Twin Peaks - Every episode directed by David Lynch plus all of season one. Season two gets very bad after Lynch & Mark Frost step away but ends strongly. Season 3 from 2017 is as good as TV gets and possibly Lynch’s masterpiece. America’s greatest living director doing his best work puts this at the top of the list. Episode 8 alone would do that too, as would the finale. It’s crazy and awesome this got released on a major cable network.
A lot of stuff brought back by nostalgia recently would’ve been better off left in the past but Twin Peaks deserved to be finished by its two creators. It also functions as a critique of nostalgia and the numbing comfort it can provide, while doubling as a showcase for Lynch’s unique spiritual vision.
The Sopranos - Twin Peaks isn’t for everyone. Sopranos should be. It’s the great American novel. I’ve never seen a show more effectively achieve the rhythm of ordinary life. For a show about mobsters, it’s often the personal drama that is the most weighty and gripping, and it’s all anchored by James Gandolfini giving probably the best performance ever, in film or TV. Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, and much of the rest of the cast are great too. And although it’s not a comedy it’s probably one of the funniest shows ever made. Possibly TV’s strongest ending too.
The Americans - Season one isn’t the greatest but each season is better than the last and the last two put it on the level of Sopranos and The Wire. Matthew Rhys’s facial expressions alone would carry the show, he’s an incredibly subtle and effective actor, but really all the elements of the show are great. Like Sopranos, the family drama is often heavier than the brutal spy work that draws you in. Really it’s a show about cycles of abuse and the abuser mindset, so every facet of the show has a psychological darkness to it that I found fascinating. Frank Langella, Margo Martindale, and Noah Emmerich are brilliant in supporting roles.
Sharp Objects - Even better than Big Little Lies. Amy Adams, maybe the greatest working actress today, plus Vallee’s Roeg-like editing and immersive visuals and soundscapes combine to make the show feel like a long, slow, inescapable nightmare. Not for everyone but I couldn’t get enough of it; at the same time, it works perfectly as an 8 episode miniseries.