TV Crash Course 101: fill the summer lull

TV Crash Course 101: fill the summer lull

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Your homework? Catch up on our list of standout shows.

I know for me, the only way I can enjoy summer is to have a cold drink in hand and a body of water to dip my toes in. So what do I do when those two items are not an option? I stay in my air conditioned home and catch up on some good TV shows. I bet you are wondering what shows are good enough to stay in and watch on a gorgeous summer day? Well I’m here to share a few shows that will leave you feeling made in the shade!

Your TV Crash Course 101 consists of Five Must See Shows that sadly, are no longer airing, but well worth your time and space in a Netflix que. Plus for a little Extra Credit, I’ve included a few that we all should start watching before the networks decide to take them off the air as well. You’ve got just enough time to cram your way through our course before the fall television season is upon us.

1. Dollhouse Joss Whedon created Dollhouse. In my dream world that is all I would need to say to get you to watch it, but in case I need to elaborate…the latest show from Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly) centers on a mysterious, underground company, the Dollhouse, that has numerous people working for them called “Actives”. The personalities/memories of these Actives have been wiped clean and they can be imprinted with any persona, from a best friend to an assassin, depending on the wishes of their wealthy clientele.

Echo, played by Eliza Dushku (she was Tyna’s girl crush Faith on BtVS) is an Active, and is gradually regaining her memories while still embodying every imprint she has ever received. The show focuses on her struggles to regain her past and, more importantly, figure out why she is trapped in the Dollhouse. Working together with an ex (and dreamy) FBI agent, Paul Ballard, (Tahmoh Penikett of Battlestar Galactica), the two are determined to find out the mystery of the Dollhouse and to regain all the Actives’ personalities.

Now that you have the background, let me tell you that Dollhouse has everything you want in a show. Action, romance, drama, comedy, and eye candy, it’s all there! I have to say that Topher, the brilliant programmer that wipes all the Actives personas clean (and imprints new personalities), was my favorite character. He made me laugh in just about every show. Still not convinced? Read Tyna’s 5 reasons you should watch Dollhouse column published just before the Dollhouse premiere ~ why didn’t America listen?!

2. Arrested Development – One of the most underrated shows ever! I think most people that I have talked to (including myself) got into this after it was canceled. I feel ashamed that I didn’t watch this when it was on, but I want to pass it on to you, so that you will go see the movie.

The adorable Jason Bateman (Juno) plays Michael Bluth, who may be the only one in his eccentric, formerly wealthy family with a stable head on his shoulders. He tries to keep the family business together while his dad, played by Jeffrey Tambor, is in prison for doing some shifty accounting work. Michael ends up living in the model home that is owned by the business with his son George-Michael, (heh), played by Michael Cera (every rom-com out in the last two years). Then twin sister, Lindsay, Portia de Rossi (Ali McBeal) her husband Tobias, David Cross (Comedian), and daughter Maeby, Alia Shawkat, (Whip It) all move in once they realize they don’t have daddy’s money to live off of. Lindsay thinks that throwing charity parties is a way to make money. Her husband Tobias is a Never Nude (he has on a pair of cutoff jean shorts at all times.) And Maeby tries to get attention from her parents by pretending to like her cousin George-Michael, which really messes with his head.

Then another sibling moves into the house, Job or some call him Gob, Will Arnet (Blades of Glory) who is always riding a Segway and is of course, a magician. Michael’s mother Lucile, Jessica Walter, is living in a penthouse with the other brother, Buster, Tony Hale (Stranger than Fiction). She is trying to recreate their life with a new financial status, while Buster has fallen for the next door neighbor, Lucile number 2, played by Liza Minnelli.

Did you notice all those bold names? The cast completely rocks and they are given outstanding material to work their magic. This show will have you laughing nonstop and wondering what will happen next. It’s done in a Mocumentary format incorporating hand-held camera work, narration, archival photos, and historical footage. Here is a little taste of what you will see in this show:

3. Flight of the ConcordsIf you like dry humor, funny little ditties, and great accents, then this is a show for you. Bret and Jemaine are a comedy duo out of New Zealand that started as a radio show before becoming a TV series here in the US. The show is the band playing fictionalized versions of themselves who move to NYC to try and make it big. The band manager is a Deputy Cultural Attaché at the New Zealand consulate who can only get them shows booked at the local mall. They have one fan/stalker. My favorite thing about this show is that Bret and Jemaine are very low-key, a bit monotone and pretty awkward and when they can’t fully express themselves they break into song and dance. For example, here Bret meets a girl he likes and while trying to hold a conversation with her, his thoughts turn to song…

4. Pushing Daisies – This show is just too beautiful not to watch. Production designer Michael Wylie told TV Guide, “My goal was a storybook come to life. I wanted everything to look almost like an illustration.” In my opinion he did just that. The colors are so vibrant and beautiful I couldn’t tear my eyes away. It’s not just the scenery that is bright and cheery; it’s the entire cast as well. Everyone is dressed in bright greens, reds, yellows, and purples. Even though the show is about murder investigations they don’t make the set dull, even the morgue is painted in candy-cane stripes.

They also used a composer and complete orchestra for each episode, with music specifically for the show. The plot of Pushing Daisies is about Ned, played by squee-worthy Lee Pace (he was in Fuller’s earlier, beloved cult show, Wonderfalls) who finds out as a young boy that he can bring things back to life with the touch of his finger. He also discovers that if he touches them a second time they will die for good (and if he keeps the person or animal alive for more than a minute, something else of equal size, dies in its place). He keeps this a secret for obvious reasons. He grows up to be a pie maker at his shop “Pie Hole” and makes pies from rotted fruit, (with the touch of his hand they become ripe and delicious).

He joins forces with a detective, Emerson Cod, played by Chi McBride (Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation) to solve murders. On one case he wakes his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte, played by Anna Friel (Land of the Lost). He can’t resist the urge to keep her alive so they begin a no touch romance, while solving crime. I could keep going on about how Olive, the Pie Hole’s waitress, played by incomparable Kristen Chenoweth (guest appearances in Glee), is in love with Ned and occasionally breaks out into song. Or tell you about Charlotte’s twin aunts who were once famous synchronize swimmers dressed as mermaids. But then, why would you watch? Here is a clip, to wet your whistle:

5. Party Down – Sadly, Party Down was canceled just recently after only two seasons. It was an extremely under-watched show, partially due to being aired on the Starz Network, and features an incredible up-and-coming, talented cast. Creator Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars) writes with razor sharp wit in this show centering on out-of-work actor, Henry, played by Adam Scott (who joined the cast of Parks and Recreation). He has been chewed up and spit out by the Hollywood world, and now has resorted to returning to his old gig, a catering service that mostly employs other struggling entertainers.

His goodhearted, but ultimately pathetic “team leader,” played by the hysterical Ken Marino (Veronica Mars, Role Models) does his best to make everyone care about their work, but the employees are all more concerned with their own pursuits of happiness. Henry’s love interest, Casey, played by Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls, True Blood), is a struggling comedienne. Ryan Hansen (another Veronica Mars vet) plays a naïve (ok, dumb) pretty-boy pursuing a career as an actor/model/power-emo musician. Plus, the one and only Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up) rounds up the main cast as an aspiring sci-fi writer. Not to forget that throughout the two seasons Jane Lynch (Glee), Jennifer Coolidge (Best in Show), and Megan Mullally (Will and Grace) all play a considerable roles. The show is produced by Paul Rudd, among a few others, and has a writing team that will make you laugh throughout each of the episodes. See for yourself:

Here’s an Extra Credit assignment – watch these two attention worthy series before they are canceled as well:

Community – Dan Harmon, the creator of this show was said to say that it is based loosely off his own experience. He was taking a Spanish class in college and joined a study group and, somewhat against his own instincts, become closely connected to the group of people who he had very little in common with. He began to write the show with the main character, Jeff Winger, (played by The Soup’s Joel McHale) based on himself. Jeff is a suspended lawyer who has been forced back to school after his college degree is deemed invalid by the State Bar. Focusing on Jeff’s experiences while attending Greendale Community College (and the people he meets there) this show takes the standard ‘school show’ to a new, and hysterical level.

Jeff soon joins a study group for his Spanish class and strangely enough they all become close friends. The study group contains a quirky cast of characters, including the girl Jeff is crushing on, Britta, who is in school trying to get her life back on track, Pierce, played by Chevy Chase, who is always giving strange life lessons from his own experiences of being a moist-towelette tycoon and married seven times. There is also film student Abed, who can only connect with people when relating the situation to a movie, a newly divorced mother attending college classes for the first time and a former high school quarterback, Troy, (played by Donald Glover -a writer for 30Rock). My favorite episode this season was when the Dean announced the grand prize for the paint ball tourney and all hell broke loose:

Always Sunny In Philadelphia – Have you ever wanted to start up a bar with your best buds? That is exactly what Dennis, Mac, Charlie and Deandra did. They run Paddy’s Pub which is a fairly unsuccessful Irish Pub in Philadelphia. “The Gang” as they are referred to in the show, are dishonest, egotistical, greedy, unethical, arrogant, and are often arguing about controversial issues, just like most of us. The episodes are about The Gang finding themselves coming up with elaborate schemes, conspiring against one another or others for personal gain or the pleasure of watching their downfall. Charlie is the brunt of a lot of jokes, he is dyslexic and always writing notes that no one can decipher. Danny DeVito appears as Frank, Dennis and Sweet Dee’s (Deandra) dad. He is going through a divorce and ends up living with Charlie. Most of the time they are in their long underwear cooking on a hotplate – heh.

In my favorite episode, Sweet Dee gets involved with a famous local rapper (who might be mentally challenged), and whose success inspires the rest of the gang to start a band. They just can’t agree on how to present their soon to be hit song – Dennis wants 80’s glam, Mac wants rock and roll, and Frank wants a 50’s inspired tune. They kick Dennis out after he comes dressed in spandex. Meanwhile, Charlie (who was out of the band from the start) has locked himself in his apartment and started huffing spray paint. Eventually, Dennis and Charlie form their own band Electric Dream Machine:

I hope you enjoy my summer TV Crash Course 101 – What shows did I miss? Share your favorite, underrated shows in the comments and they may make the syllabus of my next class.

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6 thoughts on “TV Crash Course 101: fill the summer lull”

  1. What a fantastic list @cori!!!

    I adored Dollhouse. I still have to catch the famous lost episode.

    Who could not love Arrested Development-apparently the networks! Let’s hope a movie really happens.

    I have heard that Party Down is/was insanely good. The cast is outstanding.

    And Flight of The Conchords was soooo great!! I wish that they had been up for coming back for at least one more season. I think that their stalker Kristen Schall was my all time favorite part of the show.

    Community progressively has gotten better
    and better. I was thrilled and shocked when it was renewed. Yay!!

    And It’s Always Sunny has long been the light of my life. There is no way that bad boy is getting canceled. It has been quietly plugging along for years. It is sick, twisted, and hilarious!!!!!!!!!! I own every season. Each episode is a little classic gem that can be watched over and over. With things like “kitten mittens”, “d*@k towel”, “green man”, “cannibalism”, and “The Night Man Cometh” how could you not laugh?? I strongly suggest that everyone watch if they can handle disgustingly hilarious and clever humor that will make them fall on the floor and spit out their drink while laughing insanely.

  2. Also is anyone watching True Blood this summer?? That show is bananas!!! I adore it. What an awesome summer time tv treat!! The story line is insane this season.

  3. Out of all the shows you’ve listed, I’ve only watched (and loved) Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Thanks for the summer viewing tips, @cori. I’m going to check out Arrested Development first!

    I can’t get enough True Blood, @kellie76! It’s been off the hook craziness this season!

  4. I am such a pop culture nerd! I thought that everyone would be all over this post like I am. I must watch way too much tv!! But hey that’s what living in Ohio will do to you. It’s either too freaking hot or too freaking cold to be outside for very long.

  5. Well I’m glad you are all over it @kellie76 ! I love TV too. I have been watching True Blood this season too and it’s getting a little crazy! I’m not sure if I like it or not but I keep watching to see what will happen. I have read the books and I think the books are a bit better.

  6. @Cori, you got three of my all time favorite shows on there: FOTC, It’s Always Sunny and Arrested Development! Love love love those shows.

    I don’t actually own a TV anymore, so I do all of my television show watching via Hulu or DVD. I think I’ll have to invest some couch time for some DVD marathons soon and check out the rest of this list. :D

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