Well, after thinking and thinking about it, I just can't find it within me to form even a Top Ten of my favourite TV shows ever, let alone genre ones. Comedy dates really fast and while I love hows like Black Adder ( and IV especially), Bottom, Cheers, Frasier, My Name Is Earl, Lead Balloon, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Friday/Saturday Night Live, etc, I just can't settle on any one that really REALLY deserves essential viewing, not even Brass Eye or The Day Today.
Similarly, there have been shows I loved in the past that I've fallen out of love with (X-Files, I'm thinking you: kept on going long after you should have stopped and fouled up the whole memory of that show---even though Fox Mulder remains one of my favourite fictional characters) or have not dated well (Quantum Leap seems more moralistic than it did originally and we won't even go near Babylon 5).
And what about half-remembered shows from your childhood? Given the opportunity to view them again, it's usually a mistake as they're never as good. This goes double for cartoons. So, before I reveal my shortlist of shows I can still stand, here are the almost made its:
LOST: It's always dangerous listing contemporary shows as they have yet to prove their longevity but I really loved the first season and a half but when Sky nicked it off C4, my enthusiasm dampened. Season three picked up but to be honest, and I know it's a stupid reason, but it's Jack's beard that loses Lost its place...
NATURAL HISTORY SHOWS: If it's got Attenborough, snakes, sharks or big cats, I'm usually watching it...but as enjoyable and informative as these shows are, they're non-essential.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: The first three seasons are practically perfect but watching them again, they don't resonate so much. Maybe its because I'm older now (cos the dialogue and acting is still pretty much spot on) but the vital spark just isn't there now...it's a slog watching many episodes now.
MONKEY: One of the few childhood shows that's as entertainingly bonkers now, what lets this down is the quality of the second season when a new actor played Pigsy and the dragon turned from a horse into a moronic bloke. Still, just gotta see that title sequence and I'm grinning...
So, what makes it into my list of favourite shows? Well, only four really...
#5: A bit of a cheat this, but the Comics Brittannia season on BBC4. I'm not a huge fan of British comics but I love documentaries on things that interest me, and this featured an interesting array of docs. Some, like the ones about the Broons, Beano and Dandy, appealed less to me but the Ditko one was bloody impressive. It's rare to find shows on such a minority interest (hence my DVD rack full of the ones I can find), so this goes in on the basis of intent if not quality (and the Ditko thing was definitely the best of the bunch).
#4: Spaced. The funny thing about Spaced is when i think about it, it's always "Yeah, it's good but it's not classic..." but when I watch it, I get so absorbed into it. The mix of the mundane and the bizarre, the pop culture references and a genuine warmth for the characters (the lack of a laughter track helps give the show an element of verisimilitude it needs to pull off the odd goings on). Still a shame they never did a final ending, although the second series ended perfectly.
#3: Star Trek The Original Series I like sci-fi and adventure shows and this still stands as the best space show ever. Kirk is a hero from the classic tradition, the Kirk-Spock-McCoy relationship was great, the tech entertaining and the episodes featured dramatic lighting and mood that blasts all the anodyne later Treks out of the sky. Yeah, some of the episodes were awful and some of the fashions and plots do date it somewhat---but where else can you find blokes fighting lizard men, ladies running around in the sexiest of uniforms and stories that actually pack a punch?
#2: The Justice League animated series. Again, I love comics and artwork and this faithful but inventive show brings the DC characters to life in such a great way. Crisp designs and animation, great casting, strong characterisation and the distillation of everything Bruce Timm learned on the earlier Batman and Superman shows, these are what I'd hold up as great examples of TV animation.
#1: Heroes. As mentioned above, listing current shows is a bit dubious---however, I was told before seeing the show that I'd love it (as I had no real interest in it when it was first announced) and boy, did I. The first season is virtually flawless---no filler episodes, a building sense of urgency, varied characters and a great villain combine to bring the superheroic world to fully formed life. It may yet go off the boil, and Sky will probably nick season three, but so far Heroes pushes all my televisual buttons and I love it. I've missed one episode now but my TV is hopefully going to be sorted out on Tuesday so I can probably still find that missed show on one of the BBC digital channels.