These days, we have less and less time to watch TV while more and more shows demand our attention. I could probably make a Top 20 list with as much ease as this one, because there is simply that much content available these days. Still, when you have to sort through the mayhem, there are 10 defining viewing experiences that you simply have to watch.
10. “The Walking Dead” (AMC)
More contagious than an actual zombie virus, “The Walking Dead” is more a show about humanity than the walkers themselves. Still, that doesn’t stop hordes of fans from tuning into AMC’s runaway hit simply to watch the undead die for good in a variety of gory ways. It may struggle with pacing and predictability a bit, but the show has 16 million viewers, so it’s doing something right. Also, if you don’t think zombies are an apt metaphor for the postgrad world, you have a better life than I.
9. “Suits” (USA)
“Suits” has the office environment you wish you had. Everyone is gorgeous, they have sex with each other, and the weekly drama is actually entertaining. Obviously, this is a stark contrast to the overweight, chaste, and tedious monotony of your everyday corporate life. While a show about lawyers, the problems and plot points can relate to by anyone who spends five out of seven days in an office. Plus, the main character, a savant who got the gig without the proper credentials, is a postgrad hero.
8. “House of Cards” (Netflix)
If you’ve ever been passed over for an assignment or promotion and decided to enact swift vengeance on those who wronged you, Frank Underwood’s the man you wish you were. I’m not going to give spoilers here as you can watch both seasons in an epic Netflix binge, but a TV show that supports modern TV habits is something unto itself in the postgrad world. I’m not trying to connect dots that don’t exist, but “House of Cards” going to Netflix instead of television is a coup of Frank Underwood proportions.
7. “House Hunters” (HGTV)
From within your one bedroom apartment for which you struggle to pay rent every month, you can watch people your age looking for and buying houses. At this point in life, it’s starting to become a pastime. There’s some self torture involved, too, because “House Hunters” loves showing people our age with $700,000 budgets or buying gorgeous and impossibly inexpensive four bedroom homes with monthly mortgage payments less than your shitty apartment’s rent.
6. “Shark Tank” (ABC)
If you don’t have the dream of leaving your job to be your own boss and partner with Mark Cuban to take on the world, you’re hopeless when it comes to business. Every week, I see people come up with ideas that should be so obvious, and they get hundreds of thousands of venture capital dollars to chase their dream. On top of that, you see incredibly successful businessmen fight over the little guy for a change. The real shark here though is ABC, since they get 5 percent of every business that comes on the show, investment or not.
5. “South Park” (Comedy Central)
There has never been a better animated comedy show. Sure, “The Simpsons” were the originators, “Futurama” was fantastic, “Archer” brings the laughs, and “Family Guy” scraped the bottom of the comedy barrel to the delight of many. But no show has combined sophomoric fart humor with scathing “ripped from the headlines” social satire as fantastically as Trey and Matt. As postgrads, we are caught between our adult and teenage years, and nothing captures that dualism as well as “South Park”.
4. “Game of Thrones” (HBO)
Before “Game of Thrones”, there was no way you, the closet nerd, were getting your girlfriend or brotastic friend into high fantasy. There simply weren’t enough boobs or brutal deaths, right? What really separates “Game of Thrones” from say, “Lord of the Rings”, is the emphasis on realism and the human aspects even within the fantasy world. No spoilers either, but no other show goes through lead characters and actors quite like this one. Don’t give me that “the books are better” crap either, because this isn’t “Jurassic Park”. I’ve read the books, and while I adore them and the extensive world and history that Westeros and Essos encompasses, the show eclipses the text for sure.
3. “Mad Men” (AMC)
“Mad Men” is a show for adults. Its measured pace and delayed payoffs are as much in contrast with our ADD society as its ’60s time period is with our modern era. Still, while the differences and progress since then catch the eye, the striking similarities stay with you long after the purposefully misleading previews for the next episode. Men, women, children, families, business, and society are all still dealing with similar issues this many years later, Internet or not. “Mad Men” is a show about where we started and where we’re going, both as a person and as a people. Additionally, what postgrad doesn’t wish they could drink constantly at work?
2. “Sherlock” (BBC)
The Robert Downey, Jr., movies are as fun to watch as “Elementary” is painful, but neither captures the essence of the famous detective and his doctor sidekick as fantastically as Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s portrayals do. With three seasons, “Sherlock” plays out more like a tightly wound movie than it does a show, and both the series and the viewer benefit from it.
“Sherlock” is also filmed fantastically. London has never looked better on screen, and the emotions conveyed with only a look–how most men interact–is perfect. In fact, this is the best example of a modern guy friendship on television, alternating between surprisingly heartfelt, understood and unspoken, or hilariously awkward. As if they weren’t amazing enough, the introduction of Moriarty, one of the most entrancing characters on TV, period, took this show to a level it has yet to come down from.
1. “True Detective” (HBO)
Listen, I’ve watched “The Sopranos”, “The Wire”, and “Breaking Bad”. I’m a huge fan of “Game of Thrones”, “Mad Men”, and I watched “Sherlock” years before most people even knew about it. The fact is, “True Detective” has the chance to be the best-written show of all time. Sure, HBO could drop the ball with the ending or with next season’s entirely new cast and story, but the amount of detail and intrigue poured into each episode is mind-shattering to say the least.
Is Hart the eponymous true detective with his company man façade and control issues? Is Cohle, with his inner demons and wild musings on the world? Is it the modern day detectives? Or is it you, the viewer, in Cohle’s fourth dimension, staring at the flat (screen) world, watching the characters live their lives on repeat? This is a buddy cop show that breaks the genre. It’s a dark, gothic drama with surprising amounts of humor and mystery, featuring career-defining performances from both McConaughey and Harrelson, two actors who are already highly established.
Honorary Mention: “Check it Out!, with Dr. Steve Brule” (Cartoon Network)
With episodes only 10 minutes in length, I couldn’t quite bring myself to put it on the list, but if you have no idea what this is, please watch it On Demand or on YouTube immediately. John C. Reilly headlines the most absurd and hilarious show on TV right now that will have you laughing and shaking your head at the same time. Just check it out, you dringus, for your health.