2011: My pal Gigi signed me up to Netflicks about a year ago as a way of thanking me for letting her crash at my loft for months at a time. I didn’t think I’d watch it much but I have rediscovered the joys of watching mindless crap without commercials and I’ve found some truly remarkable shows I would have never seen. Thanks Gigi!
I live in a magical place, one of the last old-style artists lofts in downtown Toronto…a place so unique that although almost twenty people share the warehouse and it’s fourteen units not one person ever had cable installed. I haven’t watched regular television for well over a decade, unless I am visiting a friend and even then, it is rare. When the new shows start up on regular TV, I like to visit friends to see what is going on in the world of popular culture and in a few cases (like Deadwood or Carnivale) I run out and buy the DVD’s because I can’t wait for it to hit Netflix. I also watch a lot of Canadian shows on DVD for my jury duty with the Gemini Awards, Canada’s equivalent to the Emmy’s…but for the most part, I avoid TV commercials all together.
Still , this isn’t about that – in this area I’m going to focus only on stuff you can see free on Netflix and I’ll stick with TV for now – I’d love your feedback on shows you think I’d like.
Damages, Mad Men, Life on Mars, Breaking Bad and Stargate SG-1 are all shows I got addicted too after watching their first few episodes. “Stargate SG-1” probably stands out in this list and I admit it took a few seasons to really grow on me, but after a while it reminded me of watching the original Star Trek series as a kid. I love the story line and how it explained why most planets in the gallaxy have people that are basically human. In one early episode a character actually says “why do so many planets look like Vancouver?” It’s a clever show that covers a lot of ground and never takes itself too seriously. By the time you get to the last season and see the episode called “200” I’m sure you’ll agree that this is one of the most clever science fiction TV shows (and the longest running by the way) ever made.
Breaking Bad just keeps bending and twisting…watching Bryan Cranston’s character change season by season is simply riveting! As far as Mad Men goes, yadda yadda yadda – everyone is talking about Mad Men – all I can add is that I get a kick out of the fact that the men in the show had no idea that they were sexist-smoking-douchebags! When it comes to “Life On Mars” I like both the BBC version and the copycat show done in America.
I watched the BBC first and it was haunting. I really liked the acting and the finale was truly satisfying. Aside from always getting a kick out of Harvey Keitel, I thought I’d hate watching the same plot shot in the U.S. but it was surprisingly enjoyable. As it neared the end of the season I started to wonder where it was going to go and was pleasantly surprised that they went for a completely different ending. It was completely far fetched but I laughed out loud and wanted to write a thank you note to the network for not taking the easy route and copying the entire series. Of all these shows, I think Damages is my favourite.
So much suspense and plot twists: some of the best writing and acting in the history of television. It can get pretty nasty, but if you like villains you will have a mad crush on Glenn Close and if you prefer the brainy damsel in distress, Rose Byrne is mighty sweet!
EASY TO WATCH
One show I discovered a wee while back that I really got into was “Lie To Me” starring Tim Roth. He’s one of the best actors on television (you’ll know him best as the awesome villain in the movie “Rob Roy”) and this TV show was a great vehicle for him. I wish it lasted more than three seasons – I thought the relationship he had with his ex-wife, daughter and various employees was really getting interesting! At least when it ended it didn’t leave you with a cliff hanger…I recommend trying a few episodes.
I enjoyed watching “Heroes”, although some of the many plots were kinda lame and it was not exactly a fulfilling ending. “Life” a cop show starring Damien Lewis moves a long at a decent pace and they guy is really likable, although now that he stars in “Homeland” it’s hard to get used to him in any other role. “Homeland” is riveting but once in a while I feel like I’m watching “24” and wish it would move along a little faster. “Firefly” is a pretty good Sci-Fi…Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres are fine actors who breeze their way through every plot imaginable. It’s kinda dated but a nice Sunday afternoon hangover show. Fillion is also watchable in “Castle” – a show that shouldn’t work, but it does. Timothy Olyphant was not my favourite thing about “Deadwood” but he sure is terrific in “Justified”…another great time-waster when it comes to a fairly predictable TV cop show.
“Numbers” is pretty lame. It’s as if the director said “could you all act like your acting please?” Occasionally I admit there are clever moments you might believe that knowing algebra is the best way to crack a difficult case. Still, it basically sucks. It’s one of those “Make Box Have Light” shows that is zone-out-able. I just keep thinking Tim Roth should show up and try to read people’s faces…every time I see a predictable cop show I wonder why they just don’t call Cal Lightman from Lie To Me!
The Jack Benny Show I’m so glad that Netflix is offering some old TV shows in Canada now. I hear U.S. have way better overall choices, so this page isn’t intended as an infomercial for them…but so many of my friends are on this and it is so inexpensive, well, here we are. Jack Benny is my fave of the bunch. I prefer Groucho Marx in movies than in most episodes of You Bet Your Life and while Bob Hope has a few zingers in his shows, Jack Benny’s upbeat over-the-top cornball flumdumbery is my favourite cup of tea. If you can watch these old black and white shows, imagining you are back in the day when the obvious was funny and TV was fairly new, you’ll start chuckling in no time.
Watching an hour and a half-long episode of Miss Marple is a major investment of time. I use it once or twice a month as hangover medicine. It’s easy on the brain and the colours are nice. I’m talking about the series starring Geraldine McEwan. Well written and acted, and never too gory or violent so it’s a Sunday afternoon treat on a rainy day. Sesame Street Classics is just plain freaky. I scan through lots of it and stop it at some of the old animation that I almost forgot about. It’s still psychedelic! Apparently it wasn’t me, it was them. I really enjoy little bits of it. Like a ten minute trailer before a movie night with a friend. I wonder if it would still hold kids attention today… “Running Wilde” is another one of those shows where Will Arnett gets to be Will Arnett. Keri Russell and solid new-commer Stefania Owen co-star. The premise is simple: rich guy and hippy chick take turns being unreasonable – hilarity ensues. Money is spent. My favourite character is Fa-ad Shaoulin, overplayed to perfection by British actor Peter Serafinowicz. OK, the last name is a mouthful to Hollywood but this guy is hilarious and should be everywhere. Just thirteen episodes but that’s plenty. They can all do better.
2013 and Netflix has been a disappointment in acquiring enough great stuff. It’s still a decent bang for your buck sez me, but trolling through amateur documentaries and french TV without subtitles? Pass. I’ve stumbled upon a handful of great shows and I am pleased their classic film section seems to be growing, but Netflix Canada apparently has much less to pick from than the U.S. What’s up with that? At the end of the day, it’s a good deal so as long as they continue to grow a catalogue I’ve no plans on changing that dial.
I limit my TV viewing to a handful of shows, and one of the best I caught recently is FRINGE. It just completed it’s fifth season, and four are on Netflix (Canada) now…if you like sci-fir dramas this premise is cool and John Noble deserves the many awards he’s picked up as the mad professor. Joshua Jackson owns the screen too. My only wee gripe is I prefer Anna Torv’s Olivia Dunham character much more in the alternate reality than in “our Earth”. One is feisty and the other, mopey dullsville…perhaps a bit overplayed? Still, it’s a wee gripe for a truly imaginative show. I look forward to season 5 and think this is the type of show (and cast) that could easily pull off a feature film.
The 4400 is worth considering if you like sci-fis, people with unique powers and time travel. It’s an uneven show and some of the casting could be better but it’s worth checking out.
As for the show “V” (the 2009 remake of the 1983 miniseries) that’s been available on Netflix a while now, and moves at a fairly quick pace…I like it. Of course the real reason I feel compelled to watch might be Anna, played by Morena Baccarin.