I am a television addict and the onset of the age of binge watching has made it all the more appealing. I feel like there is a lot of really good television out there and I thought I would provide you with my own personal “must see TV” list. This list does not include network sitcoms. There are few that I’ve loved over the years but for the most part, I prefer dramatic television, so I’m going to focus on that particular genre.
I know that this list is by no means exhaustive. I am not a fan of science fiction and while I’ve enjoyed CSI-type shows, I’ve never gotten hooked on them like I have on other dramas, so no Doctor Who or Law and Order here. There is also a pretty lengthy list of shows* that I have in the queue based on recommendations and the types of shows I like. I have a tough time getting into the historical stuff, which is why Downton Abbey has yet to be watched. I’ll get there though.
As for the shows that I have watched or do watch, here my list in alphabetical order:
- American Horror Story I love the idea of having each season be its own contained story utilizing repeat actors from the AHS company of performers. My favorite was Season 1, Murder House. I think the seasons get weaker with each year but not weak enough for me to stop watching. Each story (Asylumn, Coven and Freak Show) had its own redeeming moments but I felt that Seasons 2 through 4 were a little more uneven than the show’s debut season.
- Bates Motel The Psycho-prequel that focuses on Norman Bates’ late teen years and his relationship with his mother. The show is set in modern day Oregon but has a cool retro feel about it and the sky’s the limit when it comes to creating back story for one of Hitchcock’s most notorious characters. Currently in Season 3 on A&E.
- The Big C Showtime’s original television series starring Laura Linney about a suburban mother who is diagnosed with terminal melanoma. There were some incredible performances in the series and it remains one of my favorite things that Oliver Platt has done. It is a wonderfully human show about dealing with cancer – at times funny, at times sad. It was also filmed in Stamford, CT, where I lived with scenes actually filmed in my high school.
- Breaking Bad I didn’t think I was going to like this show. The idea of a high school chemistry teacher becoming a drug kingpin didn’t sound like something that would appeal to me. However, I feel pretty confident in saying that Breaking Bad is the best television show I have ever seen. Everything about it was top notch: the writing, the acting, the direction. Just incredible.
- Damages This legal drama starring Glenn Close as a ruthless lawyer and Rose Byrne as her protégée is outstanding. Each season has its own primary case but the series also follows the complicated relationship between Patty and Ellen, which is pretty interesting. Also, have I mentioned Glenn Close was is in it?
- Dexter Man do I have a thing for shows about serial killers and sociopaths. I just loved Dexter, despite the less than stellar ending to the series. Michael C. Hall is outstanding as Dexter Morgan, the serial killer with a code aimed at retribution for criminals who evade justice.
- The Following This Fox series stars Kevin Bacon and is in its third season. Bacon plays FBI agent Ryan Hardy, who has a very special relationship with serial killer Joe Carroll. Each season deals with a group of followers and the havoc they wreak upon Ryan and his family and friends. Good, fast-paced crime drama.
- The Good Wife Part legal drama, part political drama, part soap opera. The Good Wife stars Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, the scorned wife of politician Peter Florrick. Over the course of the last six years, she has made herself quite the powerhouse attorney, with a new case being featured with each episode. The supporting cast includes the magnificent Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming and Chris Noth as well a slew of great guest stars.
- Grey’s Anatomy Most certainly a guilty pleasre, this medical drama has been a television staple of mine for several years. I came late to the party but binge watched my way through the first five seasons and have grown to love all the heartbreak and stress that comes with watching Grey’s.
- House of Cards Nobody does a take to the camera like Kevin Spacey. His portrayal of power hungry Francis Underwood is deliciously reprehensible, as is Robin Wright as his First Lady . Tailor made for binge watching, Netflix just released Season 3 with a 4th season set for 2016.**
- Lost A bunch of lost souls that crash on an island together and are embroiled in mystery, philosophy and a bunch of fun back stories. I love the idea of thrusting people who are completely different from one another into a story. The ending was predictable and disappointing but it was a fun ride for sure.
- Masters of Sex The story of how famous sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson came to publish some of the most renowned findings about human sexuality. Set in the late fifties, I love the feel of the show along with the story of how Masters & Johnson worked (and played together). Only two seasons so far but I love it and the cast is outstanding.
- Nurse Jackie I love Edie Falco and I love how conflicted Jackie Peyton’s demons and angels make her. Her addictions reign supreme and the choices that she makes are not always the best ones. But Jackie is smart, and she’s a great nurse and she has a heart, so I love her. The current season that is airing is the last season. <insert sad face>
- Orange is the New Black I jumped on board this Netflix train early. Based on a true story about a drug runner who ends up in the Danbury Prison, Orange Is The New Black is another show where very different people find themselves in a similar and serious situation – prison. Just a great show with great writing.
- Parenthood This is a sad, weepy show with some very real and identifiable characters. The show features a wonderful cast that includes Craig T. Nelson as the family patriarch, as well as Bonnie Bedelia, Lauren Graham and Peter Krause, among others including Ray Romano. I particularly love how they tell the story of Max, a young man with Asberger Syndrome but there are many relatable moments in Parenthood, which just wrapped up its sixth and final season.
- Scandal The story of Washington D.C. fixer Olivia Pope and how she rights the wrongs of the capitol’s most high powered people, including the President. Who she is in love with. It is very complicated and has a lot soap opera-type drama but there are some great characters and several gaspworthy moments. I highly recommend this show.
- Six Feet Under Oh, the Fisher family. How I miss you. Peter Krause is Nathaniel Fisher, who inherits a funeral home from his father following a tragic accident. Nate runs the business with his brother, David, played by Michael C. Hall. <Ga-gung.> The women of family, widow Ruth and sister Claire, are played by Francis Conroy and Lauren Ambrose respectively. A fairly quick binge watch with only five seasons.
- True Detective This anthology series from HBO is only eight episodes long. You can watch it over a weekend or a very ambitious day of binge watching. The first season focuses on a two Louisiana detectives, played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, and their pursuit of a serial killers. It was creepy and I like creepy. Season 2 will be set in California and will star Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughan and Rachel McAdams as the detectives. As best I can tell, True Detective returns on June 21st.
- The Walking Dead I didn’t think I’d like this show. I mean zombies? Really? But the show isn’t really about the zombies, it is about the people that are left behind to fight them. Once again, another show with diverse characters united to get out of a difficult situation. I love the cast but be forewarned – it is a show that has no qualms about killing off major characters.
- Weeds Mary Louise Parker is a master of subtlety. Her Nancy Botwin goes from widowed mother trying to make ends meet to a key player in the drug world. It is not without humor and amidst all of the Botwin drama, Justin Kirk, Kevin Nealon and Elizabeth Perkins are welcome and memorable comic relief.
- The Wire This HBO drama was written by a man who knew the inner workings of Baltimore firsthand. The Wire provides interesting insight into Baltimore’s drug trade, dock workers, politics, school system and media. Comprised of a cast of mostly unknown actors, it is one the best written and grittiest crime dramas out there.
- Ray Donovan Watched and loved the first season. Stars Liev Schrieber and Jon Voight in great manly roles. It only gets an honorable mention because S2.E1. didn’t grab me and pull me in, so the rest of Season 2 needs to be dusted off and watched before I can honestly weigh in.
* Better Call Saul, Downton Abbey, Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones, How To Get Away With Murder, Mad Men, The Midwife, Sherlock and Sons of Anarchy.
** House of Cards, Scandal and The Good Wife are responsible for about 90% of my political knowledge.