Last week we talked about stress. Get it out of your life! It will kill you! Start by exercising, eating well and sleeping. Now that you’ve got the foundation down, what’s next? Learn to relax! Obviously there are as many different ways to chill out as there are personalities. Maybe model train collecting is your jam. If so, we’d love to hear about it! But maybe you’re a less of a unique and beautiful model train-loving snowflake and more someone who likes to chill on the couch. Reading – long or short books – is definitely one way, but since we’re easing our way into relaxation, let’s try something easier. Namely: television.
Now, some of you know television. You have your favorite Real Housewife. You remember the season 5 rivalry on ANTM. You can quote all the episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond and remember whether Phoebe and Joey ever hooked up on Friends. You have opinions on all the doctors from Doctor Who.
Others of you are tv snobs. “Oh, I don’t own a television.” “Oh I’d rather read.” “I’m too busy for television.” To which I say: get with the (metaphorical) program! We are in the golden age of television! Scripted drama series have never been better! We have access (via DVD, Netflix and HBO) to all seasons of every great and mediocre television series ever. And rather than waiting anxiously by the docks for the next episode of the series du jour to arrive on a ship from England, you can watch entire seasons in a weekend.
I used to be that tv snob. Then I discovered the wonders of scripted dramas that carefully develop character arcs over multiple seasons and plot points. Unlike a movie where the character development is brief and over within a couple hours, you can settle in with tv shows over long periods of time. Characters have a chance to change, to grow (or regress), to win your heart. There are plenty of weekends to run errands, visit friends, catch up on work emails. Sometimes you need to relax on the couch with your DVR and your new friends, your tv show character friends. Here are a few to start with.
Friday Night Lights
Honestly, I could not give a crap about football. I also don’t give a crap about Texas. So I resisted this five season series about a small football-obsessed Texan town because boring! But the insistence of my football and Texan loving friends wore me down, and by the end of the pilot, I was a weeping emotional wreck. But an emotional wreck who was about to embark on a journey about family, community, friendship and, yes, a little bit about football. When I finished, I went back and read all of Television Without Pity’s recaps just to capture the joy. And those made me cry too.
Sherlock isn’t remotely as long as some of the other great tv dramas. But the BBC adaptation & modernized update of Sherlock Holmes is just so fun. Plus it stars the future Mr Bilbo Baggins and an actor whose real name is Benedict Cumberbatch. Twee? Maybe. Worth spending a Saturday watching all six episodes? Of course!
This is it. The big dog. The greatest tv show of all time? Maybe. Season 4 is the best season, but watch them all. It’s about police investigations and drug trafficking in Baltimore, but it’s also about so much more. The only tough part is choosing which is the greatest character.
Remember those character arcs where the protagonists regress? This is one of them. Breaking Bad isn’t just a clever phrase: it’s the painful, brutal deterioration of an average middle class man into a meth cook and drug lord wannabe. Each moment of hope is more than matched by the depth of darkness Walter White descends to. There but for the grace of God go I? Shudder!
This is essentially a ridiculous soap opera that covered the bulk of World War I in a couple episodes. But the fashions! The upstairs-downstairs drama! Lady Grantham’s quips! England! Anna & Mr Bates! The more melodrama the better.
Of course a show about mid-century advertising executives is one of the coolest shows around. Despite the midday office drinking, casual sexism, racism power-hungry ambition and utter work obsession, you find yourself rooting for the characters, year in and year out. Except Pete Campbell. He’s hopeless.
Six Feet Under
This was the show that first sold me on scripted dramas. It’s one of the early ones and isn’t as widely watched as shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad. But the character analysis is deep and the stakes are high for the Fisher family and their funeral home. The first episode’s catalyst is the death of the family patriarch, and the following seasons show the transformative effect it has on the lives of each family member. Also: best show finale ever. Absolutely worth the six season time investment.
A tragicomic tale of a family that loves to hate to love each other, who can’t decide whether to destroy their own lives or their fellow family members’ lives first. It’s a comedy, not a drama, but the well-crafted jokes that cross episodes and seasons reward the weekend watcher. And their depth and intricacy make it perfect for repeat viewing. Plus, if you like costumes and inside jokes, AD fans are at the center of that Venn diagram.
What are your favorite tv series to kick back and kill a weekend with?