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Jacob Burke’s Top 3 TV Shows

Welcome to the next installment of Studentenkrant’s Top 3 TV Shows. Each week, one of SK’s writers dives into their top three favorite shows of all time. Spanning different decades, runtimes, and genres, this series will confront readers with a diverse list of top tier television and explain to them what they are, why we love them, and why you should give them a watch!

This week’s writer: Jacob Burke


Some of my strongest memories of growing up include sitting in front of a television, watching whatever random show was on with my siblings, fighting for control of the channels and resigning ourselves to what the others wanted to watch, or having rare moments of peace in which we all love the same show. 

From cartoons to documentaries and TV drama, my taste in television has evolved over the years, but those programs I loved before never really get replaced. Now, I try to watch anything and everything I think I might enjoy when given the time, and it is a rare but incredible feeling when I find a new show that promises my obsession. Here are a selection of those shows, and some reasons why you should watch them! 

Honorable mentions:

  • Band of Brothers (Tom Hanks & Erik Jendresen, 2001) 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender (Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko, 2005-2008) 
  • The Boondocks (Aaron McGruder, 2005-2014)
  • It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (Rob McElhenny, 2005-) 
  • The Expanse (Naren Shankar, 2015-2022) 
  • Mr. Robot (Sam Esmail, 2015-2019) 
  • BoJack Horseman (Raphael Bob-Waksberg, 2014-2020)
  • Fawlty Towers (John Cleese & Connie Booth, 1975-1979) 
  • Dragon Ball Z (Kôzô Morishita, 1989-1996)
  • Primeval (Tim Haines & Adrian Hodges, 2007-2011)

The Wire (David Simon, 2002-2008)
Available on HBO Max 

The Wire is about the dynamics at play in the American city of Baltimore, beginning with a familiar ‘cops versus robbers’ narrative in the first season, and ending its season five having explored politics, the judicial system, education and journalism. It explores how these institutions affect the people living in the city, showing us the perspective of drug dealers, drug users, police detectives, lawyers, judges, dock workers…It is dense. 

It sounds almost detached from reality with this description, but ultimately that is what it is about. And this can be off putting to some. In fact, it took me several attempts before I actually got into the show. But the fun part is the minute-to-minute interactions of characters who, despite how many there eventually are, all feel known and alive. 

We see the growth of Bubbles (Andre Royo), a heroin addict with a heart of gold, and the overpowering presence of Omar (Michael K. Williams), and the inner conflict of detective Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn); strong characters who could have carried entire separate series’ by themselves, but here they are just a part of an immense tapestry.

There probably isn’t much left to say about The Wire that hasn’t been said. It has been covered extensively in ‘Best of’ lists, and it definitely isn’t an original pick. It’s also not a comfort show, or an easygoing watch by any means. It can be hard to recommend, but I had to put this here. 

In the show, each season adds a new layer that builds on the depiction of American society, one that remains relevant to this day. Every single group of people are portrayed so realistically because many of the writers didn’t come from a literary background, but instead have lived the lives they are representing. It feels real, and each season slowly familiarises you with the intricacies of Baltimore, attaching you to characters through genuine understanding of who they are and what position they have in society. 

While I definitely have to be in a mood to watch The Wire, it has become my favourite show. I will rewatch it around once a year, and still to this day I see new things that I missed before. Truly worth every second, even with its intimidating start. 

Atlanta (Donald Glover, 2016-2022)
Available on Disney+

Atlanta follows Earn (Donald Glover), a music producer who learns his cousin, Al (Brian Tyree Henry), is becoming a popular rapper. Earn, broke and unsure of his place in the world, smells an opportunity, and the pair, joined by Vanessa (Zazie Beetz) and Darius (Lakeith Stanfield), navigate their way through the music business as the four become friends. Frankly, a lot of weird shit happens. 

The show is almost a parody, critiquing the modern social climate through loosely related episodes, each of which take us into a ‘something isn’t right’ vibe which touches upon social contexts of race, gender, class and the entertainment industry. We also really get to know our four main characters, with every one having a beautiful arc told over its three seasons. It is hilarious, poignant, and full of style that you don’t quite see on television. With most episodes directed by Hiro Murai, every shot looks fantastic, and as you can see in the trailer, oozes flair. 

The strangeness of Atlanta can’t really be explained. As the third season recently concluded the story, it has cemented itself among my favourite shows. The last few episodes building up to the finale are absolutely fantastic and exemplify the bizarreness that Donald Glover and his team have cooked up here. It feels fun, new and exciting, with episodes that range throughout the entire emotional spectrum. In a relatively short runtime, it became something I revisit all the time, if only to get some more Darius. 

Cowboy Bebop/Samurai Champloo (Shinichirō Watanabe, 1998; 2004-2005)
Available on Netflix and Crunchyroll respectively

You’re gonna carry that weight. 

My heart split in two trying to decide which of these shows to pick. So, I picked them both. For me, these shows are two sides of the same coin, something that makes me love old tales of adventure and storytelling. 

Cowboy Bebop is a jazzy, cyberpunk anime about space-faring bounty hunters Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed and Ein. Almost all of the episodes introduce new characters meeting the gang and new bounties to attain. But all the while, it is evident that things are changing, and you see the crew of the Bebop change alongside it. They all have so much character and memorability, and it is all so groovy. Episode Five is where, for me, it really hits you that this is something different. An entirely new genre, one might say. 

Samurai Champloo is about two samurai, Mugen and Jin, who invariably converge when falling into a bond of service with Fuu, who searches for a warrior who smells of sunflowers. Mugen is chaos, while Jin is calm. Fuu is their binding element in the show. Like Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo’s story is episodic and complete, and the last few episodes peak in a breathtaking way. 

Regardless which of these shows you watch, the music is absolutely pivotal.  Cowboy Bebop was composed by Yoko Kanno and his band, the Seatbelts. Jun Seba (RIP), aka Nujabes, is often credited with a lot of the music for Samurai Champloo.  But it was made by a group of producers including Tsutchie, Fat Jon, and Japanese duo Force of Nature. I mention this so specifically because the music of these shows is their heartbeat, and gives them some energy that makes me excited every time I watch those credits. 

Both of these shows tell a complete, 26-episode story which ends, with no real question about sequels or a continuation, and they say all that they were trying to say. Also boasting brilliant animation and art design, thrilling action scenes and totally memorable characters, these shows are just damn good.  Short, sweet, and sharp as a blade, I will never stop watching them. 

Final Thoughts

For me, these choices show what television is capable of, and why I love the medium. They range so widely in, well, everything, but I will return to each of them constantly. If any of them interest you, I am certain you won’t be disappointed.