TV Is my life. As long as I can remember I’ve been glued to the gogglebox. Someone asked me the other day what my hobbies were, and I found it hard to think of anything apart from ‘watching endless TV’. I watch pretty much anything. Reality shows (Survivor has to get a mention as it’s probably one of my favourite shows ever, all 35 seasons of it), Crime, Drama, Comedy, Horror, Thriller, Real life….the list goes on and on. I’m always recommending something to my friends, as to me there’s nothing more fun than watching a great show and then spending hours dissecting, discussing and arguing about it with others.
How we now consume TV and entertainment has changed so dramatically over recent years. Only last week I was up in our loft looking for some random lost object, and when I moved a large and heavy black bag out of the way a load of VHS cassettes spilled out onto the floor. I sat down and picked up the dusty cover of my This Life boxsets and remembered how much I loved that show. Also buried in there were my complete VHS collection of Cold Feet, Red Dwarf and Only Fools & Horses. For some reason I decided to not sell them at the boot sale and kept them hidden in a black bag. They’re obviously completely worthless now, but as I opened up the hard plastic cases and took out the large black cassettes my mind wandered and drifted back to those days when TV was so very different to how it is now.
I’m talking about the days when Netflix meant swishing your curtains, Amazon was a place in Africa and not even a website where you bought books, and most of our films and TV were rented from the local Blockbuster Video or Video Pacific in my case. In fact most local off licenses had their own little rack of VHS videos that you could peruse and borrow for £1.50 per night.
As for that large box that sat in the corner of our lounge, well firstly they were huge boxes. They weighed a tonne and had physical buttons that you had to get up of the couch and go and press. There were only 4 channels. 3 if you’re old enough to have watched TV earlier than 1982. The video player took pride of place below the TV and if you were lucky you had a ‘zapper’, as my Dad always called it. For some reason he couldn’t get his head around the idea of it being called a remote control so ‘zapper’ became common language in our house.
For once I’m not going all nostalgic and saying TV used to be better, I don’t think that’s actually the case. We had much less choice and TV at Christmas particularly was enshrined as full of must see TV. We all remember that classic Den & Angie Christmas Day Eastenders episode, to this day it still is the most watched TV episode of all time with over 30 million viewers. That was more than 50% of the population. This was when we all watched TV live, no recording, no catch up, just watching it along with the millions of other people live. But I don’t watch Eastenders any more, in fact I don’t watch TV channels at all. How many of us actually watch live TV? The idea of sitting through a show and having to watch all the adverts, not being able to pause or fast forward or rewind does make it hard to compute.
I also believe that we are in the golden years of great TV content. Netflix and Amazon have revolutionised how we watch TV and I absolutely love binge watching a show that I have discovered or been recommended. I don’t have to wait a week for the next episode (although Netflix and Amazon do still release some shows on a weekly basis to often follow tradition), I just love the whole idea of sitting down in front of the TV and spending hours upon hours binge watching a show. Netflix is very much my crack cocaine. I am always looking for my next fix, and will often stay up till the early hours of the morning just watching ‘one more’.
I’m going to give you a list of my favourite shows of all time which can currently be binged at your leisure, but this is definitely not exhaustive and I could easily recommend 100 shows. So for now, here’s my top 10 TV boxsets, some of these can be found on Netflix and Amazon, and others you might still have to look around for the DVDs and Blurays. But each one is a classic and very worthy of your time. In no particular order:
- The Sopranos (6 seasons, available to stream on HBO or buy boxset on Amazon)– Quite simply THE BEST THING EVER. Describing it as show about the Mafia doesn’t do it justice. 6 seasons of brilliance and should be savoured and enjoyed for the masterpiece it is. Also has one of the most talked about endings from any show.
- Dexter (8 seasons, watch on Netflix) – A show where the (anti)hero is a serial killer. I’d recommend stop watching after season 5. But up to that point it’s gruesome, funny, gritty and downright awesome. Has gone down in folklore as having one of the worst endings of all time. Watch through gritted teeth and pray they bring it back to rectify it.
- Sex & The City (6 seasons on HBO or buy boxset from Amazon) – Included because I hated it at first, but due to my wife watching this endlessly I then binged it and surprisingly found it fun and watchable. The trial and tribulations of 4 city girls living in New York.
- Mad Men (7 season, Netflix) – It’s all about the style and characters. But it does contain substance too. Some people just don’t get it, ‘nothing happens’ or ‘it’s boring’. They’re simply charlatans.
- Sons of Anarchy (7 seasons, Netflix) – If Shakespeake was around today, he’d be writing shows like Sons Of Anarchy. A show about a motorbike gang doesn’t really sell it. It has so much drama, action, tragedy & pathos. A true binge watch in that the quality never drops and you never want it to end.
- True Blood (7 seasons, Buy from Amazon) – Vampires. Sex. Gore. Blood. More Vampires. More Sex. What’s not to love? If you can past the first few episodes and the realisation that the vampire Bill is terribly dull you’ll discover that the show contains the coolest and best vampires every to grace our screens. Eric and Pam eat up the screen in more ways than one.
- Breaking Bad (5 seasons, Netflix) TV Perfection is not common, but when it happens you want to jump and down and run around the room screaming. If you haven’t yet watched this then you are in for a treat. Put simply, this is one of the best and most engrossing shows of all time. Need I say any more?
- Friends (10 seasons, buy on Amazon) The great thing about Friends is that it’s often repeated on TV, and chances are you’ll be channel surfing and discover a Friends episode and then watch it and laugh all over again. Friends hasn’t dated like many shows (people sitting in a coffee shop and spending hours doing nothing but chatting shit – that wont last!), it’s still riotously funny, and I can honestly say I still laugh when I watch this, and very few shows make me proper LOL. Friends will always have a place in my heart, it’s like wearing your favourite sweater whilst spending the night with your best friends.
- ER (15 seasons, watch on Amazon Prime) This has many great memories for me. It was the first TV show that my wife and I watched together and we used to look forward to ER night. It also introduced us to so many great characters and memorable stories (we love you Mark!). There have been many hospital dramas but in my mind, ER is the daddy. Oh and George Clooney is in it.
- Entourage (8 seasons, buy from Amazon) The humour in Entourage wont be for everyone, it’s often crude, sexist, rude and bigoted. But it’s worth it for Ari Gold, who’s really the main star of the show. It’s very watchable and you love/loathe the main characters in equal measure. The quality does taper off in later seasons, but it’s funny and fresh and who doesn’t like watching beautiful people have fun whilst making complete arses of themselves?
If I was going to write this list again, then chances are I’d include another completely different list. I’m sure you’ll have your own to add, so please do get in touch as I know I’ve missed some. Let me know what you’d include and this might be a regular feature.