What happened with TV?! In the last ten to twelve years it has become huge. Thanks mostly to American cable channel HBO we have now come to expect our TV shows to almost be extended Hollywood movies. The production values on some of these shows are second to none, and the fact that they can spread their story out over a longer time than their big screen counterparts means that they are now the go to medium, not only for viewers but also Hollywood actors and directors. It seems to have all started with The Sopranos rise to power and prominence, and has continued to get stronger and stronger (but not necessarily better than that particular show) to this day. In fact, it is so strong that I often have little time to watch movies now, because I’m so busy trying to keep up with the amount of awesome TV shows on offer. When one season ends, another of my favourites seems to start again. Below is a list of shows that are STILL running (so no Sopranos, Deadwood, Dexter, Breaking Bad) that I make sure I don’t miss.
If someone said to me, “Hey, you should watch a TV show about an advertising agency in 1960’s New York”, I would have said no way. That sound’s really boring. But amazingly it isn’t. And that is down to I think the acting, which is second to none, the characters, who are in turns mysterious (Don Draper) and funny (Roger Sterling), devious (Pete Campbell) and sweet (Peggy Olsen), and the whole thing is just so damn COOL! Every time I see Don pour himself another whiskey, light a cigarette and recline in his office chair, with his tailor made suit, neat haircut and bevvy of beauties, I just want to be in amongst it all! I think, above anything else, this is the show I would recommend someone watch.
Now into it’s fourth season, and still one of my favourites. I’ve always loved the gangster genre, so when this came out, with Martin Scorcese, Mark Wahlberg and Steve Buscemi attached, I knew I would love it. And it perfectly shows why TV is so great now. The show and it’s storylines go about their business in a slow kind of way which ultimately escalate, sometimes over multiple seasons. Just like all the best shows, you aren’t going to find resolutions at the end of each season. It doesn’t mean that Boardwalk Empire doesn’t have many moments of intense drama and violence though. it has it in abundance, as you would expect from a drama that loosely follows real events and features players such as Al Capone, Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano. And it’s also a show that isn’t afraid to kill off key players if needed. The acting by all involved (Buscemi, Stephen Graham, Kelly McDonald, Gretchen Mol, Jack Huston etc) is as good as you will see in any show.
Sons of Anarchy
This is a strange one. The acting can be pretty bad at times, the dialogue is pretty horrible as well, and all the macho posturing is a bit off putting. But, it’s entertaining as hell, it doesn’t sit still for five minutes and there is a constant flow of action. It has some great characters in there and the creator Kurt Sutter obviously knows this world well because, despite it’s flaws, it seems fairly authentic, if at times a tad unbelievable! However, like many shows before it (Dexter, 24, Lost) it is in danger of outstaying it’s welcome, and probably needs wrapping up soon.
Another show, like Sons of Anarchy, that is starting to outstay it’s welcome. Luckily the next season has been declared it’s last, so hopefully it will go out with a bang. And why wouldn’t it? This show is just about the craziest thing on TV. It is violent (increasingly so actually), funny, camp, sexy and just downright weird in places. Many times I have watched this and said “WTF?” to myself and to the TV. But I think the fact that it doesn’t ever take itself seriously is a huge plus, and a big reason why I always watch it, despite at the beginning of every season asking myself why am I doing this again?!
The ongoing adventures of US Marshall Raylan Givens is one of my favourite shows. It originates from the pen of Elmore Leonard (Jackie Brown, Get Shorty, Out of Sight) so you know the dialogue is going to great. And it is. Phenomenal. The interplay between Timothy Olyphants ‘Givens’ and Walton Goggins ‘Boyd Crowther’ is great. In fact, Goggins almost steals the whole show as Crowther. His southern way with words makes me smile every time. I’m a huge fan of the South of America, and find it’s inhabitants fascinating, so was always going to like this show. It helps that Raylan is just a mean, cool, tough son of a bitch though!
Game of Thrones
Another perfect example of how huge TV has become over the last decade. This is truly, production and budget wise, on a scale with big Hollywood films. The fantasy world created by George R R Martin comes to life fantastically on screen. I’ve never read the books but if it had been made into a film instead, I’m sure it would have had to be so condensed that their would have been uproar. Again, the power of TV! Game of Thrones is quite famous for it’s rather blatant use of sex, but it is also much more than that. The contrast between the different ongoing stories means you never get bored (whether you are in the desert, the snow or some castle or forest) and their is some great set pieces, backed up by some fantastic acting. This is also another show that is brutal when it comes to it’s leading characters. Blink and you will miss some of them! Even if you aren’t into fantasy particularly, like me if I’m honest, I still think you will find much to enjoy in this.
Eastbound & Down
I actually thought Season Three was the last I would see of Kenny F***ing Powers, so was surprised when a fourth season was announced. I haven’t actually got round to watching any of it yet, but old Kenny (Danny McBride) makes me laugh so much that I can’t wait to see what he gets up to this time. Powers is a rude and lewd, obnoxious, arrogant, idiotic bore, but I kind of like him regardless! Haha. The show is very much in the vein of McBride’s film work, and features some good cameos from Matthew McConaughey, Will Ferrell (amazing wig work!), Don Johnson, Lily Tomlin, Craig Robinson and Jason Sudeikis to name a few. I think season Four is the last, so hopefully it goes out with a bang, the Powers way!
And finally, just to show that I am a cool hipster at heart, I have to include lady of the moment Lena Dunham and her show Girls. Written and conceived and produced and starring (and possibly even directed by in places) by Dunham herself, with helping hand from Judd Apatow, Girls has hit in a big way. It is smart and funny but also has a lot to say on social issues and the lives of the girls in question. It is possibly, as has been said before, a hipster version of Sex and the City. But don’t let that put you off! This is actually good!