I have just finished watching The West Wing. Yes, I know I am a few years late, but HONESTLY, good gol’ dang, it is GOOD. Good like I am now one of those “Bartlet for President” people. And current! I am not joking that I would watch an episode and the next morning Steve Inskeep would be talking about some theme I just watched from an episode that aired in 2003, cray cray. The show may have ended in 2006, but other than the blackberries and clunky desktops, you’d never know it.
A day before knowing I would finish the series, I asked my friends on Facebook to weigh in on what they thought I should watch next. I said “Alright friends. I have two, count em’ two, episodes of the West Wing left. I love this show like I loved Friday Night Lights before it. And before that: The Wire, Arrested Development, Transparent, Damages, and Six Feet Under. I can’t do violence or gore, I don’t love sci-fi (but I did enjoy Battlestar Galactica), and I am afraid of zombies. For real. I am interested in your favorite series television. What have I not listed here that you think I should watch, and briefly–knowing me like you do–tell me why I should watch it. Thank you in advance for your thoughtful responses.”
What I got was an avalanche in suggestions. There were so many I will not list them all here. I will list the ones that seem like serious contenders within the parameters that were given (not violent, gorey or include the undead). I will include some of the sci-fi, mainly because my beloved likes it, and we watch TV together, and I love her.
One other note before their list; in writing the question, the other thing I didn’t do was list ALL of the shows I have loved and watched. I will list those, with any commentary, first.
What I have watched:
- Six Feet Under: This was the first series show I ever loved. This, for a long time, was the one to be beat. This show holds so many dear memories for me. Best series ending besides maybe M*A*S*H*. There is only one show I hold in higher regard.
- The Wire. Many have said it before, so I will just repeat what is true: best television ever made. I know its a pain to stream or find. Find it. Watch it. Persevere through Season 2. Struggle through the dialog. Love me some Omar.
- Sherlock: Brilliant. IMDb says (2010 – ) which hopefully indicates more seasons will be made. Oh please oh please oh please.
- Orange is the New Black (haven’t started the season just released as of this post): I love Crazy Eyes. That is all.
- House of Cards: Watched this before watching the West Wing. I love Bartlet, but dang do I love to hate to love to hate Frank Underwood. Kevin Spacey = brilliant. (note: see below about Damages)
- Mad Men (2 seasons to go). My sweetie having worked advertising for many years comes with a “been there, lived that, still fixing my liver” attitude about it, so this was a tough sell at first. However, it is heartbreaking and addictive and we are both suckers for Don Draper and the silver foxy man Roger Sterling. This is the show we will go back to first.
- Call the Midwife (I’ve only seen Season 1 & 2): This show. All that is good and hard and wonderful and heartbreaking. Beautiful and beautiful. Yes, this show is what the world needs more of.
- Derek: One of my favorites quotes of all TV comes from this show, season 2. “If you haven’t spoken to someone for a long time, call them up. If you haven’t spoken to your mum, call her up. It’s never too late, until it is.” This is Ricky Gervais as you haven’t seen him (unless you follow him on social media – his animal rights work is the stuff of heros).
- Friday Night Lights: Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Coach Taylor and Riggins. SO much more than football.
- Downton Abbey. Just good ol’ upstairs downstairs Sunday night drama.
- Arrested Development: loved the old seasons, don’t really “get” the newer netflix stuff, but hilarious and must see TV if you need to laugh (and you do, dear reader, need to laugh). I did—in fact—LOL through so much of this. I had to watch some episodes twice.
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Laughing (see above). Three episodes in. Looking forward to more.
I’ve seen and enjoyed (honorable mentions):
- The L Word (I think I am supposed to mention it as a queer woman, but it’s just good femme/butch lady drama. I’ve heard it was a good follow up to Queer as Folk. “Normal” gay life, like Pride year round.
- Parenthood: A keeper line from the show that is a regular part of our marriage “I hear you and I see you.” Also, Peter Krause, the MN boy made it big because he is so wonderful. I haven’t finished this one yet either, so please, no spoilers in the comments.
- Damages: Glenn Close. A must watch before watching House of Cards. Will definitely warm you up for the completely diabolical and distrust of everyone theme.
- Battlestar Galactica: Starbuck. So say we all. Needed it to end a little sooner, but always kept me coming back for more.
- Lie to me: All about reading body language. Watched it when it was on, but never followed the whole thing. I like this show like I liked House. Good show to iron to.
- 30 Rock: I like it. I love Tina and Alec. Not sure why this has never been a must watch for me. Perhaps I prefer drama? Anyway, throwing this one in the mix.
- Big Bang Theory: nerdy and awesome. Good to watch reruns, and iron to.
- X-Files: Classic. Perhaps I’ll go back and rewatch while the new season is getting filmed. Exciting.
And now, the wisdom of my friends:
First I am listing the two obvious shows that “everyone” says to watch, but I won’t. Not now anyway. Too dark. Too violent. Nope. Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.
Ok, with those two giant popular elephants out of the way – here is the list heartily recommended by a whole bunch of smart, kind, thoughtful people. All of them have at least 8 stars on IMDb. *means several mentions **means added after this was originally posted
- *Orphan Black: A streetwise hustler is pulled into a compelling conspiracy after witnessing the suicide of a girl who looks just like her. Many said this might be “too dark” for me, but urged me to watch it anyway.
- Better Call Saul: The trials and tribulations of criminal lawyer, Saul Goodman.
- *Firefly: Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them. Sounds pretty sci-fi to me, but SO many people said watch it, I figure it might be a little like BSG.
- *Grace and Frankie: Two of my favorite actors, together, aging beautifully. More Lily after West Wing? Yes please.
- Big Love: Just under 8 stars, but a story about polygamist and his relationship with his three wives just sounds really intriguing enough to try it.
- Party Down: aspiring actors in catering/restaurants – sounds like Pizzeria Lola a little. And I love Pizzeria Lola.
- *The Newsroom: A newsroom undergoes some changes in its workings and morals as a new team is brought in, bringing unexpected results for its existing news anchor. Also Sorkin and Jeff Daniels.
- Sports Night: Sorkin with a great cast. Benson, Nate Fischer/Adam Braverman and Will Bailey.
- Last Tango in Halifax: Re-united after 50+ years apart, Celia and Alan decide to marry. At age 16, Alan’s late wife failed to pass on his letter with apology for missing first date and forwarding address. Cute old people.
- *Rev.: The misadventures of an Anglican vicar. Did I mention I am/was a huge church nerd?
- A Place to Call Home: A mysterious woman is perched between the harsh legacy of World War II and the hope of a new life in Australia.
- Monarch of the Glen: Archie MacDonald, a young restaurateur is called back to his childhood home of Glenbogle where he is told he is the new Laird of Glenbogle. Though it has a 7.7 star rating I am keeping this one on the list because 1. Scotland and 2. Restauranteur.
- *Bloodline: We’re not bad people, we did a bad thing. Hmmmm…
- Rosemary and Thyme: 7.6 stars. Staying on this list due to my high opinion of the recommender. Set amongst the stunning gardens of Europe, Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme, two professional gardeners, find themselves drawn into solving mysterious crimes.
- Elementary: Sherlock, updated, set in New York.
- *Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries: female sleuth sashays through the back lanes and jazz clubs of late 1920s Melbourne, fighting injustice with her pearl-handled pistol and her dagger-sharp wit.
- *Northern Exposure: No, I haven’t seen this classic. Yes, I totally will watch it.
- *Gilmore Girls: My sweetie couldn’t be more thrilled this was suggested. This is one of her all time favorites that she’s been wanting me to see for a long time.
- The Good Wife: lawyer married to a politician and gives up her life to be a mom, but then goes back to her career. Strong characters and scandal!
- Carnivàle: Fascinating characters, questions of meaning/purpose/destiny, and good vs. evil.
- Once Upon a Time: My sister recommended this and Grey’s Anatomy. I love her and respect her way of thinking/being in the world, so these two stay on the list.
- *Luther: Ummmm, more Stringer Bell? Yum and yes. A crime drama series starring Idris Elba as a near-genius murder detective whose brilliant mind can’t always save him from the dangerous violence of his passions.
- Life on Mars: After being involved in a car accident in 2006, DCI Sam Tyler wakes up to find himself in 1973, the era of ‘Sweeney’ type policing, Mark III Cortinas, and flared trousers. Interesting.
- Pushing Daisies: A pie-maker, with the power to bring dead people back to life, solves murder mysteries with his alive-again childhood sweetheart, a cynical private investigator, and a lovesick waitress. I most shows with a restaurant theme, and pie? Well then.
- *United States of Tara: Toni Colette plays a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Seriously wonderful, compassionate, hilarious TV.
- *Buffy the Vampire Slayer: yes, undead. Also, lots of fans. Many of whom I love.
- *Treme: Life after Hurricane Katrina. Done by The Wire guys. Recommended by the people who first told me of The Wire, whose taste in art and shows I trust completely.
- Twin Peaks: Really? This one only lasted two seasons? HUGE cult following. Seems like I should watch it just on principle.
- Boston Legal: Similarities to West Wing: constant discussions to follow. Shatner and Spader.
- *The Great British Bake Off: Bakers attempt three challenges each week trying to impress the judges enough to go through to the next round and eventually are crowned Britain’s best amateur baker. This will top my watching list based on the subject matter and my current obsessions.
- High Maintenance: A nameless cannabis delivery guy delivers his much-needed medication to stressed-out New Yorkers. What can I say, while I have MUCH baggage about drug culture, I have a soft spot for the cannabis people and what they believe.
- Moone Boy: OK, you got me. Imaginary friend and Irish family. I’ll give it a shot.
- *Broad City: Broad City follows two women throughout their daily lives in New York City, making the smallest and mundane events hysterical and disturbing to watch all at the same time.
- Silicon Valley: In the high-tech gold rush of modern Silicon Valley, the people most qualified to succeed are the least capable of handling success. A comedy partially inspired by Mike Judge’s own experiences as a Silicon Valley engineer in the late 1980s.
- **The Fosters: Teenager Callie Jacobs is placed in a foster home with a lesbian couple and their blend of biological, adoptive and foster children. Shenanigans ensue.
- **The Vicar of Dibley: true, I haven’t actually gotten around to this one. Quirky and Anglican, again, for the win.
- **Peep Show: a British television programme (that’s how you know its British, its spelled funny). Two dysfunctional friends share their lives while trying to adjust to the professional world.
- Dr. Who: Because it’s Doctor friggin Who. And my sweetie would love me forever if I tried to watch this.
Honorable mentions (some contain undead, violence and gore. Some just don’t hold interest for me, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth mentioning at all.):
- Daredevil: Crime-fighting super hero show with Vincent D’Onofrio. Current.
- *Justified: Old-school U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is reassigned from Miami to his childhood home in the poor, rural coal-mining towns in Eastern Kentucky.
- The Vampire Diaries. My sisters good friend from high school says she just started and can’t stop watching. This seems to break my undead rule, but there you go.
- True Detective (Gorey, can’t do it, sorry.)
- Alpha House: more White House/government shenanigans, but funny. Yeah, maybe. 7.5 stars on IMDb.
- Scott & Bailey: Two female detectives, one motherly, the other emotionally immature, have varying levels of success applying their eccentric outlooks on life to their police cases and private lives.
- The Killing: A police investigation, the saga of a grieving family, and a Seattle mayoral campaign all interlock after the body of 17-year-old Rosie Larsen is found in the trunk of a submerged car. Sounds much too dark for me, but hey – if that is your thing, I hear its great.
- One Tree Hill: the basketball version of Friday Night Lights.
- Flight of the Conchords: Am I cool enough to get this show? Bret and Jemaine are Flight of the Conchords, a folk-rock band from New Zealand living in New York City in search of stardom.
- *Nurse Jackie: This is a tough one. A drug-addicted nurse struggles to find a balance between the demands of her frenetic job at a New York City hospital and an array of personal dramas. Maybe I’ll write more about this later – but caring about and watching/participating in the life of high people is real hard for me. A little too close / too soon perhaps? Maybe. Addicted people and abandonment have been a reoccuring theme I have tried to make peace with. I am not sure I am there yet.
- Castle: includes the word serial killer in the description. Too dark for right now, for me. But I hear it’s real good.
- The Mentalist: A famous “psychic” outs himself as a fake and starts working as a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation so he can find “Red John,” the madman who killed his wife and daughter.
- Parks & Rec: I don’t think this show is my taste of funny? Perhaps I am wrong. The absurd antics of an Indiana town’s public officials as they pursue sundry projects to make their city a better place.
- Deadwood: A show set in the late 1800s, revolving around the characters of Deadwood, South Dakota; a town of deep corruption and crime. I hear it’s quite good, but shoot-em-up-spaghetti-western meets a long time ago, I don’t know. Maybe.
- The Following: Yes, Kevin Bacon. No, psychotic killer gains a following. Dark, yes. Me, not yet.
- Veronica Mars: After her best friend is murdered and her father is removed as county sheriff, Veronica Mars dedicates her life to cracking the toughest mysteries in the affluent town of Neptune.
- True Blood: Vampires = undead. I hear it’s real good, just not for me.
- Nashville: I love me some Tammy Taylor (Friday Night Lights). A fading country music star comes into conflict with a rising teen star.
- Hell’s Kitchen: I prefer and love to watch Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America – far less asshole. Actually productive in helping people. Love Gordon Ramsay, but prefer him in his natural habitat and not in the US.
- Scandal: A former White House Communications Director starts her own crisis management firm only to realize her clients are not the only ones with secrets.
- Drop Dead Diva: A vapid aspiring model killed in a car crash gets brought back to life as an intelligent, overweight lawyer, hoping to find the meaning of inner beauty.
- *Veep: Julia Louis-Dreyfus is said to be perfectly awesome in this show. I’ve never loved her like others do, but lots of favorites say this is great. Former Senator Selina Meyer finds that being Vice President of the United States is nothing like she hoped and everything that everyone ever warned her about.
- Rectify: Daniel Holden must put his life back together after serving 19 years on Georgia’s Death Row before DNA evidence calls his conviction into question.
- The Americans: Two Soviet intelligence agents pose as a married couple to spy on the American government.
- Misfits: Young law-breakers doing community service get hit by lightening and get superpowers. Huh?
- Boondocks: Animated. Huey and Riley move away from the city and out to the suburbs with their irascible grandfather. Biting socio-political commentary ensues.
- Dead Like Me: Undead. Nope, but its got more than 8 stars, so if you like the undead/that sort of thing…
- Monk: OCD detective. Sweet.
- Archer: James Bond + Mad Men = awesome? That’s what I hear.
- Murdoch Mysteries: In the 1890s, William Murdoch uses radical forensic techniques for the time, including fingerprinting and trace evidence, to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders.
- Grantchester: BBC mysteries focused on a young curate near Cambridge, England, 1950s
- White Collar: A white collar criminal agrees to help the FBI catch other white collar criminals using his expertise as an art and securities thief, counterfeiter, and conman.
- Sense8: It can be a bit gruesome but totally worth it? A group of people around the world are suddenly linked mentally, and must find a way to survive being hunted by those who see them as a threat to the world’s order.
There you have it. The most current group wisdom as of June 2015 from a great group of people.