On Entertainment and Binging

Many people believe that television is ruining the world.   I can’t say they’re wrong. We have shorter attention spans, less powerful imaginations, and seem to lack conversation topics outside ‘did you see ______ last night?’  Not to mention the obesity problem we face which surely isn’t being helped by all the couch sitting.

If it wasn’t obvious by now I’m a huge fan of reading and being creative in anyway possible  Let’s all agree that it’s pretty hard to read while watching TV.  Multitasking isn’t something we’re great at.  Personally, I feel better after an hour of reading than I do after watching a movie.  Does this mean that I don’t watch TV?  No. I certainly do.  I’m a 20 something living in 2015.  TV and movies are a huge part of our society and their cultural impact can’t be denied.

But not all TV shows are created equal.

For the most part it’s the “guilty pleasure” reality shows that are destroying the world.  Shows like Jersey Shore, Honey Boo-Boo, The Real Housewives of (Insert any of 45 different cities), etc.  These shows that do more mind numbing than entertaining. You’re literally watching someone else live their life.  To me that’s depressing.

But if, for whatever reason, that’s what you’re after, it’s your choice. Go for it… Though if this is the case I don’t know why you’re on this blog to begin with.  Seems like a better use of your time would be tuning into the next Dance Moms.  But for those of you who, like me, struggle to find shows that don’t make you feel like your brain is melting let me help.

Full disclosure, I love a good Netflix binge more than most people.  It’s weird, I can’t commit to a two hour movie but I can watch 6 straight hours of Netflix without thinking anything of it.  A few years ago I noticed this potentially negative habit of mine and decided I needed to figure out a way to use self restraint. I wasn’t great at quitting cold turkey.  But I did have an idea.

What I came up with was more a trade off rewards system.  For every one or at most two shows I watched (assuming I started with the first episode and finished the final episode of the last season) I had to read a book (or something more mind activating) before I could start another series.

It works for me.  I get to stay pretty current on TV shows but I also don’t feel guilty for all the time I’m “wasting” in front of the TV.  I’ve been doing this trade off system for a few years and thought it was time to put together a list of shows I believe are worth checking out.

So if you must TV or Netflix binge do so with the following recommendations all with my stamp of approval.

My usual Netflix requirement is that there must be at least 3 seasons of the show available.  I tend to get attached to characters and storylines.  I become more than slightly depressed when after watching the first season I realize that’s all there is. Looking at you Freaks & Geeks.  In order to avoid this I now scout out the length of a series before hand.  (I’m quite the problem solver, I know).

If length of a series doesn’t bother you go check out Dirty Sexy Money, Peaky BlindersDa Vinci’s DemonsLegend of the Seeker, Hidden Palms, and The Musketeers.  All really good shows that won’t melt your brain but may leave you wanting more.

I’m also disregarding shows that I love but are SUPER popular and well known such as EntourageGame of ThronesHow I Met your MotherFriendsBreaking BadMad Men, and House of Cards etc.  Though if you haven’t watched them you should check them out.  There’s a reason people won’t stop talking about them.

My List:

The Newsroom (3 Seasons)

A newsroom undergoes some changes in its workings and morals as a new team is brought in, bringing unexpected results for its existing news anchor.

My take:  First off, it’s written by Aaron Sorkin and was on HBO.  Secondly, it’s a smart, witty, and captivating show about the news and politics.  Not an easy thing to do.  It makes you think about the news we get on a daily basis and the motives behind those bringing it to us.  Plus Sam Waterston is great as the head of the news department.

Psych (8 seasons)

A novice sleuth is hired by the police after he cons them into thinking he has psychic powers which help solve crimes. With the assistance of his reluctant best friend, the duo take on a series of complicated cases.

My Take: This has been my favorite show for about 9 years now.   I can’t tell you why exactly.  It’s a quirky show but it knows exactly what it is.  The characters are cast perfectly.  The amount of obscure references to the 80s will be appreciated by anyone who grew up in that decade.  Each episode is independent enough that you can watch any one at any time but the overall story line connects perfectly.  One of the best series finales I’ve ever seen.  For me, the highest rewatchability of any show.

Nikita (4 Seasons)

A rogue assassin returns to take down the secret organization that trained her.

My Take: Secret Agents.  Government conspiracies.  Attractive female leads.  I was hooked quick.  Throw in the fact that there’s a least one twist each season that will make you stand up and yell “WHAT?! NO WAY!!!” (Seriously happened to me at least once a season.)  I love it any time a show takes the storyline somewhere I couldn’t predict.

Chuck (5 Seasons)

When a twenty-something computer geek inadvertently downloads critical government secrets into his brain, CIA and NSA assign two agents to protect him and exploit such knowledge, turning his life upside down.

My Take: If you took Psych and added Nikita and then divided by two you’d get Chuck.  It’s a show about your average guy who becomes a secret agent.  It’s quirky, fun, and action packed.  More importantly there isn’t a character in the show you won’t love.  I can’t think of any show I was more sad to see the “episodes remaining” number get lower and lower.  When I finished the series I felt like I had lost an actual friend.  (Don’t judge, this is why I have my 3 seasons rule)

Californication (7 Seasons)

A self-loathing, alcoholic writer attempts to repair his damaged relationships with his daughter and her mother while combating sex addiction, a budding drug problem, and the seeming inability to avoid making bad decisions.

My Take: I honestly don’t know what to say about Californication and Hank Moody.  I don’t think there’s a character who you love but you also want to slap in the face more than Hank.  Part of me aspires to be him and the other part pities him.  If you’ve ever dreamed of making it big and moving to California this may cause you to rethink that dream.

New Girl (7 season +) Trailer

After a bad break-up, Jess, an offbeat young woman, moves into an apartment loft with three single men. Although they find her behavior very unusual, the men support her – most of the time.

My Take: I love Zooey Deschanel.  I love the character Schmidt.  I end up laughing out loud in a room by myself whenever I watch it.

Arrow (7 Seasons )

Spoiled billionaire playboy Oliver Queen is missing and presumed dead when his yacht is lost at sea. He returns five years later a changed man, determined to clean up the city as a hooded vigilante armed with a bow.

My Take: I grew up watching Smallville and Arrow is basically a better version of it.  You’d just need to insert The Green Arrow for Superman and skip the first four seasons of our super hero growing into his powers while in high school.  Oliver Queen is a badass from episode one.

Merlin (5 Seasons)

The adventures of the legendary sorcerer as a young man.

My Take: This show had to have the smallest budget of any show on my list.  It’s a Sci-Fi channel show but super enjoyable. It starts while Uther Pendragon is King in a country where magic is outlawed and punishable by death.  That’s not great news for a young Merlin.  I’ve always been fascinated by King Arthur and anything involving Camelot.  A series about him and Merlin before they became great was always going to interest me.

Robin Hood (3 Seasons)

After 5 years of fighting in the crusades, Robin returns to England and leads a band of outlaws to outwit the Sheriff of Nottingham.

My Take: Out of the vast majority of the Robin Hoods out there, this is by far the best. It is witty, enjoyable and fast paced. The casting is just right, Robin is supposed to be young, he has just returned from the crusades, Jonas Armstrong is perfectly suited. Marian (played by Lucy Griffiths) is the model woman, she stands up for what she thinks is right and isn’t afraid to put herself in the line of fire so to speak. The sheriff is suitably horrid and Robin is perfect as the young, charming and rebel.

Sherlock (4 seasons +)

A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London.

My Take: With 3 episodes per season this Sherlock is more like a mini series than anything else.   In a lot of ways it’s what you’d expect from a newer version of Sherlock Holmes but the truth is this is far and away the best adaptation of Sherlock Holmes ever made.  Benedict Cumberbatch is amazing.  Do yourself a favor and check this series out if you haven’t,

Suits (7 Seasons)

On the run from a drug deal gone bad, Mike Ross, a brilliant college-dropout, finds himself a job working with Harvey Specter, one of New York City’s best lawyers.

My Take: The script matches funny and serious, silly and smart, everything at exactly the right amounts. The actors act well. This is just one of those shows you finish watching and can’t wait until next week to see what happen.

Friday Night Lights (5 Seasons)

 

The trials and tribulations of small town Texas football players, their friends, family, and coaching staff.

My Take: Friday Night Lights is an excellent show. Truthful, honest, gripping, funny, and (insert your favourite adjective here), the show depicts small town life in rural Texas/(insert the name of your hometown here). While on the surface the show is about football, it is a very engaging amount of football where you find yourself cheering for the key moments the way you would if you were watching your little brother’s high school football game.

Any series I should check out?

Stay Gold.

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