My conclusion: YOU GUYS SUCK AT THIS!
REALLY, REALLY SUCK AT THIS. I got a grand total of THREE REQUEST IDEAS, and STRRRR-EEETCHING the definition of words like "Original" or "Unique" and "Television", I had TWO, that I thought we're even pliable. Top Ten Miniseries and Top Ten Police Detective Series.
Okay, I know, I shouldn't be this mean, and I get it, that some people are looking around for ideas and new things to watch but, I-eh, like seriously, these were the two you came up with? I mean, I'll do one of these if it wins, but good lord. Do you know that, since like 1950, back then when there was barely three channels and ever since, that on average, the amount of time devoted to some part of the Law and Order process on network primetime television is about 18 hours a week, and that's the low-end! That's the low estimate. I mean, "Police Detectives, gosh dang it, I can't count 'Murder, She Wrote', she wasn't technically a police detective, she was a crime novelist who solved murders-," like seriously! Do you guys think there's less television than there actually is, or something? Spoilers, on that one, if that wins, then think of the first ten cop detective shows you think of, and eight of them would probably make the list. How about "Top Ten Police Detectives of the '70s," or something just to make it a little tricky, or something?
Alright, look, I-, I know I'm being obnoxious, and I'm sorry again, but-, let's just say that I have high expectations from my audience, and, well, needless to say, in this case, I was.... I was disappointed. Maybe not angry, okay a little angry, but mostly disappointed. (Sigh) So, I decided to throw a couple others into the pool this one time. Just to give an idea on what I might be looking for, or lead you guys towards a different or a more unique Top Ten List. Maybe, you'd say, "Oh, that sounds interesting, I've never seen that one before, maybe I'll pick this one instead." Just, to push you guys towards a different idea, stuff that's more outside-of-the-box and might be more intriguing, you know. For instance, I put down "Top Ten Underrated TV Sitcom Characters". Yeah, all this talk about shows, characters! The things that make us care about what we're watching, how about ranking them, this isn't difficult, and more forgotten or strange ones at that, that maybe get pushed aside or slipped from our immediate consciousness once in a while? Or, eh, you know how I praise critics over fans much of the time, well, did you know I actually have very little respect for television critics?! No, seriously, I hate them, for many reasons, I could've come up with Ten Reasons why they were terrible! Me, complaining, something I'm sure many of my longtime readers, would recognize as a huge change-of-pace for my blog, that recently went on a curse-ladened tirade over the moron fans who tried to end Rotten Tomatoes.
(If you haven't read that post, here's the link below)
So, me especially, riding certain critics as a whole, I bet some of you would've probably enjoyed that.
And also the best idea, the one I clearly would've voted for, and boy this is a great list idea; you have no idea, unless you really look into it too, the "Top Ten Most Landscape-Altering Times a TV Show Changed Networks"! Oh yeah, this is a killer list, seriously unbelievable list. It's got everything, a look at many different kinds of television shows, many of them groundbreaking and important, a look at the business side of television, how decisions are made and how the simplest shifts can change the future of a network, and in some cases completely change everything we know about television at that point, plus it goes into TV history incredibly well, where you really can dive in and see just how we got to the television landscape we have now by looking at how much it's shifted in the past. There's so many little things and quirks in television executive decision-making, you'd be shocked, and this is just one kind of those decision, and there's some, in hindsight, really huge ones, and many you don't think about, that- like, "Wow, had that happened, how different would television be," it's really stunning, there's such amazing potential for a great list there, but all three of those, far better and more interesting than your guys' choices. Anyway, I kept the polls open for a good while, let's do the tally and figure out the results, drumroll please!
And the toke board, stop!
TOP TEN MINISERIES 19 Votes
TOP TEN MOST UNDERRATED SITCOM CHARACTERS 11 Votes
TOP TEN REASONS WHY TELEVISION CRITICS ARE TERRIBLE 10 Votes
TOP TEN POLICE DETECTIVE SERIES 9 Votes
TOP TEN MOST LANDSCAPE ALTERING TIMES A SHOW CHANGED NETWORKS 0 Votes
10. Holocaust (1978, NBC)
Um,-eh, look, I'll be straight with you all, I really didn't want to put this on the list, it's-, well, it's kind of a downer to even talk about or even bring up at all, nowadays, even considering how groundbreaking and important it was at the time, and it was and in many ways still is, I never hear it brought up anymore, even when you narrow down major miniseries events of the '70s, this one gets pushed aside the most often, but once you see it, you can't really forget it. The joke is that it was so powerful that it caused more changed than the real thing, and sadly that's not entirely untrue. The miniseries stirred more political interest in the event and even caused some laws to be rewritten in Germany so that more people could be convicted for their crimes, extending the statute of limitations in order to prosecute people. "Holocaust: The story of the Family Weiss" follows each member of the Weiss family for over a decade as we see how Germany disintegrates into the Holocaust after Hitler's rise to power. Spoilers, all but one of them, end up dead by the end. The secondary story follows Erik Dorf (Michael Moriarty) a young German man, a family friend of the Weiss's who joins the Nazi Party and evolves from essentially a good man, who was honestly just looking for a job to inevitably turning into a mass murderer. Oddly, his is the most memorable performance in my mind, although looking back, this was another all-star cast. The movie was directed b legendary Marvin Chomsky, a legendary TV Director who has dozens of TV Movies and Miniseries under his belt, including a couple episodes of "Roots" "Attica", "Billionaire Boys Club"-, oh hey I did see that one. Huh, maybe I should on here inst-, no, no, "Holocaust" is too important and too good to leave off if you've seen it. Arguably, at the time, it was the best, most accurate and most graphic depiction of the Holocaust brought to film at the time, and that's definitely something worth mentioning.
9. Gulliver's Travels (1996, NBC)
Number eight! It's somewhat difficult to even determine what a miniseries even is, in England, the way they schedule their shows already makes it a bit borderline to begin with. That's why they can kinda get away with taking what are really regular series over there and then making them become miniseries over here. For instance, usually when a series jumps five or six years from one season to another, that's usually when the show jumps the shark, ("Desperate Housewives", what the hell were you thinking?) but it's not unusual over there, and they quite a few shows that we'd consider "Miniseries". Some of them like "Sherlock" take root in the Prime Suspect tradition, of having a myster spread over a few movies, with a recurring detective character. Others are more traditional, luxurious costumed period pieces, "Brideshead Revisted" is probably the most famous of these, one that's so famous they recently re-did that one as a feature film, although some of their more non-traditional ones also received that kind of treatment years later, like "The Singing Detective" for instance. If I ever get around to finishing "I, Claudius", I probably would find a spot for that one. Of course, they're big bread and butter is taking some of their great novels and turning them into full miniseries as well. "Pride & Prejudice" is often listed as one of the better Jane Austen adaptations, there's plenty of Charles Dickens miniseries. "Little Dorrit", "David Copperfield", "Oliver Twist", "Great Expectations", "Bleak House", they've all gotten the miniseries treatment multiple time. So which British miniseries did I pick? Well, I haven't seen any of those, so I can't really pick them, so I went with the one I did see, the one with the cross-dressing lesbians and turn-of-the-century dildos. No, seriously.
8. Tipping the Velvet (BBC, 2002)
Number seven: Miniseries only have to technically be about 150 minutes long, minimum, that's only two and a half hours, and that was the typical trend of the genre when I was growing up. There were a few notable exceptions, but typically miniseries could basically just be TV movies that needed two nights to finish, basically "Gone With the Wind" only replace the intermission with the 11:00pm news and come back for the second part of the miniseries event tomorrow. This was back when networks were also more likely to put money into television movies than they are now; I don't really get why, I think they basically just thought they were a good cheap time-filler, and you can probably date that back to those wheel schedule detective series from the '70s, like 'Columbo" or "MacMillan & Wife". It took me a while to even determine that this indeed was a miniseries, 'cause a lot of people I know, swear it was a single film, and like a lot of these, you can watch them as though they really were, but Miniseries do have to air in multiple parts, that's a big requirement for me. You can edit some of them down to a three-hour feature film I guess, and if you cut out commercials it'll feel that way, but let me be clear, if they needed to spread it out over more than one night of television of Primetime television to air the thing, than it's a miniseries in my book. I've heard this one counted as a TV movie, it even says it's just a TV movie, and it took me awhile to double-check it, but I was write, this aired in Two Parts, so that makes it a miniseries.
7. Separate but Equal (1991, ABC)
6. North and South: Books I and II (ABC, 1985; 1986)
5. John Adams (2008, HBO)
Speaking of history, Number Four! Yeah, uh, "Holocaust" is not the only time World War II shows up on the list, and it was pretty inevitable.
4. Band of Brothers (HBO, 2001)
Number three: There's a couple miniseries effected by the disqualification of Foreign miniseries, a few of them were by this director, who made a habit near the end of his life of having either miniseries edited down to films or movies evolve and extend to miniseries. Probably his most famous example, "Fanny & Alexander" was actually disqualified because I'm pretty sure that was intended as a feature film but evolved strangely into a miniseries. Still, I'm not sure I would've selected that one over this feature film, which I prefer both the miniseries and the theatrical version of more anyway.
3. Scenes from a Marriage (1973, SVT)
Man, there's a lot of links to other blogposts of mine on this page. Boy I've written a lot on a lot of subjects. Anyway, so I won't go into too much detail here, but "Scenes from a Marriage" is one of the best and most influential of all of Bergman's work. Pretty much any movie that showcases a couple over an extended period of time is basically a reworking of "Scenes from a Marriage". Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke have said that "The Before Trilogy", particularly "Before Midnight" is meant to be compared to "Scenes from a Marriage" and that makes sense. The miniseries spreads out over twenty years in the life of a couple, from marriage, children, divorce, remarriage and re-connection. In a career of memorable performances in numberous Bergman film, Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann's greatest and most enduring characters or Johan and Marianne. In fact, for Bergman's final film project, he mad a sequel thirty years later, revisiting the pair in and where they are in life now called "Saraband" which oddly was a TV movie in Sweden originally that actually extended worldwide when it was released theatrically. Huh. I can recall a few incidents of that kind of thing happening, but usually that's it's an American TV movie that got released elsewhere with added nudity and violence, and that wasn't the situation here. If you're interested in looking stuff like that up though, you should seek out Elizabeth Montgomery's nude scenes in "The Legend of Lizzie Borden", talk about bewitching.
Oh, lighten up, she was awesome and amazingly talented, I'm just saying, we missed some parts of her career it would've been nice to have seen.
Number Two! Most of these movies don't exactly have big-named directors attached, at least in terms of theatrically-released big-named directors; it was usually actually considered a downgrade for most when they go from feature films to television directing, and occasionally the downgrade is deserving. Usually a good miniseries or TV movie might be a stepping stone to a bigger and better things for some, or they just like working in television and will work on that for most of their time. That said, I don't know if you can say that about the three films at the top of this list and their directors. For one thing, Bergman wasn't at any low point career-wise, he just felt like doing longer stories and television was a better medium for his vision. For the names at the top, they were probably some of the first big named directors to really realize the power of cable in order to help tell stories that otherwise might not be able to be told. And there's definitely no story on this list that needed to be told in the television medium more than this film.
2. Tanner '88 (1988, HBO)
The Number One, Miniseries of all-um-, on this list!
I didn't have an obvious clear-cut number one miniseries in my mind when I was given this topic, so I had to really think about this one, so I guess in that respect this was a challenging list to figure out. What really was number one? It had to be something that's undeniably great, it had to be important, it has to be something that naturally fits into the sphere of the miniseries, one that, makes it's almost impossible for the story to be filmed and shown in any other manner, one that's both powerful and effective and legitimately meaningful but isn't necessarily beating you over the head with how horrible something is. That's a hard thing to balance really. Miniseries are big, important events and they usually, the most notable ones anyway, they carry a sweep of grandeur and importance to them, they're about something real. It's easy to just show misery and pain and the tragedy of all, but that's not enough. You gotta be able to transcend the subject matter and let the material explode. Great characters we care about, amazing performances that never let you go, performed by the best actors, given the best words and dialogue to speak. Give us a take on something that even transforms what we thought we already knew or had seen before. When I really realize that, that was the standard I was looking for, then the number one choice, suddenly became blatantly obvious to me.
(Takes out a red ribbon and pins it to shirt, sighs with a tear.)
1. Angels in America (2003, HBO)
Hope you all enjoyed that. It's almost time to start finalizing our Emmy predictions folks, let's get back into the swing of things. (And pick better topics next time I do this!)