I have reached a dilemma in my T.V. viewing once again. There is a hole in my heart the size of a certain hour-long serial drama that just ended after six captivating seasons of great characters, cultural references and internet theorizing. The phenomenon that was Lost came to an end back in May. And while there is still some time before the new T.V. seasons kick off in the fall, I find myself wondering what am I left to do? How do I fill the void?
Lost was the alpha dog of my viewing schedule. It was appointment television. I made a point to not miss it every week it was on. It engrossed my mind like no other show since The X-Files. With The X-Files, I was OK with it going off the air as it had probably hung on for two seasons too long and needed to end. But Lost planned their end in advance and went out before their storylines grew stale and they started to get ripe. They went out at just the right time.
I am not here to debate the merits of the finale or the series as a whole, both of which I thought about positively and fondly. My question is, “What to do now?” For the first time in a while, there is not “alpha dog” on my T.V. slate. And not only has Lost gone, but so has 24. My options are as follows:
Dexter – A show I love about a sociopath serial killer who kills criminals while working for the Miami-Dade County police forensics unit. It’s a great drama with some dark, dark comedy elements. The only drawback for me is that it airs on Showtime, a channel I don’t get, and it only runs for roughly 12 episodes per season. So I have to wait to watch the show when it comes out on Netflix.
Californication – Another Showtime show I love, starring David Duchovny, but alas, something I have to wait for on Netflix.
The Office – Still one of the best and consistently funny shows out there that tickles my funny bone. Even if the stories week to week are a bit more uneven than they used to be, I still look forward to what odd things the supporting characters get to bring to the table every week. What is Kevin’s new slow-witted response to something going to be? What is Creed’s non sequitor going to be this week? What inappropriate thing will Meredith do/say this week? How will Toby’s soul be crushed this week? Now I hear news that Steve Carrell will be leaving the show after this season, and as much as it pains me to say it, I think the show should do the right thing and end itself rather than attempting to go on without Michael Scott. Seven seasons is a very good run.
Chuck – This is my favorite “guilty pleasure” T.V. show and it’s not even really a guilty pleasure. It’s a spy comedy in an hour-long drama format that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I mean, the lead character is a computer nerd working at a Best Buy-esque store in its tech support who accidently gets a government supercomputer downloaded into his head. The show is funny and nerdy and handles each of the main characters really well, meaning they don’t deviate wildly from who they are and what their purpose is as a character. And the characters and storyline evolve naturally. And it’s got one of my personal favorites in Adam Baldwin who plays a great straight man to the comedy. It also helps that the show boasts the hottest woman on television in Yvonne Strahovski, a knockout, blonde Aussie who is painfully beautiful. Unfortunately, this show doesn’t do so great in the ratings and is always in danger of being cancelled by NBC. But it’s definitely a show that has done well for itself and I enjoy it.
Friday Night Lights – This is the best family drama on television. They handle the most difficult family issues and teen issues with a grace and ease that few other shows in the history of television can boast. It’s a shame that it never got enough of a following on NBC to really make it without some help, as the past few seasons have aired exclusively on DirectTV first before re-airing later on NBC. The greatness of this show is found in arguably the best parental unit ever assembled in Coach and Mrs. Taylor. They are in the rarified air of the Huxtables and some of the other great parents of T.V. history. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s easy to assume I’m using hyperbole here, but I try not to deal in hyperbole, and if you watch a few episodes of the show, you’ll see I’m speaking the truth here. Sadly, next season will be this show’s last.
Mad Men – Arguably, it’s the best drama on T.V. The drawback is that it is on AMC and is another show that only contains about 12 episodes per season. Mad Men is not a show for everyone, as sometimes it seems like there’s not a lot happening; but every once in a while there are really dramatic jumps and crazy events. And with the show being set in the 60s, we the viewer know the events that are coming that will impact the world that these characters inhabit, from the death of Marilyn Monroe to the death of JFK, to the start of Vietnam. And Don Draper is one of the best, complex characters out there, brought to life by the amazing Jon Hamm. I can’t wait for the 4th season to start up at the end of July.
South Park – The show about four foul-mouthed kids from a little Colorado town is an old reliable. The show has chugged on for 14 seasons now and while it is showing some signs of decay, Trey Parker and Matt Stone still do social commentary better than anyone else out there. They skewer anyone and everyone. And they’ve really created a community of characters that can be just as compelling as the core four kids. But it’s only half an hour long and 14 episodes per season with a long hiatus between seasons and in the middle of seasons.
Fringe – Fringe is the drama that shows the most promise. The question is how badly does it want it? Is it ready to step up, grab the conch and declare itself as must-see T.V.? The sci-fi show from the mind of J.J. Abrams is the closest thing I can get to new episodes of The X-Files, so I appreciate the show on that level. And the show has developed a very unique and intriguing mythology for itself, while still managing to make some pretty stellar stand-alone episodes. The show has had some real moments of inspired greatness in its first two seasons, I’m very much interested in where the storyline goes in season 3, and it feels like season 3 is it’s chance to really come into its own and establish itself. The only drawback is that it’s on Fox, a network notorious for cancelling shows before their time (see: Firefly, Arrested Development, Dollhouse, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).
Community – Every year I seem to give 2 or 3 new shows a chance to see if I’ll find a new show I love. This past year I tried out V, FlashForward, and Community. Community is the only one that stuck. I was laughing at the first few episodes. By the middle of the season, I was declaring to everyone I knew on Facebook that they needed to be watching it, and a few weeks after that, it had supplanted The Office as my favorite comedy on television, no small feat. The key to a show like this is the ensemble cast, and they knocked it out of the park in the casting department. They even managed to make Chevy Chase funny again, something that hasn’t been true since the early 80s. They do episodes that are homage to movie genres. They have running jokes that build off of earlier jokes and pay off later in the season, a la Arrested Development. And they gave us one of the best episodes of television of the past 5 years in their paintball episode. Also, Alison Brie is the new hotness! Literally, the only drawback to this show is that I only get 30 minutes of it every week. And it’s tough to have a 30 minute comedy be the anchor of your television schedule. But I really do genuinely think it’s one of the best things on television, and my favorite by far right now.