Tis’ been a while since my last post, but it’s not that I haven’t wanted to write something before now. I just hadn’t found the right topic to talk about, that is, until last night when it hit me like a ton of bricks… Ha ha, that’s not exactly true – actually imagine being hit with a ton of bricks! – Probably wouldn’t be posting anything but my own eulogy if that actually did happen, but I digress.
I am a premium channel snob. I’ve known it all along, but it didn’t really hit me until I was reminiscing on Netflix last night with my friend. Having just come in from a ride, or as we like to call it on the streets, a “roadie,” with one of my best chums, we were browsing my instant queue, courtesy of my other best mate, and low and behold my mind was blown at the shows I wanted to stop at and watch; all premium channel television.
Whether its gas for your car or television for your brain, the name does an accurate job in describing itself: premium quality for a premium price. Most people, especially at the pump, see that word as taboo, and shy away from the expensive but high-grade petroleum, at least that’s how people in my family operate. But I am urging you all to not bring the same skeptical mindset to your television viewing, or you will be missing out on some of the best television being produced right now.
I feel like I also must say that I am happy with the segregation that is premium channels and network television. Both have earned my respect for very different ways. Network television, particularly their comedy shows (The Office, Parks and Recreation, Arrested Development, Modern Family, etc.), do a premium job, pun intended, at making people of all ages laugh without being blatantly racy, provocative or vulgar. Premium channels, on the other hand, bring a certain gritty reality to their shows that aren’t always possible in the PG rated network television so many people watch on a daily basis.
The following are my top ten reasons why all of you out there should give premium television a chance. I also must admit that due to my age, many of the shows you may expect to see on a list like this may not make the cut, like the Soprano’s for example. I have no doubt in my mind that the Soprano’s would have me hooked from the moment I started watching it, but that time has yet to come, and therefore has no place on my list. Enjoy!
10. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO) – Probably one of the only shows who don’t need an introduction. The genius behind Seinfeld, I may not have liked that show, but I definitely do respect it, and all of the sarcastic vulgarity that was censored by NBC in the nineties is what really makes this comedy shine. The selfish and cynical Larry David has won the hearts of not only diehard Seinfeld fans, but viewers from every age group even making appearances on Disney’s Hannah Montana. Everything the guy couches turns to gold.
9. Flight of the Concords (HBO) – If I was about five years older, my number nine spot probably would have gone to Mr. Show. I’ve only seen a few episodes, hence why I kept it off the list, but if you ever get a chance, and you like nineties sketch comedies, I recommend giving it a shot, but don’t hold me accountable if you don’t like it, because it’s technically not on my list. Flight of the Concords, however, is. I recommend giving the show about three episodes before making a final decision on it as the show takes some getting used to. Not because its not funny, but because of the unique style of humor the boys bring to it. There’s a reason why Shameless and the Office hired American actors to portray their hilarious British counterparts. But all New Zealand accent and humor aside, I have never seen a show that show subtly and brilliantly intertwines the music industry with television in such a humorous way. You end up feeling nothing but sorry for these two guys and yet wish more than anything that you were one of them. The show made my list just for its soundtracks alone.
8. Hollywood Residential (STARZ) – I must first say that this show was what prompted me to post this blog because without it, I fear this show many never get the recognition it really deserves, and had it not been for its short 8-episode life, the show definitely would have made it in my top five. Adam Paul, a name no one has probably heard of, writes and stars in this hilarious STARZ original as a failing, unattractive, pathetic, cohost for a home-makeover show. The problems Tony King (Adam Paul) faces are all brought upon by himself, but he makes even the viewers feel so much pity for him as all he wants it’s a little recognition and love. This show holds a very personal spot in my heart as the character Adam Paul portrays reminds me of a friend of mine from college so much; this show, although only 8 episodes long, produced more laughs out of me than shows that lasted for years.
7. Party Down (STARZ) – I don’t even know where to begin with Party Down; the Arrested Development of the premium network channels. Not because of the story they tell, but because the show NEVER, EVER, should have been cancelled. Also like Arrested Development, Party Down is being made into a movie, but I would much more prefer to sit down and watch a new episode of Party Down every week for the next 6 or seven years than only get to go to the theatre once, and see one of my favorite casts get together for only 2 more hours. The show is about failed actors, writers and comedians who run a catering business (Party Down) in Los Angeles while they bide their time until fame finds them and takes them away from their pathetic, sometimes demeaning job. I honestly feel this show wasn’t cancelled due to lack of interest, but more due to the fact that Glee, Parks and Recreation, and the many movies that the stars of the STARZ original series are always working on. Only running for two seasons, Party Down wins the second place award for premium shows being cancelled way before their prime with Hollywood Residential coming in hot at number one.
6. Episodes (Showtime) – “We have great news! We found a star for your show about a sophisticated, witty, British comedy crossover…. Ready? Matt LeBlanc! That’s right. Joey!” I never thought I would have liked another show that Matt LeBlanc was on. To be honest, I didn’t even really care for Friends too much. I mean I did, but its just another Boy Meets World for an older crowd, and I would take Corey, Shawn, Topanga, Angela, Eric, the sexy redhead and the handsome middle-Lawrence brother over Rachel, Phoebe, Monica, Ross, Chandler and Joey any day. But Episodes is, for lack of a better British pun, bloody brilliant. With only one season under its belt, LeBlanc has already won his first Golden Globe as best actor in a comedy, and I must admit, I can’t think of anyone that deserves it more this year. In September, Episodes was also nominated for three Emmys and was also nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for Best New Series.
5. Weeds (Showtime) – The only thing that this long-lived series is missing from its first few season are little boxes. Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky. Little boxes on the hillside; little boxes all the same. Other than the catchy theme song that used to the introduce the controversial show about a mother who has turned to a life of crime to take care of her family and deep-seeded desire to do bad things really well, the show has risen to the top of pile winning multiple awards and paving the way for other controversial shows such as Breaking Bad. Most people don’t realize it, but an interesting little factoid about the show is it stars all three Nemo’s from Disney and Pixar’s Finding Nemo. Nemo as Shane Botwin, Nancy’s youngest son, develops from a cute little weird kid who licks his scabs and films himself making terrorist videos with his lesbian best friend, to a murderous aspiring kingpin taking criminal justice classes to learn about the law from the inside, brings an edge to the show that cannot be compared to anything before it. The humor these last two seasons have brought back to the show have been missed, but now that it’s back, and the Botwin’s are going back to their roots, Weeds seems to be picking up its pace; not slowing down.
4. Trailer Park Boys (Showcase) – My only international show and international premium channel that made the cut. Showcase: Television without borders, is the home of premium boundary-pushing series from Canada and around the world. They air American favorites such as Weeds, the L Word and Curb Your Enthusiasm, but it is Trailer Park Boys, one of Canada’s originals, that is the icing on the cake that is Showcase. I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun and spent more hours a day for the longest period of time, watching Trailer Park Boys. Orangechair can attest to that. Hours, literally hours, we would spend in Orange’s college bedroom with a bowl of green, a “to-go” box of food and a Sharecup of water. Sometimes I did more Trailer Park Boys watching in a day than anything else. Funny is an understatement when describing this show. Sure, it holds true to the mocumentary genre that The Office, Parks and Recs and Modern Family have made infamous, but the grittiness and originality of TPB goes beyond mainstream American television, and almost makes its viewers feel like just as much of a degenerate, just as much of a drunk and just as much screw-up that Ricky, Julian and everyone’s favorite, Bubbles is. Few shows do you get so absorbed in the characters that you don’t even notice how much they have changed, practically always for the worse, until the ride is almost over. Coming in higher than any other comedy on the list, Trailer Park Boys’ originality and unique style of humor have earned it its number four spot without doubt.
3. Game of Thrones (HBO) – Winter is coming. If GOT would have aired for one season, been cancelled and never aired again, it still would have made my list, but knowing that atleast six more seasons are to come of this show is enough to make it top the charts of nearly everyone’s list. I’ve been many book to TV crossovers and by far, Game of Thrones tops them all, and by a landslide. I haven’t started reading them yet, but the show is single handedly responsible for bumping Game of Thrones to the top of my reading queue, and with the author of the series with full creative control over the show, its no wonder viewers are praising its first season. The setting is convincing and the characters are relatable. Some of the best acting I have ever seen has come out of the first season of this show, and I’m afraid that in about two or three years, GOT may be at the very top of this list.
2. Shameless (Showtime) – I’m almost speechless about this show sometimes. The title of the show speaks for itself. Every character in nearly every situation that they are in, are shameless. They will do whatever they can to help their family, no matter the shame that situation involves, and where’s the shame in that? I never really thought about it, but is it more shameless to not to shameless things and see your family suffer? Or is it more shameless to do shameless things but take care of your family at the same time? That’s not what this review is about though; it’s about how perfect this show is. It’s serious when it needs to be, nearly always humorous, and it has an uncanny way of letting the viewer get an intimate of the Gallagher family as a whole, not focusing on any character in particular. Besides The Office, Shameless is perhaps the most popular British-import I have ever seen, and it is showing no signs of slowing down. Watch this show!
1. Dexter (Showtime) – Everyone’s dark passenger will love this show, and if you don’t understand what I just said, you haven’t watched enough of the best premium television show I have ever seen. Dexter is the story of an anti-hero serial killer who has been trained by his foster father kill only those who deserve it, those who have gotten away with murder themselves. Dexter seems to struggle to control his dark passenger almost constantly. Too unattached from the real world to actively participate, Dexter is often forced into it by his foul-mouthed exuberant sister and his other Miami homicide coworkers. The season finales are what make this show so incredible to watch, with each season bringing on a new special guest and serial killer that Dexter must face. This show just keeps getting better and better with every episode.
There you have it. My ten favorite premium shows of all time. I also must admit that had I seen more premium channel shows, my list probably would have been slightly different, and so I am also going to leave you with my wish list: Shows I have either only seen once or twice and really like and shows that I have heard nothing but incredible things about. Basically; these are shows I WILL see, and encourage others to do the same.
RBC’s premium show wish list:
True Blood – It’ll be no Walking Dead (Zombies will always be cooler), but from the sounds of things, True Blood is where its at if your not a fourteen-year-old girl but still like vampires.
Eastbound & Down – I have to see this show! Everyone I’ have talked to has said nothing but good things about it, and I love the cast.
Deadwood – I really know nothing about this show except that it doesn’t suck. It’s made nearly every best television show ever list, and I just really need to give it a chance before I count it out entirely.
Boardwalk Empire – Just a must see on my list. Everyone that’s anyone has told me I’m not anyone if I don’t see this. And so can you!
Six Feet Under – What can I say? I’m a huge Dexter fan, therefor, a huge Michael C. Hall fan, therefore, should be a huge Six Feet Under fan, right? A co-worker of mine also told me that even though its not her favorite show of all time, she has never in her life seen a better series finale than that of Six Feet Under.
Californication – I’ve seen a few episodes of Californication, and it’s awesome. Funny, witty and always provocative, Californication is a must watch for anyone who doen’t mind a little swearing, sarcasm and nudity.
The Sopranos – It’s the mutha-fuckin’ Soprano’s. I think premium television when I think Sopranos. Even if they didn’t put premium channels like HBO on the map literally, it literally did for me.
Mr. Show – I already talked about Mr. Show briefly, but I must reiterate again how funny Mr. Show can be. I’ve only seen a few episodes, but I have never been disappointed. There’s a reason those two have gone on to play some groundbreaking sidesplitting roles (Tobias from Arrested Development being just one example). If your over 25, chances are you’ve already heard of it, and even greater chances that you’ll really like it. Embrace the nineties baby!