For most of us — all of us, really — we can equate our time to a monetary value. Whether it relates to our hourly wage in our job or the parking meter we dropped a few quarters in, we can easily calculate what we have invested in a given situation.
And viewing television is no different.
Every time you plop your butt down on the couch or slip into bed to view a little boob tube, you're investing a very valuable commodity into what you choose to watch. Your time or your money — or both if you're still paying for cable or satellite TV — is something to consider. So we thought we might help with a simple list of some of the best ways to invest your hard-earned dough and remaining heartbeats, because no one wants to be on their deathbed thinking of all the shitty TV they once watched.
There's no particular order here, just a bunch of shows that are more than worth your time.
Walking Dead has set the bar so high for this type of show that it will take some serious work for anyone to ever really break into the zombie/apocalypse television world for a long, long time. Obviously, the way the current season started was something beyond must-see TV for hardcore Walking Dead fans, but casual fans and non-fans were also captivated by the idea of just who was going to get the bat from Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), an excellent addition to the cast to the show in its seventh season. While the show’s pacing is not always for everyone, it is still a slow and delightfully disgusting burn that shines bright on the current television horizon.
Last Man on Earth
Will Forte is a comedy god right now. While keen fans of his earlier work might have seen this level of subtle comic gold coming from him, much of America did not. Last Man on Earth is the best show on Sunday nights — save a couple HBO exceptions we’ll discuss later. A stellar cast that plays off Forte’s brilliance magically, there hasn’t been a bad episode yet and we’re already into the show’s third season. Kristen Schaal is hilarious as Forte’s onscreen love interest, Carol, but fellow survivors of a virus that killed 99.99 percent of the world’s population include Mary Steenburgen, January Jones, and Mel Rodriguez. And they're all equally good.
Even though Yul Brynner’s likeness is nowhere to be seen, Westworld is pretty goddamned compelling television. There are twists and turns given to this cool collision of ideas that most viewers would not have seen coming as the anticipation for this series grew over the last year. When you have robots with artificial intelligence, corporate intrigue, a possibly dystopian future, and a Western all wrapped into one thing, what could go wrong? On top of all that, you also have Sir Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright leading the way. And there is really not much to complain about. Like Walking Dead, it is a slow burn at times. But all good things come to those who wait, right?
Sometimes you just need silliness. Clever, well-meaning fun with good writing and good performances. As easy as it would be to ignore a show like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it is consistently funny and has managed to remain fresh into its fourth season on the air. Love him or hate him, Andy Samberg has found a nice little niche for himself in the lead role, and he’s supported by some tremendously funny co-stars, including the always awesome Andre Braugher, whose deadpan police captain Raymond Holt has evolved nicely over the years. Compared to many other shows that try really hard to be funny, Brooklyn Nine-Nine never seems to force anything.
What’s better than a well-crafted mini-documentary about animals and their habitats? Nature, the TV show, is fun and informative, much like its real-life counterpart. The episodes are beautifully shot, and you walk away from viewing them a more intelligent person, which is never bad. One of Nature's most refreshing qualities is how it confronts the reality of our ever changing global ecosystem in a way that doesn't pander to the lowest common dramatic denominator. There is no "bleeding heart" journalism here. Nature gives the viewer the facts and it is up to viewer to determine what they think and how they feel. The show runs on channel 8 locally, but you can also stream full episodes online as well. Do yourself a favor and check out “Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem.” Those little critters are pretty rad indeed.
Read on for more of Tom Reardon's TV picks.
American Horror Story
This gem just keeps plugging along, and the last two seasons have completely redeemed the utterly forgettable witch season, "Coven." Even though the current season recently wrapped, it deserves to be mentioned as one of the best shows on TV because loads of folks are still catching up to the finale thanks to their DVRs. As great as the cast is, it’s really Ryan Murphy who is the star here. The man continually comes up with clever, scary situations that are just teetering on the edge of reality enough to make the viewer think about what they might do in a similar situation. Season 6’s Roanoke series-inside-a-series innovation made for excellent drama and a nice little dig against reality TV to boot.
It’s easy to love Donald Glover and Atlanta, which completed its 10-episode first season on FX in the beginning of November. Luckily, it’s available on-demand for those who snoozed on this offbeat and unpredictable show about, basically, two cousins trying navigate Atlanta’s hip-hop culture. Watching Glover’s Atlanta will make you laugh — and think.
Supergirl/Flash/Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow
Say what you will about superhero shows, but they are flat-out fun to watch. Sure, they are predictable in that you know who will come out on top at the end of every episode. But if you just want to escape the workaday life for an hour, there is nothing more fun on TV than watching either Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, or even Legends of Tomorrow on the CW. While much of the acting isn’t great, and some of the villains are kind of goofy, the shows are fun and there is enough story to keep you interested for an hour, and better yet, make you curious to see what will happen next week. Just like the comic books you grew up with in the '70s.
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While on the subject of comic book superheroes, look no further than Luke Cage, which is currently ruling Netflix. The title character, played by Mike Colter, burst onto TV screens during Netflix’s awesome Jessica Jones series last year as a recurring character and sometime love interest for Kristen Ritter’s Jessica Jones. In this adaption of the Marvel comic, though, Luke Cage weaves his particular brand of protective street justice with Harlem as a stunning backdrop. The soundtrack is also ridiculously cool, and sharp-dressed villains are everywhere. It will be interesting to watch Colter and the team at Marvel continue to develop this character, who is maybe the most interesting superhero of them all on TV right now.
For many, there is still a pretty sour taste in the old mouth for Sarah Jessica Parker from the Sex in the City days, and maybe deservedly so after the debacle of the two terrible post-series films. Here though, Parker and her TV husband, Thomas Haden Church, are hilariously paired in this excellent half-hour HBO show from Sharon Horgan. Church's portrayal of Robert Dufresne is nothing short of delightful. There is a scene in the second episode where Haden Church does a de facto "mic drop" that is absolutely priceless and, at least for us, was the moment we knew for sure this show was going to be great. Molly Shannon, Talia Balsam, and Jemaine Clement are also quite entertaining on this cutting and clever show about the difficult nature of middle-aged relationships.