Not too long ago, we all can remember ourselves groaning, Darn it! I have to miss (fill in the blank here), I have plans tonight. Well, unless you’re subletting the Unibomber’s cabin, those days are long gone—but our protestations weren’t. Soon, the viewer war cry was, Dammit, (fill in the blank here) didn’t record! Now, with the rise of Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, Amazon and countless other streaming sites, television suddenly is without schedule.
You can watch what you want, when you want, where you want. And much like a vacation in the Caribbean, the latitude is refreshing. It also can be overwhelming: Every show that ever aired (within reason) can be found and watched online. So, if the idea of sitting down in front of an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Killer Women makes your stomach churn, I have good news. If fact, I may have too much good news, because now the question is not What did I miss? It’s What should I go back and watch? And since network television—an outdated term, let’s say big network television—is beginning a spiral tantamount to the Roman Empire circa 330 AD, there are lots of alternatives to explore.
When you start a new series (new for you, that is) that has already aired or is still running, but a few seasons in, you are presented with the option known as binge-watching. Now stop right there. If you’re like me, everything you did in the ‘90s with the word ‘binge’ in it was probably bad. Binge-watching, however, is good—well, there are no established negative side effects. Binge-watching, watching multiple episodes or even seasons of a show in one sitting, is an absolutely terrific way to be unproductive and anti-social—if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing. So without further ado, here are 10 dramas and 10 comedies you may want to resurrect:
House of Cards (Netflix)
Kevin Spacey makes his puppets on Capitol Hill dance as sinister politician Frank Underwood. The show is two seasons in, and it is riveting.
Sons of Anarchy (AMC)
A show about a biker gang? Seriously? Loosely based on Hamlet, the exceptionally well-written show follows anti-hero Jax (Charlie Hunnam) as he navigates the seedy underbelly of his world.
Band of Brothers (HBO)
Technically a miniseries, the 10-part show, based on the Stephen Ambrose novel of the same name, dramatized the experiences of ‘Easy’ company parachute infantry during World War II.
This is the Murder She Wrote of this decade. A dashing novelist (Nathan Fillion) shadows a slightly too beautiful NYC detective (Stana Katic), and together they find killers…and love.
The Killing (AMC/Netflix)
The show bounced from AMC to Netflix, and struggled to broaden its audience. It follows a female detective as she reopens a murder investigation in the Pacific Northwest after she fears the man convicted isn’t the killer. The show is grim and haunting, but extremely well-written.
Prison Break (Fox)
My 12-year-old told me about this show about an inmate trying to break out of a maximum-security penitentiary that aired on Fox from 2005 to 2009. I said it sounded like Gilligan’s Island set in a prison. Really, it’s more like MacGyver meets Oz.
Talk about a show made for binge-watching: Try and stop yourself from looking for continuity errors in a show set over the course of one day. Kiefer Sutherland kills it (literally) as the jaded, tenacious Jack Bauer, stopping terrorists at any cost.
Criminal Minds (CBS)
The only thing that makes one police procedural any better than another is the cast. This show absolutely nails it with the ensemble cast portraying the behavioral analysis (profilers to the layman) unit of the FBI. The show is smart, well-acted and only as disturbing as the FCC allows.
Jennifer Garner plays kitten-with-a-whip spy Sydney Bristow as she goes undercover for varied and colorful assignments. The show is pure PG fun, plus it’s a chance to see Bradley Cooper before he was, well, Bradley Cooper.
Claire Danes stars as a CIA agent with bipolar disorder who suspects a Manchurian Candidate scenario within national security.
Now, the comedies are a bit different. For one, none of these are currently in production; and for another, almost all aired on network television. While cable and streaming sites are dipping their toes into comedy, nothing that I’ve seen touches these...so far…
Seinfeld, Will & Grace, Friends, Scrubs, Frasier, The Bob Newhart Show, Arrested Development, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Now, the downside: This has irrevocably shifted the water-cooler conversation. People no longer ask if you saw last night’s episode of (fill in the blank). They now ask if you watched Season Two of House of Cards, or how far in you are, or what you’re watching next. We’re trading shows—not reveling in a common television experience—and that’s fine. But I think that Who-shot-JR? moment will be missed.