Time To Meet Your (Sandwich) Maker. Again.

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(Here’s a ‘lost’ CDP essay from last year.)

A few weeks back, my debit card snapped in half while I was swiping it at a gas station. I was annoyed but not wistful– It had a good run. I use my debit card for literally every purchase I make. I seldom carry cash, open tabs at bars and absolutely never carry credit cards with me. My wallet consists of only my debit card, driver’s license and various coffee shop punch cards, and that’s the way I’ve always liked it.

I’m aware that while it’s responsible to keep credit cards out of your wallet to limit impulsive spending (or because they’re maxed out beyond all comprehension), it’s also important to have some reserve funds on hand in case your debit card snaps in half at a Kwik Trip. I guess I like to live on the edge. F the police and soforth.

That evening, I contacted my credit union and requested a new debit card. They told me that a replacement would arrive at my door in a few days, and since it was an identical replacement (same number and expiration date), a re-activation wouldn’t be necessary. As soon as it showed up, I could just place it in my wallet and start feverishly buying cat food and 90’s anime as per usual.

I had the operator verify this statement three times. It didn’t seem right to me. I should have trusted my gut.

I was home when my replacement card showed up in the mail. Following orders, I humanely euthanized the busted card (paper shredders have such a cathartic sound) and simply placed the new one in my pocket. After all, the operator said it was good to go, and surely the last thing a Call Center employee would do is say whatever I wanted to hear so they could end the call as quickly as possible.

I thought I’d celebrate a job well done by getting a sub sandwich for lunch. The Subway was about five minutes from CDP Headquarters, and I have the culinary abilities of a newborn giraffe when I’m alone in the house. I walked in, got into the (surprisingly lengthy) line and placed my order.

So many people feel that those in the retail and food service industries owe them something. I feel the exact opposite. Considering the work and care most people put into your food (or at least should be putting into your food), I’m always baffled at why sub sandwiches aren’t $20 apiece. I watch, marvel, thank profusely and tip (when I have cash) every time. It’s a job I fortunately never had to do, and I appreciate anyone who could just as soon gob into the mayonnaise every time you turned away, but doesn’t for one reason or another.

“That’ll be $5.29, sir.”

I handed over my shiny new debit card. It was about to be de-virginized.

“Sir…It’s saying that your card is declined.”

Oh no. Oh shit no.

Not only was I upset because I didn’t trust my gut when I assumed this would totally happen, but I didn’t have any other money with me, the long line behind me was growing impatient and my sandwich had already been made. I’ve never been in this sort of nightmare transaction before. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Just walk out? Didn’t I still have to pay for the manual labor that went into the sandwich? This was about to get extremely embarrassing.

“Um, wow…okay,” I said. “I…guess I have to leave?”

Confused beyond words (as were the onlookers behind me), I turned around and goose-stepped out of Subway without my sandwich, which was slowly turning to room temperature behind the counter. As I got back to my car, my initial thought wasn’t that I should just run home and grab the money with which to buy this sandwich (I wasn’t even planning on eating it anymore; I just wanted to make things right). No, my initial thought was “I’m leaving and never coming back. No way can I ever face these people again after what just transpired.”

I eventually wised up and decided to reactivate my debit card in the parking lot. When I did, I questioned the operator as to the misleading information I was offered earlier:

“Yeah, I was told that I didn’t need to reactivate this.”

“(laughing) Who told you that?”

“You guys did!”


“Yeah…no.”

About 15 minutes after the fiasco, I bit my lip, lowered my head and walked back in. I needed to pay for this sandwich. Standing in line was weird to say the least:

“Hello! What would you like, sir?”

“Um, nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Yeah, I need to…just…never mind. I’m good.”

When I got to the register, the same kid was there (for better or for worse). I explained to him what had happened, and that I didn’t even want the (now gross) sandwich, I just wanted to give them the money they deserved and immediately hook up with the Witness Protection Program. Or at the very least, start eating at the Jimmy John’s further down the street. My relationship with this franchise was officially over.

“Okay, sounds good. I just need to grab a manager. He needs to do a weird refund processing thing on the register.”

The line behind me was getting longer and more impatient. I started to sweat.

When the manager showed up (who was 16 years old at best), he had to futz with a computer underneath the register to reverse the mistake I had made earlier. He was ducked under the register, and at one point near the end, the cash drawer dinged open without him noticing. When he went to stand back up, he bashed the top of his head underneath the register, sending the drawer and loose change flying everywhere. A nickel landed in the teriyaki sauce. It was probably the loudest thing that has ever happened inside of that particular establishment. A woman gasped.

I was goddamn mortified. This was all my fault. Not only did I ruin my day, I literally ruined the day of every single person in that Subway. The cashier, the manager, the sandwich artist, the customers, everybody. Again, I left with nothing.

And it cost me $5.29.

The CDP TV25 Tournament (Series Finale).

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Welcome to the Series Finale of the CDP TV25 Tournament to decide the Greatest Television Show of the Last 25 Years. It’s all over but the paperwork, kids.

After 20 full days of voting, stretched out over nearly a month-and-a-half. After 127 total matchups. After the elimination of 127 of the greatest TV shows ever. After nearly four thousand total votes cast. After whining, ranting, complaining, joy, happiness, entitlement, criticism up the ass, passionate campaigning, and finally…acceptance.

We’ve made it all the way to the end. Only one show stands above the rest.

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The CDP TV25 Tournament has spoken: Breaking Bad is officially the Greatest Television Show of the Last 25 Years.

As a guy who only voted in tiebreaker situations, I can get behind this choice. I think it most represents the voice of the nation. I believe that if this tournament were held on a more massive scale, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Breaking Bad won that one, too. The timing doesn’t hurt, either; a lot of people just got through watching the breathtaking 5th Season, or are plowing through it on Netflix as we speak. Would it win a similar tournament 22 years from now? Who knows, but it’s a perfectly rational, defensible and most of all, worthy champion for 2014. I tip my cap to you, Breaking Bad.

Now, there are probably going to be quite a few of you who don’t agree. I want to first state that if you did not vote, I don’t really care what you have to say. You were probably one of the people who were the most grumpy and hyper-critical of the whole experiment from the beginning and didn’t even consider participating except to throw in your two cents about not agreeing with anything. Well, good. Let this be a lesson to the kids out there: That is the voice of the Internet. It is the voice that critiques without creating, the voice that stifles any and all creativity and should never be listened to for a second.

Tournament’s over. I don’t have to be objective anymore. And for the last time, I’m sorry I forgot to include 24. I apologized like, three times, so put a cork in it.

To those who did participate, either every day until the bitter end or even just once, I sincerely thank you. I could not have done this without you. Literally, your votes controlled this entire thing. It was the culmination of over two years of research, organization and worst of all, blurb writing (those weekly recaps were murder on my dumb brain). I had wanted to do a fan participation tournament for a very long time now, and I was overall very pleased to see it take shape and succeed the way it did. I had fun, even though I stayed up past midnight nearly every night for the past month counting votes in an Excel spreadsheet. I’ve never turned the CDP over to you guys before, and to have almost no control whatsoever regarding a massive Pop Culture tournament was an interesting experience for me to say the least.

I agreed with the majority rule on most matchups. Some of your decisions also baffled me. Here are the Top 5 that left my head shaking:

5. Saved By The Bell defeating Roseanne (Round 1)
4. Friends defeating South Park (Round 4)
3. The Sopranos defeating The Wire (Round 4)
2. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air defeating Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Round 2)
1. Lost defeating Battlestar Galactica (Round 3)

…Okay, just kidding about that last one. That was awesome!

Like most of you, I get very passionate and defensive when someone criticizes a piece of art that I love. Whether we make a conscious effort to do so or not, we attach ourselves emotionally to things that we like (a revelation, I’m sure). They become an extension of who we are, so when they get bullied, we cannot help but take it personally. Books, films, sports teams; it’s all the same sort of personal extension. It’s why we cheer when they succeed and get depressed when they fail (or merely get canceled). A certain part of their success belongs to us, and as supporters of whatever respective art we choose, we ebb and flow right along with them. Sounds insane when it’s spelled out like that, but it’s also pretty beautiful.

While it wouldn’t look this way to an outside observer, this tournament (and your willingness to participate in it), was an intimate peek into your tastes and personalities. Sometimes things like this tell more about what makes someone tick than hours of conversation. No matter how many essays I write, I usually strike the most personal chord with a stranger when I decide to rattle off lists of my favorite pieces of Pop Culture. Weird how we work, but it’s fundamentally true, and I’ve grown to respect and appreciate the process.

So once again, thank you for participating. I’m never doing this again.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend. I’m taking a bit of a belated Spring Break, but I’ll be back soon with brand new essays as the 10th Anniversary of the CDP rolls along.

The CDP TV25 Tournament (Finals).

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Welcome to Day 19 and 20 of the CDP TV25 Tournament to determine the Greatest Television Show of the Last 25 Years. It has all come down to this: Today you will be voting on the TOURNAMENT FINALS. But first, here’s a quick recap of yesterday’s SEMIFINAL Round.

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(If you wish to view the entire, 128-show bracket (and why wouldn’t you?), you can check it out HERE.)

Parks and Recreation vs. 30 Rock
Winner: 30 ROCK

Parks and Recreation beat Shameless, Adventure Time, Modern Family, Community and Seinfeld to reach this point in the tournament; absolutely no easy task whatsoever, especially for a show still airing new episodes. But in the end, they lost out to a show I have absolutely no problem handing the Comedy Bracket Championship title to: the incomparable, instant classic 30 Rock. They now, however, have a major challenge on their hands in the form of perhaps the greatest Drama of all-time.

Breaking Bad vs. The Sopranos
Winner: BREAKING BAD

Maybe it was the fact that the Breaking Bad Series Finale is still fresh in our heads. Maybe it’s because we didn’t like The Sopranos‘ Series Finale all that much. Maybe we were angry because The Sopranos eliminated both The Wire and Friday Night Lights. Maybe we just thought Breaking Bad was a true masterpiece of Television. Whatever the reason, Breaking Bad kicked the collective, proverbial ass of The Sopranos, capturing the title of Drama Bracket Champion and easily punching their ticket to today’s Finals.

Well, here we finally are. 128 shows. Over FIVE WEEKS of your voting has led us to this point. The CDP TV25 Tournament FINALS to determine the Greatest Television Show of the Last 25 Years. Now then, today’s Championship matchup is:

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30 Rock
7 Seasons/138 Episodes

Tournament Victories:
Pushing Daisies, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Freaks and Geeks, The Office, Friends, Parks and Recreation

Accolades:
‘Comedy Series of the Decade’ by Newsweek in 2009
‘7th Greatest Sitcom of All-Time’ by 60 Minutes in 2012
‘One of the Best-Written Television Series of All-Time’ by the Writers Guild of America in 2013

Emmy Awards:
11 Emmy Awards, including Best Comedy Series 3 years in a row

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Breaking Bad
5 Seasons/62 Episodes

Tournament Victories:
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The X-Files, The Sopranos

Accolades:
Top 10 Television Series of ’08, ’10, ’11, ’12 and ’13 by the American Film Institute
Highest-Rated Television Series of All-Time (Season 5), by the Guinness Book of World Records
’99 out of 100′ by Metacritic (Highest rating ever for a Television series)

Emmy Awards:
7 Emmy Awards, including Best Actor In A Drama (Bryan Cranston) 3 years in a row

30 Rock vs. Breaking Bad

1. Voting for this portion of the tournament begins today at 12:01am CT and ends today at 11:59pm CT.

2. You may submit your votes one of three ways:
A. In the comments section below.
B. Through Facebook.
C. Through Twitter.

3. Vote only once per matchup, please.

Questions, comments or concerns? Want to make an argument for a show and sway some opinions? Sound off in the comments section and let your voice be heard. Tomorrow is an off-day as I tally the votes and prepare for Friday’s finale, where the Greatest Television Show of the Last 25 Years will be crowned. Vote now and come back Friday, as the CDP TV25 tournament draws to a close.

Vote!

The CDP TV25 Tournament (Semifinals).

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Welcome to Day 18 of the CDP TV25 Tournament to determine the Greatest Television Show of the Last 25 Years. Today you will be voting on the SEMIFINALS. But first, here’s a quick recap of yesterday’s QUARTERFINAL Round.

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Seinfeld vs. Parks and Recreation
Winner: PARKS AND RECREATION

Wow. Bulldozing their way past the likes of Family Matters, NewsRadio, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and even The Simpsons, the NBC classic Seinfeld could not advance past the current Must-See Thursday powerhouse Parks and Recreation. Leslie Knope and the fine employees of Indiana state government have officially earned their way into the Semifinals, where they will meet a worthy (and familiar) opponent.

30 Rock vs. Friends
Winner: 30 ROCK

After knocking out Hey Arnold!, Daria, Boy Meets World and South Park from the tournament, iconic 90’s staple Friends finally runs into a buzzsaw named 30 Rock. And hey, no arguments from this guy; 30 Rock is as close to sitcom perfection as it gets. Tina Fey and company punch their well-deserved ticket to the Semifinals.

The X-Files vs. Breaking Bad
Winner: BREAKING BAD

The X-Files didn’t exactly have an easy road to the Quarterfinals. Scoring victories over Homicide, NYPD Blue, My So-Called Life and The Wonder Years, the sci-fi masterpiece met their match when they finally crossed paths with the instant AMC classic Breaking Bad. Now, the Vince Gilligan-penned epic has just one more hurdle before advancing to the Finals.

Friday Night Lights vs. The Sopranos
Winner: THE SOPRANOS

The Cinderella story of the tournament, Friday Night Lights, has come to a bittersweet end in the Quarterfinals. After close wins against the likes of True Blood, Veronica Mars, Mad Men and yes, Lost, the Taylor Family was bested by the torch-bearer of the Modern Golden Age of Television, HBO’s The Sopranos. Now, Tony and crew have themselves matched up against Breaking Bad in the Semifinals, in what is possibly the two greatest TV narratives ever told.

Now then, today’s matchups are:

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Parks and Recreation vs. 30 Rock

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Breaking Bad vs. The Sopranos

1. Voting for this portion of the tournament begins today at 12:01am CT and ends today at 11:59pm CT.

2. You may submit your votes one of three ways:
A. In the comments section below.
B. Through Facebook.
C. Through Twitter.

3. Vote only once per matchup, please.

Questions, comments or concerns? Want to make an argument for a show and sway some opinions? Sound off in the comments section and let your voice be heard. Tomorrow, we will begin voting for the FINALS. Vote now and come back tomorrow, as we work our way through the tournament!

The CDP TV25 Tournament (Quarterfinals).

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Welcome to Day 17 of the CDP TV25 Tournament to determine the Greatest Television Show of the Last 25 Years. Today you will be voting on the QUARTERFINALS.

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Out of 128 shows, it has all come down to this. Today’s matchups are:

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Seinfeld vs. Parks and Recreation

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30 Rock vs. Friends

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The X-Files vs. Breaking Bad

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Friday Night Lights vs. The Sopranos

1. Voting for this portion of the tournament begins today at 12:01am CT and ends today at 11:59pm CT.

2. You may submit your votes one of three ways:
A. In the comments section below.
B. Through Facebook.
C. Through Twitter.

3. Vote only once per matchup, please.

Questions, comments or concerns? Want to make an argument for a show and sway some opinions? Sound off in the comments section and let your voice be heard. Tomorrow, we will begin voting for the SEMIFINALS. Vote now and come back tomorrow, as we work our way through the tournament!

The CDP TV25 Tournament – Round 3/4 Recap.

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Hello, and welcome back to the CDP TV25 Tournament to decide the Greatest Television Show of the Last 25 Years. We started with 128 shows, and we’re finally down to a mere 8.

We’re ending the week with a recap of the tournament thus far, as Round 4 voting has concluded. Here’s what went down (and trust me, there was plenty):

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DAY 15

The Simpsons vs. Seinfeld
Winner: SEINFELD

Down go The Simpsons! The three most quoted works in the English language are The Bible, Shakespeare and The Simpsons. There’s no overstating their influence and magnitude; in fact, they were my personal pick to win the entire thing. However, if there was one 90’s sitcom that could dethrone Springfield’s finest, it would be Seinfeld, and that’s exactly what happened. The Show About Nothing (and maybe my favorite live-action sitcom ever), won by a single vote (no tiebreakers needed), making them our Q1 Champion and sending them into next week’s Quarterfinal showdown.

Parks and Recreation vs. Community
Winner: PARKS AND RECREATION

In the most modern of our Sitcom Brackets, we had a matchup of two ‘Must-See Thursday’ favorites in Parks and Recreation against Community. In the battle of Pawnee vs. Greendale, Leslie Knope and a flawless ensemble cast won handily over what could be the most ambitiously odd network sitcom in existence. Hey, Parks deserves it, though, and their title of Q2 Champion earns them a tough date against Seinfeld on Monday.

30 Rock vs. The Office (US)
Winner: 30 ROCK

One thing this tournament is telling me is that Must-See Thursday is, was and (hopefully) always will be a beacon of classic network sitcoms. In fact, I highly recommend Warren Littlefield’s outstanding oral history of Must-See Thursday, Top Of The Rock. In addition to being an NBC Thursday night sitcom, 30 rock was essentially a love letter to the mechanics behind creating a great NBC comedy. Containing a healthy amount of real-life network drama, satire and realism (a lot of what Jack Donaghy did actually happened), 30 Rock gathered Emmys at a rapid clip, even when their ratings were struggling. The Office was an all-time classic sitcom (with Michael Scott being one of Television’s all-time great characters, comedy or drama), but in the end, Dunder Mifflin fell to Tina Fey by a single vote, making 30 Rock our Q3 Champion.

Friends vs. South Park
Winner: FRIENDS

Friends also won.

Did You Have To Break Any Ties? – Nope!

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DAY 16

The X-Files vs. The Wonder Years
Winner: THE X-FILES

If The Wonder Years never existed, I’m not entirely sure I would have ever written an essay in my life. It’s as personally influential to me as any piece of art- TV, music, film, books, you name it- I’ve ever cared about. It’s one of my favorite television shows of all-time, and quite frankly, I was surprised to see it get this far in the tournament. In the grand scheme of Television History, we seem to remember The X-Files more fondly (minus the final season). It ushered sci-fi back onto mainstream, network television (a trend that has continued to this day), and it is now your Q1 Champion and moving on to the Quarterfinals. I did once name it the Greatest TV Series of the 90’s, after all.

Breaking Bad vs. The Walking Dead
Winner: BREAKING BAD

You’d think that this matchup would be a nailbiter until the final whistle, but Breaking Bad actually claimed the easiest victory of the round over AMC’s The Walking Dead. Zombies, gore, insane action and decapitations a’plenty have made TWD a ratings darling, but in the end they could not stop the Masterpiece (with a capital ‘M’) tale told by Vince Gilligan. Breaking Bad is our Q2 Champion, and deservedly so.

Lost vs. Friday Night Lights
Winner: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. And you know what? If this had been a tiebreaker situation, I probably would have made the same choice. I’ve said it many times before: Season 1 of Friday Night Lights is the greatest season of television ever produced. If you haven’t watched it yet, consider this your intervention. The Dillon Panthers (or the East Dillion Lions, if you wish) are your Q3 Champions, and Lost has finally left the Church of Purgatory to meet their maker.

The Sopranos vs. The Wire
Winner: THE SOPRANOS

In the battle of wildly influential HBO dramas that ushered in the new Golden Age of Television, we saw in The Sopranos a show that had been voted by TV Guide as the Greatest Drama of All-Time, versus The Wire, a show the majority of TV viewers have unofficially voted the Greatest Drama of All-Time. In the end, TV Guide won out, and The Sopranos took the Q4 title by a single vote. Better luck next time, Baltimore.

Did You Have To Break Any Ties? – You ain’t gonna believe it, but I had to pick The X-Files over The Wonder Years. That hurt like hell, but it was for the greater good.

Thus completes ROUNDS 3 AND 4 of the CDP TV25 Tournament: 120 shows have been eliminated; only 8 remain. THE CONCLUSION OF THE TOURNAMENT WILL TAKE PLACE NEXT WEEK, as the final surviving shows continue their quest (with your votes) for Pop Culture immortality. Here’s the schedule for next week:

5/5 – QUARTERFINALS
5/6 – SEMIFINALS
5/7 – FINALS (Day 1)
5/8 – FINALS (Day 2)
5/9 – WINNER ANNOUNCED

Sound off in the comments section, let us know what pissed you off (or made you happy) about Rounds 3 and 4, and the matchups you’re looking forward to in the Quarterfinals. To view the entire tournament as one cohesive bracket, CLICK HERE. Thanks for all the votes this week, and thanks in advance for all the votes next week.

Quarterfinal voting begins Monday. Let’s do this.