Saturday, March 1, 2014

Favorite Shows of the Double Oughts

I watch a lot of television. Probably more than I should.

But I caveat that with the fact that I despise reality TV. I find The Bachelor especially repulsive, and I cannot help but silently judge people who actually watch that bilge. Anything that falls into the "bread and circuses" category of entertainment, I skip.

For me, TV is a drug, just as it is for everyone else. But not an opiate. I watch shows that excite the imagination. Stuff that doesn't just entertain, but inspires me to want to write something that cool. This is why I always go for a cinematic feel in my writing

A trip back through the archives of the blog will give you a glimpse at the kinds of shows I like, and dislike. Some are predictable, though I often go against the fanboy consensus.

Since the Olympics are over, and shows are picking up again, figured it was a good time to run down the list. Also bouncing off of a blog post that a friend of mine wrote and then posed as a challenge.

First, a list of past shows most worthy of Blu-ray ownership. In semi-chronological, but mostly stream of consciousness order...

Angel - I know this started in the 90's, but it crossed over so it counts dammit. Just as the show from whence it sprang started to rapidly lose its appeal, Angel hearkened back to everything Buffy had done right in the first three seasons. In many ways, it was sharper, slicker, and smarter. Both Angel and Angelus remain two of my favorite characters ever in the urban fantasy genre.

Farscape - The most brilliant sci-fi series on television. Ever.

Everyone on this show from the producers to the writers to the actors turned the space opera genre on its ear. It was unconventional to say the least. It was brave enough to get experimental, sometimes to its detriment, but always original. It was a fun, intense, dramatic, romantic, action packed adventure with ridiculously memorable and imaginative characters. Why more genre show producers aren't using Henson Studios boggles the mind.

If anything is most deserving of a comeback, it's Farscape.

24 - Despite its many plot points of convenience for the sake of the "events occur in real time" gimmick, the show played out like a great spy thriller novel, and always kept you guessing. I can't wait until the movie special comes out in May. I'd love to see it come back as a full series. Ideally with Jack Bauer, but I'd give it a chance either way.

Alias - The series that began my worship of JJ Abrams. Jennifer Garner as James Bond with some crazy sci-fi elements woven into the plot. Action packed, loads of fun, and very often brilliant in its execution. At least for the first three seasons.

Fringe -  If I wasn't already gay enough for JJ, this series sealed the deal. At its core, it was a police procedural. Very grounded in reality and yet completely out there, perfectly blending humor, suspense, action, and Oh My God WTF Just Happened moments. John Noble deserved a truckload of Emmys.

Lost - I've always been unclear on how much influence JJ Abrams had on this show. He is credited as creator, but it's not a Bad Robot production. I want to say he was only involved in the first episode, really. But it had all the hallmarks of a JJ brainchild. Wacky science concepts grounded in a believable setting, yet character focused with equal measures action and drama.

Either way the show rocked. It taught me a tenant or writing that I would read in an advice article years later. There's no such thing as a flashback. It's always a flash-present, meaning always have the action tie into what's going on in your story's "now". Every time I write a flashback, I hear the show's famous sound effect in my head.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - The greatest show you've never seen. Ratings were tragic, probably because the very idea of it made fans of the movie franchise leery of even giving it a shot. And the pilot was kinda mediocre. But from episode 2 all the way to the end, it never let up. It had no business being as awesome as it was. The final episode made me want to see season 3 so bad you have no idea. I guarantee it would have been better than Terminator: Salvation

Dexter - I try not to throw around the word brilliant too frivolously, but sometimes I just can't help it. Any show that can present a psychopathic serial killer as a sympathetic hero is nothing short of brilliant. But it didn't ride solely on exploring Dexter's dark passenger. It was a tried and true detective story with interesting characters and tight plots.

Burn Notice - Not sure if I can put this series on the "brilliant" shelf, but I absolutely looked forward to it every week. It rode more on its supporting cast than the main character, but that wasn't a problem in the least. That's how a lot of the great team-oriented series in books and comics worked. Not that there was anything wrong with Michael Westen. Characters like Sam Axe, Fiona Glennanne and Maddy Westen were just that strong. 
Wonderfully written characters, great stories, cool spycraft, and unique MacGuyveresque ways of getting out of situations without the pretension of pretending guns aren't effective for taking out bad guys, too. Every season I kept wondering how they were going to keep the premise going, but it never got stale. And they ended the series on a note that felt like it was intended from the beginning, which almost never happens.

The Shield - Besides being one of the most groundbreaking cop shows ever made, it holds the distinction of having both one of the best pilots of a series ever, AND one of the best final episodes ever. The pilot hooked you right out of the gate then grabbed you by the balls with the last frame. The series finale ended Vic Macky's story on a perfect note that kept fans talking.

Alphas - This one ran in 2011 and 2012, but its worth ending the list on this note. I was absolutely fanboy ga-ga crazy over this little show that could. It was everything Heroes wished it could be. Another tragic victim of the SyFy channel's short sighted stupidity. It's nigh impossible for me to talk about this show without gushing, so I'll spare you and just say find it and watch it.

There were other shows I enjoyed, but I have trouble putting them on the same pedestal as the above when it comes to my personal enjoyment and replay value. Honorable mention to (off the top of my head) The Wire, The Unit, Over There, The Sopranos, House MD, and Chicago Code.

Scroll up, or follow the link to see my DVR to-do list of still running shows.

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