Are you in mourning over the end of Breaking Bad? Wondering if you’ll ever find anything quite so gripping again? Don’t be sad! Why not think of this as an opportunity to catch up with all those other great shows you missed? Here’s my recommendation of the boxed sets you should be buying. Walter who?
I’m mystified as to why this show doesn’t have more of a following – it’s smart, slick and, although it’s a slow burner, once you allow yourself to be drawn into the laid back cool of its Elmore Leonard inspired world, it’s utterly compelling. A never-better Timothy Olyphant was born to play US Marshal Raylan Givens, a man out of time who’s great with a gun but not so good with everything else, and he’s surrounded by quality actors (including a career-best turn from The Shield’s Walton Goggins as Givens’ old friend/adversary Boyd Crowder). As you’d expect, given the source material, great dialogue and colourful characters abound, and the show is laced with a dry humour that elevates it far above the run of the mill cop shows.
OK, this is old news to those gripped when the show first aired, but if you missed it then, it’s still worth catching now. No show tackled the realities of the frightening new post-9/11 world with more aplomb than this dark reimagining of a shiny 70s show – even if it took those realities and fired them into space. Dealing with issues as varied and controversial as religious freedom, abortion rights and suicide bombings, it certainly wasn’t scared to ask the big questions, and if it never quite managed to deliver all the answers, it still deserves credit as the show that put the smart back into sci-fi. Plus it gave us Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace, the screwed up, cigar smoking, superior-officer-punching wreck of a woman who is easily one of the best female characters ever to grace a TV screen.
Sons of Anarchy
Yes, the later seasons tend to use excessive violence to hide weaknesses in the storytelling (and that’s saying something, as this was always a show for the strong of stomach) but Sons of Anarchy at its peak was one of the best things on TV, and it still remains a thrilling ride. Variously described as ‘Hamlet in black leather’ and ‘the Sopranos on two wheels’, at its heart the show is a family drama set in the hard-edged world of motorcycle gangs, anchored by three towering performances: an almost unrecognisable Charlie Hunnam, transformed into a shaggy haired beefcake (see him before 50 Shades ruins him forever), a terrifying Ron Perlman and, as fearless matriarch Gemma, award-winning Katey Sagal.
House of Cards
The original UK version remains watchable as ever, but this recent remake added some American polish and movie star casting. Focusing on the Machiavellian activities of wronged politician Kevin Spacey and his Lady Macbeth of a wife, Robin Wright, this is the dark side of The West Wing. The best political drama in years? You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.
Tragically cut short before its 5 season arc was complete, this Western drama is a bittersweet delight, especially the third, final season, which is weighed down by the whiff of imminent cancellation. But the brilliant first season is flawless – a top notch cast, a script that turns profanity into poetry and realism so convincing you can smell the sweat and horse manure. Do yourself a favour and check it out.
Don’t fancy any TV? Well, you could always read my book. Just sayin.