Wednesday, August 28, 2013

6 TV Shows I Love That None of My Friends Seem to Watch

Well, we've had lots of serious posts over the last week and a half, about introversion and depression and church... so now let me do a slightly fluffier media-related one. A few weeks ago I wrote about my all-time favorite TV shows, but there are plenty of other shows I watch. I figured I'd devote this blog entry to telling you about six great TV shows that, apparently, only I ever watch.

These are in order from least favorite to favorite. I love them all, but my favorite of the bunch will be last.

6. Jekyll

Steven Moffat may be best known for his work on Sherlock and Doctor Who, but this six-episode show he wrote is great fun. They were expecting a second season which they did not get, so it ends on a rather abrupt note, but up until that point it is an intense, fascinating modernization of the Jekyll and Hyde story. James Nesbitt is thoroughly likable as Tom Jackman and mesmerizing as his alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. An excellent little miniseries-length show. It is quite a bit darker and gorier than Moffat's more family-friendly work on Doctor Who, so don't sit down with your kids for this one, but it's well worth watching.

Where you can watch it online: Netflix and iTunes.

5. Garth Marenghi's Darkplace

I looked this one up because I noticed it had Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade in it, both actors I loved in The IT Crowd. I ended up thoroughly enjoying this little six-episode series as well. The premise is that a (fictional) horror writer named Garth Marenghi filmed six episodes of "Darkplace," a horror television series in the 1980s, but it never aired because it was too disturbing, too radical, and too far ahead of its time. Now, here, we have the first screening of the six episodes that were filmed before the project was shut down.

Of course, "Darkplace" is not disturbing or radical or ahead of its time. It's just poorly written, poorly acted, poorly edited, poorly mic'd... basically everything that could be bad, is. The show is interspersed with clips of interviews with the "actors" today, reflecting on the show and their work with it. The whole thing is absolutely hilarious, and fans of bad movies or cheesy parodies will definitely want to look this one up.

Where you can watch it online: The only place you can find it online is YouTube. The full series is available there.

4. Coupling

Before Steven Moffat was known in the U.S. for Doctor Who and Sherlock, and even before Jekyll, he did a sitcom. And it's hilarious. I first heard it pitched to me as "a British version of Friends," but Coupling is significantly raunchier... and, I'd argue, significantly funnier. The first season is a bit stagey, but as it gets into later seasons and hits its stride, it offers some of the most truly hysterical moments in sitcom history. My favorite moments are when a character has to explain his way out of something and just keeps digging himself in deeper. Those moments are many in Coupling, and they all make me laugh so hard. (I've shared my very favorite one on Facebook many times.)

Where you can watch it online: iTunes, Netflix, and Hulu.

3. The Neighbors

I am completely surprised that this got picked up for a second season, because if the people I know are any indication of what the people in general are watching, nobody cared about this show. I, however, think it was easily the funniest offering of last year's mostly-blah TV sitcoms (The Mindy Project is the only other standout). It's a funny and original story about a family who moves into a gated community populated entirely by space aliens who were sent here many years ago and then lost contact with their home planet. The humor is definitely on the "silly and absurd" side, but it usually makes me dissolve into helpless giggles at least once per episode. If you haven't watched this, check it out before season two starts.

Where you can watch it online: iTunes, Hulu, and Amazon.

2. Wilfred

If I was surprised The Neighbors got a second season, I'm even more surprised Wilfred's on its third. Delighted, but surprised. This is a weird, weird show. It's based on an Australian show I've never seen, but I absolutely love this U.S. version. Elijah Wood plays a depressed, anxious, highly phobic individual trying to get his life back together after a failed suicide attempt. Everything goes a little bit wonky when he meets his next door neighbor, Jenna, and her dog, Wilfred... who he views as a man in a dog costume. Wilfred talks to him, advises him, smokes pot with him, and generally gets him into all sorts of trouble.

What I love most about this show is that, even though its central focus is the dark humor circling around Elijah Wood's mental state and how truly terrible a personality Wilfred is, it really manages to make some very poignant and beautiful points about things like overcoming fears, letting people in to your life, and responding to the darkness in your mind. Its overall cynicism makes its few deep moments that much more compelling... and, may I add, Elijah Wood has never been better than he is in this role.

Where you can watch it online: iTunes, Netflix, Amazon.

1. Slings and Arrows

Oh, gosh, how I love love love Slings and Arrows. It's a Canadian show set at a Shakespearean festival in the fictional town of New Burbage, following the dramatic ups and downs of the cast and crew every season. If you are at all into theater, you really have to watch this one. It's one of the best on-screen interpretations I've ever seen of the thrill of the stage, from both a director's standpoint and an actor's. It's worth watching for that alone, but it's also a very solid drama/comedy. The characters are vivid and entertaining, the dialogue smart and funny, and it's easy to follow even if you're not an avid theater fan. This is one of those shows that I like to watch when I need to feel better.

Where you can watch it online: It recently left Netflix Instant, and I got so very sad, but then discovered it's still available to watch online on Amazon.

Honorable mentions for a few that got scooted off the list because I know quite a few other people who watch/watched them: Bunheads (a witty and funny show about ballet from the creator of Gilmore Girls), Alphas (a FAR FAR FAR better superhero TV show than Heroes), and QI (a Stephen Fry-hosted trivia panel show that teaches me something fascinating and bizarre every episode).

Have you seen any of these? Did you like them? What are your favorite mostly-unknown TV shows?


  1. The only one of these that I've actually seen is Wilfred, and I think that one is pretty funny. I'll be surprised if it gets a third season as well.

    1. It's already in its third season, I think, though I'm way behind on my TV watching and haven't seen any of the new season yet. I didn't expect it to last past season one!

  2. I have seen Coupling and The Neighbors. Gotta agree with everything you said on those. The Neighbors in particular seems to have totally flown under the radar; like you, I was surprised someone I know even watches it.

    1. It's so weird to me how few of my friends are watching The Neighbors. I have enough sci-fi-loving friends that you'd think a few more of them would get a kick out of it! I'm glad you've been watching it, though. Dick Butkus is probably my favorite character. Every bizarre thing he says makes me dissolve into giggles... like when he reads that bizarre song/poem for his mom about overthrowing his dad. I started laughing so hard that I had to rewind the show because I missed like the 2 minutes after that.

  3. I LOVE Alphas and I'm so sad there doesn't seem to be anymore of it.

    1. Yeah, it got canceled and it is SO SAD.

    2. Worse, it got canceled on the WORST FREAKING CLIFFHANGER EVER. They didn't give them time to do even a hasty wrap-up.

    3. Yeah, that was really a terrible place to end it.