We may not be able to say exactly what makes great TV, but we know it when we see it, right? Smart but not pretentious writing, captivating actors, memorable locations, and a streak of undefinable magic. The stories are original, absorbing and personally identifiable at some level. And with TV-series DVDs available at the Library, there’s really no excuse for not catching up on that show everybody is raving about. Here’s a few of my personal favourites:
Breaking Bad, now in its fourth season, is about an unlikely relationship which is not exactly a friendship. A disaffected high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer hooks up with a disaffected high school drop-out to make the best darn crystal meth for sale in Arizona! An idea with such promise goes remarkably downhill from there, and yes, it sustains your attention. The writing is crisp, the acting (particularly Bryan Cranston as Walter White) superb. Admit it, high school chem was never so interesting.
The Wire, written with caring expertise by David Simon, is a great five-season show about Baltimore’s cops, criminals, politicians, schools, and reporters. It’s a gritty drama with memorable, flawed characters and a city’s corrupt institutions, somehow combined into a ‘love story’ about Baltimore by Simon. Once you start this series, you basically can’t stop. Make time.
Dexter is a show that’s hard to talk to others about. What? You root for the serial killer who’s the main character? And he’s a police officer too? A guilty pleasure perhaps, but this Dexter character you will find has many layers and hidden dimensions. He’s a lot more than what he first appears to be. Reserve judgement. Now finished its fifth season.
Homicide: Life on the Street is a no-nonsense, seven-season police procedural about investigating violent crimes, also set on the grim streets of, you guessed it, Baltimore. Can that be because it is written by the same David Simon? The show won a series of Emmy awards back in the ’90s, and if you watch it you’ll see why. Andre Braugher as gifted but troubled Detective Frank Pembleton is one of the many stars worth watching the show for.
It’s hard to beat six-season-long Lost for a compelling drama that keeps you guessing what’s coming around the bend. A plane crashes on a tropical island; some passengers survive. Seems simple, but bend it does — characters, storylines, time, life itself. And if you’ve ever pondered the destiny or free will problem, you’re going to love this series. Recommended: don’t get lost. Read the unofficial Finding Lost episode guides by Nikki Stafford to enhance your plot and character understanding.
The Sopranos. Hard not to have heard of this one, right? The Guardian newspaper in the UK called it the most compelling drama series on television, ever! Over six seasons (mainly directed by David Chase), you get a chance to watch Tony Soprano — and his family, friends and enemies — reveal their ‘true’ character in some of the most bizarre, mobster-inspired situations imaginable! And it all starts innocently enough with Tony feeding the birds in his yard in New Jersey. What could possibly go wrong?
What’s your most memorable TV series?