By T. Mack
I am a bit of a television junkie. As a matter of fact, I watch so much television that in order to create a list of only 10 shows to recommend, I had to set strict guidelines. My previous list had only shows that were concluded, canceled and considered ended. Those titles offered complete closure to the stories and the satisfaction of being able to gobble up all the episodes at once. This list has my top shows that still have more to come. You can start at the beginning and catch up to what’s current, but you’ll have to cope with the sweet agony of anticipation as you wait for the next episodes of these shows to hit your TV.
***UPDATE: Some of these series have now been cancelled or concluded, which makes them even better candidates for binging. Be sure to check which shows now have the entire series available for you to view. ***
1. DOCTOR WHO
There is more than 50 years of history in this iconic science-fiction series as well as 13 different actors who have played their own distinct version of the main character (named The Doctor, not Doctor Who). The show is about a somewhat crazy alien guy who goes on adventures through time and space with his human friends tagging along. It sounds simple enough, but be warned… there is much madness and many monsters as well as imaginary science and the whole of time and space wrapped up inside this series. Also running. There is lots and lots of running. The madcap zaniness can be a lot of fun and it’s interesting to see how everything changes and somehow stays the same throughout the different versions of the character and the show. However, with so many episodes and incarnations, there is bound to be some frustration to go along with all there is to enjoy. Honestly, this show is not for everyone. When people have wanted to try it out and asked me where to start, I’ve advised they begin at the new beginning: Episode 1 of Season 1 of the new series which began in 2005 (with Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor). Watch 2 episodes. If you love it, keep going until you catch up to Peter Capaldi in Season 8, then go back and explore the classic series which ran from the 60’s to the 80’s. Watch the 1996 movie at your own risk.
If you don’t love the show after 2 episodes, let it go. You gave it a shot and there’s no shame in not loving it, despite what many Whovians would tell you. If they do try to argue with you, just say, “I really liked Rose. I heard she’s the best companion of the new era.” Then simply nod to whatever else they say. If they try to bully you into watching the David Tennant years, respond with, “I heard he’s a fan favorite. I thought he was really good in the Harry Potter movie, too.” Then move on with your life.
I gave you a pass with the last show. This one, though, you absolutely have to love. If you don’t, lie and say you do. Seriously. Because it is amazing! The show’s premise is so simple and elegant. It’s just Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and John Watson placed down in the present day doing the same things they did in the books. But the execution of this show is what makes it magnificent. Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson are both exceptional. The show manages to be heartwarming and quite funny, with a dry humor that permeates the dialogue and actions of all the characters. It is well-written with terrific dialogue and a lot of fun twists and turns. Each season of the series is just three perfectly executed, 90-minute episodes. The only exception to this is possibly the second episode of the second season, which is mostly just useless filler. After every season, there is (at least) a two-year wait for the next. It’s frustrating and maddening, but the pleasure is totally, completely and absolutely worth the pain. There are currently three seasons of Sherlock to enjoy with the promise of a Christmas special coming some time before the fourth season, which hasn’t even been written yet.
Talk about drama! This show is unique to both my lists because there isn’t anything sci-fi or supernatural. No running or trying to solve mysteries. No superheroes or monsters. Not a single laugh track or catch phrase. No silliness in sight. There is a family. They have drama… a lot of it. There is sass and attitude and fighting and social issues. And music… oh, the music! This show, unlike the other that includes music on this list, is not a musical. However the characters live and work in the music industry and the original songs that are performed during every episode play a huge role in captivating the audience as well as helping move the plots along.
Based on The Bard’s King Lear, this show tells the story of the “king” of a music empire who pits his three sons against each other to determine who will be his successor once he is gone. Throw in a disgruntled ex-“queen” (the sons’ mother) who has returned from her exile to claim half the kingdom and you have a recipe for a modern tale of intrigue that hooks the audience from the very beginning. Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson positively shine as the royal couple, Lucious and Cookie. The writing and dialogue are wonderful and sharp, the acting is phenomenal and the music is terrific. Even with the trashiness of some of the characters, this show is nothing but the highest quality in every regard. I believe this show’s creators are the only ones currently giving Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder) a genuine run for her money in the prime-time drama department.
Many shows have teams of people who solve crimes. A number of those shows have a genius in the mix. Rarely is the majority of the team classified as geniuses. On Scorpion, they are. The show is (loosely) based on real-life genius Walter O’Brien and his team of friends/fellow geniuses who are recruited by Homeland Security to solve problems (some crimes, some not crimes) that no one else can. It’s basically another CBS police procedural. Except no one on the team is a cop. Instead, they are (mostly) all geniuses with awkward social skills. To help them communicate and work with regular people, they have non-genius Paige. Action happens. Awkwardness pours out. Crimes are solved. Disasters are averted. Romance is fumbled. Laughter ensues. And all of it comes together for seriously entertaining television. Scorpion has a single season under its belt so now is a great time to check it out if you haven’t already and get caught up for the premiere of season 2 this Fall.
5. THE BIG BANG THEORY
Each of my lists has a single sitcom. The Big Bang Theory is the one for this list. The show revolves around a pair of physicists, their friendships and their romantic relationships. These guys are smart, socially awkward and deep into all things geeky. The way the characters relate to each other and the world around them makes for great comedy. The pop-culture references are numerous and epic. The science is complicated and accurate (they make sure their consultants approve any formulas that are shown on screen). There is a reason this show wins Emmy’s almost every year and has been renewed through the next two seasons. It’s simply a funny show. Eight seasons are already completed, but since there are still at least two to go, this is an excellent time to get to know the incredible group of friends that make this show so much fun.
6. THE FLASH
While Marvel seems to be the master of superhero movies, DC has TV on lock. The CW network leads the charge in doing superheroes well. Their new offering for the 2014-15 season was The Flash. With an amazing cast, great writing and the perfect blend of drama and humor, the show is a masterpiece. There are those who would have put this program’s predecessor, Arrow, on their list instead. However, I prefer The Flash because it is not as dark. The characters are able to have more fun with their situation. And the hero is not nearly as brooding. The Flash offers lots of action, several monsters of the week, plenty of season-long story arcs, several mysteries and a healthy dose of dramatic irony (when the audience knows something the characters don’t). The whole combination makes for a terrific viewing experience and a great time. Season 2 begins in October so there is still plenty of time to catch up prior to the premiere.
I remember when this show premiered. I had planned to watch it because I was a fan of Jensen Ackles from his time on Dark Angel. I watched a few episodes, but it didn’t hold my interest. I think my love of the sci-fi genre had not yet developed to a point where I could fully appreciate and enjoy the show. So I didn’t watch it and waited to hear that it had gone away. Ten years later, it was still hanging on and had gotten a renewal for an eleventh season to start this Fall. I had seen the show airing in syndication on TNT every weekday and I still ignored it. Then one day, for some reason I’m still not sure of, I sat down and watched a random episode that happened to be from season 4. I was hooked and promptly spent the six weeks binge-watching the entire decade of episodes I’d previously ignored.
The show is about two brothers who fight all the things that go bump in the night and try time and time again to prevent the apocalypse (you’d be amazed how often it threatens to happen). The show is action-packed, funny, heartwarming and ridiculous. It’s filled with its own mythology, plenty of PG-level gore and pretty man-candy for anyone who’s into that sort of thing. The show is a really fun ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Nathan Fillion… yum! Stana Katic… also yum! The two together, on screen, bantering back and forth and throwing smart-ass comments at each other while they catch bad guys… YES, PLEASE! This show is the single police procedural I watch because unlike most of the others, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The titular character is a mystery writer who enjoys riding around and playing cop with his buddies, who are actually real police detectives. He doesn’t take anything very seriously so it lets me, as the viewer, not take things too seriously either. The show is hilarious. For the die-hard fans like me, they make sure to drop little nods to Fillion’s previous work, most notably the short-lived but epically awesome Firefly. And there’s just enough romance to keep my girly side content while not drowning everything else with it’s sappiness. There are 7 seasons of the show so far. Season 8 begins this Fall. *Completed. Full series now available
9. LOST GIRL
The supernatural is incredibly popular these days. So it’s really nice when a series can fall nicely into the genre but offer something completely different from anything else that’s out there. Lost Girl manages to do just that. The show follows a succubus named Bo as she discovers that she is not the only person around who’s not exactly normal. She finds a community of friends and eventually, a family of sorts. She picks fights with bullies and those who prey on the weak and she stands up for the defenseless. While all this is going on, she also has as much sex as possible, because as a succubus, she feeds on sexual energy. The characters in this series are as unique as the show. They are all wonderfully cast and the chemistry between the entire group is fun to watch. There is eye candy and fantasy fuel for every preference. And on top of all that, the show is funny, filled with sarcastic wit and nearly constant smartass-ery. The second half of the final season begins in 2016, so now is a great time to catch up on the first 4.5 seasons. *Completed. Full series now available
This show is ridiculous, hilarious and melodious. It’s the kind of thing that would result if someone bred Le Morte De Arthur with any Rogers & Hammerstein musical, then dropped the resulting baby on it’s head… really hard. Galavant is a musical sitcom set in a long-ago time of kings, queens and knights. In that setting, there is an expectation that certain things will happen, but nothing ever quite goes the way one thinks it will. Instead, it always goes hysterically eschew. And then there is music to accompany it. The situations are funny and the music just makes everything that much more hilarious with lyrics that are honest and completely unexpected. The show is filled great performances by a stellar cast and music that is infectious and funny. The first season of the show is only 10 episodes long and can be watched in a single sitting with only one potty break to disrupt the flow. *Completed. Full series now available
11. THE LIBRARIANS
Yes. I know it’s a Top 10 list. But I had eleven shows and couldn’t decide on the single one to be relegated to honorable mention. Besides, I gave a pass on Doctor Who. So for those who can’t figure out how to like that one, consider this the replacement suggestion.
This show is based on the cheesy but oh-so-fun movie franchise, The Librarian. All three films were made-for-TV and starred Noah Wyle as the titular character. The premise is that there is a secret library filled with all the most precious and dangerous objects and artifacts in the world. The Librarian is tasked with gathering, cataloging and protecting the items and the library. In each of the films, Wyle’s character, Flynn Carsen, goes on epic adventures in the line of duty. When the show picks up, the library is in danger and through a course of events, Flynn meets three young people who were all potential candidates for his job before he was hired. They each have a specific area of expertise and skill and by working together, they are able to overcome the threat that none of them would have been able to face alone. Suddenly, where there was one librarian, there are now The Librarians. The show is a fun adventure. Think Indiana Jones as a TV show and you have the basic idea. The cast is made of good actors and the effects, while not big-screen quality, are passable and enjoyable. This is one show you could sit through and actually come out smarter on the other side.
The first season of the show aired in 2014. The second season still has a while before surfacing, so now is a good time to get caught up.
And that is my Top 10… err, 11… current shows to binge-watch!
That’s it. I’m totally done now, even though I still have at least five other show titles I’m bursting to introduce you to. I’m using all my willpower to keep myself from typing them here. I’ve given you two articles with 34 different series. Surely, that’s enough to keep you busy for a while. Enjoy, my fellow geeks. And let me know in the comments what you agree with, what you don’t and what I missed.