One of the foremost pleasures of reading Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz’s exhaustive list of the greatest American TV is getting confirmation that there are people out there who watch way more TV than you. From their childhoods spent in front of television sets to their jobs as critics at the Newark Star-Ledger through to their current online prominence, Sepinwall and Seitz have as much claim as anyone to authoritatively state that they know which shows are best.
TV (The Book) mainly takes the form of a series of short essays. The best stuff is right at the front, as the critics began with a lengthy argument over which of their top 5 shows belongs in the top spot. The top 10 shows get lengthy treatment in essays well-reasoned enough that I now have a lot of TV-related homework to do. (Seriously, I watched the pilot of Hill Street Blues on Youtube the other night and I already think I might be hooked. After that, shows 11-100 get slightly shorter essays, interspersed with the critics’ lists of various TV best of lists, such as best moms and dads, best cars, best haircuts, etc.
But if you think the book ends with essay #100, you’d be wrong. There are also sections on shows that almost made the cut, shows that had one really great season, and shows currently on the air that have a chance to crack the list one day.
Peak TV is a phrase that gets bandied about a lot these days, so it was nice to see Sepinwall and Seitz reach back into television’s past to shed light on the diamonds in the rough that many younger viewers may not be as familiar with. And while no one would agree with every ranking on their list, it’s hard to deny that Sepinwall and Seitz are the experts.