Alison Malkowski & Kim Hopkin ‘19
As we head into exam season, the need to retreat to mindless entertainment for breaks increases exponentially. Some of us will ignore that urge and work for hours on end.1 Others will insist that they “really do” enjoy physical exercise to fill the gaps.2 But for the rest of us mere mortals, we require something to watch as we burrito in a blanket during our semi-regular periods of existential crisis. Or maybe you’re just a 3L. This article is for those who want to branch out from their regular binging and watch something new.
Tried and True Favorites: The following are sitcoms or dramedies popular among the binging crowd. You’ve probably heard of them, but just in case.
Parks and Recreation: This ensemble sitcom follows the Parks and Recreation office in small-town Pawnee, Indiana, and the statute of limitations for knowing about it really expired two years ago. Expert tip for re-watching: skip the first season. The show truly comes into its own in the second season, and you don’t miss anything you can’t pick up quickly in later seasons. Highlights include a low-key obsession with a miniature pony, high-key obsession with binders and pancakes, and Chris Pratt in the only role you will ever be able to picture him in.
The Office: This one should also be relatively self-explanatory; a show about an office and the different personalities who work there. The first few episodes are not consequential, but they help develop the characters for maximum enjoyment in other seasons. Reasons to keep watching: the love connection between Pam and Jim is one for the ages.
Grey’s Anatomy: This hour-long dramedy begins by following the lives of surgical interns struggling to survive at a prestigious hospital in Seattle. Shonda Rimes dialogue and catchy song selections make the early seasons incredible and witty. As usually happens in long-running television shows, the seasons involve a slow transformation into a completely different kind of show. As usually happens in Shondaland television shows, that slow transformation is accompanied by a series of unbelievable and yet somehow gut-wrenching plot twists and entirely too many lingering stares. I think this show is still engaging during later seasons, but many lose interest around season six. Reasons to keep watching: boredom and investment in the (few) characters who don’t die off.
Arrested Development: This started as an underrated classic and has earned its place among the must-sees of the golden age of television. The new Netflix revival tries a little too hard, but the original series is always worth a watch (or re-watch). This is the story of a highly dysfunctional family and the completely implausible situations they get themselves into. The humor swings between easily recognizable slapstick, nuanced intellectual humor, and some weird creature of the in-between that involves Liza Minelli, magicians, yachts, and banana stands. Reasons to keep watching: you will understand a lot more internet memes.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: This is an AMAZING show.3 It’s an ensemble comedy about a police precinct in Brooklyn. Although the first few episodes focus a little too heavily on Detective Jake Peralta and Captain Raymond Holt (and Detective Boyle’s cringe-inducing crush on Detective Diaz), they set up extremely important character arcs and motifs. Reasons to keep watching: the annual Halloween and Doug Ross episodes get funnier each year as they outdo the previous year’s hijinks.
Classics: These shows are favorites from back in the day. However, watch with an enormous grain of salt – American culture has changed considerably.
I Love Lucy: This classic follows Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and their landlords as Lucy finds new ways to get into trouble. Lucille Ball’s physical comedy is unparalleled, but some of the ‘issues’ the show tackles are removed from today’s sensibilities.4 Reasons to watch: feel-good comedy that doesn’t force you to think.
Mary Tyler Moore Show: After Mary leaves her boyfriend who doesn’t want to get married after graduating medical school, she moves to Minneapolis and becomes an associate producer for a local nightly news show. The show holds up well and was a trailblazer for modern shows like 30 Rock, Girls, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Lesser Known Gems: These shows are famous among their viewers but don’t enjoy the wider audience that some of the above shows draw.
A Crime to Remember: This Investigation Discovery re-enactment show takes old crimes from before modern forensic science and describes them through multiple lenses. Some are familiar stories, like the murder of Kitty Genovese, and some are forgotten horrors, like the University of Texas mass shooter, Charles Whitman. Each story is punctuated by narration from a “friend” of someone involved in the crime which adds a layer of cultural understanding or outrage to the crimes.
QI: A British panel show hosted by Stephen Fry (and later by Sandy Toksvig) where British comedians tackle historical or scientific trivia topics with questionable levels of skill and more often than not, a quasi-related anecdote instead. This show, however, doesn’t just take away points for wrong answers (although the scoring system is at best made up and arbitrary); it also sounds an alarm when a comedian makes a joke answer or common misconception that producers had previously identified. Reasons to keep watching: special guests like Daniel Radcliffe, Hugh Laurie, and David Tennant, and the fact that many contestant answers mirror the exact internal dialogue you have during exams (e.g. “Is the answer…neither?”).
American Housewife: If you temporarily suspend your expectations for any kind of serious social statement, this show is hilarious. It follows the middle-class Otto family living in a very affluent Connecticut neighborhood with an overly honest stay-at-home mom, a passive, intellectual father, and three comically flawed kids. Reasons to keep watching: Katy Mixon’s excellent comic timing and flair.
Schitt’s Creek: This show has everything: Eugene Levy’s eyebrows, Eugene Levy’s son, Eugene Levy’s daughter, and the mother from the Home Alone movies (she has finally located all of her children). The Schitts are tossed unceremoniously from their home when all of their assets are seized by the IRS5 and their only remaining asset is a town that Eugene Levy’s character bought “as a joke” to “teach his son a lesson.” Reasons to keep watching: Daniel Levy and Emily Hampshire’s unconventional friendship is every sarcastic mood you’ve ever been in, and the show only gets better with each season.
Moone Boy: In the role he was born to play (with an honorable mention to the hapless IT guy of IT Crowd – “Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?”), Chris O’Dowd stars as a 12-year-old boy’s imaginary friend in a small town in Ireland. Highlights include either of the two sisters and quotes like “He’s very enigmatic for a man who doesn’t own drinking glasses.”
Rosemary and Thyme: Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme are just two enchantingly grumpy biddies who met, fell in BFF, and promptly started a landscaping business, through which they repeatedly happen upon and then solve a series of incidentally plant-related murders to the astonishment of somehow no one. No further description necessary.
iZombie: This show is written and produced by the same team that made Veronica Mars happen. If you didn’t watch Veronica Mars, then you may not have been a teenage girl in the 2000s looking for a role model in early onset sarcasm, and that is ok. iZombie is delightful, combines a procedural mystery format with an overarching plot about zombies, and is also a little gross.6
Dear White People: Full disclosure: this is a remake of the original movie, and there are far more detailed and wonderful critiques comparing the two and their social commentaries available across the internet, but I just include here to note that the remake as a television show is extremely worth watching. It is in turns hilarious, familiar, and heartbreaking, and always beautifully formatted.
To Look Out For: This show won’t be released until 2018, but is worth mention here because (a) it sounds amazing and (b) we all know you won’t get to any of these until you hit that beginning-of-the-semester procrastination binge period anyway.
Making It: A craft show, hosted by Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler from Parks and Recreation. In other words, the American answer to The Great British Bake Off. You’re welcome.
1 But if that’s your jam, why are you taking time to read the Law Weekly? Get back to work and leave us underachievers alone.
2 While the author respects these individuals, she also places them alongside people who just don’t prefer desserts and refuses to trust them.
3 Let it be known one of the authors has the BIGGEST crush on both Jake Peralta and Andy Samberg.
4 See the “Equal Rights” episode where a wife being treated as an equal apparently means being treated like a male stranger. Also, the constant jokes about being Cuban at the expense of Ricky. #differenttime
5 The show is filmed in Canada, so presumably the Canadian equivalent. But since it is unclear to me which will be in place after the Kordana-predicted Canadian invasion, let’s call it “IRS” for simplicity.
6 There is a lot brain-eating because that is how she solves mysteries. Do not overlap with dinner, especially pasta.