By Gina Carbone
It’s the first day of spring and neither “Mad Men” nor “True Blood” is actually in season, so to speak.
There was a time when that would’ve stopped you from catching up. Not anymore.
In this lovely age of DVD and On Demand you can rent almost any show at any time, whether it has been off the air for years or not returning for several months. And sometimes at your local library FOR FREE!
So you have no excuse but to catch up on these 15 shows, which are my current faves.
I’m only including series that are still running — so no “Northern Exposure,” “Six Feet Under” and “Father Ted,” which are my three favorite shows of all time.
Warning: I do love reality TV, including the heavy cheese, as #3 here will attest.
15.”Saturday Night Live”
It’s not always good. It’s never consistent. This is far from the best season. And yet there are plenty of reasons to stay up for SNL every week, even now. There’s Jason Sudeikis in every skit, but especially dancing in his red track suit on Kenan Thompson’s “What Up With That?” BET show. If you watched Taylor Swift’s monologue, Jon Hamm’s “Sergio!” skit or any of Andy Samberg’s Digital Shorts, you were prepared for the Sunday Internet watercooler chatter. If you missed them, you missed out. And I defy you to find a more perfect thing to watch at 1 a.m. than this potato chip skit with Blake Lively.
14. “The Tudors”
This show ticks me off almost as much as it excites me. I’m still frustrated about the casting of beautiful Joss Stone as the “unattractive” Anne of Cleves. But there are just too many things that I love about it. (Starting with Henry Cavill.) I have always been a Tudor-phile and this is a rich, colorful, sexy, vibrant world to dive into. It’s a history lesson CW-style, but with Showtime sex and violence. We’re getting to the end years for Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and the fourth and final season starts April 11. I can’t wait to see this world come alive again. Long live the king.
13. “Project Runway”
My friend Trinh still finds it hard to believe I like “Project Runway,” since my fashion sense consists of wearing the same Walmart clothes I’ve had for 5-10 years — and Payless shoes. But I love the challenges on “Runway” — take a potato sack and make an evening gown. Go to the supermarket and use corn husks to make a cocktail dress. Use newspapers to make pants. It’s not just clothes, it’s art. I’m addicted to seeing creativity in action and that’s the show. I can’t even sew a button onto a jacket correctly (as my jackets know too well) but I find myself imagining how I would approach the challenges. It gets me thinking about color and fabrics and art supplies differently. It sounds girlie and I’m not usually girlie (then again, I love “The Bachelor” and “Project Runway”) but it’s fun.
Season one was genius. Glenn Close scares the crap out of me and Tate Donovan plays wounded puppy so well. And Ted Danson! His best role in years. It’s not easy to make a corrupt CEO lovable, but he found the right balance of egomania and infectious optimism. Season two was disappointing, but it did manage to find a key role for Timothy Olyphant and for that I will be forever grateful. So far season three is amazing. I was worried it would be too gimmicky with its ripped-from-the-headlines Madoff plot, but it’s working. Very, very well. Props to Campbell Scott and especially Martin Short for playing so far against type. Keep it coming.
11. “Big Love”
I’m worried about “Big Love.” This was one of my favorite shows, but season four was all over the place. Too many plot threads, too many characters. And a Monty Python moment with a severed arm. I still have high hopes for this series and I have invested too much time and energy to give up on it, but GET IT TOGETHER. Please.
10. “Parks and Recreation”
Somewhere along the way, this show got as good as “The Office.” Then, for me, it got better. Mostly because I am not a fan of Jim and Pam and they dominate everything. So done with their smugness. “Parks,” on the other hand, is consistently warm, funny and uncluttered with self-congratulatory shmaltz. Special props to Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson. You will always be my Woman of the Year, man.
I get frustrated with everyone walking around psychoanalyzing everyone else’s reactions, but I’m a loyal Hilson (House + Wilson) fan and I love watching their bromantic banter. Now that we’re past the extended torture of House hiring his new team, and the old team is back in action, I am happy with “House” again. And the medical mysteries are still good after all this time. My friend Lisa has sarcoidosis and we like to see it make cameo appearances — alongside lupus — during the differential diagnosis. I know Wilson’s first wife is coming back into the picture and I am looking forward to House getting jealous, but please don’t break up my favorite couple for long.
8. “30 Rock”
I keep waiting for this show to run out of steam and stop being so sharply funny and on point. Guess I should grab a snack for that wait. Alec Baldwin is still the funniest person on television but the entire cast is right there with him. I laugh out loud — guffaw, really — at least twice an episode and I’ll never turn down a good belly laugh.
Talk about season finales. Every Other Show, please take note: The way “Dexter” ended season four? That’s how it’s done. I can’t wait to see what happens next and that’s the sign of a good show. I get dizzy watching Michael C. Hall (forever part of my “Six Feet Under”
family) run all over the place lying to everyone, but the show always manages to figure out how to balance everything without drowning the important stuff in superfluous plot threads. There was always one overarching storyline tying everything together. That’s smart. Keep doing that and tell “Big Love” about it.
I just get caught up in the drama. Every time. I want to scream at the castaways. Tear my hair out. Vote them out myself. And that’s just for Russell Hantz. Whenever you think you can see exactly where things are going, they take another turn. “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” is one of my favorite seasons of all time. And it’s the 20th one they’ve done. That’s a good sign for the future … or a good place to stop. But look at the characters they’ve given us, just in this season alone: Evil Russell, Boston Rob, Coach, Colby, JT, Rupert. All brand names, thanks to the show. And that’s without even mentioning Captain Dimples himself, Jeff Probst. The single best host on TV. I mean it!
I’m not one of those Losties who memorizes every little detail and keeps flow charts to catalogue the connections. I’m here for the human element. And the No. 1 human element on this island was, is, and shall always be Terry O’Quinn as John Locke (with or without Smokey). I have never — and I mean never — seen stronger acting from anyone on television than this man as this character in the six seasons of this show. O’Quinn has created an icon and he will be missed when this ends. Michael Emerson, you get the silver medal and on any other show you would be gold. That’s saying something, especially since “Lost” is known mostly for its trippy sci-fi plot, not the strength of its character acting. Humble actors doing crazy things without getting in our faces about it. Love it.
4. “In Treatment”
I don’t blame Gabriel Byrne for getting tired of sitting in that chair all day. That’s tough acting — just sitting there. (I mean it!) But
there is no other show on TV that gets under my skin as much as “In Treatment.” After listening to problems from a divorcing couple, a cancer-stricken college student, a lonely lawyer, an embattled CEO and a troubled teenage gymnast, among others, I turn off the TV and just soak everything in. What do I think is the root of their issues? What would I do? What would I suggest? I’m so glad there will be a third season. This is the most thoughtful and thought-provoking show on television. It hits a nerve and that’s an important part of life.
3. “The Bachelor”/”The Bachelorette”
If this is not your first time glancing at this blog (don’t worry, I’m not really expecting you to hang on every word) you know I am obsessed with the land of Chris Harrison and the most dramatic rose ceremony ever. If you can’t get past the cheese of this beautiful manufactured drama, take a moment and say your goodbyes. I accept this rose. Now and always. Especially for “The Bachelorette.” One woman. 25 guys. Nuff said.
2. “True Blood”
Yes, it’s campy. Yes, it’s soft-core porn. Yes, I’m incredibly grateful for that. Alexander Skarsgard. Ryan Kwanten. Stephen Moyer. Sam Trammell. Nelsan Ellis. Jim Parrack. And a few women. (Kidding. Love ya, Anna Paquin, Carrie Preston, Deborah Ann Woll and
Rutina Wesley.) This is how you tell a vampire story, y’all. Fresh, original, exciting, sexy as HELL YEAH, with the best opening sequence on TV right now. Season one was good. Season two was outstanding, except for the maenad junk. (Eric made up for it. More. Please. Now.) Season three is looking pretty jam-packed and I just hope Alan Ball remembers to stay true to the characters we’ve come to lust over care about. That’d be Eric as No. 1.
1. “Mad Men”
Season three started kind of slow and I was worried the most amazing show on television would slip down my rankings. But it picked up steam and ended with a perfect, caffeinated, plot-heavy episode of “Survivor: Sterling Cooper.” This is a perfect show. So much character development I feel like these people just have to be real. There’s no way Peggy Olson is not an actual person. I expect to find Pete Campbell still wandering around somewhere on the Upper East Side. And the Drapers … well, Don Draper never existed as we know him and Betty Draper is about to become someone else. I cannot wait to see what they do next. Literally. I’m angry that we have to wait for the summer. Jon Hamm has created a screen icon. There is no one else who could bring
Don Draper to life and somehow make you not hate him. He’s so freaking suave. Women want him. Men want to be him. And I just love to watch the show around him. The best writing. The best ensemble. The absolute hands-down best production design on television. My eyes worship this show.