TELEVISION: 5 Random Shows…

Wherein I talk a little bit about five different shows, the first five that came to mind, and their best episodes…

In the order that I thought of them…

Breaking Bad: Well-written, well-cast show about the descent of an ordinary man into a drug-dealing monster. Powerful, filled with vivid characters on interesting journeys. Bryan Cranston has redefined his career here, and Aaron Paul has launched his. Best episodes: “…And the Bag’s in the River” (1.03), “Cray Handful of Nothin'” (1.06), “Down” (2.04), “Peekaboo” (2.06), “4 Days Out” (2.09), “One Minute” (3.07), “Fly” (3.10).

In Treatment: Engaging, slow-paced HBO drama that plays with format and television storytelling in very interesting ways. Acting showcase for its very talented casts. A therapist, his patients, and his therapist, every day of the week. Currently sitting in that awkward place between semi-cancellation and official death. Individual episodes are hard to pick out, but check out season one: even the maddening plotlines climax spectacularly.

The Wire: Though more conventional than In Treatment in format, The Wire is utterly unique in its storytelling: slow, working at the pace of real life, and practically a documentary about inner-city life and the failure of the American dream. I only started ‘getting’ it in late season one, and liking it mid season two, but by early season three I was consuming episodes at an insane rate. Best episodes: It’s hard to pick ‘best’ episodes of The Wire since it’s so serialised. That said, trying my best to pick standouts and probably missing many, my best guesses are “The Buys” (1.03), “Old Cases” (1.04), “The Hunt” (1.11), “All Prologue” (2.06), “Middle Ground” (3.11), “Misgivings” (4.10), “That’s Got His Own” (4.12), “Final Grades” (4.13), “Took” (5.07), “Late Editions” (5.09), “-30-” (5.10).

Xena: Warrior Princess: Note that this is not a list of best shows, or my favourites, but of shows off the top of my head.  And Xena, despite its place in the pantheon of kinda-cheesy 90’s TV, was actually pretty damn good. In addition to having one of the strongest interplays between two leads in television, the show also gave us Lucy Lawless, a force of nature who completely owns, and improves, the show in its shaky earlier years. As the show went on, the writers became more adventurous with serialised storytelling and character arcs, and I appreciated that a lot. It really kicks into gear with the show’s third season. The show was also hilarious, with some comedic gems that far outstrip many sitcom episodes. In my recent rewatch, I reached mid-season four, so that’s as far as my knowledge really goes. I must catch up sometime… Best episodes: “Warrior…Princess” (1.15), “The Return of Callisto” (2.05), “Warrior…Princess…Tramp” (2.06), “A Day in the Life” (2.15), “The Furies” (3.01), “Been There, Done That” (3.02), “Gabrielle’s Hope” (3.05), “The Debt” (3.06/3.07), “Maternal Instincts” (3.11), “The Bitter Suite” (3.12), “A Family Affair” (4.03).

My Name is Earl: One of my favourite comedies. Ever. An astonishingly talented cast, with witty writing and a great number of recurring gags and characters. The show had some really iffy episodes, and later in its run some downright bad ones,  but it also had a number of my personal television classics. Best episodes: “Broke Joy’s Fancy Figurine” (1.06), “Joy’s Wedding” (1.08), “Y2K” (1.19), “The Bounty Hunter” (1.21), “Larceny of a Kitty Cat” (2.04), “South of the Border” (2.10/2.11), “The Trial” (2.23), “Bad Earl” (3.13), “No Heads and a Duffel Bag” (3.17), “Joy in a Bubble” (4.03), “Quit Your Snitchin'” (4.07), “Witch Lady” (4.21), “Pinky” (4.22).

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