Netflix Instant has added a ton of TV shows to it’s selection. Since March and April are full of repeats, it’s a good time to try out older shows you may have missed the first time around. Here’s my list of 6 shows you might want to check out:
Gavin and Stacey (*** 1/2) – This is a charming slice-of-life show about a young couple who meet over the telephone at work. Flirty fun Stacey, from Wales, and sweet reliable Gavin, from Essex, have been talking to each other on the phone for six months. They’ve gone from co-workers, to friends, and now are ready to take the plunge and meet in person. They each bring a friend and meet up in London for the day. Though plot progresses along pretty quickly in the first season, the main fun is watching these characters interact in the regular moments of life. Their friends Nessa and Smithy are a hoot and their eccentric family members add to the fun.
I feel like British TV does a better job than American TV of showing how entertaining regular people — of all ages and all different types of appearances –can be living their regular lives. This show is a good example of that. [Netflix Instant now has all 6 episodes of season one.]
Better Off Ted – (*** 1/2) Good-looking conscientious Ted works for Veridian Dymanics, an international research and developmental firm. He likes to think of himself a a good guy who looks out for his team, but he’s starting to wonder if his company might actually be evil. His boss Veronica could care less if the company is evil or not, all she’s interested in is winning. This workplace satire never got the attention it deserved. It took me about 3-4 episodes before I knew the characters well enough to enjoy the show. After that, I laughed and laughed. [Netflix instant now has both 13-episode seasons.]
Party Down – (*** 1/2) Burnt-out Henry has been in the acting business for years now and is pretty much only known for his role in a stupid beer commercial. He’s decided it’s time to admit he’s not going to make it in acting and start looking for a real job. So he takes a job as a caterer. I enjoyed the show more and more as I got to know this group of wanna-be and burnt-out actors catering to pay the bills. There’s also a bit of a romantic plot that nicely develops throughout the first season too.
As a Veronica Mars fan, Party Down is especially fun because the show was produced and written by Veronica Mars producer Rob Thomas with former writer John Embom and others. The season one cast has three former Veronica Mars actors: Ryan Hansen (Dick Casablancas), Ken Marino (Vinnie Van Lowe) and Adam Scott (Mr. Rooks the history teacher Veronca defends in one episode). The cast also has Martin Starr (Bill from Freaks and Geeks all grown up), Lizzy Caplan (Amy from True Blood) and Jane Lynch (now on Glee). Even more fun, many former Veronica Mars actors show up as party guests–Enrico Colantoni, Jason Dohring, Alona Tal, and even Kristen Bell. [Netflix Instant both 10-episode seasons.]
Slings & Arrows: season 1,2,3 (****) – If you love theater, check out this Canadian comedy starring Paul Gross (formerly in Due South and Eastwick). After their artistic director dies, the New Brubbage Theater asks Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross) to come back and help the theater recover. Geoffrey left six years ago when he had a nervous breakdown in the middle of Hamlet and isn’t sure he can keep his sanity working there again. This show is funny, inspiring, and chock full of quirky actors, Shakespearean scenes, and wonderful behind the scenes theater moments. Each season focuses on one main play: one season it’s Hamlet, of course, season two is MacBeth, and season three they do King Lear. [Seasons 1-3 available on Netflix Instant. Each season is 6 episodes long.]
Skins – (****) The first two seasons of the British version of Skins are worth checking out. In just 20 episodes Skins told a story of adolescence that was wild, unrealistic, bawdy, sweet, cautionary, and all too real. The show got a lot of flack for celebrating sex and drugs, but if you watch the full two seasons with this group of teens, the real message is how important having caring parents are to teens. Without the parental guidance they need, this group tries to support each other with friendship and bonding and sometimes that just isn’t enough.
The first few episodes do seem a lot like a British version of American Pie but if you keep watching the show gets much better and is worth watching. [Seasons one and two are available on Netflix Instant now and total up to 19 episodes. Season three is also available but starts over with a mostly different group of kids and isn’t quite as good.]
Veronica Mars– Everything falls apart for Veronica Mars when her best friend Lilly Kane is murdered. Veronica’s father, the sheriff, is voted out of office for questioning the powerful Kane family, her mother leaves without keeping in touch, all her friends turn against her, and she wakes up from Shelley Pomeroy’s party in the guest room without underwear. Determined to find Lilly’s killer, Veronica grits through the turmoil by helping her dad with his new detective business. The story is told with dozens of layered characters, zinger dialog, and one of the best father-daughter relationships in TV, plus it has a satisfying season ending.
Have you ever had someone warn you about a strong tide? As you go through the first set of waves you heed their warning, but once you reach beyond that those waves it seems so calm you think they were exaggerating, until you look back realize you’re 20 feet from where you started. Don’t let season 1 of Veronica Mars fool you, once you get past the moving pilot you’ll be lulled for a few episodes and wonder what all the fuss is about, until somewhere between episode 10 to 12 you’re hooked 20 feet out. [All three seasons are available on Netflix Instant but the first 22-episode season is really the best.]