TV Dramas I’m Watching (Part 2)

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Last post I mentioned four dramas on television I’m either watching or attempting to watch. Surprisingly, three of them are on network tv. I say surprising, because I simply don’t watch much network tv anymore. For the most part, I haven’t in years.

I know CBS has been “America’s Most Watched Network” for over a decade now. I’m assuming it’s because a lot of folks really like Mark Harmon, Tom Selleck, and Gary Sinese. In addition to Selleck’s “Blue Bloods,” people love those acronym shows. Put a CSI or an NCIS on it and watch the viewers flock like cars driving to a remote baseball park in Kevin Costner’s Iowa cornfield. Personally, I don’t think I’ve watched a drama on CBS since “Dallas.” No, I’m not talking about the second coming of Dallas a few years ago. That was on TNT. I’m talking about the original Dallas that went off the air in 1991!

At any rate, back to my list:

5. The Walking Dead – AMC

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The most popular show on cable tv. This show is so popular that even its post-show program, “Talking Dead,” draws huge weekly ratings. Seriously, a bunch of folks sitting around a table talking about the week’s episode. Yeah, people are that nuts over it.

In short, it’s a groundbreaking, original, tremendous show. The special effects are superior to probably anything I’ve seen on the big screen. The acting is top-notch. The storylines are usually quite interesting. Those who have never seen it and assume it’s just silly zombie fare would be wrong. There’s so much more to this show.

That being said, I do have one major issue with The Walking Dead. The pace of the overall story arc is just too slow. Yes, the episodic pace is typically action-packed and entertaining, but the overall story has slogged along slower than actual real-time. It’s been on the air for 7 years, yet the show itself has only progressed about 3 or 4 years over that span of time. Remember the show M*A*S*H? The Korean War lasted 5 years I think. The show lasted 11 years. Just saying.

The Walking Dead is based on a long running comic book that’s still in active publication, so it isn’t running out of material any time soon. Though I agree the show is still entertaining, there comes a time in my opinion when it’s nice to wrap something up and give a show’s life a proper end. I remember feeling that way about the show “Supernatural” after Season 5, and yet it just got renewed for what I believe is its 12th season. I don’t want to see that happen to this show.

4. House of Cards – Netflix

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The original of Netflix Originals. I remember reading about this show when it was first pitched. Though already an established success as a mail-in rental company, Netflix was relatively new to the online streaming business, and their subscription service was mostly comprised of older movies and tv shows. To read they were going to produce an original television series sounded insane. Well, they clearly knew what the hell they were doing. Kevin Spacey, as you would expect, is nothing short of his usual brilliance. The guy could probably star in a short film where he’s reading the newspaper aloud while sitting on the can and it would merit Oscar consideration.

Like most great shows, it comes down to great writing and great acting and this show has them both in spades. The new season launches this June, and according to Spacey it’s going to be as strong as any season they’ve put out. If you get Netflix and haven’t watched this show, you should. To be honest, the 9 bucks a month it costs would nearly be worth it just for the 13 episodes a year of this show.

3. Halt and Catch Fire – AMC

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So if you’re reading this and thinking, “tell me something I don’t know,” well now I’m ready to do just that. I’m almost positive I don’t know anyone watching AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, and you’ve probably never heard of it.

Set in the ’80’s, the show chronicles the early boom days of the computer tech industry. Specifically, the lives of several young promising entrepreneurs & engineers as they encounter the ups and downs and ins and outs of the business. The episodes are produced and directed so well from every little detail. The characters are layered and brilliantly flawed.

What the show has always lacked however, are viewers. It kills me. It’s such a smart show. A high-end, thinking person’s show. Yet, people would rather watch who Kim Kardashian is keeping up with.

It was nearly cancelled after both seasons 1 and 2. Following Season 3, AMC justly announced the show would be green-lit for a 4th and final season later this year so it could have a proper conclusion. That’s fine. I believe a great story can be told in 4 or 5 seasons. It will stand up well. The series is currently on Netflix. Again, if you have the service, do yourself a favor and check this fantastically underrated show out.

2. The Americans – FX

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Fox’s FX cable network channel made a name for themselves in past years with shows such as The Shield, Rescue Me, Justified, and one of my all-time favorites, Sons of Anarchy. Their run of great programming continues with this amazing 1980’s Cold War era spy drama.

If my #3 choice is a thinking person’s show, this one takes it to another level. “The Americans” is the smartest show on television. Trust me, you actually have to use your brain a little bit to take this show in. Being a child of the ’80’s, its setting, much like the last show I mentioned, certainly draws my affinity. But it’s content is what really draws me in. The weaving back and forth between the FBI agents, KGB agents, (whose dialogue is fully delivered in Russian with subtext provided) to the secret agents whom the show stars, every week is must-see tv for me. On a side note, whoever once said men age more gracefully than women apparently hasn’t seen the show’s female lead, Keri Russell, in a long time.

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She was cute 20 years ago when she starred in “Felicity.” She’s absolutely stunning now. Not taking anything away from her acting chops. She and the show’s male lead, Matthew Rhys, are excellent actors. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy seeing her every week in this suspenseful, very sexy drama.

1. Better Call Saul – AMC

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I mentioned in a previous post that my all-time, hands-down favorite television show was AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” Well, “Better Call Saul” is a prequel to that show. The show is based on the checkered past and present of con man and lawyer, Jimmy McGill, a.k.a. Saul Goodman.

When the show was first pitched I had doubts. How’s a somewhat minor character from a great show going to have his own show? Who’s going to care about this character enough to watch a show centered around him?

The good news comes in two words: Vince Gilligan. The creator, writer, and show-runner of “Breaking Bad.” Much like “Bad,” this show is clearly Gilligan’s baby. His hand is in every detail. Trust me, that’s a good thing. In my opinion Vince Gilligan is the most talented guy in tv today. All the details that went into making Breaking Bad the incredible show it was are back on display in Saul. Julie and just watched the newest episode last night, and it may have been the best one yet. It’s that way every week. Every new episode is seemingly the new best one. It just keeps getting better and better. All I can say is watch it! Watch it! Watch it! It’s the best show on television.

-Vic

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