Faith’s TV Canon
A literary canon defines which books have an astounding cultural impact, but...I have never been much of a reader. So, as I master the art of TV selection, I need to share the gems I've discovered along the way. Beware that some of these shows are critically acclaimed, others may have bad writing and acting. But, the cheesy goodness cannot be ignored, as they deserve to be watched in their own right. The shows are either overrated, underrated, or just rated, they add something to television that needs to be appreciated.
I Love Lucy (1951-1957)
I Love Lucy should be at the top of your list. No, this is not an ad. Lucille Ball, nor Desi Arnaz, nor any of their affiliates, nor offspring are paying me for my takes. Nevertheless, I must protest that all view the show. In addition to Ball’s utterly spectacular comedic skills, I Love Lucy is the first situation comedy to utilize the three-camera situation comedy classic. Ball and Arnaz’s genius spread to technical areas of television as they created the technology that allowed cable companies to broadcast reruns. And after researching what cable was, I discovered it was a huge deal. Inside the diegesis, their on-camera talents shined, but more than that, they used their power to break boundaries, like depicting an intercultural couple. Today, everyone from on-screen teenagers to mistresses are shown knocked up. But this is only possible because Lucille Ball became the first woman to depict a pregnancy on television. Ball accomplished these feats as she was the first woman to head a production company, which she co-owned with her husband. Ultimately, the stylistic elements of filming television are forever drastically changed, and the groundbreaking work they did throughout production opened the door to the possibilities that have made today’s hit sitcoms.
The Golden Girls (1985-1992)
Whether on Gossip Girl (2007-2012) or Gossip Girl (2021-2023), the horrendous reboot, female friendships are treated terribly (mostly because men are the ones writing them.*) As many of us know, no matter how complicated or dramatic, female comradeships are vital. No matter your age, you need your "gal pals" to help you overcome this patriarchal world, and that’s what Golden Girls represents. The show depicts authentic female friendships, as the characters obliterate each other with the smartest quips and comebacks as only a true friend could. I would quote some, but they are ingrained in the nature of each persona. Plus, without each actor’s personalized tang, they would only be words on a screen. In addition to the absolutely marvelous acting skills of the late: Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, the show tackles chronic illnesses, the double standard of female promiscuity, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS, addiction, and immigration rights. While some political references go over my head, it never deters me from absorbing the clever comedy and beliefs that Golden Girls demonstrates. The series was way ahead of its time, making some stories critical in today’s political turmoil.
*Look out for my teen drama in about 15-30 years
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
The beauty of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that the series is like a vampire: part human and part evil. But in turn, the show fits into one large teen drama/ horror/ mythic/ feminist/ comedy genre. This combination allows for anything to happen. On the outside, Buffy is a small, blonde, white girl, and due to social stereotypes, weak. But weak is the last word that could describe Buffy Summers. Over the 7 seasons of the show, this super-genre takes the classic teen drama tropes and expands upon them, ultimately commenting on complex real-world topics. The show tackles heartbreaking deaths and explores sexuality, addiction, and depression. These serious topics are balanced by incredible character growth, depicting how maturing is not straightforward. On the surface, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has this gaggle of kids fighting the supernatural. But if you look deeper, they are forced to fight evil while maintaining a sense of teenage normalcy. Inevitably, they grow up faster and experience the cruelness of life, unlike the countless other teen dramas out there.
Grey’s Anatomy (2005-)
Grey’s Anatomy is not only the longest-running medical drama but the launching point of the Shondaland universe. (Personally, Shondaland is the only amusement park I’d want to go to.) But before I go on, I must mention that I could personally talk about this masterpiece for hours, so I’ll try to keep it short. One of the main reasons for the show’s success is its effortless incorporation of diversity. Since 2005, America’s view of racism has drastically shifted, and so has the show’s race-based activism. In the early 2000s, people of all colors were not represented on television; look at Friends, Will and Grace, Gilmore Girls, West Wing, and the majority of the actors from the countless hits of the decade. But the later seasons depict a shift from mere representation to a prominent doctor being pulled over on the highway for being black or Asian hate crimes in a post-pandemic world. These horrendous actions mirror real-world events in the United States, bringing to light the horror often ignored by white citizens. On a less depressing note, any and every drama-fiend will become hypnotized. In addition to activism, Grey’s Anatomy goes berserk with mistresses; love triangles, squares, pentagrams; plane, train, bus, and ferryboat crashes; shootings; and the most heroic, heartbreaking/heartwarming actions scenes on screen. Grey’s may seem like a huge commitment, but I have brainwashed countless friends and family members into getting hooked on the show. The carousel never stops turning, so you might as well hop on and watch some Grey’s Anatomy.
United States of Tara (2009-2011)
The cast alone should capture your TikTok size attention span§: Toni Collette, Brie Larson, Keir Gilchrist, and John Corbett. But alas, I’m writing more. The United States Of Tara is the only United States I want to be affiliated with, but I have yet to produce the reboot (this is one of two shows on this Canon where there could and should be a reboot.) So, I am associated with both. As I judge this tv show by the cover, it looks to be about a typical family, with affair drama or another juicy trope. But alas, you are wrong, as the protagonist Tara has dissociative identity disorder/multiple personality disorder, meaning she has multiple personalities. Imagine the all-talented Toni Collette as numerous different characters. Well, you don’t have to, as she shows her incredible artistic reach in the United States Of Tara. But beyond that, the audience is placed in the front row of this family’s hardships. Television programs rarely portray mental health problems and seldomly show their impact on family and friends, especially in an equally funny and heartbreaking show. I am drastically oversimplifying the show, but if any of these topics interest you, you know what to do. Plus, it would be great to have a new association with the utterly disappointing words: United States.
§(watch my sister @catchthesehands.420, I need her to become influencer famous, so I don’t have to.)
Rizzoli & Isles (2010-2016)
Despite being the young liberal that I am, I love cop shows. I really do. I’ve engaged with a scary amount of these “copoganda” shows, from Hawaii 5-0 to NCIS to Chicago PD and every other state in between. In fact, in the first two seasons of NCIS’ the female protagonist, Caitlin Todd, is portrayed by Sasha Alexander, who puts the Isles in Rizzoli & Isles. Funny how she left NCIS for another cop show…but that’s probably a coincidence. (Gibbs rule no. 39: “There is no such thing as a coincidence.”) Anyways enough about NCIS, a general rule of thumb for Hollywood, especially cop shows, is that women are never appreciated as protagonists. In combination with the flagrant police brutality, cop programs often depicted these injustices as a necessity of the job rather than a serious crime. But Rizzoli & Isles contains the heart of a quality cop show and exhibits the strengths of female partnership while magically staying within the bounds of the jobs. Unfortunately, at the end of these 42-minute episodes, I am snapped out of this fictional world and am surged into the non-diegetic world we have come to repress. And as the general Rizzoli & Isles fan club, specifically myself, have rewatched the show countless times, WE NEED A REBOOT.
If all priests looked like Hot Priest, I’d be in church every day; however, that is not the case. If all Presidents (and hell, politicians as a whole) looked like Obama, I’d never stop watching C-SPAN, and I’d move to Washington DC, and I’m a New Yorker, so that means something. Fleabag swarms your mind with these inappropriate and hysterical thoughts. Now, don’t just go skipping straight to season two to watch Hot Priest because you’d be depriving yourself of the writing prowess that Phoebe Waller-Bridge delivers (do NOT confuse with Phoebe Bridger.) Waller-Bridge stars as Fleabag in this comedy designed around breaking the fourth wall. This action allows you to get in the head of the protagonist, it’s like texting your friend whilst something happens, and you need to share your clever quips or interesting thoughts (or you can write a blog about it which only your mom’s friends will read^,) but the audience is that friend. By bringing the audience in, it counters the staple sitcom three-style camera from I Love Lucy, showing comedies’ development and possible future. There are now more possibilities for television comedies, as Fleabag has severely changed what is possible, and I can’t wait to see the spawns of its influence.
This Is Us (2016-2022)
Like movies, television often celebrates the big moments, skipping the small everyday victories that are equally celebratory. And This Is Us does just that; they celebrate achievements both big and small. The series spans decades, depicting the causes and effects of the biggest and smallest decisions made by the Pearson clan. The core of this family is the parents, Jack and Rebecca, and their kids, Kevin, Kate, and Randall. As Jack and Rebecca grow up, we see the same with their kids and how they are raised. One of the biggest mistakes these parents made is how they never acknowledged Randall’s difference from his siblings, his blackness. As we watch these three grow up, similar scenarios are tied together as the plot depicts them as adults and their relationship with their kids. But like all families, the Pearsons are not perfect. They love each other fiercely and fight just so. They have been ingrained with solid morals, but their differences, whether race, gender, or influence, have swayed how they see the world. And while they love each other, they can be blinded by their beliefs. These clashes make the love fiercer and the fights bigger, allowing all of these milestones and average days to be displayed in such a way that audience members are taken on an emotional rollercoaster. As viewers whizz through these scenes of triumphs and tribulations, a story of perfection is stitched right before your eyes.
Amber Ruffin show (2020-)
If you are anything like me, Friday nights used to consist of watching Blue Bloods live, but as the show’s “Blue Lives Matter” propaganda atrociously swells, it became unwatchable. So now, I watch the Amber Ruffin Show. ALERT: I want everyone to know that I was a massive fan of Ruffin before her growing popularity. I religiously watched Late Nightwith Seth Meyer segments of “Amber Says What” featuring Ruffin and “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” which star Jenny Hagel and Ruffin (I guess Seth Meyers is there.) She also gave the 2018 Writers Guild Awards monologue, and I bet you didn’t watch. But I did, and I loved seeing a woman who looked like…my mom on stage. Now, in addition to her day job as a writer on Late Night with Seth Meyers, where she became the first Black woman to write for a late-night series, she has her own Peacock original show. On The Amber Ruffin Show, she freely talks and sings about whatever she wants. On the late-night circuit, she is currently the only black woman, and she tells personal stories of racist/ sexist incidents in America and, on occasion, abroad. With her hysterical but harrowing segments like “How did we get here” she mixes humor with disappointing facts from the news. Oftentimes, while she mixes that concoction, she is also mixing a cocktail. And my god, I could use one of her famous margaritas after reading too much news. Amber Ruffin uses her writing talents, acting expertise, and platform to comment on and critique current national and international problems.
As superheroes and their stories are smash hits at the box office, they are clearly leaving a mark in our culture. And while I watch all marvel cinematic universe content, I neglect to put any on this Canon as they historically refuse to critique our world or say anything of substance. This is not a criticism, but the MCU’s strengths lie in world-building and not building up our world. So, what “supers” show takes a stance? Invincible. In the opening scene, two non-superhero security guards talk about how they have to recertify their superhero evasion course. This openly signifies the repercussions of enhanced beings, setting the tone for the show. The show argues the pros and cons surrounding superheroes in the genre, ultimately placing the topic in this grey area.
Moreover, the diversity is natural and not a stark or crazy concept like blockbuster heroes. As the show stays connected to the comic book history of the genre, the cartoons allow prominent actors to commit to these characters. Like Sandra Oh and J.K. Simmons are husband and wife and parents to their biracial offspring. (What… a biracial couple…the MCU only has Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and MJ (Zendaya) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) since 2008.) There are also casual characters of queerness without large unnecessary coming-out stories. Invincible also further complicates father-son relations, as their inhuman abilities add pressure. It is clear that superheroes are important to culture today, but to make a significant statement, like Invincible, the show must push the boundaries of the genre. While the MCU has defined the genre, they have not pushed the envelope of what is possible in activism for the genre.
Ted Lasso (2020-2023)
Any show that can teach Americans, including me, about soccer, deserves countless awards, and they have. After season one alone, Ted Lasso was nominated for 13 Emmys and won an additional 7. While awards can, and have, gone out to undeserving shows, Ted Lasso is the exception. In this show, we witness unparalleled character growth, from coaches to football players and everyone in between. And yes, heretofore, I will only be referring to “soccer” as football; a European raised me. The show weaves small, seemingly unimportant tidbits into the fabric of the Ted Lasso universe to support more significant moments. This construct allows for the representation of positive male and female friendships. As the audience watches lifelong friends work through new situations, we also witness the delicate dance of old friends intertwining with new friends. I could never do this show justice. The series speaks for itself, but if you want a taste of brilliance, watch NBC Sports commercials from 2013 and 2014. When the network acquired the rights to broadcast Premier League football matches, Jason Sudeikis jumped into the role of Ted Lasso in order to encourage new and old football fans to watch the games. These viral advertisements are the foundation for the sensational Ted Lasso series.
Seen all of these? Here are my honorable mentions
o The Summer I Turned Pretty
o A Million Little Things
o The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
o The Boys
o Dear White People
o Derry Girls
o Veronica Mars
Have any suggestions on what I should add let me know!