I like TV shows, but I don’t really like watching TV. Yes, the commercials can be tiresome, but they are not really the biggest problem. It’s trying to schedule to watch the shows into my day. Have you ever cancelled plans because you couldn’t miss your favorite program? Of course there is TIVO and VCRs, but that’s not a fun path, either. Have you ever missed your favorite show three weeks in a row, and then you try to go back and watch it, but you never get caught up, so you keep taping it?
While it might leave ad sales executives pulling out their hair and lead to premature cancellation due to lack of viewers, watching TV shows on DVD can’t be beat. At first the idea of releasing TV shows on DVD was to give viewers a chance to go back and get TV series that they may not have seen in a while. Studios at first tapped into niche markets like X-Files and Star Trek. Well, TV on DVD has taken off beyond anyone’s expectations, and there is a new phenomenon of people discovering shows entirely through the DVD release. What this means for the future of television remains to be seen, but here are my top ten favorite TV shows that I never actually watched on TV.
1. 24 – I realize I may be the only person in the country to “discover” this show on DVD. After years of being told I would like it, someone actually decided the best way to get my attention was to give me Season One as a gift, therefore obligating me to watch it. The ploy worked. I devoured the first season in a matter of days, and hungry for more I immediately went out and bought Season Two. Seven weeks later I’m done with Season Four and anxiously awaiting the DVD release of Season Five. I just didn’t know it would be so good: the characters, the plot twists, the tension. It all works. Lesson learned: sometimes when everyone says something is the best show on TV it actually is.
2. Battlestar Galactica – The name Battlestar Galactica is not exactly synonymous with the words “good TV.” So the original series from the '70s was possibly about as bad as it gets, but this new version is about as good as it gets. Forget whether you’re a sci-fi fan, a Star Trek fan, or anything else that conjures up images of major geekdom. It doesn’t matter. Battlestar Galactica is a great show no matter how you look at it. It may be set in space, but it drops anything anyone afraid of tapping into their inner geek may feel uncomfortable with. The show is a tense, action-driven drama with some of the best storylines I’ve ever seen on TV.
3. The Office – UK – If you’ve ever had a job, and maybe even if you haven’t, you’ll find something to relate to in this show. It seems so real, it’s almost uncomfortable at times. Watching office manager David Brent in action is like being stuck in a meeting with that one person at work you wish would never say anything but always does. The show is very funny, and may be one of the best sitcoms I have ever seen. There are only twelve episodes and one Christmas special, but that is all you really need. The show does everything it needs to do and quits on top. You may want more, but you’ll never wish you had less.
4. Arrested Development – Are you watching the funniest show on TV? Too late for that because this show has been cancelled. It will probably go down in history as one of the most critically acclaimed but under-watched shows ever. Now, I know I’m not the only one to have discovered this one on DVD. The writing was clever and funny and it was probably one of the best cast shows ever. Maybe it fell apart a little in the third Season. I only saw bits and pieces of that. I’m still waiting for the DVD.
5. Curb Your Enthusiasm – After seeing it win at the Emmys and Golden Globes every year, I finally decided to check this one out. I would’ve gotten to it sooner, but I didn’t have HBO. Everyone told me that if I was a fan of Seinfeld then I would like Curb Your Enthusiasm, and they were right. Curb is kind of like Seinfeld meets reality TV, except not bad reality TV, but good reality TV. Of course it’s probably good reality TV, because it’s not actually real, it doesn’t pretend to be real, it just looks real. Pretty good. Pretty, pretty good.
6. Dead Like Me – This show was only on Showtime for one and a half seasons, before getting the axe. I rented the pilot on a whim and was immediately hooked. The show is a comedy/drama revolving around a group of grim reapers who are trying to get through the day just like you and me. Sound depressing? It’s not. The show was funny and touching, and the writing and cast were excellent. I was sorry this one didn’t get more time to live up to its full potential.
7. Firefly – This may be one of the most under-appreciated shows of all time. When the show aired on TV the episodes were run out of order, and the show was barely promoted. Granted, the western set in space was probably a huge marketing headache. But we can’t put all the blame on the studio. Though they may not admit it now, many of the show's biggest fans (who also decided to check out the DVD) were reluctant to give the show a chance at first because it drew Joss Whedon’s attention away from the ultra-popular Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This may be the most discovered show on DVD, because it’s the DVD sales that helped get the green light for the big screen spin-off, Serenity. While I don’t think Firefly is the most intelligent or best show I’ve ever seen, it was still very good, and a lot of fun, and should have been given more of a chance to succeed.
8. Lost – I meant to watch Lost on TV. I read the fall TV preview in my Entertainment Weekly and thought it looked interesting. But the premiere came and went, and then the encore of the premiere came and went and my TV never went on. No reason, I just didn’t get around to it. That is why it is the newest show on this list. I watched Season One as soon as it was out on DVD. I loved it. I thought the characters were interesting, and the island intriguing. I was excited to watch Season Two when it premiered the next fall. My excitement lasted about five episodes. The DVDs spoiled me. No commercials and the ability to quickly move on to another episode, if one isn’t that good, is something I had taken for granted.
9. Tru Calling – I acquired this DVD through some kind of online ordering/returning snafu suffered by a family member. I’m not sure what happened, but the end result was they had two copies of Season One and they gave one to me. It’s no surprise to me that this show was cancelled prematurely, because it took me about six or seven episodes to get into it. I could barely give it a chance on DVD, so it’s no surprise viewers stopped tuning in every week. That being said, the show took off about halfway through the first season, and I thought it was one of the best shows I had seen in a long time. Unfortunately a lack of viewers caused the second season to be cancelled after only six episodes and left all the viewers on a cliffhanger. The show left me wondering – was Jason Priestley always this good? A rerun of Beverly Hills 90210 told me the answer was no.
10. Da Ali G Show – What can you say about Sacha Baron Cohen’s take on life in America? Cohen’s interviews with average Americans and politicians (definitely not average Americans) were often hilarious and sometimes uncomfortable. What worked was Cohen’s non-judgmental portrayal of everything. What happened happened. Some people came off okay and some didn’t, most of the time it was just funny.