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Sean Campbell’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: Sean Campbell 


An avid television viewer I am not, with the medium usually taking a back seat to movies, music, and video games. In fact, YouTube always felt like somewhat of a TV substitute for me. Many of the classics have therefore passed me by. The Wire, The Sopranos, and, for a long time, Breaking Bad (although this one has recently been rectified, thank God!).

And yet, I have been absolutely enamored with some truly phenomenal TV shows over the years. Fueled by inexhaustible childhood nostalgia, I will oftentimes watch shows that I already know I hold dear. Other times, I gravitate towards breath-taking animation, exceptional dialogues, strong worldbuilding, and the occasional British panel show. Here’s a peek into my, albeit rather limited, world of televisual enjoyment!

Honorable mentions:

  • Arcane (Christian Linke & Alex Yee, 2021-)
  • The Boys (Eric Kripke, 2019-)
  • Breaking Bad (Vince Gilligan, 2008-2013)
  • Andor (Tony Gilroy, 2022-)
  • Hot Ones (Chris Schonberger, 2015-)
  • Dragon Ball Z (Kôzô Morishita, 1989-1996)
  • The Graham Norton Show (Jon Magnusson, 2007-)
  • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Jeffrey Addiss & Will Matthews, 2019)
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars (George Lucas, 2008-2020)
  • Legendary (Renata Lombardo, 2020-2022)
  • De Slimste Mens (Skyhigh TV, 2012-)

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko, 2005-2008)
Available on Netflix

In 2005, Nickelodeon debuted an animated series that would go on to capture the hearts of children and adults alike for generations to come. Drawing inspiration from Asian and Arctic cultures and folklore, Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) is set in a fantasy world with four nations, each built around a different element (water, earth, fire, and air). Some can learn to manipulate those elements and harness them in battle through ‘bending’, but only the Avatar can bend all four.

Following Aang, the current Avatar, and his friends on their journey across three seasons to restore balance to the world by defeating Fire Lord Ozai captivated me as a 2000s kid. I was glued to the screen whenever it came on. Most of all, I cherished those special days when Nickelodeon would air all 61 episodes of the show one after the other in a TV marathon, something that feels particularly distant now when everything is readily available on streaming.

The show has maintained this stranglehold on me into my adulthood, indicative not only of nostalgia, but also its emotionally mature and complex storytelling. While ATLA certainly embraces comedy and is light-hearted when it needs to be, it also tackles themes like war, genocide, imperialism, and indoctrination in ways palatable to children, yet no less meaningful to adults.

The four elements frequently clash in fantastical fight sequences, but just as much time is spent on quiet character moments, fleshing out our main and supporting cast. I’m partial to General Iroh, who offers sage advice to his nephew and series antagonist Prince Zuko. His voice actor Mako Iwamatsu passed away before the second season aired, leading to a tribute in the episode The Tales of Ba Sing Se that leaves me teary-eyed and with chills time and again.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is my favorite show of all time. This uniquely well-developed ensemble has you enjoying every second you spend with them and forges deep bonds between characters and audience. Although it’s absolutely not just suitable for children, I can’t wait to share this show with my own some day.

The Bear (Christopher Storer, 2022-)
Available on Disney+

After inheriting a sandwich restaurant called ‘The Beef’ from his deceased brother Michael, celebrated chef de cuisine Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (played magnificently by Jeremy Allen White) returns to his hometown of Chicago to run the place. Now, some of you may be expecting an uplifting tale about how a young chef whips the restaurant back into shape. However, in The Bear, all hell breaks loose, for pretty much the entire runtime. And I love it.

The chaos of The Bear is almost suffocating. The frantic editing, myriad of characters shouting back and forth, and banging of pots and pans, all while in the claustrophobic setting of a rundown kitchen populated by unruly employees, has you perpetually on edge. It’s the perfect distillation of anxiety shot straight into the audience’s veins, making the worst episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares seem tame in comparison. 

At the same time, this chaos is definitely structured, like the creators have it down to a science. It takes real skill to make it all feel natural and authentic, rather than scripted and performed. In the majority of the 20-minute episode Review, the camera moves around the kitchen in a continuous shot as everything falls apart, which is beautifully captured and intricately staged, almost like a play where you’re being guided around the podium.

The Bear does not rely solely on this ‘ceaseless chaos’ gimmick, though. Aside from addressing themes such as substance abuse, grief, and generational trauma, which form the foundation for said chaos, the show also sports a cast of memorable characters that you grow to know and love. Like Sydney (Ayo Edebiri), a young chef who clashes with the stubborn old guard of the restaurant, or Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), an example of the latter and an all-around pain in the ass.

It’s never a bad time for me to re-immerse myself in this endlessly toxic, pressure-cooker environment, which is why I’ve watched the pilot upwards of 10 times now. Absolutely brilliant from a technical, narrative, and acting perspective. Not that I needed convincing, but it assured me that a career working in restaurants is not for me. Or for anyone for that matter. 

Taskmaster (Alex Horne, 2015-)
Available on YouTube

The brainchild of comedian Alex Horne, Taskmaster is a reality television series that has perfected the British comedy panel show format. Programs like Would I Lie To You?, 8 Out of 10 Cats does Countdown, or QI are fantastic in their own right, but Taskmaster has that special something. Each episode, five comedians complete a number of absurd tasks, vying for points given out by comedian Greg Davies, the titular Taskmaster.

For the uninitiated, when it comes to these types of shows, their strength lies in the interactions between various well-known British comedians, who are famous for their sarcasm, self-deprecation, and dry humor. Taskmaster triumphs because it puts them in all kinds of bizarre scenarios that are both disarming to the contestant and hilarious to the viewer. And it has a catchy theme song!

It’s especially entertaining to see all of their different approaches to a task. In the first episode of the inaugural series, each comedian is given a watermelon and tasked with eating as much of it as possible in one minute. While Josh Widicombe gently spooned out bits at a leisurely pace, Romesh Ranganathan became instantly iconic when he picked up the melon, threw it to the ground, and began devouring the smashed-up pieces.

Each season, ranging between five to ten 45-minute episodes, sees new contestants, keeping the format fresh. That’s also helped by the unrivaled creativity of Alex Horne and the rest of the crew who put together these ridiculous tasks. My absolute favorite has to be when they’re challenged with writing a song about a total stranger in two teams, which culminates in one joyous, celebratory tune and another where they sing “Rosalind is a fucking nightmare.”

With over 16 series and counting, the standouts in my opinion are Series 1, 2, 5, 7, and 12. What’s great is that if a cast does not jive with you as much as other seasons, there is no harm in skipping out on one and continuing with the next. A towering force in British comedy, Taskmaster is endlessly rewatchable, laugh-out-loud funny, and freely available on YouTube! 

Final Thoughts

A fantasy cartoon, a workplace dramedy, and a British panel show. If anything, I hope my list has showcased the sheer diversity in content available on television, all of which is capable of greatness. Although most of you will not watch them on the actual medium on which they debuted, do yourself a favor and go check them out!

[Click here to read Sean’s Top 3 Movies article!]