If it’s one thing I take advantage of when I have time off, it’s watching the TV shows I am not caught up on. Thusly, during Thanksgiving break, I FINALLY got (mostly) caught up on Homeland (Season 1, at least!). This got me thinking about all the shows I had originally discovered by going back and marathon watching a multitude of episodes all in one sitting. I’ll admit it, I didn’t get on board the Dexter or True Blood bandwagon (I’d like to get off the bandwagon now, please!) until both shows were already critical hits. And since the concept of watching a TV show in the style of marathon viewing is usually due to the person not being caught up on said show, my previous statement makes complete sense.
Since I am a “TV Expert” with my own podcast here on the ol’ Nation O’ Geeks, I figured I would share with you all my list of the 10 best TV shows you should dedicate a good chunk of your life watching in one sitting. It’s not like you have anything better to do!
This here is a perfect example of a show I stumbled across one night after it had been on television a few years. It was the first episode of Season 3 and from the first 10 minutes, I was hooked. Without knowing the back story, who Jack Bauer was, or what exactly was happening, I immediately became obsessed. I may be overstepping my bounds here but I seriously do not think Homeland would exist today without 24.
With 24 episodes per season and each episode signifying one hour in an incredibly stressful day (to put it lightly) in the life of CTU agent Jack Bauer, the show did have its ups and downs. However, it was indeed groundbreaking in narrative (and violence!) and served as an amazing comeback for Kiefer Sutherland.
All seasons of 24 (that’s 192 episodes!) are available for streaming on Netflix Instant.
Now….about that 24 movie….anyone? Beuller?
In 1876, the town of Deadwood, South Dakota is a cesspool of corruption and crime. Perfect time for Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine) and ex lawman Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) to move on in. But a new start is not in the cards as both men find themselves on opposite sides of the law and in the crosshairs of one saloon owner and all around “boss” of Deadwood, Al Swearengen (Ian McShane). Cue the cowboy craziness as these three characters proceed to exist with a cast of criminals, drunks, and weirdos including Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert) and Charlie Utter (Dayton Callie) in the town of Deadwood.
This right here, in my personal opinion, is the best Western TV show to ever grace the small screen. Between David Milch’s stellar writing and the performances of all involved (and don’t forget the overuse of the word “cocksucker”), all three seasons are definitely worth your time. Unless you’re a dummy. You’re not a dummy, right?
8. Twin Peaks
Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, Twin Peaks became one crazy phenomenon upon its introduction to television audiences in the spring of 1990. The series follows the investigation, led by Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), into the violent murder of small town homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). Quirky, comedic, strange and dark, Twin Peaks immediately gained a cult following while ultimately pushing the boundaries in the way prime time television existed back then.
Honestly, there are way too many story lines and tidbits I can spoil here. So, if you’ve never seen this amazingly weird and beautiful show, I suggest changing that. But be warned, you may never view Ray Wise the same way again!
Twin Peaks is currently available for streaming on Netflix Instant.
7. The Shield
With 6 amazing seasons to its name, The Shield is one of those shows that never stops blowing my mind. Starring Michael Chiklis as Vic Mackey, Shawn Ryan’s show about corrupt police officers pretty much put FX Network on the map. Loosely based on the true life story of the Rampart Division police scandal, the first season gained the most Emmy nominations for a basic cable drama up until that point.
Thinking about it, The Shield just might be one of the first (if not the first) shows that started the trend of following an anti-hero led story. Someone please tell me if I’m wrong here…but would the likes of Walter White and Jax Teller even exist today if not for Vic Mackey and the members of his Strike Team?
Also, this was the first project I discovered the genius that is Walton Goggins.
6. Sons Of Anarchy
And speaking of Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), we have finally got to the point in this list where I can gush a little about Sons Of Anarchy. One of the few shows here that is still airing, Sons Of Anarchy (which just ended its 5th season) is a series created by Kurt Sutter about the lives of the outlaw motorcycle club “SAMCRO” operating in Charming, California. And still, with all its plot holes I love this damn show!
While not an immediate success when first premiering in 2008, once Sons Of Anarchy reached its 3rd Season, it had become the highest rated series ever for FX. In February of 2012, Sons Of Anarchy was renewed for two more seasons. The implication by Sutter is that season 7 will be its last so there’s still time to get in on all the “Mayhem”. See what I did there?
The first four seasons of Sons Of Anarchy are available for streaming on Netflix Instant.
Be still, my beating heart! Sometimes I forget just how amazing LOST was. One can look at that pilot episode alone and walk away feeling like a changed person. If Twin Peaks expanded the horizons of what primetime television could be, LOST eviscerated the horizons in question.
When a team includes the likes of J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, you can probably bet the project they’re working on will be amazing. LOST was exactly that (I can look past Season 3). A dramatic series containing both sci fi and supernatural elements, the story follows the survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious island somewhere in the South Pacific. Told in a heavily serialized manner, each episode featured a primary storyline on the island and a secondary one following that of each stranded character.
While some still have their issues with the series finale, no one can protest that LOST is one of the best TV shows to ever exist. TO EVER EXIST!
4. The Walking Dead
Only in the middle of its 3rd season, The Walking Dead is a phenomenon that can probably rip the head off of LOST (and then obviously eat its brains). Based on Robert Kirman’s wildly popular graphic novel series of the same name, AMC’s The Walking Dead is the first ever TV show that takes place during the zombie apocalypse. The main detail that constantly drives the show’s plot is survival and the lengths these characters will go to stay alive.
Even with Frank Darabont’s departure, The Walking Dead has continued to push the envelope of what can be done on basic cable (credit to Glen Mazzara and Greg Nicotero!). With a type of cutting edge story telling that even FX must envy, AMC’s The Walking Dead is the only show on TV today that another show, The Talking Dead, is based on.
With the Season 3 premiere being the most watched telecast in basic cable history, it looks like Rick Grimes and company will be around for quite some time. At least, I hope!
3. The X-Files
You know, I almost put Fringe here. It was very recent that I blathered on about my excitement regarding its new home on The Science Channel. However, I’d be doing you all (and myself) a great injustice if I didn’t put The X-Files here instead. After all, I feel it’s pretty safe to say that Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) paved the way for those wacky Fringe Division folks.
Inspired by the likes of The Twilight Zone and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The X-Files aired from 1993 to 2002 in an incredible span of 9 seasons. With two films (and a possible third in the works) and a spin off television show, The X-Files is one of the longest running science fiction series in television history.
2. The Wire
Up until 2008, The Wire was the best television show ever. Hands down! Created and written by former police reporter David Simon (Treme), The Wire is set in and around Baltimore, Maryland. For the duration of five seasons, from 2002 to 2008, The Wire powerfully repped their corner in the land of HBO. Each season focused on a different detail of the city of Baltimore. From the illegal drug trade, to the city government and bureaucracy, to the school system and ending on the print news media, The Wire has been described as “one of the greatest TV dramas of all time”! Don’t agree? Omar comin!
And in my book, it really was THE greatest until…
1. Breaking Bad
BREAKING BAD! This is a given, right!? Replacing The Wire, in my eyes, as THE BEST TV SHOW EVER, I didn’t discover Breaking Bad until the second season of the show was in reruns on AMC. I had heard rumblings about it. That dude from Malcolm In The Middle had won an award. But it never hit my radar until one fateful day when I had nothing better to do than to watch hours upon hours of television. And THAT was when I discovered this masterpiece of television programming.
The gist, for those of you who are in the dark (turn a light on, people!) – Breaking Bad is the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. In response to this news, he decides the best way to provide for his family once he dies is to produce and sell crystal meth with his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).
What starts out as kind of a dark comedy in season 1, the show quickly dives deep into some dark and violent places, while always holding onto the central truths of the characters and their stories.
So if it isn’t obvious to you at this point, Breaking Bad wins!
The first four seasons are currently available for streaming on Netflix Instant.
That concludes my list of the 10 best TV shows to marathon watch. Since I’m sure some of your favorites didn’t make this list, I call on you to shout out your suggestions in the comments section below.
Before you whine about Battlestar Gallactica not making the cut, just blame Portlandia!
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