We are living in the Golden Age of TV. That is, if you’re some cornball who actually talks like that. Yes, while every hour long tragicomedy that graces the small screen isn’t necessarily the life-changing mega event that people might have you believe, television as a whole is just a lot better than it was last decade. You guys do remember when TV used to just suck, right? It got so bad that we started to grade shows on a curve—hence, Lost.
We seem to have the opposite problem now though. Because each new show that comes out has a writer attached who used to work on Breaking Bad, we just assume it’s going to be worth watching for a whole eighty hours of our lives. It’s kind of like how an artist would get recognized by the Louvre for one painting and then, whatever he’d throw together next, museums would just exhibit that shit anyway, even if it was a literal toilet.
The trend of binge-watching doesn’t seem to be helping much either. Think about it. Instead of having a week in between each installment to ruminate on whether or not that thing you just watched had any actual value, you are presented with the instant gratification of the next episode with no time to assess the show’s merits. Well, not until Netflix reminds you of your crippling ennui, of course. And so, much like Netflix, when it comes to these five shows I have to ask: Are you STILL watching??
Spoiler warning! So don’t get crappy when I reveal some major plot points from shows that, although you suddenly care about so intrinsically and despite the fact that you’ve have had a full year or longer to get caught up, you have somehow yet to watch.
1. Orange is the New Black
Let’s get this out of the way first thing—Orange is the New Black has led the charge on integrating and shaping complex LGBTQ characters for a widespread format in a pretty damn heroic fashion. However, for all the show’s triumphs, it completely botches its main conceit: the ill effects that the (for profit) prison industrial complex has on individuals.
This failure is magnified with the ending to last season, at a very crucial time for Black Lives Matter, no less. See, throughout season four, we are told the story of officer Bayley and how good of a kid he is but oh no! Officer Bayley choked one of the inmates to death. It’s cool though because he’s really sorry and really nice and it was kind of one of the crazy black inmate’s fault anyway.
Watch this instead: Shameless
Much in the same way that Orange is the New Black tries (and fails) to cover the complexities of prison life, Shameless gets all the microscopic details of poverty just the fuck right. Frank is every poor kid’s junkie con artist dad, while Fiona is the indomitable human spirit, just doing her best against the tyranny of the moment. Shameless really showcases how every single day in the lives of the poor can be a goddamn Odyssey, that poor people are actually the hardest workers. Best of all, the jokes land every time.
2. New Girl
While the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is straight fire emoji, it takes a great deal of forethought to make the occasional song work in your standard television show. That did not stop Zooey Deschanel though, who I’m pretty sure has a clause worked in to every acting contract that she must sing in all of her appearances, even—and especially—when it doesn’t make sense to do so. Just like She and Him were indistinguishable from every other quasi-indie pop act of the 2000s, New Girl brings nothing (ugh) new to the table as well.
Watch this instead: You’re the Worst
You’re the Worst is a vastly superior show about Millennials being shitty to other Millennials and somehow teaches completely relatable and unforced lessons about mental illness.
Plus it gave us “new phone who dis”
3. Carpool Karaoke
Watch this instead: Billy on the Street
Billy Eichner just really, really loves being mean. Watch him yell and be mean to people and you will be watching a man who truly found his calling in life.
I’m not sure how Lena Dunham beat out Amy Poehler for best comedy actress multiple times, so maybe I’m just bitter? Or maybe Girls is actually joyless, masturbatory drivel and the Emmy’s are bullshit. Lena Dunham is definitely not as self-aware as she thinks and Girls is just riding that awful mundane comedy trend that Napoleon Dynamite started all those years ago.
Watch this instead: Broad City
It’s like if Girls and Workaholics had a baby that was actually funny!
5. Big Bang Theory
It’s just nerd blackface. Besides, with sitcoms like Two and a Half Men and Mike and Molly under his belt, showrunner Chuck Lorre is the Nickelback of network television. Laugh tracks are the reason we’ll never have flying cars and hoverboards.
Watch this instead: Silicon Valley
Here we have a real show about the completely socially inept. Extra points because it pokes fun of the hopeless startup culture that’s got this decade in a choke hold. The show is devoid of all sentimentality so maybe grandma should keep it tuned to CBS. If you’re under the age of 90 though, there is no reason to watch Big Bang.
Some honorable mentions:
Master of None > Easy
Preacher > The Walking Dead
And for the love of all things decent, if you are thinking of ever watching Once Upon a Time, just pick up Fables by Bill Willingham.