Binging on the Small Screen

Living in a small fishing town for most of our Peace Corps career has meant a lot of nights at home after sundown. If we weren’t celebrating some kind of fiesta, there was a good chance you could find us at home playing games, cooking, or watching TV or a movie.

It’s an exciting time to be a TV fan since there so many amazing shows and they are more accessible than ever to watch for free.  Here’s a list of some of our favorite TV shows that we have enjoyed during our service. Most can be found streaming on either Netflix or Hulu.

Happy watching! Mari

Netflix Originals

Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black

It’s safe to say that Netflix has entirely changed the TV-watching landscape. Not only can you stream your new and old favorites (Twighlight Zone anyone?) but now Netflix has introduced its own original programming. Two of our favorite new shows are Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Orange is based on the memoir of a woman who makes a stupid mistake in her early 20s and pays for it with a stint in a Connecticut prison. The acting is superb and features one of the most diverse and talented crop of actresses on TV right now. You can watch each of the first seasons streaming on Netflix right now.

House of Cards

House of Cards

Based on a mini-series from the UK (which was based on a book), this adaptation stars Kevin Spacey as a Washington insider who is a master manipulator. It’s like a mix between The West Wing and Damages.

From the UK

Black Mirror

Black Mirror

Hands down the most innovative and exciting show I’ve seen this year. The only downside is that there are only 3 episodes per season and there are only 2 seasons available to stream. Just as The Twighlight Zone dealt with Cold War anxieties, Black Mirror in the same style (each episode stands alone with a new ensemble cast) explores our modern maladies and preoccupations with technology, the 24-hour news cycle, and identity politics in the age of social media.

The black mirror to which the title refers is the shiny screen of a smart phone, computer, TV, or other surface that displays content at the same time as it reflects our own faces back at us. This show is not for the feint of heart, though. Episode One gave Paul nightmares and I had to close my eyes for part of it. However, I whole-heartedly believe it’s one of the most provocative and truthful shows out there.

Orphan Black

Orphan Black

Another stand out from the UK. I won’t give away too much since the fun is in the story unraveling itself before your eyes but I will say that the lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, is incredible in her portrayal of several characters on the show. It isn’t a spoiler to say that this show deals with issues of cloning, identity, and medical ethics.

Sherlock

Sherlock

A fun re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes in present day London. I appreciate the way the writers have used technology to update this classic.

NBC

Parks & Recreation

Parks and Recreation

We haven’t had a physical TV for many years and when we did we rarely watched the networks. There are few shows on network TV that we actually watch and this is one of them. When I just need a dose of positivity, wackiness, and fun I know I can turn to Parks & Rec. Paul thinks I act like the leading lady, Lesley Knope, which I can’t entirely deny. When she stays up late silk-screening t-shirts and making hand-made holiday presents I have to admit that he’s at least a little bit right. On the other hand, her now husband is an accountant and consultant – sound like anyone you know?

Parenthood

Parenthood

There have been many stand-0ut family dramas over the years and this one belongs on the list of the best of this genre. The characters are flawed yet relatable facing challenges that are all too common these days – facing breast cancer, a child on the autism spectrum, single parenthood, and infidelity. It covers all of the classic family themes with great acting and a lot of heart.

Cable

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

What can I say about Breaking Bad that hasn’t already been said. There’s a reason why this show and its ending this year were such big topics in pop culture. Some of the best acting on the small screen and enough twists and turns in each episode to keep your mind blown. Altogether one of the most finely crafted shows I’ve ever watched from the performances and music to the cinematography and operatic themes I will miss watching this masterpiece.

The Wire

The Wire

Friends have been urging us to watch this show for years. I’m glad we finally did! One of the shows that helped to solidify HBO as a small-screen powerhouse, The Wire focuses on the streets and docks of Baltimore and delves into the local drug-trade, police force, news coverage, and the politicans who keep the city’s big wheels turning. The best part about the show, in my humble opinion, is that it portrays each of the players in the game with equal honesty so that the viewer can understand each character’s motivation even if their actions are reprehensible.

Homeland

Homeland

Showtime is giving HBO a run for its money with its own programming. Leading the charge currently is Homeland, based on a show from Israel that explores politics, espionage, and the lengths that organizations like the CIA are willing to go to as a matter of “national security.” Very fitting considering the current political context.

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