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Thursday, August 6, 2009

EW's Top Ten TV Ensembles List Misses a Few Gems

Admittedly, reader polls are never the best indicator of what is best or right in this world. One glance at the votes on the Press-Gazette's Web site should tell you that. However, as much as we here at Channel Surfing adore Entertainment Weekly, their latest television-related reader poll came up with some ghastly results. The PopWatch blog asked readers to vote in June on the best TV ensembles. While most of the shows in the Top 10 would probably have a place on our list as well, Channel Surfing bloggers Malavika Jagannathan and Sara Boyd spent more time wondering about those shows that were left off the list. No list will ever satisfy every single person, but couldn't they have at least stretched the list to an even 20?

If you're too lazy to click the link above and go through EW's photo gallery, here are the 10 shows that made it onto their list of best ensembles: "Lost," "Veronica Mars," Friday Night Lights," "The West Wing," "Sports Night," "Hill Street Blues," "Mad Men," "Battlestar Galactica," "Arrested Development" and "The Shield."

So, without repeating those already picked, we'll offer you a few more shows each that belong on this list.

Working in Korea never seemed so appealing -- and this was well before Bill Clinton could come rescue you if you happened to get thrown into jail -- as it did for the doctors and nurses of the M*A*S*H 4077th. A true cast of quirky but lovable characters -- well, lovable except for Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville) -- they worked in tandem to keep this dark comedy relevant even today.

"The Wire"
Trying to explain who's who in "The Wire" is next to impossible. The endless list of characters are so embedded into the plots, so integral to the bigger picture, that it's almost easier to speed through its five brilliant seasons than wait for us to come up with a primer. A true ensemble cast is one where a main character like Det. Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) can take a back seat during a season and never disrupt the flow of the show.

OK, so the ensembles tended to change over the years, but the show remained grounded in the variety and diversity of characters that walked the halls of Cook County General Hospital. George Clooney or no George Clooney, the cast and crew of this show weathered the departures and arrivals of many new faces without ever skipping a beat. Best of all, the plot felt continuous until the very last episode.

Popular culture will sustain Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George for all of eternity, we imagine, but "Seinfeld" wasn't just about them. A host of smaller, but equally important secondary characters like Uncle Leo, Frank Costanza, Newman, Susan Ross and Jackie Chiles combined with some of the greatest guest appearances made this show a true group effort. After all, what's "Seinfeld" without the Soup Nazi, Bania, Puddy or J. Peterman? Just another show about friends in New York City. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

--Malavika Jagannathan,

Go ahead and be like Mr. Thomas Rozwadowski and get your "Pssh, I knew you would say that" out right now. But it's true. "Friends" deserves a place on this list. If for no other reason than because it took six relatively -- and in some cases, complete -- no-namers and put them on Hollywood's "It List" in a matter of only a couple of years. Admittedly, it took some time for these misfits to feel comfortable on screen and really get into their characters, but once they did, it was a TV ensemble made in heaven.

"Flight of the Conchords"
Let's be honest, if you remove any cast member from this beautiful equation, it just doesn't work. As much as you need Bret and Jemaine, you have to have Mel and Dave. And if you have Mel, you have to have Doug and when you have a personality like Dave, you have to have Murray. I'd even go as far as saying characters like Greg and Eugene are essential. There's truly not a weak link in the bunch.

"30 Rock"
Here's a case where a bunch of semi-successful actors and actresses find their true home and rocket off the charts. The writing of "30 Rock" took people like Tracy Morgan (who was commonly referred to as "the other black guy" on SNL) and Jane Krakowski (previously known as that one chick from "Ally McBeal") and turned them into superstars. And can we talk about Kenneth the Page for a second? Talk about a diamond in the rough. Still not convinced? I think the show's record-setting 22 Emmy noms may help clue you in.

"Gossip Girl"
OK, say what you will, but who can deny the power this group of richy-rich teens has had on the nation, nay the wooorrllld! When you have an ensemble of beautiful people who go out on the weekends and get their little love dramas smeared across the pages of US Weekly, there's simply nowhere to go but up. On the show, they truly have the freedom to play dating musical chairs as much as they want, and really, people will tune in. Whether it's off-again, on-again Serena and Dan or finally-together Chuck and Blair, it matters not. These characters are a delight to watch, not to mention a trendsetter of style for the ages.

--Sara Boyd,

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It's amazing to me that "30 Rock" once had Rachel Dratch pegged to play the role of Jenna until the network forced the change. Probably one of those cases where meddling in creative affairs actually made sense. Dratch has been a goner since Season 1's strange cameo roles, which quite frankly, always felt like Tina Fey bestowing pity of a friend.

Don't think I'd have much more to add except "Freaks and Geeks," which started the whole Apatow-Rogen collaboration and featured perfect casting, in my opinion. That's especially true when you consider the successful careers of almost every single actor/actress on that show (even the bit ones like Shia LaBeouf), PLUS, putting together a dramedy about the not-so-popular (and let's face it, unattractive) portion of the teen population couldn't have been easy in the face of network pressure.

Also, while I don't care much for "Friends," I would agree it belongs in the conversation. It's not "Seinfeld," but there was some great chemistry there ... even from (shudder) that stupid Ross guy.

-- Tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At August 6, 2009 at 10:41 PM  

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