10 TV shows you have to watch (over and over again)
Time Out Abu Dhabi staff
Not so long ago, there was very little to watch on TV. Besides the occasional football match and Sunday afternoon Bond film, that little black box in the corner became a ghastly vacuum of disinterest, providing little more in the way of day-to-day usefulness than a nice spot to plonk the family portrait.
But then, sometime around the start of the last decade, something miraculous happened – TV got good again. Kiefer Sutherland started running around and shooting people in the leg; CSI turned a generation of high school drop-outs into wannabe forensic scientists and everyone became so captivated by Lost that nobody bothered asking why a fat guy stranded on a desert island never got thinner.
And now, after the pick-me-up provided by Jack Bauer and co, a fresh wave of shows has arrived to boost our entertainment options further still. This time round, they’ve even got bona fide, big-name Hollywood actors on board, with the likes of Steve Buscemi and Tim Roth shunning the big screen to get involved with TV’s brand new Golden Age. So reinforce your sofas, people – with this lot in the bag, we guarantee you won’t want to move until autumn.
Action Breaking Bad Stars: Bryan Cranston (Little Miss Sunshine), Anna Gunn (Enemy of the State), Aaron Paul (Mission: Impossible III)
Plot: Walter White (Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher, who, with a view to providing for his family before he dies of lung cancer, sets up a shady side business producing meth. But don’t worry – this is more fast-paced, darkly comic crime caper than eggheaded science drama.
Best bit: The formerly straight-laced Walter’s nervy first attempt to shift his illicit wares on to a distributor. Needless to say, it doesn’t go according to plan.
Watch it: With a copy of the periodic table and a Bunsen burner. Available at www.amazon.co.uk.
Lie To Me Stars: Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs), Kelli Williams (Ally McBeal), Mekhi Phifer (8 Mile, ER)
Plot: A drama about human lie detector Dr Cal Lightman and the employees in his firm, The Lightman Group. They help the FBI to solve complex cases by interpreting the body language of suspects.
Best bit: Lightman winds up a soldier on leave from Iraq, who appears to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Cue a heated exchange – until this: Lightman: ‘Think about cheese.’ Soldier: ‘What?’
Lightman: ‘Think about cheese. If we’re going to take a few pictures of your brain, you might as well be smiling, eh?’
Watch it: Then scrutinise your flatmate’s eyeballs and accuse them of being a liar. Available at Virgin Megastore, Abu Dhabi Mall (02 644 7882).
True Blood Stars: Anna Paquin (The Piano), Sam Trammell, (CSI) Ryan Kwanten (Home & Away).
Plot: Vampires have been integrated into society and are treated as another race living among humans – some clever soul has even created a synthetic blood drink, True Blood, so the vampires can avoid human blood. Waitress Sookie is dating nicer-than-the-others vamp Bill Crompton, while the rest of the characters spend their time bed-hopping, biting or narrowly escaping supernatural danger.
Best bit: When Bill cheats on Sookie with Lorena, his maker, in season three, right in the middle of the act he twists Lorena’s head around 180 degrees. We’re still having nightmares now.
Watch it with: A long, chilled glass of Virgin Mary. Available at www.play.com.
Comedy Curb Your Enthusiam Stars: Larry David (as himself), Ted Danson (Cheers).
Plot: Cantankerous screenwriter and producer Larry (playing a fictionalised version of himself) stumbles from cringeworthy misadventure to cringeworthy misadventure, offending everyone from celebrities to grieving widows along the way.
Best bit:The napkin scene, where Larry (in his typically picky way) fights with a waiter about only being allowed two napkins. He pretends to give back the extras he’s taken, but steals some on the way out. Cue the cops chasing him for theft.
30 Rock Stars: Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live)Tracy Morgan (Saturday Night Live) Alec Baldwin (The Departed)
Plot: Tina Fey plays frumpy Liz Lemon, head writer on a fictional live sketch comedy series called The Girlie Show, which has a cast of neurotic, wacky actors. The series is loosely based on Fey’s experiences as head writer for Saturday Night Live.
Best bit: Ex-US Secretary of State Condoleeeza Rice cameos as Jack Donaghey’s ex-girlfriend.
Watch it: Liz Lemon style, munching on a huge sack of off-brand Mexican cheese puffs. Available at Virgin Megastore, Abu Dhabi Mall (02 644 7882).
Eastbound & Down Stars: Danny McBride (Pineapple Express), Will Ferrell (Anchorman).
Plot: Protagonist Kenny Powers is a despicable, chauvinistic, racist, homophobic, chubby and unattractive bloke who was once a pro baseball pitcher. With his fame came arrogance, a raucous, hedonistic lifestyle and lots of women. But he lost his swing and all that’s left is a no-hoper with a rotten attitude. The series is produced by Will Ferrell’s production company, Gary Sanchez Productions.
Best line: Terrance: ‘There’s something you need to know about, Kenny. You’re not the only athlete here at Jeff Davis. I happen to be training for a triathlon, so I’ve been doing a lot of running, cycling, swimming. But you’d know all about that.’ Kenny: ‘No, actually, I don’t. I play real sports; I’m not trying to be the best at exercising.’
Watch it: Clutching a basball mitt. Available at www.hmv.com.
The IT crowd Stars: Richard Ayoade (The Mighty Boosh), Chris O’Dowd (Gulliver’s Travels), Katherine Parkinson (How to Lose Friends and Alienate People).
Plot: Set in the offices of the fictional Reynholm Industries in London, the show revolves around two IT technicians (and quintessential geeks) named Moss and Roy and their manager, Jen. The jokes can get cheesy, but it’s all very addictive
Best bit: When Moss testifies on behalf of his boss, Douglas, who’s being sued by his second wife. Moss was sued by his mother when he was younger and the experience is (hilariously) traumatic – he ends up being a bundle of nerves and completely useless in the witness box.
Watch it: Streamed on your iPad2 in a wi-fi cafe. Available at Virgin Megastore, Abu Dhabi Mall (02 644 7882).
Drama Gossip Girl Stars: Blake Lively (The Town), Leighton Meester (The Roommate) , Chace Crawford (Twelve), Penn Badgley (Easy A).
Plot: Gossip Girl continues to be scarily addictive, no matter how ridiculous the plot between the six super-rich New Yorkers becomes. It’s a merry-go-round of catty rivalries, hook-ups, dramatic showdowns at parties and fabulous clothes. Oh and terrible, terrible acting.
Best bit: Jenny and Juliet plot to bring Serena down by pretending to be her at Chuck’s Saints and Sinners Masquerade Ball and behaving very badly indeed.
Watch it: And then wonder why you weren’t born richer. Available at Virgin Megastore, Abu Dhabi Mall (02 644 7882).
Plot: The series follows the ups and downs of a thriving English country estate during the early 20th century. It revolves around the struggle to marry off the titled daughters, malicious attempts by evil housemaids to ruin their colleagues’ careers, and the cultural and political changes happening in the background.
Best bit: When a handsome Turkish man croaks it in Lady Mary’s bed.
Watch it: Then adopt a fraightfahlly posh English accent, yah. Available at www.amazon.com.
Mad Men Stars: John Hamm (Sucker Punch), January Jones (X-Men: First Class), John Slattery (The Adjustment Bureau).
Plot: Set in the 1960s, it’s one tense, drink-fuelled meeting after another in Sterling Cooper, an advertising firm on Madison Avenue. Don Draper is the troubled but brilliant creative director, with a difficult home life but a quite remarkable way with the ladies... smoking, drinking, casual sexism and chronic infidelity are the order of the day in this seriously stylish series.
Best bit: When Don and Roger go for a decadent lunch of oysters and extremely strong drinks, then stumble back into the office where Roger throws up all over the Sterling Cooper lobby. Grim and hilarious.
Watch it: With a bumper box of Lucky Strikes and a lighter. Available at www.amazon.com.