I have this need to not only make people watch the shows I like, but to sit down and watch them at the same time. Something about recapturing the magic vicariously through the coerced enjoyment of others. Sadly, I can’t do that for the internet, but I can make you all watch what I want you to watch. Don’t worry, it’s not shitty Buffy the Vampire Slayer porn (although the acting is probably on par with early Sarah Michelle Gellar.)
No. Instead I’m going to give you the top 5 sci-fi/fantasy shows that you could start watching right now. Provided you have Netflix, or know someone who has Netflix, or are an unscrupulous person who pretends to have Netflix that you’re actually stealing from an aged relative. These are all viable lifestyle choices. Just watch these damn shows.
(By the way, I’m going to list them in order of how easy they are to get into, not on how much I like them. Because I love them all.)
5. Doctor Who
Doctor Who gets #5 on this list because Season 1 is EXTREMELY hard to get into if you’re not a fan of the old series, cheesy plots, bad CGI, farting monsters, Chris Eccleston’s ears, Rose Tyler’s cat mouth or Russell Davies’ use of extreme closeups on people’s faces.
That was a really good pitch. Let me start over.
Doctor Who is the story of a 900-1100 year old alien (who looks like an attractive British man) who can travel through time and space in a police box that is bigger on the inside (or smaller on the outside, depending on which companion you are.) The Doctor and his (usually) young and pretty companion travel around solving mysteries that always link back to malevolent alien species. Sometimes there are bowties. Sometimes the Doctor loses his friends or the people he’s trying to save. But he almost always saves the world.
Doctor Who is an amazing series, and you don’t have to know anything about the 1960s version to get into it. Unfortunately, Season 1 (2005) starts off a little shaky. A trash can eats a dude and burps. It’s that kind of show. However, it rapidly gains something that very few sci-fi shows attain: heart. It gives mere lip service to science, but whatever. More than being a show about aliens and time travel (which is often very cool,) Doctor Who is mostly about how terrible it is to be in charge of other people’s safety and happiness, and how lonely it is to be a god.
All of the actors who play the Doctor have been brilliant, and each manages to portray a quirky, adventurous, excitable man who really wants to show off his knowledge and impress people. They also manage to show a man who tries to repress his loneliness, his bitterness, his guilt and his shame and can’t quite pull it off.
Watch Doctor Who for the relationships and the acting. Watch it for Steven Moffat’s clever writing or scary bad guys, but mostly watch it to piece together the beautiful, powerful mess of a man who wants to save everyone and never quite manages it.
Total Seasons Available: 6 available on Netflix, but the show is midway through Season 7.
Total Episodes: There are about 87 45-minute episodes, although you have to search through Netflix for a few of the specials.
Best Episode: “Blink” is one of the greatest episodes of television. This award is not up for debate.
4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is technically the story of an extremely annoying cheerleader who doesn’t want the superpowers that she’s given. Then she gradually learns to slay vampires, kill demons, and solve mysteries, always with a terrible pun and some witty banter. Actually, though, this show is the brilliant deconstruction of almost every trope, genre and pop culture phenomenon ever. And it’s funny as hell.
Buffy is another one of my favorite shows that takes a bit of effort to get into. This is Joss Whedon, whose writer’s block probably cures cancer, but he starts off a little slow. Like Doctor Who, you must be patient with Season 1. Your patience will be rewarded. Buffy has everything you could ever want.
It’s a feminist text set in a campy horror setting. It’s a show that stars powerful women that is not just watched by women and that doesn’t just focus on romance. It delights in classic tropes that you didn’t realize were cliches, and then it inverts them.
Very few high school shows outlast the high school years. Most of them shouldn’t. This one thrived and it stayed fresh for almost its entire run. Inside jokes, sexy-ass romance, Seth Green as a laconic werewolf, clever dialogue, real heart, and mostly this…
…Are all great reasons to start this brilliant show right now. If you’ve ever hated cliches, wanted more continuity, enjoyed witty banter or had an emotion, this show is for you. If you’ve had too many emotions, try watching Angel.
Total Seasons Available: All 7
Total Episodes: 144 45-minute episodes. It sounds like a big time commitment and it is. Yet I feel no shame in telling you that I downed this series in just over a month and I regret nothing.
Best Episode: The two episodes that embody the extremes of BtVS with the most innovation, beauty and fun are “The Body” and “Once More With Feeling.” I could write essays on “The Body” and I might, because it is the most amazing piece of film ever written or directed. “Once More With Feeling” is just an extremely catchy musical. Continue reading