Over the past year or so, I've taken to watching television series (the plural of series is series, I just looked it up) on DVD. I saw seasons 1-5 of Lost this way, and I gotta say I like Lost but I'm not totally wild about it. I like the characters but not the more science fictiony aspects of the show. The smoke monster? Moving the island? Lame. And it annoys me that the plot just becomes more and more confusing with each passing episode. I would say Lost is addictive more than it is excellent. Here are a couple of shows that I consider to be hands down excellent.
Freaks and Geeks. Long before Judd Apatow's movie comedies took over America, he created a television series that ran for one season on NBC. Freaks and Geeks catalogues the trials and tribulations of being a high schooler. Set in the early 80s, the episodes focus on two siblings and their respective sets of friends: Lindsay Weir hangs out with the Freaks, a group of cool slackers portrayed by the likes of James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel, while her younger brother Sam runs with a much nerdier crowd, the geeks, who hang out in the AV room and play Dungeons and Dragons. It's often hilarious, occasionally uncomfortable (in a good, The Office sort of way), and a very accurate portrayal of high school life. I tend to enjoy shows more when I can relate to the characters and the only other high school drama that reminded me of my experience was The Wonder Years. I wasn't hanging out at the Peach Pit or dating Jordan Catalano, I was babysitting after school and arguing with my parents about concerts that I wanted to go to. And just like Lindsay Weir, I had grown tired of being the smart kid. I also think it's cool that the show centered around a female character, as opposed to Apatow's movies, which definitely trend towards boyzone.
Next up is The Wire. I'm sure you've heard people sing its praises- in terms of fan devotion, The Wire is like the crime drama equivalent of Arrested Development. The show ran for five seasons on HBO, with each season telling a distinct story of a criminal investigation in Baltimore. So far, I've seen Season 1 about the drug trade and Season 2 about the docks. The show is unique in that it gives equal coverage to the cops and the criminals and its coverage of sociopolitical themes- every institution has its own level of corruption, and when it comes to good guys and bad guys, there are often shades of gray. However, the best part about the show is the writing and the acting- the plot and the characters are all definied, intriguing, and believable. We've got McNulty and Bunk, good police with weaknesses for booze and women, and Stringer Bell, an intelligent drug distributor with a vicious ambition. And Frank Sbotka, a union dockworker whose road to hell is paved with good intentions (and whom I also find strangely attractive). And Omar, the fearless gay thug who makes his living by robbing drug dealers. I also like how the show is structured, with each season telling a distinct story. So if you're at all a fan of the crime drama genre and haven't yet checked out The Wire, I highly recommend that you do so.
The next three seasons of The Wire will probably last me a while, but if you have any recommendations for good shows, let me know in the comments!