With the 2010-2011 television series having officially ended last week most shows are now on break till the season starts back up again in September. While there are a handful of good summer series that you should be watching (FX’s Louie, AMC’s Breaking Bad) I thought I’d put together a list of three dramas and three comedies I’d recommend watching this summer to keep your TV busy during a season that tends to be a scripted series drought. I’ll personally be catching up on HBO’s The Wire and hopefully Deadwood, along with rewatching LOST with my girlfriend. I’ll be writing about those shows periodically throughout the summer and maybe a few more if I finish those quickly, but till then here’s what I recommend you should be catching up on.
This young FX series recently finished a tremendous second season that ramped up all the good elements of its first season into what is without a doubt some of the best action and drama on TV now. Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood) gives a fantastic performance as old fashioned lawman Rylan Givens, a man who rarely has second thoughts to pulling the trigger, but its this gun happy attitude gets him relocated to his home state of Kentucky where he finds himself rubbing elbows with the colorful cast of characters and criminals he once grew up with. After a great pilot the show takes a little bit to find its place, focusing on more standalone plots for the beginning of the season until it kicks into high gear as a highly serialized narrative. Not to say all the standalones are duds, as the fourth episode involving Alan Ruck as an on the run dentist is particularly fantastic. Season two follows a similar structure with mostly standalone at the beginning and then serialized after a few episodes. The season also includes scene-stealing performances from character actors Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davis (Faraday from LOST). Though what makes the show so good is its immense sense of place, making Harlan County a fascinating location to explore as you meet more of the locals and learn about their motivations behind criminal actions. With only 26 episodes of Justified the show is rather easy to catch up on and one you most certainly want to see come next season in early 2012.
A few minutes into Breaking Bad and you’ll never picture Bryan Cranston as the dad from Malcom in the Middle ever again. Rather he’ll mesmerize you in his multiple Emmy winning performance as chemistry teacher gone meth cooker Walter White. Breaking Bad is probably the best show on TV, and this is a statement that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The acting, the script, the cinematography; all of it is nothing short of beautiful. This is a show that isn’t afraid of breaking formula and will truly leave you surprised at every turn. It’s often slow paced, but when the seasons end you’ll look back and marvel at how much has happened. If you aren’t watching Breaking Bad you simply better start soon. The fourth season beings on July 17th on AMC, but the first three seasons make an excellent marathon with only 33 episodes.
If you’re looking for a more long term TV catch up project than there’s no better show I can recommend than LOST. While the ending that occurred just over a year ago left a lot of fans split, the show plays out quite differently when marathoned all at once rather than waiting week to week. With there no longer being time to wait in between episodes the show becomes less mythology based and more focused on the characters, as the writers insisted it should be. While many shows have attempted to copy the success of LOST, none have even begun to come close to this thrilling, complex, and emotional island tale.
Parks and Recreations
While there are a lot of great comedies today no show can compete with Parks and Recreations’ incredible string of amazing, flawless episodes that’s currently going on. The series received a revision going into its second season and since the later part of it and into season 3 the show has been on an amazing run of not having a single bad, or even just ok, episode. The show is just pure joy as every episode brings plenty of smiles and lots of belly hard laughs. Where The Office is steeped in cynicism and negativity, Parks is all about happiness and positivity. People in the parks department don’t dread working with Amy Pohler’s Leslie Knope as characters did with Michael Scott, but rather they consider it an honor to work with a woman so dedicated and passionate about her job. The true strength in the show lies in broadening Pawnee, Indiana into becoming a character itself within the show. Since then Pawnee has rightfully been likened to a live action Springfield. There’s no greater joy than seeing Pawnee television reporter Perd Hapely appear or getting to listen to “Crazy Ira and the Douche” (a local radio show). The show is also blessed with having the best cast on TV as everyone gels perfectly, and it only gets better once Rob Lowe and Adam Scott join in season three. The highlight in the cast though is by far Nick Offerman’s Ron “Effing” Swanson, who may very well be one of the best television characters ever created, and deserves a spot in the TV Hall of Fame as the middle-America mustachioed Fronz. To save time one can easily skip short first season as the humor and tone was still being worked out and doesn’t seem to click until season two where it’s weaker points were reworked.
This show is probably my favorite on TV now because of its willingness to take any and all risks, playing with the very medium of television and genre. No other series can range subject matters from a zombie attack to a Narnia like trampoline to an intense bottle episode to a pillow fort to a depressing relatively humor free drinking night to claymation Christmas special all in a row. The first season, which I’m less of a fan of, is structured more like normal sitcom, though it still comes with an extra dose of meta humor.
Quirky, fun, and light are three words that pinpoint why this series is ideal for a summer catch up. The series makes you want to hangout with the characters and join in on their fun, silly games from Movie Mashup to Penny Can. Also it has nothing to do with cougars, an issue creator Bill Lawrence hopes to address by changing its title before season three airs in November. If you were a fan of Scrubs, Lawrence’s previous show, you owe yourself the favor of sitting down and giving Cougar Town a try. Though you’ll want to begin the series on the seventh episode of season one, a Thanksgiving themed episode, as that’s where Lawrence claims the show changed from the initial cougar premise to the show about adult friendships it resembles now.