There was a time when the title to this blog would have been as oxymoronic as jumbo shrimp, military intelligence or happily married. "Excellence in Television" ... years ago that was an elusive concept.
There also was a time when I would be the last guy alive writing a blog like this. I've always been a film buff, but I've gone through periods of time as long as ten years plus when I didn't even own a TV. I am (or was) a TV hater. Idiot box. Boob tube. Wasteland. 400 channels of shit to choose from.
Then there is the Internet. Although without TV and cable for years, I'm eternally online. So, I became involved in streaming media. I discovered the rare exceptions to the TV is shit rule. Often these came as recommendations from TV using friends and family. I soon learned that film had become the medium where good movies are scarce, whereas TV had surpassed anticipated quality in writing, acting and production.
I became a BINGE WATCHER. With no TV I streamed everything and between Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, etc. I could binge watch the series that friends, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes had made me aware of. I love watching episode after episode so there is a continuum of story. Since I was breeding and selling spiders until recently, I had the time while feeding slings all day, every day.
Before I get into my list of favorite television programs, which I offer up as recommendations to you, I should comment on my current use of "live" television. You see I have a very nice modern TV these days. Most of my life I didn't, but when I bought, remodeled and decorated my new house 3 years ago I decided that if I'm going to get Comcast/XFinity internet service I may as well add on cable as well. It mostly goes to waste. My monthly bill is obscene; somewhere around $174. Although I use the Internet incessantly, I can count the number of things I watch "live" on TV on one hand. I don't have a DVR, but I do have OnDemand. Therefore, in fairness, I do watch some current TV programs on delay.
The only "current" network programs I watch are:
- Chicago Blackhawks games
- The Walking Dead
- Better Call Saul
- Game of Thrones
- Barclays Premier League (real football, not American).
If I had to stretch a list a bit more:
- Ink Master
- Modern Family
One of the first shows I binge watched when I was all set up in my new man cave three years ago was Breaking Bad. It was odd because I think I started watching at the beginning right when the final episode aired. Or maybe I was dreaming it. But, anyway, as far as shows go, you can't do any better and I rolled right through the entire catalog. I had heard so many people talk about it that I gave it a shot and it took immediately. A show that didn't grab me right away but is a favorite up until the present is The Walking Dead. I remember seeing an episode set along a highway and it may have even been live. I caught a couple partial episodes after that, but wasn't immediately taken in. It took a few re-watches, and there were a few stretches where I almost gave up on it, but it became something special and I can't believe that next Sunday night is the season finale.
Anyway ... here's a bunch of shows I recommend (in bold), in on particular order, with or without comment:
True Detective - The first season with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey was the best television I have ever seen. I could not get into season two and the new cast.
The House of Cards - This show defines the excellence in television for which this blog entry is named. It also is the masterpiece creation of Netflix Original Series, which has produced some of the best shows ever. Season one and two were gripping and superbly twisted. Season three was somewhat less so and delved deep into the politics. Season four (just recently released) was brilliant and tied it all together so far. Sticking in the Netflix arena - let's go with the resurrected Arrested Development, Orange is the New Black, the saving and revivals of The Killing and Longmire, Bloodline, as well as partnership with the UK to bring the absolutely brilliant Sherlock, Peaky Blinders and Ricky Gervais' witty Derek.
You should know that I am a huge Gervais fan and grew up a huge John Cleese fan. British comedy has really been the only comedy for me. I am rarely a fan of American humor. When I was in my teens I watched Monty Python, Two Ronnies (RIP Ronnie Corbett who just died today - see how I tie things together?!?), Dave Allen at Large, Fawlty Towers and such. Later it was The Young 12. Gervais' original The Office and Extras has been watched over and over. MI5, Skins, Coupling, etc. are all great shows. But as a huge fan of the Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington XFM radio and podcast series, I'd have to say my favorite is An Idiot Abroad, where Karl is sent to the worst spots in exotic countries to Gervais' amusement.
What else? Sons of Anarchy would be at the top. I've watched it all several times. One of the many shows I arrived to late and had to catch up with some Netflix binge watching. The Wire I discovered long after the fact and binged as well. On Amazon Prime I love Bosch. Season two's eight episodes were just put online and it didn't take me long to binge through those. Hannibal, of course. Rectify. Believe it or not, I never even had heard of 24, and then eventually binged it via Netflix. I didn't start Six Feet Under until eight or nine years after it had been off the air, but I binged and re-watched.
There were a few shows that I gave a chance to, and watched a lot of episodes of, but eventually gave up on: The Following, The Americans, and Blacklist come to mind. All were interesting initially, but eventually some combination of bad script (e.g., cheesy dialog or unbelievable scenario) and bad acting (all too common in Blacklist and The Following) would turn me sour. The Americans is the diamond in the rough. I just can't get re-interested.
Of course, some modern major network sitcoms have been outstanding. Modern Family is one of the best written and performed, extraordinarily clever and witty comedies ever. And it's American. Go figure. Parks and Recreation was also special.
Guilty pleasures? American Ninja Warrior
And perhaps my favorite TV show of all time: Law and Order. The original. All casts. Current? TWD and The Game of Thrones. Can't wait for the latter to start again in April!
There are many more and I've meandered off into new territory long enough. Just think if I got going on music ...