Friday, May 29, 2009

Which TV show should I start watching?

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 8:20 PM

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AMC's "Breaking Bad" airs the finale of its second season on Sunday night. My wife and I just watched the first three episodes of its first season over Memorial Day weekend, and man oh man, is it ever good. I initially resisted the show because it sounded a little too much like Showtime's "Weeds" -- both involve the darkly comic collision of drug culture and middle-class family life in a Southwestern U.S. suburb. But where "Weeds" always struck me as smug and full of itself, "Breaking Bad" has proven to be both more humanistic and more harrowing, which suspense scenes nearly worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. Bryan Cranston fully deserves all the acclaim he's won as a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who begins cooking meth to provide for his family.

I'll finish up "Breaking Bad's" first season soon enough, and will have a hankering for another show. It's the perfect time to start, since "Battlestar Galactica" is finished, "Lost" won't be back until 2010 and the networks are in summer reruns (assuming that concept has meaning any more). So which show should I start in on? Ideally, it'll be something that we can watch on DVD, because we don't have cable and, as much as I like Hulu, I'd rather not commit to an hour-long program I can only see on the Internet. Here are some under consideration, with their potential pros and cons:

"Dexter" (Showtime) - Michael C. Hall series about the serial killer who kills other serial killers.

Pros: I liked Hall a lot on "Six Feet Under," and he's supposed to be terrific, while playing a diametrically opposite role.

Cons: The premise sounds pretty lurid and contrived. Also, it would be a hard sell to watch with my wife, who's squeamish about violence. (Which, admittedly, never stopped her from watching "The Sopranos," "Deadwood," "Rome" or "Breaking Bad," for that matter.)

"Party Down" (Starz) - New sitcom about caterers, starring hilarious people like Martin Starr and Jane Lynch

Pros: It looks like a lot of fun.

Cons: It's so new, it's not on DVD yet.

"Primeval" (BBC America) - English SF drama about dinosaurs making incursions into the present

Pros: Dinosaurs! Plus, smart English people!

Cons: Could be the cheesiest thing ever.

"Friday Night Lights" (NBC) - High school football drama

Pros: The Televangelist and other critics persuasively argue that it's the finest show on TV now that "The Wire" is off the air.

Cons: I care absolutely nothing about football, and not all that much about high school, either.

"Doctor Who" (Sci Fi) - Lauded new reboot, as of 2005, of venerable British SF franchise

Pros: I liked "Doctor Who" when I was a kid (especially the books, for some reason). It seems like something I'd like, and is probably the #1 favorite show among my on-line friends.

Cons: I've seen dribs and drabs of some of the new episodes and they haven't grabbed me. Plus, the fact that so many friends like it makes me resist it, just to be contrary.

"Torchwood" (BBC America) - "Doctor Who" spin-off set on Earth, apparently comparable to 'The X-Files.'

Pros: Also very popular and intriguing, particularly in its contemporary social politics. It's apparently returning in summer of 2009.

Cons: Do I have to watch "Doctor Who" to watch this?

"The Tudors" (Showtime) - Bodice-ripping historical drama about Henry VIII

Pros: It has its admirers. I like smart costume dramas. I actually own the first season on DVD already, somehow

Cons: This may not actually BE a smart costume drama. Young, pouty Jonathan Rhys Meyers seems like terrible casting for H8.

"Dollhouse" (Fox) - Recently renewed Joss Whedon/Eliza Dushku drama (out on DVD July 28)

Pros: It supposedly got much better in the second half of its season, and I always want to support Whedon's work.

Cons: I watched the pilot, and the story and premise didn't hook me.

"Fringe" - J.J. Abrams' "X-Files" show

Pros: I tend to like well-executed shows like this. It has loyal fans, earned some enthusiastic praise and was successful enough to be renewed for a second season.

Cons: I was never interested enough in "Fringe" to seek it out when the first season was on the air. It's not on DVD until September.

"Saving Grace" - Holly Hunter as a troubled cop on a religious journey

Pros: I really, really like Holly Hunter. A friend is a big fan of the show, and of TNT's current crop of dramas, it's the one that interests me the most.

Cons: The premise, which features bona fide angels, sounds kind of dorky.

I'm a little more skeptical about USA's "Burn Notice" and FX's "Rescue Me" and "Damages" but they have their fans, too. I'd rather not delve into a show that's already been canceled (despite the admiration for "Pushing Daisies"), and even though I'm not a snob about reality shows, I'd rather not get roped into one. I'm open to suggestions for others.

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