I’ve made this argument a lot. A good story is a good story regardless of media in which it is told. It makes me very excited that this week’s TTT topic is exactly that – celebrating other forms of stories. TV shows is my choice. I can talk for days about a show I’m passionate about, and unlike a book series, I get a lot more story options in a much shorter time frame. This doesn’t always work out, especially when shows are forced to skew their integrity for networks, but sometimes it does. A new episode every week instead of maybe a book a year. TV has its merits
I actually like this topic so much it is getting two weeks of posts. That and I have a vacation coming up, and this is an easy topic. Also, I don’t have to choose just ten.
Let’s get to the first ten – in no particular order.
My first Whedon pick of the list (second one is next week). It lasted only one season, but I adore it. The storytelling is slow but purposeful. This was obviously meant to be a long game kind of story, told over multiple seasons, and when we finally got to the end, we’d think holy crap look how well that tied together. This is genius storytelling, but it doesn’t always make the kind of tv that sucks in viewers. The show was crimpled from the get go – aired out of order, with skipped episodes, on Friday nights at like 10:00pm or something. It was set up to fail. So if you watch the show now, it’s still good, but not what it could have been. It’s a pop culture phenomenon. One season and you will always – and I do mean always – see people dressed as the characters at any comic convention. There are booths. There are conventions. There are societies. Mal Reynolds has become an iconic figure. It’s one, possibly the first, of the few cancelled tv shows that has gotten a follow up theatrical release movie. It’s the power of fandom.
There’s a good possibility you’ve never heard of this show. Most people haven’t. And yet, it somehow managed to last four seasons. Filmed in Vancouver – even knowing nothing about this show, I would have known where it was filmed – but I think it was for an American channel. It’s the story of 4400 people who have “been abducted” over the past 50 years who are all returned to earth at the same time in the same location outside of Seattle exactly as they were when they disappeared. As the story progresses, the reason they were taken is revealed and several of them start to develop patterns. It sounds cheesier than it is. It is not about aliens. I don’t like alien shows. There is an obviously paranormal aspect to the show, but it’s all about relationships. It’s also one of those shows that ends without knowing the end is nigh. They really thought they were getting a fifth season; they talk about it in the dvd extras. It’s not an unsatisfying ending, but the next season could have been great.
A Canadian classic. I’m taking about both the original and the new incarnation. I was a child of the original. My mom would tape the episodes – you know with the vhs tape before you could program the machines and had to make sure to hit record at the right time – and then my friend with the super strict parents would come over on the weekend and we would sit and watch it together. Stephanie Kay. Joey Jeremiah. Wheels – my favourite as a kid. When I go back and watch it now, I have no idea why. The character was an angry drunk. If I could talk to younger me, I’d tell her to find a guy like Snake. He’s got the goods. Schools Out is still one of my favourite tv moments. I even wrote a university paper about it.
The new one started out just as good. It was fun to see the original characters making guest appearances throughout the first couple seasons, but the younger cast quickly learned to hold their own. I was even able to get a friend hooked for a little while during the Rick storyline. Then the show wavered for a while around season 8-12. I don’t know what it was, but it just seemed to lose its steam. It might be the crazy choppy release schedule they’ve adopted. You get like 6 episodes and then it goes on hiatus for months. It’s very annoying. But, I’m going to say, this season has kind of won me back. Imogen is adorable. It’s a great show for teens, and I feel no shame in watching it. Also, Principal Simpson (Snake) still has the goods.
I am including this one for the storyline from seasons 1 thru 5. The story of two brothers trying to redefine their relationship as adults is handled expertly. There’s the monster of the week aspect, which is always enjoyable. The way the seasons feed into one another is done a lot better than many other shows in the genre. The show might have made the list just for the season three Christmas Special. The end of season 5 was perfect. The show should have ended there. Seasons six and seven aren’t entirely without merit. They have some fun standalone episodes. They allowed Mark Sheppard’s character to establish a more permanent role. And they introduced us to Charlie (Felicia Day), who is amazing. But overall, they wander away from the magic. It seemed to pull it together in season eight, but I haven’t seen nine yet, so I’m not sure how that story held up. Also, the show is just funny. It takes itself too seriously sometimes, but it knows how to balance the heavy with the humorous.
A modern day Nancy Drew film noir. Honestly, one of the best written shows I’ve ever watched. It’s a perfect blend of pop culture, snark, and affection. The best father/daughter relationship on television. The episodic mysteries balance out the seasonal arcs. It’s essentially perfect. Even season three, which is choppy as fuck (network bullcrap) and has the least satisfying ending of basically any show is pretty good. Veronica is bitchy and charming and cursed in relationships – mostly by her own doing. Just treat yourself and watch it. And when you’re done, you get a movie! Just like Firefly, the fans broke records to get this movie into theatres, and it’s 100% satisfying. Oh, and now Rob Thomas is writing books to keep the series going. VM will live on.
I only started watching Community this year. As you might be able to tell from the rest of this list, I’m not really one for the comedies. I’m drawn to more angsty genres peppered with humourous writing. But Community makes me laugh until my sides hurt. It’s clever. It comes up with shrewd, ridiculous scenarios, that don’t feel like they’re trying too hard. The paintball episodes are near perfection. I’d heard rave reviews about the show, but I still wasn’t expecting much. This is not my kind of show. I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe it was because I went back to school after a break, and was one of the older students, but the show is super entertaining.
My all-time favourite show. Without question. Hands down. No debate. I love Doctor Who. I’ve loved it since I was a little girl and my dad used to let me sneak out of my room and watch re-runs with him. When I heard the doctor was coming back. I was stoked. Doctor Who is now a Christmas tradition in our house. It used to be me, sitting on the kitchen floor, watching it on the little tv while everyone else did other things. A couple years ago, my niece crawled onto my lap and watched with me. She was one at the time, but you can tell a whovian in the making. Then, when I got to my parents’ house last Christmas, Doctor Who was already turned on and on the main tv of all places! My nephew has started to realize that it’s a pretty cool show and was actually interested in watching it. My niece took her position and we watched together. It’s my go to show. Always.
The best show to hit the airwaves in the last two years. Another Canadian contribution (even though it airs on the BBC in the states), this sci fi show starts with a bang – cloning – and just keeps getting better and better. Tatiana Maslany (who I knew from less than stellar Canadian drama, Instant Star and the to be talked about later, Being Erica) is one of the most phenomenal actresses I’ve ever seen. She plays multiple roles onscreen at the same time and she does it so well you can forget that it’s not multiple actors. Not enough people are watching it. Join the CloneNation. You will not regret it.
Aaron Sorkin has skills. He writes smart, entertaining, challenging programs that get cancelled (with the exception of The West Wing). The Newsroom doesn’t pull any punches I haven’t actually finished season two yet, so I can’t talk about how it ended, but what I have seen I’ve loved. It’s the most political and grounded of the shows on the list. It’s an interesting window into the world of televised news media.
People say Canadians can’t make good tv. Wrong. This one’s about a girl in her early 30’s who’s trying to figure out where her life went wrong by using time-travel therapy. It sounds weird, but it’s fun. I can relate to Erica on an uncomfortable range of topics. The show had a great four season run, and I’m thankful the rumored American version never happened. Erin Karpluk is Erica. She just is. I couldn’t imagine anyone else in that role. Her neuroses were endearing and lovable. It’s a great show for instilling that you are who you are and should embrace the stuff that makes you rad.
More to come next week!