Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry who hopes his writings will help launch his career.
My Top 10
In everyone's life, there are those shows that impact you and, in many ways, change your life forever. In the following article, I list the ten TV programs that impacted me the most and had the most influence on my life, whether that be a point of view, a call to action, or the spark of a lifelong interest.
#1: 13 Reasons Why
As someone who struggles with depression, I found 13 Reasons Why both tragic and comforting. By comforting, I mean that it was a relief to see that I'm not alone in how I think or feel. Seeing other people go through what I am or have been going through actually is therapy in itself.
One of the biggest heartaches in the world is feeling alone, like you have no one you can turn to or talk to. That's what Hannah Baker experiences in the show. She has a few friends, but the feeling of not being good enough and not being able to unload and talk with someone becomes too much to handle so she turns to the last friend she has left: a razor blade. Before her death, she leaves behind 7 double-sided tapes on which she recorded 13 reasons why she turned to suicide. Clay Jensen, her closest friend, is the main character of the show aside from Hannah. It's Clay's turn to hear the tapes and what he hears moves him, tears him apart, and ultimately pushes him to an emotional brink.
It's terrifying how realistic this show is. The message behind the writing is clear: you have to cherish those around you and show them that you care. Take the time out of your day to listen and help others. You never know what someone's feeling inside and, what's more, what you say could be the hand that pushes them over the edge or pulls them back to safety.
We all know the story of Lost, right? The show centers on a group of plane crash survivors who discover that there are not only other people living on the island, but also that there's a whole lot more going on than meets the eye. The show was an enigmatic masterpiece, requiring viewers to pay close attention to each episode and piece together the various clues like a puzzle.
Lost was my saving grace in high school. No matter what was going on, whether it was a bully, relationship trouble, mental distress, or tough subjects, looking forward to the next episode helped me find a reason to keep going, to hold on just one more week, one more summer, one more year.
#3: The X-Files
The X-Files was a game-changer on more levels than one. As I like to put it, the show 'exposed the truth without exposing the truth.' The sci-fi show dealt a lot with aliens, but it also had head agents Mulder and Scully investigating and uncovering government conspiracies, both proving and debunking legends and myths, and sometimes they just had a little fun.
For me, the show sparked my interest and love of research. In today's world, there are people that can (and will) post whatever they want on social media without having any proof or checking facts. Social media is tricky that way. There are so many clickbait articles out there that make you believe something's true when it isn't. The news is the same way. Everything is someone's agenda, no matter if it's leftist or rightist. The X-Files dodged the bullet of taking one side or the other and presented the facts and theories as they are and weaving an intriguing story around both the known and the unknown. I've often wondered if the show had an inside consultant because it actually predicted a lot of what's going on today.
#4: Death Note
The anime series Death Note may have been a good psychological thriller, but it also gave a rare philosophical insight into the minds of both psychopaths and geniuses.
Death Note follows Light Yagami, a third-year high school student who finds a notebook called the 'Death Note'. The notebook is supernatural, giving the possessor the ability to kill whoever they want however they want. Light doesn't believe it at first until he decides to try it out for himself. Soon, the power consumes him, causing Light's ego to spiral out of control as he tries to dodge the brilliant investigator known as L. Their pursuit of one another soon becomes a cat-and-mouse game that could spell disaster for them both and everyone around them.
This show wasn't my first trip into the world of philosophy but it did offer some insights that I'd never really considered before. Is a psychopath born deranged, or is he born the day he decides to act on a curious impulse? What would you, or any of us, do to protect yourself from a dreadful outcome? Was Light good or bad? These questions opened my mind to a whole new level of discovery. What does it mean to be good? What does it mean to be bad? One could conclude that killing is bad, period. But Light started out killing criminals and scummy people with no chance of redemption. Does that make Light a dark hero like The Punisher? Or is he evil for killing in the first place? I could honestly philosophize about this show for hours, but I'm more interested in what you have to say. Let me know in the comments.
#5: Doctor Who
I admittedly didn't discover this show until lockdown during the pandemic, however, it was possibly the best thing to ever happen to me. The Doctor was a true godsend, coming into my life in a time when I was out of answers, hope, and will. But God bless Russell T. Davies, Steven Moffat, and Chris Chibnall for bringing these stories to life with expert brilliance.
Doctor Who is almost indescribable. It seems like a time-travel/sci-fi epic on the surface, but what it really is, what you find when you peel back the layers, is so much more. Sometimes it takes a couple seasons to understand something referenced way back in season 1 and sometimes it takes a couple episodes to flush out the motives behind an action. It's a story that requires dedication and commitment and it works so much better if you take it seriously.
The morality behind Doctor Who is beautiful and the approach that's taken is that the Doctor is always learning and growing even though he's been around for 2,000 years. How it impacted me was that it put life into perspective in a number of ways. First, it shows you the vastness of the universe and how huge it really is. There's only so much that humans are able to observe and yet the Doctor is able to travel anywhere, even out of reach of humanity. When you see the beauty of the universe, your problems start to look really small. Second, it gives me comfort in knowing that a 2,000 year old super genius is still learning so how am I supposed to have everything figured out? Third, it shows me that making the right choice takes far more courage than making the easy choice. Lastly, the show has helped me deal with my grief. Everyone dies and no one knows that like the Doctor. The Eleventh Doctor once said: "It all just disappears, doesn't it? Everything we are, gone, like breath on a mirror." But he goes on to say "We all change all throughout our lives and that's okay, that's good, so long as we remember all the people we used to be." It may hurt to remember the past but it also prevents you from making the same mistakes again. So, in a way, the show encourages you to embrace your pain rather than run from it because facing it is the only way to truly learn and grow from it. There's so much I've learned from this show and I'm sure there's so much more left to learn.
Smallville told the story of young Clark Kent, from a kid found in the middle of a meteor shower to his teen years to his eventual transformation into Superman. While the show was, at its roots, a superhero origin story, it was also a teen drama that tackled so many issues from making the right choice no matter how difficult, to letting go, from grieving the death of a loved one to living with the consequences of your actions.
Smallville began in 2001, in what would arguably be the beginning of the hardest time of my life. From 6th grade to my first real job after college, Smallville helped me through emotional pain and growing pain and even taught me some valuable life lessons. Seeing Superman himself struggle with his love life, longing for Lana when he's missing out on Chloe, and eventually falling for the stubborn and cynical Lois, helped me navigate my own love life. Even though I still made some dumb mistakes, I learned to move on and learn from them just as Clark did. (However, I never threw any wild parties while my parents were gone. My parents wouldn't have been as forgiving as the Kents!)
In a weird way, the show also prepared me for one of the most painful moments of my life, my grandfather's passing. In season 5, Clark's father Jonathan passes away suddenly from a heart attack. There's an episode dedicated to grief and learning to move forward after a loved one passes away. This aired from Jan-Feb of 2006, 4 and a half years before my grandpa passed, yet I still pulled it from memory as if the episodes had just aired. Using grief to find comfort in grief may sound pretty messed up, but being able to connect and relate to someone, even a fictional character, helps in so many ways.
#7: The Newsroom
Speaking of mind-opening material, The Newsroom was a realistic portrayal of what we know to be right and the conflict between that and what the world wants us to do.
The Newsroom follows Will McAvoy as he tries to keep his moral ground in a world of cynical news and corrupt politics.
In a lot of ways, this show prepared me for what was coming, I just didn't know it at the time. The show didn't just talk about issues brewing in America, it tackled them at full speed and told the truth regardless of what viewers might say. Its topics ranged from Muslim bombings vs. Christian bombings, Democrats vs. Republicans, to morality vs. settling. I wish sometimes that The Newsroom had lasted longer than three seasons. I'd love to know how the show would react to today's headlines.
Castle stars Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle, a famous mystery writer who has finished his long-running series of Derrick Storm novels and is looking for something fresh. He finds that in more ways than one in Detective Kate Beckett, the NYPD's best homicide detective. After reaching out to his good friend, the mayor, Castle is allowed to shadow Detective Beckett on her cases. What starts as a hilarious mismatched partnership turns into a tense romance with plot twists that would make James Patterson jealous.
The show began after I had finally graduated from high school and started college. I had always had a fondness for writing, trying my hand multiple times at writing a book but I could never finish. I always felt like I just couldn't find what I wanted to say. Even though I followed the show religiously while it aired, it wasn't until a recent rewatch that the spark for writing ignited once more. Thanks to Castle, my first book is now with an editor! We'll see if anything comes of it. Just finally having the sense of accomplishing something was intoxicating and I've already begun the sequel.
#9: The Office
The Office was an American comedy in mockumentary style which ran for 9 glorious seasons. It followed the lives of various office workers as they work, fall in love, break up, experience loss, and, most importantly, have a ton of fun.
The Office is a timeless classic. What makes the show so great is that it took both emotional and funny approaches to actual problems both in the workplace and in life. And it can be rewatched multiple times without ever getting boring.
The Office has helped me navigate through a lot of relationship issues. Jim and Pam's story has encouraged me to not give up, Michael and Jan's seasons 3-4 story was an upsetting but freakishly true-to-life reminder of how damaging and draining being with the wrong person can be, and Karen's story arc gave me comfort that even though it may seem like the right person will never come along, they will when you aren't expecting it. The show continues to make me laugh and cry and I hope I get to pass this gem down to the next generation someday.
#10: The Batman & Spider-Man Animated Series
I know, I know, it's cheating to count two shows as one but I can't choose one over the other. The Batman and Spider-Man animated series influenced my life by cementing my love for superheroes. There are literally people that fight over whether Marvel or DC is better but, to me, they both are important in their own ways.
I remember coming home after school and watching Young Hercules, Batman, and Spider-Man. Those were the days. I learned so much from Batman and Spider-Man but just didn't realize it at the time. They taught me that carrying hate and vengeance in your heart doesn't help matters and even hurts you in the long run. They taught me that you don't have to have special powers to be a hero, you just have to have the courage to take a stand for what's right. We need more figurative Batmen and Spider-men in the world, now more than ever.
Honorable Mention: Entourage
Entourage was loosely based on Mark Wahlberg's experiences in Hollywood before he became a superstar. The show centers on Vincent Chase, Johnny Chase, Eric "E" Murphy, Turtle, and Ari Gold. Vince is an up-and-coming actor trying to find his footing in the midst of stardom. Johnny is Vince's older half-brother who can't get a job to save his life. Eric is Vince's manager who deals with Ari Gold, Vince's agent. Turtle is the token best friend who's just along for the ride.
The show does require a more mature audience, thanks mostly to Ari who can be a bit spontaneous at times. Beneath Ari's hilarious and often explicit banter, there are incredible learning opportunities spread throughout the show. From Vince overspending to Turtle getting in deep with his business ideas to Ari getting fired and reinventing himself with his own agency, there's much to learn from the aspiring kings of Hollywood.
The problem with starting a business is you kinda have to know what you want to do for a living. That's where my problem is. I know I want to do something in film or writing, maybe both! It's just deciding what career I want to pursue and getting the funds to pursue it. Nevertheless, in the clip below, Ari provides some great business advice for those looking to get started.
Narrowing The List To 10 Was Tough
There are tons of shows that have impacted my life so picking the top 10 wasn't easy. But now it's your turn.
In the comments, tell me which ones impacted your life or changed you in some way, whether for good or for bad. I love to read about other people's experiences and look forward to hearing from you!
© 2018 Nathan Jasper
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on October 25, 2018:
I've not seen most of these shows, but I have seen the X-Files. I used to enjoy watching that.