In the past 10 years, we’ve seen the quality of TV climb to the point where it’s almost as well-respected as film. Gone are the days when A-list stars would scoff at the notion of appearing on the small screen, and the evidence of that is all over cable television with a number of shows being headlined by big names. Unfortunately, that’s somewhat sad news for us struggling actors, because that means the lead roles that would have gone to no-name, but solid working actors are now being passed over their heads to the stars, and supporting or guest roles that may have gone to newer actors are now being given to those solid working actors. It’s a trickle effect that lands newer actors in the deepest puddles, making it even harder for us to climb up. But this post isn’t really about that, because even though the blossoming of quality television has some drawbacks for folks like me, I love me some great TV and I’d rather spend the next dozen paragraphs talking about that.
I’ll admit that I am very picky when it comes to what kind of television I’ll watch. A show can be a big investment – not of my money, but of my time; so if I’m going to commit myself for the next however many seasons/years of something, it better be worth it… and I mean delicious, lick-the-screen, sex-in-the-retinas kind of worth it. And whaddya know – here are 4 shows that I would totally bring home without even taking them to dinner first:
GAME OF THRONES
All the badassery on GoT is supplemented by these really cute direwolves.
Can it be? Is this the first full-on fantasy show that is getting serious accolades and recognition? It might just be, and here’s why. Even the “I don’t do fantasy, it’s lame” people have to admit that there is nothing stereotypical about GoT. In fact, it’s so raw and so uncompromising that it even makes you forget that it exists in a fantasy universe. The pilot opens with a few terrified scout-type ranger characters fleeing (pretty unsuccessfully) from some kind of mysterious, anthropomorphic ice demon. Sorry, we don’t know anything more about these villains at this point, only that they’re scary as hell and will free your neck from the burden of having a head. And then, the show “forgets” that magic exists at all. No more ice demons. Just gritty, very real characters living in a bleak world that looks very much like a medieval Europe. It’s not until the season finale when (SPOILER ALERT) exiled princess Daenerys emerges from a bonfire with no injuries and three baby dragons that you remember that this universe contains sweet ass magic and lots of it.
GoT pulls no punches. No character is safe. Fans were dropkicked in the face with this realization when (SPOILER ALERT) the series’ supposedly main character played by headlining actor Sean Bean was abruptly and brutally killed off in Episode 9. Children, sweet old grandmothers, fluffy puppies, whatever – no one is too innocent or too important to be killed off, and it’s that suspense that keeps the stakes high. Even for those of you who didn’t appreciate the gorgeous, sprawling fantasy epic that was Lord of the Rings, you’ll be really hard pressed to not enjoy the sexual, violent, politically tense, backstabbing collection of brain-drugs that is Game of Thrones. Season 3 starts on HBO in March 2013.
Bryan Cranston + underpants
I have some beef with AMC, mainly because The Walking Dead and The Killing are, frankly, embarrassing. What keeps me from setting AMC headquarters on fire is Breaking Bad. This is not the type of series I would go for normally as it’s missing the kinds of fantastical elements I typically enjoy , but seeing Bryan Cranston on the cover of Season 1 in his underpants was kind of intriguing. I like Bryan Cranston. I like men’s underpants. Might as well give it a try.
Turns out, there’s way more to it than Cranston walking around the desert half naked. Premise: a high school chemistry teacher finds out he has cancer. In order to get his family through the obscenely high medical bills and to keep them going in the event of his death, he teams up with a former student to cook and deal meth.
This show is tight. I’m not quite sure how else to describe it. Most other series have strong episodes, weak episodes, entirely mediocre seasons… not Breaking Bad. Every single episode in the 4 seasons released so far is strong, compelling, and smart. The plot and pacing are practically flawless, and the character development makes your heart hurt. As I said, tight, as if this show were wearing spanx; nothing is there without a reason, everything is planned, and it all unfolds with meticulous precision. It’s tragic and hilarious at the same time – which I imagine is hard to do when your show is about a dude with cancer.
The antagonist of Season 4 is one of the best I have ever seen on television (or in a movie, for that matter), ever. I won’t say more than that, but watch it and you’ll understand what I mean. Breaking Bad is SO CLOSE to being a perfect series. Season 5 just started on AMC.
Five juvenile delinquents in for a world of hurt.
Misfits is about a group of young delinquents who are stuck doing community service as punishment for some petty offenses. Suddenly, a mysterious and violent storm moves in over the city, giving our heroes…. SUPER POWERS. YEAH, SUPER POWERS.
I feel like if this show were on an American network, like the CW or something, it would be so lame and overwrought with genre cliches. BUT because it’s handled with the subtlety and realism that British TV does so well, it’s a whole different animal. This show is so funny, and I don’t mean slapstick, “hey I’m making a joke now so prep the laugh track” funny.. it’s funny because these characters are just so hilarious in their own right, and the situations they have to deal with are just unfortunate and ridiculous (I mean in the good way).
Plus, not all the super powers are “good” in the sense that they are useful or accomplish anything of significance. Sometimes, the effects of the storm can be likened to having a miserable medical condition, so it’s not like these characters’ lives are automatically improved. Fact is, they’re just a group of clueless social deviants who find themselves tied together (and they’re not even necessarily on friendly terms with each other) because of this common shared experience.
The visual style of this show is unique and very edgy (in fact, I hear the crew built their own camera lens just to achieve this specific look). The acting is superb and chemistry between characters is vibrantly dynamic. Easily one of the most entertaining and well-written shows I’ve seen in years. Go check it out on Hulu!
Sherlock, Watson, and their awesome wallpaper
Another British show that I am OBSESSED with. What’s even better is that the time investment isn’t as high, as there are only two seasons so far and only three episodes per season. Yeah, why WOULDN’T you watch it?
We all know the story of Sherlock Holmes at least a little bit. However, this version of literature’s most impressive master-sleuth puts a different spin on the titular character than, say, Guy Ritchie’s films starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Downey’s Sherlock was a prankster, often drugged, and quite socially adept. The Sherlock in this television show, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (say that 5 times fast), is a little more misunderstood, socially incompetent, and waaaay too delighted with murder to be considered completely sane. His only friend, Dr. John Watson, is portrayed perfectly by Martin Freeman (the guy who’s about to BLOW UP as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit), and together, these two guys have the most interesting fun anyone could possibly have with crime. Add a completely psycho insane master-villain Jim Moriarty (played by Andrew Scott) who in my humble opinion is on par with Heath Ledger’s Joker in terms of childishly horrifying villainy, and you have a series that is more fun to watch than a couple of harp seals doing handstands (I just saw this at the Aquarium, and lemme tell you, it’s hard to beat).
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: its takes place in modern-day London. You would think this would take a lot of the charm out of the oh-so-British Sherlock Holmes, but it doesn’t. At all. Writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are HUGE fans of the original book series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and have taken great measures to keep the spirit of the original alive in their adaptation. Everywhere, you can see nods to the books that translate perfectly into a modern-day setting. One of the best example is when in the books, Sherlock deducts that the owner of a watch is a drunkard because of the scratches around the watch’s mechanical dial (when the owner tries to wind the watch, he keeps missing the screw because he’s drunk. causing the scratches). Modern-day Sherlock makes a similar deduction by concluding that the owner of a certain cell phone has a drinking problem because there are scratches around the power jack. It’s endlessly entertaining to watch this show bring these classic characters into the technology of 2012.
So there you have it, guys – my favorite four shows that are still ongoing. They’re mostly available on Netflix or Hulu, so go watch them if you haven’t already! They’ll make your face bleed from sheer awesomeness.