The 10 Best TV Shows to Watch All at Once

It's late August, and there is nothing on TV except for Big Brother and crappy reruns. What the hell are you supposed to watch before the new TV season starts in September? We're here with some suggestions for DVD/iTunes/Netflix marathons that will have you glued to your couch.

Since there aren't any new series in this dark time, take advantage of the wealth of television that you can easily find either on the internet or on DVD. Not only is it better to watch some shows all at once, but there are also shows that you can get all caught up on now so that you can join in the weekly fun when it returns with new episodes in the future. Here are my top 10 recommendations. And, don't worry, I'll keep spoilers out of it.

Mad Men

The traditional savior of late summer television, this '60s advertising melodrama sure lives up to all the hype from critics, your more literary friends, and those Banana Republic ads you keep seeing on bus stops. The best thing about watching the four seasons on DVD at once is that the show is a slow-build and a newbie could get bored going from week to week. However watching everything in one batch brings out the subtleties of the story and performances and after a few episodes you won't be bored, you'll be hooked. Also, it's now free on Netflix Streaming, so you should be all caught up before 2012 when Don Draper comes back to town with his... oops, almost spoiled it!

My So-Called Life

Do you ever wonder why Latisse spokesmodel Claire Danes is famous? Yeah, I do too. Well, it's because of this brilliant teen show where she plays Angela Chase, a realistically self-absorbed teenager with a bunch of ne'er-do-well friends and a crush on Jordan Catalano, the hottest boy in school. A one-season wonder, watching it will break your heart and make you feel like a kid again, albeit a kid in the '90s. And if you've already seen it, invest instead in Freaks & Geeks and see just what Judd Apatow was doing with his early days.

Arrested Development

If you ever want to understand the arcane jokes about never nudes by the internet commentariat, then you better get to work on this delightfully daffy Fox comedy that was just too good to stay on the air past three seasons. Nearly every member of the formerly wealthy Bluth family is a monster, but they're monstrous in just the right way. Also, Liza! Feasting on the entire show at once makes the running jokes and subtle references even easier to spot, and if you're able to rewind, you won't step on one joke with your cackling. After watching it, you can be just one more voice shouting for the Arrested Development movie that should never happen. (Yeah, I just said that to piss you off.)

The Wire

What? You haven't watched The Wire? All of the media is telling you its the best thing since uncut coke and you still haven't tuned in? Shiiiiiiiiiiiiit, what is wrong with you? The five seasons of this HBO gem about the drug trade in Baltimore and the cops who try to end it is a modern Dickens novel full of compelling characters and depressing, real-life scenarios. The only problem is the that technology they use to catch the crooks, especially in the early seasons, is a little outdated, but that doesn't make the story any less enthralling. And if you don't watch it now, I'm sending Omar and his shot gun after your ass.

Breaking Bad

I'm currently keeping myself up at night watching the entire series on iTunes (after a great recommendation) and, man, is it good. It's not giving anything away to say it's about a New Mexico teacher who finds out he has terminal cancer and decides to start cooking meth, but it's so much more than that. With a score of ambiguous characters whose crimes are large and small, it's a modern day morality play where every hat—and bald head—is a shade of grey. Oh, and it's currently airing on AMC, so if you are quick, you can catch the end of season four (before the show concludes after its fifth season next year).

The Good Wife

If you think CBS procedural are only for old people and the idiots who live in fly over states, you have to watch The Good Wife. It's good! See, it's right there in the damn title! Alicia Florrick (Nurse Carol) finds out her husband (Mr. Big) slept with a hooker (Ashley Dupre) and in the ensuing mess she leaves suburban life behind to take a job at a law firm. While the "case of the week" portion of the show engaging and not quite as daffy as other courtroom shows, the personal and professional politics that guide everything on the show are what will really keep you watching.

Twin Peaks

The weirdest show that will ever be on network television is also one of its most noble failures. The mystery of "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" drags on way too long and devolves into complete craziness about dwarves, giants, White Lodges, and spirit possession, but it is this a thing of beauty. And it only lasted a season and a half, so you can binge on this rather quickly. You will never again see something as quirky, bizarre, and totally arresting as this on network television again, and David Lynch should be celebrated for this. Actually, the '90s are starting to come back. Who's ready for a revival? What else does Lynch have to do?

Battlestar Galactica

More than a sci-fi show about a group of humans being chased around the universe by a bunch of religion-crazed robots, Battlestar is a human drama about what happens when civilization completely collapses and how people cope with putting it back together. But don't worry, there are a bunch of totally awesome space battles too. Sure, the end of the fourth an final season leaves a bit to be desired, but the show's surprising twists and emotional depth well make up for it.

The Comeback

It is one of the great crimes of the 21st century that The Comeback wasn't renewed for a second season and Lisa Kudrow didn't win an Emmy for her brilliantly cringe-worthy portrayal of Valerie Cherish, a former B-list sitcom star making a reality show about her return to network comedy. The brilliant thing is we get to see behind the scenes of the making of the show, so it is not only a hilariously embarrassing treatise on the desperate narcissism of fleeting fame, but an indictment of reality television as well. And with only 13 30-minute episodes, you can watch the entire series on a rainy Sunday.

Downton Abbey

I dare you to try to shut this ITV (which is like the BBC, but cooler) series off once you get started. The highest rated show ever in the U.K., this Gosford Park-esque program about the gentry that live in a country manor at the turn of the century and the servants that attend them is just the right blend of highbrow drama and dishy soap opera. The machinations of evil servants and betrayals of posh family members carry equal weight and affect each other in brilliant and devastating ways. And Maggie Smith gets to do the upper-class British snob thing she does so well. There are only 10 hours of the show so far, and once you start, you won't be able to stop—or be able to wait for the second season this January on PBS.

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