With school starting in less than a week for many students, both young & old, there won’t be much time to sit down and catch up on any TV shows or films until Spring Break arrives. If you’re attending a school as a part-timer, then you’ve got some time to binge throughout the semester/term. For the rest of us, time is running out to catch a few shows before we’re too busy to relax for a few hours and shut our brains off as we lay back on the couch and run through our Netflix queues.
I spent three glorious weeks away from work laid-up with an an ankle injury that kept me immobile for most of my winter break (something always happens to me, health-wise, when I take a break). While surfing through Netflix and checking out recommendations from fellow viewers online, I watched several great shows that I immediately told friends about.
If you still have some free time in the coming week or any time before the summer, here’s a list of shows that I’ve recently gotten into or decided to binge-watch all the episodes that I’ve seen already. These aren’t of any particular genre, but I tend to gravitate towards crime drama, horror, fantasy, or science fiction shows. Give the shows a chance and check them out. I’ll be adding more Netflix binge-watch posts to this blog with additional TV shows to check out, including many cult favorites that deserve a first, second, or 40th re-watch.
DARKNET – originally aired on SUPER channel (Canada) from October 31, 2013–March 28, 2014
A very quick teaser for Darknet that draws you in with its macabre-ness.
The quickest watch on this list (along with Black Mirror), Darknet is an adaptation of a Japanese horror anthology TV series called Tori Hada. A quick six-episode watch, the series features many Canadian actors that you will recognize from a ton of shows. If you tried doing a drinking game that included taking a drink or two from every actor that you recognize, you might have alcohol poisoning by the end of the episode (always drink responsibly).
What exactly is the Darknet? The Darknet is a website that features dark, horrific and disturbing videos uploaded by anonymous visitors to the site, including those that actually partake in the action. Yes – some of the killers involved upload their own videos for their sick pleasure, as well as getting hits from curious viewers. All of the episodes of the series do tie-in together, though the connection is not made immediate at first. Once you get to fourth episode you’ll go, “Ohhhhhhh… Now I get it!” like I did.
Though no new episodes have been announced, the series isn’t technically dead either (ahem). It’ll only take about three hours to watch all six episodes, so if you have a few hours to kill – give it a shot. Some of the episodes are genuinely creepy, but nothing outright scary or scream-inducing, but definitely worth a watch. It was the first thing that I watched during my winter break and I’ve seen it once or twice after my first run-through.
HELIX – airs on SyFy (USA) and Showcase (Canada) – Season Two premieres Friday, January 16th
An overview of the first season featuring the cast of the series.
The strangest show on this list, and that’s saying something considering that other shows listed feature the following: sexy werewolves (Bitten), the darkside of technology (Black Mirror), and a show based on a Stephen King short story (Haven). Helix is a show that has had so many mixed reactions from fans and critics alike, and I can’t even decide whether I really dig or really dislike this series. It’s inconsistent, manic, all over-the-storyboard, but its ensuing wackiness and craziness is still worth watching.
Produced by Ronald Moore, best known as the man who brought us the fantastic Battlestar Galactica reboot (one of my all-time favorite TV series), Helix brings us one of the most overused science fiction plot devices: the mysterious virus that scientists must contain before it infects the world. We’ve had so many TV shows and films that have covered and beaten this topic to death, but it’s still a popular plot device that can be used for both good and bad storylines. In the case of Helix, many fans and critics describe it as a mix between The Andromeda Strain and The Thing, and with a sprinkle of The Walking Dead and a dash of The Strain thrown into the bizarre mix. I do give the writers credit for giving us an interesting origin to the virus and who’s involved with its first appearance and encounter with the human population (Hint: not extraterrestrial or created by mad scientists).
The second show that I watched on my three-week break, Helix’s first season contains thirteen episodes and some great actors who give decent performances including: Billy Campbell (The Rocketeer, The Killing, Once and Again), Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai, Sunshine, The Wolverine), and Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager, Shark, Body of Proof). I’d recommend watching this with a group of friends Mystery Science Theater-style so that you can add colorful commentary during each episode.
BLACK MIRROR – airs on Channel 4 (UK) – Christmas special aired on December 16, 2014
Creator Charlie Brooker gives an overview of the series for first-time viewers.
One of the most buzzed-about shows in recent years, and there’s a really good reason why. If you like psychologically, very dark, and unsettling shows that delve deep into the darkside of technology and our obsession with television, computers, and smartphones, with some nihilism and dystopian juiciness thrown in, then Black Mirror will be your favorite go-to show. Does it live up to all the hype and coverage that it’s been getting lately? All signs point to “Hell Yeah It Does!”
Like Darknet, Black Mirror is a quick watch of six episodes that are broken up into two seasons (three episodes per season). Each episode is an hour-long and plays out like a film, slowly unfolding and revealing what’s really happening without using quick cuts, explosions, frenetic pacing, or anything that Michael Bay goes gaga over. It’s like reading a great novel in bed and feeling satisfied after you get to the ending, though you’re a bit traumatized and unable to sleep for a few hours. You don’t have to watch the episodes in order; each one is a self-contained story.
The episodes that I recommend watching first are:
Season One, Episode 1 – “The National Anthem” – written by Charlie Brooker
Season One, Episode 3 – “The Entire History of You” – written by Jesse Armstrong
Season Two, Episode 1 – “Be Right Back” – written by Charlie Brooker
A third season with a single episode aired on December 16, 2014 and starred Jon Hamm (our favorite Mad Men) in a truly twisted hour that I haven’t caught yet. From what I’ve been reading online, it’s one of the most disturbing hours of television ever aired, which means I need to see it ASAP.
HAVEN – airs on SyFy (USA) and Showcase (Canada) – 2nd half of Season Five airs in 2015
A trailer for the first season of Haven. It gets much more intense and crazy in further seasons.
File Haven under Shows That I Kept Hearing About And Wish I Had Watched Sooner. I am so mad at myself for not watching it sooner because it’s definitely got many of my favorite sci-fi elements in it, and inspired by a short story from one of my favorite authors – Stephen King. I also love TV shows that have strong female leads, and Haven is anchored by the beautiful and very talented Emily Rose, who portrays our protagonist, former FBI Agent/Haven police officer Audrey Parker.
What I like the most about Haven is how unpredictable it is. It’s hard to describe the series or even give a synopsis of it without spoiling it for new viewers, so I’ll let the show introduce you into its strange and unique world filled with people in a small Maine town with mysterious powers; these citizens are considered “Troubled” and their powers are called “troubles.” You think you know what’s going on with Parker (as everyone affectionately refers to her as) and her trials-and-tribulations of discovering her true origins and then BOOM! – a new revelation emerges. I might’ve yelled at my TV a few times while watching it, and the last aired episode (Episode 5×13) had me both pointing and screaming at my TV going “Holy crap!” Lost Girl has done that to me so many times during its five season run (of what’s currently aired).
While there are some weak episodes that are still very enjoyable, overall it’s a really good series that has thirteen episodes per season. The first four seasons can be found on Netflix, while the first thirteen episodes of Season Five (which received a 26-episode order) can be found on Youtube. There is no premiere date yet for the remaining thirteen episodes of the season, but I’m hoping that we get a Season Six – depending on how Season Five ends. Haven has been added to my list of favorite shows and I plan on binge-watching all the episodes again soon.
THE IT CROWD – originally aired on Channel 4 (UK)
A fan-compiled video of funny moments from the show. There’s too many to choose from for me.
I love British comedies; I love their dry wit and humor and unpredictability. One of my favorite comedy shows is this brilliant offering from our friends “across the pond” called The IT Crowd. This is literally a day-in-the-life of my work as a tech. Throughout the years I have had many of the same or similar situations that our heroes – Roy (a crass & sarcastic nerd), Moss (an oblivious & smart nerd), Richmond (a contemplative Goth co-worker) and their ‘Relationship Manager’ Jen (an ambitious & tech-clueless supervisor) – have encountered. What I love most about this show is that both techie and non-techie people can get into it. Anyone who has ever had to deal with tough and rude bosses, indifferent co-workers, and technology problems will connect with this show.
There are so many funny episodes and scenes that I can’t list all of my favorites, but a majority of them can be found in the first two seasons (or “series” as they call them). The premiere episode features a bit at the end where the IT department invites their co-workers to their basement digs for a mixer, and Roy leaves the room for a minute to grab more boxed wine, while asking Moss to recount a hilarious moment on a trip they took to Amsterdam. Moss horrifies his co-workers with a story of hiring prostitutes while visiting Amsterdam, but being too scared to do anything and instead taking them to a local carnival. Roy comes back into the room, completely oblivious to the disgusted looks that his fellow employees are giving him. Once he realizes what’s happened, he’s about ready to kill Moss; he wanted him to recount their adventures of searching for his missing eyeglasses. The episode ends with pictures of Roy and Moss with their prostitute ‘dates’ having a very awkward time at the carnival.
Awkward and sometimes uncomfortable moments like the scene mentioned above are the standard for each episode. Many of the moments are over-the-top ridiculous, but nonetheless quite funny and memorable. Each episode is 30 minutes and you can easily get through all 25 episodes in one day. A one-off special was released in 2013 called “The Internet Is Coming,” and it is a hysterical hour that takes on the hacker activist group Anonymous, viral videos, and Moss coming into his own – thanks to a pair of women’s trousers.
BITTEN – airs on SPACE (Canada) and SyFy (USA) – Season Two premieres Saturday, February 7th
A promo for the first season of the series, featuring lots of action, drama, and sexy people.
A Note to Fans of Werewolves: the shape-shifters in this series are more “weredog” versus “werewolf.” They transform than larger-than-average sized wolves, distinct from one another. Before anyone cries ‘foul’ and claims that it’s ripping off that stupid Twilight series of horrid novels and films, the original literary series from Canadian author Kelly Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld series) came out a few years before Stephanie Meyer’s awful teen fiction series. At least the werewolves/weredogs are more like Dyson Thornwood from Lost Girl than Jacob from Twilight.
While I was attending Fan Expo Canada back in 2013, the cast of Bitten appeared at the convention to introduce the series to new viewers. I didn’t see their panel or catch a glimpse of the stars, but the series sounded interesting. Jump to sometime in 2014, when I discovered and saw the series through Netflix. I was instantly hooked on the premise and binge-watched the first season over two days. The series is about a young woman who is the only female werewolf in her pack who defends her ‘family’ from attacks from several “mutts,” or werewolves who are not part of a pack and who don’t abide by their strict rules. There’s lots of cool stuff for both male and female viewers who are looking for something that’s a mixture of violence, sex, and supernatural lore that has more bite than Twilight.
Starring Laura Vandervoort (best known as Kara/Supergirl on Smallville), she’s great as lead character Elena Michaels. Her character has a complicated romantic life, as well as trying to live as normal of a “human” life as possible. When a pack of mutts threaten her family and try to kill them off one-by-one, Elena must return to her old stomping grounds and reunite with her pack while trying to avoid her ex-fiancé, Clayton Danvers – the one who bit her, thus transforming her. The mutts are under the rule of a mysterious individual who happens to know a lot about Elena’s pack, and we learn about their connection at the end of Season One. There are thirteen episodes in the first season, so it’s a pretty fast watch. You’ve got time before the second season premieres on February 7th.
LUTHER – originally aired on BBC One (UK) – two-part miniseries to air sometime in 2015
I recently read an online article that said that BBC shows like Luther and Doctor Who will be disappearing from Netflix at this end of this month. Netflix’s licensing contract with BBC is expiring and it looks like it won’t be renewed because the BBC has its own plans for a streaming service featuring its original content. Be sure to catch Luther before it leaves Netflix; it’s definitely a show I highly recommend.
Luther is a fantastic gritty crime series starring Idris Elba as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, a sometimes violent and emotionally disturbed, yet brilliant, cop who sometimes ignores the law to capture some of London’s most violent criminals. He is able to close most of his cases except for one in the premiere of the series: a young woman who has killed her parents, and everyone knows that she did, yet he doesn’t have enough evidence to arrest her. Ruth Wilson, who just won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama Series a few days ago for her amazing work in the series The Affair, is absolutely batshit crazy and brilliant as sociopath Alice Morgan. While Luther can’t completely prove that she killed her parents, she kind of becomes a confidante and ‘friend’ to our hero, helping him out of several potentially deadly situations while messing with his head and the people closest to him.
Both Elba and Wilson are terrific in their roles and they have tremendous chemistry that shows whenever they’re on-screen together. Though Elba’s John Luther would love to arrest Alice for being a murderous sociopath, he relies on her during some of his more difficult cases, and in the third season even more-so when a particularly nasty and relentless “colleague” does everything within (and outside) of the law to prove that Luther was behind a shocking murder in the first season/series. If you love psychological crime thrillers, then Luther is definitely a show I highly recommend watching.
ARCHER – airs on FX (USA) – Season Six currently airing; episode 6×02 airs Thursday, January 15th
A fine selection of some of Sterling Archer’s greatest one-liners from the series.
Archer is not a show for everyone. If you are easily offended by jokes that make fun of anyone and everyone – regardless of age, race, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. – then this is not a show for you, or younger viewing members of your family. Archer is very politically incorrect, but what I love the most about the show is that it’s not afraid to cross a line, jump over that line, and beat that line into the ground. I’ve also added the word “phrasing” for daily conversation; you’ll understand that when you first hear it mentioned on the show.
Archer is an animated parody of spy vs. spy films and TV shows, with the James Bond series being its most frequent parodying target. Sterling Archer is both a brilliant spy and the most moronic, selfish, and childish man in the world. His fellow spies and co-workers are not that much better, and he works for a spy agency formerly called ISIS (the newest season changed the name so that it wouldn’t be confused with the terrorist group of the same name). In the fifth season of the series, the show took an entirely different direction and was titled Archer: Vice. The former ISIS agents and staff found a “shit-ton” of cocaine (as Pam would lovingly describe it) and decided to sell it off to the highest bidders, though their sales never went smooth, and their insanely awesome Human Resources go-to gal, Pam, became addicted to the drug.
One of my favorite things about the show is its extremely catchy and freakin’ hysterical one-liners. Each character has catchphrases that are easily recognizable to fans of the series, and even non-fans have probably heard them too. There’s also a running gag with Archer frequently using the line “Danger Zone!” to describe something incredibly stupid that he’s about to do, and it’s most frequently directed at his ex-girlfriend – fellow spy Lana Kane. There’s even an episode that features Kenny Loggins as a complete douchebag that is running his own criminal activities while performing his signature hit from Top Gun(yes, I’m referring to “Danger Zone”).
THE FALL – airs on ITV (Ireland) and BBC Two (UK)
Launch trailer for the premiere of the series, featuring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan.
If you like Luther or gritty and dark crime dramas, than The Fall is a show worth catching. If you’re an X-Files fan that’s been wondering what Gillian Anderson has been up to lately, this is your answer. If you’re a Once Upon A Time fan that still misses Jamie Dornan’s “Sheriff Graham/Huntsman” still, this show will change your view about him forever. And Archie Panjabi fans – she’s terrific in this series as well. Hell, all of the actors are terrific and the cast chemistry is intense and wonderful. I can’t say enough positive things about this show; it’s best if you give it a shot. The second season premieres this Friday, January 16th, on Netflix.
First off, if you are not a fan of slow burn stories that reveal themselves over a period of time, then The Fall may not be for you. If you like watching a really well-written novel unfold on your television screen, then this is a fantastic series to watch. Each episode is an hour long, but that hour goes by so quickly that you’ll want the next episode immediately. That’s what binge-watching is for: to watch episode after episode of a show, and not have to stop it in the middle of a viewing. The Fall is perfect binge-watching material, and you can finish both seasons/series within a day.
Anderson plays Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, who is assigned to a taskforce in Belfast, Northern Ireland to investigate the brutal murders of several women. Stella takes no BS, is very comfortable in her own skin, and will put any man in his place if he dares talk down to her or doubts her abilities as a very detail-oriented investigator. Meanwhile, Dornan’s Paul Spector is a mild-mannered social worker who has a wife who’s a nurse in a NICU unit and two beautiful children – the perfect life, as we are lead to believe at first. But underneath his skin likes a very dark and sadistic individual who loves to stalk his victims for days, invading their privacy and personal dwellings, before he finishes with them. Stella and Paul play a very intense and intricate game of ‘cat-and-mouse’ throughout both seasons, and there are lots of great twists in each episode that will leave you speechless (at least they did to me).
CONTINUUM – airs on Showcase (Canada) and SyFy (USA)
A trailer for the first season of Continuum, full of many action-packed moments from the series.
One of the most underrated science fiction series in recent years is this very cool and interesting series that comes to us from Canada. And like many of my favorite shows that seem to be ending sooner than their expiration dates, Continuum is ending sometime in 2015 after an abbreviated six-episode fourth and final season, which is a shame because there’s so many more stories to explore with the characters and the universe they exist in.
Continuum is a hard show to describe in only a few sentences or paragraphs. And even if I were to describe the whole series, it would be a lot easier to understand and follow than Helix. The show deals with the consequences of changing things from the future in the present, time traveling, and an Occupy Wall St.-style group versus mega-corporations that are much more sinister than our heroine, Kiera Cameron, realizes. In the future (or 2077) there are no real governments but corporations that rule the world, which feels very similar to what is happening in the world today. It’s a very intriguing storyline that has you unsure of who to root for, but all I can say is that “Liber8,” the so-called terrorist group that took out a mega-corporation in Kiera’s future timeline, is a group of people that you might secretly root for.
Give this show a watch. It’s definitely a series that needs to be binge-watched, and you can’t skip an episode either or you will completely lost, as what has happened to me the first time I was watching this show. While it’s sad to see it gone so soon, I’m glad that we had such a great female-fronted science fiction series that is both entertaining and very thought-provoking.