What I’ve Been Watching

by Jeff Abbott on April 13, 2011

Another Facebook reader wanted to know what TV shows I’ve been watching. So here’s a short list of some recent favorites:

Arrested Development — an absolutely brilliant comedy about a dysfunctional wealthy family whose patriarch is arrested for fraud and “light treason”, and must rally together to save the family business, led by Michael (Jason Bateman), the one “responsible” member of the family. Might be the best American comedy ever, and it’s just a crime that it only had three seasons. My highest recommendation. Do not get Harlan Coben and I started on this show, we will wax rhapsodic about it. Available on Netflix streaming.

Blackadder — I had seen an episode or two of this British classic back in the 1980s when it first aired, but had never watched the whole series (which consists of four six-episode seasons, each season set in a different time period.) Throughout history, Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) along with his idiot servant Baldrick (Tony Robinson), has schemed and plotted to win power and fortune, and failed, with spectacularly funny results. One of the snarkiest shows on television. You get to see Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Miranda Richardson in early, very funny roles. Available on Netflix streaming.

Dexter — probably my favorite drama. It’s a fantastic character study of a man who believes he is a monster and struggles to be human like the rest of us. I came to this show a bit late but when I start watching a season I generally have to stop doing whatever else I’m doing to devote my full attention to it. The entire cast is fantastic, especially Michael C Hall.

Breaking Bad — the inverse of Dexter: we see the destruction of a good man into a bad one. Terminally ill high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) decides to become a meth manufacturer to make a fortune for his family before he dies. Watching this family man turn into a criminal mastermind is just gripping, all while trying to keep his illness and his illicit activities from his family. Walter’s relationship with Jesse (Aaron Paul), a former student of his who draws him into the meth world, may be the most bizarre father/son connection going on TV, and both actors have deservedly won Emmys for their work. The final hour of Season 2 may be one of the most gripping hours of television ever; the ending will just shatter you. I have to catch up with this on for Season 3.

Entourage — the big surprise is that my wife enjoys watching this very male, clubby show with me. While I think some seasons have been uneven, I love Jeremy Piven as superagent Ari Gold, who has a bigger heart than he will ever admit. It is also brutally honest about male friendships.

Battlestar Galactica — I only tried this because so many writer friends praised it so highly. They’re right. It’s a devastating examination of war, survival, love, and honor, told on an epic scale. Few dramas have explored the post 9/11 world as strongly as this one: religious extremism, suicide bombers, the corrosive effects of power, bigotry, how we change the values we claim to live by in the face of imminent doom. The acting is very high-quality, especially from Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos. Favorite moment: The famous “I’m coming for all of you” scene, when McDonnell’s character Laura Roslin, a former schoolteacher who is now the elected leader of the remaining fifty thousand humans, vows to destroy the traitors who have seized control of the Galactica. Do not turn in your homework late to this woman.

Shows I am about to start: MI-5 aka Spooks (finished the first season, loved it); Fringe; Veronica Mars; Archer; and a revisit to the classic Twin Peaks.

    { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

    The gold digger April 13, 2011 at 10:52 am

    The Dexter books are also excellent.

    Put “Downton Abbey” on your list.

    Linda April 14, 2011 at 5:58 am

    I really loved the Blackadder series. Watched them all. One series Rowan Atkinsons character was an idiot, then the next he was intelligence. Very funny.

    Stephen Brayton April 14, 2011 at 6:58 am

    BlackAdder! One of my favorites. Did you also catch the Christmas special and the time traveling special? Too bad they were only six episodes per time period.

    class factotum April 18, 2011 at 9:00 am

    My favorite scene in “Arrested Development:” When their lawyer, Henry Winkler, stops in front of the bathroom mirror to comb his hair and leans back, drops his hands to his sides, and says, “Ayyyy!” instead.

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