Among the year-end business I’m working on right now is a list of the top TV shows of the last decade. In some ways it’s actually easier than my year-end top-ten list, because it’s really the creme de la creme—if a show doesn’t immediately come to mind, it probably shouldn’t be on the list.
But there’s one big dilemma: what to do with “border shows,” series that aired episodes in both the 1990s and the 2000s—Freaks and Geeks, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, The West Wing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Daily Show, and so on.
Here are a few possible rules for dealing with these shows. Tell me which you prefer, or suggest your own:
1. All shows that aired a single episode in the 2000s are eligible (but are judged on the basis of only those episodes that aired in the 2000s). In other words, every border show is eligible.
2. Only shows that began airing on or after January 1, 2000, are eligible: no border shows make the cut.
3. No shows that could reasonably have made my best-of-the-’90s list are eligible. This is a little more complicated and subjective, but it makes some sense to me. It would allow, for instance, The West Wing and Freaks and Geeks, which had only aired a few episodes by the turn of the century, and probably stood little chance of making anyone’s best-of-the-’90s list then. But it would exclude Buffy (which had aired a few seasons) and probably Sex and the City and The Sopranos. The first season of The Sopranos in 1999 was probably the most critically praised single season of any show ever (excepting maybe season 4 of The Wire), and though I didn’t do a best-of-the’90s list, I would certainly have put it on if I had.
None of these are perfect, which just shows how arbitrary lists are. Tell me which of these options you like better, or suggest your own rules if you want. I don’t promise to pick the most popular choice, but getting your opinions will make my decision easier. Or much harder!