The favorites, part 4: Television

So I think this might be the last post in the “foundation” phase of this blog. Starting tomorrow I’ll be posting about things that don’t have to do with me (directly, at any rate). I feel like, by now, you guys have a pretty good idea of who I am and how I write — assuming you read all my posts. You did read them all, right? Oh man, you’d best hope so, or else one day you won’t be able to say that… you… read everything I wrote on my blog? I suck at giving incentives, but maybe I’ll work that into my next phase or something. Ok, well now I’ve been talking about nothing in particular for a good paragraph, so let’s get on with it.

Balls, one more thing — my wild tangent made me forget to tell you that I’ll still do posts like the ones I’ve been doing every so often. I’m just going to focus on more thought provoking subjects. I want to know what you guys think and I want to interact. Maybe that should be the next phase…

ANYWAY, television! How about it, huh? There’s a lot of good stuff out there, and (as usual) it was hard for me to narrow things down. Also, since I’ve seen so many great TV shows, I’m going to put two shows in each of the categories I’m making up.

FAVORITE ANIMATED SHOW (ALSO PROBABLY MY FAVORITES IN GENERAL): Adventure Time and Avatar: The Last Airbender

Pretty much the best things on TV, and they don't even have any real people in them.

Pretty much the best shows on TV, and they don’t even have any real people in them.

First things first, I respect the hell out of these shows and their creators. I think one of the most impressive things in the world is when a show meant for children is also entertaining for adults. And frankly, I think adults have a lot more to gain by watching these shows because they’re so damn clever. They’re clever in different ways, of course, but equal ones.

Let’s get mathematical first and examine Adventure Time, which I probably watch almost every day. My phone case is BMO (a character from the show). I have every season (don’t ask how I get em >__>) and I’m always down to watch an episode or share the joy with someone who has never experienced this particular trip. And Adventure Time is a trip. There’s just no other word to describe a kid’s show that’s secretly about the last surviving human living in a post-nuclear-holocaust world where candy has come to life and fucked up shit hides under every rock. And around every corner. Also behind every door (don’t even check under the bed). You can only watch a few particular episodes without wondering how kids don’t get nightmares from watching this. I mean, in one of the first episodes, a “magic man” lets a little bird perch on his finger before turning it completely inside out. It then falls off his finger, struggling to fly away before collapsing in its fleshy, veiny horror. Children must see this and not cry, apparently. Who knew?

Moments like those provide a lot of the entertainment for the adults watching it, but that’s not all there is to it. Frankly, while I love watching something mind breaking happen in a cartoon, I love the spirit of the show even more. Watching Fin the human and Jake the dog adventure around the land of Ooo is just plain fun, and it makes you remember the days when anything was an adventure. They do get into quite a bit of mortal peril (unlike many of us when we were kids), but the show’s tone keeps you focused on the comedy. Plus, even the little jokes are crafted with care and trust — a problem many other cartoons fail to address. You see, when a cartoon treats its audience like idiots, its audience is going to treat the show like its stupid. Because it will be stupid. Adventure Time trusts its viewers to get the jokes — and even if you don’t the show doesn’t dwell on them to make you feel bad for not getting it.

This show knows how to do more than pull your funny strings — it can tickle your heart bone (I figured that was better than the other, cliche expression). But seriously, this show can crush your soul if you don’t keep your guard up. In fact, one of the most initially annoying characters has one of the most tragic origins I’ve ever seen. I seriously can’t watch those episodes while drinking, because I will get emotional. And I’m an adult who can’t afford to get emotional about a children’s TV show BUT THE FEELS!. So yeah, there are a lot of episodes for you to catch up on — get to it now! You can find the first season on Netflix, and the rest elsewhere on the Internet.

Ok, so next up is The Last Airbender, a show that has a better concept than most everything on network television (seriously, I get that people like crime and medical dramas, but there are too many.) The eastern elements, which are so overlooked in the west (as far as American animation goes), are utilized perfectly, blending real life cultures with a pinch of imagination to make a society that feels as real as our garbage one (garbage because I can’t even bend a spoon, let alone elements).

I do have to admit that this show starts off with a bit of a childish tone — don’t be surprised if you feel a bit alienated at first. Thankfully it does age up pretty quick. In fact, one episode you’ll just wonder “is this even the same show?” And I really think that’s the beauty of Avatar. You get swept away on this ridiculous journey with a bunch of little kids who manage to get out of trouble at the last minute — but when shit hits the fan for the first time, you’re surprised at how worried you are about everyone. When that happens, you really start to see the maturity, and the dark undertones that have been there all along. Plot points you thought happened just for the sake of comedy had actual complex origins, and you’ll be impressed. Then, by the time the series is over, you can really see how every character grew. The Last Airbender has better character arcs than most other things on TV, and in just three seasons.

The show’s action scenes are also worth having an entire paragraph dedicated to them, because all TV should aspire to handle action like Avatar does. Never before have I seen thrilling action combined with such beautiful visuals. I’m not sure if bending (the magic system that allows users to manipulate the four classic elements) just happens to be the ideal medium of fighting in terms of wanting to watch drawn out action sequences, but a fight is never stale in Avatar. Every single instance is eye-catching to the extreme, and the scale escalates in a very satisfying way over the course of the series. I think the reason has to do with the fact that each element is based on a different martial art. The body motions are visually stunning in their own right, but then you add in walls of water and waves of fire and you can’t ask for anything else. If the story wasn’t equally amazing, I’d be happy watching entire episodes of fighting.

So yeah, before I lose your attention span, I’m going to shift gears and switch categories. This one even had a last minute change, where HBO’s Game of Thrones was replaced with something I decided was better. How is that possible, you ask? Don’t worry about it — I doubt you’ll disagree.

FAVORITE SHOWS THAT HAVE REAL PEOPLE IN THEM: Doctor Who and Breaking Bad

Talk about some dramatic faces. Sheesh boys, why so serious?

Talk about some dramatic faces. Damn boys, why so serious?

Yeah, unfortunately I couldn’t justify saying Game of Thrones is better than either of these shows (thanks The Daily Show for giving me my epiphany). Don’t get me wrong, I love GoT, but let’s be real — the books are better and both of the shows I ended up choosing are phenomenal original programs that deserve the attention more.

Diving right into things, I’d like to start with my good friend (in my dreams), the Doctor. And yes, for the record, I specifically chose Tennant because he’s my Doctor. Matt Smith and Christopher Eccleston did a great job, too (and I’m really excited for Peter Capaldi), but the 10th Doctor just resonated with me so much more. Anyway, back to the point — Doctor Who is a great show you should be watching. Don’t feel bad if you’re skeptical though, because I was too, once upon a time. In fact, I was baffled by the whole premise and scared off by rumors of overwrought camp (the adjective, numb nuts!). Still, one boring day I decided to give this show a shot, and I’m so thankful I did.

Doctor Who is a very peculiar show for many reasons. If you’re new to it, you won’t get grabbed right away. In fact, it’ll take anywhere from 4-6 episodes until you realize “holy shit, I want this to be my life.” What’s even weirder is that the show doesn’t seem to care whether you like it, because it keeps charging straight ahead saying “Allons-y!” But let me assure you, it will catch your attention, and you will be hooked so deep that your soul bleeds. Because, despite the camp (yeah, there is some camp — but it’s endearing), there’s an indescribable magic to this show. Yes, I know it’s science fiction, and I love it for its science fiction elements, but there’s no better word to describe it. The show just captures your heart and makes you yearn to hear the sound of the TARDIS (that big blue box in the background). Seriously, there is no Doctor Who fan in the world who wouldn’t like to go travelling with the Doctor. If I ever hear that sound while I’m out and about, I’ll literally sprint to it. I know it’s a TV show, but I don’t care. Some things are just worth acting stupid for.

I should probably stop being poetic for a second and deal out a few facts. It is a science fiction show, although it can often play pretty fast and loose with the laws of physics depending on the episode. It has pretty great writing, and the larger stories threaded through the seasons are handled expertly, so that they build to a wonderful crescendo at the finale. There’s also a startlingly high body count, as scores of people are murdered in almost every episode. I’ve come to learn that’s just a British thing, but I think it’s a brilliant story telling choice that Americans like to pass on because… I don’t know, bullshit reasons like “children watch this.” You think a child is never going to have to face death? At least let them come to terms with it in fiction before they have to cope with it in reality. Shit. Also, it has a nice back and forth with futuristic settings and historical ones. So, if you’re a fan of one or the other, you’ll be happy and get to experience something new. Oh, it can be really sad too, especially at the end of each season. Doctor Who has that down to an art form.

Moving on to something much more grounded in reality, Breaking Bad takes science fiction to literal levels. If you’re not already aware, it’s about a high school teacher and father turning to a life of cooking meth to help support his family after he learns he has lung cancer. Fiction about science, science fiction, they’re pretty close right? Well either way, this show is probably the best thing on TV right now. Fans are right at the end of the second half of the final season (can I just say what a dick move that was, AMC? Breaking up the last season? Really?), and I’ve never seen a show shape up to end like this. It’s like, you know all those shows that tease a certain conflict taking place but then shy away right at the end? And, do you know how horrible that is? Well, so do the writers of Breaking Bad, and they know how to deliver everything fans have ever wanted for this show.

I could go on all day about how clever the twists are, or how the actors nail almost every scene. The tension even feels pretty real, as you’re never quite sure if a character is going to survive some danger. Really, even when you know that Walt (the main character) will find a way to get out of trouble, you still wonder how the ever loving hell he’s going to. And let me tell you, Breaking Bad never disappoints in that department. But instead of me droning on and on about more details, just go watch it if you haven’t. Seriously, just find one episode. This isn’t like Doctor Who, you only need to try it once before you’re hooked. Just like meth.

Doesn’t that make for a wonderful metaphor?

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