While I love movies and they’ll always be my primary obsession when it comes to visual entertainment, a lot of quality fiction can be found on television. It’s hard to believe, I know, but it is true, nonetheless. The problem is when these storytelling gems can’t stay on television long enough to reach their true potential. So, the purpose of today’s blog post is to list a few genre TV shows you should definitely be watching. The more people who watch, the less likely these shows will be canceled by networks who haven’t yet come to fully understand that traditional ratings in the digital world mean less than nothing.
So, without further preamble, here are eight genre shows you should be watching. And by “you” I mean anyone who watches TV and considers themselves fans of things like science-fiction, fantasy, comic-books, and horror.
John Constantine is a mage who travels the country, using his abilities to put a stop to demonic forces on the rise. He’s aided by his companions, Chas, who has the ability to come back to life whenever he dies, and Zed, a psychic who physically reminds me of a more age-appropriate version of Lorde. Oh, and sometimes an angel with the unlikely name of Manny, played by the dude played Michael in Lost.
I love this show.
I’ve never, ever read the Hellblazer comic book upon which the show is based. I’ve read things here and there about it not being a great representation of the comic. I don’t know about that, but I do know this: it’s a great representation of a cool urban fantasy television series. I don’t think there’s been one episode I haven’t enjoyed. It’s kind of a better version of the Dresden Files TV show (like, if they’d done that show right to begin with).
It’s been brought to my attention that Constantine is only getting a 13-episode run. Personally, I’m fine with TV shows that run only 13 episodes. Some of the best show on TV have season runs of this length. Other shows that run as many as 24 episodes have a bit of a disadvantage in that they tend to spread their overarching stories way too thin. Shorter season runs create more focused storytelling. And that’s a good thing.
But what a 13-episode run means for a show like Constantine (which is woefully on NBC, a network that routinely mismanages its genre series) is that it might not get a season two. I’m hoping this won’t be the case for this great show. Check it out, especially if you’re an urban fantasy/horror fan.
2. The 100
Many years after a nuclear holocaust has ravaged the earth, a space station filled with descendants of the survivors, orbits the planet and is running out of air. A group of one-hundred young “criminals” are sent to the surface, where they must struggle for survival while fending off attacks from warlike tribes of “grounders.”
An example of a fun science-fiction series that seems to be flying under a lot of radars. I feel like I’m always telling people about this show. It’s kind of what you would expect from The CW, though. The 100 takes place in a world where ugliness has apparently been bred out of the human race and centers on a very attractive cast of 20-somethings fumbling their way through a variety of impossible scenarios. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Like a lot of CW shows, it’s actually quite entertaining. My only qualm, really, is that Dichen Lachman (from Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse), who played the leader of the grounders, is no longer on the show. Still bummed about that.
At first, the show is kind of like a sci-fi version of Lord of the Flies, but by the end of season one it becomes something much more. It’s definitely worth your time. Season one is available on Netflix, and season two is in progress.
For whatever reason, The CW does a good job of keeping its shows afloat. I’m not sure why this is. I suppose it might have something to do with a dedicated audience of teens, but I’m just guessing.
Oh and I will say this one thing more. Whoever is responsible for what happened a couple episodes ago, I want to slap that person. Hard.
3. Sleepy Hollow
Ichabod Crane wakes up in modern times (having been in a magically-induced coma) to find he must team up with a cop to help stop the coming apocalypse. Oh, and that pesky Headless Horseman guy? He happens to be one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. You know, from the Bible.
Sleepy Hollow seems to be doing pretty well for itself. Which is good. Because it’s a pretty entertaining show. One of the biggest strengths of this show isn’t its writing or its premise (thought I personally dig it). It’s the cast. Tom Mison is great as Crane and definitely one of the main reasons to watch. Crane’s ongoing decision to eschew modern fashion for his Revolutionary War era garb is simultaneously mind-boggling and endearing.
But beyond that, the show’s overarching mythos, combined with an episodic monster-of-the-week format are a winning combination. Hopefully, the show runners will realize that, while mythology creates flavor, stand-alone episodes work better for the general viewing audience. Not sure why that is, but it seems to be true. There just needs to be a balance, is all.
Sleepy Hollow is currently in its second season and seems to be going strong. Not sure about the ratings, but traditionally, FOX is another network that seems to be able to hold onto out-of-the-box shows that aren’t about lawyers or cops. Of course, Sleepy Hollow does have a kind of procedural angle to it, so maybe that’s the secret of its success.
Bruce Wayne (who will someday stalk the streets of Gotham dressed up like bat and beating up criminals) is a kid. Jim Gordon is just a cop, not yet anywhere near becoming commissioner. The Penguin is a low-level mobster. Catwoman is a little kid and a homeless pickpocket. The Riddler is a forensic specialist working for the police. You get the idea.
At first, I was on the fence about Gotham. I mean, who wants to see a Batman show without Batman? But as the weeks go on, I like it more and more. It’s not that Batman show we wanted, but it’s the Batman show we need, the one we deserve. Okay, I’m not the first person to make that kind of joke, but I couldn’t resist.
I don’t watch a lot of cop shows. The ones I do watch are really because a family member likes to watch them; I can take ’em or leave ’em. But Gotham is my kind of cop show. I like the gritty setting. I like the idea of seeing these heroes and villains before they became heroes and villains. They even manage to humanize some of them. Kind of.
So, is Gotham as good as DC’s other television properties? In some ways yes. In some ways no. Gotham is to Flash/Arrow/Smallville what Batman Begins/TDK is to 1989’s Batman/Batman Returns. Does that make sense? Okay, maybe it’s not that extreme, but see below for further explanation.
I’m not sure how Gotham is doing, ratings-wise. But I’d like to see it continue. Personally, I’d like to see it go for nine seasons culminating in the transformation of Bruce Wayne into Batman, a la what we saw in The CW’s Smallville.
5. & 6. The Flash/Arrow
In The Flash, Barry Allen gets struck by lightning and now can move really, really fast. Naturally, he uses his abilities to fight crime, mostly perpetrated by others who were changed by the same industrial accident that gave Barry Allen his powers.
In Arrow, Oliver Queen is shipwrecked on an island where he learns how to become a master archer, basically the equivalent of an arrow-shooting ninja. When he returns to civilization, he uses his skills to fight crime, vigilante-style, with the aid of a team of highly skilled side-kicks.
I bundled these shows together because they’re so closely related and exist in the same universe. It’s not clear weather these shows exist in the same universe as Gotham (I doubt it. Different networks), but in some ways they’re doing similar things in that they’re crime fighting shows that introduce DC villains and heroes from the comic books in a way we’ve never really seen them before. The Flash and Arrow go about this in a slightly campier fashion than Gotham does. However, Arrow is a bit darker than The Flash, but it has had a few seasons under its belt. In other words, it’s had time to develop and mature.
Honestly, I feel DC’s TV properties are better than their recent cinematic offerings. Sure, Chris Nolan’s Batman movies were amazing (and for the record, I really liked The Dark Knight Rises), but The Green Lantern? Man of Steel? Not so much. And I hate to say it, but I don’t hold out much hope for Superman vs. Batman. Or its proposed subsequent films. But we’ll see. I’d like to be pleasantly surprised.
The Flash seems to have been well-received, and Arrow is going strong. Like I said before, The CW does a good job of holding onto its genre properties, and I don’t see any reason why these two shows shouldn’t continue to do well. But if you’re a comic-book fan, and you’re not watching these shows, why not? What more could you ask for?
7. & 8. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D./Agent Carter
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. follows the exploits of Phil Colson and his team of badasses as they deal with threats against the humanity in the form of Chitauri artifacts, shadow operatives, Asgardian renegades, and of course, Hydra.
Agent Carter takes place during the years after the events in the first Captain America movie. Peggy Carter is a undervalued member of the SSR, an early incarnation of S.H.I.E.L.D. Howard Stark is wanted for espionage, and it’s up to Peggy and Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis to prove his innocence.
AOS has a lot of detractors. They’re all insane.
Produced by Joss Whedon and headed up by his brother and sister-in-law, it displays perfectly how non-powered humans deal with the challenges of protecting life-as-we-know-it in a world of godlike beings. Sure, we don’t see a lot of (or any) first-run heroes in this show (yet), which I think is what some people were erroneously expecting, but in some ways, that makes it even better. The Avengers can’t be everywhere at once, and AOS shows us what that looks like. The big twist at the end of season one blew me away. Blew. Me. Away. Let’s not let the networks make the same mistake they did with Firefly and Dollhouse. AOS deserves to have a long life. Season one is currently on Netflix.
Agent Carter is just as entertaining, IMO. I love the Cold War aesthetic. I’m a sucker for period pieces. And with the exception of Captain America, I don’t think we’ve seen a superhero show in this time period. I like it. I like it a lot. And Peggy is a great, non-powered heroine, simultaneously dealing with superhuman threats and misogyny to boot. Also, the chemistry between carter and the proper English butler, Jarvis, is just great.
Here’s my thing with this show. I don’t know if ABC really believes in it. They gave it a very limited, mid-season run, and as I watched the first few episodes, I kept thinking, “Why isn’t this a regular series?” Well? Why isn’t it? It’s definitely good enough to be.
Well, there you have it. Eight genre fiction shows you should be watching. Are there others I missed? Possibly. Obviously, The Walking Dead is amazing and doesn’t need any help to keep going. It’s one of the best things on television. Supernatural is still going strong in season nine. It’s still entertaining and one of my favorite shows to watch. Grimm is decent, and for reasons I can’t imagine, is still on the air. I mean, it’s fairly entertaining, but it’s on NBC. How is it still alive? Doctor Who has been a favorite show of mine since I was a kid, and it’s obviously quite popular. But I have a problem with it. For some reason, my cable company doesn’t offer BBC-America, so I haven’t seen the most recent season. I feel just sick about it, but there’s nothing I can do. I was going to buy it direct on iTunes, but I just can’t bring myself to pay $50 for six episodes of TV (or however many there were). I’ll just have to wait for it on Netflix, I guess.
What are some shows you watch that you think I’ve missed? How do you feel about the shows I’ve listed above? Agree? Disagree? Put your comments below.