We’re in a golden age of television! But there are so many things to watch that it can be easy to miss shows. Which is why you’re here, of course. Below, you’ll find five shows that you probably passed on without realizing what a huge mistake you’d made.
TLDR: Game of Thrones meets Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
I’m not a fan of pirates. Pirates are dirty, foul-mouthed, exploitative, aggressive, hapless, low-born, std-riddled meatbags with a mind always looking for the quickest and most profitable score. But it turns out that when all those qualities are filtered through a story of libertarianism, suddenly I’m on board.
I love the Machiavellian machinations of Game of Thrones. But I’ve always felt that it was missing a grander sense of purpose beyond simply who wants to be the new monarch. Black Sails seemingly starts off with the same premise. However, over its four seasons, steadily moves into something far more ideologically-driven.
Black Sails doesn’t have dragons or magic swords. Instead, it’s all about badass people being totally badass. (Oh, and there’s an obscene amount of cleavage everywhere – just so you know.)
TLDR: Fringe meets Continuum
If it were up to me, 90% of TV would involve time travel. Temporal paradoxes, general relativity, quantum communication, time dilation – I love it all! Usually, though, when time travel exists within a TV show or a movie it’s beyond lame. Somehow the creators don’t think it through and the time travel mechanic just becomes incidental. (I’m looking at you, DC Legends of Tomorrow!)
So you can imagine my surprise at seeing Twelve Monkeys. The first episode is engrossing, but it doesn’t even compare to everything that comes afterward. The series is just perfectly executed. They nail the atmosphere of the movie while ratcheting up the action and the stakes.
Better still is Aaron Stanford in the leading role. How has it taken so long for this guy to be given his own show? He’s literally fantastic in everything he’s ever done. For years we’ve watched him as a supporting character and it’s so refreshing to see this talent being given such a demanding role. He’s just so darn believable.
TLDR: The Leftovers meets Jitterbug Perfume
To say that I was unprepared for the effect this show would have on me would be an understatement. I didn’t expect it to be anything more than a soporific to lull me into a good night’s sleep.
Eight hours later, with the sun rising and birds chirping, I turned off my computer and headed off to work.
I don’t know how to describe the merits of this show without either giving it away or being completely misleading. I can’t even say that it’s for everyone. It’s like that Jitterbug Perfume novel by Tom Robbins. The less you know about it, the more you’re likely to enjoy it for what it is.
What I can say is that it has that cult classic feeling to it. It’s a polarizing piece of art that certainly seems like it’s trying to say something but I just can’t quite put my finger on what that would be. And somehow that’s what the show seems to be about: uncertainty.
The only credit I can give without spoiling anything is that six months later I’m still thinking about the show.
TLDR: Eye in the Sky meets Continuum
This is one of those TV shows that you won’t hear about until someone tells you it exists. Then you look it up two years later, realize it was canceled and never give it a second thought. (I’m looking at you, Dollhouse!)
Travelers has the same kind of premise as Twelve Monkeys or Continuum in that time travel (yay!) is used to try and avoid a dystopian future by engineering a brighter one. The thing that sets Travelers apart is that instead of sending a dude or dudette through some portal, the traveler’s consciousness is sent on a one-way trip to the past to inhabit the body of someone seconds before their recorded death.
This time travel mechanic is quietly horrific. At first glance, it seems perfectly reasonable. The host was going to die anyway and now their body can be used by an operative to help bring about a better tomorrow. The horror shows itself once you realize that these operatives usurp the identities of their hosts continuing their lives as if nothing happened, lying in wait until they have to complete their task. It’s creepy AF.
You don’t watch this show for the story, which is more or less generic for any time travel junkie. It’s the execution of the concept that’s worth your time.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
TLDR: Doctor Who meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Oh my god this show is amazing! I literally love every part of it! This adaptation of The Douglas Adams’ book of the same name is as good as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie was bad.
The dialogue is hilarious.
The style is beautiful.
The casting is spot on.
The story is engaging.
It has geniuses, and synchronicity, and romance, and time travel (yay!), and tons of murder. Like, a lot of murder. Just this side of too much murder, actually. So it’s perfect!
This show is for anyone with the heart of a child and the crushing weight of responsibilities that come with adulthood.