Must See TV?


Some years ago, I hadn’t been an HBO subscriber when a friend of mine told me about this new show he was watching called Six Feet Under. “You’d love this,” he said, “it’s morbid.” I wasn’t prepared to ante up the money to pick up the channel (which I’d loved way back in the day when it was more about movies and not original programming), so he volunteered to put as many episodes as he could onto VHS tapes for me to see.

One episode in, and I couldn’t stop. I had to watch the next one, and the next one, and the next one, until it was way past my bedtime. And then the next day, I watched the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Rinse and repeat, until I had caught up with it in its entirety. I now regard it as one of the best, most entirely fulfilling programs I’ve ever watched.

But there’s an awful lot of “must see” television that has completely flown right under my radar, for a variety of reasons. I tend to watch more movies; I’m addicted to following the almost pro-wrestling-style, blow-by-blow insanity of modern-day politics as depicted on cable news, even when it’s not a presidential election season; I do enjoy nostalgic repeat viewings of some old and new favorites I’ve amassed on DVD, like The Addams Family, Barney Miller, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Remington Steele, Thriller, and so on; I tend to latch onto one “current” series I enjoy—that would now be The Big Bang Theory–and DVR reruns of it to use as my end-of-the-day zoning out/background noise/comfort viewing…

And you know, there are also only so many hours in the day you want to spend in front of screens large or small–and due to my job and my general interests, I really do more than my fair share already.

Now, however, I find myself on overload in terms of the programs that have been recommended to me as the things I simply “have to” watch, and I feel a little obligated to at least pick one and check it out. And that’s where you come in.

I’m supplying the list of shows—some pretty new, others whose moment in the sun has long since passed—that I’ve been told are programs I should not have done without. I’m asking you to tell me which is the most deserving (or the least deserving, because that’s always a help, too).

Here’s the précis, including some brief remarks on how I’m currently judging my own interest:


Battlestar Galactica

We’re talking the redux here, not the Lorne Greene original—which I attempted to watch once, had no interest in, and abandoned in favor of Gil Gerard’s Buck Rogers. I have enjoyed to varying degrees the numerous iterations of Star Trek on the tube (and the big screen); and I do feel a little less “with it” because on The Big Bang Theory there are continuing references to Howard’s obsession with the hotness of Katee Sackhoff…and, as might be the case, with the seductive baritone of George Takei.



Westerns have never been my favorite genre, but there are certainly times I’d like nothing better than to revisit Unforgiven or Tombstone; I did like, on and off, co-creator David Milch’s NYPD Blue; Brad Dourif is in the show, and I do enjoy most things Brad Dourif; and Ian McShane looks like a very compelling presence, if only because for a long time I wished someone had cast him as Kraven the Hunter in a Spider-Man movie.



Michael C. Hall was brilliant in Six Feet Under; I understand John Lithgow, an actor I usually enjoy, plays quite the riveting role at some point; and it’s from Showtime, a network I’d like to show more love to thanks to their broadcast of the Penn & Teller: Bullshit! series, a show I am always advocating people check out.

 Must See TV? Downtown Abby

Downton Abbey

One of the most current “it” shows on this list. I know precious little about it other than the completely trivial fact that an actress I know is persistently told she’s virtually the twin of series star Michelle Dockery. I’d vouch for that being accurate enough I guess, but now I wonder if I’ll be unduly distracted by that throughout. I readily associate executive producer Julian Fellowes with my memories of Gosford Park—which I nearly fell asleep watching. It wasn’t the movie’s fault; it was late at night at the end of an all-day, multi-state moviegoing marathon. Plus, a gazillion people (or however many are currently addicted to its charms) can’t be wrong, yes?


Game of Thrones

I do love Peter Dinklage. Ever since his hilarious bit turn in the indie filmmaking comedy Living in Oblivion (“Tee-to.”) and his wonderful star turn in The Station Agent, I’ve wanted to see him cast in more material equal to his talents. (He’s also great in the underrated Vin Diesel movie Find Me Guilty) Quite a few of these cable shows, however, now seem to positively wallow in the sex—not that there’s anything wrong with that—just because they can, and I’d sure hate to get to the point where I’m finding onscreen skin more tiresome than titillating. Which brings us to:



Some people loved Lena Dunham’s indie feature Tiny Furniture; I can’t say I was one of them. My vote mattered a lot less than Judd Apatow’s, who decided Dunham was perfectly positioned to tap into the pop culture zeitgeist with this irreverent series about (I think) self-absorbed ladies and their dysfunctional, highly sexual relationships. I can go either way with irreverent snark; I’m always ready to give a unique voice more than one chance to help me “get it.”



Could this be the mother of all shows I’ve missed? I understand many were none too thrilled with the ending; having a passing familiarity with the enormity of the general setup, I find it hard to see how any finale could have lived up to general expectations. In the plus column, series regular Jorge Garcia recently co-wrote and starred in a short film called Shredded, alongside a young lady I know from when we performed Shakespeare together. Go to its home on YouTube if you want to check it out. It’s cute. (Warning: it does have a pretty adult-oriented gag at the very outset, and there’s salty language peppered throughout)


Modern Family

I know from unconventional families, so my guess is, I’d probably enjoy this. I wasn’t that devoted to Married: With Children, though I appreciated its general skill, and Ed O’Neill was a good anchor for the ensemble. I was a huge fan of (both the British and American versions of) “The Office,” and at least according to one reviewer on the IMDB, this has something (stylistically?) in common with that.



I like my Sherlock Holmes stuffy and Victorian. It’s not canon, but my favorite Holmes movie is Murder by Decree. I still haven’t seen either Robert Downey, Jr. film—I know they’ve been successful, I love Downey to death in nearly everything he does, but something just grates on me that they turned ACD’s sleuth into an action hero. One of these days I’ll watch them. And then there’s this completely contemporized series, with soon-to-be-major-Star-Trek-baddie Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (see my love of the British “Office,” above).  Other Sherlockians have told me it’s top-notch. Hm.


The Walking Dead

A friend gave me season one on Blu-ray this Christmas, and I remarked to him that the reason I hadn’t previously watched a single episode of the series was that, dammit, the moment zombies became popular on television was the moment I’d lost interest. I made horror movies when I was a kid that were plentiful in their blood-spilling; I could rewatch a good Romero flesh-eating flick at a moment’s notice; and I do loves me some Bela Lugosi and White Zombie when I want to kick it old school. When horror is no longer a taboo thing, though…where’s the fun?

TV junkies, help a brother out. Which show do I really need to see?