So, continuing on my rant about TV, I have decided to compile a list of THE 10 BEST SEASONS OF TELEVISION (in my lifetime). This is not the best shows, but single seasons that rung loud and delivered a lasting effect.
These are single seasons, out of longer runs. So shows that only ran for one season (Firefly, Terriers, Freaks And Geeks) wont be included. This is more where shows hit their peaks and why… Some possible spoilers ahead.
10. The Wonder Years – Season 6 (1992-1993)
The 6th and final season of THE WONDER YEARS was a perfect example of a show going out at the right time. It’s rare for a show to still be watchable in season 6, let alone to actually get stronger. Granted the ratings didn’t reflect this, (thanks 90210) but as we all know, ratings and quality are often not on the same page.
As the season, and series ended, it did so with a real sense of connection to the viewer. Kevin Arnold had become like family, and unlike most shows, THE WONDER YEARS was allowed to insert some closure. This is the first time in my life I can really remember being affected by a TV show.
Best Episode of the Season – Episode 22: Independence Day
9. The Wire – Season 1 (2002)
THE WIRE has to be one of the least watched, best shows ever. Had this been a network show it never would’ve survived, but luckily HBO puts a premium on quality. And while later seasons may have received more accolades, for my money Season 1 was the peak.
The drawn-out chess match between the Baltimore PD and Avon Barksdale (or more accurately Barksdale’s right hand man, and brain Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell) was so far superior in terms of development and pacing to any cop show on Network TV it’s embarrassing. This back and forth, alongside of the activities of one of the best characters in HBO history, Omar Little, made sure to reward anyone lucky enough to have watched it.
Best Episode of the Season – Episode 11: The Hunt
8. The Shield – Season 4 (2005)
I have never been much of a Glenn Close fan. I don’t deny her ability, I just never liked her much. That is until she popped up on THE SHIELD, solidifying and already excellent cast, and help to Vic Mackey redeem himself to the audience.
After the strike team is dissolved, with Shane leaving, Vic needed a PR boost to keep the audience on his side. In steps new Captain Monica Rawling, who sees Vic as an asset that could be vital to doing some real good on the streets. Vic accepts the challenge and cleans up his act for a short period of time, reminding us that under the corruption, he’s still a damn good cop, albeit a dirty one.
Anthony Anderson’s ‘Antwon Mitchell’ gives us a new nemesis for the remainder of the series.
Best Episode of the Season – Episode 7: Hurt
7. Seinfeld – Season 4 (1992-1993)
Thursday nights in the 90’s were dominated by Jerry Seinfeld. This is one of those shows where I could’ve put 2 or 3 seasons on this list, as the whole run was great, but I felt Season 4 is when they really hit their stride.
Kramer is a suspected serial killer in LA, Jerry and George pitch their idea for a “show about nothing” to NBC, and we all crave ‘Junior Mints’. We met The Virgin and The Bubble Boy, and bear witness to The Contest. This season is full of a litany of the show’s best episodes. Jerry dates Teri Hatcher (they’re real and they’re spectacular.) and Elaine sends out Christmas cards with her nipple visible. Practically every episode in this season is a classic. From The Smelly Car to The Handicap Spot, season 4 was when SEINFELD’s ratings exploded like George’s wallet. This is when it moved into the Top 30 and never dropped out after.
Best Episode of the Season – Episode 7: The Bubble Boy
6. Arrested Development – Season 2 (2004-05)
The funniest show since SEINFELD, but without the opportunity run for as long, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is now fondly remembered and talked about by the masses who didn’t bother to watch it while it was on. I loved it and was in constant terror that it’d be canceled at any moment. And though it ran barely 3 seasons, while it was on, it created comic gold. Season 2 gave us Tobias trying out for the Blue Man Group, George Sr. faking his own death, and a brilliant homage to Charlie Brown.
Ben Stiller cameos with maybe his best role since HEAVYWEIGHTS as Magician Tony Wonder. He is only one of a plethora of guest stars though. A list of whom includes Rob Corddry, Carl Weathers, Ed Helms, Mo Collins, Zach Braff, Ione Skye, Martin Mull, Amy Poehler, Dave Attell, Martin Short, and Julia-Louis Dreyfus as fake-blind Lawyer Maggie Lizer.
Best Episode of the Season – Episode 13: Motherboy XXX
5. The Simpsons – Season 5 (1993-1994)
Much like SEINFELD, this is a show where I could’ve thrown a dart and picked anything from Seasons 3-8 and wouldn’t have gotten much argument. This is when I really remember watching new episodes. In an era where a lot of kids my age (11 at the time) weren’t even allowed to watch THE SIMPSONS, my old man gathered us around the TV Sunday nights for family time. And for me Season 4 is when the Simpson family really hit it’s stride. They set a bar for cultural significance that now show since has done, and while it’s not the same as it ever was, it’s still maintaining its original time slot from 1989.
Season 5 gave us some of the show Best Episodes in it’s 20 year run. Cape Feare, Deep Space Homer, and Homer Loves Flanders are all included in the run.
Best Episode of the Season – Episode 4: Rosebud
4. Sons of Anarchy – Season 2 (2009)
The first season of SoA was entertaining, but not especially memorable. That is why I was so shocked when season 2 turned out to be some of the best television I’d seen in years. Jackson Teller’s MC is faced with opposition from every side as the Aryans move into Charming.
Gemma is raped, Half-Sack gets killed, and little Abel Teller’s kidnapping caps off a season that is truly balances an abundance of action with believable drama, a balancing act that was less successful in Season 3.
Best Episode of the Season – Episode 13: Na Triobloidi
3. Dexter – Season 4 (2009)
After what I considered to be a bit of a Season 3 disappointment, America’s favorite serial killer came back with the goods. In the best season of DEXTER by far, John Lithgow’s ‘Trinity’ killer provides a look at the life Dexter Morgan craves, at first anyhow.
The murder of Lundy and shooting of Deb provided ample motivation for MPD to catch Trinity, that is until we find out he’s not responsible. An incredible season is capped off with what seems like a pretty unceremonious ending as Dexter kills Trinity, that is until Dex gets home to find that wife Rita was Trinity’s last project. One of the best season enders I’ve ever seen.
Best Episode of the Season – Episode 12: The Getaway
2. 24 – Season 1 (2001-2002)
The day we met Jack Bauer is one of the greatest days in Television history.
CTU is established as an easily infiltrated super organization, that Jack is forced to repeatedly side-step in order to keep David Palmer and Jack’s own family alive. Dennis Hopper has a terrible accent, Lou Diamond Phillips gets killed REAL quick, and we learn who the biggest badass in TV history is: Jack Bauer.
The show’s dynamic format was something new, and those who watched were hooked quickly. This show kept us on edge for all 24 episodes. The pace never slowed and laid ground work for 7 seasons to follow, as well as a made for TV movie. And while the later season got bigger in terms of scale, season one’s quest to save Palmer and the Bauer women is as personal as we see Jack, and it made for great television.
Best/Worst Episode of the Season – Episode 23: 10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m (Nina is exposed as the real mole – Nooooooooo!)
1. The Sopranos – Season 2 (2000)
When SoA’s 2nd season was in full stride, and I was trying to explain to people how good it was, the example I used was: ” It’s reminds me of early Sopranos”. That is as high of praise as I could think to give it. THE SOPRANOS’ first season introduced us to life in the modern mob. At times characters were outwardly reminiscent of THE GODFATHER, a glorified sense of honor and family put on as a front. But behind closed doors they seemed seedier, less likable, and more true to Scorsese’s GOODFELLAS.
When season 2 began, and we had a feel for who Tony and the rest of the family were, they gave Tony a real adversary other than himself, his sister. And once she hooks up with Richie Aprile, who just got out after ten years in prison and starts reasserting his authority.
For me, this 13-episode arc is the best in Television history.
Thanks for taking the time to check out this list and please let me know what you think in the comment section and by voting in the poll below.