Overlooked TV gems to watch now
Hello, my name is Andi and I’m a TV snob. If you spend any time online reading entertainment or pop culture websites, you’re undoubtedly familiar phrases like “prestige TV,” “peak TV” and “golden age of television.” And for once, the reality pretty much lives up to the hype.
Thanks in part to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, there has been more high-quality TV in the past decade or so than ever before. The competition for viewers and ratings has resulted in a glut of big-budget, well-written and skillfully acted shows, and viewers are reaping the benefits of the ratings war.
There’s something out there for just about everybody. Like twisty, techy mysteries viewed through the lens of an unreliable narrator? USA’s “Mr. Robot” might be right up your alley. More of a sci-fi and comic book fan? Check out “Legion” on FX, it’s an “X-Men” story without the standard superhero gimmicks that will leave you scratching your head as you try to figure out what’s going to happen next. Maybe literary adaptations are more your thing. If so, hop online and check out the riveting – and often terrifying – “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel.
For all the great TV these days — and there’s a ton — the pickings still get a little slim this time of year, so I decided to spend my couch time this summer catching up on some acclaimed shows I’d somehow missed despite being a top-notch couch potato.
Based on the recommendation of a friend, I decided to start filling the gaps in my pop culture education by watching “Deadwood.” As I write this, I’m about halfway through the show’s three seasons, all of which are streaming on Amazon. I knew I was hooked about 30 minutes into the first episode.
Set in Deadwood, South Dakota in the 1870s, the show, which aired from 2004 through 2006, takes historical figures from the period including Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen, and adds in some fictional characters to tell the story of how Deadwood evolves from a camp to a town. No spoilers, but I think it’s safe to say it’s a bumpy ride.
The ensemble cast, including Timothy Olyphant as Bullock, Ian McShane as Swearengen and, my personal favorite, Robin Weigert, as the unabashedly profane Jane, shines. And the writing, the majority of which was done by creator and producer David Milch, is top notch.
I feel obligated to issue a word of warning for anyone considering watching “Deadwood” with the kids in the room. Unless you want to spend the afternoon finding a child-appropriate way to define a wide variety of swear words, you might want to wait for the little ones to go to bed before hitting that play button. To say the language is salty would be an understatement. Before I started watching, I was confident that I knew all there was to know about swearing, but I’ve since determined that I still have some things to learn.
My newfound love of “Deadwood” got me thinking about other gems I’d overlooked. So, I decided to do a little crowdsourcing (also known as sending a couple of texts and asking my Facebook friends for recommendations). Here are a few shows that are now officially on my must-watch list:
I actually started AMC’s modern classic a few years ago, but then life happened and I put Walt and Jesse on the back burner. It’s been far too long, so once I wrap up “Deadwood,” I’m going to go back and restart the story of Bryan Cranston’s chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin. The show is available for streaming on the AMC app, as well as Amazon and Google Play. Still have a cable box? Then you’re in luck. The network is rerunning the entire series now on Sundays.
Ask any TV critic or well-versed TV snob for a top 10 greatest shows ever list and odds are “The Wire” is going to be near the top of the list. People who love “The Wire” REALLY love “The Wire.” It’s one of those shows people are amazed to hear you haven’t seen and you’re all-but-guaranteed to be told, “you HAVE TO watch it.” Created by David Simon, a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun, the crime drama spent five seasons delving into the often-seedy underbelly of Baltimore, examining everything from law enforcement to the school system to the drug trade and print media. Simon’s name first popped up on my radar in the ’90s when one of his books came to TV as “Homicide: Life on the Street,” which I loved for many reasons, not the least of which was for introducing me to Andre Braugher, an actor who never ceases to amaze me.
‘Freaks and Geeks’
From the minds of Paul Feig and executive producer Judd Apatow, “Freaks and Geeks” was a one-season wonder with a devoted fan base that’s still going strong, in spite of the fact that the show hasn’t been on the air for more than a decade. Set in a fictional Detroit suburb in 1980, the show centers on a group of McKinley High School student. The cast features a host of now-familiar faces, including James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jason Segel and Linda Cardellini.
Andrea Agardy can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.