The concept of watching a TV show when it actually airs is as archaic as watching TV on a TV, so if you’re making your own viewing rules, might as well cram as much quality programming into your eye holes as possible. Here are the 10 shows you owe it to yourself to power-watch.
10. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT
Yes, there are new episodes coming to Netflix – but the “temper your expectations” tour has begun in earnest leading up to the premiere, which indicates the gang’s return might not be as satisfying as fans had hoped.
So why not get a jump on what will be known as the “good” "Arrested Development" episodes and power-watch through the cult comedy’s initial three season Fox network run? Not only is this one of the funniest sitcoms in the history of ever, it rewards religious viewing with the sheer number of “call back” jokes and repeated themes that pop up throughout. The guy in the $5,000 suit is going to wait for Netflix? C’MON!
The foul-mouthed revisionist western made stars of Ian McShane (who wielded the word “cocksucker” like a samurai wields a katana) and Timothy Olyphant, and clocking at only three seasons and 36 episodes, it’s possible to gulp down the entire HBO run in a weekend. That is, if you ain’t some kinda lily-livered shitbird.
Created by Joss Whedon back when he was a big TV deal ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") but had yet to become a massive box office success ("The Avengers"), the sci-fi series "Firefly" is one of those shows that inspired a massive fan effort to keep it from an untimely demise.
Unfortunately, the fans’ rally got them a feature film ("Serenity") but no new episodes. Watch it for Whedon’s trademark script wizardry, and for Nathan Fillion’s star making turn as rogue spaceship captain Mal Reynolds, the heir apparent to Han Solo.
7. FREAKS & GEEKS
Not to oversell the importance of this criminally short-lived series, but without it, we’d have no comedy movies of note today. Created by Judd Apatow, "Freaks & Geeks" launched the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Lizzy Caplan, and a boatload of others.
But the real allure of the show lies in its ability to make you laugh, then laugh uncomfortably, then squirm uncomfortably in the course of one episode. As you watch, wonder why Martin Starr isn’t a bigger name— his sweetly dopey Bill Haverchuck is the show’s hilariously bittersweet heart and soul:
6. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
What originally started out as a "Star Wars" cash-in back in the 70s was re-imagined as a paranoia-soaked Gulf War/War on Terror parable by executive producer Ronald D. Moore. Dark, complex, and mature, it pushed the boundaries of sci-fi TV and almost single-handedly legitimized the SyFy Channel. It also made Tricia Helfer the sexiest TV robot since Rosie on The Jetsons.
5. THE SHIELD
Clocking in at seven seasons, this one requires some serious time-management, but it’s do-able, and worth it. One of the most brutal and intense cop shows ever made, "The Shield" was toplined by Michael Chiklis as the instant all-time badass Detective Vic Mackey.
When the show premiered, it wasn’t like there was a dearth of good cop shows on TV, which makes its impact all the more impressive. It is also a rare show that goes out with a strong final season, rather than a “to hell with it” whimper.
Although this crime thriller hasn’t reached the end of its run, the BBC series’ sporadic airing in the U.S. suits it to binge-watching (it has technically run for 2 seasons, but that’s a mere 10 episodes, making it more like a mini-series or TV movie).
Starring Idris Elba (The Wire, Thor, RockNRolla, the upcoming Pacific Rim), a guy who should be a bigger star than he is, "Luther" mines some well-worn territory – cop on the edge battles his own inner demons while mopping up after psychos – but manages to bring its own unique flavor to it. And, again, Elba is the man.
3. BREAKING BAD
By the time you get through the first four seasons, you should be all ready to catch its finale later this year (the fifth and final season is airing in two parts, with the concluding half hitting TV this summer). And in case you don’t own a computer, don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, or have never encountered a meme in your life, you should know that people are kinda into "Breaking Bad" in a huge way.
The twisted tale of a high school chemistry teacher who begins making meth as a way to pay for his upcoming cancer treatment only to evolve (or devolve?) into a ruthless drug kingpin, the AMC series ensured you’d never be able to look at 'Malcolm in the Middle’s" goofy-ass dad Bryan Cranston the same way again.
2. THE INBETWEENERS
The original UK series, not the American remake. Running for three seasons and 18 episodes on Britain’s E4, The Inbetweeners’ complete run is available on DVD, and you owe it to yourself to watch.
Following four friends as they navigate high school, it’s loaded with so much cringe-inducing humor that it makes "Freaks & Geeks" look like a well-adjusted class president by comparison. No less than "The Office" creator Ricky Gervais is a fan, and the spin-off movie based on the series became the highest grossing comedy in the UK. Great stuff you can power through in a day.
Next: Resurrected Television Shows
1. THE WIRE
You may have heard of this one. Like "Breaking Bad", "The Wire" is one of the most talked about and referenced TV shows in the world despite wrapping up its fifth and final season in 2008. Even if you’ve never seen an episode, you probably know names like Omar and McNulty just through pop culture osmosis.
Although it did just fine during its original HBO run, the fact that you can gorge on the whole series at once is actually preferable. No need to wait a week to find out what happens – this is like page-turner TV you can now actually keep turning at your own speed. Complex, funny, brutal, and so engrossing you may forget there’s a world outside of Baltimore’s mean streets once you get started.