Amazon Exclusive: Mark Frost’s Top Eleven Television Shows by Decade
A Highly Personal Inventory,
Chosen—Mostly—for Personal Reasons
- The Andy Griffith Show—I visited the set at age ten and met Andy and Ron, who showed me the jail cell’s secret back escape route.
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E.—inspired my first (unpublished and unpublishable) novel, written when I was eleven.
- The Prisoner—which blew my mind and taught me (foreshadowing) that a TV show didn’t have to follow the rules. . . .
- Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood—because I worked my way through college on the production crew (with a young stand-up named Michael Keaton),
and because Fred Rogers was and is the best human being I’ve ever been privileged to know.
- The Six Million Dollar Man—because it was my first professional WGA gig, three weeks out of college, which soon led to . . .
- Hill Street Blues—where for three years I learned from the best: my boss, Steven Bochco, and my senior colleague David Milch. I went to
work every day unable to imagine a better job. Hill Street Blues was a hugely influential show that is now almost absurdly underappreciated.
- The “Showtime” Lakers—no one made better television than those guys.
- Twin Peaks—because my buddy Dave and I just went for it, and had more fun than humans should be allowed to have.
- Seinfeld—because my dad played George’s (almost) father-in-law, and because nothing ever made me laugh more until . . .
- Curb Your Enthusiasm—funniest show ever, and . . .
- The Sopranos—the most important TV drama ever. Period. The end.
- Not officially on the list yet because the decade is young, and so is the show, but getting closer . . . Boardwalk Empire.
- ABC’s Wide World of Sports, SportsCenter (with Dan and Keith), The Larry Sanders Show, The Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson), BBC’s new Sherlock, and Downton Abbey.
"Fantasy, Mythology, and Metaphor"—An Essay by Mark Frost
Relax. I’m not referring to anything you might have covered—or been bored to petrification by—in English class.
I’m talking about stories that grab you by the eyeballs, bury their fangs in your forehead, and won’t let you go until the last words are graven onto your sated, saturated brain. The kinds of stories that keep you up at night because you’re in a reading fever and physically can’t put them down. Those stories, the ones you’ll never forget, that put a spiritual brand on you you’ll wear for the rest of your life.
When I was a kid, fantasy was scorned as a literary ghetto, a refuge for lunatics and sweatshop hacks. Conan, Doc Savage, even Tarzan got the treatment back then. Almost exclusively paperbacks, they had lurid covers that pandered to the furtive and sensational; in other words, the perfect food for the teenage audience in the 1960s—anything that smacked of rebellion, breaking our suburban shackles and taking a big fat bite of escape.
We have another word for those books now. Classics. And that homely little twisted Rumpelstiltskin of a genre is now the nuclear reactor powering the entire entertainment-industrial complex. The first time I saw Gandalf and Frodo on-screen in The Fellowship of the Ring, I burst into tears. At last, I thought, at last, it’s all come to pass.
Why? How did it happen? Because fantasy and mythology speak to us and for us, in the deepest possible ways. They’re our inner life made manifest, the lifeblood of the human animal. From cave paintings to multiplexes, they are our life, our history, our spirit, our DNA. They are the freedom and imagination and the power of dreams that make life worth living.
There is a fundamental conflict on this planet that’s as old as time. On the one hand are the forces that want everything contained, ordered, counted, and accounted for. On the other hand are those crazy-brave, shamanistic souls who realize that the inner life—the field where everything in creation, including you, is connected to everything else—is the only thing that matters.
You have a choice in this life. Sign up with that first bunch, and sign away your ability to make life an adventure. Oh, sure, you might make a whopping pile of scratch and get more than your share of “things,” but the beating heart of your spirit will spend its life in a cage of gold, wondering what it’s like out there where the wild things run free.
Take the second route, and what you’ll find out there is yourself. The “you” no one else can shake, rattle, or roll. That’s where metaphor comes in: all useful, powerful art is a metaphor for the journey you have to make. No one can take it in your place. But, lucky for you, you can rely on the words of all those who made the trip before you and lived large enough and long enough to write about it.
Fantasy and mythology are the gateway to your individualized adventure. Don’t listen to anybody who tries to tell you different; they’re playing for the other side. They want you in a cubicle, playing it safe, making them money.
Get started today. Open that book and dream. Keep searching until you find the metaphor that works for you. That’s your map. Your territory is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?
Art is a set of wings to carry you out of your own entanglement.