John's Blog - Stuff I Like
I've been recommending some TV/Netflix watching to the Wilsons lately and they've indicated that I have a perfect record so far. I don't watch a lot of 'first run' TV. Typically, I'll just find whole seasons of something interesting on Netflix and watch a couple episodes. If it's good I'll watch the whole season, then wait for the next season to be available. Other times, I wear my pirate hat...
Here are a few of my recommendations.
A sci-fi western written and directed by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel). Even though it's a rarity (sci-fi western!), had great acting, great writing, plenty of humor, and managed to snag an Emmy for Visual Effects, it only lasted one season on the Fox Network.
Since then, it's had great DVD sales and enjoyed a large enough fan following to merit a big-screen movie based on the series called Serenity (2005). It's also expanded to comics and a role-playing game. Every once in a while one cable station or another (SyFy?) will play the entire season as one-day a marathon.
As an added bonus, Christina Hendricks (the buxom redhead of Mad Men) appears in two episodes. There is talk that it could make a comeback someday on a willing cable network.
Arrested Development (2003-2006)
Another undeservedly short-lived show from Fox Network. Ron Howard was executive producer and narrator. Arrested Development is a sitcom following the misadventures of the formerly wealthy and dysfunctional Bluth Family.
It earned six Emmys, was on Time's '100 Best TV Shows of All Time' list, and showcased the ensemble acting chops of Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter.
Jason Bateman played the only responsible adult in the family. He consistently attempts to salvage the family fortune, tolerate the shortcomings and abuse of his siblings and parents, and keep the family on speaking terms, all while trying to serve as single parent for a teenage boy. The writing is genius.
Many of the actors continue to work together on other projects and word is that it will be continued in the near future as a mini-series leading into a big-screen movie production.
Archer (2009 - present)
Archer is an animated series currently showing on FX. Archer is a dense, egotistical, crude (yet clumsily suave) master spy who bumbles his way through missions and sexual encounters with great flair. The humor is highly sarcastic, sexually suggestive, politically incorrect... and magnificent. The era seems to be 60s, but there are inconsistencies. The owner of the spy agency is Archer's overbearing mother, and that relationship affects much of the plot line.
The cast is excellent, including two Arrested Devolpment alumni, Jessica Walter & Jeffrey Tambor. H. Jon Benjamin plays Archer. Others include: Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler, George Coe & Amber Nash.
If you don't think you like "cartoons", try this out. You won't regret it.
The League (2009 - present)
Currently in its third season, The League (FX) is about five very competitive friends, and a spouse, who partake in a fantasy football league. The humor is brutally sarcastic with some of the most creative put-downs and comebacks I've seen in a TV Show. It's very much like a real bunch of guys would behave.
You do not need to know anything about fantasy football to enjoy The League. In fact, if you hate fantasy football, probably all the better. The ensemble cast is outstanding, which was especially surprising for me as they were not actors whose names I was familiar with before, except for Paul Scheer.
Community (2009 - present)
Community is a sitcom about a suspended lawyer (Joel McHale) who attends community college after its found that he lied about having a degree. Like my previous favorites, this is an ensemble show where no single actor carries the episodes. They have some great comedic talent on display with Chevy Chase, Ken Jeong, Allison Brie, Danny Pudi and the others.
I remember Joel McHale from when he started doing Talk Soup on E! and thinking he was way too talented to not get his own sitcom and leave Talk Soup stranded with some clutz. Then I saw the commercials for Community and feared... this does not look to end well for him. Well... it's suprisingly good... AND he stayed with Talk Soup! Win-win.
Community refuses to get stuck in a formulaic comedy rut. They constantly innovate with perspectives, genres, and parodying (or paying homage to) older shows and movies. Terrific.
Game of Thrones (2010 - present)
I don't subscribe to HBO, but as a fanboy of the books I just had to see this. Wow! I don't think I've ever seen an adaptation that was so loyal to the original source. Game of Thrones is the name of the first book in The Song of Ice and Fire series of books by George R. R. Martin. I don't know whether they will stick with that name or change with the books.
I gave a short review of The Song of Ice and Fire (to date) in my post here.
The casting, in particular Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, has proven to be nothing short of genius. I've had difficulty envisioning Tyrion while reading the books, even though he is probably the single most interesting character. Now, when reading books 4 & 5, I envision Dinklage and it makes them that much more enjoyable.
Most of the rest of the cast were unfamiliar to me, but they are no less exceptional than Dinklage. Sean Bean as Ned Stark... also awesome.
While the acting is tremendous, the story is even better. Is it fantasy or drama? Either way, quite possibly the best that's been made for TV.