For many, summer represents a respite from the year’s overly filled TV dance cards. High-quality June, July, and August programming like Louie and Breaking Bad is still the exception, not the rule. What does the savvy, obsessive or lonely TV fanatic do with this free time? Watch more TV, of course.
Since the medium’s first introduction on DVD, playing series catch up has become a fact of summer life. Arguably, no show represented this better than Lost. Nonsensical even to the dedicated, Lost was basically unwatchable to the uninitiated; cries of “Smoke-what?” – “Constant-who?” – “Island-where?” plagued those trying to bring new viewers into the fold. Plowing through seasons’ worth of its episodes became a summer staple, as suggested by the series’ huge DVD sales.
Lost might unfortunately (or thankfully, depending on who you ask) be over, but its legacy lives forever, especially as TV has grown increasingly serial.
If you’re inclined to watch TV on DVD this summer, I recommend these five:
Mad Men had been a summer fixture for four years; however, contract disputes with showrunner/creator Matthew Weiner has delayed the broadcast date of the show’s fifth season until next winter. This is as awful as television news gets. There is a small silver lining, however; by bypassing its normal summer run, viewers who missed the broadcast now have a chance to catch up. Four seasons is a lot to watch, but its all truly fantastic and completely addictive. Also, watching them all straight through will allow the viewer to pick up on the subtle differences in tone from one season to the next, whether it’s the slyly surreal third season or the thoroughly comedic fourth. By this point most have heard how great Mad Men is. It’s all true.
Comedies usually don’t demand much back-story to get into them. I might recommend watching the entirety of Parks & Recreation or Modern Family because they are supremely funny, but it wouldn’t be essential for enjoyment of either come fall. Community, however, with drastic shifts between episodes, thoroughly drawn characters, and idiosyncratic pacing is an exception. If one were to stumble upon certain episodes like the “Documentary Studies” or any one that uses a reference to make a point about its own use of reference, they would rightfully have zero idea what’s going on. Community demands that its audience fully grasp the rules of its Universe. Once you do, you will be in on the joke and likely hooked on one of the most hilarious and ambitious sitcoms, ever.
The Walking Dead was AMC’s first big hit. Maybe people like watching zombies’s faces blow up more than watching Bryan Cranston cooking meth in his tighty whities, or watching Alison Brie doing the Charleston. More than a weekly survey of ways to kill the undead, The Walking Dead possesses a visual richness and honesty in it characterization unusual for the well worn genre. As for zombie killings, well there are a hell of a lot more gun/bat/crossbow induced face explosions than you’ll find anywhere on TV this summer. Notably, Damon Lindelof (Lost co-creator) has said the original Walking Dead graphic novel series was a huge influence on how they wrote Lost.
Yes, The Wire hasn’t been on the air in three years, yet at any given moment you likely have a friend who’d love to talk about it. It’s the standard bearer for television greatness and for that reason, it’s essential viewing. Possibly too intense for such a short time period, consider pairing The Wire with one of the lighter shows on the list. You can only go so long with out knowing the legend of Omar.
Chuck is not on the same tier as the rest of these shows, but if there ever was a time to catch up, this is it. This fall, NBC will be airing the final 13 episodes of a series that uniquely blended the sitcom and action genres. There’s something to being part of a show as it comes to the close, just ask your friends who clamored to watch last year’s Friday Night Lights send off. (Missed that too? While you’re at it, catch up on that show this summer, too. OK, make that six recommended TV shows on DVD.