As regular readers know, I’ve come to hate lists. Best of, worst of, most, least, cutest, funniest, weirdest, etc. I’ve called for their end, and I really hope that the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly signals the Death of the List (TM) once and for all.
It’s the “All-Time Greatest” issue, where EW picks the best in TV, movies, music, books, even the stage, because someone hadn’t done a list in about three minutes and that gap had to be filled. Every single list has something you could argue about (no L.A. Confidential in the top 100 movies of all-time?), as most lists do, but its the TV list that really kevins my bacon.
The usual suspects (minus I Love Lucy, which is at #11 for some reason) are in the top 10 – The Simpsons, Seinfeld, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mad Men – and there’s nothing wrong with putting those shows near the top, even if every other best TV list will have them up there (hey, when you use the word “best” that should be the only criteria, so those shows have to be on such a list. It’s accurate). Would I have picked The Wire as the best TV show of all-time? No way. I guess you could say it’s a personal choice, but there are other shows in the top 10 that could be there instead (or shows even further down on the list). The Wire seems to have the same hold on every “best TV show” list as Citizen Kane has a hold on the movie side, though I bet one could make a better case why Citizen Kane is the best more than they could for The Wire. Critics pick The Wire not because it’s necessarily the best, but because they want to position themselves in a certain way. Choosing The Wire as the best TV show of all-time gives ammunition to the people who hate critics.
For example, in the top books lists they put the Harry Potter series at #7. OK, fine, whatever. But two things. One, aren’t they cheating a bit by putting an entire series of books on a list that lists individual books? And two, this is a case of the critics not really, truly, 100% understanding or going by the BEST label. Whenever magazines make a best of list, they always seem to try to shove in a TV show/film/book that is also popular and or has some sort of cultural/social impact. In the editor’s note, Jess Cagle mentions that they tried to take into account “cultural impact and influence.” Why? Those types of lists are fine, they just aren’t a “Best” list, and when you start to add social context/cultural context/popularity to a Best list it makes things go awry. List-makers seem to want it both ways. Sure, they’ll label a list the “Best,” but it’s really a “best, mixed with what is trending, what people want to see on a list, what is/was important.”
If you’re going to make a best of list, make a best of list. Have the balls to go out on a limb and really get to the nitty-gritty and just use the “best” criteria. The editor says that they tried not to make the lists “dominated by artists like the Beatles and Dickens and Hitchcock.” Again, why? If they’re the best, say so. If they’re not, say so. You don’t have to try to make it “well-rounded.”
(Side note: they picked Atlas Shrugged for the books list. I guess they’re going by weight? Number of words?)
And then, of course, we can get into a whole “are they truly picking the BEST or are they really, deep-down picking their FAVORITES, which is a different thing, and a different rant.
It’s really funny to look at what shows didn’t make the TV list and then see who did. For example, Magnum P.I. didn’t make the list, but The Brady Bunch did? The West Wing doesn’t make the top 10 or top 20 or top 30 or top 40 or even the top 50?? (It’s at #51). Is Dawson’s Creek on the list simply because EW wants to hit the “I Love The 90s!?” demo? I love Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, but there’s no way it should be #8. My So-Called Life, Good Times, and Ally McBeal are mentioned, but late night shows and the great live dramas of the 50s aren’t even considered? Project Runway makes the list, but…well, insert 700 other shows you could probably think of instead of Project Runway, which shouldn’t even be on the list.
(And before anyone says “hey, it’s apples and oranges. No one is saying that Project Runway is better than a lot of scripted shows.” Actually, someone is saying that: Entertainment Weekly. They’re the ones who made a lumped-together list. It’s not separated by sitcom or drama or reality show or news show. This is their straight opinion.)
How bad is the TV list? Here’s all you need to know, in one sentence: The Dick Van Dyke Show doesn’t even make the top 100. (But thank God they found room for The Real World.) That’s not just being “opinionated” or “choosy” or a matter of “there just wasn’t enough room” – these lists will always leave something out – that’s mental case territory. I’d almost like to think that for some reason they just “forgot” about the show, but that would be giving them an easy out. And if they didn’t forget, they deliberately left it off because they didn’t think it’s good enough (and they couldn’t even throw fans a bone and put it at #89 or something). Whatever the reason, it’s just more proof that the list has officially become meaningless (as if anyone can even list 100 best anything before it becomes silly – is #64 really better than #73? Why?) They have to be stopped, even if “everybody loves lists!” and they start conversations and get you clicks. EW is actually helping to kill off lists, or at least put them to sleep for a while, which wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen. (Let’s start the hashtag #nomorelists and see what happens.)
In other news, I have a new fridge. The other one died. (It would have cost $400+ just to repair it so you might as well get a new one in that situation.) At least I think it’s a new fridge. The way it looks it could be a time machine/supercomputer. It’s the Back to the Future DeLorean of kitchen appliances. Four main doors, various sliding trays and compartments inside, lots of lights and buttons and settings and an ice maker and a water dispenser. Remember when refrigerators just had a door or two and kept things cold?
But I love it. It’s amazing how much you take for granted soft drinks and cheeses and ice cream staying at the correct temperature. Food is cold again, and that’s a good thing in the summer. Well, any season, but you notice it more when you’re sweating a lot.
Have a great Fourth! Enjoy the burgers and the booze and the bang of the fireworks. The Letter is on its way…