#1 Deadwood – Available on Amazon Prime
My favorite period piece is Deadwood, it premiered on HBO in March of 2004 and had three seasons before it’s untimely cancellation. I actually resisted watching it for the longest time, because I’m not a huge fan of TV shows where bad people do bad things and then suffer the consequences (i.e. The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy). But in the first blush of my now husband and I’s blooming relationship, he said I should watch and I caved. Boy am I glad I did! The language is filthy but so clever, and the combination is utterly endearing. Not all of the people are bad, but no one is entirely good either. It may not be the most accurate portrayal but it is completely entertaining. Favorite Characters: Calamity Jane, Dan Dority and Whitney Ellsworth. Most Improved Character: Al Swearengen. Interesting Fact: I can do a spot on Calamity Jane impression! If you like this show, check out: Justified – it’s not nearly as foul, language wise, but the bizarre wittiness is very similar.
#2 Mad Men – Available on Netflix
Number two on the list is Mad Men. Sure the characters are morally ambiguous, and there are times you despise pretty much everyone; but the ways that the characters change, and don’t change, over the span of a decade sucks you right in. It tackles some pretty heavy stuff, from sexism to suicide, but does a really good job of lightening the mood so you don’t drown in darkness and despair. Then there’s the style–Janie Bryant is the costume designer for the show and she’s a genius! For anyone that actually lived through the sixties or, like me, are nostalgic for time periods they’ve never experienced, this show is a jewel. Favorite Characters: Peggy Olsen and Sally Draper. Most Improved Characters: Pete Campbell and Stan Rizzo. Interesting fact: The actor that played Lane Price is named Jared Harris and he is the son of Richard Harris who played Dumbledore in the first Harry Potter movie. If you like this, check out: The Astronaut Wives Club – granted I’ve only seen one episode but it definitely has that sixties style, only time will tell if it can come close to Mad Men but really it’s hard to believe that’s even possible. (I’m obviously still mourning)
#3 Downton Abbey – Available on Amazon Prime
Number three on the list is Downton Abbey. It starts in 1912 when the Titanic sinks and goes well into the twenties and chronicles the life of a noble family and their servants in an English manor house. It’s been called a historical soap opera and that’s pretty much accurate. I love it anyway. I find the way they live and the way they talk highly interesting and amusing. They tend to view things from a slightly more modern perspective than was probably the case at the time, but I love the way the characters can be so blunt and so polite at the same time. The setting is lush and beautiful, the costumes are amazing and inspiring, and the insight into the complex social structures of the time are fascinating. It’s mostly lighthearted entertainment, but there are a few scenes that were so sad I found them pretty hard to watch. Favorite Characters: Mrs. Hughes, Sybil Crawley and the Dowager Countess. Most Improved Character: Edith Crawley. Interesting Fact: I can also do a pretty good impression of Mrs. Hughes. If you like this, check out: North and South – which is not, as I thought, a mini-series about the civil war but in fact a sweet little show about a girl from southern England moving with her family to a working class town in northern England.
#4 Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – Available on Netflix
Number four on the list and the inspiration for this post is Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I stumbled upon this lovely show while trying to see if Downton Abbey was still available on Netflix, and fell in love. The setting is unusual, Melbourne Australia in the 1920’s, but only because I haven’t really watched much Australian television. The stories are charming, if a bit predictable. For anyone that is a fan of the mystery genre, some of the plots will be old hat (keep an eye out for a take on an Agathe Christie classic). The main character is bold as brass and you love her for it, and the supporting characters quickly worm their way into your affections as well. It’s pretty silly and fun at times, her butler’s name is actually Mr. Butler, which I adore. To be honest though, the acting could be terrible and the plots could be incomprehensible, and I would still tune in just to hear them talk and see them walk around in those fabulous hats. I can’t do an Australian accent yet, but after a few more days of binging I’m sure I’ll improve! Favorite Characters: Miss Fisher, Jack Robinson and Mr. Butler. Most Improved Character: Jack Robinson Interesting Fact: Australian slang is incomprehensible to me. If you like this show, check out: any Agathe Christie movie. They have a lot of versions of these on PBS.
#5 Freaks and Geeks – Available on Netflix
Number five on the list is Freaks and Geeks. It’s a little bit of a departure from the others series on this list, as it takes place in middle America in the early 1980’s, and is about teenagers. This little show has an amazing cast, is funny and touching and sweet, and certainly reminds me of several people I went to high school with. I was both a freak and a geek at various times in my life, so this one is close to my heart. There have been a million shows about high school and there will be a million more, but I don’t think we will see a show like this again any time soon. I think my favorite part is that the people look like real people in real clothes, and not like a bunch of supermodels in designer clothes that all live in New York City. It’s probably way too late to bring this one back, but if the execs at NBC had any idea what this show’s creator and cast would go on to do, they might have at least given it a second season. Favorite Characters: Lindsay Weir and Bill Haverchuck. Most Improved Character: Kim Kelly. Interesting Fact: The actor who played Bill Haverchuck is now on Silicon Valley and is the most attractive person on that show! If you like this show, check out: Dazed and Confused, if only for the soundtrack and Mathew McConaughey’s hair, but it is also one of my favorite high school movies.