Here we are at the last Weekend Rewind looking at the best shows from each decade. If you want to look back, check out my top shows from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Every other decade was all about sitcoms for me, but as you'll see, many dramas made the list for the 2000s.
Close Calls: That 70s Show (1998-2006), 8 Simple Rules (2002-2005), Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006-2007)
The 2000s had many procedural dramas and to many, this is not one of the best ones. But it is one of my favorites. It's exceedingly dark and twisted yet it does one of the better jobs of keeping suspense and intensity as other procedurals can really drag. By focusing on serial killers, the show can really delve into psychological darkness. Plus, unlike other procedurals, the show wisely does not focus too much on the personal life of the team though the team is appealing enough to enjoy some stories.
Episodes you should see: #18 "Somebody's Watching" (3/29/06), #40 "Jones" (2/28/07), #59 "Damaged" (4/2/08), #68 "Minimal Loss" (10/8/08), #81 "Pleasure is My Business" (2/25/09)
No procedural of the 2000s had the quality of Cold Case, which really took the genre to a much more moving level. The perfect blending of crimes from yesteryear and present day survivors was so interesting, particularly with crimes from long long ago. It was also interesting to see the same characters now and 40 years ago (for example) as they would sit down for questioning. With brilliant use of music, the show captured different eras in each episode and the end of each show always pulled at the heart strings as criminals finally had to pay and loved ones finally got closure.
Episodes you should see: #6 "Love Conquers Al" (11/9/03), #29 "The Sleepover" (11/7/04), #55 "A Perfect Day" (11/27/05), #114 "Wednesday's Women" (10/12/08), #116 "Shore Leave" (10/26/08)
Every list for me needs a mindless silly sitcom that I enjoy and for the 2000s, it's According to Jim. I know that this show didn't redefine the sitcom and the writing and plots are sometimes sitcom cliches. Yet the performances elevate this show and it has a familiarity to it that makes it easy and fun to watch. The banter and one-upping relationship between Jim Belushi and Courtney Thorne-Smith was the best part of this family sitcom. It's one of those shows that doesn't need to be anything more than it is.
Episodes you should see: #32 "The Christmas Party" (12/10/02), #58 "Scary Movie" (11/4/03), #79 "A Vast Difference' (5/25/04), #85 "Father-Daughter Dance" (11/9/04), #103 "The Bachelorette Party" (5/3/05)
7. Monk (2002-2009)
Who would have thought a show about a detective with OCD would be so enjoyable? But the USA network original programming boom started with this whimsical dramedy. Tony Shalhoub's complex performance as Adrian Monk made this a character-driven show instead of a procedural. This is a crime drama show for people who find other shows like Criminal Minds and even Cold Case too intense. It's funny more often than not yet it really looks closely at a disorder that is not commonplace on TV.
Episodes you should see: #9 "Mr. Monk and the Marathon Man" (9/13/02), #41 "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever" (2/4/05), #61 "Mr. Monk Gets Jury Duty" (3/17/06), #63 "Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike" (7/14/06), #124/125 "Mr. Monk and the End" (11/27 & 12/4/09)
There has never been a show more delightfully weird than Arrested Development. It's just so absurd, there's no way of predicting what is going to happen next. One of the best ensembles in TV history is the reason this show worked as well as it did. From Jason Bateman's passive-aggressive attitude towards his family to Portia de Rossi's flakiness to Will Arnett's foolish arrogance to Michael Cera's awkwardness, each character was essential to the show. But the real scene stealers were Tony Hale, David Cross, and Jessica Walter as the bizarre Buster, flamboyant Tobias, and ice queen Lucille. And now the show is coming back! There's never been a better time to become a fan.
Episodes you should see: There are no particular episodes to see, this show is best to watch from beginning to end, in order, to fully appreciate its weirdness yet brilliance.
A true classic from this era, Everybody Loves Raymond is going to be a show that stands the test of time. Why? Because like The Dick Van Dyke Show and others before it, it was never topical. It was always relational. It focused on character development, not the easy joke or relevant current humor. A first-rate cast including the best in-laws ever in Marie and Frank Barone made this show a modern classic. In 50 years, I have a feeling everybody will still love Raymond.
Episodes you should see: #84 "The Christmas Picture" (12/13/99), #95 "Bad Moon Rising" (5/8/00), #102 "Pet Cemetery" (10/23/00), #123 "The Angry Family" (9/24/01), #170/171 "Robert's Wedding" (5/19/03)
The smartest show of the decade, bar none. The West Wing is an example of what we all wish Washington DC and the Oval Office was really like. The fast-paced drama is like any other workplace drama except that it takes place in the most important office in the country. Even when the dialogue is too complex for an average audience, the intensity makes every episode seem immensely important. There are many terrific performances in this stellar ensemble but the character who towers above it all is President Jed Bartlett, a thoughtful, passionate, and brilliant character. If only we had a President Barlett in real life, Washington DC might be able to get its act together.
Episodes you should see: #10 "In Excelsis Deo" (12/15/99), #16 "20 Hours in LA" (2/23/00), #22 "What Kind of Day It Has Been" (5/17/00), #40 "17 People" (4/4/01), #44 "Two Cathedrals" (5/16/01)
3. American Dreams (2002-2005)
An very underrated drama, American Dreams was a heartfelt family drama set against one of the most fascinating decades in American history - the 1960s. The show dealt with many themes from the era but was never cliche or sappy. The show uniquely used modern day artists as artists from the era on American Bandstand and the production value was incredibly strong. The real strength of this show though was the Pryor family and specifically, Brittany Snow as Meg Pryor. Snow captured all the hope of youth and the 1960s and has been my celebrity crush ever since!
Episodes you should see: #10 "Silent Night" (12/15/02), #14 "Heartache" (2/9/03), #23 "Down the Shore" (5/4/03), #25 "City on Fire" (5/18/03), #61 "It's My Life" (3/30/05)
For years, American Dreams was my favorite drama but I had never seen Friday Night Lights until this past year and I am beyond hooked as I make my way through the show (I am only in season 2). Every episode is powerful and real. I can't think of any show that felt more like we are just dropped into the world the show is set in. There's nothing that feels scripted, the show is just powerfully exploring relationships in a small Texas town that loves their football. Every single character on this show is excellent but there's no one better than Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor - a proud and tough yet empathetic coach who loves his family and loves his team. This is a must see for anyone (like me) who missed it the first time around.
Episodes you should see: #1 "Pilot" (10/3/06), #10 "It's Different for Girls" (12/12/06), #16 "Black Eyes & Broken Hearts" (2/14/07), #20 "Mud Bowl" (3/28/07), #22 "State" (4/11/07)
Friday Night Lights is my new obsession but the 2000s decade (at least the back end of it) was all about The Office for me. The workplace mockumentary redefined the sitcom and produced one of the best, it not the best, character of all time in Steve Carell's Michael Scott. Without Carell (as evidenced now), the show is funny but not exceptional. With Carell's portrayal of the ever-annoying yet somehow endearing regional manager, the show is pure magic. The show is iconic to my generation, which came of age during the decade and was the show for college students during its golden days. Though it is slipping in quality now, it was brilliant for many years. And it's still a shame that Carell never won an Emmy for his brilliant performance.
Episodes you should see: #7 "The Dundies" (9/20/05), #17 "Booze Cruise" (1/5/06), #28 "Casino Night" (5/11/06), #40 "Back from Vacation" (1/4/07), #71/72 "Goodbye Toby" (5/15/08)