Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Netflix: don't you wish you'd thought of it? How many times since joining have you spent agonizing minutes (hours?) in a video store trying to: a) figure out what to rent, or 2) remember what you came to the store for. The answer for me is none. And admit it, Netflix is addictive, too. How many of us really care to admit just how much time we've spent adding to and re-working our queues?

All this time spent honing our home entertainment options means an increase in the quality of our choices, right? Um, not really. Sure, I go to Salon and read the annual movies of the year, paying particular interest in the notable indy movies. But over the next few years, how many of these will I watch? One, possibly two, an outside chance at three. More likely, I'll forget the list and never see any of them.

Here's my confession; or rather, along with my wife, our confession. We're addicted to TV shows. Mostly mysteries,and mostly British, and only a few well-regarded shows. Very few American shows ever really catch our attention. Why? Who knows. Maybe that whole familiarity breeding contempt thing. Maybe it's the accents. Or maybe we'd rather avoid a constant stream of shows featuring twentysomething, skeletal Barbies being presented as sexy and alluring. (I once read a quote from a woman wondering what men found sexy about such bony women; she figured the sex must be like sleeping with a coat hanger. But I digress.)

So with apologies to Bergman, Antonioni, Hitchcock, and all the others who worked so hard to craft classic fare that would entertain beyond their lifetimes, here's my list of the favorite Netflix television rentals from 2007.

Inspector Frost Mysteries. A truly great series. Jack Frost is a fiftyish copper in dreary Denton, England. He's cranky, a little dumpy, loves Indian food, and somehow manages to be a hit with the ladies. This show is rightly a classic, and also introduced us to the word "sarnie."

Midsomer Murders. Quite possibly the deadliest mystery series ever, as the people in rural Midsomer County drop like flies in every episode. There are so many things to like about this tongue-in-cheek series, especially the way everyone in a particular village carries on as though nothing is happening even as the body count rises.

Cracker. No, not the godawful Robert Pastorelli series. This is the original, with Robbie Coltrane as the deranged lunatic/psychiatrist headliner. The biggest quibble with these episodes is that the quality went down as the family-related melodrama went up.

Second Sight. A really overlooked BBC show starring Clive Owen. Owen plays a driven detective who needs to cover up the fact that he's losing his eyesight. Only a few episodes, but well worth the rental.

Black Adder. Ok, so not exactly low on the quality meter. I rate this series much higher than Rowan Atkinson's other well-known vehicle, Mr. Bean. This show got better with each series, and also starred some of my favorite actors: a pre-House Hugh Lauries, Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson (her Queen Elizabeth is possibly the craziest character I've ever seen in a comedy), etc etc.

Father Ted. Really, really sophmoric comedy about three misfit priests stationed on an oddball island off the coast of Ireland. But really, really funny once you get used to it. Trust me: after one episode you'll be saying "What the hell?" After three, you won't be able to stop.

The Closer. The more I think about, really not a very good show. Mediocre plots, okay dialogue,and often some really drecky acting. But still a lot of fun, mostly because of Kyra Sedgwick (please eat something, K). I also get a kick out of the scenes with sidekick (one of many) Michael Paul Chan, of the late lamented show Robbery Homicide Division.

Six Feet Under. We've only watched the first season so far, but the rest are on the queue. Quirky, yes; often self-indulgent, yes. Very good, yes.

I'd also like to give a tip of the hat to Deadwood, quite possibly the worst thing I've seen on TV in some time. And I watched Skating With Celebities.

Fortunately, 2008 promises more dabblings into television's past. Next on the list are such goodies as Nero Wolfe, The Wire, Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, Rosemary & Thyme, Hamesh Macbeth, Taggart, and The Job. Not to mention ones we caught when originally aired: Monk, the "old" ABC series Murder One, and a host of Inspector Lynley Mysteries. 2008 promised to be a very good year.


Kim Ayres said...

Happy New Year! Hope 2008 is good to you:)

Can't say I watch that much TV these days, although it's interesting you choosing British ones to watch when we are being flooded with American shows.

However, Blackadder and Father Ted are indeed a couple of the greatest creations ever.

As a family we all really enjoy Dr Who, and I've come to love the spin-off Torchwood, which is more adult themed and darker. Do you get them in the States?

Anna van Schurman said...

I was *shocked* and disappointed by "Up with People." I just love watching how warm it is in L.A. Even when I lived there.

I am a huge fan of Second Sight, but I'm surprised there's no Dalziel and Pascoe on the list. Based on the Reginald Hill novels.

Archivalist said...

Kim -- Haven't tried Dr Who yet, although I think I can talk the wife into it. Don't know about Torchwood, but if it's dark it's definitely something I'll check out.

Anna -- No D&P because there are no DVDs available. At least last time I checked.

njm said...

I saw an episode of Father Ted on an Aer Lingus flight. Giggled myself silly. That might actually get me to join Netflix.

C in DC said...

The original British version of The Office is worth Netflixing too. I just wish some of the programs they show on BBC America were available through Netflix, like Hex.