Remote Nomad’s Top 10 Shows of the Decade

Jan. 22, 2010, 5:57 p.m.

In less than a month, we will have entered the decade Y2K +10. While many respectable TV journalists are writing lists of the best shows of the decade, I’d like to give a shout out to the then-shows that influenced my sufficiently emotional and TV-centered youth from ages 10 to 19. Time Magazine may tell you that this decade was “The Decade From Hell” in a most histrionic of fashions, but at least there was some equally histrionic TV to distract us.

10. Lizzie McGuire, Disney Channel 2001-2004

You could say that Lizzie, Gordo and Miranda were the triumvirate for the new ages, fulfilling the void left by the dissolution of Augustus, Marc Antony and that rando Lepidus. The McGuire family dynamic resonated with me in the tumult of middle school, so much so that my screenname was for a time LizzieMcStark. My seventh-grade English teacher also signed my middle school yearbook with a quotation from the ever articulate Ethan, “You rock. Don’t ever change.” A fitting anthem for the standout in a field of excellent Disney Channel programming (“Proud Family,” “Even Stevens”).

9. As Told By Ginger, Nickelodeon 2000-2004

Another great show about middle school angst and residual class conflict in the 21st century. Ginger was the Daria of middle school (another great show that began in 1997 and ended in 2002), and what show is more 2000s than a Macy Gray theme song?

8. Arrested Development, Fox 2003-2006

Technically, I didn’t watch this show when it aired on Fox, so I fueled its untimely demise while alternating between channels 24 (Disney) and 25 (Nickelodeon). Its legacy, which has lived on so generously through Hulu longer than any other show, ushered in a defining characteristic of the second half of the decade: awkward humor. “The Office,” which began in 2005 as a humble adaptation of a British TV show, certainly helped, but you can’t top the audacity of “Arrested Development” and Tobias Funke.

7. American Dreams, NBC 2002-2005

This show began my addiction to TV, so, mom, if you have to blame someone, blame Brittany Snow and this “soap opera” about the ’60s. If you’re not smart enough for “Mad Men,” as I wasn’t in middle school and arguably still am not, “American Dreams” is like “1960s: 101, ” with all those civil rights, Beatles and short skirts. “American Dreams” was a great family tale of beautiful children and troubled parents. Plus, the show’s format around “American Bandstand” could be described as a precursor to “Glee.” Meg, Brittany Snow’s high school character, was the big sister I never got to have and the blonde dancer I never turned into.

6. Joe Millionaire, Fox 2003

Before those readers with standards start to groan, know that I chose this show because it was the first time I experienced a full-on obsession with a reality TV show. The format of “The Bachelor” never appealed to me, but the deceit, sex and tall women of “Joe Millionaire” distill the essence of Fox reality programming perfectly. I’m shocked that, according to Wikipedia, the first season lasted only six episodes because I was riveted. The failure of the second season also epitomizes the TV industry–mercurial and heartless.

5. Sex and The City, HBO 1998-2004

I think this one is fair game because, even though it started in the ’90s, it became an obsession of my generation in the early ’00s. My best friend and I rented the DVDs from the video store against her mom’s wishes (we WALKED to the video store to get it, we were so curious) and forgot to return them. When the video store called to ask her where they had gone, she berated them for suggesting that she would rent something that promoted promiscuity and moral depravity. And yet, that was always the appeal. My insatiable curiosity about “Sex and The City” also introduced me to the world of illegal video streaming on the Internet.

4. Gilmore Girls, WB 2000-2007

A more age-appropriate version of “Sex and the City,” with the maternal and filial duty angle to suppress any need for onscreen sex. The consummate MILF, Lorelai, and her doe-eyed daughter, also Lorelai, never made teenage pregnancy look so appealing. The show is critiqued for the distorted reality of its light-speed dialogue, but that is another trait of TV humor for the decade. As a private school girl my whole life, the world of Chilton, Paris Geller and Harvard/Yale admissions convinced me that I would become a prep school student and love it. Although California ultimately seduced me from the Rory path…think of how Yale’s admissions numbers must have gone up when she chose the school. Yes, the show started to flail when Rory cut her hair and went to college; however, I think this show defines my generation of women more effectively than any other.

3. American Idol, Fox 2002-now

I REALLY didn’t want to put this here for a myriad of reasons, but how could I not? Nothing embodies and influenced reality TV more than “American Idol,” from Simon Cowell to three nights of programming to the William Hung. So when I say “American Idol,” I will qualify it to the first two seasons through William’s audition at the beginning of Season Three. Before Team Jacob and Team Edward, there was the epic battle of Ruben and Clay in Season Two; before that, there was the brilliance of Kelly Clarkson. American Idol was the great unifier.

2. The West Wing, NBC 1999-2006

Again, I wasn’t nearly mature enough to jump on this bandwagon until last year, but I’m so glad that I did. One of the best-written and most compelling TV shows of the decade, for sure, and it managed to be on network TV! Every episode is nuanced–up until Aaron Sorkin’s departure at the end of Season Four, at least–and it simultaneously appeals to our morbid curiosity about the biggest celebrity in the country and to our condition as citizens of that country. Be patriotic and watch this show!

1. The O.C., Fox 2003-2007

No one defined fashion and vernacular and modes of kissing for my generation more than Josh Schwartz’s core four of Ryan, Seth, Summer and Marissa. I’m disappointed that not all of California is like “The O.C.” I used to watch this show secretly (i.e. change the channel whenever my mom left the room) and hid the Season One DVDs under my bed until I turned 18…because it’s almost like porn right? I went to such lengths to get my fix of soap opera because it was all everyone talked about for that first season. Its meteoric rise and fall encapsulates everything I love about popular culture and the decade we all just survived! Congrats everybody, and see you in 2010!

Login or create an account