Four Great TV Shows I Almost Ignored

When I’m not busy obsessing over Christopher Nolan’s new film or gushing over Quantic Dream’s latest video game creation, I also spend my time crying, laughing or sometimes both in the background of my favorite television shows. It’s weird how people (myself included) say the phrase: “I watch television shows” when they’re actually watching from their mobile devices or desktops. Lately, I find myself watching shows that have started a year or more ago. I didn’t watch them before simply because I shrugged them off completely. Yet, after years of friends and relatives pushing me to watch this and that, I gave in and the truth of the phrase “You’re missing half of your life” never felt so true. If you haven’t seen these shows or have shrugged them off like what I did before, hopefully some added insight would encourage you to give them a chance.

Before I give my recommendations, I just want to give you guys an idea of my entertainment preferences. I’m a big fan of science fiction shows, but I tend to shy away from shows like Star Trek or Dr. Who. My all-time favorites include the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series and Fringe. I’m into a very particular sub-genre of science fiction with the likes of Inception, In Time, Gattaca and Blade Runner. I’m not really sure what you call it, let me know if you do. I’m also a fan of crime/mystery/suspense/cerebral procedural dramas like Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Cold Case. Lastly, I’m a huge lover of period and adaptation themed shows like The Tudors and Great Expectations. Some of my choices below might actually surprise you, but let’s see.

 1.) Downton Abbey

This show definitely deserves a spot on my list of favorite TV shows of all time. One might wonder why I would actually pass this up? This genre should have been easy bait. I was never a fan of British television shows like Sherlock or Dr. Who, so I wasn’t really sure if I was going to enjoy it. In addition to that, I stopped watching any period movie or show after I was thoroughly disappointed with The Borgias and I slept through episodes of John Adams. In these types of shows, there’s usually a lot of talking involved and if a show can’t make me interested in what the characters have to say, then it’s hard to stay glued. With a show like Downton Abbey where there are a lot of characters and talking, I wasn’t confident that it could hold my attention for so long. The Borgias had less characters and I was still disappointed, which in theory should have made it easier for writers to focus and develop a character. Yet, with a daunting amount of characters, Downton Abbey truly lives up to its label as a “Masterpiece Classic” with a masterfully crafted storyline and a supremely talented cast to bring a society once forgotten to life.

Downton Abbey is a television show that tells a story of both a wealthy noble family and the servants that dutifully serve them as their lives cross under the roof of a huge estate. In one episode, audiences follow a multithreaded storyline that involves almost all the characters. At first, I thought I was only going to enjoy following the stories of the characters I liked. However, as I got to know the characters, I found myself having all of them favorites. All aspects of the production is superb, because every time I watch this show, I feel like I’m actually watching and listening to people who have lived through this era. The dialogue between characters is excellent as it flows naturally and the jokes and references to the current events around them aren’t forced. For example, Maggie Smith casually makes a joke that references Robespierre and Marie Antoinette similar to how we we converse about politicians like Romney or Obama. The maids would also converse about electricity and it’s amusing to see them respond to technology and events relevant to their era. It makes the dialogue realistic, instead of those that simply feels like they’re people dressed in another era’s fashion.

Truly, there were scenes that were brilliantly brought to life by the talented cast. I can’t give examples since it’ll be spoilers, but there were times when my heart would ache for a character. There were also times when I would laugh and smile as if I was witnessing the event first hand. One of the characters that I loved the most was Lady Mary Crawley played by Michelle Dockery. She isn’t that popular, but wow, she truly epitomizes a woman of elegance in this era. Her compelling performance reminds me of Bryce Dallas Howard and her definitive portrayals of vintage American socialites in period films like The Loss of a Tear Drop Diamond and The Help.

Downton Abbey is now on it’s third season with 6-8 episodes in each run. Each episode is more or less an hour long, but you’ll still end up wanting more. The first season is available on Netflix, but the second isn’t which I find very strange. Anyway, be sure to watch the Christmas special in between season 2 and 3. It’s not some spin-off since it’s integral to the story. If you could only pick one television show from this list, I’m placing all my bets on this. Truly a masterpiece, and I can tell that it will be quite some time before I can be blown away again.

  • Sean Fast

    “I’m into a very particular sub-genre of science fiction with the likes of Inception, In Time, Gattaca and Blade Runner. I’m not really sure what you call it, let me know if you do.”

    Inception maybe is an outlier, but most of those are “dystopian” scifi. That’s what a lot of people refer to it as. Also, “cerebral” scifi is another term that encapsulates them, as like, the “thinking man’s scifi movie”.

  • trashcanman

    The best term is “conceptual sci fi”, I believe. It focuses on actual concepts and possible realities and is designed to make you think whereas “space operas” and the like are just “x in space”. Anyways, pretty brave listing Spartacus, Mr. Bedlam. I think the sex and especially the profanity becomes extremely comical in it’s over-the-topness (what with featuring a roomful of men chanting “MY COCK RAGES ON” and all), but at the end of the day that is a damn fine show. Almost like a more shameless Game of Thrones.

  • Draugr

    When I saw Once upon a time come up I though, ‘uh okay’ then Spartacus came up and I stopped reading.

  • jaromir

    I seen “Once Upon a Time” then read the comments…Draugr hit the nail.

  • Thanks for defining the genre guys, now I know how to properly look for the comics, movies, and television shows.

    I remember that episode of Spartacus where they sing that. There was one where Gannicus was singing it while he was on the edge of a cliff. Yes, I try not to take the sex and profanity too seriously… I simply take it as tongue and cheek entertainment. Oh, it’s Ms. Bedlam actually… but people just call me Benny.

    Well, these are the television shows that I personally liked. Just thought I’d share my two cents on why I enjoy them.

  • Postal

    Benny, thank you for this. I enjoyed reading it precisely because it suggested something a bit different. I have learned to enjoy a number of new shows, games, etc… because I read about them on this website. I don’t always agree with the author’s conclusions here, but I appreciate suggestions by people who are entertained by some of the same things that I am.

  • Thanks Postal, I appreciate it! I enjoy reading different view points. All of the shows mentioned above took a lot of convincing for me to watch. At first, I didn’t agree but in the end I walked away with new shows that I thoroughly enjoy!

    Which shows from my recommendations are you most willing to give a try?

  • Blake

    I’ll probably try Revenge, but I don’t agree with your statement about Revenge being better than Arrow. When Arrow is just in its 1st season series trial run with only 3 episodes so far. Arrow has taken The Green Arrow mythos and adapted it into a more potentially edgy show.

    Love Spartacus, RIP Andy Whitfield, not for the sex and violence but for the realism and the “us against the world” persona.

    And if anyone would like some recommendations for tv shows to watch, then I would have to highly recommend watching: NBC’s Grimm, Showtime’s Homeland, Starz’s Camelot, and of course “EVERYTHING” on AMC except Small Town Security.

  • I would just like to go on record and say I love Spartacus precisely for the sex and violence.

    Benny, great read! I agree with every single one of your choices. I, too, rolled my eyes at most of these and was pleasantly surprised to find them thoroughly enjoyable. Downton Abbey though, that I knew I’d like.

  • @Sara

    Thanks Sara! Didn’t know you were a fan of Spartacus as well 🙂

    Yeah, I love it when you come in watching a show with neutral expectations and get blown away!

  • Krunk

    If you liked Downton Abbey, you might just enjoy Pride and Prejudice (not the movie). That’s where Colin Firth hit it big, and he’s not even the best actor in that show (although, he’s close to the top).

  • Deepcover

    OMG have you not watched Strike Back? The best show never to be watched EVA and if you have watched the 4 shows mentioned above but have not watched Strike Back you need to get right on to this as it is beyond awesome and has already gone down as the best show in my recent history.

  • Charlie Ward

    I know for a fact that at least two of these shows are. . .not my cup of tea, we’ll say. Makes me nervous about the other two.

    And shut yo’ mouth ’bout Arrow.