Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
There are three weeks until classes begin, which means you have a very limited amount of spare time left. I assume that all of you, like me, would like to efficiently use that time to watch as much television as possible. To help you pursue that goal, I’ve organized the best options by time commitment here.
I have an hour to kill
VH1’s newest foray into dating shows is astounding. The premise is simple: rather than just sending conventionally attractive on strangely active dates (spearfishing?), Dating Naked sends conventionally attractive people on those dates without clothes. The quality level is exactly what you’d expect, but it’s also an absurd and wonderful look into how people react to awkward situations. First years, study the show and note what one should not say on a first date.
The Mindy Project
The Mindy Project (from Office alum Mindy Kaling) is essentially a 46-episode-and-counting love letter to classic romantic comedies, so anyone who likes When Harry Met Sally or You’ve Got Mail should give it a chance. That said, its first season was very hit or miss, so don’t hesitate to skip episodes. If you want a good sample, check out “Wiener Night,” “Bros Club for Dudes,” and “Christmas Party Sex Trap.”
I have a few free days
Andy Samberg’s breezy ensemble comedy on FOX will almost make you forget just how awful the real NYPD can be. It’s lovably goofy, and features one of the most diverse and talented casts on television right now. You won’t regret watching every episode, but it’s also possible to skip around without feeling lost. My personal favorites include “Old School,” “The Bet,” and “The Party.”
Based on the Coen Brothers 1996 film of the same name, the pilot of Fargo will mostly remind you of just how great the original film is. Once you get past that, you’ll realize it’s a pretty solid show in its own right. Season one stars Sherlock’s Martin Freeman alongside Billy Bob Thornton and Colin Hanks, but don’t get too attached: season two will take place 30 years earlier and feature a new cast.
I’m committed: I have a week or so open
Masters of Sex
Showtime’s newest hit centers on the relationship between real-life sex researchers William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) as they conduct a controversial study on human sexuality. A sixties period drama about sexual politics might seem a bit tired after Mad Men, Pan Am, and The Playboy Club, but it’s the strongest show on TV right now. The expected commentary on women’s progress and changing moral standards between then and now is present, but Masters has taken those topics in more than a few new directions.
Having just finished its third season, Scandal might seem like a big time commitment, but for a show that covers everything from extramarital affairs to murder, it breezes by quickly. I finished the first two seasons in the space of a week, and loved (almost) every second of it. Tune in to study Kerry Washington’s astounding wardrobe (all those perfectly tailored white coats!) and to join the rest of the world in hating Fitz. Seriously, Fitz is the worst.
No I’m committed: all day, every day until classes start
Set in Cold War era Washington D.C., The Americans follows two Russian spies working undercover to destroy America from within. It has all the best parts of a soapy spy drama (car chases, multiple fake relationships, wigs) but is really about the marriage of spies Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys). The show just wrapped its second season, which improved on an already strong first, so I’d recommend jumping in as soon as possible.
One of the most beautiful and disgusting shows you’ll ever see, Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me) has created something very special with Hannibal. Anchored by incredible performances from Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy as the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter and FBI consultant Will Graham, the show also features knockouts like Laurence Fishburne, Gina Torres, and Gillian Anderson in supporting roles. And despite being a network drama (the only one recommended here, in fact) it has a distinctive visual style that’s hard to resist.