I bought a Roku a little over a year ago and that was a really good decision. I hate watching TV on my laptop (I know, what a terrible problem), so streaming things on my TV was a welcome change. I joined Netflix, have sporadically paid for Hulu Plus, and bought whatever I couldn’t get anywhere else on Amazon Instant Video.
And thus began a dangerous new era of binge watching. I made a list of shows I hadn’t yet seen but wanted to and still have a lot more I want to see. But here are the shows I’ve watched since the advent of the Roku:
Parks and Recreation
I love it and I like it. I can’t believe I wasn’t already watching this show. This show is wonderful, and not just because Amy Poehler is hilarious. (One of my biggest regrets about college is that I didn’t see Amy, a fellow BC alum, when she came to campus my senior year—I’m not a huge SNL fan and at the time I didn’t really know who she was.)
I’m glad I stuck with it, because the first season actually isn’t that great. It’s created by the same people who did The Office, and I think at the beginning the shows were a bit too similar. Leslie kind of comes off as a ditz in Season 1, but as the show goes on it’s clearer that she actually is very smart and capable—she’s just a bit naïve and doesn’t always go about things the right way. But it starts to hit its stride in Season 2, and with the addition of a couple of new characters, Season 3 becomes even better.
It’s not only funny but also really upbeat, happy, and sweet—the constant making fun of Jerry notwithstanding (it’s okay, apparently, because he has a great home life and a wife played by Christie Brinkley), the characters are all nice people. I am not ashamed to say I cried when Ben and Leslie got engaged and then again when they got married. Rashida Jones has left the show now, but I really loved Leslie and Ann’s friendship. There’s one episode where Mark, Leslie’s ex-fling she still has feelings for, asks Ann out. Ann says no out of respect for Leslie and tells Leslie about it in the interest of honesty. Leslie is grateful, but eventually tells Ann that she can date Mark if she wants to. It’s exactly the right way to handle a situation like this, but I can’t remember any other show doing it—most shows would have turned it into a catfight. Ron Swanson, too, aside from being hysterical, is unique among TV characters for being a hyper-masculine, meat-loving Libertarian who also respects and appreciates strong women. Other shows could take lessons from the way Parks and Rec does feminism.
Plus, it gave us Lil Sebastian and his memorial song, Galentine’s Day, and “Treat yo’ self.” And also, much like me, Leslie Knope has a special love for waffles with lots of whipped cream on top. I didn’t realize until I saw this show how much I was needing a waffles-and-whipped-cream-loving character in my life.
I didn’t watch the whole show, just some of my favorite episodes out of order. It does hold up, I have to say. Speaking of Gillian Anderson…
I love her, so I was excited for this British show about a serial killer in Belfast. Gillian stars as the detective trying to solve the case. Unfortunately, the first two episodes just didn’t draw me in, so I didn’t watch the rest.
I heard of this show after reading this Slate article about it, and it piqued my interest right away. Chris O’Dowd, Ireland, feminism—all things I like. It’s a cute family sitcom set in Ireland in the late eighties/early nineties and while it’s not something that would ever become an obsession, it’s enjoyable and, with only six episodes per season, goes by quickly.
Orange Is the New Black
I’d heard so many good things about this show, and in anticipation of seeing it, I read the memoir it’s based on. I wonder if I would have liked it more if I hadn’t read it, because after seeing the first season (still haven’t seen the second and I’m not sure if I will), I came to the conclusion that I like the idea of this show better than the show itself. It’s all about women, it tells a lot of interesting and diverse stories, it sheds light on America’s incredibly flawed prison system, and the acting is universally fantastic. And yet…it doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s because I had read the book and was bugged by how many things had been changed for dramatic purposes and how both Piper and Larry come off on the show—Piper Chapman is really bratty, while the real Piper doesn’t come across that way to me at all, and all you have to do is read this article by Larry Smith to see how different he is from Larry Bloom. There are also a lot of details that are inaccurate—Piper should be in a minimum security federal prison, which means she’d never be incarcerated with someone in for violent crime, like Pennsatucky. But the main reason I can’t get into it, I think, is that as interesting as all the characters and their stories are, there’s no one I connect to personally and nothing I can really relate to. I think the one time I had a flash of recognition was when Piper tries to explain how people misinterpret “The Road Less Traveled” to blank stares– that’s totally the kind of thing I would do. But– and I do realize this says more about me than about the show– I had a really hard time relating to virtually anything else that happens.
Wow. I don’t like Family Guy, but this clip here? There’s a lot of truth to it.
It only took me about two-and-a-half weeks to finish this show. I kept finding myself thinking, “Okay, I’ve got this much time…how many episodes of Breaking Bad can I get in?” And when it was over, all I wanted to do was talk about it and tell everyone else to watch it. It’s like a fifty-hour movie. Previously, I knew the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, from when he used to write for The X-Files, and he was famous in the XF fandom for his attention to continuity as well as how he always snuck references to his girlfriend Holly into episodes. He does both of those things on Breaking Bad, too—lots of little things you’ve forgotten about come back later and turn out to be important, and Holly references get in here, too!
The acting is just incredible. Bryan Cranston does an amazing job keeping your attention as a regular guy becoming increasingly evil—even when you can’t sympathize with him anymore, you still want to know what will happen to him. But Aaron Paul as his sidekick Jesse Pinkman is my favorite part of the show. Even when he does terrible things, Jesse quite never loses his humanity, and he’s the character I remember most. My second-favorite character, though, is Skyler, a character a lot of people inexplicably hate. I agree with everything Anna Gunn wrote in her New York Times op-ed—I’ll give you that she’s a little annoying in the pilot, before she actually has a good reason to be mad, but after that, I completely understand why she does everything she does, and nothing she does is as bad as what Walt and Jesse do.
Seriously. I haven’t seen The Wire yet, but I do feel compelled to recommend Breaking Bad to everyone I know.
House of Cards
…I don’t like this show. At all. I think I’m the only one. I saw the first three episodes and could not get into it. I’m fine with unlikeable characters (I did just rave over Breaking Bad, after all), but from what I can tell, there’s not a single character with even one redeeming quality on this show. It’s just way too cynical for me, although it’s not hard to believe that there are people this awful in Washington. What I have the hardest time believing, though, is that Frank is a Democrat from South Carolina.
I have seen a gif of the death at the beginning of Season 2, though, and I did enjoy that. But that’s it.
While I’d never call this a favorite, it is very funny in a cringe-y way. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is fantastic as the incredibly narcissistic vice president and the rest of the cast is great, too. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I’d like House of Cards if it was rewritten as a comedy.
Rewatched in anticipation of the movie that came out in March. Upon rewatch, it was even better than I remembered. You should see it if you haven’t and rewatch it if you have. And also read the Snark Squad recaps of it.
I don’t think it quite lived up to the hype, but this was definitely worth a watch. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are both great, and while I spent most of the show expecting a big twist that never came, I did end up finding the ending satisfying. Random side note: it takes place in Louisiana, but Woody Harrelson’s character is named Marty Hart—I REALLY think they should have saved that name for a show set in Boston.
I mentioned in a previous post that I don’t like stand-up comedy. Well, there’s always an exception—I’ve found that I actually do enjoy Louis CK’s standup a lot. His show, on the other hand? Not my thing. I saw a few episodes, including some that were supposed to be among the best ones, and I just did not find them funny.
Is this the kind of thing that gets better after the pilot? If so, let me know, because although I’d heard that this was a great show, I saw the pilot and was not impressed. If you’re going to make me care about undercover Soviet spies in the 80s, you need to make them way more interesting characters than they are in this episode.
Seasons 1 and 2 are fantastic. Season 3, on the other hand?
Season 1, especially, is fast-paced and unpredictable and features fantastic acting (and an epic cryface) from Claire Danes and excellent work from Damien Lewis and Mandy Patinkin as well. Season 2 is almost as good. In Season 3, on the other hand, the lack of new ideas once the initial premise dried up becomes sadly clear, and I’m not even watching Season 4. Also, Dana Brody, the daughter of the Damien Lewis character, might be my least favorite character in the history of TV. She’s that annoying. I kept wishing SHE’D get blown up by a terrorist.
A Young Doctor’s Notebook
Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe.
I repeat, JON HAMM AND DANIEL RADCLIFFE.
That’s all you need to know.
The Good Wife
Note to self: never start watching a network drama so late in the game ever again. This is currently in its sixth season, and since it’s a drama on CBS, it’s 22 hour-long episodes in a season. So it took forever for me to get caught up with this one, but it was totally worth it.
It’s funny, because while I think this is one of the best shows on TV right now, it goes against all of the popular wisdom about what works in this day and age. It’s on a major network rather than cable, it’s got a lead character who’s a good person rather than an antihero, and while it’s basically a serial drama, because it deals with court cases, it has elements of a procedural. But it does what it does incredibly well. Shows like Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Mad Men, Dexter, etc. all have terrible people at the center of them, but the titular good wife, Alicia Florrick, has quickly become one of my favorite characters because she’s refreshingly likeable without being Mary Sue-ish. The title is kind of ironic—she’s cast in the role of “the good wife” after her husband, a state’s attorney in Chicago, is jailed following a corruption and prostitution scandal and, after thirteen years out of the workforce raising her two kids, she has to go back to work as a lawyer. I can’t be the only one who’s seen real-life political sex scandals play out and been infuriated at how the wives are always forced to stand there supporting the husbands who’ve betrayed them, but Alicia is anything but a passive, wronged wife. She’s smart, excellent at her job, and a great mother to her two teenagers, but she also has a tendency to stress-drink red wine and has a penchant for comebacks like, “Die choking on your own blood, please.” And while you might not want her to remain married to her husband, their relationship is clearly very complicated and not as black and white as staying vs. leaving.
Alicia is far from the only appealing character on the show, too. I’m particular fond of Kalinda, the somewhat mysterious and occasionally violent in-house investigator at Alicia’s firm. Aside from the other lawyers at the firm, all appealing characters in their own right, the show has a fantastic lineup of recurring characters who play lawyers they go up against. Michael J. Fox is especially memorable as a shady but oddly charismatic lawyer, and I would totally watch a spinoff about Elsbeth Tascioni, a kooky attorney whom Carrie Preston won a Best Guest Actress Emmy for playing. Mamie Gummer, Rita Wilson, Matthew Perry, and Martha Plimpton have all had great guest roles. I also really like Alicia’s kids, who are written as much more well-rounded characters than dramas focusing on adults typically write teenagers—Homeland and Nashville should take lessons from The Good Wife’s writers.