The '90s may have been filled with memorable shows such as Seinfeld, ER and Friends, but the millennium brought a whole new set of TV shows that completely changed television. The networks finally realized we needed smarter television; we needed shows that would no longer be classified as "mindless television." And boy did they deliver!
We may have had years of procedural dramas such as Law & Order, but the new decade spawned the term "forensic drama." Who knew there would be a market for following the trail of evidence left behind at a crime scene? And more importantly -- who knew that a crime could possibly be solved by one simple fiber or fingerprint? I'll bet criminals think twice these days before committing a crime.
We always been suckers for a great action adventure dramas, but Fox's 24 upped the ante by adding a time element. Each season represented a 24-hour time period, making each episode one hour in real time -- effectively forcing viewers to endure massive amounts of stress as Jack Bauer raced against the clock to save the world from the latest terroristic threat. Am I alone in suffering from TMJ during each of these intense episodes?
ABC's NYPD Blue started a trend back in the '90s with cops who teetered on the edge of the law, but The Shield went way beyond the edge with a group of cops who broke the rules, yet still got the bad guys in the end. This series was one of the first to put the FX network on the map, and its success helped pave the way for the development of more cable shows. Since the writers weren't forced to follow the same censorship rules as the five major networks, The Shield was one of the first non-premium cable series to step out of the box to give viewers more compelling (and often shocking) drama.
After spending years being the butt of industry jokes, the fall of 2004 proved to be the triumphant return of the ABC network thanks to a few shows that captured our attention in a big way. After being turned down by the other networks, ABC decided to take a chance with Desperate Housewives, a series featuring a group of thirty and forty-something housewives living in a beautiful (and quite dysfunctional) neighborhood. ABC had an instant hit on their hands and a new TV term was spawned -- the "dramedy." More than five years later, the series is consistently in Nielsen's Top 20 and still going strong.
It was ABC's lucky week when along with the instant success of Desperate Housewives came Lost, another huge hit and something unlike anything we have ever seen on television. With answers rarely given, viewers were forced to head to the internet to meet up with fellow fans to try to unlock the many mysteries of this strange island. I have never watched a show where I need to concentrate heavily on objects in the background in order to get clues -- and then head to the internet to do research. While it may seem like a lot of work for a seemingly silly TV show, I wouldn't trade one single minute of my obsession. Millions of fans (myself included) are going to be devastated when the show comes to an end in 2010.
In a time where medical dramas were running rampant across all the major and cable networks, Fox gave us something completely different with House. Pill-popping, foulmouthed, bad-tempered Gregory House is the last doctor you'd ever want to have a conversation with, but the one and only doctor I would want working on my case. He's the guy who says those things we all think in our heads, but would never actually say out loud. The series has brought to light cases we've never seen (or even knew existed) on other medical dramas -- and we have an awful lot of fun watching how these odd cases get solved by Dr. Crabby Pants and his team.
Disaster movies seem to do quite well in theaters, but we rarely see a post-apocalyptic drama on the small screen. Jericho dealt with the aftermath of those who survived after nuclear bombs were dropped on major cities throughout the U.S. Probably more intriguing than the premise of this drama is the real-life drama that went on when CBS canceled the series after the first season. Disgruntled fans decided to flood the CBS offices with more than 20 tons of nuts. Although the network had already officially canceled the show, the fan campaign worked and the show was renewed for a second season (consisting of 7 episodes). The show was canceled once again due to poor ratings. Just goes to show that the networks do listen to the fans...sometimes.
The networks pull out all the stops to constantly raise the bar, but sometimes these shows wind up trying too hard and look nothing more than a cheap gimmick. AMC's Mad Men gives fans unadulterated drama each week without all the bells and whistles. This series takes us back to the '60s, giving us a realistic look at what life was really like back then. Most women were housewives who raised the kids, cleaned, cooked and were devoted to their husbands, just about everyone smoked cigarettes, the men drank at the office and very rarely would a woman become successful in the business world. What a long, long way our society has come in the last 40 years.
If somebody had told me a year ago that a musical dramedy would become a big hit on television, I would've thought they were crazy. Coming off the unprecedented success of the High School Musical franchise, Glee came at exactly the right time. Viewers were ready for this type of series, we needed something different, we needed a show that features music that covers a variety of genres (did you know that the cast of the show has several songs on the iTunes charts?), we needed a show that made it cool to dance and sing in the privacy of our living rooms, we needed to see football players and cheerleaders sing, we needed Glee.
Even though Buffy began in the late '90s, it was the start of the vampire era that influenced some of the hottest dramas on television (and film) today. Would Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries have been as successful without Buffy and the Scooby gang (not to mention the brilliant mind of creator Joss Whedon)? Possibly, but let's face it folks -- they made vampires cool.