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TV Worth Watching

After not having TV for the last 9 or so months, I got cable TV the other day, kind of by accident (enough said). Anyway, there I was sitting, excited to catch up on my HGTV shows, the news (CBC), my reality shows (Slice anyone?) and anything else without substance that might be on—well was I ever surprised by how lacking the TV lineup has become. Not only did I spend oodles of time just trying to find something to watch, once I found something, I kept getting interrupted by a bunch of annoying commercials.

Here's the thing. I've been getting my news via the internet for years now. When I want to know more about something I just Google it. When I want to know general news I go to the CBC or the New York Times website. When I want to see incredible photojournalism I check out the Boston Big Picture (a must see). When I want some celebrity gossip I go to Perez Hilton or some other website that tells me more than Entertainment Tonight could ever offer up. When I want to watch TV shows I download them (because it's still legal in Canada) or I go buy the whole series from the local tech store and watch them the way they were meant to be watched: without commercials.

If you read my column you know that I love movies, but TV series have something going for them that a movie can't as easily accomplish. The sheer length of a series allows writers and filmmakers to tell a more complete story that can develop and change with its audience, in a way that is hard to recreate in the two hour time limit of your typical film. So this month in Movie Night I'm dedicating my column to my favourite TV shows. Shows that have changed the way I think about compelling storytelling and character development. Shows with directors that know how to handle a great actor and that honour exceptional writing.

Be forewarned, these shows are best watched one episode after the other, so it's best to rent or buy each series. And one more suggestion, be sure to watch at least three episodes of the first season before making the decision that the series is not for you. Unlike movies, TV shows are written with quite a bit of setup so that there can be more fulfilling character and plot development later, so the three episode rule is a good rule to follow. Once you've passed the third episode of these five favourite shows of mine, I assure you, you will be hooked.

Rescue Me

 

Rescue MeI had a roommate years ago who worked nights and who proceeded to turn on the TV and unwind after coming home late. Every Thursday night I'd come downstairs and overhear someone on TV (usually Denis Leary) spouting off about something completely offensive. The show was Rescue Me and in passing I thought it was nothing more than a show about a group of racist/sexist/homophobic male New York firefighters who sit around mouthing off in the fire hall when they're not fighting fires.

Believe me, in passing, this show seemed too offensive to seem like it had a point, but my roommate swore by it, and one night I sat down to watch an entire episode. Soon I was sitting down every week to watch one more and I was hooked. Rescue Me is gritty, raw, engaging and complex. If you haven't experienced this show yet, check out the clip below to get an idea of what I'm talking about.

Rescue Me is hands-down one of the most well written, authentic TV series out there. Every episode is excellent, the actors aren't acting, they are the characters (including Denis Leary, who is awesome) and the relationships and dialogue are so realistic it's crazy.

Please watch this show if you haven't already. You will wish you worked in a setting with people who are as interesting, funny and honest as this group of NY firefighters. Be sure to start from the beginning, there are five amazing seasons ahead of you.

Mad Men

 

Mad Men

I was told to watch Mad Men because as it was put to me: "it will change my life." Well, I took that person up on the challenge and got my hands on the three seasons and started watching.

Right off the bat it reminded me of The Sopranos, just because it came off as a mostly male dominated show that was so carefully and cinematically crafted it almost seemed unrelatable (to me at least). Well it turns out I wasn't completely off my mark, some of the dudes behind Mad Men are also the dudes behind The Sopranos but that is about where the comparison ends because Mad Men is a much smarter, thoughtful and well-crafted show than The Sopranos and unlike The Sopranos, some of the best, most well-developed characters on this show are the women.

Mad Men is slow going to start (you need to watch at least four episodes of the first season before anything really happens), but once it starts going you will be hooked: completely.

You will marvel at how absolutely brilliant this show is. Mad Men is not just a show about advertising, it's not just a show about men or just about the 1950-60s, Mad Men is about everything people are thinking about and talking about now. It's about relationships, the differences between the sexes, and the lies we tell ourselves and others to appear normal. I cannot go on enough about how sophisticated this show is,from its character development to the acting, costumes and the set. It makes most other shows in comparison seem insufficient and The Sopranos seem infantile—and I mean that. Watch it!

View the Mad Men series promo below:



Dexter

 

DexterWhat I love about great TV shows is that they are all different. Watching Mad Men is an awesome experience, as is watching Rescue Me or Dexter. They are all different, but they are all great in their own way.

Dexter is campy, really campy, but also serious and disturbing. The first season (like the first book in the Harry Potter series, sorry for the comparison) is the most formulaic of the bunch. You'll still be hooked in the first season, but the best acting, plot and character development comes in the next seasons, so keep watching. Dexter is now in its fourth season and I don't think Showtime had any idea they had such a hit on their hands. Michael C. Hall is brilliant, to the point where you believe he must be like Dexter in real life, and just when you think the show can't offer up anymore else as far as plot twists go, it does.

You will be smirking and grimacing throughout this series—enjoy the contradictory emotions.

Deadwood

 

L WordIf I had to make a comparison I would say that Deadwood is a lot like Rescue Me, set in a totally different time period with the same attention to detail and similar themes as Mad Men.

Deadwood had three incredible seasons before being cancelled and it was a sad day when I watched the last episode. The setting is a small town in the wild west in the 1800s, when men settled scores with their guns and whore houses were just another business on the block. Deadwood importantly shows American heritage for what it was, a coming about of ideals and values set against a harsh and bloody climate. The show dispels the myth that American ancestors were good, god-fearing gentle folks, who knew and obeyed what was right and wrong. It's all about survival in Deadwood, whether you have money or you don't.

Deadwood is an emercive and intelligent show. Take a look:

The L Word

 

L WordWhen this show came out everyone said: what a great way for a straight single man to enjoy a Friday night, considering there was more girl on girl sex than a TV series has ever produced, but the creator and writers of the L Word who are also lesbians took what they saw as critisisim (since the show was supposed to cater to a lesbian audience) and delved deeper into the roles, relationships and misconceptions about lesbians.

The L Word suffers from some bad acting at times, some over the top dialogue at others and some misteps when it comes to character development, but overall this show is not only a great show but an important one. This show deals with more realife relationship, love and friendship and gender issues, themes and topics than any show on the air (even Degrassi High). Its content is groundbreaking and it finally taps into an audience base that has otherwise been ignored.

Whatever your reason for watching, watch it. And when your kid comes out of the closet, give them the series (6 seasons in all) they will thank you for it.




Want more movie reviews? Check out Kiki's previous picks:


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