Join 3,414 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Best TV shows to keep you hooked?
December 17, 2012 8:52 PM   Subscribe

What TV shows consumed your life?

I'm looking for TV shows that completely hooked you, absorbed you, and kept you up all night saying, "Just one more episode!" Preferably these would be shows that are either off the air or have already had quite a few seasons. Examples of shows I've enjoyed include Prison Break and Dollhouse. I'm looking for smart characters, plot twists, and cliffhangers galore. Get at me.
posted by frizzle to Media & Arts (144 answers total) 159 users marked this as a favorite
 
American Horror Story
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:54 PM on December 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


Battlestar Galactica
posted by astapasta24 at 8:54 PM on December 17, 2012 [36 favorites]


NCIS forever and for always. 9 seasons and going strong.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:55 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


ER
posted by ootandaboot at 8:55 PM on December 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


smart characters, plot twists, and cliffhangers galore

Breaking Bad.
posted by googly at 8:56 PM on December 17, 2012 [26 favorites]


The Wire
Deadwood
posted by carmicha at 8:56 PM on December 17, 2012 [22 favorites]


Covert Affairs. Edge of my seat every episode!
posted by cecic at 8:57 PM on December 17, 2012


The West Wing + Deadwood.
posted by heyjude at 8:57 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Battlestar Galactica (the reboot)
Doctor Who
Mad Men
Spaced
That Mitchell & Webb Look
The Catherine Tate Show
QI
Sherlock (Dying for the next season. DYING.)

Next up is Fringe, which I'm hoping will do the same.
posted by Space Kitty at 8:57 PM on December 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Mad Men, The Sopranos and The Wire.
posted by chiababe at 8:57 PM on December 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I watched the entirety -- six seasons -- of the Sopranos over the course of a single month by having it constantly on around me at all times.
posted by griphus at 8:57 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Downton Abbey
posted by Neekee at 8:58 PM on December 17, 2012 [18 favorites]


Breaking Bad and Mad Men (before that, The Sopranos).
posted by la petite marie at 8:58 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Community, Scrubs, and Parks and Rec and Arrested Development
posted by discopolo at 8:58 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Veronica Mars

Yeah, I said it.
posted by ODiV at 8:58 PM on December 17, 2012 [38 favorites]


Boston Legal, The West Wing, Better Off Ted - in that order.
posted by dotgirl at 8:59 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I totally binged on the first season of Supernatural. Haven't had time to go beyond that because I know I'll burn through the whole season in a day or three if given the opportunity.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:59 PM on December 17, 2012


The Wire
Mad Men (i went thru 5 seasons on netflix in a month when i was unemployed last year)
Game of Thrones
Babylon 5
Lost (i have never so literally been on the edge of my seat)
posted by sio42 at 9:00 PM on December 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Supernatural ruins lives. Let it ruin yours.
posted by elizardbits at 9:02 PM on December 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


The West Wing. Recently, Homeland. Parks and Rec. Crap, there's a theme ...
posted by kat518 at 9:03 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not the whole thing, but Jesus H. Christ, season three.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:03 PM on December 17, 2012 [16 favorites]


Well you probably wouldn't agree. Gilmore Girls.

Recently, Breaking Bad.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:05 PM on December 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Dexter (I could go through a 12-episode season in 2 days)
Buffy
BSG (there is a Portlandia sketch about this)
Breaking Bad (although for me it's so intense that I can't watch more than two maybe three episodes in a row, but I find myself thinking about it a lot)
Law & Order SVU (remember when USA used to run those marathons all day/weekend/week long?)
posted by radioamy at 9:05 PM on December 17, 2012


Twin Peaks was one I saw well after it was released and had me completely absorbed.

The Almighty Johnsons was as 'pageturner' as TV can be because DAMNIT DOES HE FIND THE FRIGG OR NOT? I ran through the second series fast as can be.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 9:08 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oz if prison break doesn't have you prisoned-out

UK spy series Spooks.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 9:09 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The amount of time I spent thinking about Lost when it was on the air was bordering on unhealthy.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:10 PM on December 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Breaking Bad, oh my god.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:10 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Avatar: The Last Airbender
posted by catwash at 9:11 PM on December 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


Nthing Battlestar Galactica. A TV show has never affected me quite like BSG.

Buffy (well, at least the earlier seasons) and Veronica Mars are also awesome.
posted by Defying Gravity at 9:11 PM on December 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


ER, The West Wing, and oddly enough Brothers and Sisters (the relationships of the characters drew me into that one).

Bought the boxed set of The West Wing and still watch it over and over.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:15 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Stargate SG1 and Atlantis - couldn't get enough! Became quite attached to the characters!
posted by Youremyworld at 9:16 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Firefly. You will, however, feel angry about its cancellation when you watch the last episode. Then you must watch the movie "Serenity".
posted by 1367 at 9:16 PM on December 17, 2012 [19 favorites]


The only one I don't see listed yet that had me staying up all night for "just one more episode" is 24. The other two were Prison Break and The Wire.

Prison Break is the only one that I was glad to be rid of when it finally ended. Those cliff hangers were like crack, and they just kept getting more and more ridiculous while I could only feel worse and worse for being unable to simply walk away.
posted by Balonious Assault at 9:21 PM on December 17, 2012


Six Feet Under. Six Feet Under!
posted by yaymukund at 9:22 PM on December 17, 2012 [17 favorites]


I couldn't stop watching Freaks and Geeks (well, until I got to the end of the first season, and realized with horror that there WEREN'T ANY MORE EPISODES). I'm still grieving the abrupt end of that show.
posted by Happydaz at 9:24 PM on December 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Deep Space Nine (the first serialized Star Trek). Also, I'm going to second Gilmore Girls.
posted by Aquaman at 9:25 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


The first three seasons of Damages. The fourth season was just ok. The fifth (and final) season is so intense that even though it ended months ago, and I started watching it as it aired, I am only on the third episode. Not because it is bad, but because I am *SO* into the characters that I literally cannot breathe when it is on. I get panicky for days every time I watch an episode. I mean, Ellen -- is she -- no, don't tell me, no spoilers!
posted by lesli212 at 9:25 PM on December 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Veronica Mars, Misfits and... Revenge... (stop laughing!!)
posted by latch24 at 9:26 PM on December 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I just blazed through The Corner this past weekend. Only 6 episodes but so compelling.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:26 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Carnivale
posted by sio42 at 9:31 PM on December 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


Justified. I watched all three seasons in a couple weeks. Elmore Leonard!
posted by fshgrl at 9:31 PM on December 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


NYPD Blue is an outstanding show.
posted by phaedon at 9:34 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Wire, The West Wing, Veronica Mars, Edge of Darkness (really old British drama you probably can't get legally), Sherlock.
posted by Joh at 9:34 PM on December 17, 2012


The Wire.
posted by 6spd at 9:34 PM on December 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Alias was like this for me - highly addictive.
posted by medusa at 9:35 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Wire
Rome
Sopranos
Downton Abbey
Entourage
Intelligence
Game of thrones
The office (British)
Breaking Bad
posted by beccaj at 9:38 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Office (US)
posted by John Cohen at 9:40 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm old, but:

M*A*S*H
Dallas (the original version)
All in the Family (Archie Bunker)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:40 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, I'll admit it: I loved Ally McBeal. Except, of course, for the final season, which was just....disappointing.

Oh, and Northern Exposure. The final season of that one was a little weird too.

Sigh.
posted by Boogiechild at 9:42 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, this is my embarrassing post about Dawson's Creek (I watched all 6 seasons of in 2 weeks). But it's probably not what you're looking for.

Smallville
Wonderfalls
Veronica Mars
Twin Peaks
La Femme Nikita (the one from the 90s)
Alias
Game of Thrones
Firefly
Friday Night Lights
Lost
posted by Bunglegirl at 9:42 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not mentioned yet:
Sons of Anarchy
Boardwalk Empire
The Good Wife
The Walking Dead
Spartacus
The Borgias
Haven
Mad Dogs
Silk
Suits
Luther
The Shadow Line
The Pillars of the Earth
Nurse Jackie
White Collar
posted by unliteral at 9:47 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Shield? No one has said the shield?
posted by pearlybob at 9:49 PM on December 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


2nding Boardwalk Empire, and for good fancy cheese, The Tudors.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:49 PM on December 17, 2012


Three that haven't been mentioned yet:

Parade's End - BBC production, based on the novel by Ford Maddox Ford, adapted for television by Tom Stoppard.

Rake - ABC (Australian) production. Features a scallywag lawyer defending a series of interesting clients. Many famous Australian actors have guest spots (often the clients) in each episode including Sam Neil, Hugo Weaving and Noah Taylor. Set in Sydney, it shows the city off beautifully. But I would only recommend the first season.

Archer - Animated spy series.
posted by Pranksome Quaine at 9:51 PM on December 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


West Wing, Firefly, The Good Wife, Glee, 6 Feet Under.
posted by theora55 at 9:51 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Walking Dead
The Wire
Justified
The Sopranos
Homeland
24
Alias
The Shield
posted by MoonOrb at 9:51 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


In addition to the previously mentioned BSG, Buffy, Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under (up to a point) and Nurse Jackie: Queer as Folk and Phryne Fisher.
posted by gingerest at 9:52 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It humiliates me to admit what I gushing fan I am of How I Met Your Mother. Just finally got caught up last night after a two day binge of Season 7 and all of Season 8 so far.
posted by Sara C. at 9:52 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Burn Notice
posted by mai at 9:53 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Queer as Folk was awesome.
posted by pearlybob at 9:54 PM on December 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Walking Dead
Vampire Diaries
Game of Thrones
The Borgias
Copper
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Voyager
Boardwalk Empire
Queer as Folk (US & UK)
posted by wandering_not_lost at 9:55 PM on December 17, 2012


Most recent has been the BBC comedy Getting On.
posted by Abiezer at 9:55 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Sopranos is the best television I have seen.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:56 PM on December 17, 2012


mirai shonen konan Future Boy Conan
posted by Infernarl at 9:56 PM on December 17, 2012


also teen wofl
posted by elizardbits at 9:56 PM on December 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


The X-Files! Although the last three seasons are not great, the first six are AWESOME.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 9:57 PM on December 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


Another one for Twin Peaks. Watched the entire series in 2 weeks. Would have done it much faster if i wasn't both working and in school full-time.
posted by oceanview at 9:59 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nthing The Wire, Mad Men, and The West Wing, all of which I watched in epic binges.
posted by naoko at 10:00 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The West Wing, Deadwood, The Wire, some of Six Feet Under, Arrested Development. I really haven't watched any series since.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:06 PM on December 17, 2012


Buffy - I watched 6+ seasons in the space of about two and a half weeks, back before the days of streaming Netflix and with no access to the DVDs. Also, I'm here to defend the later seasons against the haters. I love the entire show, start to finish.

Angel - he's much more interesting on his own show--I couldn't stand him on BtVS

Better Off Ted - hysterical, criminally unknown and underrated

Mad Men - layers on layers on layers...

Breaking Bad - if you can make it past the first few episodes of exceeding grimness, there is actually a surprising amount of humor, and the violence becomes more punctuation than subject matter

The West Wing - it took me a couple tries, but the most recent attempt took. It's actually fascinating to see layered, flawed characters trying their best to run a country.
posted by Superplin at 10:10 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


For something on the frothier side, Scandal.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:10 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


This might be on the lighter side of what you're looking for, but I got totally hooked on the characters (and their relationships) in White Collar. In addition to an episodic theme (crime to solve) there's a central narrative running through the series - and there's enough of an edge to keep things interesting.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:47 PM on December 17, 2012


30 Rock
Parks & Rec
Misfits
Pushing Daisies (forever and always)
Law & Order: SVU
Terriers
Kings
Reaper
Arrested Development
True Blood
posted by eldvno at 10:51 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Friday Night Lights - I watched all 76 episodes in a couple of weeks, packing in at least 3 episodes at a time, unable almost to think about anything else until it was done.
posted by roofus at 10:55 PM on December 17, 2012 [12 favorites]


Max Headroom
M.A.S.H.
The Twilight Zone (sixties)
The Outer Limits (sixties)

(Yeah, I'm old, too)
posted by dbiedny at 11:25 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


No-one has mentioned the best animated serial on TV yet, so I will: The Venture Bros. Throw-away jokes become multi-season arcs, and it's damn funny.
posted by Paragon at 11:33 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Shows where I watched many back-to-back episodes on DVD or streaming:

Freaks and Geeks. Unfortunately there is only one season, but what a perfect season it is.

Rome. Beautiful and lush to watch, interesting characters and storylines. Who is going to backstab someone (literally or figuratively) next?

Lost: We watched the first season on DVD over one holiday long weekend and basically did not leave the house. The seasons vary in quality, but I still enjoyed them overall.

Dead Like Me: A young woman is killed in a freak accident but comes back as a "reaper" to help other people pass peacefully to the afterlife (this doesn't always go smoothly). She and the other reapers form a sort of dysfunctional family with Mandy Patinkin as the patriarch.

Being Erica: A young woman who is unhappy with her life meets a mysterious "therapist" who sends her back to points in her past for do-overs. Except sometimes the do-overs don't work very well. Smart, funny, poignant.

And, already mentioned but I'll add my voice to recommend them too:

The Wire
Deadwood
Six Feet Under
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:38 PM on December 17, 2012


I'm surprised 24 only got a couple mentions so far. That sorta seemed to make "cliffhanger TV" a thing. The first couple seasons anyway, not sure how good it was after that.

The first three seasons of The Office (US).

Lost, although it kind of dragged in season 2 for me.

Community, particularly late season 1, and all of season 2.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:59 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I watched the first season of Game of Thrones in one day.
posted by sacrifix at 12:07 AM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Scandal.

Dear lord, Scandal. Snickerdoodle mentioned it upthread, but I am baffled as to why this seems to be the greatest contemporary show on tv right now, and no one is watching it !

Season one was only 7 eps, and Season two is airing right now, should run to 13 eps.

DO NOT START WITH SEASON TWO.

You should know if you like it about five min into the first ep of season one.

Enjoy.
posted by Faintdreams at 12:48 AM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Everything by Jonathan Meades, David Attenborough, Adam Curtis and Chris Morris
Brideshead Revisited (1981)
The Wire
Deadwood
Skins (UK)
CI5 The Professionals (Gordon Jackson version)
The IT Crowd
The Sweeney
The Unit
Spartacus
The Tudors
Sherlock
Long Way Round / Long Way Down / By Any Means
Breaking Bad
Inspector Morse / Lewis
Freaks and Geeks / Undeclared
Band of Brothers
The Inbetweeners (UK)
Nighty Night
Kath and Kim (Aus)
Firefly / Serenity
Foyle's War
Downton Abbey
Parade's End
Gavin & Stacey
Generation Kill
Benidorm
Extras
Dexter
Game of Thrones
The Sopranos
The Walking Dead
The Avengers / New Avengers
posted by juiceanddoom at 1:01 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Twin Peaks, yes, but I'm going to go all masterpiece theatre on you and say I, Claudius
it's all that and history too.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:59 AM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Forbrydelsen, aka The Killing.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 2:46 AM on December 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I, Claudius
Blake's 7
Brideshead Revisited
Chocky
Twin Peaks
ST:NG
The X Files
A Bit of Fry and Laurie
Queer as Folk (UK)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The League of Gentlemen
Psychoville
Six Feet Under
The Wire
Rome
We Can Be Heroes
Summer Heights High
The Office (US)
Lost (curse them all)
Battlestar Galactica
Game of Thrones
Mad Men
The Trip
Fringe
True Blood
Forbrydelsen (The Killing, Danish)
The Bridge
Wallander
Breaking Bad
The Walking Dead
The Slap
posted by hot soup girl at 3:45 AM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Good lord YES the Killing. the american one was good i thought but the danish is awesome.

Also The Bridge aka Bron/Broen (danish/swedish collaboration - these scandinavians make great drama and crime series, even my subtitle hating boyfriend loves them)

24 - have only ever watched 2 series on tv, the rest on boxsets and it was constantly a case of 'just one more episode then i really will go to bed....'

Homeland

recent UK stuff: Good Cop; The Promise; White Heat; Any Human Heart; Small Island; Lost in Austen
posted by moreteaplease at 3:56 AM on December 18, 2012


Oh! Two more that haven't been mentioned yet, Entourage and In Treatment.
posted by unliteral at 4:04 AM on December 18, 2012


Seconding Twin Peaks. My housemates and I actually bought a VCR and figured out how to use the remote control in order to tape all the episodes!
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:08 AM on December 18, 2012


Most of mine have been mentioned but I'd like to throw my bean in the jar for West Wing, Lost, X-files, ER, and Gilmore Girls.

Not yet mentioned: Sports Night (uneven, jokier, half-hour West Wing about a sports TV show) and Star Trek: Voyager. Stop snickering. I know it has a bad reputation but something about the constellation of characters got me good. My favorite Trek.
posted by dirtdirt at 4:38 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Growing up, it was:
Star Trek
Space: 1999
UFO
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Land of the Giants
MASH

Then it was:
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Babylon 5

Recently it was:
Battlestar Galactica
LOST
Sherlock
Dexter
posted by THAT William Mize at 4:39 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nip/Tuck
 
posted by querty at 4:47 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Twin Peaks. Ohmygod. Peaks.
Bored to Death wasnt quite as cliffhangery as most of the shows listed, but I flew through it because it was so unny and charming.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:49 AM on December 18, 2012


Californication
posted by Kruger5 at 4:53 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


2nding Bored to Death

Adding Home Movies (an animated series - it's not serial, but if you grew up in suburbia it's very cute and funny)
posted by WeekendJen at 5:28 AM on December 18, 2012


Mad Men. I am glad I came to it a bit late (the later seasons haven't been on UK terrestrial TV as the rights went to Sky) as it meant I could watch episode after episode, supplemented with the Notes From The Breakroom series on the Guardian website to get me up to speed with the cultural references.

Party Down - I was having a rough weekend, and ended up watching the whole two seasons back to back. I might do that again over Christmas.

At the moment, Desperate Housewives - though I've just finished Season 3 and I've heard the mystery element which keeps me hooked is somewhat diminished as the series rumbles on.
posted by mippy at 5:30 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lost. I had dreams/nightmares about the island, over the course of years. I'd wake up thinking about it.
posted by jbickers at 5:44 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm shocked that no one has mentioned Misfits!
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 5:48 AM on December 18, 2012


Oh, god, West Wing. Like, wore sweat pants all weekend and watched the entire first season in bed, then left work early every day to finish it up. My roommates were so worried.
posted by teragram at 5:55 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


ER
Boardwalk Empire
Game of Thrones
posted by sybarite09 at 5:56 AM on December 18, 2012


Star Trek
The Wire
Law and Order: Criminal Intent (OMG Vincent D'Onofrio)
Mad Men
The Sopranos
X-Files
Boardwalk Empire

And for a bit of fluff, Call the Midwife

A metric Shit-Ton of stuff that we saw on Masterpiece Theater:

The Forsythe Saga

I, Claudius
Cousin Bette
Tom Brown's School Days (which I wasn't allowed to watch so I stood in the hall and watched in the mirror into my parent's bedroom)
Vanity Fair
Upstairs, Downstairs
Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries
Poldark
The Duchess of Duke Street
A Town Called Alice
Bleak House
Jeeves and Wooster (Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry)
Middlemarch
Moll Flanders


Also any version of:

Any Jane Austin novel
Jane Eyre
Any Dickens novel

And there you have it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:06 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was in Iraq as a civilian worker (2006-2007), 24 was about halfway through its run, and complete seasons would make their rounds around the office. You could always tell who had a season, because they looked hung over.

"How many episodes were you going to watch?"
"Like two."
"How many did you end up watching?"
"...Nine."

And then someone figured out that they all speak... deliberately... enough... to... stretch... out... the... story... that you can play them with subtitles on 1.5x speed, and go through an episode in half an hour and a season in a (long) night. Zero work got done that week.
posted by Etrigan at 6:07 AM on December 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Farscape. Oh wow was that show good.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:14 AM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


LOST
City Hunter
Warehouse 13
Vampire Diaries
posted by Sassyfras at 6:17 AM on December 18, 2012


This is my ultimate list of OMGIcantthinkofanythingelsebutgettinghomeandfinishingtheseasonsooooogooooodddforgetitimjustnotleavingthehouseandjusthaveamarathon tv shows. Enjoy!

Downton Abbey
Battlestar Galactica
Game of Thrones
Archer
House
Nip/Tuck
Dexter
Revenge (I was sick at the time..so I may have been delusional)
Mujeres Asesinas (TV show in Spanish, available on Hulu with subtitles)
Mad Men (but by the end of it, I hated myself for watching it)

Anime TV Shows
Eden of the East
Death Note
Cowboy Bebop
Elfin Lied
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Gundam Wing
Morbito: Guardian of the Spirit

Funny
Louie
The IT Crowd
Party Down
Wilfred
Big Bang Theory
posted by xicana63 at 6:30 AM on December 18, 2012


I'm looking for smart characters, plot twists, and cliffhangers galore.

Life! Damien Lewis as a zen cop secretly investigating who framed him for murder. It is on Netflix.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:34 AM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Doctor Who

There's a lot of great suggestions here! Doctor Who occupies more time in my brain right now than any other show.
posted by smitt at 6:43 AM on December 18, 2012


The Killing (Danish version, haven't seen the US version yet but I don't believe it can better the original)
The Wire
Nurse Jackie
The Big C
ER
Borgen (I promise you, a ten part series on a newly elected female prime minister of Denmark sounds like a snoozefest but IT WAS BRILLIANT! Ahem. Fans of The Wire, The Bridge and The Killing should definitely take a look.)
posted by humph at 6:44 AM on December 18, 2012


The West Wing
The Wire
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(Firefly, only one season)
Lost
Mad Men
Downton Abbey
Sports Night (Sorkin)

good writing, good characters, complicated situations, a little spritz of soap opera concern...

also, in a more light-hearted vein (but chow-downable):

Scrubs
Friends
posted by acm at 6:48 AM on December 18, 2012


Seconding Misfits!
posted by Specklet at 7:00 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ooh ooh I forgot Life on Mars. The UK one, but the US one is also pretty compelling.
posted by Joh at 7:27 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lovejoy. (C'mon, it's late 80s Ian Freakin' McShane sporting a mullet solving mysteries about antiques with an overgrown teen metalhead, a posh lady, and Dudley Sutton in a beret as his sidekicks...what is not to love?)
posted by medeine at 7:33 AM on December 18, 2012


Re: life consumption - Back in ye olde days of VHS, I'd sit real close to the TV and watch/record The Simpsons. I'd hit pause every time a commercial came on, and hit record again right in that ad-free sweet spot when it was coming back on. The local Fox affiliate was pretty good at previewing both episodes (5:30 and 9:00 daily), so I knew whether to assume archiving duties every day...or play outside? At one point, I had a collection of five (5) 6-hour, commercial-free tapes. SO is a foreign national, and recently informed me that no, she hasn't seen every episode. I no longer own a VCR, but we're currently raiding the public library's Simpsons DVD collection. Yes, the show has aged well.

We don't get TV/cable in the home, and typically consume a season/series in a week or less, after waiting in the library queue, and carefully avoiding spoilers. So, the life feels even more consumed in such dense viewing periods.

Others:
- House M.D. (a no-brainer)
- Arrested Development
- The Prisoner
posted by obscurator at 7:34 AM on December 18, 2012


Forbrydelsen
posted by tel3path at 7:49 AM on December 18, 2012


-First 3 seasons of House is the best TV I've ever watched. I continued to watch the show, but there were seasons of watching purely because I was already invested in the show.
-Lost.
-Burn Notice is awesome fun.
-The new La Femme Nakita is like Burn Notice, only with Maggie Q and more (high school) drama.
-Friday. Night. Lights. The thought of the show almost being cancelled more than once is a shame.
-Chuck. More twist and turns in later seasons.
-BSG is the definition of what you seek.
-I'm glad Veronica Mars isn't on Netflix Instant View, or I'd be calling in the next few days just to rewatch. I enjoy a show where the main character's strengths can turn into tragic flaws at moments. She is a brilliant character, with good season arcs causing the ONE MORE EPISODE syndrome.
-NCIS (and LA), the procedure nature of the show limits marathons some.
-Doctor Who. Many great episodes on their own, then you get random arcs from previous seasons thrown in and it's like WHOA! The Water of Mars is the single greatest episode of TV I've ever seen. It still haunts me to think about today.
posted by jmd82 at 7:57 AM on December 18, 2012


Oh, man. Chuck. Season one is fun and full of nerdy fanservice. Season two is perfect. After that it gets hit-and-miss very quickly, but those 22 episodes hit a combination of character, story, action, comedy, romance, new ideas and refinement of what worked before that is just jawdropping at times.

(Also, Chevy Chase as a supervillain.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:12 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lost.
Walking Dead.
Fringe.

What I find interesting about these three is that the initial premise that drew me in (plane crash on weird island, zombies, monster-of-the-week) wasn't what held me - it's the characters and their complexities that keep me watching.

And I'll back Sara C. - How I Met Your Mother is surprisingly complex for what appears to be a pretty standard sitcom. Not philosophically complex so much as self-referential, where a throwaway line from one episode is actually a reference to an event 3 seasons back. Or the other way around - something that happens in the background of one episode shows up again in the future.

And I loved Arrested Development, but I don't think there's any plot twists or cliffhangers. Other than whether there'll be a movie. Given the history, I won't believe in it until I'm watching it. :-)
posted by neilbert at 8:23 AM on December 18, 2012


You want House of Cards.
And the two sequel series, To Play the King and The Final Cut.

The Wikipedia entry states an American version is set for February 2013 starring Kevin Spacey. Regardless, please watch the original. The late Ian Richardson is mesmerizing.
posted by likeso at 8:27 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Breaking Bad
Sherlock (BBC)

Homeland
Dexter (seasons 1-2, mostly)
Boardwalk Empire, which started slow but got a lot better this year
Six Feet Under
Life
Lost (seasons 1-3, then stop, just stop)
posted by getawaysticks at 8:32 AM on December 18, 2012


thirtysomething
Columbo
Duckman
posted by Kruger5 at 8:45 AM on December 18, 2012


The Sopranos
Nip/Tuck
Game of Thrones
True Blood
Breaking Bad
Homeland
The Borgias
Nurse Jackie
Archer
Scandal

I'm a bit meh about Mad Men right now because of the last season (Megan pretty much ate the show) but I'm ready for it to come back on.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:54 AM on December 18, 2012


Revenge. It is just good fun watching rich people look gorgeous and plot and scheme.
posted by wwax at 9:05 AM on December 18, 2012


Buffy, Angel, Firely, Veronica Mars
Deadwood, The Wire, The West Wing
BSG (Season 1) & Game of Thrones (Season 1)
Jewel in the Palace (대장금)
posted by smorange at 9:10 AM on December 18, 2012


Farscape starts slow - but by seasons 2 & 3 (when the arc-stories get going), I had serious trouble putting it down. I had to pry myself away from watching all night -- and even then, I couldn't do just one episode at a time.

More recently, my SO and I blew through all three seasons of Community (2-3 episodes an evening) because it was so very good we just kept wanting another.
posted by jb at 9:28 AM on December 18, 2012


And I'll back Sara C. - How I Met Your Mother is surprisingly complex for what appears to be a pretty standard sitcom. Not philosophically complex so much as self-referential

Well that, and it's just a really fucking great sitcom. Probably the best standard prime-time multicamera "studio audience" type sitcom since Seinfeld. Not only is it brilliantly self-referential in a way that rewards marathon watching and thus makes it ideal for OP's purposes, it's also just fucking brilliant.

I just spent about half an hour writing a 500 word essay on why this is true, but seriously, that if nothing else underlines the fact that you should watch it. It's definitely up there with House in terms of classic non-revolutionary television that simply by doing what it set out to do is Great Fucking Television.

Speaking of which, when they finally put all of House on Netflix Instant I will probably go full vagrant.
posted by Sara C. at 9:39 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, it's hard to find, but I can happily watch six episodes of Murphy Brown in one go if I'm doing some sewing. There is no gripping plot in the same way as some of the season-long arcs in the shows mentioned above, but it's very smart and, like Newsradio, one of those shows where you can imagine the characters continuing to exist after the credits roll.

I'm a season and a half behind in The Mentalist because I didn't keep an eye out for when it was back on in the UK, but it fits the bill - each episode is a procedural with twists, turns and snark, but there's also an ongoing plot about the serial killer who murdered Patrick Jane's family that ticks away in the background.
posted by mippy at 9:48 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've only seen Oz mentioned once, so yeah. OZ.
posted by book 'em dano at 10:47 AM on December 18, 2012


Back in the day: Star Trek (the original TV series), Batman (with Adam West and Burt Ward), the Man From Uncle and later, the Girl From Uncle, The Six Million Dollar Man and later -Woman, M.A.S.H, I Spy, Upstairs Downstairs, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Austin City Limits, Elizabeth R (BBS series w/Glenda Jackson) along with The Six Wives of Henry VIII, then a long long break from t.v. and now? We still watch Saturday Night Live, plus The Daily Show, Colbert Report, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, True Justice for my sleazy crime drama (with bonus Steven Segal!), plus NFL and MLB. The DH likes The Mentalist, Ink Masters and Bill Maher in addition to my picks.
posted by Lynsey at 11:20 AM on December 18, 2012


Most of mine have already been mentioned (all Star Trek series, X-Files, West Wing, Northern Exposure, Lost, Arrested Development, Babylon 5).

Two have not yet been mentioned:

Futurama (really?? Over a hundred comments and I'm the first in the thread to mention it????)

Being Human (Canada/US version) - It's only two seasons in, so it doesn't meet your "off the air or several seasons in" preference, but season 3 premieres on Jan. 14, so that's just enough time to watch the first two seasons then join in "live" with season 3. I know a lot of people who have seen both versions say they prefer the original UK version, but I've seen 8 or so episodes of the UK version and I didn't get into it as much as the North American version. Airs on SyFy in the US and on SPACE in Canada.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:20 AM on December 18, 2012


Not mentioned yet but sucked me in:

Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

(The first series is okay too, but Brotherhood takes it to the next level.)
posted by foxfirefey at 11:32 AM on December 18, 2012


The early (first 4 or so) seasons of Grey's Anatomy
posted by Asparagus at 11:57 AM on December 18, 2012


If you're okay with stuff aimed at teenagers, Degrassi (any incarnation, but for best effect, start with Junior High and work your way through High School, School's Out, and over a decade of The Next Generation) as well as a New Zealand kid's show, The Tribe. The Tribe is about kids trapped in a mall--it's essentially a post-apocalyptic soap opera, but it's VERY consumable.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:42 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I loved Better Off Ted! I still miss it! Also:

Arrested Development
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Angel (except the last season, that was crap)
Firefly
The Sopranoes
Doctor Who, of course
Sherlock

And I've recently dived into Breaking Bad.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:43 PM on December 18, 2012


BBCFilter: In addition to Sherlock and Luther mentioned above, we flew through the miniseries The Hour.
(Yay, just noticed the second series has started airing...)
posted by piyushnz at 4:02 PM on December 18, 2012


Also not mentioned yet: Southland
posted by piyushnz at 4:09 PM on December 18, 2012


Peep Show
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 5:06 PM on December 18, 2012


No mentions of Revenge? I recently got into it and I'm HOOKED!

Also seconding earlier mentions of Friday Night Lights, Vampire Diaries, the Good Wife, Homeland, Dexter, Buffy and Downton Abbey. I devour all of these shows.
posted by amycup at 8:46 PM on December 18, 2012


I thought of another one: Jericho
posted by Bunglegirl at 9:33 PM on December 18, 2012


In addition to Fringe, Walking Dead and American Horror Story, I'll throw down Falling Skies and Revolution. I was initially skeptical of the latter but it really has built momentum and has some decent science-y conjecture.
posted by moonbird at 9:48 PM on December 18, 2012


Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sherlock. Somehow, although I didn't think much of it at first, Midsomer Murders became really addictive, because I started knitting while watching.
posted by undue influence at 11:11 PM on December 18, 2012


Lots of great suggestions already.

I will add The Event. It was only once season, and it never gets any love, but it was incredibly compelling and I was hooked on it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:27 PM on December 19, 2012


jmd82: "-Doctor Who. Many great episodes on their own, then you get random arcs from previous seasons thrown in and it's like WHOA! The Water of Mars is the single greatest episode of TV I've ever seen. It still haunts me to think about today."

That is indeed a fantastic episode, and definitely up there as one of my favorites. It's not a great starting point, but you could pick a worse one.

Once you overlook some of the production values, Torchwood is also far more addicting than it has any right to be. Mind you, it's not actually good, but it's very entertaining and easy to watch the first time around.

The third season, Children of Earth is fairly unconventional, as it consisted of only 5 60-minute episodes that aired on consecutive nights over the course of a single week, with episode also spanning one day in the show's universe. It's easily one of (if not the) most compelling TV miniseries that I've seen, and even if you don't like the first two seasons, you should suffer through them just so you can watch the third.

There was no fourth season. There are a few "a ha!" Doctor Who tie-ins, but it's not necessary to have seen one to enjoy the other. I watched all of Torchwood before getting into Doctor Who.
posted by schmod at 10:02 AM on December 21, 2012


Also, since you said you watched Dollhouse, make sure you saw Epitaph One and Epitath Two. They're not part of the continuity of the normal series, and Epitatph One didn't even air. However, both episodes are absolutely essential to watch.

Coincidentally, if you liked those two episodes, Fringe is almost definitely up your alley.

posted by schmod at 10:35 AM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another vote for B5, BSG, ST:TNG, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Game of Thrones, Sherlock, Sopranos, Band of Brothers, Damages...

I couldn't list all of the anime series I've enjoyed watching back to back, but here's a few high points -- Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Bleach (first few seasons), Basilisk, Area 88, Haibane Renmei, FLCL...

Here's one I don't think was listed yet, that was an overlooked masterpiece, imo:

I'll Fly Away [wiki] [credits]


On the comedic side, I understand Dream On [wiki] is still huge in Israel. Here's a seasonal sample:"Silent Night, Holy Cow."

Is it bad that I can still easily sit around and watch Airwolf and Knight Rider on Hulu? Also, 21 Jump Street.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:12 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doctor Who and Sherlock already have enough votes, so I will second Pushing Daisies. It got me staying up until 2 a.m. on a workday for "just one more episode! Okay maybe another... two. Or three." I was so in love with it that when it ended I tried to find closure by reading fanfiction. I know.
posted by pimli at 5:53 AM on December 24, 2012


Warehouse 13 is huge and has a bunch of seasons. I adored Buffy. For darker stuff, Wire in the Blood. For comedy/drama, I'm a huge How I met Your Mother addict (I'm watching it or a second time) and the show plays a lot with point of view. If you like anime, the Ghost in the Shell tv series (first and second gig) are freaking awesome.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:05 PM on January 5, 2013


« Older How do I sound like a wholesal...   |  How long do the blood-thinning... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.