After my wife and children, I love television more than anything, and sometimes that’s debatable. TV’s invention is the greatest achievement by humans in the last 400 years, with penicillin and Cool Ranch Doritos tied for a close second. And now, in this the Golden Age of Television, we have more shows to watch and more ways to watch them. Watch Breaking Bad in your boudoir? Of course! Master Chef Junior during Junior’s dance recital? Certainly. Every episode of Gilmore Girls next weekend? No – absolutely not. Have some self-respect for God’s sake.
Gone are the days of Appointment Television. I remember racing home, panicked I’d miss the first five minutes of Melrose Place. Oh that Amanda – what a scamp! Those days are over – with streaming channels, cable on-demand, network websites and good old-fashioned DVD rentals, you really have no excuse to miss any TV ever.
The choices are overwhelming. On a quiet Saturday a few weeks ago, I caught an entire episode of Gunsmoke, rewatched Episode Nine from Season Three of The Walking Dead, enjoyed the tail end of The Rockford Files and ended the day with three episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, a show that finally answers the question, “How can I also get Type 2 diabetes?”
As winter continues its miserable quest to make us colder, fatter and less congenial, I embrace the time I have indoors. For Christmas, I bought the family a Roku, a device that marries my streaming subscriptions with my television. Now I can stop walking around with my laptop like I’m checking crop reports in my living room. Streaming TV will alter what we watch more than anything – for a fee, I can avoid ads and watch thousands of shows and movies with a few presses of my thumb or by voice remote. Watching Guy Fieri make a nine pound waffle cheese burrito by using only verbal commands may be what historians call the human race’s Tipping Point. But I’d do anything for good TV.
I implore you to take advantage of this cornucopia of television – buy a subscription to Netflix or Hulu or HBO On Demand, find a comfy chair and settle in. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
- Fargo - Remember the 1996 film about Jerry Lundegaard, a botched kidnapping and a wood chipper? Forget the movie and watch Season One of this show. Ten episodes of Billy Bob Thornton, an ice scraper and one henpecked husband pushed a wee bit too far. Recently-done Season Two is even better. (Hulu and Amazon Prime)
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt – What do you get when you combine oatmeal with lima beans? Who knows but that sounds gross – Kimmy Schmitt is the opposite of that. These thirteen quick episodes of comedic zaniness ensure you’ll never see Times Square street characters, karate videos or bottled water in the same light again. Even the theme song is a hoot. (Netflix original series)
- Ray Donovan – Ray is the only guy who gets things done in LA, and his methods are fun to watch. Almost into its fourth season, this show has great story lines, awesome South Boston accents, and both Elliot Gould AND Jon Voight. Voight as Mickey Donovan alone is worth the price of a monthly Showtime subscription. (Showtime On Demand)
- Narcos – The story of Pablo Escobar, the infamous Colombian drug kingpin, politician, father, lunatic and self-proclaimed genius. Great viewing for those hoping to learn an impressive range of Spanish curse words and the history of the War on Drugs in the ‘80s and ‘90s. (Netflix original series)
- The Man in the High Castle – This new series scratches that “What if Nazi Germany had won World War II?” itch. The short answer is that an America run by Nazis is a total bummer, and the SS did not enjoy business casual Fridays. (Amazon Prime original series)
- The Wire – At some point, everyone figured they knew what Moby Dick was about and didn’t bother reading it. Soon The Wire will have the same cultural significance – stop lying to your family and friends and watch The Wire’s sixty episodes. But skip Moby Dick - reading is for losers anyway. TV’s the new reading. (HBO On Demand)
- Friday Night Lights – What The Wire is to inner city America, FNL is to high school football and life in small town America. Five seasons of football, romance, drama and relationships in Dillon, Texas. Maybe the best network TV series ever? I’m not saying I love Tammy Taylor, but I am saying I admire her – and not at all in a creepy way. (NBC.com and Amazon Prime)
- Peaky Blinders – It’s 1919 in Birmingham, England and the Peaky Blinders gang is doing its best to balance post-war blues, union organizing, Irish nationalism and really bad opium-laced nightmares. The Great War’s over, but the battle for criminal turf is just getting started. (Netflix original series)
- Nathan for You – Canadian business school graduate Nathan Fielder helps small businesses find their customers in very unique ways – his idea for “Dumb Starbucks” still ranks as the most bizarre yet sensible thing anyone’s done in a long time. (Comedy Central On Demand)
- Sonic Highways – A must see for lovers of rock and roll. Dave Grohl and his band, Foo Fighters, visit eight American cities and explore their music through interviews and performances. From Buddy Guy to Alan Toussaint to Willie Nelson to “Wind me Up Chuck!” Sonic Highways is a primer in rock and roll history. (HBO On Demand)