TV for Lunch
November 6, 2005 6:53 AM   Subscribe

I need DVD recommendations of a certain kind. Please help. (Details inside)

Lately I've been taking DVD's of television shows to work with me. I've found that there's no better way to spend a lunch hour than to close the office door, break out the sack lunch, and watch some DVD/TV on my laptop. I can watch one Hour-Long program (42 minutes without commercials) or two half-hour long programs (22 minutes without commercials). It's very relaxing and fun. So - Here are the shows that I have loved so far: Freaks & Geeks, LOST (Season 1), Northern Exposure, and Undeclared.

I'm not interested in sit-coms. I like smart, funny shows like those I listed above (of course LOST isn't funny - but it's smart and interesting).

Help me make my lunch hours all that they can be. What should I watch next?
posted by crapples to Media & Arts (48 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
"Arrested Development" is a brilliant show--there are two seasons out on DVD now.
posted by divka at 7:04 AM on November 6, 2005

If you haven't watched Six Feet Under, start. I'm currently using Netflix to work my way through it, and I ADORE it (I'm 2 episodes into Season 4). The episodes are a bit longer than your standard 42-minute hour, but you can use the chapter skip button to skip through the opening credits, which are pretty long (I never timed it, but I'd guess they're about 2 minutes). If you take away the opening and closing credits, each episode is probably around 50 minutes long.

If you do watch Six Feet Under though, just make sure that no one who might be offended sees you watching it - there is occasional nudity and sex. Sounds like you've got your own office, so it shouldn't be an issue, but I just wanted to give you a heads up.

Also, I really enjoyed 24, even though some of it was unbelievable. The only problem with 24 is that nearly every episode ends with a cliffhanger, and I sometimes would end up watching 3 or 4 episodes in one evening (if I had nothing better to do, of course).
posted by AlisonM at 7:05 AM on November 6, 2005

You say you're not interested in sitcoms, but that's the category Undeclared falls into. So, if you can stand good, funny sitcoms, try Newsradio, starring the wonderful Phil Hartman. Also, Sports Night, which was a 30 minutes comedy/drama (very rare) created by Aaron Sorkin (who went on to create The West Wing). Indeed, although it's not funny, the first few seasons of The West Wing are both smart and interesting.
posted by littleme at 7:06 AM on November 6, 2005

House. The 4400.
posted by polyglot at 7:06 AM on November 6, 2005

Oh! Also! The British (original) version of The Office. Hilarious and smart.
posted by AlisonM at 7:09 AM on November 6, 2005

You know, for some reason, TV DVDs have become a godsend. I can't get interested in most movies nowadays, but I'm happier with TV than I've been for a while. I'm afraid to think what that says about me.

Anyway, I second the House recommendation. The show is formulaic, but Hugh Laurie is wonderfully fun to watch. Also, I'm working my way through the first season of Veronica Mars right now and am enjoying it immensely. I've also had fun Netflixing Firefly and Deadwood (although with the latter, you will need headphones at work, and I often want to take a bath after watching it).
posted by bibliowench at 7:29 AM on November 6, 2005

Veronica Mars sounds like it would be a terrible show, but it's actually very good. It's surprisingly dark and clever and Kristen Bell is excellent.

Here's a link to Entertainment Weekly's review of the season one dvds, and here's metacritic's review summaries.

Also, if you haven't already seen Sopranos, Deadwood, and the first two seasons of 24, or the first few seasons of The West Wing, those are good too. Sopranos and Deadwood might be longer than 42 minutes, though, since they don't have commericals.

And I'm not a sci-fi fan, but a friend of mine forced me to watch a few episodes of Farscape and I was hooked. It's definitely both smart and funny.
posted by amarynth at 7:31 AM on November 6, 2005

Six Feet Under of course!!!! What a great show!

Other good shows? Oz is very intense and good.
posted by Faliceemo at 7:31 AM on November 6, 2005

Smart and funny?

Arrested Development, Sports Night, and maybe Curb Your Enthusiasm. The first two are wonderful.
posted by jdroth at 7:40 AM on November 6, 2005

Second divka's recommendation of "Arrested Development." My favorite parts about the show are that it's rather grimly funny, and the makers knew it was good enough they didn't have to tell you when to laugh.
posted by whatzit at 7:41 AM on November 6, 2005

The Decalogue will redefine the way you think of television.
posted by soiled cowboy at 7:43 AM on November 6, 2005

Twin Peaks, Larry Sanders Show, Wonder Years
posted by my sock puppet account at 7:45 AM on November 6, 2005

Seconding bilbliowench's remarks on TV vs. movies. We trust in HBO more than anybody's thumb (up or down). Carnivale. The Wire.Ali G. And it took me awhile, but I really enjoyed Unscripted.
posted by Kibbutz at 7:47 AM on November 6, 2005

Traffick ... jaw-dropping, one of the best mini-series ever made
Monarch of the Glen
Pride and Prejudice ... mini-series, made Colin Firth a star
original The Office
posted by soiled cowboy at 7:55 AM on November 6, 2005

If you liked Lost, definitely check out Alias (same creator - JJ Abrams) - that's probably my all time favorite. I second recommendations of Veronica Mars (so well done and entertaining!) and the 4400 (and I'm not even a sci-fi fan). I liked all the seasons of 24, and I thought the last was particularly good. Desperate Housewives just came out on DVD - that one's definitely both smart and funny, though really racy in parts, so as other posters cautioned, it may depend on who you may be sitting nearby while you watch. CSI (Las Vegas is best) also makes for an entertaining 42 minutes, and it can be easier to stop after just one, since the episodes are relatively independent of one another. Monk is quirky and entertaining as well.
posted by roundrock at 8:01 AM on November 6, 2005

4 seasons of "24" should last you quite a while :) And make for captivating lunch breaks.
posted by lemonfridge at 8:02 AM on November 6, 2005

The Sopranos. addictive...
posted by lois1950 at 8:02 AM on November 6, 2005

The new Battlestar Galactica. Even if you don't usually like SF.

Firefly. Band of Brothers.

Do you like camp? If so, maybe Buck Rogers, CHiPs, etc.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:07 AM on November 6, 2005

Ditto on Veronica Mars, House, and Firefly. I've also enjoyed MI-5 (Spooks) and Angel. My parents swear by Boston Legal.
posted by xyzzy at 8:25 AM on November 6, 2005

Another vote for Firefly. Also, Red Dwarf and Jeeves and Wooster.
posted by rebirtha at 8:32 AM on November 6, 2005

it's not funny, but Boomtown is a masterpiece. it got promptly killed by the network, of course.
posted by matteo at 8:33 AM on November 6, 2005

Fifthing Veronica Mars. Also, Weeds (that's the official site; I can't see it, as non-US users aren't granted access, but it should have more info). And possibly Strangers with Candy.

(And I love Northern Exposure!)
posted by mumble at 8:47 AM on November 6, 2005

From a Lost and Northern Exposure fan I'd second the House recommendation and throw Weeds into the mix, both for their wonderful one-liners and ability to make you forget just about everything for the time they're on screen.
posted by ceri richard at 8:48 AM on November 6, 2005

Whoops, Weeds isn't out on DVD yet. Still a good show, though.
posted by mumble at 8:51 AM on November 6, 2005

Deadwood is amazing. You can also get a lot of mileage wading through West Wing.
posted by cccorlew at 9:06 AM on November 6, 2005

Dorky: the boy & I have been watching 21 Jump Street on Netflix. I never saw it when it was originally on, but now I adore it. Only three seasons are on DVD though.

And, of course, Firefly.
posted by librarina at 9:08 AM on November 6, 2005

Arrested Development - I've been watching an ep every night before bed and fall asleep very happy. Absolutely Fabulous, the first two seasons. Not a TV show exactly, but Eddie Izzard's "Dress to Kill" is very smart and can be broken down to watch over several days.
posted by SashaPT at 9:08 AM on November 6, 2005

I second 24. Deadwood. Band of Brothers. Shackleton.

Outside your parameters a little, do you have any interest in the natural world? If so, then buying BBC DVDs of Attenborough's natural history programmes could be a thought - they're easygoing, fascinating and the best ones can really take you out of the room for an hour and make you feel very refreshed and open-eyed.
posted by paperpete at 9:14 AM on November 6, 2005

Dead Like Me is worth a mention. Kind of hit-or-miss, but if you like black humor you can count on it to have at least one or two damn good scenes per show.
posted by bricoleur at 9:17 AM on November 6, 2005

The smartest shows on television are HBO dramas; I rank them: Deadwood, Carnivale, Six Feet Under, and The Wire. While I consider The Sopranos and Oz to be well-written but overrated, many seasons are available now.

I, too, loathe sitcoms. The only comedies I can really stand are the somewhat more audacious sketch shows, such as Mr. Show, Chappelle's Show, and The Kids in the Hall. However, The Office, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Strangers with Candy are all interesting/painful in that Seinfeldian way. While the movies would run long over your lunch hour, MST3K stands alone in a weird highbrow/lowbrow universe.

Of some more well-know series, the following can occasionally hold my attention (in order, best to worst): The West Wing, Lost, Desperate Housewives, 24, Sex and the City, Dark Angel, and Alias.

Don’t forget about mini-series, say, like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Everyone should probably see Roots and Traffik. Band of Brothers, The Grid, and Into the West are more recent, acclaimed examples.

I should probably mention a few shows I consider to be hidden gems: Sandbaggers - taught and esoteric (well, for an American) political/spy thriller; K Street - topical, political, improvised, reality/drama; Twin Peaks - David Lynch small town, metaphysical, crime mystery. Frustratingly, the second season of the latter hasn’t been released. Still, you can order it from overseas or download it.

This reminds me that there’s the whole gray world of television torrents. I automatically get last night’s The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and a weekly Real Time with Bill Maher. You could probably download any other episode or series you’d need to keep up at the water cooler. However, be careful of those fifteen season The Simpsons or nine-season The X-Files sets, or you’ll never leave the house.
posted by glibhamdreck at 9:22 AM on November 6, 2005

In my opinion, "Deadwood" is the best TV series ever, seconded by "Upstairs, Downstairs."

There's an odd affinity between "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Freaks and Geeks," two shows, which, on the surface, seem to have little in common.

Both are period shows, but cover widely different periods (and locations) -- F&G is set in the midwestern US in the 1980s; UD is set in London in 1908 through 1930. Both shows cut back and forth between two subcultures, freaks and geeks / gentry and servants. Both shows feature great acting and amazing writing.

From the UK, I also highly recommend "I, Claudius", "To Serve Them All My Days," "The Charmer", "Elizabeth R" and "Prime Suspect."

I know people call the 50s the Golden Age of Television, but in my mind, TV has had two golden ages -- on took place in the UK in the 1970s/80s ("Upstairs, Downstairs" / "I, Claudius"). I think -- after a wasteland in the 90s -- we're in another golden age now, mostly centered around HBO.

My favorite mini-series is Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander." Most people (in the US) think of it as a feature film, but it was originally shot for Swedish television. FINALLY, you can watch the entire series (the version released in US theatres was cut by over two hours!).

If you're one of those people who think of Bergman as a maker of slow, ponderous, dreary movies, give "F&A" a chance. It's a horror movie/fairy tale.
posted by grumblebee at 10:11 AM on November 6, 2005

From your list of favorites you might well enjoy Wonderfalls - it's Northern-Exposure quirky with a little Lost spookiness and the lead character could be a Freak or Geek a few years later.
posted by nicwolff at 10:14 AM on November 6, 2005

Actually, rereading your post, you might well enjoy will totally love Wonderfalls.
posted by nicwolff at 10:15 AM on November 6, 2005

The Adventures of Pete and Pete is surreal, quirky and very, very funny. Don't be put off by the fact that it's a "kids' show." It's definitely smart enough for grown-ups to enjoy. Plus, it had cool guest stars like Iggy Pop and Steve Buscemi.
posted by jrossi4r at 10:22 AM on November 6, 2005

Wow - great recommendations. I am going to second the ones I think will blow your mind: Traffik, Band of Brothers, Prime Suspect, The 6 wives of Henry VIII, I. Claudius, The Sopranos, The Office. Great post - thanks!
posted by xammerboy at 11:24 AM on November 6, 2005

Hex tends to get branded as "The British Buffy" - but is actually darker, better written and sexier. Series 1 is on DVD. I envy you your office.
posted by rongorongo at 11:49 AM on November 6, 2005

I'll second or third the Wire. I love that show.
posted by mullacc at 12:16 PM on November 6, 2005

I really enjoyed The Kingdom by Lars Von Trier, and it gets very addictive. It was remade recently as Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital, but that was rubbish. It comes in handy bite-size chunks as it was serialised for television in Denmark.
posted by BobsterLobster at 12:43 PM on November 6, 2005

If you didn't catch it when it was running, Homicide: Life on the Streets is the best cop drama I've ever seen.

Malcolm in the Middle is a sitcom, but it's also very funny. Quirky and unusual. About the only TV show that does the postmodern suburban life well without animation.

The HBO series Rome if history (and illegal bittorents) float your boat.

The second season of the American version of The Office has been fantastic. It seems to have finally found it's own little niche.

The live action version of The Tick is surprisingly good and incredibly well acted.
posted by panoptican at 12:45 PM on November 6, 2005

Wow - This is just an awesome list of shows. I think I have lunch planned for at least a year now. Thanks a lot for the responses. Not being a big TV watcher in general, I haven't seen 99% of the shows listed -- so I look forward to working my way through the suggestions.

Nice work, metafilter-ites.
posted by crapples at 1:14 PM on November 6, 2005

Home Movies is brilliant (Seasons 1,2 and 3 on DVD).

Also, Aqua Teen Hungerforce is to die for (Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 on DVD), plus each episode is only around 12 minutes long, so you get a bunch in.

Finally, everyone loves Scrubs (Season 1 and 2).
posted by JPowers at 2:15 PM on November 6, 2005

I was shocked that it took so long for someone to mention Wonderfalls, but I'll second it. Absolutely terrific.

Also, seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Okay, really, only six are worth watching, but YMMV.
posted by FlamingBore at 5:01 PM on November 6, 2005

I second the nomination of Farscape.... great sci-fi with sets and creatures created by the Jim Henson company, smart writing and believable situations, and often, quite funny. Check it out even if you normally don't like sci-fi.
posted by RoseovSharon at 5:53 PM on November 6, 2005

As if they needed more recommendations: Veronica Mars, House and FireFly.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:07 AM on November 7, 2005

The Muppet Show, Season 1?
posted by NemesisVex at 6:59 AM on November 7, 2005

Thirded Wondrefalls!
posted by soplerfo at 7:43 AM on November 7, 2005

One last suggestion since no one else threw it out: Stargate SG-1. I'm not a huge sci-fi fan, but the character development on this show has been great and it is quite funny.
posted by lynda at 10:46 AM on November 7, 2005

I'd second 'Curb your enthusiasm' also 'Extras'- by the creators of the Office, although I'm not sure if its on DVD yet.
posted by MrC at 11:48 AM on November 8, 2005

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