Book review: Taschen's Favourite TV Shows - big and bold
Although most movie makers and the Hollywood elite would argue that film is still the most important and dynamic creative medium, there's no denying that television is enjoying a second Golden Age.
The current trend of actors, writers and directors migrating from the motion picture industry to the small screen has been increasing exponentially, and only serves to reaffirm that TV is now no longer considered the poor cousin of the film industry. In the right hands, a multi-episode series offers far greater scope to explore interweaving story arcs and in-depth character development than any two-hour movie could hope to achieve.
TV has in many ways surpassed film in artistic value and relevance to this generation. I certainly go to see fewer movies these days and have an ever growing pile of books waiting to be read one day, mainly because there are just so many top-quality TV shows that grab hold of our shortened attention spans.
As I flick through Taschen's Favourite TV Shows, the best of the past 25 years demonstrates just how wonderful TV has been during that period. Weighing something similar to a small coffee table, the book is hefty both literally and in content, with eight to 12 pages dedicated to each of the 68 shows listed by the year of their premieres.
Each programme receives an in-depth and informative analysis of its creation, and a breakdown of just how and why it deserves to be included.
There are quotes and excerpts from interviews with the main protagonists, interspersed with plenty of full-page glossy screenshots. The book is, in fact, worth the price for the photographs alone.
Of course, as with all "best of" lists, there will be numerous arguments over what was included. Kicking things off with possibly the greatest TV show, The Simpsons, are the ageless American family that aimed "to frustrate and supplant conservative ideas, to destroy the conventional TV family series through satire". First lady Barbara Bush once called it "the dumbest thing she had ever seen", an accolade which no doubt had its creators blushing with parental pride.
But for animation, that's it. You could argue that Family Guy, Beavis and Butthead or the vastly underrated Futurama also deserve a mention. I would definitely throw my vote in for the anarchic South Park, too.
From The Sopranos and Twin Peaks to The Wire and Breaking Bad, very few deserving shows are missing. Maybe Frasier, ER and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air should replace Revenge, Magic City and the torturous How I Met Your Mother, but that's just nitpicking and my humble opinion.
Only two British shows made it into the book, period drama Downton Abbey and Ricky Gervais' groundbreaking mockumentary The Office. Australia and New Zealand get a single nod with the enigmatic series Top of the Lake and the recent fruitful period of Nordic noir is represented only by Borgen and The Bridge, although it's the US version and not the far superior Scandinavian original that's featured. Inexplicably, the staggeringly engrossing The Killing doesn't make it into the list.
While Taschen's Favourite TV Shows may introduce you to a few lost classics that passed under your radar the first time round, its main achievement will be in making you want to revisit some of those timeless greats again. It also serves as a timely reminder of just how quickly time passes. It's been 17 years since Seinfeld ended, at a time when Buffy Summers was just coming to grips with her vampire-slaying skills.
Taschen's Favourite TV Shows edited by Jürgen Müller (Taschen)