Binge TV probably isn't a new phenomenon, but it's made a lot easier by Netflix and AmazonPrime, which offer back issues of TV's best without commercials. I can watch what I want back to back to back to ... for as long as the episodes hold out or until the provider begins charging between $1.99 and $3.99 per episode, which I will not pay. I've already paid both providers fees for use and simply won't pay beyond that. It's tempting, especially in the case of a smashingly good series like "Justified," which I got three seasons of gratis, but would have to pay $2.99 per issue for if I go on. I won't watch any of these shows on network TV because of the commercials and because 46 minutes at a time isn't enough.
Anyhow, my peculiarities aside, here's my list:
1. "Justified" is the best drama I've seen on television since "Hill Street Blues" in the 1980s. It is set in Harlan, Ky., not your worn-out L.A.-style home, and the actors actually have real and not affected southern accents. The writing is crisp, creative, nuanced and often riveting. The characters are three dimensional, if a bit on the harsh side (the mean boys and girls in this one are mean; so are the good guys), and the acting is superb. You'll believe this series.
2. "Ripper Street" is a BBC series set in White Chapel, London, in 1888, just after Jack the Ripper's run when every crime seems to have a connection with the Ripper. I can't remember better writing on
3. "Suits" is a lawyer show and would almost certainly eliminate itself from my list because of that, but it's done so well, that it moves toward the top. It's another (like "Justified") that ran out on me and wanted me to pay for it, but it was beginning to lose steam anyway, so the decision to say "no" wasn't all that hard. In any case, the episodes most often have a continuing string and at least one case that gets solved per show, giving a level of satisfaction. The approach is sideways, as well, with the lawyers and the crooks often being separated by a very thin line.
5. "Life" with Damien Lewis has one thing that other series don't have: Lewis. He is one of the most watchable actors working today and this series would drop off the list without him. Fun, complex and entertaining.
6. The Swedish version of "Wallander" with Krister Hendricksson is superb in much the same way
7. "London Hospital" is another BBC goodie, centered on a White Chapel charity hospital in 1907 (through 1910 if you follow the entire series). The suffering, savagery, experimental medical breakthroughs and a storyline full of characters make this one to anticipate.
8. "Call the Midwife" is--again--set in White Chapel, this time in the early 1950s and features a group of midwives who must tend pregnancies and other issues among the desperately poor in this setting so popular with BBC and its viewers. Great stories with strong women characters.
9. "House of Cards" in either the BBC or American version. Both are outstanding and give a nauseating look inside our political systems. Fine writing by people who know the political climates of these two countries.
|Marielle Enos of "The Killing".|
Honorable mention: "Copper," set in 1864 Five Points, NYC ("The Gangs of New York" inspired) is a poor man's "Ripper Street," but often entertaining and even gripping. "The Bletchley Circle" features a group of very bright code-breaking British women in WWII. "Luther" is Idris Elba's series, the one that has launched him--though he's Black--into the discussion of being "the next James Bond." "Mr. Selfridge" deals with the early 20th Century department store baron in London who is re-designing an entire industry. "Foyle's War" is an unusual cop series set in London at the height of WWII and is quite good.
If none of this works for you, pick up a book, and you can start with one of mine (see top right, left of blog for suggestions, links, payment methods, etc.).