One of Those Lists: Television Show Edition (My Top 10 Favorites)
For those of you who have never actually attempted to sit down and make a list of things that you enjoy, I challenge you to try and make a top ten list of favorite television shows without splitting them up by genre. We've probably all grown up watching TV, and to try and condense decades worth of shows into such a small choice was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Easily my hardest list to this point, but still fun to put together. It's a pretty random list of shows, but they are ones that I continue to watch over and over again, no matter how many times I've seen them.
10. Fringe: The newest show on the list, and one that I hadn't really expected to be as good as is it when first watching it. I only decided to start watching because Eric The Actor (my personal favorite Howard Stern Wackpacker) makes an appearance in one episode. I'm usually apathetic towards J.J. Abrams work, but I surprisingly found this show to be really interesting. It stars an actress that I had never heard of, but who does a great job in her role throughout. It has one of my favorite actors from Oz (more on that show later) in the first few seasons, and an intriguing multi-season story-arc. There are even a few episodes that really hit the emotional levels that you don't often see on TV.
09. Saved by the Bell: I doubt this show would make many people's favorite lists, and I'll admit that it's actually pretty bad. It has no continuity, and the humor was usually cringe worthy, but its a nostalgic pick for me more than any other on the list. I still watch it, non-ironically, to this day. Probably the only guilty pleasure on the list, but I'm also one of the few people who liked “The College Years” and that awful movie they made. I never watched “The New Class”, though. Mr. Belding wasn't worth another decade worth of Screech.
08. Star Trek: This would be number one on my Dad's list, but falls a bit short on mine. I'm talking about The Original Series, not any of the sequel shows. The characters are iconic, the ideas were groundbreaking for the time period they aired, and the look of the costumes and sets still work today. It looks “old” but still feels very futuristic. I've always been drawn to characters that share traits with Captain Kirk, and he was the original. I'm named after two characters from Star Trek (James T. Kirk and Christopher Pike) and still enjoy going back and watching personal favorite episodes like The Day of the Dove and The Galileo Seven.
07. Mr. Bean: I never like to be the type of person to say “I liked them before they were big” but I specifically remember staying up late on Saturday night's to watch Mr. Bean (and a few other British shows) on PBS in the early to mid-90's. Bean is a comedy genius in how simple, yet hilarious, his act was. Every episode seemed to be it's own self-contained “version” of Mr. Bean as he'd often have a different house, different tasks for the day, and even a girlfriend and friends who came and went. Every episode is split into two separate parts, and most of them hold up even now in terms of being funny. The movies weren't that good, but the show is a classic.
06. Penn & Teller's Bullshit!: Easily the most unusual choice on the list, yet one that I watch as often as any of them. For those that may not know, Bullshit! was a show hosted by magicians Penn Jillette and Teller in which they would debunk one controversial topic per episode (sometimes two) and would present varying viewpoints on those topics. I'd say that I agreed with them about 95% of the time, and the show was not only entertaining, but also educational. They began to run out of ideas towards the end of the show, but the first few seasons are terrific and P&T are two of my favorite people because of it.
05. Parks and Recreation: I didn't initially plan on giving this show a chance. I don't have “regular TV” so I never really watch shows when they first air. I had bought a season of The Office on DVD that contained a bonus episode of Parks and Rec, and decided one night to give it a shot. Looking back, it's not even one of the better episodes, but was funny enough for me to want to watch more. It quickly turned into of my all time favorite shows. All of the characters are endearing, and the goofiness never felt forced. I also grew up in Indiana, so I always got a laugh out of all the jokes aimed at Indiana's expense. It might just have the best overall comedy cast ever, since there are so many different characters that crack me up in their own ways. The first season was slow, and the last one was just weird, but the rest of the show is wonderful.
04. Angel: The “older, more mature brother” show to Buffy The Vampire Slayer might not beat out the former on many people's list, but I always preferred it. It felt more “real” even though it's just as crazy as Buffy was. Angel went places that Buffy wouldn't go in terms of emotions, and the cast of characters really make you care for them as they develop. The first two season are incredibly gritty (when compared to Buffy) and the interactions between Angel and Kate are really intense early on. My personal favorite character development would that of Wesley, who starts as a bumbling fool who only wants to help, to a torn-apart anti-hero, to eventually just a bad ass to the very end. I watched the entire series during the little time off I had in Iraq. Season 4 is awful, but it's easy enough to just skip right past it and not miss anything too important (other than the aforementioned stuff with Wesley). Season 5, in which Spike returns, is my personal favorite. He added a whole new dynamic, and really brought life back into the show. It's a shame that it ended so quick, however.
03. Oz: For those who have never seen the show: it's just as graphic as everyone says it is. But it goes beyond the shock value of violence, rape, sex, and drug use. It's a character study that has never been matched in television history, to date. There were so many moving parts, dynamic characters, and story lines throughout the entire run of the show. Nothing was sugar coated, either. Your favorite characters could, and would, die off at a moments notice. It was “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” before those shows were a thing in terms of the “No Character is safe”mantra. But beneath all the dark themes were people you learned to care about in spite of their flaws. There aren't many shows that have you rooting for killers and gang members, even so much as to tear up at certain scenes. Oz was ahead of it's time, but will always be one of my all time favorites. Even now, almost 20 years after it first aired, I still get a kick out of seeing actors from Oz appear on other shows. They've somehow hardly aged at all.
02. The Office: Another show that I originally would have never given a chance, I stumbled upon a rerun on TBS one day and got hooked. It's every bit as funny, quirky, and silly as people say it is. It's one of the very few shows that I can start watching, finish, and then start right back over. It's my “most quoted” show in life, and has so many great episodes. The cast of characters, the continuity, and the realism coated in a whimsical charm make it a classic. It hits a wall when Steve Carell left the show, but the final season improved a bit and I think it ended on a good note, if just a couple season too late.
01. Seinfeld: This one may not be a surprise, considering that it would likely be number one on a lot of people's list. I don't remember exactly when I started watching Seinfeld, but it's my all time most watched series. I would just put it on, and go about my day with it in the background. If I was feeling down, I could turn it on and smile. It's starting to feel “old” now, but will always be my favorite series. The style of writing just fits my personality, and the characters play off each other so well. The later seasons aren't as good, but still worth watching. George was always my favorite character, and Elaine was ahead of her time, even in the 90's. No other show has the same charm and appeal to me as Seinfeld, and I'm just waiting for the day that I can get it on Blu-Ray and replace my poor, worn out DVDs!
-No Honorable/Dishonorable this time, since both lists would be far too long.
One of Those Lists: Chicago Cubs Players Edition (My Top 10 Favorites)
10. Jose Hernandez: He was an early to mid '90s Cub who used to play all over the infield, and who had a bit of power. He struck out a bunch, but made up for it will a decent amount of pop for a guy who bounced around the field. I always liked guys who were versatile like that, and Jose was one of the earlier ones that I remember. He spent 5 and a half years on the Cubs, and eventually had to be sat for the remainder of the season one year so that he didn't break the record for strikeouts in a single season.
09. Steve Trachsel: Next on the list is the first pitcher, who only ever had two good seasons for the Cubs. The rest of the time he was incredibly mediocre, but for some reason he was always one of my favorites as a young fan. He started his career in 1993 and spent 7 years with the Cubs before moving on. Then he somehow found his way back to Chicago on that really good 2007 team, only to be awful and cut. It was still cool to see him back in a Cubs uniform, though brief.
08. Randy Myers: He only spent 3 years on the Cubs in the early '90s, but he was the first guy that I really remember being a dominating Closer. And he's the only Closer who made my list. He also once beat up a guy who charged onto the field. So that was enough for him to make my list.
07. Ryne Sandberg: He would likely be much higher on a lot of people's list, as he was a Hall of Famer and had some huge years for the Cubs. But his career was winding down as I was becoming old enough to really gain an interest in baseball. In fact, his final two seasons after he sat out 1995 were pretty forgettable, but he was treated as the legend that he was and had an aura about him that I'll always remember.
06. Mark DeRosa: This next pick wasn't on the Cubs very long, but he was a huge part of two really good Cubs teams in the mid-2000s. The 2008 team seemed like they could come back from down any lead and win, and he was right in the middle of it. He also had the ability to play all over the field, and hit for some power. I was bummed to see him go after such a short time, but he made my list for helping during those two seasons.
05. Anthony Rizzo: Though it seems like he's been around forever already, he's still young and has a long future ahead of him. He's one of the best players in baseball, and the clear leader of a young team. Only one player has been in Chicago longer (Travis Wood at 5 years) and he'll be there a long time. His Home Run swing is a thing of beauty and he does everything on the diamond well.
04. Jake Arrieta: He hasn't been on the Cubs long, but his Cy Young winning season last year might just be the most dominate you'll ever see from a Pitcher. The guy was basically unhittable the second half of the year, and scorched the Pirates in the Wild Card game. He was really good his first full season as a Cub, god-like in his second, and his “down” year this year was better than most teams Ace. I've never seen a guy looked as focused as he does while pitching (besides maybe Andy Pettitte, who I unfortunately had to see a lot in big games growing up) and I'd like to see Chicago sign him to a deal so that he finishes out his best years playing with the Cubs.
03. Glenallen Hill: On a windy Chicago summer, a man named Glenallen hit a ball onto the roof of the building across the street, an estimated 500 feet. When asked about how far it would have went had it not hit the building during a post game interview, Glenallen responded “600 feet.” All the reporters laugned, as the longest confirmed HR was 540 feet by Jose Canseco. Stone-faced, Glenallen's response to their laughter was simply: “No, seriously.” That's by far my favorite baseball story, and he spent two different stints with the Cubs. He never did much other than hit a whole bunch of Home Runs, but sometimes that's all that a guy needed to be entertaining. I may have been the only person wearing a Glenallen Hill jersey in 2016 not named Glenallen Hill.
02. Mark Grace: Playing ball, as a kid, I eventually found myself playing First Base rather often. Not because I wasn't athletic enough to play around the field (which I often did) but usually because I was the only kid not afraid of people throwing at me. I took pride in my defense, and looked up to Mark Grace for being so good at it. He also happened to be a really smooth hitter, who was a rock in the middle of the Cubs order for a long time. I had a Mark Grace poster on my wall growing up, and he'll always be one of my favorites.
01. Sammy Sosa: I was a fan of Sammy Sosa before he was known to the rest of the nation. He was a guy who was both fast and powerful before he spent the summer trading HR's with Mark McGwire in 1998. He also had a cannon for an arm, and played the game with passion. He had the “Sosa hop” and would run full speed out to RF before every game to jazz up the fans in the bleachers. After that magical run, he continued to hit and hit and hit. He put up some incredible seasons, and those memories won't be tainted by anything that happened afterwards. He's one of the greatest sluggers in Cubs history, and he will always be my favorite player.
Honorable Mentions: Mark Grudzielanek, Brant Brown, Will Ohman, Henry Rodriguez, Luis Gonzalez, Mark Prior, Micah Hoffpauir, Sam Fuld, David DeJesus, Mickey Morandini, Scott Servais, Bob Patterson, and probably a dozen or more I can't think of right now.
Dishonorable Mention: Milton Bradley, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Marmol, Matt Murton.