Saturday, June 11, 2011

It's New to You: Favorite Late Television Discoveries For Your Summer Entertainment

Summer has a bad reputation in TV land. While the proliferation of cable networks and their more varied schedules has alleviated the problem to an extent, summer is still kind of a TV doldrums. Case in point: I’m actually up to date on this blog! To me, summer has become a little bit of a breather. I like to take the opportunity to catch up on things I didn’t have time to watch during the regular season, and I like to take the time to discover new shows. There’s nothing more satisfying than marathoning a few seasons of a show I’ve been hearing good things about for ages but haven’t gotten around to watching yet. This summer on MTVP, in addition to recapping new episodes of “TrueBlood” and “Torchwood,” I’ll be doing a bit of catch-up with a series I’m going to call, against my better judgment, “Summer DVR Dump.” I’ll be bringing you write-ups of two shows that aired last season, “The Walking Dead” and the first half of series 6 of “Doctor Who.” Before we get into that, though, I’d like to devote a little time to talking about discovering new series. Some of my favorite series were late discoveries for me, either over the holiday or summer break, and I’d like to tell those stories. We’ll start with some summer discoveries, since it’s the beginning of summer and all, and move into a few holiday discoveries too, because I can’t leave any of these shows out!

Doctor Who

It was just a little over one year ago, amazingly enough, that I discovered “Doctor Who.” Friend of the blog and frequent guest blogger Sarah had already gotten me into “Torchwood,” with her endearingly frequent gushing over John Barrowman and his character on that show, Captain Jack Harkness. I knew that at some point I’d want to try watching the mothership. I happened to spend last Memorial Day weekend rather ill (I’ll take Lily Aldrin’s advice and decline to provide details), and since I wasn’t feeling up to leaving the apartment for the long weekend, I had quite a bit of time on my hands. To take my mind off my discomfort, I marathoned “Doctor Who.” In the space of that long weekend, I watched all of series 1 and at least the first few episodes of series 2. I think I had to take a break for a nap in the middle of my first viewing of “The Christmas Invasion,” believe it or not. I first realized I was going to love “Doctor Who” upon watching the second episode of the first series, “The End of The Earth.” It was a far-future sci-fi story, and it was full of pop culture critique. It reminded me powerfully of the late, great Douglas Adams and his “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” series, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Adams was head writer for Doctor Who back in the 70’s.

How I Met Your Mother

I probably shouldn’t say this, because creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays will be wanting money from me (sorry guys, I may be an attorney, but I don’t have much in the way of cash), but I give HIMYM a significant amount of credit for me passing the bar exam on the first try back in 2009. Any attorney will tell you that the bar exam is more of an emotional challenge than a legal knowledge challenge. You have to cram a whole lot of knowledge in your brain in about two months and somehow stay sane while doing so. I needed light television didn’t really require a whole lot of thought, so I decided to try a new sitcom. It turns out HIMYM does give you more to think about than the average sitcom, but it was just what I needed to wind down after a long day of review lectures and studying. What made it even better was that Best Buy chose the moment when I needed it the most to have a sale on the first 3 seasons on DVD. I got them for $12.99 each. Definitely one of my better deals, and considering the saved sanity, money definitely well spent. The episode that cemented me as a HIMYM fan was season 1’s “Okay Awesome,” which I’ve written about enough on this here blog that I won’t bore you by repeating again!


The story of how I got into “Lost” is a bit different from the rest. For some reason, perhaps boredom, I decided to check out the season 3 finale, “Through the Looking Glass” when it originally aired. As a big-time “Lord of the Rings” fan, I spent most of the time hoping Domenic Monaghan’s character Charlie wouldn’t die, but, spoiler alert, that didn’t quite work out. The following winter (2007 into 2008), it was deep in the middle of the Writers Guild of America strike. I knew that there would be very little new television on following the holiday hiatus, and I knew that “Lost” would be one of the few shows that would have new episodes thanks to ABC’s idea to shorten the season and show all the episodes in a row. Over winter break from my second year of law school, I got myself a Netflix account. It was the very early days of Instant Watch, so I had to, you know, wait for DVDs for much of my early “Lost” watching. I think I did eventually decide to just go with watching on, though, which had all the episodes at the time. I can’t really point to a specific episode that cemented my fandom. I really loved the immersive quality of season 1. I felt like I was really stuck on an island when watching. Appropriately, the first episode I got to watch in real time was “The Constant,” which is still my favorite all-time episode of television.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

“Buffy” was another winter discovery- winter break during my third year of law school, to be precise. Sarah (are you sensing a theme here with how I make my TV discoveries) had gotten into it the previous summer, and after hearing her talk about the show so enthusiastically, I decided I needed to check it out. I think the most memorable moment of my “Buffy” catch-up was in January of that year, when I was still watching season 2. I was due to leave for New Orleans on an early flight to do some Katrina relief work on the Gulf Coast, and given the very early hour at which I’d have to leave my apartment, I decided it would be a brilliant idea to just stay up marathoning “Buffy” and “Lost” (I was doing a Great Lost Rewatch, too). It turned out to be a very, very bad idea. As Ted Moseby would say, I was “too old for that stuff,” even at age 25. I drank two cups of tea on the plane rides (there was a layover) to New Orleans, a cup of tea in the New Orleans airport, and I had a cup of coffee at Café du Monde. I’m not a coffee drinker usually (unless it’s a peppermint mocha from Starbucks), but I needed the caffeine. Plus, coffee at Café du Monde seemed like a thing to do when I had an afternoon to spend in New Orleans. Anyway, despite all that caffeine, I still fell asleep on the van ride from New Orleans to Biloxi, where we would be doing most of our work. The episode that cemented me as a “Buffy” fan was the season 1 finale, “Prophesy Girl.” Season 1 of “Buffy” in general is a little lacking because the show was still finding its feet, but “Prophesy Girl” was when it grew up a bit. The scene where Buffy expresses her reluctance to embrace her destiny was extremely powerful. She’s sixteen at the time- she shouldn’t be having to worry about prophesies predicting her death.

Veronica Mars

Yet again, you can hold Sarah responsible for yet another show on my list of late discoveries. Sarah first watched “Veronica Mars” about two or three years ago at the suggestion of her parents, and especially as she was watching the first season, she would message me with all the crazy twists that were happening. At the time, I thought the show sounded pretty ridiculous, even though I had read people raving about it online before. This past winter, on a whim, I decided to give the show a shot. I discovered that “Veronica Mars” is freaking television crack. I tend to watch each season in a bit of a whirlwind. I’m about half-way through season 3 at the moment, and I’ll be sad when there are no more “new to me” episodes to watch. Both the suspense and the characters are what makes the show so addictive. Rob Thomas seems to know how to pace out the arcing mysteries well, and the episodes where each mystery wraps up are rather legendary. I think what really drew me into the show was the character of Veronica herself. While she’s become a little insufferable in season 3 with her insistence on not trusting or accepting help from Logan, I like her snark and spirit, especially in season 1. I can’t really point to a specific episode that drew me in. The show kind of hits you like a freight train, and you’re along for the ride. Someday soon I’m going to write a post for MTVP about how Veronica continued on the legacy of Buffy, because there are a lot of similarities.

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