Looking Back: The 9 Best TV Series of 2001

Entertainment Features
12.08.11 29 Comments

Since we’re still new to Warming Glow, I thought it would be useful to provide some context to the television opinions expressed about the current television landscape by looking back a decade and exploring the nine best shows of 2001. Obviously, not all of these shows began their runs in 2001, but they were all airing, and each one had a strong 2001 season (the missing 10th series was “Friends,” but by 2001, it was crap). Also, retrospectives are fun, and if you haven’t caught all of the series below, they’re each worth checking out (and number 8 and number 5 can each be knocked out in a weekend).

9. 24: The first season, in 2001, of Keifer Sutherland’s overwrought, over-the-top but intensely action-packed series was maybe the best, and ended with one of the more surprising deaths of the decade. Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there.
8. Undeclared: Not quite “Freaks and Geeks,” Judd Apatow brought a similar comedic sensibility to college in this short-lived, cancelled to soon series that introduced American to Charlie Hunnam and Jay Baruchel. Seth Rogen was pretty great in it, too.

7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Slightly cheesy, all kinds of kick ass, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was a coming of age show about self-and-sexual identity crises, and, of course, vampires. It’s everything that Twilight isn’t. Unfortunatley, it also had one of the worst theme songs of the decade. Ugh

6. Curb Your Enthusiasm: Larry David combined uncomfortable and aggressively anti-PC humor into a show that merged huge laughs with one of the least likable characters on TV. In all the right ways, of course.

5. The Office (UK): Ricky Gervais’ original “The Office” series popularized comedy of discomfort. It was absurdist tragedy combined with Andy Kaufmanesque humor and populated with small, joyous victories that you’d miss if you left the room to avoid the awkward almost too-hard-to-watch situations.

4. Futurama: This brilliant Matt Groening sci-fi animated series is perhaps the most heartfelt cartoon of all time: Smart, sophisticated, and thanks to a five-year hiatus, it’s the one of only two shows on this list that is still running, but unlike the other one, it’s as fresh and smart as it ever was. The “Jurassic Bark” episode could also bring the strongest man to his knees.

3. Six Feet Under: 2001 was the freshman season of “Six Feet Under” and its very best, as Alan Ball confronted death head on, exploring the different ways in which people deal with grief. Eventually, it also gave us the most painful, gut-wrenching series finale of the decade.

2. West Wing: In 2001, “The West Wing” was still under the stewardship of Aaron Sorkin (before John Wells gutted it), and he gave us pitch-perfect writing, emotional resonance, and President Bartlett shoving Bible quotes down a homophobic radio host’s gullet in one of the best scenes of the decade.

1. The Sopranos: The cable drama that put premium cable on the television map: No longer was it about airing late-night soft core skin flicks and feature films before they were edited for network television, “The Sopronas” paved the way for many of the best series of the entire decade. But it wasn’t just groundbreaking: It was a phenomenal series in its own right, even though the glacially paced later seasons gave way to one of the most frustrating finales in television series history (below, spoilers obviously)

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