Ten TV Shows to Binge-Watch this Summer - Part 4

by Audioworm

Before I reveal my number one TV show that you should catch up on this Summer, I thought I would extend the suspense with a list of honourable mentions.

The grand reveal, of what I consider the seminal TV show that you must catch up on, can wait a few more days. Instead, here is a list of shows that I adore and love, but didn't quite make the Top 10 for whatever reason. There is no overarching theme beyond these shows being excellent, and excellent TV should always be commended.

Each show will have a small rundown of why I think it is amazing, rather than the in depth discussion of the previous articles. So without further ado, let us begin the run down.

Orange Is The New Black

Giving women a chance to show they can run the show.

Orange is the New Black stormed onto screens last year via the distribution network Netflix, which has begun producing its own content (much like House of Cards). Orange is the New Black takes into a women's prison, guided in through the naive and privileged eyes of Piper Chapman, made to serve time for drug smuggling she did while dating the head of drug ring. 

While in prison we meet a huge amount of women from a whole range of backgrounds, who are all in prison for a wide number of reasons. Jenji Kohan uses the traditionally attractive, but highly competent, Taylor Schilling as a way for the audience to be drawn into the stories of women of colour, who usually only ever play narrow roles, filled with stereotypes. Kohan is allowed to humanise them all, allowing us to discuss race relations, class warfare, sexuality, gender binary, religion, and the nature of privilege. 

The show is utterly fantastic and definitely worth watching. I have yet to see the second season but from all reports it a fantastic continuation of a ground-breaking series.

Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks was a first of its kind. A complex and confusing arc that introduced mystery upon mystery while keeping you hooked with the performance Kyle MacLachlan, who plays Special Agent Dale Cooper. Cooper is a competent, if not a little quirky, agent for the FBI, sent to Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of Laura Palmer. 

Dale Cooper has penchant for coffee, always trying to find the place that serves the greatest brew, a quirk for recording his thoughts on a dictaphone , even if they are utterly inane, and a curiosity for the supernatural. 

His quest for the truth takes him to many weird and wonderful people places, through many pieces of pie, and even to an encounter with a cross-dressing agent Dennis Byron, played marvelously by David Duchovny. The show is masterfully crafted, following the now famed double payoff, with the original puzzle wrapping up to unveil a deeper and more intriguing story.

Twin Peaks first aired in 1990, but has aged exceptionally well. At the time it was relatively ground-breaking, so many of the tricks, techniques, and tropes it employs are now common practise, which at the time were new and unheard of, but the story is still fantastic and will keep you guessing the entire time.

If you are a media nerd like myself you will take great joy in seeing the long lasting influence this show has had on modern TV, one such was highlighted in Part 3 when I discussed American Horror Story, but the reach goes far further. It's a fantastic opportunity to see many famous faces before they became household names.


Screwed-up Brothers Fight and Sleep with Demons, and Other Stuff

Supernatural is one of the longest running dramas still going at the moment. Having just finished it's 9th Season it shows no signs of slowing down as the stories get bigger and more crucial to the survival of humanity.

The early seasons followed the lives of Sam and Dean Winchester as they carry on the family business of hunting down supernatural creatures and preventing them for causing any more harm. Following the training of their father they travel the country rescuing people from that which they refuse to believe in. As the show developed we were introduced to a darker understory involving demons and their rulers.

The yellow-eyed demon stalks the brothers until the fate of humanity depends on them conquering the aforementioned beast. This brings them into contact with gods, urban legends, ghosts, and all manner of beast fair and foul. 

The show hits new heights when we are introduced to monsters of a truly biblical proportion, and a war that threatens all sides with ultimate destruction.

The performances of Jared Padaleck, Jensen Ackles, and Misha Collins keep you coming back for more and more, as the show continues to dump emotional cluster bombs on you over and over again.


Adults behaving like adults can be funny

Sirens is an American remake of a British original, but is utterly fantastic in its own right. It's a comedy that follows the life of EMTs in Chicago as they navigate the complexities of life, career, and love. What I find makes this show so great, outside of it's fantastic writing, is the maturity of which everyone treats each other.

One of the main protagonists is on a break from his girlfriend due to a disagreement over living with one another, yet they are amicable and friendly when they meet each other. In shows like Friends, like most Sitcoms, the comedy and laughs comes from characters having not communicated clearly so everyone gets on top of one another, or misses what is going on. With Sirens the characters communicate with each other, most of the time.

There are a few times when they don't, but it matches how you would imagine real interactions. The show does feel extremely genuine in it relations, and the characters are people you can easily identify with. Of the three leading characters with have a guy with unresolved commitment issues that his girlfriend is trying to help him overcome, a gay black guy who is helping push past the stereotypes attached to such an individual (his mother is very involved in the church but has no issue with his sexuality), and a clueless but kindhearted guy, who only wants to do good but is unaware that some of his actions are harmful. 

There is also a kickass female cop with a clueless male deputy, an asexual EMT who has a morbid obsession with collecting body parts, and her co-rider with an unnamed compulsive condition. All these individuals have characteristics that would usually make them the butt of jokes, but when jokes are made about the condition it is never at the person, and is usually aimed at the person who is ignorant. The whole show is a delightful watch.

Penny Dreadful

Vampire's Are Not Sexy

Penny Dreadful is a spiritual adaptation of the Penny Dreadful stories. It takes the stories both of the Dreadfuls, as well as the traditional horror stories of the time. If there is a famous story from Victorian times it will be touched on by the series.

Outside stroking the ego of everyone who ever studied English Literature, it also takes us on a tale of a conflicted father gripped with remorse, his young female assistant who has a natural ability for clairvoyance. This duo are joined by a gunslinging Yank and a genius young medical researcher.

All four work together to hunt down a pack of vampires, that are foul and wicked beasts, rather than the sparkling, chiselled teens modern media believes them to be. Alongside this major story each battles with their own personal demons (some more literally than others), providing us with a grand and weaving narrative through an alternative Victorian London.

Gravity Falls

Mr Waddles Steals the Show

Gravity Falls was described to me as 'Supernatural with no stakes' which is an utterly perfect description. We have twins Mabel and Dipper who are left with their Grunkle Stan for the summer. Grunkle Stan runs the Mystery Shack, filled with all sorts of oddities and curiosities (all of which are fake), in Gravity Falls.

An Utterly Apt Description
An Utterly Apt Description

But Gravity Falls is filled with all sorts of real supernatural creatures and events, which Dipper and Mabel attack with all the gusto that can be expected of 12 year olds. They fight gnomes, trolls, the leftover candy from Halloween, as well as time travelling agents. All of this is tied together by utterly charming animation and characters. The supporting cast are engaging and reflective of parts of society, the star among them being Mr Waddles, Mabel's pet pig.

30 Rock

Liz Lemon is a Bad Person

Tina Fey's critically acclaimed and awarding comedy series about a weekly live comedy show which is legally not Saturday Night Live, but is very definitely Saturday Night Live. Focused on the writers, stars, and production side of creating a live television show every week.

The show is fantastically clever, and fantastically quick. It tackles all the dark and boring sides of television in a quick and insightful manner. The show reeks of experience of this side of the business, as all the years that Fey, and the others on writing team, spent working and acting on SNL become apparent.

The show also takes a chance to discuss the changing role of women in the business, and also the ability to discuss racism in the industry.

The show constantly challenges your preconceptions about the characters, and the characterisations they act into. One of the characters is trying to pass an image of being a playboy adulterer (due to the sponsors it gains him) but in reality is a devoted husband and wife. There is also a Harvard educated writer who is still hung up on the 'embarrassments' of people of his own race.

The show is 7 Seasons of comedy gold, and well worth watching.

Mad Men

Alcohol. Adultery. Advertising.

Mad Men takes us into the alcohol fueled, misogynistic, and racist world of the Madison Avenue Ad Men. Dropping us into Don Draper's creative department at Sterling-Cooper, an award winning advertising firm. Draper is wondering how to approach a new campaign revolving around Lucky Strike cigarettes, after the new evidence has come out providing damning evidence of tobacco's link to cancer.

We start off seeing the world through his creative vision for every advert, but are introduced to his troubled life of secret pasts and family problems, as well his destructive addictions. Through the lense of the 1960's the writers explore the sexism and racism that defined a time that was in rampant change. All of those in the company are very much a part of the 'haves', earning very large salaries for selling death and hollow dreams to people.

Various characters are introduced as the show progresses that allow different arcs and narratives to be explored. We have the stiff upper lip Brit, Pryce, who is more focused on ensuring a healthy bottom line than allowing Draper to have a nap in his office to nurse his hangover.

The major star next to Don Draper is the secretary-turned-creative Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) who climbs the ladder of power and importance as she repeatedly shows why she deserves to be there, as well as the importance of having women in the company at all.



In a time more simple than now, NBC had an idea about how it could improve it's ratings. For Thursday nights it developed comedies that were comedian's comedies, very clever comedies that rewarded the committed and observant viewers. The success of this strategy is mixed. 

Within this strategy NBC created some of its most critically acclaimed comedies: 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation (also worth watching), and Community. The commercial success of these shows was less great. This commercial uncertainty lead to Community being repeatedly cancelled and revived, before it lands on its new home of Yahoo next year.

Community is based in Greendale Community College which in the Dean's own words is described as 'You've heard it's 'loser college' for remedial teenstwenty-something drop-outsmiddle-aged divorcees, and old peoplekeeping their minds active as they circle the drain of eternity. That's what you heard, however... I wish you luck!' For our view we initially follow Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), a highly successful, if slightly sociopathic, lawyer who cheated on his bar test years ago and has been exposed, requiring him to go back to college.

Soon 'The Gang' is formed and we follow them through their years at the school. A fan favourite among the group very rapidly emerged in the form of Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi).

Abed is a hardcore film and TV buff who constantly points when the gang's activities are either mimicking a famous show, or when they are descending into trope characteristics. Abed and Troy (Donald Glover) become an extremely tight partnership, engaging in fantastic pranks and long-running jokes. One of their greatest is their fake breakfast show 'Troy and Abed in the Morning', where they parody Breakfast TV (including the crowd of the people with the placards) and even invite guests on, continually acknowledging a camera crew that doesn't exist. 

The show is a refreshingly intelligent and quick comedy, that rewards long term with an insane amount of injokes and call backs. One of the best comedies of the decade.

The Following

Kevin Bacon, Not Dancing.

The Following is a detective thriller and a battle of wits between a FBI Specialist Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and English Professor turned serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). It has been several years since Carroll went on his killing spree, in which he only targeted classically attractive college-aged women, but during a routine moving of the prisoner (to attend a hearing) he is assisted in a grand escape. 

While behind bars Carroll has been grooming a cult of murderers and killers to act his every wish and command. Now that he has escaped, and has the protection and muscle of his cult he wants to write a sequel to his first spree. In a race against time, and the lives of those he loves, Hardy must track down Carroll is a bloody game of cat and mouse. 

Now onto its second season the stakes have been raised, if to a slightly crazy point, and more cults and killers have been introduced. The show does an excellent job of balancing the tension and thrill of the chase, with the personalisation and characterisation of the individual members of the cult.

Bates Motel

The Prequel to a Classic

Bates Motel is a reimagined prequel to the Norman Bates character of Psycho, set in the modern times. Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) has bought a motel using the money paid to out her after the death of her husband. Her and her son, Norman (Freddie Highmore), buy a motel (which will eventually become infamous in movie history). 

We are taken through the awkward protective relationship Norma and Norman have for one another. When Norman becomes interested in a girl Norma becomes worried for him and any possible hurt this girl may cause. In the same way Norman does like leaving his mother alone incase she becomes the victim of any sort of violent assault.

The backstory of Norman Bates is slowly explored and unraveled. The show does a fantastic job of humanising him, and giving him depth, even despite our pre-existing of the outcome to all of this. Highmore does a fantastic of making us highly sympathetic for a character that we know turns into killer, even though none of that is revealed to us through the show itself. The show is fantastic at rewarding movie fans, while allowing those who only know the TV show to have an enjoyable experience too.

Next time...

That was a brief run through some more, but not all, of the shows that are worth catching up on this summer. It was considerably briefer but if they are any shows you want to know more about I am happy to expand on any queries. 

In the next article I promise to actually unveil which show has achieved the number one spot.

Updated: 07/16/2014, Audioworm
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JoHarrington on 07/16/2014

I remember watching Twin Peaks before you were born. :p I wonder how different it would be now. The Bates Motel sounds fabulous. And Ember is always trying to get me to watch 'Orange is the New Black'. It's already on my list to see accordingly.

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