So I’ve done the films and now it’s time to start on the TV shows.
I should point out for anyone reading that these TV shows aren’t necessarily under-appreciated all over the world, because to suggest that some of these shows aren’t rated that highly is ridiculous. But I was surprised to learn that some of them aren’t shown on particularly mainstream channels in the UK and as a result if your method of watching TV shows is by watching them – you know – on TV (i.e. the 20th century method) then you’ve probably not heard of some of them.
So if some of these imported shows are hidden in the UK schedules on channels nobody watches, how have I seen them? Well, it could be suggested that I do what a lot of people do in 2011 and just download them.
And as the main character from my first pick would say, “You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment” – and THAT dear readers is how to do the perfect segue (look it up).
1. The House of Cards Trilogy (BBC1 – 1990-1995)
This is the story of the rise to power of ruthless and murderous MP & Conservative Chief Whip, Francis Urquhart.
Sublimely played by Ian Richardson, the story of Urquhart starts just after the resignation of Margaret Thatcher at a time when everyone is jockeying for position to become the new PM.
As Chief Whip, Urquhart knows the darkest secrets of all the other candidates and uses that knowledge to slowly pick them all off, all the while taking advantage of an up-and-coming political journalist with a daddy-complex to position himself as the dark horse candidate.
The beauty of House of Cards is that Urquhart breaks the fourth wall all the time, letting the viewer know all of his machinations and plans, which has the sublime effect of making the viewer feel like a co-conspirator.
It has one of the most shocking and iconic moments in BBC TV history at the end of the first series, and – like many of the TV shows I’ll be highlighting over the next few days – also has a great theme tune.
2. Veronica Mars (US TV – 2004-2007)
One show that doesn’t have a good theme tune is Veronica Mars, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of this show.
Tucked away on E4 in-between it’s endless repeats of Friends, when I heard of this show I found that it wasn’t even available on DVD in the UK. Thankfully this has since been rectified.
The show that launched the career of Kristen Bell, it’s about the daughter of a Private Detective who likes to indulge in a bit of amateur sleuthing herself.
All told there are three seasons, each of which involves one major storyline (the first is about the murder of Mars’s best friend, the second is about a bus crash and the third is about a campus rapist) and several episode-long tales.
The show combines being amusing with dramatic and Bell rightly has gone on from it to become a reasonably well known actress.
The most disappointing thing though is that the series was cancelled after the final episode had been filmed, so unlike most TV shows, it didn’t get anything even approaching a suitable conclusion.
3. Dad (BBC1, 1997-1999)
The most underrated and under-appreciated TV show of all time, Dad is the BBC comedy that got away. Made at a time when the ‘traditional’ sitcom filmed in front of a studio audience was starting to go out of fashion, it could best be described as a ‘Generation-Gap Comedy’.
The always good Kevin McNally plays Alan Hook, a man who struggles in his relationship with both his son Vincent (Toby Ross Bryant) and his father Brian (The Great George Cole). Most of the time the comedy involves Alan being perplexed by the behaviour of them both and finding himself in normal-yet-ridiculous situations.
Ok, it doesn’t sound all that funny, but neither do the likes of other BBC sitcoms One Foot In The Grave or Only Fools & Horses if you were to try and give a general synopsis.
Combining slick dialogue and top-notch performances, this show is far better than the likes of 2 Point 4 Children and The Brittas Empire, both of which were more popular at the time.
Sadly the show has never been repeated in the UK (despite getting regular re-runs on BBC America in the US) and is not available on DVD or Video.
But never fear, when looking for the series 1 opening credits – which incidentally I defy anyone to watch and not instantly fall in love with – I’ve found that every episode is available to watch on Youtube.
Pretty much every episode is class, but I’d recommend ‘Dadcoholic’ and ‘Transcandadtel’ as a starting point.
4. Grey’s Anatomy (US TV 2005-Present)
A lot of people seem to think that Grey’s Anatomy is a ‘Chick’s TV show’ and yet they couldn’t be more wrong.
I wont deny that it involves a fair amount of sub-plot concerning the love lives of the Doctors of Seattle Grace Hospital, but that’s not the main thrust of the show.
As a medical drama, I’ve never seen better. Up to now, there have been 155 episodes and yet they still manage to come up with interesting and new medical storylines in each episode.
Throughout the series there have been plenty of disasters including an episode where someone had a live bomb inside them, a ferry-boat crash, a plane crash and many more, and – and I don’t say this lightly – it has also had some of the most dramatic and well written cliffhangers and series finales I’ve ever seen.
There are plenty of good actors involved in the show and naturally there’s a large number of guest stars as well, thus ensuring it doesn’t get stale.
And yet despite all of this, people still consider it to be a ‘Chick’s TV Show’ and don’t give it a chance.
Well guys, I recommend you do, because there isn’t a better medical drama out there, and at times there isn’t a better drama, full stop.
5. Breaking Bad (US TV, 2008-Present)
Walter White is a Chemistry Teacher who has been diagnosed with Lung Cancer. In a bid to leave his family with enough money to cope once he has gone he becomes a Crystal Meth cook.
That’s Breaking Bad in a nutshell.
I’m not even sure if it’s on in the UK, but the story of Walter White is one of the most critically-acclaimed-yet-overlooked TV shows on at the moment. Its on a very minor TV channel in the USA, which means not many people watch it.
And yet the amount of critical acclaim it gets is incredible. Online review aggregator Meta-Critic currently has the 4th and most recent series of the show sitting with a score of 96/100 with the tagline ‘Universal Acclaim’, and some examples of quotes from critics include “TV’s Finest Hour” and “One of the Greatest Dramas in Television History”.
Breaking Bad is a very dark show. Walter White – the supposed protagonist – slowly develops into a severely unpleasant man, yet you have to love him.
The stories are deep, the characterisation is ridiculously good and the acting is some of the best around.
It wouldn’t be remiss of me to say Breaking Bad is one of the greatest TV shows of all time, and yet I bet more than 80% of you reading this article have never heard of it, much less seen it.