Which TV shows you watched and liked recently is an uprising question in social meetups. I thought it might be interesting to write about it. I was not even a mild watcher till 2 years ago. TV for me has always been sports. And by sports, I mean tennis, pro wrestling (if you can call it sports) and cricket. Alternately, it could be a family get together. By all means, I am new to the phenomena of sitting alone and binge watching.
Things started to change around 2015-16 when I first watched Game of Thrones. Past 18 months have been particularly heavy. Below is the list of TV shows, and some movies, that I liked and recommend. Unlike books, it’s not a comprehensive list.
Game of Thrones: It was the first TV serial I watched. And remains THE show on the list. Not because it’s the best but because I watched and enjoyed it the most. NYT recently released a list of 20 best TV shows after The Sopranos, which I haven’t watched btw. And Game of Thrones didn’t make the list. While explaining why:
But its reputation for spectacle, sexposition and shocking twists overshadows the excellence of its storytelling, which has woven roughly 400 compelling subplots.
I couldn’t agree more. While I do enjoy the spectacle part, it’s the intricate details in its storytelling that make me come back to it again. To a point where I now practically judge people who say they love GoT but only watched it once. It remains the most grandiose show there is. You watch it enough number of times and you realize every dialogue is layered. That is hard, if not impossible, to unpack in a single watch. You have to immerse yourself into its world to truly enjoy it.
Season 4 edges out as my favorite though barely except season 7. Season 7 is my least favorite though/because it’s the most spectacular one. Blackwater (S2E9) had to be one of the best TV episodes ever made. Not just because of war scenes but the psychology that ensues them. Lena (Cersei) and Peter (Tyrion) are at their best in those 60 mins. To my money, they are also the two best actors on the show.
There is another reason why GoT is THE show for me. I love its music. My favorites are the Main Theme, The Rains of Castamere, Chaos is a Ladder, Mhysa and The Light of the Seven.
Friends: Here is a shocking, or not so shocking, disclaimer. I hadn’t watched Friends until last year. And last year I watched too much of it. To be honest I wouldn’t have enjoyed it before since most US-centric jokes would have lost on me. Netflix paid $100M to keep the show for 2019. I guess I am not alone.
It’s the best kind of home TV. Same familiar faces and voices, arguing/discussing their life troubles in a funny way while you are struggling through yours at the back of your head.
All 6 actors are too good on the show in terms of chemistry and delivery. To a point where I don’t think any of them has a comparable second act. Not even Jennifer.
Mad Men: A show most people seem to have missed especially my friends from Pakistan. If you are one of those people and you liked Tyrion in GoT, you will love this. Or should I say you will love Don Draper? It helps if you are interested in advertising. The pilot episode remains my favorite. And so does the end scene.
The show is about Ad Men from 60s who wanted to change and become better persons. It was the women on the show, however, who did change. Like Friends’ cast, I don’t think Jon Hamm has a good second act. For Elizabeth Moss, however, this was just the beginning.
Halt and Catch Fire: The show I liked the most from the first episode (I didn’t like GoT much in the beginning). And I have no idea why no one talks about it especially when most people I know seem to love computers. I absolutely love it. And there is a part of me that lives inside each of the four lead characters on the show.
Joe McMillan is the computers industry version of Tyrion and Don Draper. Still not convinced? It’s one of the three shows recommended by Marc Andreessen.
Rick And Morty: I started watching it because Naval loves it. I did enjoy it but certainly not as much as him.
Breaking Bad: This is arguably the best show when it comes to pace, build up and overall quality of each episode. I heard The Wired comes close but I haven’t watched that. You can’t take your eyes off it. If you enjoyed the thrill and speed of events in GoT season 7, Breaking Bad is the same except for what makes it thrilling is the drama and acting of the people in it. Rather than the dragons and dead people waking up.
Crown: Netflix attempted to pull an HBO with this. And they did pretty well. It’s slow to my taste but hey it’s about the British monarchy. I was reading Gandhi and Churchill when I started watching it first so I seem to have enjoyed the first season better.
Billions: I don’t have many words for it. It’s brilliant. Just watch it.
Silicon Valley: Season 5 was a major let down. The formula that made it hilarious now seems repetitive. Season 1 was the best.
The Last Kingdom: Its Game of Thrones mins the 400 subplots. If you only enjoy the spectacle part of GoT, you will like this. I only watched the first season.
Ozark: You will like it if you like Breaking Bad.
Sharp Objects: Amazing visual storytelling. I enjoyed it but I had to see certain scenes immediately again. The ending will shock you.
Stranger Things: Probably the best Netflix original serial.
House of Cards: I only recommend the first two seasons. I didn’t watch the last one.
Succession: Recommended by Marc Andreessen. Much like Billions but set inside a media empire.
Narcos: Season 3 somehow was just as good as the first two.
Peaky Blinders: I don’t remember much except for the fact that I was enjoying it at the time.
13 Reasons Why: An important topic especially for concerned parents like me. Season 2 was not good.
Fauda: A useful perspective on the Israel/Palestine conflict while you enjoy an action-filled drama.
Black Mirror: Obvious. Though some episodes are meh.
World War 2:
Jessica Jones: My favorite Marvel character.
Hitler’s Circle of Evil: Brilliant.
Money Heist: Probably the best crime series I watched.
Sacred Games: First Netflix original in India. Damn good.
Little Things: Romantic, light and funny.
Movies: I don’t watch many. Ones I remember enjoying recently are The Black Panther, The Incredibles 2, Fight Club, Warrior, Fahrenheit 9/11, Argo, and Schindler’s List.
Bollywood: The industry is filled with under the hood gems if you can get past the masala romance. Angry Indian Goddesses, Sulemani Keeda, Udta Punjab, Ankur Aurora Murder Case, and Drishyam will blow your mind. Kapoor and Sons have to be Fawad Khan’s best act to date. Others I enjoyed are Braily ki Barfi, Lunch Box, TE3N, Madari, Bombay Talkies, Shahid, A Wednesday and Rajma Chawal.