makes movies isn't as well laid-out as Arrested Development. It's not as satirical as Futurama. It's not as crude as Archer. So why is it better? The things that set Home Movies apart from the shows below it: The earnestness of its characters and the brilliance of its music.

There isn't another comedy where the characters are treated as reasonable human beings trying to figure out how to live (except #3 below). There are dramas that do this, like Freaks and Geeks. There are adventure shows that do this, like Firefly. But comedies are almost never based on characters who don't know what they're doing but are trying to figure it out. Brendon, Jason, Melissa, Paula, and Coach McGuirk are each painfully trying to figure out how to express themselves, make friends, grow up, be responsible and just get through the day. Just like any drama on the CW. But Home Movies never gets bogged down by thinking that the problems these characters face are the focus of their lives. It's always each other, and laughter.

I am a sucker for music and Brendon Small has made some of my favorite comedy songs. He's as good as Flight of the Conchords or Weird Al at musical comedy. And every song is essential to the plot of the show. It's never out of place, it's always brilliant, and it never fails to make me smile. Duane's Guitar solo in Guitarmaggedon is one of my favorite pieces of music ever. So yeah, watch Home Movies.

Mar 22, 2013

(12-9) Stephen Strenio's Five Star Netflix TV Shows Countdown


Hello Readers,

To relax, I have ranked the over 150 TV Shows and Movies that I gave a Five Star rating on Netflix. These are all shows and movies that I would gladly watch again and I strongly encourage you to watch them. You will probably not see many of your favorite shows or movies because, while I have watched some 700 movies and shows, I have not seen them all, and my viewing has been skewed. As an example, I have never watched The Sopranos or Inception. So, you know, tell me about things that aren't on the list and then I can tell you I never watched it (or that it isn't really any good). Here is some of the rankings, with as much of a description as I can stand to write.

Today is the third-best group of TV shows.

12. DuckTales
I would once again direct you to the theme song. In my opinion this is the best show if its type ever made. Of course, that type is Animated Action/Adventure Children's Show. This show gets to be the best not exclusively because of the show, which is great in its own right, but also because the DuckTales movie (Treasures of the Lost Lamp) is one of the most overlooked films of my lifetime. It is better than any number of Disney movies that are seen as classics (Aladdin, in particular, which came out two years later and wasn't nearly as good in my opinion).

11. The League
To me, this is a fixed version of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia". While I do enjoy "It's Always Sunny", when I binge-watch it the bile in the show makes me hate everything too much to keep watching. With The League, I can watch the entire series, enjoy all the hate-friendships, and still be able to enjoy human interactions. Also, I've loved Jon LaJoie for a couple of years now, so that's an A+.

10. Samurai Jack
Honestly, I think this show is where my entire aesthetic sense is based. The silence, the incredibly stylized lines, the light vs. dark themes, the constant, palpable striving. This is just everything I always look for in one package. At this point, I'm asking why this show isn't higher and I think the only reason is because the remaining shows are all revolutionarily brilliant, whereas this show was just perfectly suited for me.

9. Invader Zim
Invader Zim never should have happened. It just doesn't make any sense. Invader Zim was created by a man whose previously claim to fame was Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, one of the most gruesome, twisted and disturbing comics I have ever seen. It was too much for me in high school. Jhonen Vasquez is for children about as much as Stanley Kubrick. And yet, Invader Zim happened. And you should watch it almost as much as you should watch Kubrick.

Mar 20, 2013

(16-13) Stephen Strenio's Five Star Netflix TV Shows Countdown

Hello Readers,

To relax, I have ranked the over 150 TV Shows and Movies that I gave a Five Star rating on Netflix. These are all shows and movies that I would gladly watch again and I strongly encourage you to watch them. You will probably not see many of your favorite shows or movies, because, while I have watched some 700 movies and shows, I have not seen them all, and my viewing has been skewed. As an example, I have never watched The Sopranos or Inception. So, you know, tell me about things that aren't on the list and then I can tell you I never watched it (or that it isn't really any good). Here is some of the rankings, with as much of a description as I can stand to write.

Today is the fourth-best group of TV shows.

16. Frasier
Frasier is the best use of dramatic irony for comedic purposes I have ever seen. If you enjoy wanting to yell at the characters because they are doing exactly the wrong thing and you know it and they don't, then you really should watch Frasier.

15. Firefly
This is my favorite Joss Whedon production. An ensemble of characters trapped together, having adventures, making witty quips, fighting for justice and friendship, as space cowboys. Another short run, which seems to make for only the best ideas getting produced.

14. Freaks and Geeks
This is my favorite Judd Apatow production. He wonderfully and lovingly captures every single character and group in this entire, wonderfully created world. Literally everything that happens around a high school is addressed with a truthful, sympathetic gaze. Not only are the Freaks and Geeks treated as full and interesting characters, so are their parents, teachers, and random classmates. Raised the bar significantly for any show set in high school.

13. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law
The theme song is enough to give it five stars for me. Throw in my favorite type of nostalgia (nostalgia for things I never experienced the first time), humor littered with non-sequiturs that end up being reincorporated as major plot points, characters that are fully described through their actions instead of dialogue and the voice of Stephen Colbert. This show was good enough that I tried to watch it as it was airing (which almost never happens).

Mar 18, 2013

(20-17) Stephen Strenio's Five Star Netflix TV Shows Countdown

Hello Readers,

To relax, I have ranked the over 150 TV Shows and Movies that I gave a Five Star rating on Netflix. These are all shows and movies that I would gladly watch again and I strongly encourage you to watch them. You will probably not see many of your favorite shows or movies because, while I have watched some 700 movies and shows, I have not seen them all, and my viewing has been skewed. As an example, I have never watched The Sopranos or Inception. So, you know, tell me about things that aren't on the list and then I can tell you I never watched it (or that it isn't really any good). Here is some of the rankings, with as much of a description as I can stand to write.

Today is the fifth-best group of TV shows.


20: Elfen Lied
This is one of two anime series in this section of TV shows. Both are placed here in large part due to the beauty I find in their animation. This show also features themes of alienation, guilt, violence and sex. There are monsters that are more sympathetic than humans. There are humans who are monstrous. There is beautiful drawing. There is a shadowy super-arc that is not the real focus of the show. This may be ranked too high due to a bias for recently seen shows, but I like it a lot.

19: Fawlty Towers
British farce! John Cleese! A talking moose! This farcical sitcom is one of the top achievements of a Monty Python alum, especially on television. If you laugh at any style of physical comedy or dramatic irony, you will enjoy Fawlty Towers.

18: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
This show is almost entirely here for its beauty. It's a metaphysical procedural set in futurist japan (which, you know, i like) featuring the members of a secret group inside the police force that seems to focus on cyber-crimes with a focus on terrorism or inter-state warfare. Themes of identity (What does it mean to be a cyborg?), family, deception and crime are all very well handled. The voice-acting is good. But really I just love this animation. I have fond memories of watching late at night and just basking in the light reflected off water or glass.

17: Pinky and the Brain
Pinky and the Brain, a spin-off of Animaniacs (which should be here but I haven't rated it on Netflix for some reason) is a very simple and brilliant show. Two lab rats try to take over the world and fail every night in hilarious fashion. The three "Brainwashed" episodes are some of the best television I've ever seen.

Mar 15, 2013

(27-21) Stephen Strenio's Five Star Netflix TV Shows Countdown

Hello Readers,

To relax, I have ranked the over 150 TV Shows and Movies that I gave a Five Star rating on Netflix. These are all shows and movies that I would gladly watch again and I strongly encourage you to watch them. You will probably not see many of your favorite shows or movies because, while I have watched some 700 movies and shows, I have not seen them all, and my viewing has been skewed. As an example, I have never watched The Sopranos or Inception. So, you know, tell me about things that aren't on the list and then I can tell you I never watched it (or that it isn't really any good). Here is some of the rankings, with as much of a description as I can stand to write.

Today is the sixth-best group of TV shows.

27. FLCL
This is an anime series about what it's like to do the whole puberty thing. It turns out, puberty is a lot like having an alien fugitive invade your house, giving forehead-birth to giant robot, and setting shit on fire. If you need straightforward narrative structure in your japanese animation, this is not for you. If you want instead brilliance and insight, jump in. Also, it's pretty short.

26. Space Ghost: Coast to Coast
This, along with it's spin-off Cartoon Planet, is one of the finest parodies of the late-night talk show ever made. Possibly the only one? In any event, a bunch of characters from Space Ghost, an old saturday morning action/adventure cartoon show, do their best to put on a talk show. The format in Coast to Coast involves real human guests, Cartoon Planet sticks mainly with the cartoons. It's funny, it's quick, it's something that I've never seen done before or since. Not for binge-watching (unless you're high enough to consider binge-watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force).

25: NewsRadio
One of my favorite sitcoms. You'll see a number of sitcoms higher on the list. What sets this one apart is basically entirely the actors. From a supporting cast of Maura Tierney, Andy Dick, Joe Rogan and Stephen Root (before any of them were overexposed) to two of my favorite actors: Dave Foley and the incomparable Phil Hartman. If you don't love Phil and Dave, your mileage will vary.

24: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
I don't know what there is to say about this. It's brilliant. Winnie the Pooh is one of the best children's book series of all time and this series of cartoons is similarly one of the best children's TV shows of all time.

23: Flight of the Conchords
Terrible puns, musical comedy, self-deprecating actors, terrible artwork, business time. These guys are brilliant. I love their songs, I love watching their stand-up, I love their show. Plus, they're pretty cute.

22: Parks and Recreation
Parks and Rec is filled with wonderful characters. Nearly every person on this show has created a new archetype that I'm sure will be watered-down and force-fed into sitcoms for decades to come. Ron Swanson, Tom Haverford, Andy, April, Jerry, Donna, Ben, Rob Lowe as Sam from the West Wing, and the irresistible force that is Leslie Knope. These are great actors playing wonderful characters in an absurdly wonderful setting. GOOD JOB SITCOM.

21: The Critic
This is one of my fundamental TV shows. Satire, comedy, animation, pop-culture references, great voice acting, short run. It could only be more in line with my preferences if it was existential and japanese.

Mar 13, 2013

(Honorable Mention) Stephen Strenio's Five Star Netflix TV Shows Countdown

Hello Readers,

To relax, I have ranked the over 150 TV Shows and Movies that I gave a Five Star rating on Netflix. These are all shows and movies that I would gladly watch again and I strongly encourage you to watch them. You will probably not see many of your favorite shows or movies, because, while I have watched some 700 movies and shows, I have not seen them all, and my viewing has been skewed. As an example, I have never watched The Sopranos or Inception. So, you know, tell me about things that aren't on the list and then I can tell you I never watched it (or that it isn't really any good). Here is some of the rankings, with as much of a description as I can stand to write.

Here are shows that only didn't make the list because I hadn't rated them on Netflix.

Animaniacs (Probably would have been #27)
This is the best educational animated children's show I have ever seen. It introduced a number of brilliant bits, including "Good Idea/Bad Idea", the Wheel of Morality, Pinky and the Brain as well as all the shenanigans of Wakko, Yakko, and Dot. A solid show with some very high-quality youtube scenes.

Gargoyles (Probably would have been #19)
This show tracks the adventures of a group of Gargoyles on the top of a skyscraper in Manhattan who have to fight for their honor across a thousand years and the Atlantic Ocean. It's even better than it sounds. Featuring a strong supporting writer in Shakespeare, the only thing that could have made Gargoyles better (other than being available on Netflix Instant) is if it starred Batman.

The Simpsons (Probably would have been #11)
It's ranking is as low as it is because of the vast size of this show. There were many years when The Simpsons was far and away the best show on TV, but there were also many years where it wasn't even particularly watchable.

I don't really think there's much I can say about The Simpsons other than it is brilliant, hilarious, and probably the most important TV show of all time. You should become familiar with it.

Trigun (Probably would have been #6)
It's amazing how my favorite westerns are all Japanese. From Kurosawa to Cowboy Bebop I love the way that Japan has taken this most American genre and reproduced it's best elements. The anarchy, the individualism, the respect for talent, the vast emptiness of space. But my favorite stories add a sense of desolation that I love and that seems to come mostly from Japan.

This show builds in exactly the way that I like, from an adventure/comedy to a more serious adventure to a science fiction-tinged adventure to an interpersonal, lifelong conflict with the fate of the world in the balance. The soundtrack is also great.

Cowboy Bebop (Probably would have been #4)
Cowboy Bebop is a slow mood piece in which you don't know anything about the characters, less about the world, and even less about the bounty of the week. It's brilliant and beautiful and I love it.

Cowboy Bebop is the original space cowboy show, filled with beautiful settings, haunted pasts and tension-filled friendships. It's like floating on your back in a pond in the middle of nowhere, looking at the spaces between the stars.

Mar 9, 2013

(Unranked) Stephen Strenio's Five Star Netflix Movies/TV Shows


Ran
Willy Wonka & the chocolate factory
home movies
father of the bride
boy meets world
ikiru
men in black
grave of the fireflies
talking heads: stop making sense
norm macdonald: me doing stand-up
The critic
Cowboy Bebop: the Movie
Wall-e
Full Metal Jacket
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Invader Zim
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The League
Pinky and the Brain
Drive
Blazing Saddles
Parks and Rec
Finding Nemo
The Artist
Futurama
Back to the Future
Fight Club
Zoolander
D2: The Mighty Ducks
Blue Valentine
Frasier
The Lion King
The Incredibles
My Cousin Vinny
Princess Mononoke
Legally Blonde
Evangelion
Little Miss Sunshine
The Magnificent Seven
High Fidelity
Yojimbo
No Country for Old Men
Blue Velvet
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Godfather: Part II
Muppet Treasure Island
The Seventh Seal
When Harry Met Sally
Lost in Translation
The Matrix
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Freaks and Geeks
Bo Burnham: Words, Words, Words
Wet Hot American Summer
Oldboy
Mission: Impossible
March of the Penguins
Borat
Pan's Labyrinth
Hero
The Naked Gun
Jet Li's Fearless
Punch-Drunk Love
Duck Soup
The Breakfast Club
Animal House
Fawlty Towers
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Elfen Lied
Kill Bill: Vol. 1
Love Actually
Shaolin Soccer
Ducktales
Battle Royale
How to Train Your Dragon
Reservoir Dogs
The Sting
Kick-Ass
The Pink Panther
A Shot in the Dark
The Godfather
Seven Samurai
North by Northwest
Seven
The Return of the Pink Panther
Star Wars: A New Hope
Napoleon Dynamite
Garden State
Spy Game
NewsRadio
Up
Kung Fu Panda
Galaxy Quest
Best in Show
Forrest Gump
The Royal Tenenbaums
Shall We Dance?
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Lord of the Rigns: The Return of the King
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The Great Escape
Jurassic Park
Airplane!
The Princess Bride
Casablanca
Ghostbusters
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
Singin' in the Rain
This is Spinal Tap
Cool Runnings
Archer
IMAX, Hubble
FLCL
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Mummy
Scream
Fantasia
Space Ghost Coast to Coast
A Goofy Movie
Three Amigos
Gone with the Wind
Batman: The Animated Series
Clue
Kung Fu Hustle
The Maltese Falcon
Chronicle
Harakiri
The Squid and the Whale
Rango
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Firefly
Ip Man
Shaun of the Dead
La Dolce Vita
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Where the Wild Things Are
Memento
City Lights
Black Swan
American Psycho
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law
Flight of the Conchords
The Avengers
Arrested Development
Thank you for Smoking
Samurai Jack
The Karate Kid
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Iron Man
Planes, Trains and Automobiles