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5 New TV Series You Should Strongly Consider Watching

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | April 4, 2013 | Comments ()


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How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) -- Sitcom pilots are notoriously difficult to judge, so it's always difficult to know whether a show will find itself based on the first episode. I like the characters in "How to Live with Your Parents," which debuted last night after "Modern Family." Sarah Chalke -- less loopy than her "Scrubs" character -- plays the neurotic straight man to her sex-crazed parents (Brad Garrett and Elizabeth Perkins). Chalke's a recently divorced single mother attempting to rebuild her life under her parents' roof, while her irresponsible ex-husband plays the goofy hanger-on. It was not a particularly memorable pilot, but the premise is broad enough that the show could go in any number of ways. The overnight ratings were excellent (it was the highest rated sitcom debut of the 2012-13 season), so it's likely that "How to Live with Your Parents" will get some time to develop and hopefully find a groove (they might start by recasting the kid, who was not very good). I hope it does well because Chalke is a gifted comedic actress who I will watch in damn near anything, including "Mad Love," the terrible CBS sitcom from two years ago. For now, it's too early to say.

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Top of the Lake -- Joanna, Josh, and I have been promoting the hell out of this new Sundance series from Jane Campion (The Piano) on the Station Agents over the last two weeks. Josh provided the most accurate description of the series I've heard: It's a Winter's Bone meets "Twin Peaks" version of "The Killing." The seven-hour New Zealand miniseries stars Elisabeth Moss ("Mad Men") as a forlorn detective returning to her home town and investigating a case centering around the missing, pregnant daughter of a drug lord (Peter Mullan). The local police, who are in the back pocket of the drug lord, are hostile toward her, and she's also dealing with some traumatic baggage resurrected by her return home. It's a good mystery -- the investigation takes us through several suspects, none of whom have been completely ruled out yet -- but the biggest draw is the moody weirdness of the town, where a new-age guru (Holly Hunter) has also set up camp with several scorned women processing their losses. It's an absorbing drama, the kind of show that seeps under your skin and nags, and Moss turns in a quietly raw powerful performance.

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Orphan Black -- The Canadian import debuted on BBC America this past weekend after "Doctor Who," and Joanna nailed a description of this show: It's like a super-low budget "Alias" centered on an unlikeable protagonist. The show follows a streetwise hustler, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), who witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks just like her. She assumes the dead woman's identity, only to discover that the dead woman is a police officer facing her own difficulties surrounding an internal affairs investigation into her shooting of a suspect. There's definitely a sci-fi component, because -- as it turns out -- Sarah and suicide victim are not the only two people who look the same. The first episode was riveting and surprisingly sexually charged, and sets up a compelling mystery that I very much look forward to following throughout the season.

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Vikings -- In the way that people used to describe "Sons of Anarchy" as a broader, less complicated version of "The Sopranos" (on motorcycles), it's fair to say that "The Vikings" is the poor man's "Game of Thrones." But like "Sons of Anarchy," it's still a solid drama that skates by on the uber violence and another battle for the throne. However, unlike "Game of Thrones," there are not seven Houses vying over leadership; it's power struggle between just two men. Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his band of Viking rebels -- who have discovered a means with which to sail west where he discovers England -- bring back treasure, which Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) promptly takes away, setting up a violent clash between the two figures, which involves their wives and other family members. If you like televised violence, at least 30 to 40 people fall victims to an axe to the neck in every episode. There's also several thematic and narrative similarities between power struggle between Jax and Clay in "Sons of Anarchy" and Ragnar and Earl Haraldson in "Vikings," not least of which is the fact that Ragnar looks just like the Viking version of Charlie Hunnam's character.

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Black Mirror -- The British drama -- which is not available in the United States through any conventional means (wink, wink) -- just wrapped its second season of three one-hour episodes in Britain. It's something akin to a darkly, darkly comic equivalent of "The Twilight Zone," in that each episode is a new story with different characters, all playing on a similar theme: Our contemporary unease about our modern world. It is insane, and the first episode was one of the most mind-f*cking episodes of television I've ever witnessed (which explains why it won the Best TV movie/mini-series award at the International Emmys). I cannot believe that an American cable network hasn't jumped on this show yet, oh wait: Yes, I can. It's probably because the first episode concerns a prime ministor of England who is faced with a dilemma. The beloved princess (basically, a Kate Middleton-like character) has been kidnapped by a terrorist, and she will be killed unless the prime minister f*cks a pig on live television.

No, I am not kidding. There are no outs, either. He must either have sex with the pig or the princess will die. Period. What does he do? Be despised by the British public for letting the princess die, or be that prime minister that f*cked a pig in front of the world? The situation is not played for laughs, either: It's deadly serious. I won't spoil it for you, except to say that the opportunity to watch the series ever avails itself to you, DO IT. The third episode of the first season has, in fact, already been optioned by Robert Downey, Jr. as a possible film.

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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • cielodrive

    How To Live With Your Parents" just got cancelled.

  • You dicks ever think of putting a DATE on your "articles" so people can judge relevance? The only "time factor" is the age of comments? Sad excuse for an "information source."

  • Emily Roach

    Dude. Based on this article (alone), I looked up Black Mirror and miraculously found a way to watch all six episodes. Again I say dude. Thank you so much. It's easy to read a plot description and say "that's silly," but it really does keep me thinking afterwards about technology and all the possible futures. Awesome! I'm giving it to all my friends!!!

  • Iron

    On your advice I watched the first two episodes of Black Mirror. The first episode was pretty great and insane, the second makes me want to drown myself in scotch. If I survive that I'm pretty sure I can never watch any porn ever again, thanks Dustin.

  • Bodhi

    Vikings is FANtastic. My husband is history junkie (the discipline, not the channel) & immediately researched the hell out of the story. Thus far it seems to follow the traditional Ragnar saga.

    I realize that its a History Channel mini-saga, so it isn't the most powerfully dramatic or most accurate thing around, but its fun as hell & there are a lot of good looking people on it, so I'm in

  • Samantha

    I hate you for recommending "Black Mirror". That first episode will be giving me nightmares tonight.

  • Zirza

    I'm surprised Pajibans don't mention Charlie Brooker more often.

  • The first episode of Black Mirror season 1 was SO F*CKING GOOD. I was completely sucked into the story and watched the whole episode with complete attention and also repulsion as well but in a completely absorbed into the show way. The fact that it could contain such an engaging story in a short period of time and that it pulled off the scope of the story made it such a good watch. The second episode was not as good but the third episode was back on to good form but on a much smaller and personal scale. Cannot wait to watch more.

  • Smashling

    I have only just realized Charlie Hunnam is your man from Queer as Folk. And also that Bron is Jerome from Robson and Jerome. Slow.

  • Strand

    Jesus Christ, Brad Garrett is now old enough to be playing 'parents of adults' roles.

  • Uriah_Creep

    I was so ready for some more Sarah Chalke and Elizabeth Perkins (Celia!!) on my TV, but I found that pilot absolutely annoying. Seriously, the grandparents who are so "hip" and "outrageous" they make life a chore, but a delightful one? That's embarassing. I honestly hope it fails so they can find better projects to work on.

  • maydays

    I'm looking forward to the next episode of Orphan Black.

    Though I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole "if you can't fool him, hump him!" maneuver.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I watched the first three eps of Black Mirror. Jesus, those folks have high hopes for the future of humanity and technology.

  • e jerry powell

    Elizabeth Perkins is tiny!

    I'm gonna have to do Top of the Lake on demand I think. If I do that, maybe I can see it in HD (Sundance isn't on the HD tier in Austin).

  • bonnie

    My husband and I just could NOT get into Vikings, hard as we tried. We ultimately decided it was neither a guilty pleasure like Spartacus (seriously, where's the nudity?), nor was it highbrow-documentary-for-assholes enough to capture our interest.

  • Irina

    I LOVE Spartacus and I refuse to feel bad about it. It has many, many flaws but it's still more compelling than 90% of the crap on TV right now.

  • pfeiffer87

    Black Mirror - WTF?!! I'm British (& in Britain) & how have I not heard of this?!

  • Buck Forty

    "He must either have sex with the pig or the princess will die. The situation is not played for laughs, either: It’s deadly serious."
    Well, there's your problem right here. Lets make it a comedy. An edgy comedy, because America is ready for one of those. Lets have Keifer Sutherland parodying his own Jack Bauer character as he chases a pig for 12 half hour episodes as he tries to have sex with it, or the First Daughter will die. Oh, that pig sure is slippery! Imagine all the situations - it's perfect for situational comedy! He could chase that pig all over America, or until it gets cancelled.

  • catagisreading

    Are you 100% sure that you can't watch Black Mirror on 4OD (channel 4 where it airs online service), much of their content is available outside the UK. I know this because I am outside the UK but not in the US.

  • pandapants

    No, I just tried their website. So frustrating.

  • cinemaniac

    I just finished season 2 of Black Mirror a few days ago. I felt much as I did after season 1, wishing those Brits would give me more episodes, but also loving them for leaving me wanting more.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I don't get BBC America or Sundance. Bunch of crap.

  • Slash

    Hot Vikings? Sure, maybe I can check that out. Also, Elizabeth Perkins is delightful. She kinda makes the Sarah Chalke show. Nothing against SC, I like her too, but Perkins is a pretty swell comedic actress. And Brad Garrett is usually pretty entertaining as well.

  • ZombieMrsSmith

    Black Mirror is the BEST. I've been encouraging certain friends to find and watch it for yonks. Second series will be brilliant, I'm sure.

    I liked the first ep. of Orphan Black and think we'll stick with it.

    I'm interested to talk about Top of the Lake. I have so many feels about it, but Mr Smith won't watch because he can not stand Holly Hunter. Elisabeth Moss' accent is deplorable though and it often takes me out of the story. I also feel like Jane Campion is really pushing the hard-core feminist ideology a bit hard to make it truly enjoyable. I feel like I'm being pushed around by her agenda because every character is such a strong stereotype and it constantly interferes with the core story, which is pretty engaging on it's own.

  • JoannaRobinson

    Moss's accent is really regrettable. I wish her "I've been away" plot involved her being in America for awhile and mostly losing her accent.

  • D R Allen

    Doesn't her character's being in Sydney since a traumatic childhood incident count for anything? I admit that I'm not VERY familiar w/Kiwi accent(s) - Anna Paquin is the only (mostly) Kiwi actress I've seen/heard in action, but she flips accents so easily and frequently between Kiwi/Canuck/Cajun she's not a good reference. I watch a LOT more Aussie tele, and I've noticed that even there, the Sydney accent is pretty different from that spoken in the rest of New South Wales, or Melbourne and/or rural Victoria. So how much effect would adolescence/young adulthood spent in urban Sydney HAVE on Kiwi country girls's accent?

  • Fabius_Maximus

    OTOH, Scotsman Peter Mullan sounds like he never lived anywhere else than in New Zealand (or Australia, because I can't tell the accents apart).

  • hippyherb

    Australians and New Zealanders sound the same??!!
    I nearly spit out the drink I wasn't even drinking. No, no, no. We sound nothing alike.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Dude, simmer down. I can't tell the accents apart. (And apparently I can't recognize Scottish, although I'm not sure about that.)

  • Carey Adams

    LoL

  • SorayaS

    Whaaa? Peter Mullan is speaking in his natural Scottish accent for the series. You were being sarcastic, right? (It's early in the morning here in Australia so I can't tell!)

  • John W

    Top of the Lake is a lot like American version of The Killing in terms of the atmosphere and acting. Don't know how it will end.

    Vikings is pretty good. It's hard to be a Viking.

    Only seen one EP of Orphan Black so far but it seems intriguing.

  • lowercase_ryan

    !!!!! thank you, watching Black Mirror now!! I mean, I'm at work so obviously I'm working diligently. At not getting caught.

  • lowercase_ryan

    ok, that was some fucked up shit...

  • I'm from Britainland, so I can watch Black Mirror on my own comfy, legal terms. I would gloat, but then I have also been watching Game of Thrones. Also in Britainland. Without Sky Atlantic.

  • I don't have high hopes for that parent sitcom but I LOOOOOVE Sarah Chalke and am really hoping that she gets on another successful show so I wish this one well.

  • Tom

    Could he take viagra to fuck the pig? It would be hard to do that without some artificial help.

  • QueeferSutherland

    Top of the Lake is fantastic. Definitely one of those forgotten series that will gain a larger following once it hits Netflix or Prime. Some of the shots - particularly in the pilot - are just splendid.

  • dizzylucy

    In every still shot I've seen of that show, Brad Garrett is guffawing like a braying donkey.

    I'm only an hour into Top of the Lake, but I like it so far, and will be checking out Orphan Black too. Thanks for the recommendations.

  • llp

    I have been really enjoying Vikings, actually. It really is violent, but has some thoughtful moments inbetween. Plus, even with the hair/beard, Fimmel is hot.

    I cannot get into Elisabeth Moss. I want to like her, and I appreciate her talent, but she is just tainted by Scientology. Even old reruns of Friends with Giovanni Ribisi and reruns of That 70's show with the Masterson brothers are ruined with the Scientology. That is a pretty grave accusation, actually - the whiff of Scientology ruins a great show more that Ashton Kutcher's overwhelming douchosity.

  • LwoodPDowd

    Oh Piggly!

  • Bert_McGurt

    I was just wondering when you might get around to "Vikings". Through the first few episodes I'm cautiously optimistic. While I'm not particularly enjoying Gabriel Byrne (he's trying to bring 'gravitas' to the role, I think, but it's coming off monotonous and wooden), Travis Fimmel has been fun to watch. He's selling the brash-but-crafty schemer in a very similar vein to Hunnam. Ragnar's relationship with monk-turned-slave Aethelstan is also becoming an intriguing side story. And Floki (played by Alexander Skarsgard's brother Gustaf) makes for some entertaining comic moments.

    But really, you could watch this just for Katheryn Winnick. She is absolutely SMOULDERING as Ragnar's kick-a** wife.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I was reading up on her since she looked so familiar... she was the widely disliked girlfriend of Booth's on Bones and she was quite bad on the show. She's much better here AND she's a martial arts champion in real life that could seriously beat the crap out of any of those Vikings. Bad ass, indeed.

  • logan

    AGREED! We've been watching this show from the start and it's good fun. Lots of action, and solid acting and writing. And Ragnars wife is a total babe.
    Did the vikings really share their wives BTW?

  • pajiba

    SO kick ass. She is the antithesis to every weak, Andrea-from-the-Walking-Dead-type female caricature on television. I only wish she were even more involved, and also got to kick more ass.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Completely agreed. It helps that she eschews the "Smell the Fart" acting method developed by one Mr. Tribbiani (cough, Tara and Andrea, cough cough). Also, I love her crazy hair all the time.

  • llp

    I think Winnick will have a greater role as the situation with Rollo plays out with the struggle for position. She is fabulous.

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  • Wednesday

    I love Top of the Lake. Last week's episode was particularly good IMO, even though it didn't move the mystery plot forward at all.

  • pajiba

    That confession with her boss over dinner: That was just downright devastating.

  • Viking

    Devastating is a good word for it. I bawled, and I almost never shed tears over a film, but that kicked me in the stomach. I finished the series on Netflix last night and several moments over the course of that show had a similar effect.

  • toblerone

    +1 for Orphan Black and Top of Lake (if only for Elisabeth Moss).

    And I will definitely check out Black Mirror.

    Side note: Tatiana Maslany is gorgeous mind melting HOT.

  • +1 on Tatiana Maslany. Another reason to watch Vikings is the insane hotness of Katheryn Winnick.

  • Guest

    Wow, she looks so different from House.

  • tmoney

    Vikings is the second best show on TV right now, after GoT. History also airs it at 8 and 9 on Sunday, so you can watch GoT and then watch Ragnar be all hot and viking-y! It's an awesome way to spend a Sunday evening.

  • Belkwinith

    No matter what happens, I feel sorry for the pig.

  • Long_Pig_Tailorisnotloggedin

    "But there is a logic to pig-fucking; namely, "I cannot get a woman, therefore I will fuck this pig." It is sad and unsanitary but not, on the face of it, illogical."

  • Mrs. Julien

    After that duck article from yesterday's PLove, we know they'd be WAY down the list.

  • fluff_fluff

    OH MY GOD, still not over how great/bananas that episode of Black Mirror was. I spent the whole hour with my face paralyzed somewhere between laughing and crying. Rory Kinnear is brilliant.

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