To take a step back from politics and health care reform, I've decided to devote this blog to the many fine series available on DVD. I am a huge fan of foreign films - mainly French, Spanish, Belgian, and Mexican/Latin American. Some US indie films, and a very few 'major motion pictures also float my boat. I do, I'll admit, prefer to watch most flicks on DVD rather than go to a theater. When I'm in LA, and have a chance to see a movie at the Arc Light, Mann's, or the Egyptian, I do enjoy that immensely. But otherwise, unless there is some quirky arts theater nearby I stay home. The flyover states are full of box buildings with multiple screens (usually disappointingly small), garish lobbies, pricey sugar and fat that has been manipulated into different forms to add value, and a general vibe that makes film-goers feel like cattle at a feedlot being ushered into separate pens. The one good thing I can say about the 'plexes' is that they usually have pretty comfy seats.... But then again, so does my living room.
Whenever I feel that I've spent too many hours reading subtitles or translating in front of the little screen, I have a tendency to look for series - usually from places like HBO and Showtime, but sometimes from other places like the BBC. I love series because if I find the right one, I can fall into that world for a period ranging from several days to weeks. I don't have to learn new characters, read subtitles, judge new camera work, direction, or film editing. I also am absolved of the chore of picking out new movies from Netflix, and screwing around with the queue. I simply move the entire series to my top picks, and they show up in order. OK enough about that. Here are some of my favorite series in no particular order. They're all good for different reasons.
Shameless - A British series about a family that somehow functions despite their dysfunction. Funny and touching. Only the first season is available in the US (at least formatted for our types of DVD players). I rented this on a whim, and am glad I did. I've made a bunch of inquiries to see when other seasons will be available, but have no answer at present.
Entourage - One of my most recent favs. Watch it after the kiddies are in bed (those of you that choose to overpopulate our planet). I think I spent more ass-time on the couch watching episode after episode for this series that any other. It is such a special show that I even overcame my previously visceral reaction to Jeremy Piven (I now see what others see in him) who's character is one of the two most interesting on the show.
Curb Your Enthusiasm - What can I say. As good as Seinfeld. The supporting characters are perfectly suited as foils for Larry David.
The Office (UK version) - As much as I like the folks in Scranton, the blokes in Slough are better. Disturbing and funny as hell.
Queer as Folk (UK and US versions) - While the shows have nothing to do really with gay life in Manchester or Pittsburgh, they are hot, topical, and unashamedly gay - showing things you might not have seen outside of a pron theater ( and by outside, I mean inside). Watch the UK version first. You can then blow off the first few shows of the US one which pretty much copies the UK content before splitting off on its own direction.
Band of Brothers - I watched the whole series one Christmas Holiday break when I was flu-ridden. It is a wonderful historical story that everyone should see. It gave me a real appreciation for the feel of the time and situation, and more respect for my elders who served. A couple of great movies to watch in conjunction dealing with the Japanese theater rather than the Atlantic are: Flags of our Fathers, and the truly amazing Letters from Iwo Jima.
Danger UXB - So let's continue on with WWII. This amazing series follows a team who work with bomb disposal in the London area during the war. It is very British and very tense. There is a new movie out this year dealing with bomb disposal in Iraq. I'd suggest seeing UXB first. It first aired in the US on Masterpiece Theater. And as a kid, it was the first Masterpiece Theater thing I'd ever watched - back then, I though Masterpiece Theater was about as exciting as staring at a white wall.
The Sopranos - Who could leave this off a list? It's a hard mob life for us. Tony and his crew strong arm their way into our hearts with each episode. Brilliant scripts, shooting (the film kind) and acting make this one of the best series ever.
Weeds - There is nothing ticky tacky going on in the little boxes that make up the characters' homes in Agrestic, a So Cal planned-development community. In each episode you root for Nancy to be able to make her deals, grow her crop, improve its quality, and be a good mother to her family. The characters all develop and grow as the series move along (not always in a completely realistic fashion). I'm through season 4 at the moment, and am looking forward to #5.
Skins (UK series 1) - Bad, bad teenagers. They do so much drugging, fornicating, and partying, that it is hard to believe that they have time to make other poor choices as well. Yet the always seem to find the time. This show is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Skins is kind of like a British version of Saved By The Bell - if Zach and Slater spent their days getting it on with their women and each other which high on whatever prescription drugs were in their parents' cabinets. The jury's still out on series 2 which still is in the character-development phase in the US airings.
The Black Adder Goes Forth (UK) - This short series set in WWI may be one of the funniest things to ever grace tv. Don't get up to go to the bathroom during an episode or you'll miss some pithy bon mots and set ups.
Others you might want to watch:
Sex and the City - I have to be in the mood to hang with Carrie and the gang.
Extras - Love it, just not as much as the above.
The Tudors - Haven't seen it, but I have friends clamoring for me to watch it.
Project Runway - Bravo, Bravo for coming out with this reality show. One of the few that is informative and begs to be mimicked by all watching during each episode.
If anyone has suggestions, I am always looking for more of these to watch. I'll try never to do spoilers on any shows, films or series I write about (unless I hate them - watch out Titanic and The English Patient).