Hi, I’m Ali. And I was raised by my television.
Well, we can pretend that I was raised by my dad and stepmom and mom and stepdad and grandparents and nannies, depending on the day, but in all reality, it was the television that turned me into the ever-quoting, boob-tube addict you see before you.
I started simply, as most children do, on 123 Sesame Street. You know, back when Mr. Hooper was still alive and Snuffleupagus was simply Big Bird’s imaginary friend. But, soon, I tired of waiting to see if Maria and Luis would fall in love and whether Mr. Rogers would ever not wear a cardigan. (lightbulb: I wonder if my cardigan obsession comes from Mr. Rogers!)
There were the cartoons. The Smurfs. The Snorks. Gummi Bears. The Jetsons. The Flinstones. Care Bears. JEM. She-Ra Princess of Power. Strawberry Shortcake. Shirt Tales. And the other kid shows. Fraggle Rock. Muppet Show. 3-2-1 Contact. READING RAINBOW.
There were the game shoes. Double Dare. Fun House. Press Your Luck. Let’s Make a Deal. Tic Tac Dough. Wheel of Fortune (Look at this studio filled with glamorous merchandise, fabulous and exciting bonus prizes just waiting to be won…) Hollywood Squares. The Dating Game.
There were the family shows. The Cosby Show. Family Ties. The Wonder Years. Mr. Belvedere. Growing Pains. Small Wonder. Punky Brewster. Silver Spoons. Charles in Charge. Bosom Buddies. Webster. My Two Dads. Perfect Strangers. The Torkelsons. Diff’rent Strokes. Good Times. The Facts of Life. ALF. Golden Girls. Doogie Howser, M.D. Cheers. Head of the Class. Gimme a Break. The Hogan Family (remember when it was called Valerie’s Family?). Just the Ten of Us. Kate and Allie. Saved By the Bell. Full House. Who’s the Boss? Out of This World.
And the soaps and the dramas and the after-school specials and the made-for-tv movies.
Why am I telling you all of this, you ask?
Well, it's so I can set the stage as somewhat of an expert on television.
And so I can help you fill your DVR (hi Americans!) or PVR (hi Canadians!) with:
Don't write this one off as another cop drama. Oh no. This one is different. This one will stick to your bones for five entire seasons. It’s not about good guys or bad guys. It’s about THE GAME. Whether it’s the drug trade, or the longshoremen, or a flawed police department, or the boxing ring, or a crooked politician, or the falling-apart-at-the-seams school system, or Hamsterdam. It’s all part of the game. That game that is Baltimore—the top-billed main character of this series. The good guys are not always the good guys, and the bad are not always the bad. Mostly, everyone is kind of, well, both. Each character is complex, is likable, is unlikable, is flawed, is perfect, is multi-layered.
This is my absolute favorite guilty pleasure right now. I have watched my way through 2.5 seasons in an embarrassingly short amount of time. I can't stop. Kerry Washington is OMG amazing as Olivia Pope, a character who fixes everything (and I mean everything) in a wardrobe I would sell my firstborn for. And hoo boy it is scandalous. I mean, it's Washington D.C.; it's always full of things like murders, conspiracies, cover ups, dangerous liaisons, and White House affairs. And Olivia Pope is always there to make everything better, even well the scandals involve her and her fierce team of gladiators.
You don’t have to be a football fan to fall in love with this show. In fact, it’s about so much more than football—it’s about children who grow up in small towns, raised to peak in high school. Because in towns like these, it never gets better than the glory on that football field on Friday nights. We watch what happens to these characters we love as they grow up and grow out of football. We also watch what happens to the friends and family members around them, including the wonderful Coach Taylor, a man we wish more men were like. Also, there's Tami Taylor's amazing hair.
This show has arguably the best-written ensemble cast of all time. Everyone is great and the characters are so well developed that you can’t possibly figure out who your favourite is. Or who you loathe. Set in the 1960s New York City ad agency of Sterling Cooper (although that name changes several times over the series, it's hard to remember what it's called) we are transported back to a time of chain-smoking and morning scotches; of day dresses and skinny suits. The show tackles the history of the time brilliantly—the Civil Rights Movement, the Kennedy assassination, the Cuban Missile Crisis. There’s a reason that everyone raves about this show. You won’t be disappointed.
It’s full of an epic story arc that starts with a plane crash and includes things like smoke monsters, polar bears, time travel, mysterious numbers, head-spinning twists and turns, and some of the most interesting characters I have ever seen on television. This one is worth it, even though most episodes leave you with more questions than answers. Also, there's Josh Holloway.
Whoa. Prepare to get emotionally invested immediately. This one sucks you right in to this seemingly black comedy about a chemistry teacher who puts his chemically knowledge to good use when he teams up with a former student to cook meth to pay for his cancer treatment. This one starts out light and even funny but sinks you into a deep, dark place as each one of the suburbly-written, completely believable characters sinks deeper and deeper into this world of meth production. This quiet and unassuming suburban family man enters a world full of drug kingpins, Mexican cartels, and a brother-in-law who is a DEA officer.
7. American Horror Story
American Horror Story is a fascinating one. Each season uses the same core cast of actors, but they each play completely different characters in three completely different stories. Season 1: Murder House tells the tale of a haunted house in Los Angeles and the tenants who lived there (and were tormented) over many, many decades. Season 2 (my favorite of the seasons by far) is Asylum, and tells the story of an insane asylum in the 1960s. Season 3: Coven was — unsurprisingly — about a coven of witches who attend a boarding school in New Orleans. Watch for a Stevie Nicks wannabe and even a cameo from Stevie Nicks herself! Each season is dark and twisted and just the absolute perfect kind of creepy. Each character and plot line is confusing and interesting and leaves you wanting more.
This is television at its finest, really. The show centers around the Fisher family and funeral home that they run and live in. Each episode begins with the death of someone and we see just how that death affects everyone involved, including all of the Fisher family members. It’s quirky, it’s dark, it’s hilarious. It’s awesome. And it's Dexter Morgan before he was Dexter Morgan, if you can even imagine.
You should watch this one-season, 18-episode Judd Apatow brilliance for the baby Seth Rogen and baby James Franco alone. But if that's not enough of a reason for you, you should watch because it's amazing. Set in the '80s in small-town Michigan, the show revolves around the Weir siblings Linsday and Sam and (surprise!) their groups of freaks and geeks. It's funny, since it's Apatow, but it's touching too. And there's awesome music. Look out for amazing cameos from Ben Stiller, Jason Schwartzman, and yes, even Shia LaBeouf.
Sure, sure, sure, it's about the zombie apocalypse. But once you get past the fact that there are a lot of, well, kind of gross walking dead people who definitely want to eat your brains (called "walkers"—no one's called a zombie on this show), this show is about so much more. It's funny, it's action-packed, it's about relationships, and there's even a bit of romance and love triangles and babies in there. There are unexpected twists and turns at every twist and turn and I watch most episodes on the edge of my seat worried if the characters I have grown to love are going to get eaten this week.
I will admit to you, I didn't want to watch Sons of Anarchy, and put up a bit of a fight. Motorcycles? REALLY? But, you guys. It's not really even about motorcycles. It's about FAMILY, and when your friends are your family, and how far you'd go to protect the people you love. The relationships are complex and deep (and hot!). The action is intense and nail-bitey. It's a beautiful, beautiful show that keeps me on my toes and makes me miss it during the off-season. And there's even half a season that takes place in Ireland — which already bumps it up in my book.