Our Picks for the Top Ten Shows to Fill Up On
Oh, how the holidays are filling! Family dinners, luscious desserts… from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, our waistlines suffer, as does our need for good entertainment. Most shows go on hiatus near the end of the fall, and, while reruns are OK from time to time, I like to try and find something that’s brand new to me. And totally binge-worthy.
We here at EMTV have a tendency to dive in and get wrapped up when we find a new show that catches our interest. I remember over one Christmas break from work, I got through the first two (and sadly only two) seasons of Carnivale. Watched the first few episodes, and two days later had watched all twenty-four. Since then, there have been quite a few vacations, weekends, and holidays where we’ve given our Netflix subscriptions a severe workout, and we want to share our top ten favorite binges with you.
While arguments can be made for a lot of shows that have aired over the years, we tried to find a representative of various genres. Ya know, cause sometimes you just wanna bring on the funny, while others you want to dive deep into a mythical realm where dragons and imps reign supreme.
In really no particular order, I give to you – Shows to Waste Enormous Amounts of Time On!
Sons of Anarchy (2008-Present) – This past fall I had seen so many people freaking out about what was happening on Sons of Anarchy, I knew it would be one to check out. It had always been one of those those shows I noticed, but had such a busy viewing calendar, I put it off. Luckily I had a few hours to kill when my other shows went on hiatus. Now, here I am three weeks later and five seasons deep.
Like most violent dramas, SOA has no shortage of blood, bullets, and boobs. But, unlike other shows of its’ type, it actually surprises you. Every time I thought, oh, well, it’s gonna go this way… it shifts gears and goes in a completely different direction. I must shout WTF! at least two times per episode.
Much like a lot of characters on TV lately, this gang of hoodlums are definitely of the anti-hero ilk. Criminals at heart and by choice, this is a bunch of men (and women) that you would never normally root for. So why is it that you can’t help but want them to constantly get away with the bad things they do? Because deep down, you know these guys (and gals) love their family and are only trying to provide for them and protect their home town.
The cast is pretty stellar, and they inject a certain something into their characters that makes their bad sides kinda hard to hate. Well, except Clay. I think I will ALWAYS hate Clay. The show is a bit like crack, but if you can handle the addiction, I say this is a show you could easily binge on.
The “L” Word (2004-2009) – What makes a TV show one to binge watch? I think you need to ask yourself what you LIKE to watch. Now, I’ve tried watching shows that people suggest or even what smart search suggests, but I find it’s best to binge on what you know and love. Do you like non-stop drama and attractive women? Well, The L Word could be the show for you to binge on!
There’s 6 seasons of non-stop drama for your mama, an amazingly beautiful and talented cast of women, and an array of characters with various personalities. With this show you’re going to learn so much about the Gay Culture along with the pride and struggles behind same-sex partners. Meanwhile seeing these women deal with the problems relationships bring, on top of real life responsibilities – work, family, love, and survival.
This show will give you an introspective look at the minds and hearts of women. How they think and feel. What friendship and love is really about, and lots of hook ups too! These lesbians know where it’s at in L.A.! Gay rights is a hot topic on this show, so if you’re homophobic, don’t skip this one! You should tune in and learn something!
There’s LOTS of depth and substance throughout this show, despite it’s questionable and frustrating 6th season finale. But at least you had a HELL of a run! I HIGHLY recommend watching The L Word – it made me laugh and cry. It made me pick sides and then switch perspectives! It’s an interesting show with a good sense of humor and whole lot of heart.
Supernatural (2005-Present) Two hot guys, a cool car and lots of other-worldly adventures. How could you NOT want to pour yourself into this show? But even beyond its pretty packaging, the story itself is an epic tale of Cain and Abel proportion set in modern day. Supernatural is a story of a family torn apart by a life-long destiny that no one wanted, and everyone tried to run from.
Take every story you’ve heard about monsters going bump in the night, and you have your MOTW (Monster of the Week) stories, being held up by a strong and deep mythology that will leave your mouths agape as it unfolds. The show is able to make fun of itself one week and leave you in a messy pile of feels on the floor, the next.
What makes this show binge-able (and sustainable) after nine seasons, is the amazing acting chops of said pretty packaging: Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. These guys are goofballs and best friends off set, but when the cameras roll, they can set your emotions off in a tail spin. From laughing to tears all in one episode, THEY are what makes this show just that much more amazing than the others of its’ kind. Go ahead, jump in the Impala and take the ride with the Winchesters… you won’t regret it.
The Walking Dead (2010-Present) This show… well, unless you have been living under a rock these past few years, you have to have at least heard of The Walking Dead. If you are generally a fan of horror, blood, guts and zombies, then this is the show for you to spend countless hours diving into.
From the first minute, it is compelling, character driven television. Sure there are lulls in the story, but when you are battling slow moving, brainless flesh eaters, sometimes there just happens to be a little down time. What The Walking Dead offers in the study of human nature is nothing short of spectacular. That, and the unique way the writers find to kill the zombies, is what makes TWD a fairly binge-able show.
Besides the awesome make-up and special effects, the characters themselves are pretty bad ass (for the most part). As the story unfolds, and people come and go, you will find yourselves more wrapped up in the warped thinking of some characters, than the zombie threat they live with. Questionable decisions, and unlikely heroes will keep you watching episode after episode until you feel like one of the zombies yourself.
The Office (2005-2013) I could go on and on as to WHY The Office is the best comedy in the world to binge on, but in the words of Dunder Mifflin’s boss Michael Scott, I’m going to K.I.S.S. the topic instead (K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple Stupid)
It’s funny. Period. No, wait… its REALLY funny. Like, side splitting funny. And dumb, really, really dumb. What separates this from the average funny show you ask… The people who work in the office. Michael Scott is a normal guy, who just wants to know what it feels like to have friends, family, and be the best boss in the world. Oh, and be the best improv comedian, magician, screenwriter, actor, etc. in the universe. Wrap all that up in one average paper salesman turned manager, and let the hi-jinks ensue. Then, back him up with a sidekick like Dwight Schrute, and all bets are off. Michael and Dwight are just TWO of the laundry list of reasons why this show should be THE comedy to watch – again and again and again.
What really makes this the comedy to binge on isn’t just the laughs, but all the little things that support the funny. There are also these moments in the documentary-style off-beat comedy that are sweet and poignant. It’s smart and ridiculous all at the same time. And with each episode only twenty (or so) minutes long, you could easily breeze through nine season’s worth of episodes. Trust me, once you get a load of Michael Scott’s screenplay, you won’t want to stop watching!
Fringe (2008-2013) You either like Sci-Fi or you don’t. But I suspect that even if you fall into the latter category, you could easily get wrapped up in Fringe. I happen to be a big fan of sci-fi shows, books and movies. So when I saw this show and that it was combined with a name like J.J. Abrams, I really couldn’t pass up a little gem like this.
I watched this show as it unfolded in real time on FOX. Somewhere between seasons 3 and 4 I got behind, and ended up binging on DVDs of seasons 1-4 in order to get ready for the shortened fifth and final season. While the story is mythology heavy and the “fringe” part of the science discussed is way over my IQ level, I couldn’t stop watching this show.
I’ll give you the four main reasons to give Fringe a chance: Walter, Peter, Olivia and Astrid. Remember that last name, because Walter always forgets; but the alternatives he comes up with are just the icing on the cake. Walter is one of the most amazing characters I have ever watched on TV. Of course, you have to completely suspend belief in realism to fully immerse yourself in it, but I think if you can shut off your brain for a while, you would easily get sucked in to the alternative Fringe-verse that awaits. Besides, Walter makes some really amazing drugs in his lab. Do you really want to miss out on that? And did I forget to mention there’s a cow?
Breaking Bad (2008-2013) There is a very popular trend on television over the past ten years of showcasing the anti-hero main character-type. I mentioned it earlier that the SOA crew was made up of personalities like that, but no show did that character type better than Breaking Bad’s Walter White. I know, it’s hard to imagine a man in his 50′s, wearing khakis, a cheap button down dress shirt and sneakers as a scary villian. But. somehow Bryan Cranston did that with cancer-stricken chemistry teacher, Walter White.
Along with his meth-cook sidekick Jessie Pinkman, Walter White made his mark on everyone’s Sunday night for five years. Having a break in my TV schedule last year, I found it on Netflix and caught up with the rest of the world, watching Walt struggle with a poor health diagnosis and a growing methamphetamine business. On more than one occasion I found myself watching, completely captivated, mouth agape, at what I was watching unfold.
I don’t think there is another show on television that had such a strong run as Breaking Bad. From start to finish it told a complete story, with a very satisfying ending. Because of the way the show is formatted, binging on it is just as easy as binging on Walt’s special blue meth, or so I presume. Most endings are left in a cliffhanger, and most of the beginnings foreshadow a oncoming disaster, so it is nearly impossible to tell yourself, “Just one more episode.”
How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014) It all started in January 2013. I had no work… for the whole month! So, what did I do? I sat on my comfy-@$$ couch and binged on Netflix! And what did I watch you ask? Eight and a half seasons of How I Met Your Mother until I caught up to present day airing. That’s gotta be some sort of a record!!! HIMYM is an easy show to binge on. Each episode is only 22 minutes, which means, I could view about 3 episodes per hour, and if on average I watched 6-8 hours of TV, that’s 18-24 episodes a day. We’re looking at 1 season, or just shy of 1 season, a day. So, the viewer just flies through the show, getting a lot of TV for a “lesser” time commitment.
HIMYM is just down right cute and fun, and extremely relatable! With nothing to do for the month of January, I decided to make some new friends: Lily, Marshall, Robin, Barney, and Ted! They are a group of true friends who can be extremely silly and completely honest with each other. They will call each other out when necessary, even hold an intervention for one another, and will always have each others’ backs! The show’s use of call-backs, past references, and countless inside jokes allows the audience to feel as though they’ve been seamlessly admitted into the crew, without any questioning or hazing. The writing is inviting and open-minded, very appropriate for today’s young adult generation. Nothing is off-limits on HIMYM. They address topics like dating, parenthood, mommy & daddy issues, employment and relationship issues, sex, drugs, alcohol, friendships, friends with benefits, bromances, bachelor-life… you name it, it’s in there! Any viewer can easily relate to any one or more of the characters.
Barney Stinson is reason enough to watch the show! Though Robin is my personal favorite, Barney steals the show. He may be cocky, chauvinistic and outrageously ridiculous, but that’s what gets you hooked. His shenanigans are worth seeing and keep you wanting more. Neil Patrick Harris is an exceptional actor, period. If anything, at least watch the episode where Barney sings “Suits.” Who doesn’t love a musical episode? And if you enjoyed that, be sure to catch episodes featuring Robin Sparkles to hear “Let’s Go to the Mall,” and “Sandcastles in the Sand.” #Hilarious
The final reason to stay tuned is to find out who the eff Ted’s wife will be! So be sure to catch up, it’s quick and easy, and most importantly, it’s fun! Watch it on Mondays at 8pm on CBS because it’s going to be LEGEN wait for it…. DARY! LEGENDARY!
Game of Thrones (2011-Present) Watching Game of Thrones (GoT) at first was a little bit like one of those crazy dreams where it was high school history class combined with a strange acid trip, and flavored with ancient fairy tales… and not the kind granny used to tell. You know, those crazy, old, scary ones that were meant to frighten little children to keep them out of the woods. Yeah, that was my initial taste of GoT when I gave it a shot last February. But, you know what? After the end of episode two, I was diggin’ it. So, two seasons in about a week, really wasn’t hard.
Game of Thrones really is epic. Sometimes I think that word is thrown around a little to liberally with TV Shows these days, but in this case, its fitting. Even though there are a lot of characters, (even now I still get names confused) you will end up coming to love or loathe all of them. Its a great fit for a trip to fantasy island, where you just want to immerse yourself in a new realm, full of kings and queens, horrible and wonderful, swords and dragons, dire wolves and whitewalkers…
While there are only three seasons available, and only ten episodes per seasons, GoT is a great binge show. Yes, its heavy in dialogue, accents and, well, boobs, but there are dragons! Seriously, people, dragons!! How could you NOT want to see that! It’s clever, surprising, fascinating and captivating television. Winter is coming, don’t be the last one in from the cold.
Mad Men (2007-Present) Ok, to be honest, I struggled a little in choosing one last show for this list. Ultimately, what made me choose Mad Men is still a bit of a mystery to me. I started the show through DVDs from Netflix, and had a hard time getting past the first disc. When it became available for streaming, I decided to try again and picked up where I left off. Not exactly sure what it was, but from that second chance, I devoured four seasons in no time.
Here’s the funny part – one of my fellow TV Junkies asked me what I found so compelling about Mad Men. The more I thought about it, I couldn’t come up with a good answer. I just went blank. Yet, I couldn’t wait to get to the next episode. When season 5 became available, I watched it in a handful of days. What I think I enjoyed about it most, is the era and the business of advertising on Madison Avenue in the 1960′s. A period in time that sparks an interest and an industry that is close to my heart, I guess there was just an attraction for me to this show. BUT, as I got further and further into the seasons, the more I dug it.
Aside from the main character, Don Draper, the surrounding cast is phenomenal. Peggy, secretary turned Copy Editor, is a force to be reckoned with and Roger Sterling is just pure entertainment to watch. Don eventually gets interesting and his character slowly becomes a perfect study of childhood trauma affecting adult behavior. If you have any interest in psychology or study of social behavior, than this show is REALLY for you! Action-free but full of booze, sex and lies, Mad Men is a great way to fill your need for some serious drama-centric entertainment.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: These are some one or two seasons shows that are definitely worth considering for a quick binge-fix:
Orange Is The New Black (2013-Present, Netflix Original) – Excuse my language, but this show is the sh*t. Funny, sad, ridiculous… oh, and a character named Crazy Eyes. Need I say more?
The Newsroom (2012-Present, HBO) – Easily the best drama of its kind on television. Jeff Daniels won that Emmy for a reason folks, Watch it. Delight in it. Then watch it again, because you will hear things you missed the first time around. Brilliant and exciting television. HBO better give MORE than nine episodes for its third season, due to air sometime in 2014.
Revolution (2012-Present, NBC) – This show is intense. It gets a little mucky in the middle of season one, but the season that is currently airing on NBC has been nothing short of fantastic. Revolution is scientific, apocalyptic and has hot dudes fighting with swords. You really can’t go wrong.
American Horror Story (2011-Present, FX) – The ONLY reason AHS wasn’t included on the initial list was because it is currently airing its third season on FX. But, you can easily watch the first two stories in this horror series on Netflix now. Season 1: Murder House and Season 2: Asylum, are completely separate stories, and both fun and horrid in their own ways. But the real reason to dive into this show – two words… Jessica Lange. That is all.
Thanks for following along, and I hope this little review helps you pick some binge-able shows to add to your roster to fill in the gaps of what’s new on TV. As I wrap up the last few episodes of Sons of Anarchy, I am ready to line up my next one – any suggestions?
Here’s hoping 2014 brings us some great new television that doesn’t include any laugh tracks or procedural cop shows. Happy New Year to all, and don’t forget to set those DVRs!