06 November 2009

Seeking new time-suck.

Which of these shows should I start watching next? I have never seen a single episode of any of them.
Friday Night Lights
How I Met Your Mother
Breaking Bad
The Big Bang Theory
Big Love
Flight of the Conchords
something new this season (specify in comments)


mattprigge said...

But what you should really watch is "Black Books," my new (belated) obsession.

Paxton Hernandez said...

Mad Men.

(dunno if you've seen it).

Skander said...

The Flash Forward

Chareth Cutestory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chareth Cutestory said...

I think BREAKING BAD is the winner here, though I've never seen a bunch of the sitcoms.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS has a gangbusters first season, but then starts to grow tiresome. I'm still watching, but largely out of a sense of obligation.

Andrew Dignan said...

Breaking Bad is the best option from these choices but the caveat should be offered up that it's the show's second season (as opposed to the WGA-strike truncated first one) that people have most passionately responded to. The first season is still pretty damn fine but just in case you find yourself asking what's the big deal in my opinion, there you go.

eric said...

Peep Show Series 6 came out on Amazon UK this week.

aegean said...

I would second Black Books (not being new this season, i expect a remark about how people should just follow the fucking instructions of the poll). Then Breaking Bad. but I haven't started on Conchords either.

Kza said...

Breaking Bad Breaking Bad Breaking Bad Jesus Christ Breaking Bad.

I tried watching the first episode right after falling in love with the first season of Mad Men, and I totally dismissed it after about 5 or 10 minutes. "Oh, so his chemistry class lecture is a metaphor for some aspect of the episode -- how fucking on the nose is that?" I turned it off and forgot about it.

[Translation: "You aren't Mad Men! Fuck off!"]

Then everyone started talking about how great S2 was, so I Netflixed S1 and gave it a chance. Holy fucking shit in my opinion. Yeah, the first 1/2 of the pilot clunks slightly, but it's amazing from that point on. I really wasn't expecting just how slow and novelistic the pacing of the series was going to be -- there's one major plot point in S1 that most shows would deal with in 30m, that here takes several eps. And yet, unlike something like Mad Men, it's nearly always focused on a single protag -- Cranston -- and he always under incredible pressure, whether he's staring down a drug kingpin or attending a friend's birthday party. As someone who finds pleasure in straight-up narrative, Mike, I think you'll really dig it.

I think S1 is, ultimately, better than Mad Men. And the final twist is that I've only seen S1, and everyone tells me S2 makes S1 look like a rough draft. I can't even imagine that.

So yeah, Breaking Bad in '09, Yes We Can etc.

Brian said...

I voted for Breaking Bad, but if you're not watching Parks and Recreation, you should be. Best sitcom currently on the air (since 30 Rock has been in a bit of a slump).

Anonymous said...

Of those, "How I Met Your Mother".

Off the list: "Damages".

bentclouds said...

Top Chef is the best thing on TV right now.

md'a said...

Thanks, all. I haven't yet seen the results as I type this (there seems to be some glitch with the poll software; I'll have to vote again myself from a different computer to access them, which I'll do tomorrow), but I'll probably abide by 'em.

For the record, this is what I've already seen. It's a very short list because I watched almost literally no TV at all for most of my adult life. Only with the advent of DVD box sets did the medium start to appeal to me (though once I get hooked on a show that's still running I do start watching week by week).

SHOWS I HAVE SEEN IN THEIR (current in some cases) ENTIRETY

• Arrested Development
• Deadwood
• Dexter (except current season)
• Firefly
• Freaks and Geeks
• Friends (shut up, it's funny)
• Gilmore Girls
• High Stakes Poker
• Lost
• NewsRadio (except post-Hartman season)
• The Office UK
• The Office US
• The Shield
• South Park
• 24
• 30 Rock
• Weeds
• The Wire


• Buffy the Vampire Slayer
• Homicide: Life on the Street
• Seinfeld
• The Simpsons (this may take the rest of my life)
• The Sopranos


• Alias (S1)
• Battlestar Galactica (pilot, 1.1)*
• Brotherhood (2 eps)
• Curb Your Enthusiasm (2 eps)**
• ER (4 eps)
• Fringe (4 eps)
• Heroes (S1)
• The Outer Limits (2 eps)
• Prison Break (S1)
• Rescue Me (S1, S2)
• Sex and the City (6 eps)
• Survivor (4 eps)***
• Veronica Mars (8 eps, I tried so hard)
• The X-Files (4 eps)

* I know everyone is nuts for this, but they also swear by that first episode and I really found it mediocre. I am not a Trekkie either.

** I hate Larry David as an actor. Whatever Works is the first Woody Allen movie ever that I skipped.

*** I'm just not a reality-show guy, I think.


• Mad Men: I watched the first two episodes when it first started, found it too blunt, tried again from the beginning during S2 when the raves got out of control and couldn't get past 1.3 which I really actively disliked. I keep meaning to give it one more shot because every single person on earth whose taste I respect loves it to death, but it's been hard to get motivated, I have to say.

Bilge said...

Unfortunately, MAD MEN gets even blunter once Season 2 hits. As much as I love it, you may want to stay away.

Brian said...

That's actually a pretty impressive list for someone who never watched TV until recently.

I love Mad Men, but to be honest, if you weren't hooked by the first few episodes, you probably never will be. It's a great show, but my feeling is that if you don't connect to something you shouldn't force it.

Comedies I'd add to your list: THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (a brilliant '90s precursor to the high-end comedies of this decade), IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILDELPHIA (currently in its fifth season and getting better every year), THE MIGHTY BOOSH (great British absurdist stuff), GARTH MARENGHI'S DARKPLACE (it's only six episodes, just download it), DA ALI G SHOW (I assume you're aware of this), and my previously rec'd PARKS AND RECREATION as well as the new COMMUNITY which has been mostly awesome so far.

Drama-wise, BREAKING BAD is the main thing you need, although CHUCK is hugely entertaining (I count it as a drama cuz it's an hourlong).

Robert Fuller said...

Actually, it looks like a pretty long list, to me. Although I notice that Twin Peaks is conspicuously absent. Is that an oversight or have you really never seen it (if it's the latter, you shouldn't even be asking what show to watch next)?

Also, Sports Night is a show that I've never failed to get people to fall in love with.

Eric Henderson said...

Have to second Brian's rec of IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY. Not always consistently funny, but with amazing high points. Two episodes from Season 4 -- "The Nightman Cometh" and "Who Pooped the Bed?" -- are maybe the funniest thing I've seen on TV since the halcyon days of MST3K.

md'a said...

I saw the first season of Twin Peaks when it aired—it was the only show I watched during those years. And some of S2, but can't remember where I threw in the towel.

Also I forgot Dollhouse, which I have stubbornly stuck with.

Brian said...

Oh, and re: Simpsons, you know you can stop after season 9, right? Others will back me up on this. The idea of someone seeing all those episodes for the first time as an adult, on the DVD sets, is kind of mind-blowing to me. Its classic years are still the high point of the medium, I think (no offense to The Wire).

Eric Henderson said...

Funniest THINGS, rather, not thing.

(And now I'm reconsidering. Certain Adult Swim programs have also been as funny to me as MST3K, especially SEALAB and TIM & ERIC'S AWESOME SHOW, et al.)

Lee Hendricks said...

Slings and Arrows. A great, brief series for Canadian TV circa, uh, 2003-05. Backstage politics and more at a Stratford-esque festival in dire straits. Also: ghosts. Paul Gross is great as the disgraced enfant terrible brought back to save things, go mad or both.

Much Topsy Turvy-esque love-of-stagecraft good times but also wicked funny especially w/r/t advertisement and commercialization of art. Many under-served Canadian thesps show up.

18 hours total, over three 'seasons'.

Chareth Cutestory said...

Mike, how have you put up with LOST's wankery for -- what? Five seasons now?

I'm up to Season 4 myself, and I plan to finish it, but solely out of spite.

I enthusiastically second the TWIN PEAKS suggestion.

Also, may I strongly recommend Simon/Burns' GENERATION KILL, which in my view was 2008's only masterpiece, movie or teevee. All of THE WIRE's elegance and subtlety in a smaller, even more heartbreaking package. I watched it twice.


Lee Hendricks said...

Wife says i do a great disservice by not singling out Don McKellar's awesome, camp turn as a preening rival director. Awful long way from that pet store in Exotica.

Also, CHUCK is way more fun than it has any right to be, and you *are* stuck in California... ?

md'a said...

And I forgot Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which I didn't have on my master list because the DVD releases weren't labeled as seasons in the usual manner. But checking Wikipedia it's clear that what I've seen is S1 and S2 (although S1 weirdly spans three calendar years).

Anonymous said...

If you can tolerate the recent seasons of Lost and 24 enough to actually get through them, then you owe it to yourself to give Battlestar Galactica another chance. '33' is one of the better standalone episodes, but the arc episodes are what makes the series.

Matt Cornell said...

My vote was for Breaking Bad, but my favorite show on TV is definitely Mad Men. I can't believe it's too blunt for you, since you managed to slog through all of 24, arguably one of the most heavy handed shows ever.

Here are a few more I think you'd like:

Peep Show- great BBC comedy, now in its 6th season. Uses POV camera and internal monologue to great comic effect. Give it a couple of seasons to warm up. It's sort of like a brainier, funnier version of the Apatow bromance formula.

Marion & Geoff- another BBC show. Rob Brydon's virtuoso one-man series is formally rigorous and features one of the great comic screen performances, ever. It consists entirely of monologues delivered to a fixed camera. Brydon plays a depressed, cuckolded cabdriver who struggles to put his life back together after his wife runs off with another man. Stylistically this has been compared to Kiaroastami. The comedy, however, exceeds the squirmy pathos of the original Office. Strongest recommend!

I Claudius- Bare bones adaptation of the Peter Graves book is primarily a showcase for some of the best British actors alive. John Hurt's Caligula is probably the most frightening character ever on TV.

The Prisoner- As close to PK Dick as TV ever got. Patrick McGoohan's allegorical sci-fi spy series is brainy, weird and an odd time capsule of 60s styles and tropes. I suspect the Caviezel remake will suck.

Robert Fuller said...

BSG is heartbreaking, because the first two seasons are brilliant, but then after that the I.Q. of the writers seems to have steadily dropped until the mentally retarded finale. So if you weren't hooked by the pilot, there's probably not much point in continuing.

eric said...

I'm an outsider here, so I don't want to correct anybody, but PEEP SHOW is Channel 4, not BBC (unless the merger was approved). Check out series 3, episode 3.

dd said...

On British TV: If you liked IN THE LOOP then its precursor THE THICK OF IT is essential viewing, and although the style is different I adore the casually surreal THE ARMANDO IANNUCCI SHOW. Also BRASS EYE. And a second recommendation for GARTH MARENGHI'S DARK PLACE.

Stateside, I really enjoyed the first season of HUNG, tho your mileage may vary. Ditto EASTBOUND AND DOWN and PARTY DOWN. And ERROL MORRIS' FIRST PERSON is criminally overlooked in discussions of his work.

Koerich said...

Big Bang Theory is stupid. Just geek masturbation, in a non-clever way. Please don't watch it.

Vadim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vadim said...

I can't believe you haven't seen "The Prisoner."

"Twin Peaks"' endless second season can be a real pain in the ass to get through, but it's worth sticking with it; the finale is one of the most terrifying things I've ever seen. Then again, you don't like Lost Highway, so what do I know.

[Deleted/reposted for punctuation stupidity.]

Anonymous said...

Just watch the first episode of DARKPLACE. It's hilarious, but it has a lightning-in-a-bottle quality that the remaining episodes don't really sustain.

Ryan said...

Mad Men's bluntness, if by bluntness you mean the can-you-believe-these-guys-used-to-behave-this-way? cues, pretty much fades out toward the end of the first season. The show puts the brakes on the winking once you've settled in, and slogs forward, alternating between an awesome workplace drama and a tepid sub-Sirkian domestic soap.

You'll appreciate the cleverness and some of the performances (Hamm, Hendricks, Slattery, esp.) if you stick with it, but I think it's deeply flawed, even if it's the only recent show I watch regularly, not counting Arrested Development. (I also watch 30 Rock sporadically and aim to start The Wire, Battlestar Gallactica and Friday Night Lights in the coming 12 months.)

On the other hand, you're not a huge style/art direction/fashion guy (at least not of this type), so you may not get much out of the most consistently pleasurable aspect of the show.

DMXcrement said...

While not on the air anymore, I'd recommend Wonder Showzen. You can probably get through the entire series in a week. It's a parody of a kids show, but filtered through a cracked perspective that Lars Von Trier would admire.

md'a said...

Jeff Lambert will testify that when he showed me some episodes of Wonder Showzen a few months ago I was laughing so hard that I nearly had a coronary. "Let's make like an Australian and keep watching this abortion!"

futurefree said...

The IT Crowd is much funnier than it looks like it'd be. Esp. once Matt Berry (also the funniest person on Darkplace) joins the cast in ep. 7.

Russ said...

Not sure which four episodes of The X-Files you watched, but there are about a dozen that are worth watching as standalones, and require little (if any) of the backstory you'd get by watching the rest of it.

There are the four episodes written by Darin Morgan, all entertaining and with a dark comic edge:


They're all worth watching, though CLYDE is the pinnacle of the bunch, and might be my favorite episode in the entire series.

Another very good one, also funny, is SMALL POTATOES (S4E20), which (coincidentally) features Darin Morgan in an acting role.

IRRESISTIBLE (S2E13) is pretty good, but might not otherwise make this list except that it provides backstory for one of the best episodes in the series, ORISON (S7E7).

UNRUHE (S4E4) sticks out in my mind as another excellent episode, and BEYOND THE SEA.

There are others that aren't coming to me at the moment, but if I think of them I'll post again.

I was a big fan of the series when it was on, but haven't seen any episodes at all in at least 7 years. That these episodes still spring to mind this many years later says something about how good they are, or at least how much of an impression they made on me. Check 'em out.

Russ said...

Forgot to mention that BEYOND THE SEA is S1E12.

Mike Lee said...

What you should really do is catch up on my TV movies, since I think you've only seen Meantime. Who's Who is pretty meh, I admit, but I think I did a pretty awesome job with the rest of them.

Also, "Murder One" season one and the last 6-episode arc of season two (which can be viewed without seeing the rest of season two) are probably the best dramatic American television of the 1990s.

And don't listen to anyone who tells you to watch "Sports Night"; it gets better when Bill Macy comes around in season two, but most of season one is barely mediocre. It and "Veronica Mars" are the most inexplicably critically acclaimed shows I've ever seen. Good job not following through on the latter.

If you take the advice to watch "Parks & Recreation," watch the pilot to get you acquainted with the characters, then start at the beginning of season two. This "'30 Rock' is dead" stuff is crap, but "P&R" really has been the strongest show in the block this season.

Robert Fuller said...

The four Darin Morgan episodes of X-Files are indeed brilliant, but they're really the only four episodes of the series worth watching. They're like four stand-alone works of art stuck in the middle of a mediocre TV show.

Lee Hendricks said...

Kudos to the Murder One post, it really was tremendous and one of the few things one could possibly remember fondly about 90s Teevee. Sportsnight really was good if you're a sports nerd, but i can see how plenty of folks wouldn't sync with it.

Also hope your LVT bona-fides are up to snuff and you've watched 'the Kingdom'. Yes?

Robert Fuller said...

Actually, I'm not a sports fan at all, and I love Sports Night. Like the tagline says, "It's about sports. The same way Charlie's Angels was about law enforcement."

TL said...

Re: Mad Men -- The show never really came together until episode 4 ("New Amsterdam"). So you really kind of stopped 1 episode short, if the well isn't poisoned for you.

From the shows on your list, "How I Met Your Mother" is the successor to "Friends," and also the first show in a while to do something interesting with the traditional 3-camera sitcom.

NichoGray said...

It doesn't need to go at the top of your list, but you need to watch Extras (both seasons and definitely the finale special). It's short, you'll tear through it.

Russ said...

The four Darin Morgan episodes of X-Files are indeed brilliant, but they're really the only four episodes of the series worth watching.

Can't agree with that. I've already admitted I was a fan of the series (though I skipped the entire final season). But the episodes I mentioned in my previous post are all very good, each worth 42 minutes of somebody's time. SMALL POTATOES, while not written by Darin Morgan, is very funny. And the others (ORISON, UNRUHE and BEYOND THE SEA) are some of the finest 'creepy' television I've seen, given the limitations imposed by network broadcast television. It's just that they were surrounded by lots of episodes that never rose above adequate and I think memories of them are watered down by that.

I will say that I was not a typical fan of the series. Everybody I knew at the time who was a fan was really wrapped up in the overarching story... the long term story arc about government coverups of alien contact, long-term conspiracies, etc. I was always mildly disappointed with those episodes, much preferring the standalones that had little or nothing overtly tying them to the bigger story arc.

As I said, there are other standout episodes. But the ones I mentioned before would be a good start for somebody who wasn't previously entertained or impressed by the more mundane episodes.

Russ said...

It doesn't need to go at the top of your list, but you need to watch Extras (both seasons and definitely the finale special). It's short, you'll tear through it.

Yes, I can't believe I didn't think to mention this as well. Be aware that the seasons are quite short... something like 7 or 8 episodes each. And the Daniel Radcliffe episode is one of the funniest things I've seen on television in a long time.

Nictate said...

I second the motion on THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW. Sheer bitter genius.

I'm a fan of THE FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS, too. It's slight, but strangely satisfying.

The only other current shows I'd go to the mat for are 30 ROCK and MAD MEN, but my TV taste range is exceedingly narrow.

I find MAD MEN's bluntness to be part of its appeal, but agree with those who said if it didn't grab you in the first few episodes, you probably will never dig it.

Luis said...

What? No love for HOUSE? It's not the greatest thing ever, but still consistently entertaining. That, of course, depends on whether you find the House character/Laurie's performance as awesomely charismatic as I do.

ONCE & AGAIN was also pretty good.

re: DEXTER. I loved the first two season, but heard that S3 is kinda lame. Should I bother?

Nictate said...

I forgot to mention The Sarah Silverman Program, which is also aces if you enjoy her schtick.

Noel Murray said...

The big, somewhat surprising absentee here is SONS OF ANARCHY, given that I know you dug THE SHIELD, and given that SoA creator Kurt Sutter was responsible for a lot of THE SHIELD's grit and intensity. Season One is solidly entertaining, if a little self-serious at times. (It's literally trying to be HAMLET on motorcycles.) Season Two though has been reminiscent of THE SHIELD in its emphasis on bad, bad people wading deeper and deeper into shit, for the purpose of trying to extricate themselves. There's an element of SOPRANOS redux in the show's study of a criminal organization, but the biker gang in SoA is decidedly more low-rent, and has a different set of codes. If you can make it through the set-up-heavy first few episodes, the show becomes almost pure narrative drive, shaded with all kinds of cool, pulpy detail about biker hierachies.

Comedy-wise, I echo the love for IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY (with the caveat that the show is wildly uneven) and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (which is the late '00s version of FRIENDS... a show I also like).

Sean said...

While I can second all of Russ' X-FILES picks, it's also worth noting than in the much derided middle seasons, there are episodes in which the show turns into the best-yet modern equivalent of THE THIN MAN. Duchovny and Anderson really have terrific chemistry, and when the show relaxes into comedy it can really be a pleasure. Examples would be:

BAD BLOOD (S5E12, f. Luke Wilson) DREAMLAND (S6E4&5, f. Michael McKean)
HOW THE GHOSTS STOLE CHRISTMAS (S6E6, f. Ed Asner & Lily Tomlin)
THE RAIN KING (S6E8, f. Victoria Jackson)
JE SOUHAITE (S7E21, f. Kevin Weisman, the comic relief from ALIAS)

And thirded that TWIN PEAKS is worth finishing just for the finale.

Interloper said...

I was not instantly enamored by Breaking Bad, but I’m extremely thankful I stayed with it. Whatever problems I glean that you have with Mad Men are perniciously marinated in the likes of the vastly inferior Big Love and Friday Night Lights.

Re Mad Men, I would submit that you check out an ala carte episode from season two entitled The Jet Set. It is a sublime slice of American Antonioni where Don briefly abandons his life for, among other things, the lovely Laura Ramsey, who gets to do things currently not allowed for ingénues in film roles, namely subtlety and grace. The Flight of the Conchords episode from last season directed by Michel Gondry is also an ala carte classic where all you need to know is New Zealanders hate Australians.

Jeff said...

EASTBOUND AND DOWN is the best new show by far. It holds a mirror up to life and reminds us of our little foibles.

Michael said...

Watch the Moffat Dr. Whos. Start with "Blink". Don't bother with the rest, except maybe "Midnight".

Darren said...

Glad to see so many votes for FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. I watched the first three seasons over the past few months and am still surprised by how much I enjoy it. The second season amps up the show's soap-ier tendencies with an unnecessarily dramatic storyline, but I pushed through because I really enjoy the characters at the center of FNL. Eric and Tami Taylor are my favorite couple in TV history. I never thought I'd see a realistic portrayal of a happy marriage.

Mike, given your apparent fondness for GILMORE GIRLS, I think you'd really dig FNL.

Anonymous said...

I second LARRY SANDERS and the last six episodes of MURDER ONE S2.

I would also recommend giving CURB another shot. David grows on you. I disliked his acting at first, but CURB is now my favorite comedy of all time next to SEINFELD and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.

I'm dumbfounded that no-one has mentioned the first four seasons of THE WEST WING.

alexpreiss said...

Agree with previous commenter about CURB. Watch 1.8 "Beloved Aunt" -- a brilliant standalone episode that's also a great litmus for whether you'll enjoy the show or not.

Anonymous said...

Alternatively, watch WHATEVER WORKS. You know you want to anyway for completeness sake and David actually acts in it (as opposed to semi-improvising, as he does in CURB). I daresay he saved (the first half of) a mediocre film for me.

And yes, I'll repeat it: WEST WING.

Unknown said...

I say you watch the first season of FNL and then switch to Breaking Bad.

Also, the current season of DEXTER is so far far superior to the last one.

James said...

Hi Mike. I've been following your work for over 10 years now, but I've never communicated before. Thanks, man.

I'm a kiwi, so Flight of the C goes without saying. I like that you've already mentioned a couple of lesser known classics, like Homicide: LOTS and Newsradio, so maybe we have similar taste.

I'm just going to throw out some other ideas: Malcolm in the Middle, Cracker (the UK one with Robbie Coltrane), Father Ted (precursor of and superior to "Black Books" and "the IT Crowd"), the Brack Show. I assume that I don't need to mention Blackadder or Red Dwarf.

Chuck and the West Wing are favourites of mine that others have already mentioned.

"Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog" isn't traditional TV, but it trumps pretty much anything. It's on YouTube in 6 parts.

Anonymous said...

I, Claudius
The Singing Detective

Koerich said...

Just for the sake of registration, since no one here seems to have mentioned it: Six Feet Under!