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It was about this time a year ago when I first discovered that good television actually does exist. Although there were shows I enjoyed growing up, I would say that during my teenage years and onwards, there has not been any shows that peaked my interest. Reality TV, crime shows and lame sitcoms seemed to make up the majority of the TV landscape. However, I would see things online about LOST, Heroes or Battlestar Galactica and people really seemed to enjoy it. These shows seemed different from the superficial majority. I have always been a fan of reading good books, and these shows seemed to be the televised versions of good novels. So, on a whim last July, I decided to give LOST a try. A few episodes later, I was addicted... and my consumption of fantastic serialized television shows began.
It has been a year since then, and I have drenched myself in some of these stories, and really opened my mind a little to different genres I did not think I would enjoy. Overall, it definitely stimulated my imagination in a positive way... so here are my thoughts.
Status: Currently Airing, Final Season Begins Early 2010
I don't know what it is about LOST I love the most. It could be the mythology behind everything, the characters, or even the cliffhangers you love and hate at the same time. Within the first few episodes, I knew this show was special... and it has continued to keep me captivated from the first episode. If you haven't seen LOST before and you think the idea of a bunch of people on an island is boring for a show, do not make the same assumptions I did. LOST taught me that shows that may seem strange can end up being really good if you give it a chance. I can't say much about the plot without giving it away - let me just say that it is much more than people being stranded on an Island. If you like having your imagination tickled, or if you are masochistic and enjoy cliffhangers nearly every episode, this show is for you! Also, the soundtrack, composed by
Michael Giacchino, is movie-quality and definitely my favorite TV soundtrack ever.With the final season starting at the beginning of next year, I only hope that it doesn't end on a sour note, as one particular show I watched during my binge did, a show called...
Battlestar Galactica (2003 version)
SciFi (now SyFy.. yeah)
Status: Show Finished, being extended with movie "The Plan" and spin-off series "Caprica"
My friend Aaron
was the one who got me to check out BSG in the first place. Before BSG, my only experience with sci-fi television was the handful of Star Trek episodes I would, on the rare occasion, watch after high school. I disliked shows like Star Trek because I feel to often nothing got accomplished in an episode; everything would revert back to the status quo at the end. Battlestar not only showed me that this was not something that happened in all sci-fi dramas but that they could also have engaging characters and go beyond the good/evil dichotomy so many shows seem to be stuck on. I love the morally grey and Battlestar was full of it. There were lots of dark and gritty moments and never usually just for the sake of being dark and gritty, but in ways that made sense within their contexts. I got caught up with the show before the second half of the final season began, and it is unfortunate because I think the last ten episodes aired were the weakest ones of the whole series, especially the finale. Just my own thoughts. Regardless, it is a show worth watching, and with the spin-off series Caprica beginning in early 2010 and the BSG movie "The Plan" being released this autumn, there will be some new stuff after that will keep one's appetite for space opera full.
Status: Currently Airing, Fourth Season Begins September 2009
Another show I got into quite far into it's lifespan (as it's third season began to air last year), Heroes was a show that started out fantastic yet seems to be on a downward spiral as of the past two seasons. In other words, only the first season really seemed to shine in a "Oh wow, this show is amazing" kind of way. I still had fun watching some of the episodes in the second and third seasons but for the most part, the characters seemed to taking actions solely to serve the plot. Everyone season so far has been focusing on changing the present in order to prevent some catastrophic future one of the characters saw. A lot of the powers just seem plain ridiculous, they keep changing people's back stories and contradicting themselves... the writing has just become atrocious. With the last "Volume" they have been changing things up a bit, but it still isn't enough. Originally, each season was going to have a new cast. I think this would have been a better idea than keeping the same people on the show, especially when the new characters added for variety seem so bland and pointless. I'll be checking out the fourth season but based on how the last one ended, I do not have high hopes for it's future.
Status: Currently Airing, Second Season Beings September 2009
I was a bit skeptical of Fringe when I first saw the pilot, and even for the next few episodes after. It had the "J.J. Abrams" name plastered all over it, so that was a draw, but it just seemed to come up a little short. Maybe the pilot just moved a long a little too quickly, and the episodes following seemed to forget about the intriguing plot points from before. There was great potential in the show that I could sense but it was just teetering on the edge of "okay" and "really good". Fringe is probably one of the "sleeper hit" shows I didn't expect to be good, but as the season went on, quickly developed into one of my favorite shows. It started off feeling like a procedural show, in which every week the Fringe team would deal with a "monster-of-the-week", but the pieces slowly came together and the show really became something much more. I can't say a lot without giving things away, but don't let Pacey or the science-babble throw you off - it is a fantastic show and I have a feeling the second season will only make it better. Plus, John Noble as Walter Bishop makes for one of the most lovable and hilarious professor characters ever... I just want to pinch his insane little cheeks!
Status: Currently Airing, Third Season Start Date TBA
One of two non-sci fi shows I watched, Breaking Bad had me pretty intrigued from the beginning. The premise was both bizarre and ballsy - a high school chemistry teacher with a disabled son and pregnant wife discovers he has terminal cancer, so he decided to begin making crystal meth to sell in order to leave his family money after he dies. Starring the dad from Malcom in the Middle. That alone had me pretty intrigued, and I have to say Bryan Cranston is really a fantastic actor, very versatile considering he can play both a comedic goofball character, and this intense and emotional one - two opposite sides of the spectrum. In fact, everyone on that show is fantastic. Although some of the character's choices are strange at times, the constant drama and unexpected events make this show worth watching alone. The second season ended in a confusing way so I'm hoping things get cleared up in the next one. I never knew meth heads could be so much fun to watch... well, TV meth heads anyway. I have a feeling real meth heads would be much less exciting.
Status: Currently Airing, Third Season Begins September 2009
Oh, Joss Whedon. You and the crazy cult-like following you seem to have. I was never a fan of Buffy and Angel (personally, I don't think vampires are supposed to be all whiny and emo) but Whedon's later two television shows are really something special. Like Fringe, Dollhouse had a slow start, yet it was much less consistent in quality compared to Fringe. Some of the early Dollhouse episodes were just awful. The idea of people being implanted with an artificial consciousness to fill the needs of their customers was interesting but the beginning of Dollhouse didn't make me care about any of the characters. I find this common in procedural-like shows, where the bad guy of the week had to be stopped and at the end, everything was okay. Dollhouse strayed from the mold a little in having the Dolls slowly become self-aware, and it is then that the show really found its stride. I'm actually quite surprised it got renewed for a second season, considering how inconsistent reviews were and how FOX is notorious for canceling shows before their prime, but a second season will happen. Hopefully it takes hold of some of the ideas being experimented with in the first season and brings them to their full potential. There is an un-aired episode of the first season that will be released at the end of the month when the Season 1 DVD comes out, expect a review around then!
The Office (US)
Status: Currently Airing, Sixth Season Begins September 2009
The only show I really watched on a semi-consistent basis before this TV binge began, The Office is quite tame and normal compared to the rest of the shows on this list. I generally dislike sitcoms; something about laugh tracks make me feel annoyed, and I find a lot of the jokes just stupid one-liners. The Office (and Arrested Development, which is my favorite sitcom) really knows how to make awkwardness funny, yet sometimes pushes the boundaries into uncomfortableness... which, in retrospect, is funny. Steve Carrel as Michael Scott and Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute make this show. However, apparently Steve Carrel signed on for a few more seasons, and at this point, the show is already getting stale. The fifth season was a rollercoaster of good & bad episodes, which is sad because it was quite consistently funny before that. I think there needs to be some kind of change to spice things up, or I fear this show will end up like the Simpsons and just end up sucking. While I hate it when shows get canceled before their times, it is equally bad when a dead horse comes back as zombie horse to continuously make bad jokes and smell like rotting horseflesh.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
I have something embarrassing to admit - until the beginning of this year, 2009, I have only seen the third Terminator movie. Yes, the one that was considered the worst of the series until the recently-released Terminator Salvation reared its fugly head from the cesspool/nest of remakes, reboots and sequels that is Hollywood. I watched first two films right before I started watching T:SCC and I have to say, it was worth it. I was able to recognize the importance of events that the producers & writers of the show intended to be big, and I actually had some sense of what the hell was going on. I was surprised how consistently exciting and fun the show was, especially in the second season. Honestly, if you enjoyed the James Cameron-directed Terminator movies, you would like this show. Since the show was produced by Warner Brothers, and WB would get all DVD sales money, FOX decided to cancel the show, which really sucks. However, that means there isn't much to catch up to! So if you'd like to watch a short series with lots of awesome effects, music (by BSG's composer Bear McCreary) and exciting plot twists, this is a show I'd recommend.
FOX... you certainly love to cancel good shows, don't you? Firefly, Joss Whedon's third television series, is really a simple idea executed brilliantly. What if you make space feel like the Wild West? That's Firefly. The idea is good but the cast is what makes this show amazing. Every single person on the show is incredible in their roles. Although the show only lasted 14 episodes, plus a concluding film to end the series, I feel like I know those characters better than I do than BSG or LOST's. The writing is incredibly witty, the episodes are all exciting, and full of laughs. My particular favorite episodes of the series, Jaynestown, had me in stitches the first time I saw it... and this episode was only 7 episodes in. I really don't know how they did it, but the cast & crew of this show really did something special. It's really a pity it ended so early. Oh, and out of all the sci-fi shows, this is the only one which realistically portrays space as a vacuum in which no sound occurs... so space ships don't fly around making pew-pew-pew noises. It's a small detail which makes a huge difference. Little things like that make this show one of the best I've ever watched... did I mention it only had 14 episodes? Yeah... if you haven't already (are you crazy?), check it out.
Network: Nine + Sci Fi
Status: Canceled, series later concluded with 3-hour miniseries
By far my favorite show out of all the ones I had the pleasure of watching during my binge. I heard the name 'Farscape' for years but I never knew what it was about. Earlier this year, I took the plunge and watched the series. If you enjoy sci fi, you will love this show. It has so much personality, especially as the show develops, that you can't help but love it. Plus two of the stars are Muppets... freakin' Muppets I say! Yes, the show is co-produced by The Jim Henson Company but that just makes it even better. Also, one of the best antagonists of all time can be found in the show, one with balls, class, pazzaz and a love of leather. I don't want to say a lot about this show because it is something best experienced the way I did - with no preconceptions of the plot. The plot of the series doesn't really get started until the end of the first season, but the episodes before that still felt exciting. In fact, for a show that has so many throw away episodes, I was surprised at the consistently high level of quality the episodes were. Constant plot twists made each episode feel fresh and exciting. If you would like to experience a kick in the mivonks then get the hezmattah off your ass and watch some frellin' Farscape! Yes, you probably have no idea what that says unless you've watched Farscape... but trust me, it is worth it. If there is one show you watch on this list, make it Farscape.
A little back story first... the first serialized drama I watched was an HBO series called Carnivale. It lasted two seasons and aired from 2003 to 2005. I watched the first season during high school but lost interest in between seasons. It was a cool show, although it centred around a light/dark dichotomy. Still, it had all the elements I liked - strong characters, air of mystery, underlying mythology, and a pinch of the fantastic.
Deadwood is not really mysterious, doesn't have an underlying mythology and has no fantastic elements, yet I would still call it one of the best shows I ever had the pleasure of watching. A historical-fiction period piece, each episode had me glued to the screen. The characters are just incredible, and the actors playing them do a fantastic job. It has a bunch of awesome actors from other shows on this list - Ian McShane from Kings, Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad, and Garret Dillahunt from Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. I was never a fan of the Wild West but this show really changed the way I think of Westerns. The show is notorious for the F-bomb being dropped many times a minute, but I don't think that detracts anything from the show. Plus, it's surprisingly humorous. It really sucks that it got canceled after it's third season and will never have a proper ending. Don't let that deter you from watching this though... this show is a wild ride that will keep you glued to your seat. "Cocksucka!"
Another show canceled before it should have been, Kings is a bold experiment in network TV. It shows the United States if it became an absolute monarchy, in an attempt to give a modern retelling of the David and Goliath story, and how the young David becomes King David. The religious overtones can be a little much at times but it is easy to look past to enjoy the amazing acting and incredible storytelling. Ian McShane from Deadwood stars as the King, Silas. McShane is seriously an incredible actor... he can talk about anything and still keep you intrigued. It is unfortunate that it got canceled after its first season, but that is what happens when you air a show on Saturday nights. If you want to watch a short series that has lots of political power playing with a hint of supernatural elements, this show would fit you like a well-fitted glove. The final episodes air next weekend... I will be posting a review after it airs.
FOX, now Comedy Central
Status: Was Canceled, Brought Back to Life for a Sixth Season by Comedy Central Starting 2010
I always thought the Simspons was an okay show but I never got how people were so obsessed with it, and would constantly quote it. Sure, it had a few funny moments but I think the majority of the episodes weren't anything special. In fact, some of them weren't funny at all. Well, actually a LOT were not funny at all, but Futurama seemed to follow a different path. Nearly every episode is hilarious, but I think it has to do with the type of humour, and the amount of creative freedom having the show take place in the year 3000 gives the writers. I have seen Futurama episodes before the binge and I always enjoyed them, but the show is much more rewarding when watching in order. Like Arrested Development, only when viewed in order can one fully understand all the in-jokes and references, which makes the show so much more rewarding. Luckily for fans of the show, not only did we get 4 hilarious films after the series was canceled by FOX, but Comedy Central has brought the show back for a full 26-episode season. This is the second animated show ever brought back from the dad like this, the first being Family Guy. I really hope that this show doesn't suddenly lose all of it's humour like Family Guy did after coming back, but I have faith in David X. Cohen & Matt Groening. I'm interested in how the show will continue considering how the last film ends. I'm just happy its back though and cannot wait until next year! Proof that DVD sales really make a difference... take a note, pirates!
Network: Showtime, then Sci Fi
Status: Show Finished
Finally, we reach the end of my binge list. The show I am currently watching, and the last one on my list, is Stargate SG1. It was the last of all the shows I have heard of that I was remotely interested in, and probably the least interested in out of all these shows. I can't believe this show lasted 10 seasons long... not that it is bad. 10 seasons is just a long time for a live-action show to go on for. I am currently only at the end of the 4th season myself but I find it amusing how many alien worlds SG1 visits that seem to look suspiciously like the forests of Vancouver. Or how many episodes begin with an alien world dialing into the SGC. Regardless of this, the show is still fun and is actually getting quite good and consistently funnier. The characters of SG1 don't seem to change that much but that's okay. I'll post my full thoughts on SG1 once I've completed the series... so in a month. Hah... no, I'm kidding. No, I'm probably not.
Well, that was quite the list. Although Stargate Atlantis and Eureka were two other shows that caught my interest, I think after SG1, I will be taking a long break from getting into any new shows. In conclusion, thank dog for Bit Torrent and DVD releases of TV shows.