All of us have different ways to relax. Some of us meditate. Others go for a run. Personally, I like to read. Nonetheless, many (if not most) of us enjoy a good sofa session, legs spread out, bowl of popcorn in one hand, remote in the other, as we watch the ol’ television.
If you’re like me, you might feel a tad, well, guilty watching television. After all, there’s “more productive” things to do! We could go volunteer at a charity. We could cook for our loved ones. But sometimes, you just want to shut off your brain and, well, laugh. Or cry. And with the excess of good programming currently infiltrating our silver screen, I’m here to tell you that’s totally okay.
Below is my list of five modern television recommendations for The Peaceful Dumpling in us all. You’ll notice a lack of reality programming (of which I am not an aficionado). Hopefully, you’re already watching these shows. If not, most of the below are available on Netflix!
Sit back, relax, and don’t change the channel…
It’s a universal fact that Benedict Cumberbatch is one sexy man. (That is, unless you’re my friend Geoff, who thinks he looks like an alien, but we’ll just label Geoff an outlier.) Alien or not, Benedict Cumberbatch is out-of-this-world (pun intended) as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC production of Sherlock. About to air its third season, Sherlock is a modern update of the classic sleuth. While there is the addition of iPhones and web browsers, however, Sherlock lacks none of the wit and ingenuity of its predecessors. In fact, I firmly believe what makes Benedict Cumberbatch so dashing (other than his gravelly British baritone) is the character he plays on this show. Well-dressed in a coat all men should lust, Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes is smart, capable hero who rescues people not through the ever-popular cultural convention of super powers, but his brain. Sherlock is also a “bro-mance” between Dr. Watson (played by The Office’s Martin Freeman) and Holmes, where their friendship is by far more alluring than the mysteries they solve. For a witty repose that exalts the joys of friendship and intelligence, I can’t recommend Sherlock enough.
Guys, I love Gilmore Girls. It’s one of my all-time favorite shows, ever. The dialogue is fast-paced and sharp; the relationships between all characters, primary and secondary, well-fleshed out. Though the town of Stars Hollow is beyond quirky, thanks to showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino, all the folks inhabiting said fictional town feel real. No relationship matters more to the success of the show, however, than that of mother-daughter team Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel possess amazing chemistry, and their acting — both comedic and dramatic — should have won them more notice. Gilmore Girls made smart cool way before shows like Big Bang Theory became popular. It also helped that Rory and I were roughly the same age, so her high-school and college struggles felt a lot like my own. Even today, however, I can relate with the Gilmore girls, and I guarantee you will, too. Nothing comforts me more than watching Lorelai and Rory discuss one another’s love life or scholastic struggles. Of course it helps that I’m a sucker for arcane movie/book/music references.
Parks and Recreation
The world needs more Leslie Knopes. Starting in its second season, Parks and Recreation did what it should have from the very beginning and made Leslie Knope a relatable, likeable character whose caring and love for city government made her not a buffoon but rather a wonderful person that everyone — coworkers and strangers alike — love and admire. Like 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation attracts high praise but low ratings, and I’ll count myself incredibly lucky if it lasts another season. Check out Season Two and beyond (it gets especially clever and enjoyable near the end of the Second Season when Rob Lowe and Adam Scott join the cast). This show never fails to make me smile, if not outright belly laugh to the point of being unable to breathe.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
If you want to watch a show starring kick-ass women other than Rory and Lorelai Gilmore, look no further than Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV-series (especially the second and third seasons). Buffy has a cult following that still lives and breathes today, helped along by the creation of a comic book series that lasts past the show’s series finale. With the creation of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Whedon gave teens and adults alike a feminist icon to admire– one that also happened to be going through the pains of being a teenager in high school and college. Buffy’s friends are also given agency with their own travails and story-lines. If you’re looking for a campy, funny good time with more than a twist of fantasy and melodrama, check this show out.
Yes, this is another show starring Lauren Graham. What can I say– the woman chooses strong vehicles. Parenthood is loosely based off the old movie, yet created and run by Jason Katims, of Friday Night Lights fame (that’s another television series I can’t recommend highly enough). Parenthood — like all the shows listed here — is a program you can watch with your entire family, because it stars an entire (and incredibly large) family. Katims remembers what it’s like to be a parent and a child, and his show confronts with a deft hand all sorts of touchy familial issues that are so often neglected in television today (a child with Aspergers, interracial dating, single-parenthod, stay-at-home dads). I’m not a parent, yet I can’t stop watching Parenthood. And once you start, neither will you.
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Photo: Dazza Chazza via Flickr