As the fall TV season fast approaches there are tv shows that get the buzz each year and dominate water cooler talk. Some of these shows even make it into our everyday lives, engrained into the lexicon.
Unfortunately, it's not possible to know ahead of time what shows will stand the test of time, and what shows will peter out in our hearts and minds. And, you can't pay attention to everything. There is just too much noise out there to know.
Some shows are worth a second (sometimes a first) look, but the time to come up to speed can be arduous. While comedies and self enclosed dramas are easy to pick up along the way, story arc dramas are different and require you to do some homework or be lost in a story you don't understand.
Three such shows, Mad Men and Lost and Weeds each require a time commitment if you want to come on board.
Mad Men is in it's third season. At the time of this writing, that's 33 episodes. For this one hour drama, with approximately 43 minutes of content per episode this means to speed you need a total of 1,419 minutes, or just under 24 hours of pure content (without commericals) just to get even.
Another show that is worth the time is Lost. With lost however you're in it for the long haul. That's 5 seasons of content, and unlike some other shows it's early seasons had over 20 episodes each. Through season 5, that's 98 epsiodes. With an average of 43 minutes per episode you're talking about 70 hours, or over 3 straight days of content to catch up.
Weeds is a bit of an easier ride, it's only a half hour drama which equates to about 22 minutes of content. With 4 seasons under their belt it's approximately 19 hours. Just under a day.
The question becomes how to get to this content. In years past, it was difficult. I'm sure you fondly remember the commercials for Star Trek or Lost In Space, where they offered an episode or two on videocassette for a stupid high fee. Not to mention the space each individual videocassette would take up on your shelf. Those days thankfully are over.
The majority of show are available on iTunes so you can watch them on the go. If you are not wanting to eat up 19+ hours of space on your iPod you can also get them on box set. This is probably the best way to go, allowing you to watch them in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. See the links below to the Amazon pages for complete series and yearly installments.
Some of the content can also be found for free on the parent network or on hulu.com. In the case of Lost, I spent the better part of the summer of '08 watching free episodes of Lost on ABC.com. From the plane crash in the first episode I was hooked. All the episodes are available for free to watch, with only short commerical breaks as payment.
If you are a Netflix user, you can rent box sets, one or two discs at a time. This is how I watched the first two seasons of the powehouse HBO drama The Sopranos, afterwhich I got HBO just for the show. An additional benefit of Netflix is Netflix on Demand, which is a value add service for Netflix customers and allows you to watch Weeds Season 1, 2 and 3 anytime for the price of your normal subscription. While I wasn't enamored with Season 4, Season's 1 through 3 are a must see.
My newest obsession is the show Mad Men. This drama set is the 1960s is some of the finest TV I've seen in a long time. This summer I spent catching up with season 1 and 2 in preperation for this latest season on AMC. The current season is currently available as a value add to Cablevision customers On demand - for free. I personally think it's better to start from the begining but, you can catch up on the last episodes for free this way.
Looking to the past, shows you might have missed that are worth the box set are the post apocolyptic Jericho, the Sci-Fi Drama Firefly, the amazing cop drama The Shield and of course HBO series' The Wire and The Sopranos, all are well worth taking advantage of through box set or rental.
Below is a table of shows that I have found worth picking up. If you think of one should be added to the list email me: dave[at]lumerman.com.
Shows listed by time commitment:
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