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'The 2000s' review: A look back at TV kicks off CNN's latest decade series

Tony Sirico, Steven Van Zandt, James Gandolfini, Michael

Tony Sirico, Steven Van Zandt, James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli and Vincent Pastore in "The Sopranos," which looms large in the first episode of CNN's "The 2000s." Credit: The LIFE Images Collection/Getty/Anthony Neste


WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on CNN

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The 2000s! It seemed like we just lived through them (we did) but CNN's successful "decades" series — produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Mark Herzog — is back to remind us what we may have already forgotten. This seven-parter begins Sunday with TV, then covers technology, the war on terror, the financial crisis, the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the financial crisis and the rise of hip-hop.

MY SAY In accordance with tradition — and, there actually is a "tradition" with these CNN decade docuseries — "The 2000s" begins with television. "The Sopranos" starts off the decade and discussion, and from there, the listicle proceeds: "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Lost," "The Office." The shows fly by and the years too. Soon enough, the illusion — or was it an illusion? — takes hold that we didn't do anything else during the 2000s. We just sat in front of the TV, in a state of catatonia, mouths agape, eyes too. Little wonder obesity became a national health crisis in the 2000s. (The Office of the Surgeon General published its "call to action" to prevent obesity in 2001.)

This may seem like a strange way to begin a review of CNN's still-good and still-telling-you-the-obvious series on one of the decades. But it's a strange way to begin a series on a decade. Why TV? Didn't we have other concerns then, or had TV destroyed our memory cells too? Wasn't there a catastrophic war or two? Didn't a presidential election go before the Supreme Court? Didn't events of Sept. 11, 2001, change our world, irrevocably, then and forever after?

Oh, sure, yes, yes, of course: But about that "Lost" finale ...

Priorities matter, and you do have to wonder about this priority. TV? Really? In fact, it's a shrewd way to begin the series and always has been (beginning with "The Sixties," which launched back in 2014). TV is our common hearth, as the saying goes — the one thing, along with the Mets and the weather, that everyone has an opinion about. We watched then and, to a large extent, we still do. "Breaking Bad" has built, for example, a whole new generation of fans via Netflix. Dozens of other 2000s series continue to flourish on their respective streaming sites. These were wonderful shows then and the miracle is that so many of them still are (yes, "Lost" included).

But what is perversely odd about the opener (the only one offered for review) is what's missing. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Battlestar Galactica" — consensus top-10ers of the decade — get only passing mention toward the end. Three monster hits of the decade — "CSI," "NCIS" and "House" — are kissed off entirely. Beginning at the outset of the decade, the world of television news — notably the world of Fox News — certifiably changed culture, politics and public discourse. The world of late night TV did some of the same. Not so much as a burp for either here.

It's hard to blame "The 2000s" opener, which gets so much else right, thanks to a cadre of smart critic-guides like David Bianculli, Alan Sepinwall and Sarah Rodman. But a slightly — make that dramatically — broader angle needed to be at least acknowledged.

That would be this: Television, in all its glory and otherwise, remains the most important cultural development of the century so far. The reason why is complicated and needed a lot more real estate than Sunday's opener allows for (and which — let's admit — would be serious overkill too).

Meanwhile, we'll have to wait for the other hours to find out what else was important.

BOTTOM LINE As usual, a sturdy exercise in telling us what we already know, but at least it tells it well and, for the most part, accurately.


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