When watching TV it is often all too easy to get stuck in a pattern of watching the same shows over and over again (How many times have you watched Friends: The Last One?) This article hopes to give you some new ideas of shows to binge watch – shows that have often been underrated but that our writers have enjoyed. From the animated series King of the Hill to the more modern and serious Orphan Black hopefully you will find some inspiration for your Easter viewing.
Arrested Development (Josie Child)
Arrested Development is the story of Michael Bluth and his highly dysfunctional family. His father, George Sr., is sent to prison for white-collar crime. This leaves Michael to juggle the responsibilities of the family real estate business, his teenage son George Michael, and the eccentricities of his spoiled and wacky family. Michael himself is a widow, a reliable and patient man, and our protagonist. His family members include his brother Gob, a failed magician, his younger and overly-dependent brother Buster, his self-obsessed sister Lindsay, and her ridiculous doctor-turned-actor husband Tobias Fünke. Lindsay and Tobias’ daughter Maeby is a rebellious teen in contrast to George Michael, a quiet boy who does his homework and is constantly trying to please his dad. Thrown into the mix is a father who is notoriously hard to please, and an overbearing and hypercritical mother and we have the Bluth family.
You might be thinking that a show incorporating so many big personalities would be utter chaos, and you’d be right. But somehow, it works. Each episode follows the life of this mad family, and the absurd situations they get themselves in to, making use of archival photos, narration and handheld camera work. There are loads of recurring jokes which get funnier every time you hear them. But what really makes this show work as a comedy is the fact that it centres around a man who is keeping his family together at all costs. Underneath all the jokes and the exaggeration, this genuineness shines through and keeps our sympathies firmly rooted with the fortunes of the Bluths.
Arrested Development is available on Netflix, and due to each episode being only 20 minutes long, it is very, very, very watchable – probably too watchable for the health of your summatives.
Orphan Black (Amy Langton)
When I was thinking of a show to recommend in this article I wasn’t sure that Orphan Black would count as “underrated.” I have been completely obsessed with it for nearly a year now, along with millions of other fans and critics across the world. But I still don’t think it has received the recognition it deserves (I still can’t talk about the 2014 Emmys without getting emotional.) If I mention Orphan Black to my friends here in Durham, the majority of them have no idea what it is, where if I talk about Orange is the New Black or Game of Thrones they’d have to have been living under a rock for the past few years to not know what I was talking about. For me, Orphan Black is just as revolutionary television, just as worthy of such a prominent place in popular culture. I think perhaps it is the sci-fi element that puts people off, you think of cringey space suits and bad special effects, but those preconceptions in no way apply here.
Whenever I recommend it to someone I always tell them that it’s about a woman who walks onto a train station platform, only to see someone who looks exactly like her jump in front of a train. This is only the start of the mysteries, the secrets, surrounding Sarah and the other members of The Clone Club because, as it turns out, the main characters of the drama are clones, all played by Tatiana Maslany. She creates characters that are so different, so vivid, that every time the credits roll it is still a shock to see one name next to those of nine different characters; she makes you believe that they are different people. Maslany’s talent is such that it is even possible to tell them apart when the clones pretend to be one another.
The show has everything you could possibly want: strong female leads, it even fails the reverse Bechedel test, as well as dealing with a wider spectrum of LGBTQ issues than OITNB. We also follow these women’s lives which cross the genres of television; we see cops trying to solve a series of murders, we see a single mother with a chequered past, trying desperately to get her daughter back, a soccer mom dealing with snooty neighbours and a lying husband, and a chemistry student trying to find a cure to a terminal illness in her own genes. But I think that the most powerful message of this show is that despite all their differences, these women become a family, however dysfunctional; they are united by their love and urge to protect one another from those who wish to hurt them.
So in my opinion, Orphan Black is must-see television for anyone who likes well developed characters, and a fast-paced, well-written script filled with suspense, violence, humour and warmth. It is a show that intelligently deals with the nature of identity as well as what it means to be a woman, in all the roles that entails: daughter, sister, wife, girlfriend, mother, friend, and individual.
King of the Hill (Finn Bruton)
King of the Hill is an American animated sitcom created by Mike Judge and ex-Simpsons writer Greg Daniels. It features the Hills, a middle-class American family who live in the fictional town of Arlen, Texas. The humour is an acquired taste as it pokes fun at the excruciatingly mundane lives of the Hills and their social periphery. It is very deadpan and much less slapstick than similar animated shows such as Family Guy or American Dad. Furthermore, the episode plots are cumulative leading to interesting story lines and cliff-hangers. This is a different approach for animated series, which usually run episode by episode, with very little character or plot development throughout. It took me a while to truly appreciate this show but it is well worth the wait as the dry, subtle humour is stimulating and rather refreshing. Unfortunately the show aired its final episode in May 2010, having aired a massive 259 episodes. However, it has since received some recognition with TV Guide ranking it as one of the 60 greatest cartoons of all time in 2013, and still proves to be a highly entertaining show.