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i blame the writers strike
February 12, 2008 7:22 AM   Subscribe

What good TV shows can I watch on DVD that won't leave me frustrated?

I've recently been watching a lot of TV shows on DVD, thanks to the utter crap that's on TV these days and my unwillingness to pay for cable. I enjoy recent shows, early seasons of shows currently on the air, classic shows, sitcoms, dramas, Law & Order: CSI type shows, cartoons... pretty much everything, as long as it's good. By good, I mean shows that won't leave behind a bunch of unresolved storylines, and that don't take forever to watch.

For example, the first season of Friday Night Lights was completely satisfying. There were some minor cliffhangers, but more or less everything got wrapped up nicely. How I Met Your Mother was entertaining, even though I had to watch two seasons to get to Marshall and Lily's wedding. Something like Dawson's Creek would be a nice guilty pleasure, but six seasons' worth of DVDs is too much of a time commitment. I saw a lot of good suggestions in this earlier question about underrated TV shows, but I've always been wary of watching My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks, because I worry that I'll be left jonesing for a conclusion that is never going to come.

So, my fellow Mefites, what shows do you like to curl up on the couch with?
posted by kidsleepy to Media & Arts (66 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Office (both the UK version, and the US -- in that order)
posted by nitsuj at 7:26 AM on February 12, 2008


Scrubs would be another good one, too.
posted by nitsuj at 7:27 AM on February 12, 2008


Prime Suspect. British crime drama starring Helen Mirren. That's all you need to know.
Cracker. British crime drama starring Robbie Coltrane. Utterly brilliant.

House of Cards. British political drama. Very Machiavellian. Absolutely wonderful.

Lost, of course.

Sex and the City. (Hey, you did say guilty pleasures...)

Boston Legal seasons 1-3 are available on DVD. Some of the best scriptwriting ever found on TV, IMHO.

Is Rome available on DVD yet?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:28 AM on February 12, 2008


Oh, duuuuuhhhh. Absolutely Fabulous, of course!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:28 AM on February 12, 2008


LOST would be the worst show you could watch if you don't want a bunch of unresolved storylines.
posted by nitsuj at 7:30 AM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


God, can't believe I forgot about The Wire.
posted by nitsuj at 7:35 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


House is relatively self-contained (I don't there are any major plotlines that stretch seasons) and each episode stands alone quite well. And Hugh Laurie is a badass. Three season available on DVD. (For other Hugh Laurie goodness, try Black Adder, also featuring Rowan Atkinson).

Penn & Teller's Bullshit is entirely self-contained. Four seasons on DVD, can be watched in any order.

In case you haven't seen it, Firefly is only 15 episodes (plus a feature-length movie Serenity) and is possibly the best TV show ever made. Seriously.

The Venture Brothers is a very tongue-in-cheek riff on classic "adventure" cartoons/novels, like the Hardy Boys and Johnny Quest. The writing is absolutely top-notch. Two seasons available on DVD.
posted by Nelsormensch at 7:35 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Our favorite is Arrested Development. It's three seasons, most episodes contributing to a progression such that you get every in-joke, but each one stands alone wonderfully as well. Ironically, it won an Emmy for best writing in a comedy series in 2005, the year that it was cancelled. Woefully short-lived.
posted by dreamphone at 7:37 AM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'd suggest that you don't rule out Freaks and Geeks; it had a season finale that worked, as I remember it, pretty decently as a series finale.
posted by kimota at 7:44 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Battlestar Galactica, if you dig the sci-fi thing.
posted by fusinski at 7:45 AM on February 12, 2008


Seconding The Wire. It's always suspenseful, but they always resolve the plotlines.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 7:47 AM on February 12, 2008


I love both The Wire and Lost but neither of them will meet your "but more or less everything got wrapped up nicely" qualification.
posted by drezdn at 7:47 AM on February 12, 2008


I'll add or Nth Deadwood, The Wire, Mad Men, Arrested Developement, the UK Office, Extras, Prison Break, Rome, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

But I'll also cast a negative vote to Firefly and House. I thought the former was poop and the latter formulaic poop.
posted by dobbs at 7:50 AM on February 12, 2008


If you don't mind sci-fi, the new Dr. Who is fun and doesn't leave that much hanging from season to season.
posted by drezdn at 7:50 AM on February 12, 2008


Is Rome available on DVD yet?

Yes it is, that's how I watched it.

Black Books is eighteen or so episodes of British comedy goodness.
posted by Lucinda at 7:51 AM on February 12, 2008


Previously... though I'm not sure what you mean by "taking forever to watch", as most serial shows are in half- to full-hour bites. I have to admit I was underwhelmed by The Wire; a little too gritty and complicated, as I'm not a fan of police shows. But Deadwood was damn good and I can't recommend it highly enough. Seconding Black Adder. For historical, enlightening soap operas I recommend the 1970s Upstairs Downstairs discs.
posted by crapmatic at 7:52 AM on February 12, 2008


The first season of Dexter is nicely wrapped up by the last episode, yet the potential for more is definitely there. I enjoyed the show enough to want to watch more, and my gf is reading the novels upon which the show is based.
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 7:53 AM on February 12, 2008


Have you considered anthologies? Can't get more self-contained than those (Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone).

Battlestar Galactica, if you dig the sci-fi thing.

No. It's completely serialized, with season-ending cliffhangers. It's pretty much what the OP explicitly did not want.
posted by mkultra at 7:56 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I definitely recommend Arrested Development to you.
posted by lolalivia at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


The first season of Veronica Mars is reasonably self-contained, and is shockingly perfect for a first season.

(There's a certain amount of diminishing returns on the subsequent two seasons. I would stick to just the first unless you're super in love with the show after watching the first. ... I was super in love with the show after the first season.)
posted by sparkletone at 8:00 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Shield has season wide arcs that I found mostly captivated. We are coming up on the last season's start date soon so we won't know how things conclude but if I had to guess, the fact that the Soprano's ending was open ended means that others aren't going to be quick to use that device any time soon.
posted by mmascolino at 8:02 AM on February 12, 2008


I recommend Dead Like Me - the first season was great, though they canceled it in the middle of the second season, so it felt like it just stopped, nothing was wrapped up.
posted by blackkar at 8:05 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Wire is good. Entourage is fun (and it's only 1/2 hr episodes, so you can basically watch season one in one evening). House MD. Crime Scene Investigation is still good after 7 seasons, I think. Grey's Anatomy is as guilty as the pleasure comes. Prison Break I & II is bollocks, but fun. Nine seasons of Frasier and Seinfeld should keep you busy for a while.
posted by NekulturnY at 8:17 AM on February 12, 2008


Arrested Development!
posted by lohmannn at 8:18 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


No. It's completely serialized, with season-ending cliffhangers. It's pretty much what the OP explicitly did not want.

I feel so ashamed. If the OP didn't mind watching 22 episodes of Friday Night Lights (of which I assume she will continue), how much of a stretch is it to watch 26 episodes of Battlestar Galactica? IMO it is the best thing on TV for very little effort. It's not like sitting down to try and watch the entirety of The West Wing.
posted by fusinski at 8:20 AM on February 12, 2008


The Simpsons. Seasons 1 through 9 only.
posted by aerotive at 8:21 AM on February 12, 2008


If you like resolution, you'll want to stay away from The Wire on one hand, where you pretty much have to start from the first moment of the first episode, and Seinfeld and The Simpsons (and pretty much any animated prime-time show that isn't King of the Hill) on the other, where nothing ever happens at all.

Lots of police procedurals are almost purely episodic (but The Wire isn't one of them). Law & Order comes to mind (and there are some decent DVD sets of the early years), but there are plenty of others.
posted by box at 8:27 AM on February 12, 2008


I feel so ashamed. If the OP didn't mind watching 22 episodes of Friday Night Lights (of which I assume she will continue), how much of a stretch is it to watch 26 episodes of Battlestar Galactica?

It's not the length mkultra was objecting to, it was the ongoing storylines. Currently, there are a lot of unresolved plot threads. Maybe these will be wrapped up in the upcoming final season, maybe they won't. If kidsleepy hates unresolved plotlines, BSG is not a good recommendation at this point. Perhaps it will be once it's complete, but we can't really guarantee it's going to provide a satisfying ending at this point.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:28 AM on February 12, 2008


On a cold Saturday/Sunday I'll watch an entire season of NYPD Blue.
posted by chugg at 8:28 AM on February 12, 2008


Nthing The Wire. It really is one of the best television series ever. It does not leave plot lines unresolved but, as it deals with the problems of broken institutions, it does not resolve everything in a happy ending kind of way. And, I'm sorry, but to call it a police show completely misses the mark. It is so much more than that.

Nthing the first season of Veronica Mars, too. (I liked the second season, but not as much as the first; haven't seen the the third season yet.)

30 Rock is becoming a classic, already, in my opinion. The first season, which won an Emmy, is out on DVD.
posted by pasici at 8:33 AM on February 12, 2008


Each season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is nicely tied up with a victory over a major bad guy (even season 5, which does end with a cliffhanger too), and the series wind-up was very satisfying even if the last couple of seasons were a bit unfocused.

My So-Called Life ended, realistically, without a pat resolution, but without a cliffhanger either; it's an emotionally honest and satisfying story.

If you haven't been watching 30 Rock, it's hilarious, and has basically no season arcs.
posted by nicwolff at 8:35 AM on February 12, 2008


If you have any interest at all in theatre (or even if you don't), Slings and Arrows is a phenomenal show. It's a Canadian series (well, more like mini-series) about the on- and off-stage drama surrounding a Shakespearean theatre company (way more entertaining and less highbrow/intimidating than it sounds).

The complete series is 3 seasons, each with 6 hour-long episodes, very satisfying to watch and immensely well written and acted.

...as a bonus, I see all three seasons are for sale on Amazon.com.
posted by Zephyrial at 8:36 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh! Life On Mars, a BBC show about a London cop who gets knocked back into the '70s, wound up very satisfyingly - but with a little intended ambiguity - in two short 8-episode seasons. There's a sequel series, Ashes to Ashes, just starting now and not yet available on BBC America - but it's easy to find in the usual place.
posted by nicwolff at 8:41 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


30 Rock is hilarious and very satisfying.
posted by OmieWise at 8:45 AM on February 12, 2008


Sports Night
posted by Mikey-San at 8:52 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow, good call, definitely Sports Night. Don't let the ostensible subject matter dissuade you, it's a beautifully written, trenchant, and very funny two-season series with a great wind-up.
posted by nicwolff at 8:56 AM on February 12, 2008


This is mostly what I've been watching over the past few months (TV series, on the computer).

UK series: The IT Crowd, The Office, Green Wing; Ab Fab also fits your parameters
US series: Freaks and Geeks (the season finale wraps it up fine), Arrested Development
CA series: Corner Gas (5 seasons, but each episode is only a half hour and self-contained), Trailer Park Boys (7 seasons, but again only a half hour long; 6-10 eps per season; each season's finale is fairly conclusive)
AUS series: Kath and Kim (haven't watched this yet but I think it fits your parameters)

I also have caught up on the past seasons of Project Runway and Project Runway Canada. You may not be into reality shows, but each season is self-contained, obviously.
posted by Melinika at 8:57 AM on February 12, 2008


Definitely definitely the first season of Veronica Mars.

The first season of Buffy would also definitely work for you. 6 more seasons is a lot of TV though. Chances are good, however, that you'll fall in love with it and not be able to stop.
posted by natabat at 9:01 AM on February 12, 2008


The Wire and Bodies were my favourite DVD box sets of the last 2-3 years.
posted by roofus at 9:15 AM on February 12, 2008


I second Grey's Anatomy as a guilty pleasure. The first season was the most entertaining and it's only 9 episodes.
posted by peep at 9:26 AM on February 12, 2008


Seconding "Dexter" - I just watched the first season on DVD, and was so totally enthralled, so totally amazed by the acting and the writing, I HAD to finish it over one weekend.
I've heard that the second season is kind of disappointing, but the first season wraps itself up nicely, so you could end it there without having that nagging feeling that you're missing something by not continuing to the second season.

HIGHLY recommend.
posted by willmize at 9:35 AM on February 12, 2008


Freaks and Geeks (nicely wrapped up, I thought), The Office (US version), Dexter, Weeds, Wonderfalls.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 9:36 AM on February 12, 2008


Nthing Wonderfalls, Boston Legal, Dead Like Me, and Arrested Development. I was really upset that the latter two were ending, but it didn't feel like there were any major unresolved issues left. Firefly was a gem, but I thought the ending was pretty frustrating; still, they did finally have a movie to wrap it up.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:40 AM on February 12, 2008


Ooh, and Damages!
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:40 AM on February 12, 2008


Six Feet Under. It's five seasons long but completely worth dedicating the time to watching it. The final season, especially, is about as close to a work of art as television can get.
posted by phatkitten at 10:30 AM on February 12, 2008


I've already finished the Office (US) and 30 Rock and am currently on season 3 of Arrested Development, so good call to everyone who suggested those.

Sex & the City is a guilty pleasure, but I'd hate having to go through six seasons of carrie-and-mr.-big will-they-or-won't they?!

I tried Dexter, but it was too gorey for me. I like CSI and all, but I still have to cover my eyes when they do the close-ups of bullets going into the flesh, etc.

I also tried Veronica Mars, and can't remember why I didn't finish the first season, so I think I'll give it another try.

Entourage is another good suggestion. I watched the first two or three seasons on DVD, and haven't seen anything of the most recent season.

I was a huge Buffy fan back in the day, so I've already seen all those ;) And I know Joss Whedon did Firefly, so I'll check that out as well.

Am I hearing that I can go ahead and watch MSCL and F&G? They look really good but I don't want TV-blue-balls!
posted by kidsleepy at 10:59 AM on February 12, 2008


Also, box's comment helped me realize what I'm looking for: storylines that arc over multiple episodes, but not multiple seasons. In other words, when an episode's over, I want to be interested in what's going to happen in the next episode. And the flip side is that I'm too impatient to wait for a ten season series finale to find out that YES Rachael and Ross do finally end up together. I'd rather just watch the first two seasons to get to the warm fuzzy feeling when they first got together.
posted by kidsleepy at 11:09 AM on February 12, 2008


No love for That 70's Show? Towards the end (re: season 8, and 7 to a lesser extent) it became a caricature of itself, but the first six seasons are still well worth watching.
posted by phaded at 11:29 AM on February 12, 2008


I'd certainly recommend going back and watching Cheers now that it's out. It was way more hilarious than I remembered it being. Also, you haven't mentioned watching the West Wing, which I'll also take the time to recommend in case you haven't been through it.

As far as newer shows, re-recommending House and Boston Legal, and, hell, Family Guy and Futurama (what would an ask-me tv thread be without Futurama?). And you might want to check out the first season of My Name is Earl, which is actually rather delightful.
posted by General Malaise at 11:33 AM on February 12, 2008


Oo..seconding That 70's Show. If you haven't seen it, you're in for a whole lot of fun. And wit. And harsh sarcasm.
posted by General Malaise at 11:33 AM on February 12, 2008


I catch a lot of That 70's Show in the after-work syndication timeslot, and have pretty much seen every episode. Another good call.
posted by kidsleepy at 11:38 AM on February 12, 2008


Homicide: Life on the Street
posted by kirkaracha at 11:38 AM on February 12, 2008


Kidnapped (with Jeremy Sisto and Dana Delaney) plays well on DVD and wrapped itself up in a satisfying manner. It's like a mini-series. They knew they weren't being picked up, and had enough time to close out the plot. I really enjoyed the show originally, and I like it even more on DVD.
posted by Mozzie at 11:57 AM on February 12, 2008


I will definitely third and fourth and even twentieth Rome. Both seasons are on DVD, and it's over now so no worries on unresolved plots. Just one word of caution though, there is some heavy sex and violence, but it is SO worth seeing! I would like to add that I personally feel Rome is probably the best show ever made. Just my opinion of course and I just ♥ Titus!
posted by magnoliasouth at 12:02 PM on February 12, 2008


Inspector Morse (self-contained episodes). Medium, if you can get past the 'psychic helping the police' thing.
posted by rjs at 12:08 PM on February 12, 2008


Sports Night was a fantastic show, but it's got, if I can remember correctly, a lot of unresolved threads thanks to premature cancellation.
posted by mkultra at 12:09 PM on February 12, 2008


I haven't seen one of my new favorites mentioned yet, and that makes me pause and wonder if it is actually crap, but here goes. I have been watching season one and two of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and continually find myself laughing my ass off. It's basically about a group of people who, both as a group and individually, have absolutely no redeeming qualities.

It's pretty bold and I know it's written by some guys who have almost no prior writing experience, but it's well received by a lot of people I know.

Also, nth-ing Arrested Development, 30 Rock, Futurama and Cheers.
posted by bristolcat at 12:13 PM on February 12, 2008


Season 1 of the OC, then watch the first episode of Season 2. Or watch Seasons 1 and 2, and the first couple episodes of Season 3. Don't watch the rest of season 3 or season 4; they weren't very good.

Also, Damages ROCKS! Glenn Close was totally awesome, and although the plot had its ups and downs, it was pretty interesting and was wrapped up fairly well in the finale.
posted by bluefly at 12:27 PM on February 12, 2008


Ooo...actually, yes, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a fantastic show! And, keeping with the FX theme (they do a lot of quality and, well, unorthodox programming), Rescue Me is one of my favorites, and the Shield is also quite great.
posted by General Malaise at 12:30 PM on February 12, 2008


nthing Arrested Development, Veronica Mars, (new) Doctor Who, Dexter. VM and DW have especially, IMO, strong and contained first seasons.
posted by brittanyq at 12:45 PM on February 12, 2008


I agree with kimota. Don't write off Freaks and Geeks! It's so well-written that the first season is pretty much a complete document (though don't get me wrong, I would HAPPILY have watched many more seasons about these characters). The season/series finale works well and is not a cliffhanger.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:02 PM on February 12, 2008


Am I hearing that I can go ahead and watch MSCL and F&G? They look really good but I don't want TV-blue-balls!

Watching the end of My So-Called Life will make even the most ardent supporter of gun control want to get an assault rifle and take out some network execs. I normally despise the "will-they-or-won't-they" dynamic that drives so many shows, but that show had me enthralled until... you never find out what happens.
posted by mkultra at 5:12 PM on February 12, 2008


Twin Peaks!

But seriously, it doesn't get better than Arrested Development. Or Freaks & Geeks. Or the follow-up, Undeclared. Or Wonderfalls.

Or, to take it into the animated realm, Home Movies. Totally excellent and underrated.
posted by jbickers at 5:54 PM on February 12, 2008


IMHO the end of My So-Called Life was just like ...actual life... people and situations change, things arent always resolved. The lives of the two characters involved were forever altered by the events, and it's safe to say that whatever the resolution was (trying very hard to be spoiler-free here), neither of them will look at life the same way.

That said, the first four seasons of The West Wing were in fact the best TV Drama ever ever ever. Watch Sports Night and then watch those.

And dont watch Studio 60.
posted by softlord at 8:33 PM on February 12, 2008


Flight of the Conchords! It is hilarious and the first season is out on DVD.
posted by hooray at 8:57 PM on February 12, 2008


hooray- flight of the concords has been at the top of my netflix queue since it came out on DVD! it's stuck in "very long wait" purgatory.
posted by kidsleepy at 6:50 AM on February 13, 2008


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