If you’re anything like me, you hate flipping through the channels. Usually I’ll just sit down at the TV, scroll through the listings once, and if I don’t see anything I like, I find something else to do. The problem is, that makes it tough for me to find new shows to watch, but that’s just how I am–I have the attention span of a walnut. Not to mention the fact that considering the crap that passes for TV nowadays (reality shows, I’m looking at you), most of the time when I do branch out and try a new show, the result is something like this:

You think this is bad? You should see my fist.

So if you’re like me (and let’s face it, I have to assume that you either are, or want to be), you have trouble finding good shows to watch on TV. Well that’s where I come in. I’ve scoured the airwaves and come up with a list of six of the best shows on television, past and present (okay, not that far in the past–the oldest show on the list came out in 1999), for your viewing pleasure. These are just a few of my favorites that I think are worth a look, if you haven’t already seen them. If you have seen them, let me know in the comments section just how awesome my taste in TV shows is. If you haven’t seen them, go watch them, and then do the same. But enough of my babbling–let’s get to the list. For the record, these are in no particular order.

1. How I Met Your Mother

This is one of those shows that I never expected to like. I started watching it one day because I was bored, and I could get it free on demand through Comcast, and after watching a few episodes, it seemed pretty funny. So I got online and started watching the first season, and it’s actually not a bad show. The premise is that 20 years from now, this dude named Ted Mosby is telling his kids the story of how he met their mother. The thing is, this guy has been talking for FIVE YEARS, and he still hasn’t gotten to the part where he met their mother. Sounds like a guy I know… Bruce, if you’re reading this, I am in no way talking about you.

So present-day Ted lives in New York and spends all day hanging out with his friends, who include his college roommate and his hot redheaded wife (played by Alyson Hannigan, my all-time favorite female celebrity, and the main reason why I watch the show), his Canadian ex-girlfriend, and his suit-wearing, womanizing pal, Doogie Hauser. The five of them get into all sorts of mischief together while Ted desperately searches for his future wife. The show follows a basic overall plot, but it’s still funny and easy to follow even if you haven’t seen every prior episode. The characters are all pretty relateable, and Neil Patrick Harris is absolutely hilarious. Not that the rest of them aren’t, but his wacky antics are what really make the show worth watching. Well, that, and Alyson Hannigan.

2. Family Guy

Okay, I’m not sure this one even needs to be on the list. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 1999, you’ve probably seen Family Guy, and you either love it or hate it. In case you did just crawl out from under that rock, Family Guy is the story of Peter Griffin, a fat, lazy moron with a heart of gold (except, not really about that heart of gold thing). Peter’s loving, dysfunctional family consists of his wife Lois and three kids, including Stewie, a baby who can talk, but can only be understood consistently by the dog. Which brings us to the dog, Brian, who walks upright and talks like a human, and happens to be the smartest member of the entire family. What strikes me as creepy are the intimate relationships Brian has with women throughout the show. Not only does no one find it strange that the dog talks and walks around on his hind legs, but no one bats an eyelash when human women start having sex with him. Where I come from, that’s called beastiality. They’ll lock you up for that, just ask my pal Elrod.

But what’s great about Family Guy is that they make no effort to hide their plot holes, and they even joke about them on the air. I remember one episode where Brian and Stewie have an argument over what characters can understand Stewie when he talks, and Brian ends up telling Stewie to go complain on the internet if he doesn’t like the explanation. Obviously it’s not a show that’s meant to be taken seriously, it’s just a little mindless fun. If you don’t like stupid humor, you probably won’t like Family Guy. And if you don’t like Family Guy (or stupid humor, for that matter), you have no business reading my blog.

3. The Office

I started watching The Office (the American version) when it first came out, and I’ve loved it ever since. Steve Carell is great as the clueless manager, Michael Scott. Most of the cast members are comedy improv actors, and their dialog (a lot of which is ad-libbed) is hilarious. This is one of my favorite shows, but to be honest, I’m actually surprised it’s still going after 6 years. Not because it’s not still a great show, but because since it first premiered, The Office has appeared to have jumped the shark (basically, this just means it has gone through one of any number of plot elements that usually mean a TV show is past its prime and heading for the crapper) in some way about 12 times: when Jim moved to a different branch, when Jim and Pam finally got together, then again when they got married, and again when they had a baby… the list goes on. But somehow, the show still manages to do fine.

They’ve gone through some low points, for sure, but for the most part, The Office has managed to stay up there in the ratings, despite all that shark jumping. Unfortunately, Steve Carell just announced that he’ll be leaving after this next season. This sucks for fans, because Carell is really what holds the whole show together, and I’d bet money that after he leaves, The Office won’t survive. They might try to keep going for a while, but they won’t be able to keep it up without him. That’s what she said.

4. Dead Like Me

Dead Like Me is a darker comedy than most of the ones that I like, but it’s still a great show. It tells the story of Georgia (George) Lass, an 18 year old girl who is killed when a toilet seat from the deorbiting Mir space station lands on top of her. Watch the video clip if you don’t believe me–I couldn’t make this stuff up. So whether by sheer dumb luck or the design of some higher power, George is chosen to stick around and become an undead grim reaper, who takes people’s souls right before they die. That’s not nearly as gruesome as it sounds–she still looks like a normal human (although nobody from her past life recognizes her), and taking people’s souls isn’t portrayed as a bad thing–it allows them to move on, and spares them from any sort of pain when they die.

I know it sounds morbid, but Dead Like Me actually makes a pretty funny show out of this creepy premise. It follows George’s life as she adjusts to being a grim reaper, alongside her mentor and boss Rube (played by Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride), and her hilarious group of reaper pals–the British druggie who died in the 60s when he drilled a hole in his head chasing a permanent high, the blonde actress who died in a fire on the scene of Gone With The Wind, and the cop who invented leg warmers, and was then strangled with them by her roommate who wanted to steal the credit. The show only lasted 2 seasons, and both are available online on Netflix and Hulu. If you like comedies and you’re cool with something a little darker, Dead Like Me is definitely worth a look.

5. Firefly

Firefly came out in 2002, but I just discovered it on Netflix a few months ago. I have to say, I’m not sure how I never knew about it before then. The show is set about a million years in the future, and follows the voyages of the starship Serenity. Her five year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations… to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Wait, wrong show. These guys mainly just steal stuff, and then get mad and cuss at each other in Japanese, for some reason. Anyway, Firefly is an excellent mixture of sci-fi and western. It’s set in a future where Earth couldn’t support life anymore, so humans set out to colonize another solar system. Most of the planets resemble the old west, complete with revolvers and shootouts and cowboy hats. Serenity‘s crew of goofy, oddball smugglers consists of, among others, the sharp-witted, occasionally lovable captain with a mysterious past, the hot mechanic chick who knows the ship inside and out, the angry hired gun who is always threatening to betray the captain if he gets a better offer, and, for some reason that I still don’t understand, a high-class prostitute. They go around the galaxy doing whatever jobs they can find, usually involving stealing something, robbing someone, or smuggling something.

Pretty much everything about this show was awesome. It was dramatic, intense, funny, and just plain fun to watch. If you don’t believe me, just ask anybody who’s seen it. If you don’t believe them, go buy it on DVD. It can’t be that expensive, considering it only lasted 11 episodes before Fox cancelled it. Despite the fact that critics and viewers loved the show, Fox in all their wisdom only allowed it to air for three months. A follow-up movie, called Serenity, came out a few years later with all the same actors. It was actually a pretty good movie. If you want to check it out, Netflix has the movie and the entire series (plus 3 episodes that were never aired) streaming online, if you have access to that. Also, Hulu shows 5 episodes at a time online for free.

6. Arrested Development

Arrested Development is the story of the Bluths, a formerly wealthy family that is pretty much the picture of dysfunction, and of all my favorite shows, it’s definitely one of the best. The show is loosely staged as a documentary of the Bluth family and their failing real estate development business. Critics loved it, calling it the best comedy show on TV. It won all sorts of Emmys and Golden Globes and a bunch of other awards that you don’t care about, so I won’t bother looking them up. The show’s style of comedy is what set it apart from every other random sitcom out there. First of all, they opted not to use a laugh track. Where most sitcoms make a joke and then stop and play the laugh track to make darn sure that you got it before they went on with the show, Arrested Development would make a joke and then continue with the dialog without missing a beat. A lot of its humor is subtle, often in the form of innuendo and double entendres. It only lasted 3 seasons before Fox did what they do best, and cancelled it.

I know what you’re thinking: “But Joe, if this show of yours was so darn popular, then by golly, why did they cancel it?” Well first of all, I never said it was popular. Stop putting words in my mouth. I said it won awards and was a hit with critics. But despite its cult following, the show never did well in the ratings. The problem with Arrested Development was the same thing that made it great–its style of comedy. The show relied heavily on running jokes and throwbacks to previous episodes, which were hardly ever explained for the benefit of new viewers. If you’ve never watched the show before and you watched that clip up there, you may have noticed that a lot of it didn’t make sense. The show doesn’t really cater to the casual fan, which didn’t really lead to good ratings on TV. You have to watch it from the beginning, or a lot of it won’t make sense. But once you get into it and start to pick up on the running jokes, it’s hysterical. If you’ve never seen this show, I highly recommend it. If you have Netflix, you can watch all 3 seasons streaming online, and Hulu is streaming one season at a time for free.

So that’s it for my list. Feel free to comment with your own favorite shows, or opinions on mine. And now, from all of us here at Joe’s Blog, good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.