Billions: Most Underappreciated Quality Series on Television
by Mark Dawidziak | Cleveland.com | December 29, 2019
This was the year, long predicted, when we reached about 500 scripted television shows. Clinching the record were the fall launches of such high-profile streaming services as Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus.
Let’s put that in some kind of perspective. That’s 500 scripted comedies and dramas (or some mixture of both), which doesn’t count the hundreds of other shows that fall into the reality, game show, documentary, news, talk, magazine, sports or any of the many other programming formats found on the traditional networks, PBS, cable channels and streaming services.
Compare that with the total number of shows currently running on Broadway (33) or the number of new Broadway productions this year (38). Or compare that to the total number of American films that will be released this year: 230.
Maybe a Top 10 list is a reasonable exercise for a theater critic covering Broadway. Perhaps it makes sense for a film critic. But, obviously, in the ever-expanding TV universe, we’ve gone far past the point where this annual Top 10 ritual can be in any away comprehensive or fair.
It can, however, be representative of the best TV had to offer in 2019. With that caveat clearly in mind, this is one critic’s picks for the Top 10.
Billions (Showtime): The cable drama’s high-caliber fourth season demonstrated once again that this remains the most underappreciated quality series on television. Swerving cleverly and unexpectedly from the incredibly suspenseful to the outrageously funny, it continues to slyly weave its intriguing character exploration into the intricate plot structure. And it continues to recognize that some of the most gripping dramatic moments are achieved by putting two characters in a room and letting top-flight actors make the most of superbly written dialogue, particularly if those characters are being played by the likes of Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti and Maggie Siff.
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