“Did you not wake up this morning thinking this was another opportunity to mess up some bad guy’s day? I did.” — Raylan Givens, “Justified”
Everybody knows about cult hits like “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead”. There are scads of sci-fi shows past & present we enjoy — from the various “Star Trek”s and “Doctor Who” to “Extant” and “Defiance”. And, of course, superhero fans love “Daredevil”, “Arrow”, “The Flash”, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, “Gotham”, etc. These are all great shows with fun storylines and some great writing. (Though, some are less consistent than others, I admit.) But, I would like to bring a few shows to your attention that you may be missing out on, simply because they aren’t about swords & dragons or capes & tights. (Maybe that should be “masks & leather”?) Or, maybe you are aware of them but just haven’t bothered to check them out. Anyway, if you haven’t checked them out, yet, do yourself a favor and do so.
The first series I want to recommend is the one that closest matches the usual themes of this blog, the Canadian “Orphan Black” on BBC America. It is science fiction but only in a mild way, since it takes place in the present and there are no aliens, robots, or futuristic weapons. (More of a conspiracy thriller, really.) But, there are… SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! … human clones. Without giving too much away, the story centers around Sarah, a street-wise 20-something, who witnesses a woman commit suicide who looks just like her. Except, other than a few foster-siblings she grew up with, she doesn’t have any sisters. Eventually, she discovers that there are other identical “twins”, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I am continually amazed at Tatiana Maslany’s talent, as she is able to create multiple different characters, whom I actually do think of as separate people. The rest of the cast is quite good, too.
You have to ask yourself, are you a member of Clone Club? If not, why the heck not?!
“Justified” on F/X is closer to action/adventure but without the usual car chases, big explosions, or fantastic fight scenes. More like conniving criminals, double-crosses, very tense situations, and the occasional shoot-out. (OK, there are an explosion or three, as well.) The main star is U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens — basically a good guy and a helluva shot with a pistol, but he’s also a pain in his boss’s butt and he can be sort of a jerk sometimes. His opposite number (and former buddy) is a local criminal boss named Boyd Crowder, who is a smooth-talkin’ sonuvagun who’s always up to something and often gets away with it. For awhile, anyway. Givens, portrayed by Timothy Olyphant, and Crowder, played by Walton Goggins, have a very interesting quasi-friendship, and they bug the heck out of each other, which is usually played to a combination of comedic and dramatic effect. There is always a colorful mix of misfits and serious criminals causing mischief for the cops and marshals in and around Harlan County, Kentucky. I recently finished watching season 5, but there’s a sixth & final season. I love having a fun show like this to look forward to! (H/T Glenn Steinhilber for turning me on to it.)
“Suits” (USA Network) is definitely a different kind of show and one of if not the best show about lawyers that I’ve had the privilege to watch. Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) is a sharp-dressed, whatever-it-takes-to-win, lawyer at a New York firm. His protege is Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), who makes up for is lack of a JD with a sharp mind and eidetic memory. That lack of a degree, of course, could get Mike jailed and Harvey disbarred, if anyone finds out…. There are so many other great characters, too. I find myself heavily invested in all of their personal and professional lives (which often overlap) such that I care about even the most annoying characters. The writing is just amazing, with clever dialogue, character development and interaction, and legal situations that you think can’t possibly get more complicated (until they do) or resolved. I’m currently watching season 4, but season 5 recently finished airing, and I think it’s been renewed. Yay!
In all three of these series, there is not one real “boy scout” (or “girl scout”). Not even among the cops and marshals. Not to say they’re corrupt, but even the protagonists bend the rules from time to time, and not always when they should. I find myself talking at them, saying things like, “No, no, you idiot! You’re just gonna screw up another relationship!” or “Don’t believe it, dude! You’ll regret it!” I generally prefer morally upstanding heroes (a la Superman), but these are very flawed people, and that’s what makes them as interesting as they are frustrating. I can’t help but like and feel for these characters — even some of the bad guys. That’s a mark of great writing and great acting.
So, go find these shows on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu or someplace and start watching, already! What’re ya waitin’ fer?!
P.S. If you want a fourth suggestion, I highly recommend “The Last Ship”, currently in its second season on TNT. It’s an action-packed, post-apocalyptic drama — again, only mildly sci-fi — that I am really enjoying. A few boy scouts in this one, but what do you expect — well, I do — from the U.S. Navy?
P.P.S. If you’re into military stuff, then maybe you would like Cinemax’s “Strike Back”, too. That is, if you like elite operatives going after drug-runners and arms merchants and terrorists, with plenty of gunfights and explosions and such. Fun for the whole family! (Well, not really, ‘cuz of the violence and occasional nudity.)
Check ’em out!