With the London Olympics long gone, real football still weeks away, and the Fall TV season not scheduled to get underway for another month or so, you’ve probably found yourself staring at your TV, scratching your head, thinking, “Well, what the hell am I supposed to watch now?” Lucky for you, we’ve pulled together a list of TV shows that’ll do away with your Boob Tube Blues and hold you down until your favorite shows return from hiatus next month. This list isn’t necessarily composed of those shows that everyone and their grandmother has seen—The Offices, 24s, and LOSTs of the world—instead, it includes a collection of series’ that for one reason or another have been overlooked or underappreciated. The list includes shows that bring quality storylines, solid acting, and most importantly, genuine entertainment. So park your behind on the couch, grab all the junk food you can find, and go H.A.M. on these shows until the Fall TV season arrives.
Freaks and Geeks
Even though this teen comedy/drama only lasted one season, it’s developed a cult following, achieved critical acclaim, and found itself ranked prominently on Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Shows of All-Time.” The show, created by Paul Feig and executively produced by Judd Apatow (comedy’s King Midas), revolves around a band of high school misfits dealing with the drama and wonder of teenage life in the 80′s. Play one episode and you’ll think you’re watching Hollywood’s next big comedy with familiar faces like Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, James Franco, Busy Philips, and Martin Starr leading the way. Apatow has kept this crew in tact since the show first aired in ’99, and since then the tight-knit group of comedians have come to be some of the biggest names in comedy today. NBC stupidly cancelled the production after airing only 12 of the recorded 18 episodes, but a fan-led campaign persuaded execs to broadcast three more episodes in July of 2000. The three remaining episodes went unseen until September of that year, when Fox decided to air them in syndication. The short-lived series was later released on DVD where it, like many other shows on this list, enjoys endless playbacks from fans who recognize that the show was simply ahead of its time.
Created and primarily written by John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge, and Paul Rudd, Party Down was a brief, but pretty damn funny, Starz series about a group of actors who move to Hollywood to get their big break, but when they fail to “make it,” pick up work with a catering company. The series stars a roster full of familiar faces like Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino, Martin Starr, Megan Mullally, and Jane Lynch, and follows the down-on-their-luck Hollywood hopefuls as they run through the motions of the catering business, and serve as doormats to the obnoxious clients who hire their services. Guest stars are aplenty on this show, with troupers like Kristen Bell, Kevin Hart,
McLovin Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Joe Lo Truglio, Jennifer Coolidge, and J.K. Simmons making cameos throughout. Much like what’s happening as we speak with Arrested Development, a Party Down movie might be on the horizon if fans get their way. For now though, we’ll continue to enjoy watching these poor schmucks make fools of themselves on the small screen.
We’ve been fans of Idris Elba since his days as Stringer Bell on The Wire, and although he’s had some great supporting roles since, we’ve always felt that the British actor wasn’t getting nearly as many lead roles as he deserved. Well, BBC was apparently in step with our gripe, and enlisted Elba to personate a troubled, yet brilliant detective on the English mini-series, Luther. Recently separated from his wife whom he’s still deeply in love with, Luther is torn between exercising his gift of solving serial killings and tending to his broken relationship with Zoe, his ex. Elba’s raw emotion and pitch-perfect portrayal of a loose canon make his character’s willingness to circumvent the law wholly believable. The show, or mini-series as they’re calling it, feeds off of Luther’s fiery passion and temperamental nature, which is constantly being stoked by the sinfully good Alice Morgan, played by Ruth Wilson. Do yourself a favor and stream the mini-series now on Netflix or your OnDemand service of choice. You can thank us later.
We know what you’re thinking, but hear us out. Yes, the show revolves around a bunch of rich white kids in an wealthy California town, but this isn’t The OC and it isn’t Nancy Drew. Believe us, this isn’t a show you’d want your young kids, nieces, or nephews, watching, unless of course you think rape, murder, and juvenile sexual humor are appropriate topics for the young’ns. Granted the fact that the show has a certain cheese factor thrown into it, Kristen Bell’s lead as the witty, uncompromising, teen detective is enough to draw you in, while the overarching, multi-layered mysteries will keep you saying, “Okay, I can do one more episode, then I’m going to sleep.” Since the show’s surprising cancellation in 2007, fans have formed a united front and tried their damnedest to push creator Rob Thomas to pen a full-length Veronica Mars movie, but at the moment, their efforts appear to have been in futility. Thankfully though, there’s no shortage of Ms. Bell on the airwaves these days, as the pint-sized actress and sloth enthusiast not only has herself a starring role in Showtime’s House of Lies, but she continues land roles in major films like this summer’s Hit and Run and 2013′s star-studded Movie 43. Give the show a chance, we suspect you’ll find yourself powering through episodes and then vehemently denying watching it to your friends.
The list of quality shows that have met untimely deaths goes on for days. And once the axe drops, we’re forced to keep our beloved characters alive through DVD box sets, OnDemand, or Netflix streams. But once in a while, a show builds such a rabid fan base that, through the power of the Internet and popular demand, and against all odds, it gets a second chance at life. While occurrences like these can probably be counted on one hand, they do happen, and Arrested Development is the latest series to accomplish that unlikely feat. After years and years of rumored movies and reunions, it has finally been confirmed that the lovably dysfunctional Bluth family has been resurrected and will return for one (possibly two) more season(s) next year, followed by a movie. The new season, available exclusively on Netflix, is said to give each character their own episode to bring fans up to speed on what their favorite member has been up to since season wrapped up back in 2006. Not only are we excited (and somewhat terrified) to see what Tobias Fünke has been up to, we’re also eager to know what secondary characters will return to reprise their roles. Kitty Sanchez? Carl Weathers? Steve Holt? Annyong?…ANNYONG?!! We’ll have to wait a few more months until those mysteries are solved, but in the interim, there’s no better time than now to take a crash course on one of the smartest, funniest, cult TV shows of all-time. Do it. You won’t regret it.
For those of you looking for a laugh without an expensive cable package, ABC’s Happy Endings should do the trick. Easily one of the funniest shows on network television, Happy Endings takes place in Chicago and follows the intertwined lives of 6 twentysomethings, trying their best to deal with the unexpected hurdles that adulthood throws their way. Don’t get it twisted though, this show is nothing like Friends. The characters shoot off hysterical one-liners like rapid fire, and inside jokes (which you quickly become privy to) crop up throughout the seasons despite the fact that each episode is an isolated chapter. While each member of the cast brings their own comedic gems each week, the marriage between Damon Wayans Jr.’s charcter, Brad, and Eliza Coupe’s neurotic character, Jane, easily produces the funniest moments week in and week out. Season 2 wrapped up in April, and fortunately ABC had enough sense to sign on for 22 new episodes, beginning in October.
When most people think of an HBO original series, their mind immediately goes to The Sopranos. While the mob drama was receiving endless praise for its realistic depiction of the ins and outs of the mafia, The Wire flew under the radar with its gritty portrayal of corruption and crime in inner city Baltimore. This five season series gives you an up close look at Baltimore through the eyes of drug dealers, law enforcement, public school officials, and local government. While the drama’s top-notch writing is far from a secret these days, the show is still grossly under-appreciated despite helping launch the careers of Michael K. Williams of Boardwalk Empire and catapulting Idris Elba into stardom, landing him starring roles in titles like Prometheus and Luther. If you haven’t seen this show yet, A.) You should be ashamed of yourself, and B.) You have your work cut out for you, with 5 full seasons ahead. Enjoy!
And now for a few shows you need to catch up on before their new seasons kick off…
The Walking Dead
Thanks to bath salts, talk of the zombie apocalypse has never been more real. Fortunately for you, The Walking Dead will provide you with all the survival tactics you need to take out the hungriest of zombies. This AMC series is centered around Andrew Lincoln’s character, Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes, who wakes up from a coma to find the world over run with zombies. Nominated for variety of awards ranging from a Golden Globe for Best Television Series Drama to the Writers Guild of America Award, The Walking Dead has scored so well with the critics and viewers that it’s been renewed for a third season, and it’s probably a safe bet to assume that a few more will follow. With the amount of gore, violence, infighting, and palpable drama packed into each hour-long episode, it’s no wonder The Walking Dead is considered one of the most intense hours on television each week. You have a few weeks to get caught up before new episodes begin Sunday, October 14th. This isn’t a show for those with a weak stomach. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Since 9/11, the topic of DHS’s tactics for identifying and tracking terrorists has been a contentious one. As if that real-life drama wasn’t enough for one country, the writers at Showtime gave us a new reason to sweat bullets last year with the introduction of Homeland. The Showtime original series follows the life of Carrie Mathison, one of the CIA’s finest (and most troubled) agents, on her quest to vet a recently returned American soldier who she suspects has flipped sides and is now working for Al-Qaeda. You simply can’t take your eyes off of the screen as Carrie puts it all on the line—friendships, career and health—to prove what she believes to be true. With only one season under its belt, Homeland has enthralled us with complex characters, gut-wrenching romances, and scenes so intense they make your palms sweat. If that isn’t enough to convince you to watch, Claire Danes won a Golden Globe for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role as the neurotic Carrie Mathison.
For fans of warrior flicks like 300 and Gladiator, Starz’s Spartacus is right up your alley. Heading into its fourth and final season, the series puts a creative spin on the unlikely story of Spartacus, the slave-turned-Roman Gladiator. Tragically, after a successful first season, the show’s star, Andy Whitfield, passed away due to non-Hodgkins lymphoma and Aussie actor Liam McIntyre was appointed to step up and fill the role of Spartacus. With a healthy medley of amazing fight scenes, gory deaths, and Roman boobs, Spartacus will keep you hooked with the life-or-death battles these gladiators face while serving as heroes in the Colosseum, but slaves in their everyday lives. All three seasons of Spartacus can be seen OnDemand if you subscribe to Starz or can be purchased on DVD.
So what do you think? Did we miss any shows? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.